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Hi- Need Help Selecting Valves and Main Vent to Balance Heating System

Hi everyone,

I recently moved into a 3 story brick home with gas-fueled steam heat. I'm having major issues in balancing the heat between floors (3rd floor won't heat enough, 1st floor is so hot I had to close the heat valves entirely... 2nd floor has the thermostat and is just right) In addition my first heating bill seems really high, so I suspect some work is in order. I know these are never perfect, but I'm assuming there is some valve work to do, and I need help selecting properly please!

The house is 22 x 44 feet, and has one main running from the rear to front in the basement in the center of the building. There are verticals in the front, center and another in the rear to go up to the second and 3rd floors. I've made a full diagram below including pipe diameters and approximate distances. Radiators appear original from the 1961 construction and are the smaller fin type. Seems to be only one main vent. No clue if there are others on the 3rd floor because they would be in a wall I'd like to avoid opening if I can! :)

All radiators are ~40" except for the bathrooms which are ~20" and the Entry hall at 35"

Can anyone help me select a main vent and valves? The top floor is all gorton "D" except for a 5 in the bathroom (center of building), which Gorton tells me is ideal. But the first and second floors are a mix of brands and models and I'd like to replace everything for proper balance. Ideally I can use gorton on the radiators as that seems the easiest system to understand and select, but I can use whatever works best for the main vent in the basement.

THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE!

Diagram attached/below:




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Comments

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,579Member
    How about pictures of the boiler showing the piping above and below. And a picture of your vent and how it is connected.

    Pipe sizes are measured by the inside diameter.
    So could your 2 1/2" be the outside diameter?
    The 1 3/4" would probably be 1 1/4" inside.

    And would there be 45-50' of main pipe from the boiler to the vent?
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Hi- thanks! See below for marked-up images of the boiler and other plumbing. I include the exterior because effectively there is a radiator under each window as shown. Missing are the 3 bathrooms, center of house.

    The vent is a 1" fitting, which on a 90 degree elbow down to the return line.

    I never knew pipe was measured by interior! (which makes sense and also explains why the exteriors were not exact on my dial caliper...)

    Lastly, you are correct- 45-50 feet of main from boiler to the vent





  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    That main vent is where you need to start. You can't balance radiators until the main venting is correct. That old vent is way, way to small for a 40ft to 50 ft main and as old as it is, it may not even work anymore. Relace it with a Barnes and Jones Big Mouth vent (available from Amazon). One should be enough for that Main. The issue you have is that it takes so long for the steam to push air out of the main that it takes another, easier, path, which is the short run to the first floor, first, then the second floor and the thermostat, on the second floor is satisfied before the 3rd floor gets much steam.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited December 2018
    Thanks Fred!

    I need to sort an adapter from the 1 inch pipe to the 3/4 inch valve fitting, so fingers crossed it all fits the clearance with that beam above...

    From there, how would I research the valves themselves? Although i have the feeling based on research and what you gents are saying that the vent might fix everything...
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    @5horizonsrr , you just need a 1" to 3/4" bushing. I think you have the clearance. If not, you can add a bushing then an elbow to swing the vent away from under the beam/joist then a nipple and another elbow to mount the Big Mouth too.
    As far as balancing the radiator vents, after fixing the main venting, see how the system works. If you need to balance some radiators, consider using either the Vent-Rite #1, Hoffman #1A or Maid-O-Mist vents in rooms that may still get too warm. Those are very good variable vents that you can adjust the amount of venting and experiment with rather than buying the fixed capacity vents.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,279Member
    And the key to balancing these things -- after you get the main venting fixed -- is to slow down radiators which are getting too hot too soon, rather than trying to speed up radiators which are too cold or too late. The other thing to remember is to change one thing at a time -- changing a vent in one location will affect the entire system! Changing two vents at a time and you really can't figure out what did what... patience!
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,579Member
    edited December 2018
    Your new vent will be happier if you do add a 90 and then a nipple and another 90 with nipple up as feasible.
    This protects it from water hammer.
    Just be sure the horizontal nipple will drain back into the main.
    The slope of the main is enough if you swing your first 90 back towards the main (parallel with main).

    Also, any boiler piping pictures...…..
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Thanks everyone! I can do a pair of 90's/elbows, I just can't do straight up due to a beam. The vent is on order and I'll report back soon.

