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Desperate for help! Pressure way too high.

We have what I understand is a 1 pipe steam heat system on a small 3 br house and the pressure keeps going up way too high.

Location: Havertown PA (Philadelphia suburb)
Boiler: Gas Crown Series 3/9/2007 Model BSI138SNFZZPSU
Installed by: Some dude that had no clue (my opinion) either way guy is no longer available.

Background:
I'm not an expert by any means.
The system worked after installation (switched from old oil based) the only issue then was that one room was extremely hot compared to the rest of the house. We have a total of 7 radiators in two floors and all vent valves were replaced with hoffmans when boiler was installed. After that, years later I have replaced the ones that seem to fail (radiator cold) with whatever I have found at home depot / lowes. On the room that was extremely hot I used a honeywell temperature controlled valve (installed between the radiator and the vent valve) so that room would have its own temp setting.

Symptoms:
For the past two years and now starting again, the pressure of the system is way too high. The dial on the boiler keeps reading sometimes 5 psi sometimes 10 psi and the Honeywell pressuretrol at the boiler is set to 2 psi main and 1.5 diff. The dial seems to be ok because every now and then it reaches 15 psi and the safety valve at the boiler opens up with its real loud hiss. I've probably had 5 or 6 different professionals looking into this system over the years, at least 3 looking into this very problem and no one can give me a clear explanation of the cause. I hear maybe radiator valves are clogged (I doubt this), the pig tail is clogged (ok), yet no one has been able to come up with a plan to fix it. Maybe they don't really know the solution, maybe they do but don't want to get involved in the fix, maybe a combination of both.

Questions:
What could cause the pressure be so high?
Where can I find someone qualified and willing to address this?

I'll be glad to provide any additional info/ pictures.
Thanks.-

Comments

  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    Post pics please.
    If your pigtail is clogged then it needs to be removed and cleaned or replaced and the threads at the boiler to which the pigtail connects (directly or otherwise) also need to be made clear. This isn't top-tier troubleshooting you're facing.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,800
    I dont know if this will solve your particular problem but the pressurtrol (PA404A ?) should be .5 cut in, or as low as you can get it without disconnecting the linkage. And 1 on the diff.
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    Thank you for your reply! Frustration keeps piling up... after I finished typing my post, now the boiler is not turning on at all. This seems a separate problem that may not be related to the high pressure issue. Last year we had this and twice someone changed a thermo-couple on the pilot (don't laugh if I didn't get this right :) ) Anyway, here are the pics... now the pressure on the dial is low because the boiler is not firing up and we are freezing. I can anticipate someone will come, fix the immediate issue and won't address or make a plan to fix the high pressure issue.



  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,208
    R U handy? have some basic handtools?
    Turn the power off to the boiler and follow along.
    Someone needs to check and clean the pigtail.
    It looks like the gage will be in the way of getting the pigtail and Ptrol off.
    Can you get a wrench on the back of that gage?
    Remove it.
    Next you will want to disconnect the wires from the Ptrol.
    We have the picture here, but remember the middle screw isn't used.
    Turn the Pigtail out of the boiler, then with a wrench on the flats under the Ptrol, take Ptrol from pigtail.
    as Ezzy said, either replace the pigtail, or with a wire, poke it free.
    You'll need to be able to blow thru the Pigtail.
    Make sure the threaded hole into the boiler is clear also.
    Reassemble. and power up.
    Ideally you would extend the pigtail up with a nipple, and even add a union, to make the next time easier.
    Get the ptrol above the boiler so it can spin off without bothering the gage. Though the way it is the gage port can be checked for clear also.
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    This info is great! I have tools for what "neilc" is describing but I suck at fixing pipes (computers, electric and basic car mechanics are my things) Someone came and they are working at it. It took probably 5 min to remove and clear the pigtail and reading the instructions I probably could have done that myself. They are looking into why it's not coming on right now.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,515
    Even the fact that the boiler won't fire could be due to a clogged pigtail. If the boiler ran enough pressure that it pushed the clog further into the pigtail or enough pressure allowed some of that pressure to push past the clog to the point the Pressuretrol reached its cut-out setting and then couldn't release that pressure because of the clog, the boiler won't fire.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,208
    post back what else is found ,
  • 1Matthias
    1Matthias Member Posts: 148
    Am I right in that they've stuck a check valve in the return instead of installing a hartford loop?
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for all this info, it helps a lot. The comment about clogged pigtail preventing start makes perfect sense. Pros are done and it's up and running now. Here is their report:
    - Replaced thermocouple on B... (unreadable probably Boiler? he was working at the bottom where the gas pipe comes in)
    - Pulled pressure control and pigtail and cleaned both
    - (unreadable) maybe checked operation of boiler and safety controls.

