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American Standard steam system revival

rrob311
rrob311 Member Posts: 15
edited August 2018 in Strictly Steam
I am working on a large two story colonial here in NH and there is a steam system in place that was abandoned in favor of propane. Propane is not cost effective enough in my location so I am looking to fire this boiler later this year and hopefully get some use out of it. The thermostat is missing but I have a new wifi thermostat. It is an American Standard with a 268k btu rating and 838 sq ft of steam. I have 10 radiators throughout the house. Only 2 are on the second level. I believe there is a hot water coil inside of it. A friend on another site recommended this place.

I am familiar with how the oil burner system works and the thermostat for it. I am pretty much clueless on how all of the steam system controls work. The black gate valve in the picture below is pretty much seized or at the very least needs a new knob because it spins. I took the flue off the top and looked into it and the cast iron portions that I could see looked to be in great shape. It looks like it needs to be vacuumed out. How can I tell if the boiler is able to hold water properly so I am not wasting my time?

Comments

  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15






  • AMservices
    AMservices Member Posts: 610
    Is the water line still connected? Manuel bypass looks open.
    If you can fill the boiler, watch the gauge glass (on the left side of the boiler with the 2 red hands top and bottom) that will tell you the water level in the boiler. Fill it until the glass is completely full and look for leaks.

    Good luck.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,881
    Well, allow me to say that I, at least, think you've come to the right place! And welcome aboard!

    Depending on how deep you yourself want to get into this, may I recommend a couple of books? "We Got Steam Heat" and "The Lost Art of Steam Heating". Not all that pricey and worth their weight in gold. Available from the store on this web site or, I think, from Amazon.

    Ok. That's out of the way.

    There is a heating coil in your boiler for your hot water. You can see its piping in the third picture -- the one with the valve in it with the black handle. That valve is not a gate valve, but a tempering valve which controls just how hot that hot water will be at the tap. It may be working even though the handle seems to spin.

    The first picture and second pictures, with the blue box -- that's a "pressuretrol" which serves to turn the oil burner off when there is enough pressure in the system to operate properly. Oddly enough, it looks as though it is set properly; they often aren't.

    The large black thing in the third picture, near the glass tube (which is called a sight glass) and labelled "McDonnell Miller No. 67" is a low water cutoff; it keeps the boiler from running dry. The complicated black gadget in the fifth picture is probably an automatic water feeder, which is also triggered by the low water cut off. There are mixed opinions on those; that one doesn't seem to have a meter which is too bad, as you could be feeding a lot of water to a leak and not be aware of it. But... it's there anyway.

    The copper piping is unfortunate, but if it's working you can let it be until you need to do something about the boiler.

    The easiest and most reliable way to tell if the boiler is holding water is to turn it off and fill it so that the water in that sight glass is visible just below the top of the glass -- just visible. Use a clothespin or some such and mark where it is, and then let it sit for 24 hours. It should not have dropped, or at least dropped very little. That will check the integrity of both the boiler and any piping which is below the water level. It won't check for steam leaks above the water line; for that you may need to run the boiler but we can worry about that later.

    You should get a qualified oil burner and boiler technician out there to thoroughly clean the boiler and to clean and adjust the oil burner. The former job just takes time and dedication to doing things thoroughly. The latter job takes someone who has and knows how to use the necessary testing instruments; one cannot properly adjust an oil burner by eye!

    On the thermostat. WiFi is wonderful. Steam systems, however, do not like setbacks. It and you will be much happier setting it at a comfortable temperature and leaving it.

    It is quite possible that some work will be needed on the rest of the system to get it to really run properly -- but we can wait on that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15
    The hot water line from my propane tankless heater goes straight to it where there is a line valve that is open. It goes into what I believe is the hot water coil on the left side of the front of the unit. The output line from the water coil is disconnected and there is no water coming out. There is another valve or two that are corroded. That is the only live water connection to the unit.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,712
    @rrob311 , what part of NH?

    That boiler is probably a model A37-M, dating to the mid 1960s. These boilers were built like tanks. The burner has been upgraded- it's probably a Beckett AF, which is a current model. This is a better boiler/burner combination than the original, though not as efficient as a current model boiler.

    How about the system itself- is it one-pipe or two-pipe? Are there two pipes connected to each radiator or just one?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,881
    rrob311 said:

    The hot water line from my propane tankless heater goes straight to it where there is a line valve that is open. It goes into what I believe is the hot water coil on the left side of the front of the unit. The output line from the water coil is disconnected and there is no water coming out. There is another valve or two that are corroded. That is the only live water connection to the unit.

    Say again? Unless those lines are disconnected somewhere outside the picture frame, the fourth picture shows the automatic water feeder connection looking pretty intact, and the third shows the hot water coil in the boiler connected properly through the tempering valve.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15
    It is a single pipe system. I will look into filling it up later this week when I am at the property. One of the fittings on a radiator upstairs had been leaking because there is water damage around the pipe going to the radiator.
  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15
    Jamie, picture 2 shows the pipe that is disconnected. You can see the threads on it.
  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15
    The building is in the Concord area.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,881
    Ah I see it I think. -- then the coil isn't in service. That's one less thing to think about.

    A leaking radiator is... more likely a leaking valve packing. But you probably won't be able to really tell until you get steam up.

    Since the system was overpressured, you may find that some of the vents have been damaged...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • rrob311
    rrob311 Member Posts: 15
    Where else should water be connected to fill the boiler? It is not connected anywhere else.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,881
    picture 4 shows a black whiz-bang with electric power to it, a pushbutton on it -- and a pipe going in and a pipe going out. What, if anything, do those pipes connect to? If that is still connected, that's your feed point.

    If there really are no water feed connections anywhere... first, the plumber did you no favours, and you may find a host of other problems. Second, you can fill the boiler using the drain valve I see over the plastic tray in one picture using a hose. Make up a length of hose with two female ends. Hook one up to a handy hose bibb, hook the other end up to the drain valve and off you go.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    When you fill the boiler, fill it until you can feel the cold water in the top of the riser coming out of the boiler, and let it sit for a few hours. That will pressurize the whole of the boiler sections, and reveal any leaks.—NBC