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Steam boiler questions

I have been reading many posts here and thank all that have answered previous posters with helpful info. Hopefully you guys have some answers for me as well!

I just moved into an old family home that my grandparents owned. My grandfather worked on the 1 pipe steam system but passed in 1990 well before I knew I was going to move into the place. Built in 1918, the original boiler was removed and a Bryant boiler was installed in 2007. I have been doing some searches and have purchased the Bible that I am slowly making it through.

This spring I found the system was hammering quite a bit. Later I found that I had 17 gallons of water that was causing the hammer - that I ended up draining. I also found the system main wasn’t plumbed properly. At the transition from 2” to 1” (condensate) there is the main system vent valve. Of course this valve looks like hell due to all of the turbulence at that juncture. From reading the Bible this vent should be about 15” or more from this transition which I plan on fixing soon.

I have several radiators in the system that are heating up but not completely. When I put my infared gun on them the first couple fins maybe 130 dogs F or more and the others are at 65F. While another radiator on the same loop is reading 210F on all of the fins. Any thoughts on why this is?

When I goto fix my main venting issue, I also plan on taking the condensate lines and dropping them below the floor in a trough I installed (so they are still accessible / serviceable - if needed) to get them out of my head space. My basement has a 7’ ceiling and I am 6’3”. These condensate lines are currently at about 5’8” which is annoying to say the least. Ultimately the only change to the system would be dropping the pipe 2” or so further than they are now to the Hartford loop. I don’t believe there are any issues with this but not 100% sure. Thoughts?

Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,220Member
    That Bryant boiler was probably made by Dunkirk- if so it's very sensitive to improper piping. Post some pics of the boiler and surrounding piping so we can see it.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,983Member
    Is this a single pipe steam system?

    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
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    Yes it’s a single pipe system. I will snap some pics tonight when I get home. Will the forum accept a quick video? 🤔
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,882Member
    While you are poking around taking pictures...

    First, where on earth were you hiding 17 gallons of water? Eek!

    Second, check that all your mains and runouts which are more or less horizontal slope enough to somewhere -- wet return, back to the steam mains, whatever -- that the condensate can drain freely. Nothing like a bit of pipe which doesn't slope enough -- or in the wrong direction -- to cause a lot of hammer!

    Other useful details... what pressure do you have your boiler set to cut out at? Does it reach that pressure on a normal (holding temperature) run? Does it reach that pressure on a long recovery run?
    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
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,859Member
    Do you have some form of auto water filler?
    This could have overfilled the boiler.
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    Yes on the auto filler. I know about the site glass however I couldn’t see the level since the water inside is... dirty. I found the excess water leaking out of one of the main system vent valves - hence the 17 gallons extra! Yea I was a bit shocked as well!

    I haven’t checked the system pressure when it’s running. Been a bit warm since I started playing around with this.

    I have two loops, E and W. Both have main valves incorrectly placed. Both I believe are bad as well. In the one picture you can see the trough that I am installing to drop the pipes into the floor for the condensate lines. I really hate smacking my head on them while walking around in the basement.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,882Member
    Those are pretty miserable excuses for main vents. Not to mention being somewhat oddly placed. You can probably figure out some clever arrangement of elbows and nipples, though, to at least protect your new ones from being right where they are going to get smacked... and put in big enough ones. Big Mouths or Gorton #2s.

    Was there any more venting on those low hanging return lines (technically, they are still steam carrying in your original arrangement, since there are no traps or water seals isolating them -- so not really dry returns)? Dropping them down into the trenches should be OK, but keep in mind that any other returns which hooked into them and now would be dripped instead will now need vents.

    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
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    For the E and W loops they both tie together at the same point which holds some condensate and then back up into the Hartford loop. I didn’t think that was going to be an issue getting them into the floor as I saw a neighbor had theirs plumbed that way.

    The main vent I plan on extending the 2” like out a little bit to help get it to the wall that divides the basement so I can run my condensate lines down that wall down into the floor.

    The only vents in the system are on the radiators and, as you pointed out, the crappy ones on the mains. I just replaced all of the mains this spring with ones from Home Depot (already purchased them before finding out about Gorton valves). I still don’t understand how a radiator can be partially full of steam and heating and the other part not. Confusing to me.
  • retiredguyretiredguy Posts: 69Member
    edited October 1
    Since this is a 1 pipe steam system, are all the radiator valves wide open and not partially open. A partially open valve will not allow the correct flow of steam and condensate, and can cause the rad to hold or partially fill with water. On the colder rads are any of the valves broken or do they make metal noises when they are heating up which sometimes indicates a defective valve. It also looks as if you could use a repiping of the near boiler piping, especially the steam supply.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 804Member
    phazer42 said:

    I still don’t understand how a radiator can be partially full of steam and heating and the other part not. Confusing to me.

    I would say it's because that radiator's vent is stuck closed. That 130 degrees is probably from heat conduction from the pipe or maybe just a little steam is getting into it by convection with the air in there. 130 is not heating, 130 is "barely getting heated".

    PS: I love your plan for getting the return line out of your airspace. I'm going to do the same thing (I'm 5-8 so I have to duck a little each time I go to the back of the basement), but I'm not going to dig a trench, just going to lay it on the floor and remember to not trip on it haha.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    There is a radiator in the bathroom that gets to full heat and starts to click when cooling (metal click / tick). Other then that I don’t believe any of the valves are partially closed - however, not all of them have the rubber handle left on that to turn. They just have a rod sticking up. I have contemplated about replacing these valves, just wasn’t sure if I was going to open up a can of worms or not.

    Relative to the supply piping at the boiler, what should be changed there? I felt the supply piping was fairly clean, just the condensate piping not so much. It exits the boiler, goes vertical then rearward to a T for the E and W loop. I am all about efficiency, so hopefully you can help me understand what you’re referring to?
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    edited October 1
    @phazer42 You mentioned that that a new boiler was installed in 2007, and this home was in the family. Do you know if the system ever worked properly after the boiler was replaced?

    Also, as a homeowner who has recently done a lot of major repiping on my own system, you'll want to look into either renting or buying a power threader.
    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

  • gfrbrooklinegfrbrookline Posts: 400Member
    As to your confusion about radiators partially heating. Others have mentioned the shut off valve but my experience was with radiator vents that were to fast. The steam would heat the first section, race across the top, heat the last section and the vent would close leaving the middle bottom of the radiator room temperature. The key to heating the radiators fully is to vent them slowly once you have your main venting figured out so the main fills with steam quickly. This combination will give you nice even heat.

    Don't pay attention to Gorton's balancing chart, using C's, D's and in most cases 6's are way to aggressive for most residential uses.
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Posts: 3,186Member
    Shoot the rads, pipes with a thermal imaging camera.
    steve
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    These are the valves that I just installed in May 2019 - https://www.homedepot.com/p/1-8-in-IPS-Angled-Adjustable-Steam-Radiator-Valve-A884/202306128 - on each of the radiators. Same issue before as now, some are heating up, some are not. I am beginning to believe the real issue is the main, and once that’s fixed it might solve my issues.

    Yes, this house has been in my family since 1935, but honestly I wasn’t really involved with the install of the boiler in 2007. That was handled by my mom and her sister (aka they just hired it out). I would think that he made sure the system worked properly before he left- but, I also have a driveway that was partially incomplete too so I’m not sure.

    And yes I was thinking that too about the pipe threader. I need to slate a couple of days to fix the system here before winter sets in.

    Onto another question, I have 1.5” lines from the system main to the 2nd floor. Can I branch off these lines for additional radiators if I add on, or will I need to make new runs? I have two 1.5” lines going from the basement to the 2nd floor right now. Haven’t figured out how to branch out for new rooms. I had a few HVAC guys tell me that I could - but they didn’t know how.
  • retiredguyretiredguy Posts: 69Member
    edited October 2
    Instead of replacing the rad valves, if they are in decent shape, just remove the bonnet and remove the shut off disc so they are 100% open. Trying to replace the valves could easily become a "can of worms". The valves do not need to shut off. One thing to remember, when these steam systems were installed, the choice of heat was usually coal. It came on in the fall and shut off in the spring. Between that time the system was always active. there was little need for main line vents. Today, we want the heating unit to be automatic and controlled by some type of thermostat so we could get rid of the "shovel". These systems were not designed to be cycled on and off so we had to adapt them for this type operation. Lastly, compared to the old steam/coal boilers, the newer boilers are much smaller, contain very little water and have almost no steam chest which is a receipt for problems.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,983Member
    Those HD air vents are not really adjustable and they are not reliable either. I would return them and buy maid o mist 5L (come with 5 orifices)or Hoffman 1a's if you want adjustability.

    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
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    edited October 2
    Regarding the 1.5" lines, you'll need add up the heating capacity of all the radiators that are on that take-off. There are several rules on how much steam a certain size pipe can handle depending on it's configuration. That's all outlined in the Lost Art of Steam Heating (which it sounds like you have?).

    Before adding additional radiators to your system you want to make sure the boiler can handle the additional load.

    Actually, have you added up the heating capacity of the radiators and compared it to the rating of the boiler? An undersized boiler can cause radiators to only partially heat or not heat at all.


    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

  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    > @acwagner said:
    >
    >
    > Actually, have you added up the heating capacity of the radiators and compared it to the rating of the boiler? An undersized boiler can cause radiators to only partially heat or not heat at all.

    That’s a section I haven’t gotten to in the book. That makes a good point, I need to verify the sizing of the system. The HVAC guys that came in said it was plenty big enough, but they didn’t even check the model number or anything just was off the cuff. Guess is they really didn’t know how to manage a steam system. I’ll have to look for that sizing procedure in the Bible and figure that out myself.
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    Are the Gorton #2 valves the best solution for my main issues? Those suckers aren’t cheap...
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 804Member
    I really liked the air capacity and build quality of the Big Mouth, but mine stopped sealing properly after a month or so (or maybe never did) and would leak a lot of steam so now I think Gorton is the best. Also Gorton stops water and the Big Mouth doesn't.

    But yeah they are pricey and so my small main has a Gorton #1 on it right now which actually does great.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    edited October 2
    What dictates a small main v a large main? Mine is a 2” line but each loop is probably only 45’ in circumference (including condensate) ~1/2 that for the 2”
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,220Member
    phazer42 said:

    What dictates a small main v a large main? Mine is a 2” line but each loop is probably only 45’ in circumference

    That's Gorton #2 territory. And regarding "aren't cheap", you get what you pay for.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • gfrbrooklinegfrbrookline Posts: 400Member
    I prefer the Big Mouth vents, one has the venting power of almost three G2's, my system requires 4 big mouths or 12 G2's so a much less expensive approach as well. I did have an issue with one not closings but when I took it apart I found some debris on the disc so not the vents fault, had similar issues with G2's but if they fail it's harder to clean them.
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    In the Bible he talks about bullhead tees on the main and how they shouldn’t be used. I believe that’s what was used on mine to get to the two loops. Is this incorrect and possibly contributing to some of my issues?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,882Member
    Probably. You don't have a proper header on that at all -- so any condensate or carryover -- and with that type of boiler there will a good bit of it -- comes whipping up the riser, turns over and slams into the back of that T -- and the steam will carry a lot of it up into the system. Not good. It could be repiped to work a good bit better -- riser should come up, turn 90 into a header one pipe size larger, then a T off that for the steam main going up and the header going on over a bit, then turn 90 down to the equalizer. The equalizer -- the bottom of which I don't see in the picture -- should tie into the top of the Hartford Loop.
    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
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    Also that tee that splits your main to go in opposite directions means that either your main has no pitch or one side is pitched the wrong way. Or one side of the system is parallel flow and the other is counter flow.

    Too bad you don't know how it operated before the new boiler was put in. That would help you troubleshoot some of this.
    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

  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    I drew a schematic of the piping at the boiler, hopefully it makes sense. Tried to number each fitting 1-17 so it’s easier to follow and correct! Orange is the header of course and purple is the condensate lines. The height from the water level in the boiler to fitting number 5 is around 56” or so. Lowest point on the main is ~8” lower
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,220Member
    edited October 3
    phazer42 said:

    In the Bible he talks about bullhead tees on the main and how they shouldn’t be used. I believe that’s what was used on mine to get to the two loops. Is this incorrect and possibly contributing to some of my issues?

    I said:

    That Bryant boiler was probably made by Dunkirk- if so it's very sensitive to improper piping. Post some pics of the boiler and surrounding piping so we can see it.

    Bingo. And the installer made the classic Dunkirk error and reduced the steam outlet from 2-1/2" to 2". This is guaranteed to produce wet steam.

    The header needs to be repiped with 2-1/2" black steel, with one 2" takeoff for each main.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • GordoGordo Posts: 684Member
    @phazer42 : Dear sir, in one of your pictures of the boiler in question (third picture down on the left), there appears to be a cheap drain valve threaded into the safety pressure relief valve outlet.

    If that is so, that is not a good thing and that drain valve should be removed very soon. Please.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    .> @Gordo said:
    > @phazer42 : Dear sir, in one of your pictures of the boiler in question (third picture down on the left), there appears to be a cheap drain valve threaded into the safety pressure relief valve outlet.
    >
    > If that is so, that is not a good thing and that drain valve should be removed very soon. Please.


    Good catch. Actually, what happened there was the installed put NOTHING on that pipe at all. I threaded that on leaving it open just to divert the water, if it was to pop off, until I get to a fitting to properly divert it to the ground. I didn’t want to get scales walking by it if that happened while I was down there. Good catch
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    > @Steamhead said:
    > (Quote)
    > (Quote)
    > Bingo. And the installer made the classic Dunkirk error and reduced the steam outlet from 2-1/2" to 2". This is guaranteed to produce wet steam.
    >
    > The header needs to be repiped with 2-1/2" black steel, with one 2" takeoff for each main.


    So from fitting 1-5 it should be 2.5” and then between fitting 4 and 5 it should branch out independently a 2” line for the two loops - is that correct?
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    This appears to be the manual for your boiler. Page 9 shows the recommended near boiler piping configuration, dimensions, and sizes. It also shows your situation with two take-offs for the main to go in opposite directions.
    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

  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    > @acwagner said:
    > This appears to be the manual for your boiler. Page 9 shows the recommended near boiler piping configuration, dimensions, and sizes. It also shows your situation with two take-offs for the main to go in opposite directions.

    Thanks - certainly different then what the install guy did with my system. Looks like I have another project on my hands.....
  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    edited October 5
    Since ACWAGNER helped me out with the manual for my boiler I figured it would be good practice to check out its sizing for what I have in the house today before I change anything. So here is the procedure that I used:

    Went to every radiator in the house, measured it’s height, counted how many loops and determined if it was a 2 or 3 column (that’s all I had). After that I found a chart online telling me the sqft of each loop for which I multiplied by how many loops to figure out how much steam can pack in each radiator. My total for all 9 radiators was 355 sqft. The boiler, according to the manual posted shows it’s capacity is 283 sqft. Am I doing this correct? My boiler is undersized by 22%? Note, none of my header is insulated (which I need to change) so from the charts that appears it also needs to be counted somehow in the calculation - just not sure exactly how.

    On another note, the manual shows the pipe out of the boiler to be 2.5” pipe. I measured the pipe OD to be 2.5” which means the ID is only 2”. Is the manual referring to ID or OD (typically I am used to seeing ID).
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    Your radiation calculation sounds right. The loops are referred to as "sections". You may want post a photo of a typical radiator so we can double check the calculations.

    Boiler ratings have various numbers listed which can be confusing. The 283 sqft rating accounts for distribution piping losses, so that's what they assume is available to heat the radiators. They usually use a factor of 33%, called a "piping and pickup factor." If your radiator calculations are right, then it sounds like you have more like a 6% pickup factor, which is likely too small but may work depending on your system. I really don't know--it's rare to have an undersized boiler.

    As for the piping, they are referring to the inside diameter.
    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

  • phazer42phazer42 Posts: 17Member
    Here are two of my radiators. The black one is 23” tall and I get the total sqft to be just about 21. The gray one is 38” tall and I get it’s sqft to be 40.

    So then for the piping, according to the manuf document, isn’t plumbed correct at all. The pipe coming out of the boiler is 2” and the header is 1.75” going to the two mains and my condensate line is 1” not 1.5”. Now, I know the new boiler install guy didn’t do anything with the main lines, so those have been that size forever. Other than some ticking (which may get solved when I insulate) the system works. Wondering if it’s even worth the expense to fix these issues?
  • acwagneracwagner Posts: 195Member
    The black one is a nice looking radiator. I get the same for the EDR calculations.

    Some boilers are a comedy of errors and still somehow work fine. Your original post was about some radiators not heating up at all--that could be a function of the boiler not being big enough, or the poor near boiler piping, or a combination of things.

    But, I agree it's not an emergency. I'd insulate as much of the piping as you can. That might be enough to get things working nicely. You can also play with the venting strategy.
    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

  • Deltat210Deltat210 Posts: 3Member
    BobC said:

    Those HD air vents are not really adjustable and they are not reliable either. I would return them and buy maid o mist 5L (come with 5 orifices)or Hoffman 1a's if you want adjustability.

    Bob

    You are correct, they are junk....
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