    Also- a better-safe-than-sorry question: are these joints best handles with teflon, plumbing dope, or something else? (I'm guessing the latter?)

    This forum has already been a lifesaver- a great community!
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    Either tape or pipe dope will work for the elbows and vent threads. Be sure to stay back one or two threads from the end of the fitting so that you don't get tape or dope into the system/vents.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited December 2018
    Thanks! Vent valve comes tomorrow, and pending a trip to the plumbing supply for fittings I'll get it in.

    Also- I've been told I should shim the return line off the floor just a bit to avoid rust or water damage. Would you guys recommend composite (https://www.amazon.com/Nelson-WC8-32-15-50/dp/B000DEN2Z8/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1544456659&sr=8-3&keywords=composite+shims), wood or plastic shims for this? Plastic makes the most sense but I worry about the heat transfer/resistance.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    The wet return lines are full of water 100% of the time. a little moisture from the floor is not an issue.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,579Member
    If you are talking about existing wet returns that lay on the basement floor, I would not worry about them for now, as Fred said.
    However if you change that piping in the future, I would lay 2" thick bricks under the piping. Gives clearance for pipe wrenching and a broom for cleaning. (you can kick the bricks around for through cleaning if you wish.) Also takes the bumps of fittings out of the pipe run, raises the drain valves up for hose connections, etc.
  • gfrbrooklinegfrbrookline Posts: 369Member
    If you can do 2 45's I would do that so it will drain better.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    ok thanks everyone! Next report will hopefully be a success in the venting dept.... :)
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    big mouth vent came! quick question- do I need to use the 3/4-1 inch coupling supplied, or can I just screw it directly into my 1" fitting?
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Posts: 4,094Member
    That is a union, it isn't pipe thread so yes you need to use everything supplied.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    ok thanks! I"m back and I have a test fit assembled. I'd put the whole thing in but of course the old vent is in there ROCK HARD and I might need to source a breaker bar. In the meanwhile, how does this test fit look? (45 degree bends to clear the beam overhead)





  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    Looks good. The nice thing about the two piece vent is you can screw the union base into your pipe and then screw the vent onto the base without have to turn the vent body so you don't have to have the clearance away from the joist.

    I'm not sure you will need the bushing. I think the 45 will screw right into the pipe.
  • You may not be able to just use Gortons. I have a two family converted to 4 units that I have been balancing for a couple of weeks. I don't live there and as mentioned each change in a vent can affect other radiators. Also, rooms behave differently depending on the weather, time of day orientation to prevailing winds, sun, as well as what surfaces are heated versus unheated. If you look at the report Balancing Steam Systems, there is a table of the capacities of a bunch of vent valves and a lot of other information. The most important parts are the table and the addendum about overventing.

    I looked at Gorton, MaidOMist, Vent Rite#1 and Varivalves. Trying to keep it simple, the Vent Rite#1 can go from about a #5 down to shut off, so it covers the radiators that need the least venting.

    The Varivalves go from about a #5 to more than a Gorton #1 (main vent); lots of venting. Even if the adjusting slide is set at CLOSED the valve still vents at a #5.

    Once I learned that, I put in all MoMs and changed orifices to balance. Even with that, I have several radiators that a #4 vents too much and changed to Vent Rite #1s so I could reduce the venting. I have one Varivalve on the radiator in the coldest room (I bought a wireless thermostat and put it in that room).

    Don't get hung up too much on using the same manufacturer. You need the proper venting capability.

    Tweaking the individual radiator vents comes after the mains are set properly. That comes first.

    If you want to follow my journey, check out Converted two family, and overventing.

    Good luck.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Hi everyone, I apologize for being MIA on this thread but I ran into a combination of the holidays and then a disaster with the old vent.

    In short, the old vent wouldn't budge- even with a breaker bar. In the end a plumber friend came over and managed to break the valve then cut out the threads. So at least that is finally off.

    I then had a chat for the second time- both him and the plumbing supply co said the big mouth is a steam trap for a 2 pipe system, and that it would not work. Our compromise for tonight was he popped in a replacement that looks like the old vent and I can at least easily replace that with the big mouth.

    So the first question- for a single pipe system is this big mouth the correct part? I'm not second guessing you guys, but I found no info on their website and didn't want to get this wrong.

    Second question- assuming the puny replacement valve we just put in is still a step forward/if the old one was perhaps broken, how should the system be reacting? Higher temps on all floors? More equal temps front to rear of house? Less gas consumption? I figure I might as well judge progress in baby steps....

    Thanks and have a great weekend!
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    The Big mouth vent is in fact a trap that was re-engineered by Barnes and Jones to be a Main Vent. It is an excellent vent and we all use it on our one pipe systems. Tell the plumber to put it on, or, now that he got the old one out for you, put it on yourself.
    Trust that it is a vent and that it will do an excellent job for you.
    As par as whatever "puny" vent he put on that main as a temp fix, it probably won't do anything to improve your system. With the Big Mouth, steam will move more quickly through the mains which means it will get to the radiator faster, which means you should get heat to the radiator/rooms where you want it and where it will do its job sooner, which means it should satisfy the thermostat sooner thereby saving fuel. The boiler won't spend time trying to push air out of the mains. As a result, system pressure should improve because of shorter heat cycles. Once that is on, you may have to rebalance the radiator vents to even the steam distribution but put that vent on first and see what rooms you may need to adjust radiator venting.
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 527Member
    @5horizonsrr Do a quick search for @Sailah posts on here. He designed it and I'm sure you'll find the old thread where he used some suggestions from the collective here. Then you can show the plumber and supply house what keeping your knowledge current looks like when you put it into use. If you're nervous to whether it's right, watch a cycle and see for yourself
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Posts: 4,094Member
    Here is the thread about the Big Mouth.

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/156043/f-t-trap-on-one-pipe#latest

    The thread shows the idea being proposed, the manufacturer development and some testing results. It’s a main vent, the people you are dealing with need to keep up with current events.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • Gary SmithGary Smith Posts: 270Member
    Does B&J still make the Quick Vent mentioned in the Big Mouth thread listed by @KC_Jones ? Couldn't find it on their website.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Success! It is in, and bonus points for it just barely clearing the floor joist!

    Fred- thanks for the excellent description. The bill was actually my original concern, as it was about $100 more than my next door neighbor last month with an identical house, heating system, and he has ancient windows- mine are brand new...

    I'll let this settle in and keep recording temps, then on to valves... I"ll report back once I have some readings in case anyone is interested. Thanks for all of your help!


  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    @streamingatmohawk - where can I find the report you mention? And I will read your thread with interest- thanks!
  • neilcneilc Posts: 659Member
    edited January 5
    Shorz,
    Because that location is right at the turn down to the wet return, and cause steam and condensate will get pushed into that corner, and that vent,
    I think you should consider doing the job one more time, using the 45s you had in the sample pictures, and even adding a short nipple between the 45s, to get the BM a bit away from that corner location.
    This will be better for that vent.
    As it is now you may experience some condensate spitting from the vent at times before the vent closes tight.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,279Member
    edited January 5

    ...The bill was actually my original concern, as it was about $100 more than my next door neighbor last month with an identical house, heating system, and he has ancient windows- mine are brand new....

    Don't let those brand new vs. ancient windows fool you. Particularly if their's have storm windows -- say triple tracks or something like that -- they are probably no worse in terms of heat loss than the brand new ones, unless the latter are very high end.

    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Thanks Neil. Ill remount it with bends + nipple when I'm back to town next week (as I'm travelling this week for work)

    Initial feedback seems to be the vent isn't doing much in terms of temperature, but that was expected as you all point out above. In terms of heat range, F-R looses a few degrees, but going floors 1 up to 3 are an issue, varying ~6 degrees per floor)

    In the meanwhile I'm reading and learning about balancing the radiator valves themselves. The Gill & Pajek article is proving very interesting. I have late fin-type radiators in the place, which was a surprise when I bought them. (image below from when I was doing paint work on the interior)

  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited January 14
    Hi everyone, I'm back in town and have some good news to report: the tenant is saying the front of house (farthest from boiler, and top/3rd floor) is now 2ish degrees warmer on average and in line with back of house. So in brief, I think the main venting is sorted! Tonight I'll put the 45 degree bends and nipple on the big mouth and call that part of the job done.

    The next problem is getting heat to rise. The hottest room in the house (my bedroom) is first floor and a mere ~3 feet off the boiler main. And it is 78 degrees in there. The coldest room is on the 3rd floor (front or rear about equal) and they are running 65-66 degrees. 2nd floor has thermostat in the center away from the radiators and is perfect (71 degrees, a bit warm but I needed to get the 3rd floor liveable) for that reason I guess.

