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Near Boiler Piping Help

This board has been a tremendous help and I’m thankful to all that have lent their expertise. I need some help once again.

I recently purchased a house built in 1860. The seller assured us the boiler was functional when we went into contract. Before the sale was final, we asked for the boiler to be fired with us there to ensure proper function. Turns out, boiler was junk. The sellers replaced the boiler, then we agreed to close.

It was definitely a rush job, completed the day before closing, as we were monitoring the house to see what was happening. No idea if the installer was licensed.

Anyhow, we’ve been having some issues. We had a cracked close nipple in the supply line in a crawl space. Cut out as much of the old pipe as we could, replaced with new. Not fun, but no more leak.

The pressure gauge is was reading about 4 lbs, not ideal. I took the pigtail off, cleaned it and reinstalled. Have the pressuretrol set to .5 with 1 differential. I’m reading 1 lb pressure on the gauge after cleaning pigtail. Will order new vaporstat to replace pressuretrol and 0-3 gauge.

The sight glass was bouncing heavily and full of sediment and oil. I skimmed the boiler and cleaned the sight glass today, probably for the first time since boiler was installed. Water in the sight glass is still bouncing about 1” while boiler is running.

I’ve ordered new main vents and will replace when they arrive.

The only other thing I can think of (admittedly I’m no expert—electrician by trade) is that the boiler was piped incorrectly. It’s a GSA 200,000 btu.

The installer piped copper out of the boiler to connect to existing piping. Ok?

I have attached pictures.

Thanks in advance for reading to the end and for any input!

Comments

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,333
    You should have hired the installing contractor not the sellers but I guess it doesn’t matter you’ll be hiring one now!
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,949
    That was a real "git er done" job.....like in the used car business "paint to sell".

    Is there a slim chance the previous owners had this installed without a permit?? And probably a slimmer chance of any recourse. Some areas differ on seller responsibility of known issues becoming apparent after the closing. Might be worth inquiring....but you are most likely stuck with this as is.

    However, we would recommend you buying the book "The Lost Art of Steam Heating Revisited" by Dan Holohan. You sound able enough to repipe this yourself next spring.
    You have all winter to study the system and ask questions here.

    The install manual for your boiler might be hiding in the basement, still in the plastic bag. Or you can get it online.
    Maybe 40-50 pages.
    SuperTech
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,689
    edited January 2019
    Wow that's bad. I'm a hydronics guy but I can easily see that's a terrible hack job and someone got ripped off. Copper isn't supposed to be used on steam boilers. Ever hear the noise hydronic baseboards make when 180 degree boiler water rushes into it? Thats from all of the expansion that occurs when copper heats up. How do you think it will handle repeatedly being steam heated? I've also seen the copper become prone to leaking. It would have been much easier for them to pipe the whole house in copper when it was originally built, there must have been a pretty good reason why they didn't....


    Foil tape on the smoke pipe. They couldn't even be bothered to put a pipe on the pressure relief valve.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,949
    Is this the same house you posted about previously with the pictures of radiators?
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 6,563
    Unfortunately, you're the recipient of some of the worst hackery I've seen. All the near boiler piping needs to be redone.

    It should look like this:


    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    SuperTechethicalpaulCanucker
  • victorianmansard
    victorianmansard Member Posts: 15
    Yes this is the same house.

    The whole purchase was a disaster. Entered contract in Dec 17, finally closed in June 18. Bank wouldn’t lend money without functioning heat...seller (REO company) desperately didn’t wanna have to give us a new boiler. Would have much preferred to hire a contractor ourselves but we were stuck between the bank and having to funnel money into a house we hadn’t yet owned. Not to mention my former home sold in a weekend and we were living in a storage container and a 1 bedroom apartment with 2 kids. Anyways, we ultimately decided we loved the house enough to accept it with all its warts and blemishes. It’s been an eventful 8 months.

