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Help on Improving Steam System Performance

lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
edited December 2018 in Strictly Steam
My wife & I bought an old house with steam heat ~ 6months ago in the Westchester area; the heating isn't great but I finally have some time over the holidays to try and address it; hoping this community can help.

I've had a number of plumbers visit but after reading this site for months; they clearly aren't steam people.

House: single story w/ 13 radiators - all new vents: Hoffman 40s to Gorton Ds.
Boiler: Burnham installed in 2007; a few plumbers did not that the copper risers was a wrong install.
Thermostat: Honeywell 6450 @ 65degrees; 1 CPH (no setback)

The boiler fires up for ~30 mins to maintain the temp every 70 mins or so.

Things I've done so far:
Main A (Strong Side): ~136' long from Boiler, 2.5" diameter. This main has 3 main vents; two of these were replaced w/ Gorton #1 and after the last radiator a single Big Mouth. No insulation on pipes, removed old asbestos when house purchased.

Main B (Weak Side): ~65' long, 2.5" diameter. This main has 2 main vents; one was replaced with a Gorton #1 and after the last radiator on the return is a Big Mouth. Rooms on this side are always 3 degrees colder than rooms on the Strong Side. No insulation on pipes, removed old asbestos when house purchased.

I'd like to increase the speed to heat the house as well as balance the temp, I'm contemplating building an antler for both the Strong and Weak Side so I can use two Big Mouths on each end of main.

Does that make sense? The vents in the diagram were replaced 2 days ago, 3 Gorton #1 & 2 Big Mouth.

Any help figuring this out would be greatly appreciated (Got Steam has been ordered).






«13

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,451Member
    Step 1. Insulate those mains. That's the single most important and useful thing you can do. Don't worry about trying to get the venting better or that sort of thing before that.

    Before you insulate, though, check and make sure that the mains have the correct pitch and that there are no sags or humps in their length. Fix those first, then insulate.

    And yes, the near boiler piping is pretty awful, but that is another step away... the insulation is easy, and will make a nice difference.
    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
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 709Member
    I think after you insulate, observe how the big mouths perform as the boiler fires up and heats the main. I have a big mouth on my single main and it easily vents everything. Even the Gorton #1 I had on there briefly did fine.

    But that's because my mains also aren't insulated, so the steam is relatively slow to fill the main (since it has to do a lot of condensing along the way to heat it up).

    So my Big Mouth mostly "pants" until the very end when it does actually vent a decent amount of air (but no where near capacity in my estimation).

    But after I insulate, I expect the steam to "rush" through the main a lot better, and then I'll see if I have to add more venting. I'd be really interested to see what your observations are.

    PS: I love your sill plate foam. Did you have that done, or was it already there?
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • Gary SmithGary Smith Posts: 271Member
    And one simple test you can before and after insulating the steam mains: time how long it takes each main to get hot after the riser from the boiler gets hot. Especially after you insulate the mains it will help you decide if changes to main venting are needed.
    Wait till the boiler starts on a call for heat, then put your bare hand on the boiler steam riser. Start timing when it gets too hot to keep your hand there. Then check the ends of each main just near the last radiator connection. Time each main until you can’t keep your hand on the bare steam pipe. This will help you decide if main vents need adjusting. The ends of both steam mains should ideally get hot in close to the same time. Don’t worry about small time differences like an minute or so.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @ Jamie - thanks for the insulation suggestion (any minimum recommendation?); I wasn't sure if more main venting was needed when reading about others having marked improvement by switching to a larger main vent. The old main vents were a Dole #5 and Hoffman #4s.

    I'll look to get some insulation over the next few days.

    This is our first winter in the house and not sure if we're going to switch to a new boiler and nat gas next year so the poor piping will get addressed then if we can find a good plumber in the area.

    @ ethicalpaul - we had our GC spray foam the rim joist insulation before the temp started to dip. It's an old house and poorly maintained so it was one of the many things we wanted to tackle.

    @Gary good suggestion on the test; if a car can get me to the train station then no need for a helicopter.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,671Member
    Your 2 1/2" pipe is that the outside diameter or the inside of the pipe? Inside diameter is the standard for pipe sizes.

    Do your two mains connect somewhere together out in the basement? This would be before any drops to the floor for the return.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @JUGHNE I just re-measured to confirm:

    Mains A & B = 3 13/16" OD
    There's a 17' pipe leading to Main B which is 3" OD

    I don't believe the two mains connect. One goes East = Main B 65' & the other goes West = 136'.

