Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Why can't I get the two sides of my house heating at the same time?

Ps44
Ps44 Member Posts: 30
When we moved in we re-piped the boiler accordingly to manufacturers manual with two risers and two steam mains. The one issue we continue to have is that one of the steam mains going to one side of the house gets air much much faster (at least 5 minutes difference) than the other side of the house. All the vents, main vents and radiator vents, are much smaller on that side of the house that is getting air faster than the main vents and radiator vents on the side of the house getting air slower. We have a crown jamaica series boiler.

We have brainstormed this issue with many boiler experts but they too are stumped. One suggested we plug the small main vent (currently Hoffman 40A) on the warm side and leave the other main vents (two with Hoffman 75). It just seems to defy logic to me that the warm side is still pulling all the steam faster. Just as an fyi Pressuretrol is set to what Dan Holohan recommends, and we have a one pipe steam system.

If you have any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,101
    Air? Hopefully you mean one side gets steam faster than the other.

    First thought -- the Hoffmann 75 is a fine vent. It was also entirely adequate in the days of coal. It isn't any more... what are the lengths and sizes of the two steam mains? You probably need more main venting on both of them, and perhaps if we know the length and diameter we can make a useful suggestion.

    Second thought -- are any of the steam mains not insulated? Even a relatively short section of uninsulated main can make a major difference in how fast steam makes it to the end of the line.

    Third thought -- don't try to balance the system with radiator vents. Wait until the main venting is straightened out (and any uninsulated pipes insulated) and then start adjusting the radiator venting.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    STEVEusaPA
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    How long and what diameter are the Mains? Hoffman 40 is a slow radiator vent and the 75's are main vents but two of them are good for maybe 15 to 20 feet of 2" main. The last thing you want to do is plug either of those vents. You need to use some larger vents and enough of them, on each main, based on their length and diameter to balance the flow of steam. My guess is you have more radiators and/or larger radiator vents on the faster main than on the slower one and steam, taking the path of least resistance is going that direction. Put the correct amount of Main vents on each main and then balance the radiators. Vent mains fast, radiators slowly.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 683
    I agree with @Jamie Hall and @Fred, slowing your main venting is going backwards. But as requested please enlighten us on the size and length of the mains and pics of the near boiler piping.
    1Matthias
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,368
    @Ps44. Are you sure that the 75's are still venting? They may have died a quiet death.
    1Matthias
  • Unless you have a low pressure gauge, (0-3 psi) on the boiler you do not know whether the pressuretrol is accurate or not, no matter what the setting.
    Over-pressure can cause bad things to happen as well, and you need to know the pressure that the system is venting at, in order to get enough main venting.
    I would order some Big Mouth vents, and add them onto both mains until your backpressure of venting is less than 2 ounces.—NBC
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,668
    I ve seen this issue on a few occasions usually what I have found is one main has more rads on it thenthe other ,is the main that is slow to heatwave less rads on it ? The easiest way to explain is what I have experienced which is your quick to heat main must have to much venting on the rads in comparison to the hard to heat . I would count how many rads are on each main you will likely find your quick main has after add up your rad and vents much more and this is what messing it up . I know this sound s weird but remove the main vent on your fast main plug it and chk your results . Personally I would trash that Hoffman 40 and put a 1 gorton on each main to start and it still a issue then put 2 on your hard main and one on the quick main. Have all your rads vents been update recently ? I always suggest replacement at a max time of 10 years after5 they owe u nothing .if your strapped for cash then go to the depo for maid o mist cheaply vents and use them to get semi balanced and as they go replace w gortons . I do suggest on main don’t waste your time w cheap just get gortons main vents aside for Barnes and jones big mouth the rest are just garbage .i once years ago had a difficult 1 pipe balancing job took we a few try’s but it came to me .i was unbalanced because I had far more vent capicatiy on one main compared to another main vents had very little to do it had to do with hi pressure goes to low and hi pressure will always go the path of least resistance which was the main w most of the rads and most of the venting .installed a straight # 5 or 6 on the big main and 2 gorton main vents on the short went right into balance ,it took me a while to see the light and it wasn’t in a book trial and error and some head scratching now it’s in the skull crap and in the bag of cure all’s peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Ps44
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,230
    i agree with all the above but if after taking all that into consideration you still have problems consider that steam will always take the path of least resistance.

    How long does it take steam to get to the end of each main? If your problem main is slower you have to figure out why. Assuming the Hoffmans are working see if you can find a spot where the steam seems to be hanging up and then carefully look for any slope issues in that area. If water can pool in a pipe it can collapse steam flowing past it.

    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
    Ps44
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,976
    You need to get the mains both heating to the ends before any radiators get steam.

    If this means having four big mouth vents on one and no vents on the other so be it

    In my house I have a short main with a single Gorton 1 and the other 29' main has 5 Gorton 1s.

