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Help with my steam heat

amakro15
amakro15 Member Posts: 39
I just bought and gut renovated a 1910 home. Redid the whole house but left all steam pipes, radiators and oil fired steam Delco boiler. It’s a single pipe return system. Boiler looks like it’s from WWII era. Boiler still works (sometimes). I’ve been having lots of problems with the heat. Sometimes it heats the house and other times it doesn’t. I did a lot of research and been trying to educate myself about steam heat.

I been burning 150 gallons of oil every 10-14 days during this winter season. I know I need to put a new boiler to get better efficiency. I have nat gas in the house and I’m leaning toward putting a gas fired steam boiler in.

So basically I have to a few questions/recommendations.

1- recommendation for a new gas steam boiler? (What’s a good brand?)

2- any recommendation for a good installer in the Long Island NY area?

3- I am not getting heat out of all of my radiators. All valves are open, radiators are pitched, and air vents have been changed. Why can I not get all radiators to work?

Thank you in advance for any advice or recommendations

Comments

  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,319
    edited March 2018
    My name is Danny Scully and I operate Scully’s Plumbing wth my brother and father in the Nassau County area of Long Island. Check us out at http://www.scullysplumbing.com, we’d love to help!
    kcoppNew England SteamWorksMilanD
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    Danny Scully do you come out to Suffolk county?
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,319
    Where exactly?
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    Bay Shore area
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,319
    Unfortunately that’s beyond our service area, and more importantly we’re not licensed there either. I’ll PM you though when I can with response to your questions. Best of luck.
  • newagedawn
    newagedawn Member Posts: 587
    peerless makes a good gas steam boiler, i like them cause they hold more water than all others and with steam that helps and if you look into you main vents and rads vents there probably as old as the house, invest in some new ones and watch your bill go waayyy down, anymore questions ask
    "The bitter taste of a poor install lasts far longer than the JOY of the lowest price"
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,182
    Is there any banging when the boiler is making steam? Make sure the pipes that feed the radiators all have pitch back to the boiler, same for the steam main - water has to find it's way back to the boiler without blocking the pipe (sags in piping).

    main vents are very important, if they are closed because of corrosion steam will take forever to get to some radiators - same thing if the vents don't have the capacity to expell the air in the mains fast.

    Post some pics of the piping around the boiler, try and get as much of the piping in the picture as you can. Also take a picture of any main vents you find.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • JohnnyGlocalstp
    JohnnyGlocalstp Member Posts: 10
    I’m gonna agree with everyone so far, if none of the steam can move through the system then none of the radiators will heat. In short, it sounds like an air problem. Pictures maybe of the main air vents? Also maybe a picture of the radiator valves and vents?
    I personally like the Burnham gas steam boilers as they can be pre trimmed with all the safeties required here in Minnesota or you can buy them comepletely in pieces and assemble (good for tight locations.)

    I can’t recommend a good contractor in your area but I’d say ask what pressure they like to run a single pipe system? Ask if they are licensed and ask for the same service guy every time so long as he knows steam. Good luck!
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    Can steam pipes get clogged like Sludge build up in galvanized water pipes? There’s no automatic water feed and pressuretrol is set to .5 I believe. The big square pressure gauge always hovers around 4-7 psi. I don’t even know if that thing is accurate because it’s soo old. I don’t even know how to decrease the pressure on this boiler. Also the water in glass sight viewer never goes down, it’s always at the same level.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,308
    The main vents definitely need to be replaced. They are undersized assuming they are working. In all likelihood they are clogged up. Hard to comment on the boiler piping without knowing the heat output of the boiler. The boiler definitely has been around for a while. Older boiler are definitely more forgiving of less than pristine piping
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,325
    Cold return piping can get sludged up. That will show up in slow return of water to the boiler when it ends a cycle. If there is an easy way to flush them out, it may be worth the effort.

    Steam mains and dry returns almost never get much gunk in them, so not to worry about them.

    The pressure gauge is probably toast. There is no harm to getting a good low pressure gauge and mounting it with a T on the same pigtail as the pressuretrol -- and making sure that that pigtail is really open!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,996
    wonder if the pigtail if plugged and the boiler is running to high a pressure before it shuts down.. need a good steam guy to get in and clean it up..
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,513
    edited March 2018
    Also, if the water in the gauge glass never moves, the tappings that the gauge glass is mounted into are probably clogged. It is important to clean those tappings out and know how much water is actually in the boiler. It sounds like it is time to have a Steam Pro come in, do an annual maintenance on the boiler, install new vents, check out all the safety controls )like the Pressuretrol) to make sure things are functioning as they should.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    My thread is "Converted two family" and this winter my system started acting up. I finally got it straightened out with 4 trips from my heating guy and started looking at how the system is set vs. what Dan Holohan has in his books. I was able to find his book, " We got steam heat! : a homeowner's guide to peaceful coexistence by Holohan, Dan." at a local library. It has a tremendous amount of great information on these systems, especially the sketches. If you can get it from the library, it's worth it. If not, you might want to invest and buy a copy. It is probably worth the price even if you replace the boiler.

    I talked to Gorton about my return vents and was absolutely amazed when I changed my two main air vents in the return lines from Gorton #1 to #2, which vent 4 times as fast, based on their recommemdation. Give them a call, they are a small company, but extremely helpful. Now my boiler runs much less. Also, depending on how long it takes to heat the room the radiator may not get hot all over. That's in the book, too. I got a 5psig gauge to substitute for my 30 psi gauge, got it at Grainger, in stock. I never saw any pressure on my 30 psig gauge, but with the 5psig one, I could see that it was pressurizing to the right level. Someone else pointed out that the higher pressure gauge is by code, so either put in a second one or just use the 5psig one for testing. I also noticed it looks like some of the supply piping has no insulation. That's hurting your heating up the house. Make sure your radiator vents are not at the top of the end of the radiator, it belongs in the middle. That's in the book too.

    Fred is spot on with his recommendations especially about the gauge glass. If you can't tell the real level you could have very little water
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    The book is in stock at the Bethpage Library

    https://search.livebrary.com/search/?searchtype=X&SORT=D&searcharg=dan+holohan&searchscope=85

    I hope I have been helpful. I also noticed some more stuff, like how your Hartford loop is set up.
    SuperJ
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    Here's a picture of some of his books.



  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    Thank you all for advice and recommendations. The supply mains are asbestos wrapped entire length except for closer to boiler (as you can see in pics). Most of radiators have vari-valves and a few have the round maid of mist vents (I think that’s what they are called). My pipes never clank and I never hear hissing, which kind of worries me because that’s all I ever read or hear with steam pipes that they make noises.

    What temperature should the aquastat be set at? I have it at 140 degrees. I don’t know if that is too low. My boiler will run for at minimum 1hr at a time. It usually runs for 2+ hours at a time. Is that normal for stem boilers to reach temperature?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,513
    A properly sized boiler, running at a low pressure, properly pitched mains and radiator run-outs make for a quiet system. Don't woory about silence. I do believe you can cut some run time off of the steam heating cycle by putting larger vents on the mains/returns. What does that aquastat control? is there a hot water loop in a portion of the house or does it just provide potable hot water?
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    There was a hot water coil in the boiler that fed to a hot water heater. The plumber I had here to re-pipe the house, cut and capped it so the coil serves no purpose anymore. Is that why there would be an aquastat on the boiler?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,513
    Yes, If there is no other hot water loop to any radiators/baseboards, that aquastat can be turned down as low as it will go (zero if it goes down that far).
    Those copper pipes look like they are still connected to something???
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,132
    Main vent upgrade may get you the most for your money.
    If you burned coal then the size of vents you have might be right.
    Gorton 2 or Big mouth for each would be a good start.

