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High Pressure, Venting Issues, Cold Radiators, You name it, I need help with it!

Hello all!

I've been going through the forums for weeks and trying to sort out my issues and where to start first. I'm hoping from reading so many posts, I can give you a decent amount of information from the get go.

Our home is approximately 2,468 sq. ft. It's a two story farm house and is pretty drafty. The living room and two bedrooms above it are electric heat. The dining room, office (in between the dining room and living room), kitchen, front bedroom (above dining room), and master bedroom (above kitchen) are steam radiators.

The dining room has 9 or 9 1/2" high Baseray baseboards. The baseboard is a total of 24' long in an L shape. The pipe feeding it is 1" diameter. It has a return pipe at the opposite end from the inlet and goes straight into the basement where it hits a TEE with an air vent on top and the return turns 90 degrees to combine with the return from the kitchen.

The thermostat is an older analog Honeywell. Temp. you want on top, actual temp. on bottom. Anticipator is set inbetween 1.0 and .8.

The kitchen is pretty much the same setup, only the baseboard is a total of 21' in length.
From what I can tell, there are NO steam traps on the return lines. They go into the basement then tie together in the second picture.

This is the baseboard.

This is the return where they meet. Both are vented with the same main vents on the individual lines.


The office room is heated by this radiator:


It is 14" long, 8.5" deep, 23"high and has 6 sections. Each section has 5 individual chambers. That radiator currently has a new Gorton #5 air vent. This radiator heats up quickly, throws an insane amount of heat, and really isn't a problem.

The front bedroom is heated by this radiator:



It is 17' long, 4.5" deep and 18" high and has 10 sections. Each section has 4 individual chambers. This radiator currently has a new Gorton #5 air vent. This radiator heats up quickly, and also isn't a problem.

The master bedroom, which is above the kitchen, is heated by this beast:


It is 49" long, 24" high and 7" deep. It has 20 sections. Each section has two chambers.

This radiator has a new Gorton D air vent. This radiator never heats up more than 2 or 3 sections and the bedroom is always cold. The radiator makes a noise like a swooshing sound when it's heating. It's not water hammer, it's almost like a water swishing sound. When it's heating, if you take the vent out, the air escaping isn't steady, it's always a rush, then a little, then a rush and so on.

Now for the basement.

This is a picture of the furnace with all of the plumbing.


At the top of the header where the main runs to the right, I measured from there, all the way around until the main does a 90 into a smaller pipe to form the return. To that 90, there's a total of 54' of 2" pipe for the main.

The main runs into the 90, and the 90 is tapped for a vent. I replaced the one that was in there with a Gorton #1 main vent. I'm aware this is not enough in terms of venting capacity. Here is a picture of where the main ends and the vent is.

The return line continues toward the furnace and meets the other main on the left side of the header here.


This main is not vented and it supplying the dining room and front bedroom. Again, there are no issues with getting steam to any of these radiators.

The main to the right of the header is supplying the kitchen, office, and master bedroom.

If you're looking at the previous picture of the furnace, this return line is eventually the sloped pipe of the left of the furnace against the wall.

This is a picture of the tags on the furnace.


I'm hoping this is adequate information. Now for the actual issues.

1. As I stated earlier, the bedroom radiator never heats to more than 2 or 3 sections. The boiler kicks on, everything heats at about the same time, and the bedroom barely gets any steam before the boiler shuts down.
2. There is water hammer in the return lines for the dining room and kitchen about mid way in the burn cycle.
3. The pressure on the boiler always climbs to around 5 PSI on the 0-30 gauge. Never higher, never lower when it's running.
4. When the temps are in the low 20's or teens overnight, the boiler will run about every hour or hour and a half for about 30-40 min. My concern with this is according to the thermostat, the boiler will shut down between 2 nd 4 degrees ABOVE the set temperature. I'm not sure if this is normal.

I have removed the pressuretrol and pigtail, cleaned the pigtail and reinstalled. I tried adjusting it to .5 cut-in (it was at 9 when we moved in) and the dial is set to 1, however it seems like it's just not working at all. I intend on changing to a Vaporstat.

I am planning on putting a 1/2" tap at the end of the main near the existing vent to get better main venting once I can find out the capacity required. I'm assuming it'll end up being an antler.


Now for what I'm thinking.

When the house was remodeled and the electric heat added, they capped the risers for the living room and two bedrooms just above the main in the basement. There are 6 unused, capped risers in the basement. The furnace is estimated to be about 10 years old. When we bought the home in October, I checked the furnace before firing it up. It was overfilled almost to the top of the glass. So far, the only thing I've done is change the air vents in the radiators and the one main vent. I also gated down the valve on the dining room baseboard to try and keep it from heating so fast. This allowed me to get heat to the master bedroom. I understand using the valve isn't the way to go, but sleeping in 50 degree air isn't either!

I have a few radiators from my parents house which I'm hoping to be able to put in the living room and the other bedrooms with the electric heat. Without doing any calculations, my gut feeling is that the inadequate venting of the main, along with the capped risers, the furnace is technically oversized for the amount of heat that is required from it.

My main question is, how can I calculate what size furnace is required for what it's heating NOW, and how can I calculate what size furnace is required for what I'm HOPING to be able to do?

Also, how to I calculate the proper amount of venting for the main?

Do I have to add a vent on the left main?

I'm going to ask, just to make it official, but I should start by getting the Vaporstat before anything else correct?

I'm sorry this is long winded. I wanted to be as thorough as possible and not give you "my radiator is cold" and expect miracles.

I'm attaching the pictures so they can be viewed better.

Thanks in advance.


Comments

  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    The supply fitting on the Base-Ray is ¾". They never work well with single-pipe steam, but by adding a separate return pipe, you can sometimes get the to work. The hard part is pitching them towards the return to improve daraining. A long baseboard looks funny if it isn't level. The return, by the way, should connect to the other returns below the water level or else it can make balancing radiators difficult, and it might just act like another supply pipe.

    Make sure your bedroom radiator has a fast vent and the radiator nearest the thermostat has the slowest possible vent (#4). (I think the old analog thermostats are just fine for steam. I have a digital programmable piece of junk I'm on the verge of tossing out. All I want to do is set it at 70 and leave it, but it keeps getting creative on me.)

    Your main should have either a couple of Gorton #2s or a Barnes & Jones Big Mouth vent. The Big Mouth is cheaper, and they seem to work well. You can order them from Amazon, among other places.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,917
    Any number of things here...

    The easy ones first. On boiler size: you will need to figure out the EDR of those radiators -- the ones you have and the ones you want to have -- and add them up and compare that to the boiler size (the current one says 450 square feet). That will give you an idea as to whether the boiler is too big, not big enough for the future, or whatever.

    The thermostat. If this is one of the older thermostats with a mercury switch inside, first off -- don't replace it. They are extremely reliable. However, if it doesn't seem to match the temperatures properly as you say, check and be certain that it is absolutely level. The backing plate which attaches to the wall has a convenient levelling pad built in on top and if it was installed properly you should be able to take the cover off, take the thermostat mechanism off the wall (three screws) and put a level on the backing plate. Loosen the screws holding the plate to the wall and twist it until it's really level, then put everything back together.

    The whooshing and poor heat in that bedroom monster -- two possibilities. One is that the pipe size feeding it simply isn't big enough -- that's a big radiator. The other is that there isn't enough slope on the pipe. Either -- or both, or an evil combination -- would cause condensate to lay in the pipe. That usually will give a hammer, but not always -- but will give the kind of pulsing or breathing you notice, and also keep the radiator from heating. Check both size and pitch and correct if necessary.