    It’s almost certain that the work was done by an unlicensed contractor. I have checked for permits, none. But that’s old news.

    I found the manual online but it’s hard to compare what’s recommended and what we have. The manual shows a single riser, we ave a double riser.

    Does it heat ok? I guess ok is subjective! All rads get hot. Pressure much higher than it should be...at the end of the cycle it’s creeping to 3 lbs. it’s warm enough for an old house with 32 windows. Gas bill was average in November. December was $600 which prompted me looking for a steam leak that I eventually found under the crawl space on Christmas.


    Ware hammer was present in the main going to the area with the steam leak. Since I repaired and corrected the pitch it’s been a lot quieter. Only mid cycle banging here and there.

    I feel capable of repiping the near boiler piping in the Spring (naive?). I cut, thread, and install galvanized pipe for a living—-albeit for electrical, not steam. How SHOULD it look with two risers?

    Thanks again to everyone, appreciate the feedback.
    adasilva
  • victorianmansard
    victorianmansard Member Posts: 15
    Thanks @Ironman , this diagram is helpful!
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,689
    I would recommend reading one of Dan Holohans books on steam heating. The lost art of steam heating I believe is a good one. If you attempt it yourself try to follow the manufacturer specifications down to every last detail.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,462
    you have 2 risers, one piped wrong to the equalizer, and the other on its own pumping water up to hammer time,
    notice in the diagram the 2 risers first make the header, then the header continues to takeoffs to the house mains, then the header drops down to the equalizer return to the boiler.
    that's proper.
    I wonder if you go back to the bank, tell them what they paid for, if they wouldn't be interested in persuing their bad investment.
  • victorianmansard
    victorianmansard Member Posts: 15
    I went through my phone and found a picture of the old boiler before replacement to compare the piping.

    Piping doesn't look right here either. It looks like they put back what was existing (but with copper instead of black pipe). Was it wrong from the start?

    Added another picture of some return piping behind the wall at the back of boiler.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    You can definitely do it yourself or with a consult from one of the pros here in the quiet season (if they even have that LOL)

    I develop iPhone apps and I’ve been modifying my piping with all the great info I’ve learned here. You’re a pipe guy!! Just switch to black steel with malleable iron fittings and follow the manual. Supplyhouse is your friend.

    After you spend a couple weeks looking at it and watching it run and reading Dan’s book you’ll be ready for your summer project.

    And calculate your EDR during the winter!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Lord, Lord, Lord, The good thing is you have a new boiler and it is sitting in the basement and you can cut that copper out easily enough. Follow the diagram in the owner's manual and maybe enhance that with a drop header. Make sure each main drops down into the new header. It's hard to tell what exactly is going on with the old pipe, above the boiler. I can't tell if there is just one main or if two or more have been tied together at some point in the past. It also looks like this may be a counter flow system (lowest end of the Main(s)) at the boiler or maybe a combination parallel and counter flow. If that's the case, make sure you understand how to pipe the drips for the counter flow main(s) correctly so that condensate doesn't run back into the header and down the risers.
    I'm assuming at least one of the mains is parallel flow or there wouldn't be any returns at the far end of a main???
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,083
    The diagram in @Ironman 's post shows you how that should be piped with two risers. There may also be such a diagram in the installation manual for the boiler itself.

    Could you do it yourself? Quite possibly, since you say you are familiar with cutting and threading pipe. You do need to have a good pipe threader...

    But what you've got there is about the worst I've seen in some ten years of looking at boiler piping. Since it works, though not as well as it should, shows the forgivingness of steam heat...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    SuperTechethicalpaulCanucker
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,949
    Everything Fred said and also the water level of the boiler in relationship to the height of the tee connecting the returns together. This is shown in the second picture of your old boiler.
    The upper dry return should have a vent at the top.
    The other coming out of the wall needs venting somehow also, maybe it is in the crawlspace. Otherwise it depends upon the rad/convector vents.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,290
    A real shame they did that to a new boiler. If you can keep it running safely get someone good in their in the spring and fix it up.

