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Main vents - replace, clean or ok as they are

Hi!, Thanks so much for all you do. I read the books and I’m posting my question here.
These are photos of the main events in our 117-year-old single pipe steam heat home. One looks new, one is completely covered in what looks like rust, the other two appear to be plugs. My question is: do they look OK?
should they be cleaned, replaced, or are they OK just the way they are? The system works OK, not perfect, but I am still working on balancing, pitching, cleaning the radiator vents & do regular skimming each week on Tues.

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,564
    They are probably too small for their job. I would recommend a Big Mouth vent mounted high at each location.—NBC
    seaamygo
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    None of them look like plugs to me. They all need to be replaced and with vents sized to more effectively expel the air. How long is each main (from boiler to the existing vents)?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,750
    Those air vents are a hold over from the coal burning days of a constant heat source. If you read the books that info is in there.

    Today we are on-off burners and need quick air removal.
    If you go with the Barnes & Jones Big Mouth you need a 3/4" female pipe fitting. A 1/2" riser to the 3/4 part will probably pass the air OK.

    BJBM are the most bang for the buck for your application.
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    The vents in the top photo are close to the boiler - I have to measure the mains but those are close by. The ones in the bottom photo are far from the boiler.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    seaamygo said:

    The vents in the top photo are close to the boiler - I have to measure the mains but those are close by. The ones in the bottom photo are far from the boiler.

    Is this a one pipe or two pipe system? I would guess the ones close to the boiler are on return pipes and the ones further away are at the ends of the Mains.
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    It was oil heat & the old owner converted over to gas.
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    I must have missed that in reading We got steam heat! So I will go back and check my notes. Thanks for the help @JUGHENE!
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    Is a one pipe system.
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    Thanks SO much everyon! You guys are the best & thanks for doing all you do! You make a single mom of 2 kids feel competent and able to take care of her new (117 year old) home! :):):)
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,750
    edited October 2018
    It was most likely first coal, then oil, then gas.
    Call back anytime!

    Just to be sure, the ones right at the boiler are not on the steam pipes leaving the upper part of the boiler?
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    Hi again!

    Thanks for the help! I have been able to make improvements in our heating thanks to your advice!
    Updates:
    I went to pickup the B&J big mouth vents at my local plumbing and heating supply - they had comparable ones but not these exact, so I am ording them off amazon. (A bit cheaper, too).
    In reading the chapters in We got Steam Heat - I understand I could replace the main vents myself if I have a big enough wrench. My question is - what are the guidelines for replacing them in a NewEngland Winter timeframe? (wait until spring?, wait until pipes are cold...?)

    AMy
  • Gary Smith
    Gary Smith Member Posts: 400
    The hardest part is getting the old ones off, PB Blaster, penetrating oil, maybe a couple of applications, some light tapping with a hammer where they thread in, don’t break anything and a big wrench and muscle. Once they are off it’s a 2 minute job.
  • anthonybsd
    anthonybsd Member Posts: 12
    seaamygo said:

    I understand I could replace the main vents myself if I have a big enough wrench.

    Keep in mind that considering their age they might be proper-stuck to the pipes, so a wrench alone of any size might not do it. You might need a torch and as a last resort be prepared to cut them out with a saw.
    seaamygo said:

    what are the guidelines for replacing them in a NewEngland Winter timeframe?

    Depends on how confident you are in your abilities. As long as you don't break the actual pipes themselves you should be fine.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,750
    You could start by scratching the rust where the male threads connect, I use a dental type pick or small steel brush.
    This lets penetrating oil get a start down into the female threads.
    I would soak maybe twice a day for several days.

    Do this when the pipes are relatively cool.
    PB Blaster or Kroil is good.
    The PB has strong odor, Kroil has less.
    An 18" pipe wrench with maybe some hammering and maybe a 2' cheater pipe slipped over the handle for leverage.
    You don't want to twist anything off...these are brass (soft) screwed into steel or cast iron (hard).
    If you do not get any easy movement, you might wait for a little milder weather, in the event the project goes south and you have to hire someone.
  • seaamygo
    seaamygo Member Posts: 19
    Hi! thanks so much for the guidance - I will be working on the ones in the lower photo, starting with the one on the right. Those look like they might be a bit easier to manage. Will be popping into my local rental shop to 'rent the right wrench for the day' on Sunday. (say that 5 times fast LOL) :smile:
    Will let you know how it goes - if it's a fail, I will call a pro as I know my limits!
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    edited January 2019
    > The PB has strong odor, Kroil has less.

    I sprayed some on a hot steam pipe and my wife had to leave the house.

    But I got the pipe off!

    Also check oit harbor freight—they have big wrenches for cheap—they’re not high end but they’re not bad for rare needs
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG