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Sick of steam gurgling noises. Tried everything.

ChrisF
ChrisF Member Posts: 46





Well, I’ve tried everything I could think of, to get rid of the noise I’ve been getting from a few radiators. I have one pipe steam convector radiators, and can’t seem to silence the last ones at the end of the main.
- I changed the main vents to Big Mouth vents (pictured)
- I cleaned out the pigtail which was gunked up
- I skimmed the boiler about a dozen times in a month, and even drained and cleaned it a few times using Hercules boiler cleaner. I could see all the dirt and sediment being cleaned out.
- I replaced the pressuretroll with a new one and all settings are good
- The radiators are pitched and so are the mains
- I had Vent-Rite #11 vents installed on all the radiators when I bought the house six months ago, but some of the vents were spitting water, so I experimented with different ones to see if I could resolve anything. Gorton #6 vents didn’t spit water, but hissed a lot. Gorton C and D seem to be the only ones that won’t spit water. However, if I put a Gorton D, or any vent with a bigger venting capacity, on the radiators closest to the boiler, I get water pouring out of the vent.

The gurgling/boiling noise is only in the last three radiators on the far end of the house.
I just don’t know what else to try. Seems like I have wet steam or too much condensate.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Comments

  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,666
    Ideally on convector or any raditor the vent should be mounted opposite of your inlet yours looks wrong . I would installed straight style Gorton and install the vent on the opposite side from the inlet that’s your on issue ,you don’t need large vents on smaller convectors like that otherwise it will spit . What’s the edr on your convectors in comparison to the boiler . Also those side outlet boiler need both tapping and near boiler piping must be done correctly they like to make wet steam ,most convectors like dry steam for promblem free existence . Looks like when the boiler was replaced they re used the header it also looks like they set it up for there easy piping but it looks kinda difficult to get at those burners . Ideally most if not any side outlet boilers need both outlets used and hi risers or a drop header w a oversized header that’s the only way to get the, perform decent .i stay away from those type of boiler like the flu .theres usually under perform when not installed with some tlc and even then cross your finger . I will say that they are the most common boiler that dies a young death from my experiences ,I think this season I ve have changed at least 5 or 6 of them most under 15 years old did a few peerlessthat where close to 30 and still in good shape but some customers are a little wiser and budget For replacement . I would think a proper repipe on that nbp ing it would put u in a better place .peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    vibert_c
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,666
    Kinda noticed and wanted to ask ,are your dry returns tied together above the water line if so it’s them below the water line is the correct way to do it the other way leads to issues and usually hard to balance mains due to migrating steam from the shorter main closing the other vent .all dry return need a vent and to be tied together well below the boilers water level clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    vibert_c
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    I'm sure, it has probably been said somewhere in this string, if not multiple times, the boiler is not piped right and those side tapped boilers are pretty finicky. there I don't see a header, which helps dry out the steam by letting water drop out of it before it enters the main. I know I said in one of your posts that something isn't right with the way that convector is vented. We need to see the underside of that convector to see how the tubes connect. From what I see, the vent is on the wrong end of the convector and should be on the opposite end, if there is a tapping on the far end. The way it appears to be configured, if the stand pipe and the vent is on the supply side, steam will hit it almost immediately and close the vent. Also, with the pitch of that convector down towards the vent end, all the condensate will flow directly under the vent. That situation may also throw enough condensate up into the vent to prevent it from staying closed. We need to see what the convector tubing configuration looks like, up close. In any case, having the vent on the low end of the convector puts the water right under the vent. Not right.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,302
    maybe a pic from another 5 or 10 feet back, can't quite see the near boiler piping.

    That gas line, that could be a lil better
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @clammy I’m adding a better picture. I’m not quite sure about the dry returns. Adding another picture.
    @fred I get what you mean, but all 10 of the radiators in my house are the same setup, and I only have issues with 3 of them. The radiators are original from 1956. I’m adding some more pictures.






