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Help balancing steam system (W/ PICS!)

grye
grye Member Posts: 87
edited December 2017 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi everyone. This is a great resource, thank you for your time. I’m having trouble balancing my steam radiator heat. I’ll explain (and I posted a terrible not to scale blueprint drawing of where the radiators are if that helps).

First I had a cold radiator in the nursery. Propped it up, replaced the vent with an adjustable, and it was fixed. But, even on the lowest setting, it’s HOT.. too hot. Also, the room next to it (2nd floor guest room) gets way too HOT. The master radiator doesn’t get hot but we’re ok with that we like it cold.

In addition, the first floor, feels cold. The thermostat is set at either 71/72, but it doesn’t feel it (first floor has wide open floor plan if that matters). If I bump the 1st floor up to be more comfortable, I can only imagine how hot upstairs would get.

How can I balance it? Is it trial and error with adjustables? I know there are diagrams for fixed vents .. do I have to buy those and start from scratch?
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Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    If you have adequate main venting, then yes, I'm afraid that it is sort of trial and error with adjustables. Reason for that is that -- assuming the main venting is adequate -- changing one will affect the others some.

    If the main venting isn't adequate, you will be chasing rabbits, because the effect of any one radiator on the others will be dramatic.

    As a general rule to start, though, it's better to start by slowing the hot radiators down rather than trying to speed up the cold ones.

    Also, open floor plans are really really hard to get uniform.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Jamie Hall ... during A previous issue I posted a bunch of photos and wasn’t a able to find any main venting. If that’s the case do you thinking I need to chase rabbits until it’s comfortable where it matters most?
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    Can you back up a little and take some pics that show the boiler with its near piping?

    Also, yes, you need main venting. We would need to know the length and diameter of your mains to determine how much.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    You really can't chase anything until you get the mains properly vented. There is no point trying to balance the radiators until you have main vents installed. You are expecting the radiator vents to do all the venting of the mains, the radiator run-outs and the radiators. They aren't designed for that and you are spending much of your boiler heat cycle just trying to push air out through those small radiator vents. Steam will take the path of least resistance. Without main vents, any adjusting you do to one radiator/vent will just cause the steam to try and push more air out of the next radiator/vent that may be a little larger. It just becomes a moving target. I'm sure you've been told you need main vents. You have to get that done, then you can balance the radiators and slow the second floor radiators down to get a good balance between floors as well.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    grye said:

    @Jamie Hall ... during A previous issue I posted a bunch of photos and wasn’t a able to find any main venting. If that’s the case do you thinking I need to chase rabbits until it’s comfortable where it matters most?

    Chasing rabbits is a fruitless occupation. Get some main venting on there before you even try to balance things out.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @fred @Jamie Hall how do I go about adding main venting? Who do I call for that? Is it a big enough job I need multiple estimates?

    @Ironman here’s a bunch of photos. If the water was low/high in those I corrected that last time.

    Thanks again. I can’t get the poor kiddos room right. Mid 60s to high 70s.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    I don't see the photos...

    As to adding main venting. There are two steps: how much, and where. The "how much" is dependent on the size (diameter) and length of the steam mains measured from the boiler to the last radiator takeoff. If you give us that info, we can make suggestions as to what might be suitable.

    On where, that depends so much on how the piping is configured. The main vents should be (usually! there are exceptions!) on the steam mains somewhere after the last radiator takeoff. (the exceptions all have to do with various flavours of two pipe steam, so don't worry about them). The trick is to find a place which doesn't take too much work to install them.

    For which... again, pictures and perhaps a diagram of your system would help a lot -- particularly the parts of the steam mains near and after the last radiator takeoffs.

    As to how big a job is it? A lot of people have managed it on their own, but they had favourable piping. But no, I wouldn't think it was so big a job as to need multiple bids -- but it does need a reliable, competent, honest steam guy. I don't recall where you are located. It's possible that we may know someone who services your area.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    We need to see some pictures of the end of the Mains, after the last radiator run-out, in the area where the main turns down and drops vertically to a wet return. If there are tappings in that area that may have been plugged, it simplifies the job. If not, an elbow or other fitting/small pipe may have to be cut out to accommodate a Tee for the vent(s). It's not a major undertaking but probably something you should have a Steam Pro do for you, especially this time of the year.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    SO sorry .. here are the photos @Jamie Hall @Fred @Ironman

    The one where the Sheetrock wall meets the cement wall is where I think the return is. That’s the furthest main from the boulder going up is and the return going back is. Is that where a main vent would go?
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    How about back behind the boiler where the return pipes connect to it?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    edited December 2017
    @fred @Jamie Hall @Ironman

    Here’s a photo of (what I think are) the mains. These go from the one pipe steam boiler up to the radiators. The boiler is behind me in the photo.