    I'm hoping the vertical mains dont have some sort of venting to address? They are hidden in the walls (1 front, 1 rear) so I have no idea. Regardless I will try to calculate my first floor vent needs and post for sanity checking tonight. An update to follow in a few hours!
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    You can try to balance all the radiators using larger (not too large) vents on the colder radiators and small ones in the rooms that are too warm. If that doesn't completely satisfy your needs, you can put a vent on the riser(s) to the cold rooms. That vent can be on any horizontal pipe, in the room, just before the radiator. That will vent the riser. Leave the smaller vent on the radiator to vent it.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited January 15
    Hi everyone, I'm off to work on the project tonight, and realized I'm not sure how many OZ of CFM my boiler runs at. Is that the PSI on my boiler gauge, or something I calculate via another manner? Thanks in advance for any insight!
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    It's ounces of Pressure and yes, your boiler Pressure gauge will tell you that, if you have a 0-3 or 0-5 PSI gauge on the boiler. The 0-30 PSI gauge won't tell you much of anything until your boiler is out of control.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    Thanks! The pressuretrol seems set at 2.5oz cut in, and I have a 0-30psi gauge (of course...) which is getting up to 5PSI, although I have no idea if that is accurate. Images below. I may pick up a new gauge tomorrow for the smaller 0-5 range and check accuracy on what the boiler is putting out. Any recommendations on what to set the cut-in at, or should I just leave that alone?

    Getting back to the radiators, I have a sample calculation below if anyone would be kind enough to sanity check for me:

    Bathroom 1st Floor:
    8 Feet of ~1 1/2" OD runner pipe. Assuming ID of 1 1/4"
    Radiator capacity of .01602 (32" of 3/4" ID pipe on fin radiator)

    8ft x .010 pipe volume/SF = .08 + .01602 = .09602.
    .09602/3 (3 minutes from the Gill/Pajek article) = .032 venting rate. Then apply this figure to the boiler pressure and pick the right valve. Does that math seem accurate?




  • neilcneilc Posts: 659Member
    you have lots of room to dial that Ptrol down,
    you look set to 2 or 3 # there, dial it down to 0.5
    then inside, check the diferential , the white wheel, it should be set to 1.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    edited January 15
    Use the screw on the top of that Pressuretrol and turn the Cut-In down to .5 (bottom of the scale but don't go too far or you will turn the screw off of the link inside the unit. Then take the cover off of the Pressuretrol (small screw on the center, bottom of the cover and set the Differential (white wheel) inside the box to "1", with the "1" facing the front of the unit. That will give you a Cut-out of 1.5PSI. At 5 PSI, you can ruin radiator vents, over time.


    I might add that you want to vent radiators slowly and balance the steam between all the radiators. I prefer the adjustable radiator vents like the Vent-Rite #1, the Hoffman #1A or the Maid-O-Mist. They allow you to change venting speeds custom to each radiator without buying a lot of different ones and then finding that half of them are too slow or too fast, relative to the other radiators in the house or for the comfort level you want in each room. One Note, Hoffmans seem to click when they open and close. Vent-Rites are the better choice for quietness.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited January 15
    Thanks yet again Fred! Boiler is reset/adjusted, and I'll pick up a new gauge next time I stop at the supply house.

    The Vent-Rite 1 is exactly what I need for the first floor (I think the Hoffman 1B could work but they are $$ and the noise will generate complaints), but vent-rite I doesn't make a straight/vertical connection. Would I be crazy to find then use a few 90 degree fittings to connect them?

    Once those are in I can hopefully have the overheating on the first floor settled, then sort the 3rd floor (assuming the changes on the first floor don't help fix the 3rd floor problem)

  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    @5horizonsrr , you can use a short nipple and an elbow or even just a street ell for the Vent-Rite.
  • 5horizonsrr5horizonsrr Posts: 41Member
    edited January 15
    @Fred , Thanks! I'm all set with vent and 90 degree hardware in hand. One last question: the Venrtites have a tongue sticking out of the thread that doesn't get along with the elbow joint: is this necessary or can it just be pulled out?

    I owe you one for all the help!

    Some images of 24 hours progress. Boiler now cutting out at ~1.5PSI!




  • FredFred Posts: 7,814Member
    That tongue is there to let any condensate drip back into the radiator. You can "clip" it back to fit into the elbow but I would not try pulling it out.
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