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Steam Mystery

My guys just finished a new install of a Weil EG30 in a small home, everything done correctly of course, with dropped header etc. The system has two 2” supply mains. One is parallel flow and only about 5’ long with 3 take-offs/radiators. The other is counterflow, about 12’ long, also with 3 takeoffs/radiators.

They fired it up and no steam would enter the counterflow main, even after a considerable time. I told them to change the radiator vents on the parallel flow side to #4s. No effect.

They said there was a plugged tee at the very end of the counterflow main (which presumably had a vent at one time) so I told them to remove the plug. They did this, and still no steam would enter the Counterflow main.

I then told them to close the king valve on the parallel flow main. This had the effect of sucking all the water out of the boiler, causing it to go off on low water, and then the water belched out the end of the counterflow main (where the plug was removed).

Try as they might, they could not get steam to enter that counterflow main, and being late, they gave up.

Unfortunately, they failed to take pics, though I trust that they installed everything correctly.

So I am headed up there next, but I thought I’d run it by the wall for any ideas, as at this point it is a head scratcher...

Thanks.


New England SteamWorks
Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
newenglandsteamworks.com
«134

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 11,405
    @New England SteamWorks -- Ryan, if you expect me to be any help, you're daft. But do tell us what you find!
    Br. Jamie, osb

    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
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    This is our current install. For reference the aforementioned boiler was built with the same header as this one.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • IronmanIronman Member Posts: 5,293
    Which one is the counterflow in the pic? Left or right side?
    Did you put a drip on the counterflow?
    Bob Boan


    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,035
    Crazy idea, but is there any way that the steam supply on the counterflow is somehow below the water line inside the boiler??

    I am at the edge of my seat for this one.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,035
    Ironman said:

    Which one is the counterflow in the pic? Left or right side?

    Did you put a drip on the counterflow?

    I believe (?) the pic is a different, but similar installation just to show the general idea
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @Ironman said:
    > Which one is the counterflow in the pic? Left or right side?
    > Did you put a drip on the counterflow?

    The pic is from current install, just for header reference. Yes, the counterflow is dripped, tied together below the water line with the other return.

    Also, the counterflow main is well above the boiler for its entire length.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,347
    Did they feed directly into the counter flow ? I ve found on counter flow mains to drop down from the top into the bull of the tee let the run pitch downward into a drip .This method over all other has always been the clear no issue winner in my book and I ve piped them ever which way there is over the years . Also I usually always use a vaporstat on counter flow systems ,just wondering has any body checked the radiator hand valves and made sure that there open and that the radiator vents are totally wasted doin nothing you hi to low ,just thought I de ask Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    edited October 29
    > @clammy said:
    > Did they feed directly into the counter flow ? I ve found on counter flow mains to drop down from the top into the bull of the tee let the run pitch downward into a drip .This method over all other has always been the clear no issue winner in my book and I ve piped them ever which way there is over the years . Also I usually always use a vaporstat on counter flow systems ,just wondering has any body checked the radiator hand valves and made sure that there open and that the radiator vents are totally wasted doin nothing you hi to low ,just thought I de ask Peace and good luck clammy

    They didn’t check the counterflow radiator vents because the end of the main was open and still no steam.

    It’s piped like this:



    Except one side is parallel flow


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • ScottSecorScottSecor Member Posts: 322
    Maybe customer added a "little" stop leak to the system and clogged a two inch main???


    Maybe burner gas valve shipped for propane and your burning natural gas. As a result boiler is only firing at say 40,000 instead of 75,000 BTU?
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    King valve stuck shut?
    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
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,226
    Why would a shut valve or clogged main suck water out of the boiler? Shouldn't the equalizer stop this even if the return is left open?
    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
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,226
    Just shooting out random ideas.

    High velocity over the return created a venturi and sucked water into the main?

    Did they close the king valve while it was steaming?
    What happens if you let it cool down, close the king valve on the side you don't want heating and start heating with a cool boiler?
    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
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 38
    Just a shot in the dark.

