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Replacement for 1917 Richardson System steam radiator valves

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VPMirante
VPMirante Member Posts: 6
edited November 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
Hello! I am new to this forum and hoping to get some good advice. I just purchased a 100-year-old home that includes 17 cast-iron steam radiators. The radiators are original to the home, as are the supply valves. Some of these valves on the radiators are older and leaking, and I've read quite a bit that it's not worth me trying to recondition them myself (I don't even know how to begin). I'm aware it's best to have a plumbing expert remove the old ones and install the new ones so I don't damage the pipes.

My question is this ... can anyone recommend a suitable replacement for this type of valve? I have vintage Richardson System valves stamped "Patented May 15, 1917" on them. I believe these to be original to the house as well. I'm not sure if the threading was different 100 years ago versus today, or what thread standard was used on them (NST, BSPT, NPSI, etc).

I'm not looking to save a buck on the labor .. I'll leave that to the pro's. But I'd certainly love to save quite a few bucks sourcing and purchasing the correct replacement valves in advance, and preferably with a decent vintage look to them.

Thanks so much for any suggestions and advice you can offer.
-Vincent Mirante

Comments

  • VPMirante
    VPMirante Member Posts: 6
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  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Show what the other end/connection of the radiator looks like.
    Actually more important than the valves for decisions/selection of new inlet valves.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Where is the valve leaking?
    My guess would be at the Union nut between the valve and radiator, as it has been gooped up.
    Take the Union nut loose, and thoroughly clean the mating faces, with fine steel wool. Apply a small amount of dishwashing liquid, and retighten while rocking the radiator a bit. The machined faces must be bare metal, and perfectly aligned to seal.
    Keep the pressure down below 6 ounces with a vaporstat, verified by a low pressure gauge (0-3 psi, Valworx.com).
  • VPMirante
    VPMirante Member Posts: 6
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    Hi, a couple of them have some tiny drips on the top by the screw that holds the handles down to the valve. Not a "problem" per se. I'm really looking to change them overall in the spirit of "restoring the house to it's former glory" and looking for some new, vintage-style replacements. My main concern for this post is my concern on the thread types being compatible (today's standards vs 100 years ago).
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,439
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    New. vintage style Richardson valves simply don't exist. They were, and are, an integral and essential part of the Richardson system of vapour steam heating. If you really truly want to restore the house -- and the heating system to its former glory, which I applaud with enthusiasm (it's what I do, after all) you will be much better served by carefully cleaning them. You may find that there is a small amount of leakage at the valve stem, but it should be minor.

    Note that these valves incorporated a restriction which matched the size of the radiator.

    This system also included a special return elbow fitting; it can't be had any more, either.

    Most important, the system was designed to run on very low pressure. As @nicholas bonham-carter pointed out -- less than 6 ounces per square inch. You must use a vapourstat on these systems, and it must be verified by an accurate low pressure gauge.

    Like all vapour systems, venting is important: one master vent, or group of vents, at where the dry return or returns drops to the boiler. If your budget will stand for it, ideally you would use Hoffman 76s, which will hold a vacuum (it's unlikely that the original Richardson vent is still there; it was designed to pull the system into a rather deep vacuum, enhancing the overall efficiency significantly. Not really necessary with modern boilers).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    1Matthiasdelta TGordo
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Someone may have "fixed" your steam outlet elbows with steam traps. Could you picture them and are they all the same design.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    To answer the threading question that isn't an issue. Pipe threads haven't changed
    VPMirante
  • VPMirante
    VPMirante Member Posts: 6
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    Thank you very much for the comments. I’m attaching better pictures of the inlet and outlets.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,439
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    I think you're in luck -- that looks as though it may be a Richardson outlet...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Gordo
    Gordo Member Posts: 857
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    If you would like replacement knobs for your Richardson valves, please send me a PM. I should be able to duplicate them on our 3D printer.
    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
    Robert O'Connor_12
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    I see a non Richardson hot water vent on the top of the radiator, so some previous owner must have had problems, and consulted an unknowledgeble tech, although the radiator may have been replaced with an old hot water radiator.—NBC
    1Matthias
  • VPMirante
    VPMirante Member Posts: 6
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    @Jim_R said:
    “Probably is but the vent added on top would indicate some issue with the heating of this Radiator. Do all the Radiators have these inlets /water seals (outlets) and the vents ( not supposed to be there ) on them or are there variantions ? What about the boiler ? I doubt it's original 🤔 but if was changed when they were still familiar with the system the better the odds of the system originality being tweaked..
    Jim”

    Yes, ALL 17 radiators have these same vents installed. I have a 19-year-old Burnham Independence steam boiler and yet all the radiators appear to have the cheap Home Depot hot water vents on them. Any recommendations on what I should replace them with?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,439
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    I wonder... I wonder. Do you suppose that at some point someone cranked up the pressure on the boiler to... oh, whatever. Which would blow through the seal in the Richardson elbow... got steam in the returns... no heat. "Ah -- here's the problem -- we have to put vents on the radiators" and essentially made it into a lousy two pipe air vent system? Just a thought...