  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    Do the radiators need to be replaced? This is my first experience with steam heat. If I knew it would be such a pain, I’d reconsider buying the house, back in July.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,302
    Wow looks like a 3” header very nice

    Does the water line bounce up and down or does it stay pretty steady?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    ChrisF said:

    Do the radiators need to be replaced? This is my first experience with steam heat. If I knew it would be such a pain, I’d reconsider buying the house, back in July.

    No, they don't need to be replaced and when we get the issue resolved you will find there is no better, more comfortable heat. Your pictures of the boiler piping is much more clear. For side tapped boilers, using both sides is best but you should be OK with what you have. There is a header there. I'd like to see a picture of the underside and straight on of one of the Convectors that works fine. Clearly the tubes in this one ties into the end manifold and the vent is right over the supply pipe. That is not typical of most installations, unless there is some type of partition inside that manifold. Are the working convectors pitched as much as this one?
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @GW I cleaned the boiler with Hercules Boiler Cleaner a few times, and after draining and refilling, I followed the instructions on the bottle and poured some more in, and noticed that the water in the sight glass is bouncing more than usual. Perhaps I will drain it out again, and just use water.

    @Fred Yes, I agree. Steam heat is the best heat I’ve ever had, so I couldn’t agree with you more....I guess I’m just frustrated. I’m attaching a picture of one of the other convectors, that is located on the first floor, above the boiler in the basement. The ones that give me issues, are farthest away from the boiler. I’ve experimented with pitching the radiators more, and less, and not much changes.





  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Have you tried lifting both ends of the convector, maybe a half inch or so and then re-pitching it? It is very possible there is a horizontal pipe under the floor board that has lost its pitch and is holding water. The gurgling is definitely water so it has to either be pitch or steam pressure high enough that water can't get out while steam is coming in. The third option would be the supply pipe is too small for both steam and condensate to flow at the same time but that is not likely the case here since they are all original.
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @Fred I actually have tried that as well. I could only get it to come up about a quarter inch more on the pipe side, and then I pitched it again. I figured the same thing...that the pipes below the floor might have lost some pitch. Also, my current gauge is out of wack, so I can’t tell what the actual pressure it. My next step is to install a 0-3psi gauge off the pigtail, so I can get an actual reading. Other than that, I’m going to drain out the boiler water again, and refill.. I left the Hercules Boiler Cleaner in the system, but it seems to have made the sight glass water bounce more than usual. Might do a PH test too.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    I expect you have already thought of this -- but I have to ask. Is there anything common about the three problem convectors, other than being the ones farthest away? Do they share a single runout or riser, for instance? In what way(s), other than the distance thing, are they the same as all the others? Is there any common way in which they are different?

    One of the more frustrating things about gurgles and bangs is that they telegraph -- sometimes quite some distance -- and can take some quiet contemplation to really track down
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,969
    Are the pipes leading to the radiators pitched back to the main properly and do they come off from near the top of the main with a 45 deg elbow?

    Can we see some pictures of those locations?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    Perhaps you've already checked this but it's worth asking: is the radiator level from front to back when facing it? This is different than the side to side pitch for drainage toward the pipe. If it's pitched, say toward the wall, it could be holding water and causing the gurgling.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,919
    With vents hissing and spitting, I'd take a good look at the pressure the system is running at. Pressuretrols are notorious for their lack of calibration, you can't always go by the scale on the front. I'm not positive, but ISTR that elevates pressures can hold condensate back.
    ChrisF
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @Jamie Hall Nothing our of the ordinary. Two share the same main, and are in the same room. The other one runs off the other main. I can’t see if anything is different below the floor boards. I’ll double check, but I don’t think there is anything that’s uncommon.

    @ChrisJ I can only see the piping in the basement that goes to the radiators on the first floor. The pitch, and angle looks like it should. Unfortunately, I can’t see the ones on the second floor, because they are below the floor boards and above the finished ceiling. Judging from the basement piping, I’m thinking the others should have the same setup.

    @acwagner That’s a good point. One of them was pitched a hair towards the back, but the others were fine. I was thinking something is holding water in there too, but not sure how.