    The piping is not insulated. If the piping gets steam hot and the boiler shuts down the steam shrinks in volume 1700 time. That will cause a vacuum and pull water out of the boiler.

    Sounds like a stoppage. Maybe the wedge on the king valve broke off or there maybe a rag in the pipe.

    Jake
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,347
    Ryan that’s a real head scratcher ,couple of things I would feel around for is cold spot on near boiler s equalizer drop sometimes 10 to 15 inches above the Hartford loop ,also would check the counter flow drips and see if they ever get hot .is all your near boiler piping getting hot ? To me it seems as if it air bound maybe possibly in the near boiler piping . From the photo with that hi of a riser and a dropheader that steam is bound to very dry so I know that’s not the issue . I ve seen guys add air vents to headers to get the air out quickly ? I think I would also follow out the piping and make sure nothing out of the normal has been done in the past . Maybe check the size vents that are on your parallel main possible way over vented in comparison to a slow vent counter flow ,it’s a hard one but possible something over looked . As other stated check that king valve peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @Steamhead said:
    > King valve stuck shut?

    I thought about that, except the boiler water made it to the end of the main, unless it went up the drip...

    Hard to fathom how a new king valve could fail closed...


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @ScottSecor said:
    > Maybe customer added a "little" stop leak to the system and clogged a two inch main???
    >
    >
    > Maybe burner gas valve shipped for propane and your burning natural gas. As a result boiler is only firing at say 40,000 instead of 75,000 BTU?

    Except the boiler water made it out to the end of the main no problem.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @ChrisJ said:
    > Just shooting out random ideas.
    >
    > High velocity over the return created a venturi and sucked water into the main?
    >
    > Did they close the king valve while it was steaming?
    > What happens if you let it cool down, close the king valve on the side you don't want heating and start heating with a cool boiler?

    Yes, they closed in when steaming. But since then the customer reports no heat from the counterflow radiators.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @ChrisJ said:
    > Why would a shut valve or clogged main suck water out of the boiler? Shouldn't the equalizer stop this even if the return is left open?

    Vacuum?


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @clammy said:
    > Ryan that’s a real head scratcher ,couple of things I would feel around for is cold spot on near boiler s equalizer drop sometimes 10 to 15 inches above the Hartford loop ,also would check the counter flow drips and see if they ever get hot .is all your near boiler piping getting hot ? To me it seems as if it air bound maybe possibly in the near boiler piping . From the photo with that hi of a riser and a dropheader that steam is bound to very dry so I know that’s not the issue . I ve seen guys add air vents to headers to get the air out quickly ? I think I would also follow out the piping and make sure nothing out of the normal has been done in the past . Maybe check the size vents that are on your parallel main possible way over vented in comparison to a slow vent counter flow ,it’s a hard one but possible something over looked . As other stated check that king valve peace and good luck clammy

    No vent on the parallel main as it is only 4 or 5 feet long.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • Chris_LChris_L Member Posts: 143
    If the counterflow main is the one on the right, why not disconnect the union above its king valve, close only the other king valve and fire up the boiler to test it?

    If no steam comes out of the disconnected pipe, you've likely got a bad valve or a clog in the counterflow riser from the header.
  • acwagneracwagner Member Posts: 342
    edited October 29
    Does the counterflow main pipe have a sag somewhere in it that has pooled water blocking the flow of steam?

    I had something similar happen to my system when I first moved in. The main vent on one of my mains would never get steam. I put a bigger vent on it. No steam. Put multiple vents on an antler. No steam. I took the vent completely off and had an open 3/4" pipe. No steam. I pulled off the insulation on the main and found that the pipe had bent to the point that pooled water completely blocked the line. This was after the last riser so all the rads got hot, just took forever.
    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

  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,035
    Final guess: squirrel
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340

    Hard to fathom how a new king valve could fail closed...

