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First heating season for us in our 100 year old house with single pipe steam. Boiler is about 10 years old and is a 210k BTU/hr gas fired Burnham.
Early in the season house heated up but some radiators were cold and lots of noises. Had a local firm do a service and talked to a second. While these guys seemed to know about the boiler when trying to ask about the whole steam system didn’t go far. One basically told me “it’s very simple, fire makes steam, pipes get hot, heat comes out... nothing to go wrong really.” I wasn’t impressed. Found this site and read Dan’s book and learning a ton.
Things I’ve done so far:
- Replaced vents on cold radiators so now they get heat.
- System has 3 mains in the basement. Two had no vents anywhere in the main and one had a small one that was stuck closed. Mains were taking a long time to heat up. Installed Gorton #2s near the end of each main and now things heat up much faster. Required making a tap into two of the mains but managed to do it.
- System pressure was way too high and found pressuretrol was not functioning correctly. Pressures were going up to 5-6 psi at times. Dealt with clogged pigtail and adjusted control. Now cuts out at 2 psi (know I should look into adding a vaporstat but at least for now the pressures are more in check). Improved venting also helps keep pressure lower.
- Much of the basement main piping and near boiler piping had no insulation. Fixed that.
Issues still working through and need some advice:
- Near boiler piping seems a bit goofy relative to what Dan’s book says (see attached photo showing pipes sans insulation). Piping would appear to make steam ram into itself. Should I do something? Would consider repiping if it’s a big issue but that would need to be a summer project.
- Also seem to have an issue with some of the mains:
Main A runs along the east side of the house with 5 radiators coming off it on the 1st and 2nd floors. In the pic this is the left pipe. With the Gorton 2 it vents fast and quickly sends steam upstairs. This side works well. Radiators heat up fast with steady and smooth venting then they snap shut as expected. The main seems to be correctly sloped towards the end. The end of this main is also the start of the return piping where it drops down along the basement wall.
Main B runs down the middle of the basement. This is tapped into the right pipe in the pic. At the end of the basement the return drops down to join the pipe along the wall that started with Main A. The steam pipe then goes up into the wall where it makes a straight shot up to the 3rd floor for two radiators up there. This main seems flatter than A and heats slower. The radiators on the 3rd floor pant a lot while heating up (they blow air out, suck in, then blow out again).
Main C runs down the west side of the house and is the right pipe in the pic. It serves 6 radiators on the 1st and 2nd floor. This main seems somewhat flat towards the end of the run. The end of this main drops down to join the return along the wall right before that has one radiator tapped in that goes to the 2nd floor and a final radiator tapped in that goes up into the floor directly above. This radiator on the 1st floor takes a long time to heat up despite being right at the end of the main. Later in the cycle this end of the main has a lot of audible water sloshing sound and that water goes up into the 1st floor radiator... sometimes squirting out of the vent. This radiator also pants quite badly in and out.
Back at the boiler sight glass I observe that water level will steadily get lower until the low water cutoff shuts it off. Then the water quickly fills back in. It’s around this time that the water starts sloshing a lot at the end of Main C. It seems like the boiler is pushing the water backwards through the return and then back into the end of Main C and up into the radiator above. My thermometer gun shows that when this happens the return quickly heats up to 200F. The A dimension seems plenty big relative to Dan’s book (~40 inches).
1. Is the near boiler piping terrible and worth fixing or leave it be?
2. What would cause the water in the end of Main C and panting in Mains B and C? Concur that it appears to be backing up though the return? What should I do?
3. Main B and C are a bit flat and perhaps that’s causing the issues? If so how do I go about adjusting the pitch? Just adjusting the straps to the joists doesn’t seem like it would do it since the returns prop up the end of the mains. Is there a trick to changing the pitch?
Thanks for any advice. Have learned a ton so far and made some good progress but looking forward to getting the whole system purring.