    @ratio Currently, my 0-30 psi gauge on the boiler is not right. It reads around 12 psi, but I doubt that’s the actual pressure. My next step is to install a 0-3 psi gauge off the pigtail. The pressuretrol seems ok, but I will be able to tell better when I get an acurate gauge installed.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,969
    Does it read zero when the boiler is off? If so I doubt is far off. Meaning 8 psi is just as rediculous as 12 psi.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    Do get that new gauge on the boiler. I suspect you may be surprised that the pressure is higher than you may think and that that pressure is holding water back, in some of the radiator run-outs. Have you ever stood in the basement, around where the riser to one of the problem convectors is? You may hear the water gurgling at the elbow from the run-out to the riser and it may be radiating up the pipe to sound like it is in the convector.
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @ChrisJ When the boiler turns off, it takes about half an hour to an hour, for it to drop down to zero. That's why I suspect its a faulty gauge.

    @Fred Is there a big difference with installing a 0-3 psi gauge...or a 0-5 psi gauge? I hope the pressure reading on the new gauge won't be too high, but if it is, what could cause the high pressure?? I have heard a little bit of gurgling in the riser in the basement, but that water still spits out of the radiator vent, if I use something other than a Gorton C or D.

  • AMservices
    AMservices Member Posts: 597
    Looking at that convector, I dont like the bushing at the bottom. I dont like how the air vent is on the same side as the supply line.
    Does the convector heat all the way across?
    Is that a 3/4" pipe through the floor?
    I thought 1" should be the smallest pipe used on a single pipe radiator or converter.
    I recommend replacing the convector to get the air vent on the opposite side of the supply pipe and replaced that bushing with a reducing coupling.
    ChrisF
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    @ChrisF , You can use either the 0-3 or 0-5 PSI gauge. Since a residential steam system should never run higher that about 2PSI, we tend to use a 0-3 PSI gauge.
    If the Pressure is over 1.5 to 2 PSI max, and you are sure the pigtail and tapping for the Pressuretrol is mounted on, and the boiler does not shut down, it typically means the Pressuretrol needs to be recalibrated. If that's the case, we can post the procedure to do the re-calibration.

    If the pressure is high enough that the steam won't let the water out of the convector, it will gurgle and spit. Take it a step at a time.
    Get that boiler cleaner out of the boiler and refill the boiler. Some of those cleaners/conditioners will really make the water unstable and could throw more water into the risers/mains than it would otherwise.

    Put the new gauge on so you can see what the pressure actually is.

    If necessary, re-calibrate the Pressuretrol so that the pressure never gets over about 1.5 PSI.
    ChrisF
  • mroberts5
    mroberts5 Member Posts: 76
    Where is your water level? I've notice a big difference in how wet the steam is by just a few inches. From your photo, I can't actually see a level in the sight glass. look here for some others commenting on big of an impact just an inch can have: https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/169320/see-wet-steam-in-the-wild#latest
    AMservicesChrisFethicalpaul
  • vibert_c
    vibert_c Member Posts: 68
    @Chris J @Clammy asked this question “What’s the EDR [equivalent direct radiation] on your convectors in comparison to the boiler?” I have not read where you answered it yet.
    My questions
    What is the EDR of the convector in the picture?
    What is the riser size feeding that convector?
    Do the functional convectors of similar EDR utilize a 1” riser?
    It is all in the details; I’d appreciate more.
    Vibert_c
    ChrisF
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @vibert_c Sorry, I'm not a technician, just a homeowner and trying to educate myself more on steam heat. Although I've seen EDR mentioned a few times, I'm clueless as to how to calculate what I have. My boiler is a Dunkirk PSB-5D, with 150,000 BTU. All I remember is the home inspector, at the time I purchased the house, back in July, mentioning that the boiler is appropriately sized.
    As far as the riser size for the radiators, it's 1".
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @Fred I ordered my low pressure gauge. Once it comes in, I'll hook it up, and go from there. I'm hopeful, but a bit doubtful at this point. I'll let you know what happens.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,320
    ChrisF said:

    @vibert_c Sorry, I'm not a technician, just a homeowner and trying to educate myself more on steam heat. Although I've seen EDR mentioned a few times, I'm clueless as to how to calculate what I have. My boiler is a Dunkirk PSB-5D, with 150,000 BTU. All I remember is the home inspector, at the time I purchased the house, back in July, mentioning that the boiler is appropriately sized.
    As far as the riser size for the radiators, it's 1".