    In the image below, this is the only place where the two mains meet:


  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    So, the two mains run to a point just beyond the garage door track, drop about a foot, tee together and drop the rest of the way?
    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
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    edited December 2018
    @Steamhead I attached a few additional photos to help illustrate. In photos 1 & 2, the green line (Weak Side Main) overhead continues into a crawl space off to the right (where that light is).

    The green line shows where the 2 mains connect with the red lines (Strong Side Main), photo #4.

    The next main vent is ~ 40' away...









  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 2,252Member
    It's strange, but I do heating consultations in Westchester, NY often. There seems to be a flat spot of mechanical talent surrounding that area. Just puttin' it out there.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    Added a diagram for clarity. After moving the Big Mouths yesterday from end of mains to new location I'm hearing a lot more banging/water hammer in the pipes once the boiler fires up but nothing 5 mins later.

    Pitch confirmed to be sloping correctly.

    Insulation going in this week.

    Boiler run time ~30 mins to maintain set temp.


  • Gary SmithGary Smith Posts: 271Member
    How much time from boiler firing start till ain't get hot at each main vent?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,451Member
    The banging during startup is from condensation in the mains not being able to escape fast enough. From the diagram, it looks as though some of the steam lines are parallel flow -- which will usually work OK at a pitch of 1" in 20' -- but some look as though they might be counterflow, which requires a steeper pitch (1" in 10'). It also looks as though you have several places where the pitch (assuming that the arrows indicate direction of pitch) is such that you have two lines colliding. Is this correct?

    In any event, insulation will help, but may not cure the problem.
    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
  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    could you add in the drains / returns back to the boiler?
    in your pictures you show some steam lines dropping to wet returns, and your drawn colored lines continuing past the drops.
    can you diagram them?
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    edited December 2018
    @Jamie Hall I attached an updated config & photo showing where the wet return pipe is (small one on the right). The photo is the location between the 2 warm rads on the 24' main.

    I also changed the config to place both Big Mouths on the Short Main; no improvement so far.

    I did increase the temp 1 degree ~11mins after the boiler hit 65; it only took ~16 mins to get to 66, so definitely going w/ insulation.

    @Gary Smith - do you mean hot to the touch at the end of each main vent or any part?

    @neilc - the config is getting busy but at the end of the 39' main which slopes back to the boiler, it drops to a return pipe.

    At this point i'm wondering if I shouldn't just move the T-stat (which is where the rads are hottest) and put slower vents on like Hoffman #40's





  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    edited December 2018
    lwolf said:

    @Jamie Hall I attached an updated config & photo showing where the wet return pipe is (small one on the right). The photo is the location between the 2 warm rads on the 24' main.

    I also changed the config to place both Big Mouths on the Short Main; no improvement so far.

    I did increase the temp 1 degree ~11mins after the boiler hit 65; it only took ~16 mins to get to 66, so definitely going w/ insulation.

    @Gary Smith - do you mean hot to the touch at the end of each main vent or any part?

    @neilc - the config is getting busy but at the end of the 39' main which slopes back to the boiler, it drops to a return pipe.

    At this point i'm wondering if I shouldn't just move the T-stat (which is where the rads are hottest) and put slower vents on like Hoffman #40's





    @lwolf, if I'm reading this right, the point at which the steam main goes into the crawlspace (first 2 pics in the set of 4 you posted earlier) is where the Gorton #1 second from the bottom is on your diagram- correct?
    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
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @Steamhead I moved the big mouths towards the crawl space... one right before the entrance & the other at the end of the main. All the others have G1s.

    All - updated diagram w/ temp (hopefully it isn't too busy) for each main vent for 10, 15 & 20 mins.

    Thank you all for the assist... guess this is what one would call sweat equity...


  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    Got it now.

    Does the 16' run between the 22' run at the crawlspace entrance and the intersection with the 17' run, connect to a return line or the 17" run of steam pipe at that point?
    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
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @Steamhead correct. I wasn't sure if that path made sense but the pipe 16' run is pitched towards 17' run.

    There's also a wet return below pitched in the same direction as well.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    Are there any unused tees on that 16' run?
    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
  • Gary SmithGary Smith Posts: 271Member
    Yes, time from boiler header pipe hot to touch until ends of steam mains hot to touch.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @Steamhead not sure what a tee is but I did re-examine the area and found the below, is that what you're referencing?