    Still recoverable. Drop the pressure to where it belongs, take the radiator vents off, vent the dry returns properly.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • VPMirante
    VPMirante Member Posts: 6
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    Thanks so much for the comments and advice. Yes, the boiler has a Pressuretrol PA404A. Should have been set to the lowest setting with a variance of maybe 1 to 1.5 (current settings). When we moved in, I noticed it was set to the highest capacity and a 1.0 variance. So that has now been set properly.

    Yes, the boiler venting is piped directly into the chimney, giving credence to the comments about this system needing to be closed and air-right. I will remove all the vents from the radiators ASAP and plug them.

    As for the mains, there were two vents that looked to be original. I replaced them with the model shown in the picture I just uploaded (per professional recommendation).
  • Mike_Sheppard
    Mike_Sheppard Member Posts: 696
    edited November 2018
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    Jamie, the old Richardson system documents I’ve found and read say the system can operate as a vapor, vacuum, or pressure system up to 10 psi. I can’t find the document I read that on at the moment but that’s what I remember it saying. Not that there is any reason at all to run it that high.

    The graduated radiator valves are what choke back the steam and only feed vapor into the radiator. If any pressure at all builds up in the radiator, even an ounce, it will blow out the water seal in the elbow. The valves are supposed to be set based on the size of the radiator. The Richardson system used water style radiators but did not need air vents on the them.

    Maybe the bleeders they installed on the radiators someone used to check for steam pressure to set the graduated valves properly? No idea.
    Never stop learning.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,742
    edited November 2018
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    That's not a steam vent, you need to return it. That was a "professional" recommendation? You need to find a new professional as the one you spoke to is clueless.

    More pics of the boiler piping as I can already see it's piped wrong, and in copper ugh.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    1Matthias
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,439
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    I seem to remember reading that about higher pressures being possible in a Richardson system, too, @Mike_Sheppard -- but I can't remember where. That said, however, the settings of the radiator valves -- which as you note meter the steam to the radiator to just what it can condense and no more -- would have to be calibrated to the system operating pressure.

    Which raises an interesting line of investigation for our OP, @VPMirante -- I wonder if he could get a line on what the original pressure was intended to be by trying various system pressures, and seeing at what point the radiators just filled, but got no blowby from the seals? Hmm... You up for some experimenting, Vincent? I'm gambling here that while later folks may have played with pressure settings and odd vents and other unfortunate things, they probably never got around to adjusting the valves... !
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,439
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    On pressure and orifice -- or adjustable valve controlled (e.g. Hoffman, Richardson, several others) -- systems. Remember that the flow across any orifice or equivalent contraption is dependent not only on the size of the opening, but also the pressure differential.

    Therefore a valve set properly for a pressure differential of a few ounces will not be set anywhere near right for a pressure differential of a few pounds...

    Also keep in mind that a pressuretrol or vapourstat is not so much a control device as it is a way to effectively modulate the boiler firing to match the load. It happens to be on/off -- therefore it's actually a form of pulse width modulation. Properly conceived of and applied, a vapourstat or pressuretrol can maintain the system pressure within a very narrow range.

    Back in the dark ages there existed an interesting array of fully mechanical contraptions for coal fired boilers which did the same thing, but were really modulating rather than PWM. And were horribly inefficient...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    That vent you bought is the wrong one. I believe you need Hoffman #76 vents.
  • 1Matthias
    1Matthias Member Posts: 148
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    VPMirante said:

    @Jim_R said:

    “Probably is but the vent added on top would indicate some issue with the heating of this Radiator. Do all the Radiators have these inlets /water seals (outlets) and the vents ( not supposed to be there ) on them or are there variantions ? What about the boiler ? I doubt it's original 🤔 but if was changed when they were still familiar with the system the better the odds of the system originality being tweaked..

    Jim”



    Yes, ALL 17 radiators have these same vents installed. I have a 19-year-old Burnham Independence steam boiler and yet all the radiators appear to have the cheap Home Depot hot water vents on them. Any recommendations on what I should replace them with?

    Pipe plugs would be a good replacement.
    VPMirante said:

    Thanks so much for the comments and advice. Yes, the boiler has a Pressuretrol PA404A. Should have been set to the lowest setting with a variance of maybe 1 to 1.5 (current settings). When we moved in, I noticed it was set to the highest capacity and a 1.0 variance. So that has now been set properly.



    Yes, the boiler venting is piped directly into the chimney, giving credence to the comments about this system needing to be closed and air-right. I will remove all the vents from the radiators ASAP and plug them.



    As for the mains, there were two vents that looked to be original. I replaced them with the model shown in the picture I just uploaded (per professional recommendation).

    As said above, that vent is the wrong type. It's for hot water systems. Return it and get a Hoffman #76.
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
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    If your venting rate is adequate, and the boiler is sized correctly, you will not build hardly any pressure while heating up the radiators. But it depends on the header size I think. Vent too fast and steam rushes to the end of the radiators or is unbalanced. Too slow and you build pressure. I believe the ratio of main vents to radiator vents matters too.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    @Jim_R , WhaaaaT? B)