    That's a huge mistake listening to a home inspector. They don't know $&^t about HVAC and even less about Steam!

    Find a contractor that KNOWS steam and have them take a look. It may be something easy or not.
    ChrisF1Matthiasdelta T
  • Well, it's a mess all around. That boiler "header" is a disaster, and it's no good having the vent on the same side as the inlet.
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,228
    i suspect you boiler is running at high pressure, we'll know for sure when the new gauge gets installed. In the meantime examine a convector to see if there is anything that looks like a separate pipe or channel coming from the far end of the convector to the tapping being used for the current vent?

    Take a close look at one of the convectors to see if there is a tapping at the far end of it (other end from inlet). If there is try and remove the plug and place a vent there. the vent sb a low flow *equiv to Gorton 4 or 5. Plug up the vent at the valve end.

    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
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,460
    check and clean the pigtail(s) now, while waiting for gage
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @New England SteamWorks I'm no expert at this. I'm just trying to see what I can do to resolve the issue. Many others have also mentioned the vent being on the same side as the inlet, but that's how it's been since 1956 when they originally put it in. I see your name is New England Steam Works....do you service the Hartford, Connecticut area?
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @BobC I checked all the convectors, and haven't found anything that looks like a separate pipe, tapping, or channel on the opposite end. All the convectors are original from 1956, when they built the house, so I'm inclined to think that it was working fine for all those years. The boiler was installed in 2013, but when I bought the house only 7 months ago, I wasn't aware of the noise. The only thing that is new on the boiler is a skim tapping port, a new pressuretrol, and new main vents. I'm hoping that when I install the new gauge, I'll be able to see something. I'm hopeful, but at the same time, a little doubtful.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    The vent location doe seem odd, but it's the same on the others -- so I think that that can be eliminated as the source of the gurgles. And which is why I asked to see if there is anything about those three convectors which is different from the others which don't gurgle..
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    You say only the last three convectors on the Main that gurgle but I see that your mains loop all the way back to the boiler before they drop down into a wet return. Is there any place on the horizontal dry return where the pipe has been reduced and the main/return might be holding water? Is the main/dry return properly pitched?

    I hate to keep harping on the vent location on that convector, and I know you said all of them are like that, but that doesn't mean that some dead knucklehead didn't install them incorrectly from the beginning. If there is no plugged tapping on the top of the other end of the convector, is there a plugged larger tapping on the bottom of the opposite end, like the one your supply connects to? It is possible the entire convector was installed backwards and needs to be turned around to be configured correctly???? 1956 may have been the era when steam knuckleheads picked up "steam" (pun intended).
    BobCChrisF
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,302
    Ryan what’s not good on the header? Assuming it’s not a bigger system and doesn’t two risers
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • vibert_c
    vibert_c Member Posts: 68
    Oops I’ve got my Chris’s mixed up
    @ChrisF
    This is my observation upon studying this thread overnight.
    Many years ago I learned that it is extremely difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!
    Many years ago I learned that when you receive a gift, even knowledge, it is polite to say at least “thank you” Why can’t you be polite? I sense the feeling that you are not living in this dwelling presently as a homeowner, but rather a soon to be landlord or flipper.
    You state in caption that you have “tried everything”, yeah except listening here!
    @clammy posted early with very insightful knowledge based on experience. It has inspired me just now to rate his posting as “insightful”. Due to a communication gap between not only the generations but also between the tradesman and layperson the message is NOT getting across to you.
    @ChrisF has two choices as I see it.
    Look up a professional steam man in the “find a contractor” section of this website and hire him.
    If none available, then read and digest Dan’s book “the forgotten art of steam heating” also available from this website.
    Why do I make this statement?
    Because @ChrisF is unable to digest what he is reading. Take for instance @clammy’s posting.
    I have paraphrased it here dressed up in eloquent format for the younger generation, I hope.
    Should @ChrisF care to read it five times over, then set it aside and write out what he has digested from it in his own words it might look like this!

    Ideally on convector or any radiator the vent should be mounted opposite of your inlet, yours looks wrong. It was likely not installed by the “dead men” but by a knucklehead that came later to heat an addition to the dwelling.
    I would install straight style Gorton and install the vent on the opposite side from the inlet; that’s your # one issue.
    You don’t need large vents on smaller convectors like that, otherwise it will spit.
    What’s the EDR on your convectors in comparison to the boiler?
    Also those side outlet boilers need both tapings and near boiler piping must be done correctly.
    [If you take the time to obtain & digest the installation manual for this boiler you will discover that two risers may connect to the header in order to provide “dry steam” to the mains. As it is configured now it is difficult to make “dry steam”]

    [As presently configured], they like to make wet steam. Most convectors like dry steam for problem free existence.

    Looks like when the boiler was replaced they reused the [existing] header. It also looks like they set it up for their ease in piping.

    It looks kinda difficult to get at those burners. [The installers never considered ease of service when they did this installation.- “get out quick, grab the money syndrome” – you get what you pay for!]
    Ideally most if not any side outlet boiler needs to use both outlets and hi risers or [at least] a drop header with an oversized header. That’s the only way to get them to perform decently.

    I stay away from these types of boilers like the flu. They usually underperform when not installed with some [tender loving care] tlc and even then, keep your fingers crossed.

    From my experience I will say that they are the most common boiler that dies a young death. I think this season I’ve have changed at least 5 or 6 of them, most under 15 years old. I’ve done a few Peerless that where close to 30, still were in good shape.
    Some customers are a little wiser and budget for a replacement. [Others panic when they get in over their head! – witness the lack of “thank you” in this thread]
    I would think a proper re-pipe on that nbp ing [near boiler piping] would put you in a better place.[relieve your anxiety | save your pocketbook]
    peace and good luck
    clammy

    vibert_c gets down off his soapbox!
    ChrisF
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,666
    I think the way the header on the convector is that is most likely should be fine w the vent on top of the supply being the rest of the convectors are that way ,there may be more then enough room for steam to enter and heat the element not much area. The spitting from the vent may also have to do w where they are located in respect to the end of your mains . Most likely the poor quality of steam is just getting wetter and wetter as it goes down the main condensing and receiving condensate back from functioning convectors leaving u w wet steam and not enough sensible heat left only wet and then it flow the law of the land hi pressure goes to low presssure and the condensate spits out the vent . Try a straight gorton 4 or 5 and if u want to save go to the depo and get a maid of mist #4 n5 there cheap if it works when they die replace w Gortons of the same size peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    ChrisF
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,302
    if all the convectors are the same and only several are acting up---try and swap some vents and see what happens
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
    ChrisF
  • ChrisF
    ChrisF Member Posts: 46
    @vibert_c My apologies for coming across as not polite. I thank you and everyone else offering suggestions here; It is greatly appreciated! This house is indeed mine and I plan on staying here for many many years. That being said, I'm just a homeowner trying to gain some knowledge and insight on the subject of steam and the heating in my house. I turned to this site after being let down by "professionals" who lacked in steam knowledge. It was only with the help of people like you and others, that I was able to learn about doing things like cleaning the pigtail, the importance of main vents, flushing the boiler, etc. I don't mind paying money for qualified service technicians to do the job right, but when I realize that what I'm paying for is not worth it, and I could do the same things myself, I look for other sources to help me out. Bear with me, however, as I am not a expertise in this field, so I don't know what is correct or incorrect when I get so many responses to help me out. I just read it, take it into consideration, and see what else I can do...one step at a time.
  • Many of us here have come to this well of knowledge with some sort of a problem, and been able to educate ourselves about steam-welcome to the group.—NBC
    ratioChrisFethicalpaul