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Wise ones of Steam....please help me understand something

So I got a issue that is boggling my mind. I have a school heated by steam that is just a nuisance and trouble. Basically I have a condensate receiver that is in a pit on in the basement portion of the school and its a good 5-6' drop from the mechanical room. When the unit runs and isn't flooding the pit....everything is great. However, when it floods....it's of course just a mess like no other and water from somewhere just flows in from one of the pipe sleeves coming into the pit. We've tried locating prints to see where and what pipe...but alas no cigar. However up in the mechanical room, I have yet another condensate pump system complete with shutoffs. And it runs a line from the boiler room down with a 3.5' drop, then 45 up and out to the other pit.
My question is...what is with the two pump system, why do I have such a weird fall/rise ratio going on, and without cutting up concrete to find a massive leak..what options am I looking at?
One trouble problem we did figure out was that our heat exchanger tube bundle is shot and that is getting replaced, however I fear that is only the tip of the iceberg.

Please be gentle with me...this steam stuff is kicking my butt someday's! Other time's I am the one kicking butt, but every once and awhile I am getting stumped!

Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Could the original boiler have been located down at the lower level of the pit?
    It sounds like you have a condensate pump lifting water up to a boiler feed pump.

    Is the flood water coming out of wall sleeves that contain return pipes connected to the lower pump? Is it hot water??

    What does your heat exchanger provide heat for?

    Pictures of pumps, boiler, piping etc would help.
    Wide angle to include all connections.

    Where is this school?
  • MarkMurf
    MarkMurf Member Posts: 31
    Yeah, in trouble shooting existing steam jobs, I have learned to never assume anything . That is, that anything was done correctly or with any rhyme or reason . Pumping condensate down to the boiler or level to the boiler is standard fare . But up to the boiler ? Ahhhhh.... shaky . Relying on check valves ? Just redid a 100 year old job where we replaced all of the buried returns with floor level returns . Buried returns, especially on old steam jobs, very shaky . The boiler can push water back to the collector . The warm return water leaks or of rotted, buried return lines and makes a mud slurry underground liquefying any clay in the dirt, and when the system cools, sucks the clay back up into the system . VERY BAD . Heating 101 . A good rule of thumb . The boiler, whenever possible, should always be the LOWEST point in the system...... boiler pits and subbasements were used to insure this . In the days when all condensate had to return to the vessel by mechanical or gravity methods .
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    How do these pumps operate?

    Do they start and stop by floats in the condensate tanks?

    Or do they start and stop from a float-type control on the boiler?

    Or does one operate one way and the other operate the other way?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • oldbutnew1230
    oldbutnew1230 Member Posts: 2
    School is in Michigan...somewhat middle of the state.
    Floats in the condensate receiver in the pit
    Yes, water comes from the lower pipes that come thru sleeves into the pit. And oh yeah its hot...melted some of my boot when I had to re-pipe the pit for the sump pump that is in there also.
    No, Boiler Room has always been boiler room from what I have understood. But this is the second spot of the condensate pit area.

    And as the wise Alice Cooper once quoted....
    "Welcome to my nightmare"