    He mentioned the whole unit is not 'piped' properly. His comment is that it was installed like a water boiler not a steam unit. He recommends to re-pipe next year during the warmer months. it's running nice now, reading on gauge dial is 7psi but he mentioned this reading is not reliable. He suggested to keep an eye on it and if the safety pops again replace the ptrol.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,515
    7PSI is still way too high. We always recommend a 0-3 PSI gauge be installed, on the same pigtail as the Pressuretrol. That way you can see what the Pressuretrol sees. I'd like to think that gauge is wrong but if the boiler actually trips the PRV, it may not be. He is right about the piping. That near boiler piping is deplorable.
    It is also a good idea to spend a little time and calculate the total EDR of your radiators and compare that to the Sq. Ft. of steam on the boiler name plate. They should be very close to each other, if the boiler was properly sized. If it is over-sized, that will contribute to pressure issues but the Pressuretrol should cut the burner off at no more than 2PSI and re-fire at about .5PSI. The pressuretrol may, in fact have failed. Can you see a model number on the inside side of that Pressuretrol? It may not even be the right one for a steam boiler.
    1Matthias
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,823
    I'd make re-piping a priority (if it lasts the winter) & I'd replace the pressuretrol and add a second 5psi, safety/manual reset control.
    No way do you want that running up that high and popping the relief.
    I wonder if it was skimmed (of course not) and you are just getting a constant gunking up of your pigtail.
    steve
  • It looks like the gauge glass tube is full of water, (is that right), and if that water column is high enough in the pipes, it will exert enough pressure on the Vaporstat, preventing the boiler from firing.
    Keep a watch on the water level, as the fill valve may be leaking.
    I'm sure you can fix the piping this summer, with help from here.
    --NBC
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    All of you who have replied and submitted recommendations, thank you, thank you thank you! This is very helpful because it's been hard for me to find help that is qualified and willing. Today's guy seemed to know what he was talking about, and he was able to fix it. Sure dial reads high, but ptrol is set at 2 psi so I'm inclined to believe his assessment that dial gauge may be shot. House is nice and warm now, all rooms even, no banging of the pipes so far (running at lower pressure I guess) and most importantly 15 psi PRV hasn't popped. something 2 or 3 previous pros did not deliver. I may not get the same guy next time so all this info is real valuable for me. Regarding comment on water level, this is fine, it's just the pic didn't show well. Here is another angle with brighter flash setting taken at the same time as the ones b4.
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    On the prev pic you may need to click on it then zoom in to see the water level more clearly.
    It is also a good idea to spend a little time and calculate the total EDR of your radiators and compare that to the Sq. Ft. of steam on the boiler name plate.
    Oh I would love to take a shot at this, I don't know how but if there is any reference that would be great. I'll google in the meantime.
  • Antonio2000
    Antonio2000 Member Posts: 7
    Google brought me back here on EDR, => old-radiator-edr-to-btu I'll start by reading that.
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,800
    2 psi cut in is way too high. Lower it to .5 or lower with a 1 psi diff.
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,624
    This is one of the worst steam boiler installations posted on this forum in quite a while. How do people get away with this?
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,208
    edited November 2018
    @hvacnut, and OP,
    caution on dialing that Ptrol down,
    that main setting at 2 is the cutout,
    the scale to the left is subtractive, for cut in.
    Do not dial either down,
    well, you might dial the main down about a 1/4 #,
    you could always turn it back up , , ,
    https://customer.honeywell.com/resources/Techlit/TechLitDocuments/71-0000s/71-2429.pdf
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,540
    It was piped by a "Hot Water Guy"
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,800
    > @neilc said:
    > @hvacnut, and OP,
    > caution on dialing that Ptrol down,
    > that main setting at 2 is the cutout,
    > the scale to the left is subtractive, for cut in.
    > Do not dial either down,
    > well, you might dial the main down about a 1/4 #,
    > you could always turn it back up , , ,
    > https://customer.honeywell.com/resources/Techlit/TechLitDocuments/71-0000s/71-2429.pdf

    Your correct. But he could still set the diff at .5 and the main to 1.5?
    R-B opens on pressure rise from the main and makes at main set point minus the diff.
    Seems like the wrong control. Needs a PA404A or vaporstat.
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