    You also have the longest Hartford Loop horizontal connection ever! Should be only maybe 2" long, short as possible.
    RxRoy
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    That's one of the things in Dan's book. I decided I gave enough pointers for one message and left it out. Holy cow!
  • Shalom
    Shalom Member Posts: 164
    Just pointing out, I have that same square steam/vacuum gauge, and it always reads about 6PSI, just like in your picture, as soon as the pipes start getting even a little warm, before even the returns get hot, so I wouldn't trust it. Asked PSE&G to replace it and the guy laughed at me.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    Guys, I hate to tell you, but that gauge is a compound gauge, clockwise from 0 is pressure and counterclockwise is vacuum. If you can zoom in, you can see the letters VAC below the 30 on the left, and PRESS below the 30 on the right. Does it ever move at all?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,132
    Some gauges have adjustment screws under the glass, might be worth a look.

    If the insert coil is no longer in use it should be isolated and left open. Any water trapped inside may expand enough to produce a leak in the coil somewhere. IMO

    So what do the bricks around the burner do?

    The steam books here are well worth the money and written for the homeowner.
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    JUGHNE the bricks were put there to try and deflect the heat from boiler. The heat kept melting the reset control box. I didn’t know what to put there and found some bricks in the yard. It hasn’t melted since then haha.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,132
    Smart move. Added mass would help keep the basement warmer off cycle also.
    Maybe you are over fired or boiler needs cleaning.

    IIWM, I would install the new air vents now, this would give you an indication of what to do next. Often changing many things at once you lose the discovery of a hidden problem or find out that existing piping etc isn't as bad as assumed.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    If you have/had so much heat being thrown off the boiler that equipment mounted on it is melting, you have/had serious problems. My gas fired boiler has an intermittent water level test function every ten minutes and would run for several of those test time intervals. After I put in those gigantic Gorton #2s, it ran a lot less, but I do have to say it wasn't as cold either. The other thing I did was let the water level operate a bit lower. I think that helped the time it would take to make the steam because there was less water to heat, even though heating the water to boiling takes only about 150BTU/lb and it takes about 970BTU/LB to make it into steam. Perhaps the added surface area exposed to steam instead of water made a big difference. Be careful about letting the boiler run out of water. Make sure your gauge glass is working properly. The last thing you want is to add winter cold makeup water to an "empty" cast iron boiler.

    I am interested in your actions and results.
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    So I had someone come to look at boiler today and he figured out that the reason why I’m going through soo much oil and house isn’t heating right, why my reset control box kept melting is because the fire chamber is collapsed inside. How does that happen?

    Also I did an EDR calculation yesterday and I got 432. (That’s for just radiators). Do the header and mains get computed into that? I have a 3” header, and 3 mains, 62 feet, 42 feet, and 20 feet long. House is approx 2200 sqft.

    The recommendation was to put a peerless 177k btu natural gas steam boiler. Does that sound right based on the numbers?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,513
    Pick a boiler that has a Sq. Ft. output rating on the boiler plate that is in the range of that 432 EDR. It will have the Piping and Pick-up factors already built into the boiler. Peerless is a good boiler, just don't let them over-size the boiler.
    New England SteamWorks
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,325
    That Peerlsess is probably a little oversized -- assuming you insulate the steam mains (which you should). Not bad, but... could be smaller. As @Fred said, check the square foot output rating on the boiler and match that -- not BTU -- to your 432 figure.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.
    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    Did the boiler guy show you the fire chamber, assuming it is not all that difficult to get access to? Over the years I have learned to "Trust but verify". With my boiler experiences over the 29 years I have had my apartments, I have come to be very careful what I believe. I was told my boiler had water leaks, because the flame had yellow. It turns out these devices are very susceptible to the air quality which you can read about in many places including this web site and the installation manuals. I discovered that just by bending down and looking at the flame caused the dust, etc. on the floor to get drawn into the burner area, making the flame yellow. If I remained still for a minute, the yellow essentially went away. No water leak, no replacement of boiler.

    I totally agree to not oversize a new boiler, it is one of the major points in the book I mentioned.
  • amakro15
    amakro15 Member Posts: 39
    Yes he opened up the “viewer” on back of boiler and we looked inside and can see everything is broken and crumbled, and blocking the flame coming from the gun.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 378
    Good news, bad news...good that you can see reality, bad that the boiler is in bad shape. Good luck.
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