    Where I put the arrow, the furthest main, is that where a vent should be? I want to make sure I’m just not finding it. He other photo is a close up.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    The returns are not piped correctly into the boiler. Your probably getting water hammer there.

    Also, the supply riser and header should not have been reduced in size from the boiler. You're probably getting wet steam the way it is.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    Where's the water coming from around the boiler?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Ironman I thought that was only a big issue if it was reduced and then increased?

    Either way I don't think I can re-pipe now. It sounds like to stop the blazing heat in the nursery I have to focus on venting the mains.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Jamie Hall @Fred @Ironman

    Thank you guys again I think I’m getting this. I drew another crappy sketch of my runs from the boiler up into the house.

    If I’m understanding you guys, I should have (and according to the pictures, I don’t) a main vent where I marked number 1, correct? It’s after the last main, and before the vertical return.

    Then, if that’s the case, if you can tell from my drawing the return does vertical, drops down into my boiler room, and then horizontal again to run along the footing before making its way around to the boiler and dropping down. Can that vent be installed where I marked #2? (If that’s easier to install than before the elbow). I added a photo of a zoom in on the return which the Home Depot bucket is resting on.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    grye said:

    @Ironman I thought that was only a big issue if it was reduced and then increased?

    Either way I don't think I can re-pipe now. It sounds like to stop the blazing heat in the nursery I have to focus on venting the mains.

    No, it's an issue because it increases the steam velocity which causes water droplets to be pulled up with it. Very low velocity in the riser(s) and header produces dry steam. If I had done it, it would have been a drop header using two risers off the boiler.

    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    The vent should be here:


    Technically, it should be 15" before the Ell that turns down. I would take the reducing Ell off, add another 90* Ell that would continue the pipe horizontally around the wall about 2' and then turn down. Put the vent in that 2' section, 15" back from where it turns down.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Ironman that makes sense. But,

    There’s piping for an outside spicket in the way. Can the air vet go along that horizontal pipe after the drop, sort of like in this sketch?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    You can't put the vent where you have marked #2 because that is below the boiler water line and won't vent air from the main. You can have that nipple at the end of the Main replaced with a Tee (turned sideways) and two close nipples, tie it back into the vertical pipe It Will take a union somewhere in the vertical pipe to tie it back together. Then add a nipple and elbow off of the side of the new Tee and add your vent(s).
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Fred @Jamie Hall @Ironman

    Took a trip to the plumbing supply store. The guy (obviously) agreed I need a main vent.

    He did however make sure I realized too much heat is better than no heat. And that I should either get a professional or, if I want to do it myself, wait until the spring.

    Another solution he mentioned was tapping into the pipe to install the vent. Is that a viable option?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    You don't have a lot of headroom at that ideal vent location. There are two alternatives.

    First, if there is enough height above the water line and the pressure is low enough, you can tap into that drop a little way down, add a nipple, elbow, nipple and vent. That will work provided the water in the return drop never gets that high.

    A second alternative is to put a vent -- a main vent -- on the riser which takes off at that location. Of course, if that's in the middle of the living room, that won't work...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    A Pro can do this job blind folded. I wouldn't drill and tap a 1/2" hole in that pipe. I doubt there is enough metal there to support one, possibly two main vents over the long haul. Do it right and just do it once.
  • rbeck
    rbeck Member Posts: 56
    One thing I would do before I even think about balancing I'd insulating those main pipes. If steam is struggling to stay in a steam star it will never balance well. Use 1" minimum pipe insulation. A big added plus is your wallet will thank you.
    We need to keep the steam in a vapor state as long as possible until it gets to the radiator. Insulation drastically changes your pick up factor on every start up.
    Insulation will keep more water in the boiler, less system noises, faster heating, lower fuel costs and probably a few more.
    I would start there.
    grye
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,159
    I think I posted this to your other thread. The easiest way for you to add a main vent would be on a riser before the last radiator. Taking off the rad valve and adding a tee there may be tricky, but it's doable, or cut it out and put in a new valve and rad spud. A bit more work. Then a few new fittings and install a main vent there, then reinstall the valve. Anyone able to turn a wrench should be able to do it or you can do it yourself. By the time you buy all the wrenches, pipe nipples and fittings, and some Teflon tape, you will have spent what you would on a service call and get to keep the tools for the next project.

    Second option, as was mentioned, would involve having to cut pipe, use a union, tee and a few shorter pipes and nipples. You would add a tee just under where your main drops down after the last take-off, as high as you can get it on the vertical pipe, and insert a vent there on the horizontal run of the tee on a 90. You'll have to make sure that you have enough height there vs. water line in the boiler (24+ inches) and that your op pressure is low enough as not to stack water in that return above where the vent would be, flooding the vent. Op pressure would preferably need to be below 1 psi, which is more than the max you would ever need on an optimally balanced system. Balanced system would operate at 8 oz at the most, which is 0.5 psi.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @MilanD you did, and thank you! I’m just now realizing the important of the main venting. You’re idea however won’t work though. Unfortunately the first radiator there is right in the living room (and we have custom radiator covers.

    @Fred @Jamie Hall @Ironman do you know anybody reliable in lower westchester/the Bronx?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    Good heavens. Lots of them. Try @JohnNY , @EzzyT . Just click on their names there for their information.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Yes, those that Jamie suggested are great and there are others as well. I can't remember where @Dave0176 is but he may be in your area too. All are great steam Pros
    MilanD
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    edited December 2017
    Thanks I’ll reach out.

    I put a varivalve on the really hot one (it’s the nursery so I really want to cool it down in the meantime) ... but no luck. Even on a very low setting it’s still over 80 degrees in that room.
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,159
    > @grye said:
    > Thanks I’ll reach out.
    >
    > I put a varivalve on the really hot one (it’s the nursery so I really want to cool it down in the meantime) ... but no luck. Even on a very low setting it’s still over 80 degrees in that room.

    For now, throw a blanket on, or shape a piece of cardboard around 1/2 of that rad, and play with how much of rad to expose that makes the room comfy. It will act as a cozy, it'll also slow down condensing in that radiator, and actually provide more steam for elsewhere in the system.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    @grye , Varivents are probably your very worse choice if you want to slow steam down on a radiator. They are very aggressive, even on the lowest setting. The Hoffman #40 would be a much better choice. It is a slow vent.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @MilanD that’s safe to do?
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Fred I hoped it would work well enough so I wouldn’t have to buy another vent after it’s finally fixed. The other Home Depot adjustable vent I had was also still too hot on the lowest setting.
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,159
    edited December 2017
    grye said:

    @MilanD that’s safe to do?

    Sure. Anything that doesn't flash (self-ignite) below 212F is fine. Cardboard is paper, thus 451F is flash point. Cotton is 400C (752+F), etc.

    http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/58017/12/12_chapter 2.pdf

    All textiles used in clothing should be safe on the radiator.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    @Jamie Hall @Fred @Ironman @MilanD

    I think I might have another problem. Or maybe it’s related?

    Both these radiators, with the vents closed are still getting hot. First I thought it was the cheap box store vent. But I replaced it with another one and still crazy hot. I even closed it completely, turned it upside down. And still hot.

    Shouldn’t they not be getting any heat with a closed vent?
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,159
    edited December 2017
    What vent are you using? Some vents don't have a float and will vent in any direction. Best thing is to use a short 1/8 nipple and a cap, or a plug. You can test the vent by blowing through it and turning it upside down as you do. If it closes, than it should close upside down in the rad too. Hard to tell not knowing which vent you have.
  • grye
    grye Member Posts: 87
    I used two different variable vents (box store and varivalve). Even both closed still hot.

    And when I say hot, I mean HOT. I just changed the sheets in our guest room and am sweating. I feel awful our baby sitter sleeps in there a few times a week... let alone the baby in the other.

    I put towels on both, hopefully that works, but it’s still just a bandaid. Is this all connected to not having the main vent?
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,576
    Pics of the rad's, please. How many pipes connected to them?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,159
    I believe varivalve does not have a float...