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Surge Canisters

I'm very new to steam heat (just moved from the south), but am learning the various pieces, but I discovered a set of surge canisters on one steam leg main of my system. This particular leg is having trouble heating all the radiators, but wanted to get some background on why it's even there in the first place. I will say, this main crosses a door way, and makes a 90 degree up and another 90 degree over to clear the door height before retuning to its original height, then into the surge canisters about 15ft away, and then onto the F&T trap at the end. Thanks.

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,219Member
    I have never seen those before. It looks like it say's "C A Burnham Co" Looks like it may be a steam trap.

    I have never herd of a "surge canister"

    @Steamhead would be the expert on this.
  • iwnmaetsiwnmaets Posts: 6Member
    Thanks. On the back side of each it says "Surge Canister". I can't find any information anywhere on them.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,439Member
    Is one side connected to the steam main (large pipe) and the other side connected to the smaller return line?
    Are there only 2 connections made to the system?
    There looks to be 2 plugs and a cap where something may have previously been connected.

    Maybe some type of cross over venting.....but you have a F&T at the end of the steam main? Does that look to be an original set up for the F&T?

    You say your steam main goes up and over a door and back down again. Usually there would be a smaller return pipe going under the door. Is that there?
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,720Member
    That's not C.A. Burnham- it's C. A. Dunham. This is a Dunham Differential Vacuum system, later known as the Vari-Vac. The Surge Canisters, or Surge Chambers as they were also known, were part of the Differential Controller. If this is in a house, it's probably the "DH" version, which apparently didn't survive the Great Depression that began in 1929.

    We had someone else post about one of these systems a few years ago. The Wall's software has been upgraded a couple times since then, so the posts are scrambled, but should be easy to figure out:

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/104173/need-help-understanding-dunham-system

    The scans mentioned in the old thread ended up in the site's Library, here:

    https://heatinghelp.com/heating-museum/dunham-differential-system/

    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • iwnmaetsiwnmaets Posts: 6Member
    Yes. There are only two connections to it. One from the main going into it from the right of the picture, then the left side goes to the smaller return. The return pipe actually goes under the door on its return to the condensate pump. There is an F&T at the end of the main, and looks to be an original setup. I see what you are saying, that it might have been used for something that is no longer there, so it might not really be serving any purpose?
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,439Member
    See comment 2 minutes before yours.
  • iwnmaetsiwnmaets Posts: 6Member
    Just now seeing the other post. Thanks! I'm in Northern Indiana, about 1.5 hours outside of Chicago. The house is quite old (129 years), and has gone through several updates over the years. Looking forward to exploring the links.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,720Member
    Here's who I'd call first to work on this. He's in the Chicago area but might be willing to make the trip. Can't hurt to ask:

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/the-steam-whisperer-boiler-professionals-inc

    What city or town in IN? Do you know the history of the house? Whoever had this put in was getting the top of the line in those days.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • iwnmaetsiwnmaets Posts: 6Member
    Thanks for the contact. I'm learning some of the house history. Original system was coal, then oil, and now natural gas. The other mains don't have this setup (with surge canisters) however. This leg also has a vacuum breaker on the main just after it branches to go over the door. It also has an air vent at the main end, and a smaller air vent on the return at the door.
  • iwnmaetsiwnmaets Posts: 6Member
    After some study of the links, I see I don't have a differential controller or a vacuum pump. I'm assuming this setup is an artifact from time gone by and can be removed completely. I have several different types of f&t traps throughout (55 series) that look vintage as well and probably need replacing (what is a good replacement?). Current system has two condensate pumps going into a feed tank. On occasion, I do see steam exiting one of the condensate pump's vent line. I'm still curious about the other air vents (Dole #5 on main, Hollman Special #43 on return, and vacuum breaker ITT 26 on main), as the other mains don't have these. Any ideas why?
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,219Member
    Steam exiting the condensate tank vent is usually a sign of failed steam trap(s)..

    because this causes a loss water and resulting new make up water this is bad for a boiler (over time). Not to mention having to heat up cold water instead of warm condensate. getting these traps fixed should be the first thing to do.

    Interesting old system. I am still waiting to find a system that @Steamhead hasen't seen
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Posts: 1,700Member
    edited March 7
    Here is an image of a Dunham Differential Vacuum (DH type) controller. Note that it looks just like yours, but it still retains the large diaphragm and electrical connections. As has been stated in previous posts, this device was used to operate a vacuum pump. While this controller is still connected to the supply and return piping, there are no electrical connections and no pump. It has been abandoned in place. Notice the cobwebs! :)

    The manner in which this device was connected to the system was as follows. One side connected to the steam main and the other to the return piping. The device was positioned below the piping and before startup, the plugs midway up on the surge chambers were removed and the chamber filled with water to that level. The diaphragm was thus filled with water and as the varying amount of vacuum and pressure in the piping would cause the diaphragm to move, causing the water levels in the surge chambers would move slightly up or down. The expanded diameter of the surge chamber would minimize the head that would otherwise occur in the piping and reducing the effect that it would have on the operation of the controller.

    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
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