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90 year-old house, 2-pipe steam, and all kinds of issues

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TNaz
TNaz Member Posts: 2
We recently moved into a beautiful old Tudor (3500 sq ft), and now that the weather is turning colder, we are doing battle with the old 2 pipe steam heating system. The system runs off a Weil-McLain 68 oil-fired boiler that was recently serviced, and I am attaching pictures of the near-boiler piping. I have read Dan's book, We Got Steam Heat, and am trying to learn more about the system. The problems that I would like to address include inefficiency, noises, and non-working radiators.

1. In speaking with the oil company, we have been consuming much more oil than other, similar houses in the area. We do have old lead paned windows and relatively poor insulation, but so do the other homes in the neighborhood. The large basement, which has been finished has un-insulated steel pipies in the roof, and it is the warmest space in the house, which may be contributing.

2. On the side of the house furthest from the boiler, there is very loud water hammer in the wall of the first floor, and 2 radiators on the second floor are not heating. One of the radiators gets lukewarm in the first 1-2 sections, while the other radiator is completely cold even though the supply line gets hot. This radiator has an air vent installed on the side, which is not present on any other radiator. A plumber was here and serviced the trap with no result. I now understand that a vent on a radiator is a no-no with 2 pipe steam and that this was probably placed by a knucklehead to patch up a different issue.

3. On the side of the house close to the boiler, one of the radiators in the master bedroom on the second floor is making very loud bubbling and gurgling noises and is heating poorly. Another radiator in that room is making softer bubbling noise, but is heating.

I realize that I probably need to have a steam pro out to the house, but was feeling overwhelmed in where to start. I am hoping to get the thoughts of the community first so that I can be educated on the proper questions to ask. Many thanks, Tamim

Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    You probably do need to get a steam Pro in there to assess the entire system but there are a few things you can check:
    - It looks like the old header was left in place and a new header installed below it (Boiler piping). The old header looks like it may be reduced, on the horizontal and, if so, may hold some water that will cause hammer.
    - Those radiators that gurgle; check them and make sure the radiators have a slight pitch towards the return side of the radiator so that water can run out of them
    - The radiator that does not heat but the pipe gets hot, up to it, may have a trap that is failed closed. There are kits available to replace the cages inside the trap but you may want a Pro to check all the traps and rebuild the ones that have failed.
    - Any pipes, in the basement that hammer, check the main and make sure the pipe has enough pitch so as to drain towards the wet return for that main. Check each radiator supply run-out and make sure it pitches back towards the main and likewise check the return pipes and make sure they pitch towards the dry returns.
    - Make sure the system pressure is set low. Depending on the type of two pipe system you have, a Vaporstat may be required. Other systems can operate using a Pressuretrol, which should be set to .5PSI Cut-in (scale on front of Pressuretrol and "1" PSI Differential (white wheel inside the Pressuretrol.
    - Make sure the pigtail (looped pipe that the Pressuretrol is mounted on is clean. It may be clogged and the Pressuretrol may not be able to see the actual system pressure, allowing the pressure to get much higher than it should.
    - Post you location and we may be able to suggest a Steam Pro from here that we know is excellent or go to the "Find a Contractor" tab, at the top of this page and put your zip code in and see who comes up.
    oilheatmeRomanGK_26986764589TNaz
  • TNaz
    TNaz Member Posts: 2
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    Thank you for the information, I am in Westchester county New York, 10583
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Air is the probable enemy here, and must be chased out of the system, like the raccoon from the garbage can.
    When you study your system, take note of where the air would go as the steam pushes it out through the radiator traps. The returns may pass through secondary "crossover traps", and if these have failed, the air will be trapped, preventing steam from entering the radiators. Sometimes higher pressures will prevent the traps from working-only a few ounces are needed to move the steam.
    A diagram of the piping would enable us to see more clearly what is happening, and of course, pictures are very helpful.--NBC
    TNaz
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,433
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    Try Gateway Plumbing and Heating. 212.989.0909. Good folks. Or @Mad Dog 516-322-2881. Or @JohnNY (646) 598-7230 (I'm not sure he works in NY).

    And insulate your pipes in the basement.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    JohnNYTNaz
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited November 2017
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    Three great choices there if you can get any one of them out! @EzzyT may cover portions of NY also.
    TNaz
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,296
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    @TNaz you can private message me and we can discuss what you have going on with your system.
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,433
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    Sorry, @EzzyT -- didn't realise you worked up that way...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    TNaz
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,806
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    Your oil comsumtion , its high ?.... do you have a buried tank .... and by haps running an two pipe system.....

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    TNaz
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
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    Thank you, @Jamie Hall
    Yes. I do work in NYC and New Jersey all day long.
    Lots of consulting work and minor repairs in Westchester, too.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • Koan
    Koan Member Posts: 439
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    Is it me or does the water level seem a bit high??
    TNaz
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Koan said:

    Is it me or does the water level seem a bit high??

    Can't really say for sure, given the angle of that picture.