    Since posting the last diagram ran to a big box store and pulled together this antler w/ the 2 big mouths connected... no change in venting speed.


  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @""Gary Smith"

    After 10 mins:

    Header @202 deg
    First Big Mouth @210 deg
    Crawl Space Big Mouth @ 77 degrees
    Long Main Gorton #1 @ 216 degrees
    Long Main 2nd Gorton #1 @ 86 degrees
    Long Main 3rd Gorton # 1 @ 70 degrees
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    lwolf said:

    @Steamhead not sure what a tee is but I did re-examine the area and found the below, is that what you're referencing?







    Since posting the last diagram ran to a big box store and pulled together this antler w/ the 2 big mouths connected... no change in venting speed.


    That plugged pipe is where a radiator used to be. Where is it on the system?

    And where did you put the antler?
    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
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    edited December 2018
    The antler is at the end of the short main now (crawl space).

    Before your comment I didn't even know there was a radiator there.... that's why it's missing from the system diagram I drew.

    Is that tee the reason why the crawl space is so slow?

    I'll sweep the basement once more to see if anything else jumps out.

    I'll update the config and repost.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @Steamhead

    Updated showing the missing rad on the 16' side you identified and another on the 39' side.


  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,974Member
    OK, you're right the 16" run doesn't make sense. What I would do is remove the pipe between the capped tee you found, pictured above, and the junction at the crawlspace entrance. Plug the connections at both ends. This will isolate the two mains and give you much better control over main venting. It will also allow the rad on the chopped-off run to continue working, and the capped tee to be re-connected if desired.

    Next question: is the 39' run where you found another missing rad actually a steam main, or a return? And does the end of this pipe drop to a wet return, below the boiler's waterline, or re-connect to the steam main?
    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
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @Jim_R thanks for the higher res photo, much cleaner now.

    @Steamhead ok, so completely remove that 16' run... those are some old pipes; i may call in plumber for that job since the pipe runs behind a garage door rail.

    The 39' foot run has a single rad on it, and then runs all the way to a drop return below the waterline.

    The 16' is the only connection between the two main lines.

    Is there another place where I can improve the venting, i'm thinking the upper left corner before the final rad, the 13' run; i can build another antler w/ two Gorton #1s.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    I think I finally understand the question folks have been asking regarding the 39' foot run.

    I snooped on some steam piping loops off Google Images and think the below is representative of my system.

    There's a single rad which is the last to heat, there's a main vent ~15' back.

    This return pipe after the rad is consistently 70 degrees all the way to the wall. I think the main vent at the wall is being wasted.

  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    Steamhead said:

    OK, you're right the 16" run doesn't make sense. What I would do is remove the pipe between the capped tee you found, pictured above, and the junction at the crawlspace entrance. Plug the connections at both ends. This will isolate the two mains and give you much better control over main venting. It will also allow the rad on the chopped-off run to continue working, and the capped tee to be re-connected if desired.

    @Steamhead

    A few questions so I can better understand what you're proposing:

    1. Are mains always separated in piping? I went back to the house blueprint & the crawl space area was an addition... that probably explains that awkward split on the 16' run. If you remove the crawl space section, the piping probably makes more sense.
    2. If I remove the pipe between the capped tee & the junction, will the rad on the chopped-off run be slow to heat?
    3. Is the main vent at the junction performing double duty which is why the crawl space is slow to heat?
  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    lwolf said:

    I think I finally understand the question folks have been asking regarding the 39' foot run.

    I snooped on some steam piping loops off Google Images and think the below is representative of my system.

    There's a single rad which is the last to heat, there's a main vent ~15' back.

    This return pipe after the rad is consistently 70 degrees all the way to the wall. I think the main vent at the wall is being wasted.

    I would think about swapping a bigmouth, or that whole BM tree, to that end of main at the wall, or adding another pair of BM there.
    the crawlspace is a shorter main run,
    you want to get steam to the end of this longest main.

    Also,
    have we discussed boiler size and connected load?
    I'm wondering if you're sized close, and having removed insulation, you are too tight on EDR, and running out of steam.

    Step 1. Insulate those mains. That's the single most important and useful thing you can do. Don't worry about trying to get the venting better or that sort of thing before that.

    Before you insulate, though, check and make sure that the mains have the correct pitch and that there are no sags or humps in their length. Fix those first, then insulate.

    And yes, the near boiler piping is pretty awful, but that is another step away... the insulation is easy, and will make a nice difference.