    If I vent the short main which comes off the header first, too fast it still steal steam for a while. That's no good.
    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
    Ps44
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    I do truly appreciate the comments. Yes, I mean steam (not air, thanks) . All of my vents are new (radiator and main) , meaning bought within the last two years. All the steam mains ty
    were fully professionally insulated with fiberglass after we removed the asbestos. The Hoffman 4A and the Hoffman 75 were all bought this year or last. The near boiler piping is exactly to spec from the manual I got from crown boiler dealer Velocity Boiler works. It is true that I have more radiators on the warm side (9), all with hoffman 40 vents except 1 versus (5), all with Gorton vents 6, to 1 (really) on the not so warm side, D on most. The main on the warm side runs at 435 feet (hoffman 40A vent) while on the not so warm side to the longest main vent (hoffman 75 vent)runs at 550 feet but splits about a third of the way to another vent( hoffman 75 vent) going the opposite side of the house. the diameter is 1 1/2. the pressure gauge is set at 1.5 psi.

    So interestingly enough what Clammy says makes a lot of sense to me because when I've tried the large vent Gorton No. 2 on the slow side it makes things worse. Maybe I should install that on the fast side and see if it balances.

    Thanks again to you all. Truly you are the best.
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    My apologies, I meant inches, not feet for the main vent locations.
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    I am back as I just can't seem to get this right. I've spent thousands of dollars trying to fix this one issue and it is baffling. First I re-piped the boiler to manufactures's spec, lowered the pressure to the minimum, bought all new vents for all the radiators and sized them properly and even capped the two vents on the warm side of the house and installed large vents on the cold side. I tried larger and larger vents but it turns out that after a while it gets worst with larger vents. If anyone has any other suggestion I would certainly welcome it. with all this it still takes 6 1/2 minutes for the heat to reach the main vent which is now 2 Gorton #1 and 1 Hoffman 75 (3 in all).
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,315
    Where ya located? Maybe it's time to bring in one of the guru's from The Wall, rather than keep throwing money and parts at it.
    steve
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    I am located in Brooklyn NY and would happily pay someone to fix the problem but after employing so many people who haven't I would only make a deal of fix it or I don't pay. Otherwise I may end up in the same cycle of spending ever more money again without a solution. At the same time I appreciate that people's time is money.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,398
    There are several contractors located in Brooklyn on the Find a Contractor page. https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/state/NY

    One of them, https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/newtech-energy-inc, actually says,
    We help owners solve imbalance distribution of heat. Through using all methods we analyze and until we find the problem to balance heat distribution so all lines get filled with heat evenly and reach all radiators. We are dedicated to stay until solved.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    That may be the way to go. Thank you.
  • SeanBeans
    SeanBeans Member Posts: 483
    Sounds frustrating @Ps44

    Hope everything works out sooner rather than later!
    Ps44
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 538
    Did you try capping vents or slowing it down on cold side, and more venting on fast side(start with G2), Clammy's approach worked better for me. I have single pipe, 2 mains, 4 rads on each, but the more I vented mains the longer it took to get steam to get to rads. Now have 2 G1's on fast side and 1 on slow. I'm going to try a G2 on fast side next, but right-now it's acceptable.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 482
    I have a 1920s vintage two family with a supply pipe and return to the front rooms on both floors and a second supply pipe and return to the back rooms of the house. The short version is I have owned the house for 30 years and found out the upstairs front living room never got to 70 degrees, even though the rest of the house was warm enough. Once I became aware I did a bunch of things to try to straighten it out...too numerous for now. The back of the house has shorter runs and was heating up much faster than the front, where the thermostat was located.

    I haven't read all of this thread, but one thing I thought was contributing to my problem is there is a main vent on each of the two returns, but they are connected about a foot apart. I thought there might be a possibility that the back section was venting through its vent and because it was shorter, it was also venting through the vent on the return from the front supply. This past summer I repiped the back return to go down to the Hartford loop, so the column of condensate in the return would prevent the venting of the back through the vent for the front, letting the front vent more quickly.

    Have you looked at the report that has a list of the venting capabilities of the multitude of radiator vent valves and main vent valves? The title is, "Balancing Steam Systems...Using a Venting Capacity Chart". I made a table and chart of the venting capabilities of Gorton, Maid O'Mist, Vent Rite and Heat Timer vents from the data in the tables. I had been using Heat Timers only to find out that when they are set at minimum, they still pass about a #5 amount of air/steam. I bought a bunch of Maid O'Mist vents and way too many orifices only to end up with using the Vent Rites because they could be adjusted down enough to get everything pretty well balanced.

    I attached the Excel spreadsheet and can explain how to read it if you need help. The house is about 1000sqft on each floor so it is not that large and I had to set the Vent Rites at fairly small openings. Again there's a lot more to this story and if you are interested or want some reading to help you fall asleep, go to Strictly Steam and look at "Converted Two Family" and "Over Venting" .

    There's another thread about thermostats and I also replaced my round Honeywell thermostat with their wireless thermostat with wifi capability. It cost $300 or so, but now I can monitor using the app and don't have to leave the basement if I want to run the boiler when I am in the basement.

    I apologize if this seems rambling and hope it is helpful to you and anyone reading my comments.
    Ps44
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    Thanks "SteamingatMowhawk". Thanks very much and no rambling. Just really good advice. I am still working on this but one thing I did do was finally do what "Bob C" suggested and looked at the slope. I had been telling my plumber this but instead he said to increase the pressure. I remembered Dan saying that increasing the pressure means the steam travels slower so I told him not to do that. Anyway I did this part myself not wanting to deal with someone who didn't want to at least try. Turns out the main pipe leading to the cold area was not pitched at all but flat so I slightly pitched it and immediately it took two minutes less for the steam to get to the vent. This is a long pipe with multiple attachments to the ceiling so I am thinking I will attempt to pitch it again just a tad more and hopefully that will take care of more of it.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 482
    That's great. If you look at one of my threads, I failed at doing some "surgery" on my returns and had to patch it for the remainder of the winter. Then I got noise and found a support strap was not connected and I had no idea when it came loose. I checked the slope and it was wrong, rehung the strap and the noise went away.

    If you have the time, the chart/table on venting is an eye opener...I now have lots of extra vent valves that I will never use.

    Happy New Year.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 482
    Here are before and after pics of how I separated the return piping and vents to theoretically keep the shorter run from venting through the vent for the longer run.




    I also added a drain valve at the bottom, since there was none before.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    edited January 2020
    Returns should never be tied together above the water line. It allows steam to move between mains/returns close vents.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,842
    @SteamingatMohawk , that looks good. I'm assuming it works much better now................
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Ps44
    Ps44 Member Posts: 30
    Lots more work than I would do but kudos to you. For that kind of work I call a professional although the ones that know their limitations admit it and that what makes them better. As this site proves steam heat baffles even the best of them.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 754
    The juncture where the the two dry returns meet is wrong.
    You need to have both lines drop individually into the wet return.

    Here is why. Air from both lines will vent from both vent vlves at the same time. The shorter main vents from both vent valves which means the short main will get steam much faster than long main.

    By separating the drops on the steam mains the short main will take longer to receive steam. Additionally you can put a smaller vent on the short main to retard the flow of steam to that side of the building which will allow the long steam main to receive steam faster than before.

    Jake.

    You can contact me at [email protected]

    I am a retired Lic Master plumber from Brooklyn
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 482
    @dopey27177, the second picture shows exactly what you just stated. Look at the first picture, which is before the modification and you can see the elbow and tee where the two returns come together and there is only one copper line down. The second picture, which is harder to see the details, shows the two returns separated and a second copper line going down.

    You just restated my case as to why the second arrangement is correct. I came up with it on my own through trial and error and some speculation. I was pleased that my Westfield consultant agreed and now you also validated my conclusion and modifications.

    I am a retired mechanical engineer who worked in the US Nuclear Navy program for 38 years. I started my career working on the USS Los Angeles reactor plant design in the late 60s, qualified on a submarine nuclear power plant, operated it, trained sailors on it, went through 2 refueling/overhauls (one as a shift supervisor, the other as mechanical engineering manager) and spent years in many other parts of the business.

    All that being said, while I learned a lot about nuclear power plants, when I bought my steam boiler heated 1920s vintage 2 family, it was a totally new learning experience. Wow!

    I fell into Dan and this web site and have found it to be a tremendous resource with highly knowledgeable people contributing immensely important information to those of us involved in this technology.

    The Gill/Pajek report was another eye opener which pointed me to the ultimate venting solutions for the situation with my house.

    You might enjoy reading my threads.
    ethicalpaul
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 754
    Hi there thank you for service.

    I am a retired Navy Chief petty officer Rate UTC. Served 26 years with CBs.

    I hope what I told you about the drop leg helps because that piping configuration makes the system operate as one steam main.

    Try this on the short main. Install a Hofffman 43 vent valve. Its venting capacity is 140 to 800 cubic inches of air per minute.

    By retarding the air removal from the short main you will allow the steam to to flow sooner to the long main because the short main will take longer to vent.

    Jake
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 683
    @SteamingatMohawk and @dopey27177 , Thank you both for your service. My great grandfather and great uncle worked the Adm. Rickover on the Nautilus Project at EB in Groton. The USN has a remarkable record of safe nuclear power.

    And yes trying to reverse engineer to steam's most basic elements can be daunting, steam heat is almost completely counter intuitive.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,398

    I am a retired Navy Chief petty officer Rate UTC. Served 26 years with CBs.

    You're a Seabee? That's awesome!
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 482
    I do have an additional Gorton on the front line right after the last radiator tap off, so its essentially at the beginning of the return line. I think that helped a lot. I tried many different venting arrangements, including putting 2 Gortons on a tee off the main line. The second didn't help. I did all my work last heating season, except I separated the two returns over the summer. It seems to be operating fine now.

    Thank you, but I didn't earn your thanks militarily, because I was a civilian. I was able to go home to my family every night, unlike the military. By the way, my time at prototype was at S1C in Windsor.