    Also, check the EDR of all your radiators and compare it to the boiler. Unless your house is huge the boiler is likely oversized
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    Thinking about it more, don’t feel bad about this at all. You could easily have gotten the house with the old boiler, then had to replace it yourself then get the wrong installer and STILL ended up with this. You’re really in good shape to make a nice system
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,689
    > @ethicalpaul said:
    > Thinking about it more, don’t feel bad about this at all. You could easily have gotten the house with the old boiler, then had to replace it yourself then get the wrong installer and STILL ended up with this. You’re really in good shape to make a nice system

    Not if the new boiler is grossly oversized for the home, that's just setting up for further problems.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    edited January 2019
    Yeah but there are ways to mitigate those and let’s see how the EDR stacks up. Plus, as I said, he could definitely have that same problem even if he paid for it
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • victorianmansard
    victorianmansard Member Posts: 15
    That was our thinking. We could clean up the mess with the piping, at least we have the new boiler already.

    I do think the boiler may be oversized for our house. I’ve only really delved into this over the past 2 weeks and I can’t believe how much I’ve already learned. Ordered the Lost Art of Steam and I’ll keep at it.

    The house is 3000 square feet. It’s a second empire mansard so it has 3 floors. I know that’s not enough to calculate EDR but I mention it to say that it’s possible with the heat loss from windows and being so old, maybe the boiler size is ok. Maybe we can downfire the boiler if we determine it’s too large. Looking around the basement piping, it seems like there were a lot more radiators in the house in the past.

    House is in NYC so if it becomes too much for me to do on my own, we should have some local pros that can help.
    SuperTech
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    You do have several good ones!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,689
    It's quite possible that there was more radiation in the house at one time, definitely try to measure the EDR at some point. Reading Dan's books and educating yourself is the absolute best thing you can do, no need to put your faith in someone else if you know that needs to be done. Your contractor will be more likely to do a good job if he has the impression that you are an educated consumer and know what to expect. Good luck with it!
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Do the math on the EDR. If the boiler is too big, you can likely get a two stage gas valve for it and have a Pro set it up properly.
    Canucker
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,229
    This will help determine the EDR of your radiators if they are free standing, if they are convectors or cast iron baseboards just ask us - somebody will have the information.

    The pro's on this board are more than willing to help.
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    Another thing that caught my eye—you said you were going to buy a vaporstat. May I ask why? I would get the main venting hammered out first which should save you unnecessary burn time. And concurrently to that get a tech in there to ensure the firing rate and combustion is safe and proper.

    From the way it cycles on pressure (as it probably will), you’ll get an idea of if it’s oversized, but don’t focus too much on that nor any radiator issues until the main(s) are vented nicely, because the main venting is likely to affect everything else.

    But to me, the Pee Troll won’t be the thing to worry about (as long as you see it’s working) for quite awhile. Just set it at the bottom of its settings which I think you said you did and get that nice low psi scale gauge
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    BobC
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 683
    I am oversized by about 30% but have been able to almost totally eliminate sort cycling by massing out the main vents with multiple big mouths on each my dry returns, no access to the end of the mains, and slowing the radiator vents way down. The fastest vent I have is a Gorton 6 on a large radiator on the top floor. I am able to use my mercury vaporstat an run it between 4oz and 12 oz. The only time we run more than one cycle is when the temp drops to the low teens.

    Basically what I am saying is if you fix your NBP, and the boiler is marginally oversized there are ways you can compensate to make if work well.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    Hi @gfrbrookline — what does “no access to the end of the mains” mean?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 683
    The end of the mains are above a finished ceiling in a basement condo unit.

    In a parallel system it is common to have the main vents at the end of the dry returns before they drop to the we returns.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,130
    Ahh thanks— I misread it as something you did to minimize cycling
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG