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Uneven heat and boiler questions

I have found a lot of helpful information on here over the past couple of weeks and now have a few questions of my own. I bought my home in June and it has a new gas steam boiler installed last year. In August I called the company that installed the boiler for service, but about a week ago I called New England Steam Works after I learned more about steam and discovered some issues. Since it is probably going to be a while until they can come out to service my boiler and inspect the issues so I figured I would try to find some help here while I wait.

When I turned my heat on for the first time I noticed that the radiator in my dining room whistled and let steam out so I replaced it with a vent from home depot then after reading about vents on here I ordered some Hoffman 1a vents for the radiators on the first floor. The vent from home depot worked as it should however when I put the new Hoffman on it intermittently worked and seems to get stuck open. I tried that same vent on one of my baseboards and it worked better still gurgled from time to time and when I removed it there was a fair amount of water in it. I don't think my baseboards are sloped correctly since I have banging pipes when the heat kicks on but that is a separate issue. Did I receive defective vents? I have the same problem with the radiator in the hallway but to a lesser degree. Also the old vents that were on those two radiators work just fine on the baseboards. So I'm wondering what sort of issue I might be having?

The second but I believe related issue is those two radiators plus the baseboards (kitchen and family room addition) heat up completely while the radiator in the living room and office are still cold. The pipes that go off to the right supply the dining room, hallway, kitchen, family room addition, and master bedroom while the one that goes to the left supplies the living room, office, and 2 remaining bedrooms. I can not find any main vents downstairs I'm sure that is adding to the problem.

The third question I have is when the thermostat calls for heat the boiler is this normal or is this short cycling?
Call for heat
3 min later intermittent level light (green) shows up and everything appears to stop
1 min later boiler restarts
~15 min later same thing happens
20 minutes into it I start to get heat in the locations that are supplied by the pipes to the right
It's probably another 10-20 minutes before heat is noticed in the other locations and even longer for the 2 remaining bedrooms upstairs (I know this isn't normal)

I have included some pictures. I didn't take a pictures of the pipes that go to the right but it is the one that heads behind the radon mitigation system. Thanks in advance for the help!


  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,399
    edited October 2019
    We would really need to see the radiators to determine what size vents are needed.

    It looks like you have counterflow system which means there should be a vent near the end of each main.

    What size is the boiler? Its output should be match to the amount of radiation that you have (EDR measure in square feet).

    That's a Dunkirk boiler with side steam taps. Both of them (instead of one) should have been utilized when it was piped to prevent drawing water up with the steam. The workmanship looks good, but that can be an issue with that boiler.

    When Ryan gets there, he'll tell what needs to be done. You won't get any better.

    P.S. The Cyclegaurd is what's causing the short cycling. It's a piece of junk. We replace them with the SafeGaurd which won't do that.

    Also, the water in the sight glass looks pretty nasty in the bottom pic. Did the installer skim the boiler?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • elizabethg
    elizabethg Member Posts: 4
    I have looked and can't find any vents or where they would have been at one point on the mains. The one that goes to the left is much easier to see and I have included 2 pictures where it goes up for the living room and office. The one that goes to the right is a maze to follow in the basement but also haven't seen any vents but they could be hidden somewhere.

    Looks like the boiler input is 112500 BTU/hr

    1 6-loop (dining room)
    4 5-loop (office, hall, 2 bedrooms)
    1 ornate (master bedroom)
    1 built into wall (living room)
    5 baseboards about the same size ish except for one in of the ones in the kitchen

    Good to know what is causing the short cycling. Thanks!

    I have no idea if it was skimmed. It was installed last year by the previous owners. I was thinking the water water looked really bad for just one year of use. It's clear when not running but once it heats up it goes brown.

  • AMservices
    AMservices Member Posts: 610
    I replaced a steam boiler last year. I replaced all the air vent with Hoffman 1A. I had the same problem you describe.
    One heating cycle, the vents would work, next heating cycle, some vents would be water logged.
    I'd take the vent off, drain it out and it would work again. Then others would stop working.
    The same week I was playing with those Hoffman's, 2 people were on here posting the same problem.
    Try ditching those Hoffman vents.

    I have noticed when balancing systems, it does help having all the same style vents.
    I wouldn't trust the home cheapo vents either. Seen to many leak, never close or never vent.

    The vent I like the most are heat timers vari vents.
    They vent the fastest, have a very clear slide to open and close vent. Compared to every other vent I've seen and used, they are the quietest.
    But with heat timers, it's all or nothing. If you try just put one on this rad and that rad, those rads will work great and the others will starve.
    Heat timers have a bad name with some contractors and home owners because of the balance problems they get when trying to have them on only a couple radiators.
    When there all the same, there the best.
    I have some boilers going on 3 season now that haven't needed any feed water through the auto feeder. So they've been working great.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,399
    Here's a chart by which you can calculate the square footage of your rad's.

    The Baseray baseboards are 3.4 square feet per lineal foot.

    That wall convector may take a little guesstimating.

    Your boiler is rated for 283 square feet of radiation.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    I like Ventrite No. 1's for balancing radiators, very reliable and easy to adjust. Your radiators are not huge so you could probably just put Hoffman No. 40's on all of them and have a good result. That being said you should start with adding vents to the mains, that will allow the steam to be distributed evenly in the mains before it goes up to the radiators.

    I have used Ryan @New England SteamWorks and have recommended him to several people. He is the best and worth the wait. He evened out my heat and cut my gas bill. He is also going to tell you to insulate the pipes, do it, it makes a huge difference.
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 247
    I've had Dole 1A, Hoffman 1A, Varivalve and Ventrite #1, and one or two home cheapo. Right now have a mix of Hoffman 1A and Ventrite #1. If I had to replace them all tomorrow it would be Ventrite #1 all around. You can turn them off if needed, and they're the most straightforward to adjust IMO.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    Can you post pictures of the radiator vents on the baseboard and convector radiators, pics 5 and 6. Those might be more problematic than the cast iron radiators. The baseboard unit is not meant for 1 pipe steam.

    Again deal with the main vent first.
  • elizabethg
    elizabethg Member Posts: 4
    Thanks guys for the help. I played musical chairs with the vents again last night and I think I found a set up that should work until Ryan is able to get here and fix my problems.

    I put the new Hoffman 1A set to 6 on all the radiators that come off the left main and I finally got a little bit of heat in the other bedrooms. One of the two Dole 1A that are stuck between setting 1 and 2 on the one in the hall way. And the Home Depot one on the problematic one in the dining room since that is the only one that will close on that radiator for some reason. Then the baseboards have a mix of vent-rite #11, home depot, and some other brand. I think that is the best I can do until I can get main vents added.

    Yeah the baseboards in the addition have some issues with banging pipes which terrifies my dog but for now at least they heat up and don't spit steam. The previous owners had put painters tape on several of the vents including the problem one in the dining room
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,521

    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,114
    I know you need to re pipe that boiler using both risers with a proper header and main drips over the attempt that was done. A side note is you should have those uninsulated mains insulated w minimum of 1 inch wall fiberglass .counter flow system work well w low pressure and dry steam none of which you will receive w that piping arrangement .Trust the guys at NewEngland steamworks it may cost but when there done it will be function properly they know what there doing . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • elizabethg
    elizabethg Member Posts: 4
    Thanks everyone at least I know why I'm having the problems that I am having. So much for my original thought of oh yay a new boiler I won't have to worry about heat issues. Silly me. I'm glad now that the guys that installed this never got me on the servicing schedule.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,008
    @New England SteamWorks will fix you up.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service