  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    the 39 ft main is being fed by the 13 ft in config c,
    correct?
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @neilc

    Correct, the 13' is feeding the 39'.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member


    @neilc

    I initially had a big mouth on the end by the wall based on what I read here but it didn't improve the venting; after the last rad, that pipe temp drops to constant 70 degrees.

    I'll move the big mouth antler there and see how it goes.
  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    try the antler there,
    or I'm back to what's your EDR at the boiler? and in the house?
    and when are you insulating?
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    Happy New Year!

    @neilc

    Moving the big mouth antler finally raised the temp at the end of that main, the final rad on the 39' run warms up more completely now, I don't have enough data points to see it's heating faster.

    Re insulation: this coming weekend.

    I've been searching the forums to better understand how to vent along the main before you get to the end. Are the sizes I have before the end of the main appropriately sized or is this a game of maxing out the end of main?

    Boiler EDR, I'm seeing the following:
    Steam: 512 sq ft
    Steam:123 MBH

    @Steamhead

    I erred in my assumption on that 16' run; it doesn't actually tie into the main but loops around into a wet return. I reconfirmed that the pitch goes all around into the wet return.

    I've created a cross-sectional view to hopefully outline things a bit better.

  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    So we're seeing the value and capacity of the BigMouths in comparison to your other main vents,
    Don't search too hard for "midpoint of main" venting.
    It doesn't work or make sense. Once steam hits a midpoint vent, that vent closes and stops working for you.
    You are best to take them and tree them at the ends of your mains. Abandon the midpoints by plugging there. Max out your ends.
    I see you with 2 more BMs and a couple Gortons at the end of your long main.
    You might / probably need a vent on that capped Tee on the 16ft so steam gets to that rad.
    On the EDR (512 sq ft), you'll also need to measure your rads and come up with an EDR there too.
    The boiler and rads #s would ideally match, or be close to each other. Slightly over on the boiler is ok.
  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    @neilc

    Max vent on the long main and ignore everything in between, got it; just need to build a bigger antler now.

    For the 16' run - should I cap the main vent there as well and rely on the end of short main venting? Essentially 2 end of mains only w/ massive venting.

    Can you explain the logic of putting a main vent on the 16' run where it's capped; can I just close off the rad and be done with it?
  • neilcneilc Posts: 661Member
    lwolf said:


    Max vent on the long main and ignore everything in between, got it; just need to build a bigger antler now.

    Max vent the ends of each main, ignore everything in between which are only working part time(once steam closes a midpoint they're not helping with any further air venting. Put all the venting at the ends of mains.).
    lwolf said:

    For the 16' run - should I cap the main vent there as well and rely on the end of short main venting? Essentially 2 end of mains only w/ massive venting.

    from the boiler, the 6, the 22, and then the 16 or to the crawl space, I don't see the need for the midpoint between the 22ft and crawlspace, (if you're not using the 22ft rad.) ( Config C )
    lwolf said:

    Can you explain the logic of putting a main vent on the 16' run where it's capped; can I just close off the rad and be done with it?

    I thought we were trying to get steam to that rad beyond the capped riser.
    If you're not using that rad then no need to vent the capped riser there.

  • lwolflwolf Posts: 36Member
    Updates:

    1. Three of the main vents have been capped, leaving only the long & short end of mains vented.
    2. I reconfigured the antlers to accommodate all the previously used vents on the end of mains only. I'll probably need another BM before it's all said and done.

    Observations since last night:

    1. The boiler runs slightly longer, was averaging ~29.5mins; now about ~32mins (less datapoints so need more inputs).
    2. The rads all start to heat at about the same time, about 20 minutes into the boiler firing.

    As I work through my boiler issues I was snooping on an old thread and wanted to ask a question about how much water my system is using. To date (boiler on since mid-October), i've used 740 on the LWCO display. I'm not sure when the count started but LWCO calls for water ~3-5x a day. The boiler rarely shuts down from the LWCO and never for pressure.

    Two questions:

    1. The boiler doesn't have a visible skim port; the house prior to us purchasing it was poorly maintained so wondering if a few cycles of repeated cleaning won't do the system good. The bottom of the sight glass is a bit rusty looking.

    2. Can I adjust the LWCO to reset it so I can see what the actual daily usage is?

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/152273/leaky-valve-help/p1
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Posts: 4,113Member
    That is a massive amount of water usage, you have some kind of leak and you want to fix that ASAP. I would suggest your auto fill should be activating 3-5x a YEAR not per day at maximum.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
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