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/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Finding Steam Systems

mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
Found another steam system yesterday. There aren’t many left, and when I find them, they are of course piped wrong. I was charging an AC system (needs to be replaced, leaks pretty bad) and talking to the homeowner while i patently waited for pressures to equalize to check superheat on the cobbled up monstrosity of a system (tiny liquid line, mismatched AHU and condenser, long line set.), owner tell me “the last company that charge this unit and services my boiler wasn’t sure if it was steam or hot water.” Palm slap to head. How on earthier do they service something if they don’t know what it is? I walk up to hte first radiator I see... yup, ... 1 pipe steam. House was built in 1907, same time as mine, same brick, similar features and layout, probably same architect. It’s parallel flow but the header splits into two directions. Didn’t have time to see all all was wrong but I don’t recall seeing any main vents. Had a sort of a equalizer at least. Had a Dunkirk with single side outlet on a boiler that people needs two, so bet it’s noisy sometimes.

I’ll follow up in the Fall and offer to take over annual service and make a list of what needs correction. LWCO and Autofeed I don’t think work. I’m sure the pressure is set too high. I warned him of adding water if it’s hot and below the sight glass.

Saving steam one system at a time when you find them.


  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,628
    Nice. What area? I got my dunkirk style Utica running really nice with a single side feed eventually but it took some fiddling. I too had no main vent and pressure a bit high.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    It’s in Hamilton, IL.... Western Illinois on the Mississippi River bordering IA and MO.

    I bet if I replace main vents, turn down the pressure control, fix the water feed and LWCO, flush the return and boiler, clean the burners. Maybe skim it a little too while I’m there doing everything else. Probably have to use the PRV tap.

    No Hartford loop so probably a lot of gunk in the bottom of the boiler, since they probably haven’t been flushing the wet return. Almost as important as a muck separator than to prevent sudden water loss.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    I have relatives in that area- you should still find plenty of steam in the older neighborhoods. ISTR in some cases, houses were upgraded from gravity hot-air to steam or hot-water- same as we find in Baltimore.

    On those Dunkirk boilers, we find too often that some idiot reduced the steam outlet from 2-1/2" to 2"- even though the manual specifically says not to do that. That's guaranteed to produce wet steam.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,765
    edited July 2019
    So a lot of faults and neglect on the heating and cooling systems. Hopefully it turns into some nice work for you.
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
    When it comes to churches and large multi-family buildings, I see more steam systems in Chicago than all other systems combined.
    Steve Minnich