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Questions about results of job

SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
Background:

I bought a house with steam heat not knowing what I had gotten myself into. When winter arrived, all the problems showed - banging pipes, hissing vents, unbalanced heating, and water loss from the boiler. I starting doing my homework and bought We Got Steam Heat and almost crapped my pants when I realized there was copper in lots of places there shouldn't be copper. Very obviously, the copper had been added when a renovation was done. I repitched the radiators. This got a couple of them working, but it also revealed leaks and did not fix the water hammer, of course. Once the weather got cold, I needed to add water EOD. Brough out TBros (of This Old House fame) and they sounded like knuckleheads and never sent me the estimate. Through this website, I found Boston Standard. On their website, they claim they have done workshops with Dan Hollahan. I hired them and they just did some work for me. Because there is some copper that cannot be replaced without MAJOR work, they had to some of it behind. They assumed me that the problems would be greatly reduced.

Details

House - 1200 sq Mansard, two stories

UTICA boiler - both TBros and B.S. said it's not the best boiler piped perfect, but it was OK and not the main issue.

Radiators - 8 1-pipe. 1 2-pipe. Three large rads downstairs in a semi-open space. 1 small rad in the bathroom. Upstairs bathroom is a small 2-pipe. Three upstairs bedrooms have medium rads.

Work done
1. replaced all the copper in the basement with black. Also replaced as much copper as they could on the rads to the first floor.
2. changed out the cheap automatic vents for alleged better quality adjustables.
3. Fixed a leak in once the copper pipes that couldn't be replaced without tearing out a whole wall. As it was, they didn't to tear out a 1'x1' portion.
4. Serviced the boiler.
5. replaced the main vents.

Successes

1. Heat is more balanced. This required that I did the adjustments on the vents after they left. Still a work in progress, but it's a notable improvement.
2. Banging is somewhat reduced and less violent than it was before.
3. Leak seems fixed and I'm losing less water.

Failures

1. The 2-pip rad is now banging. It didn't before. This was the one with the leaks.
2. Still a lot of banging from other rads.
3. Hissing is about the same.

Questions

1. After the service, water in the view glass looks MUCH dirtier than before and when the boiler is running, it now drops below the low-water mark. Is this normal?
2. I thought having the right main vents and rad vents would solve the hissing? Am I wrong to expect this?
3. He dialed the pressure up to 2 psi. Before, the the gauge barely moved. Is this too much for a 9 rad, 1200 sq ft house?
4. Why heck would a 2 pip rad bang?


Right now, not feeling particularly satisfied. Before I call and complain, I want to know whether or not I have the right to complain. If anybody can give me some feedback, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks.








Comments

  • lchmblchmb Posts: 2,891Member
    how about pictures of the close boiler piping and runs? And no need to complain, call and discuss the issues..sometimes it takes a trip or two to work out all the bugs...give them a chance...
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    For sure. I just want to be as informed as possible before the conversation. Here are the pics.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,733Member
    @SeanB , well, I can see that the header has been reduced down where it ties into the equalizer. I bet you are getting some water hammer there. Reducing down to a smaller equalizer pipe should happen on the vertical pipe, not a horizontal pipe.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,900Member
    edited January 11
    For starters, both steam tappings should be utilized on the boiler because of its side connections. When only one is used, the water line in the boiler will become very unlevel because the steam is exiting from only one side. That in turn causes water to be drawn up into the single riser and out into the system.

    Secondly, some knucklehead used a concentric reducer on the the header instead of after it turned down vertically into the equalizer. That is causing water to pool in the header which can cause hammering and other issues.

    Third, it looks like only 2 out 3 returns are vented?

    Fourth, the boiler should have been skimmed after new piping was done. Oil and dope in the water will cause the water line to surge resulting in more water exiting the boiler.

    Fith, set the pressuretrol to cut in at .5 psi and cut out at 1.5 psi. Cranking it up was another knucklehead move. Make sure its pigtail is clear.

    Pics from farther back and different angles would help.
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    > @Ironman said:
    > For starters, both steam tappings should be utilized on the boiler because of its side connections. When only one is used, the water line in the boiler will become very unlevel because the steam is exiting from only one side. That in turn causes water to be drawn up into the single riser and out into the system.
    >
    > Secondly, some knucklehead used a concentric reducer on the the header instead of after it turned down vertically into the equalizer. That is causing water to pool in the header which can cause hammering and other issues.
    >
    > Third, it looks like only 2 out 3 returns are vented?
    >
    > Fourth, the boiler should have been skimmed after new piping was done. Oil and dope in the water will cause the water line to surge resulting in more water exiting the boiler.
    >
    > Fith, set the pressuretrol to cut in at .5 psi and cut out at 1.5 psi. Cranking it up was another knucklehead move. Make sure its pigtail is clear.
    >
    > Pics from farther back and different angles would help.

    That’s a great start a good topic of conversation. I turn the pressure down to the settings you recommend. Crossing my fingers that helps a little.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,733Member
    The vents on those two returns are way to small too. I also see that only one main ties into the header and that one branches off of that single main. It would be much better if that branch also was tied into the header, instead of off of that main. That, by itself may not pose a problem. At least it's not a Bull tee but would be better tied directly into the header.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,024Member
    The two pipe radiator which now bangs and didn't before -- check the pitch on both the feed and return. They must have adequate pitch, and I'd bet that in the process of fixing the leaks the pitch may have gone off -- or perhaps it already was off, and the leaks were draining enough of the pooled water to keep it from banging! Horrible thought... Also, the radiator must pitch towards the return -- not that much, but a little.
    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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,280Member
    At first glance the piping doesn't look so bad but
    concentric reducer on header
    two steam supplies tied together
    venting
    header size

    It's pretty much all wrong
  • billtheplmbr3845billtheplmbr3845 Posts: 34Member
    Should the header be higher? Is that dimension above the water line sufficient, it looks a little low, can't tell for sure from the pics
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,776Member
    It also looks like the one takeoff is too small, and that will blow a lot of water up into the piping, with noisy results.—NBC
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member

    The two pipe radiator which now bangs and didn't before -- check the pitch on both the feed and return. They must have adequate pitch, and I'd bet that in the process of fixing the leaks the pitch may have gone off -- or perhaps it already was off, and the leaks were draining enough of the pooled water to keep it from banging! Horrible thought... Also, the radiator must pitch towards the return -- not that much, but a little.

    Quite possible. I checked tonight and it's level. Any tips for repitching a two-pipe? I used checkers for one-pipes and just lifted the free end. There isn't much play on the feed end. Should I just try to slide a wooden shim under the feet?
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    So this is my takeway from all this. I feel like I can reasonably expect them to come back and skim the boiler and fix the surging. That wasn't happening before and I shouldn't pay extra. Also, they used the wrong sized main vents. They replace them with the right sized vents. If the bigger ones cost more, I should pay the difference, but not the whole cost.

    As far as the continued hissing and water hammers, the problem is probably the close-boiler piping. Since this guy didn't identify this as a big issue and assured me that the work he was doing would fix most of the problem, I don't have much confidence in him to do the close boiler work right. Fair?

    So who should I call in Boston to do it right? How about NE Steamworks?
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,776Member
    Was the piping done according to the installation manual?—NBC
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    > @nicholas bonham-carter said:
    > Was the piping done according to the installation manual?—NBC

    Almost certainly not, but this plumber didn’t do the install. I asked him to evaluate the installation and identify any major issues. He thought other problems in the system were a higher priority and would fix most of issues.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,927Member
    The boiler needs to be skimmed but it looks like they left the obvious skim port plugged. have them install the skim port and address what problems they can without replacing the boiler header now. There is enough wrong with the near boiler piping that i would have it torn out and repiped correctly this spring. If you don't have the boiler manual download it and be prepared to pay a good chunk of money when that work is done.

    This drawing is how it should be piped, be careful they don't try and reduce the piping to 2" it HAS TO BE full sized to match the boiler tapping size.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • FredFred Posts: 7,733Member
    There are some great Steam Pros in the Boston area. Check the "Find the Contractor" tab above and get one of them to evaluate/fix your system. Chalk up what you paid this guy to a learning experience and move on. Your objective is to have a warm, comfortable home. Why call this guy back to fix something that he didn't/couldn't fix on the first call? You can ask them to return your payment since they didn't fix anything but separate the issue of system correction from refunds.
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    Fred said:

    There are some great Steam Pros in the Boston area. Check the "Find the Contractor" tab above and get one of them to evaluate/fix your system. Chalk up what you paid this guy to a learning experience and move on. Your objective is to have a warm, comfortable home. Why call this guy back to fix something that he didn't/couldn't fix on the first call? You can ask them to return your payment since they didn't fix anything but separate the issue of system correction from refunds.

    Unfortunately, I chose a contractor off this list and it didn't work out so well. I probably should have waited for NE Steamworks, but I was getting really desperate.

    I think I am (fairly) on the hook for almost all of work. The work they did needed to be done, but if you are correct that that main vents are too small, I want them to replace those with the right vents for the cost of the bigger vents, subtracting the cost of the smaller vents. I also think the should skim the boiler since that should be been done anyway.

    As far as the bigger job of near-boiler repiping, I'll be hiring somebody else to do that.

    Also, Ironman mentioned that only 2 of 3 returns are vented. That seems to be true. That return comes from the 2-pipe radiator and only the 2 pipe rad. Does that matter at all? I see a cap were a vent could easily be added.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,733Member
    If you can make it until you are able to get New England Steam works on site, it would be well worth the wait. So sorry that someone from the "Find a Contractor" tab here on this site didn't work out. If only the two pipe radiator is on that third return, maybe you can reuse those two small vents, on an antler, for that return and then replace those vents for larger ones on the other two returns.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,900Member
    @SeanB
    What Fred told you is correct. Why are you disagreeing with him?
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    > @Ironman said:
    > @SeanB
    > What Fred told you is correct. Why are you disagreeing with him?

    I hit the wrong button. I wanted to thank him. I fixed it. Thanks!
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,900Member
    Thanks. Around here, a dislike is like a slap in the face after someone has tried to help you.
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    Thanks to everyone who responded!!
  • FredFred Posts: 7,733Member
    Thanks @Ironman and @SeanB . I couldn't figure out what you disagreed with either and just assumed you wanted to get even with someone and it happened to be me :D
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    @Fred Lol....no, not looking for revenge and I am very appreciative of the help!!
  • gfrbrooklinegfrbrookline Posts: 360Member
    If you used TBros you are near Boston. I would reach out to @New England SteamWorks . Ryan knows what he is doing.
  • SeanBSeanB Posts: 14Member
    > @gfrbrookline said:
    > If you used TBros you are near Boston. I would reach out to @New England SteamWorks . Ryan knows what he is doing.

    I actually used Boston Standard, who are listed on this site :( The issues got really bad and I lost my patience. Of course Ryan emailed me right before I had the job scheduled. I don’t think Boston Standard did any harm other than not skimming and using the wrong vents. They replaced a lot of copper that needed replacing and fixed a leak.

    I’ll have Ryan come in and fix the rest right. I just need to see if Boston Standard will take care of those two mistakes.
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