    Made in China?
    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
  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,608
    Hi, How about looking at everything with IR and see if it gives you some clues? ... this from a hot water guy :D

    Yours, Larry
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    edited October 29
    “Made in China?”

    Probably...


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @Larry Weingarten said:
    > Hi, How about looking at everything with IR and see if it gives you some clues? ... this from a hot water guy :D
    >
    > Yours, Larry

    That’s a good idea, but I would have to borrow Gordo’s...


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @acwagner said:
    > Does the counterflow main pipe have a sag somewhere in it that has pooled water blocking the flow of steam?
    >
    > I had something similar happen to my system when I first moved in. The main vent on one of my mains would never get steam. I put a bigger vent on it. No steam. Put multiple vents on an antler. No steam. I took the vent completely off and had an open 3/4" pipe. No steam. I pulled off the insulation on the main and found that the pipe had bent to the point that pooled water completely blocked the line. This was after the last riser so all the rads got hot, just took forever.

    No. It’s uninsulated, and no sags...


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,226
    Did both sides heat before the boiler replacement?
    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
  • Larry WeingartenLarry Weingarten Member Posts: 1,608
    Hi, This is a fairly inexpensive and accurate way to see heat.
    https://www.flir.com/applications/home-outdoor/ B)

    Yours, Larry
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,276
    > @ChrisJ said:
    > Did both sides heat before the boiler replacement?

    Don’t know. Boiler was junk when they bought the home.


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • ratioratio Member Posts: 2,132

    > @ChrisJ said:

    > Did both sides heat before the boiler replacement?


    Don’t know. Boiler was junk when they bought the home.

    Not only do you get to finish a puzzle that someone else started, but you don't even get the box to look at!
  • nybznybz Member Posts: 16
    edited October 29
    I'm still new to this. If from what I'm learning and how it sounds, I'd think something is blocking the steam in the main and boiler water being pushed back up through the drip past the stoppage. Water only came up when the other main was closed right? 1+ psi can easily send water up that height.

    Is it a bad idea to plug that tee and with the parallel closed and see how high the pressure goes? If it just builds there has to be something blocking the main

    I'm definitely not a pro, so if that idea is not safe don't do it!
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,226
    ratio said:

    > @ChrisJ said:

    > Did both sides heat before the boiler replacement?


    Don’t know. Boiler was junk when they bought the home.

    Not only do you get to finish a puzzle that someone else started, but you don't even get the box to look at!
    It's pretty easy to pop those unions open and have a look.
    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
  • ScottSecorScottSecor Member Posts: 322
    @nybz I believe one psi will "lift" the water 2.3 feet. Not sure how much higher that plug that was temporarily removed than the normal water line.
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,347
    I think I would disassembly and look in the new pipe for a obstruction ,possibly there’s a some jammed in there , plastic pipe protector ,rag who knows. I would pop the union on the connection to that main and let the boiler steam and see If you get steam .is it possible some left a rag in the old counter flow main or possible fitting stuck inside a fitting on your tee that feeds the counter that would stop flow . You got a mystery there Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • gfrbrooklinegfrbrookline Member Posts: 490
    I would try taking one of the vents off of the radiators on the counter flow side and see if it releases air. If the main shoots out water it is clear of obstructions so the problem is in the risers or the radiators. If the pressure was set too high on the old boiler or the boiler was not serviced annually all of the vents could be junk. That would cause the imbalance.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,340
    @New England SteamWorks , check your water quality. ISTR we had a similar situation some years ago, and we finally figured out it was due to badly foaming water in the boiler.
    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
  • AMservicesAMservices Member Posts: 463
    Maybe someone, at some point closed the radiator valves on those 3 radiators.
    If air cant get out, steam cant get in.
    Definitely sounds air bound.

    I would separate the unions on those radiators to make sure theres no obstructions there
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,035
    But they opened the end of the main and no steam appeared so that lets off the radiators
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • GrallertGrallert Member Posts: 344
    I'm on the edge of my seat here.
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