    Now. The more complex. I am deeply suspicious of a water level problem between the much newer boiler and the existing piping. Two of your pictures -- "return joint" and "kitchen dining retlurn" both show piping arrangements which look suspiciously to me as though the pipes, once they join, were intended to be below the boiler water line. Further, in the picture "basement wide" there is a pipe on the left side which slopes up and then goes around the corner. That was intended to be below the water line for its full length until it turns up vertical, somewhere out there. The new boiler may not be set high enough -- that's not uncommon -- and those lines may not be under water and that can cause problems. There are ways to fix this, but before we worry about that can you verify where the boiler water line is in relation to those points? You need to be accurate about that.

    I'm not going to comment on venting until I am more sure where it should be.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    But this boiler's only 15 years old. For Peerless that's just broken in. :)
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9

    Any number of things here...

    The easy ones first. On boiler size: you will need to figure out the EDR of those radiators -- the ones you have and the ones you want to have -- and add them up and compare that to the boiler size (the current one says 450 square feet). That will give you an idea as to whether the boiler is too big, not big enough for the future, or whatever.

    The thermostat. If this is one of the older thermostats with a mercury switch inside, first off -- don't replace it. They are extremely reliable. However, if it doesn't seem to match the temperatures properly as you say, check and be certain that it is absolutely level. The backing plate which attaches to the wall has a convenient levelling pad built in on top and if it was installed properly you should be able to take the cover off, take the thermostat mechanism off the wall (three screws) and put a level on the backing plate. Loosen the screws holding the plate to the wall and twist it until it's really level, then put everything back together.

    The whooshing and poor heat in that bedroom monster -- two possibilities. One is that the pipe size feeding it simply isn't big enough -- that's a big radiator. The other is that there isn't enough slope on the pipe. Either -- or both, or an evil combination -- would cause condensate to lay in the pipe. That usually will give a hammer, but not always -- but will give the kind of pulsing or breathing you notice, and also keep the radiator from heating. Check both size and pitch and correct if necessary.

    Now. The more complex. I am deeply suspicious of a water level problem between the much newer boiler and the existing piping. Two of your pictures -- "return joint" and "kitchen dining retlurn" both show piping arrangements which look suspiciously to me as though the pipes, once they join, were intended to be below the boiler water line. Further, in the picture "basement wide" there is a pipe on the left side which slopes up and then goes around the corner. That was intended to be below the water line for its full length until it turns up vertical, somewhere out there. The new boiler may not be set high enough -- that's not uncommon -- and those lines may not be under water and that can cause problems. There are ways to fix this, but before we worry about that can you verify where the boiler water line is in relation to those points? You need to be accurate about that.

    I'm not going to comment on venting until I am more sure where it should be.

    The pipe supplying the monster radiator is 1-1/4" for about 10' after it comes off the main as you can see in the picture. It is then reduced to 1" and send into a wall to go upstairs. It's about 9' of 1" pipe when it goes into the valve. The supply pipe does have a decent pitch. I started with a Gorton D and the noise sounded like boiling water. I read another post saying that a possibility is that the radiator was venting too fast and possibly preventing the condensate from being able to pass by. I switched the vent to a Gorton 5 and there was less noise, and the radiator still heated 2 or 3 sections. No change in heat, just less noise.


    The pipe you are referring to slopes to the floor. In the picture "RETURN JOINT", it runs along the side of the wall to a 90 and that is where is becomes visible in this picture. It hits the floor and runs across to the boiler. It joins the kitchen and dining room returns which also continue down to the floor after they meet in the picture.



    When you say "under water", you mean that those lines should be underneath the water level in the boiler correct? If it is, I would think they are since they go back to the boiler at ground level.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    Do I see a vent on the inlet side of the radiator picture labeled front bedroom?
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9
    > @gfrbrookline said:
    > Do I see a vent on the inlet side of the radiator picture labeled front bedroom?

    No, that’s the knob for the valve. It’s painted silver. I guess they wanted it to match? 💁🏻
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    That radiator also look like it has rust forming on the top plug, it is likely leaking steam so needs to be repaired or replaced.
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9
    I'm going to double check the thermostat for level in the morning. I also did a rough calculation for the radiator EDR and came up with roughly 240. That's obviously nowhere near 450. I'm guessing the back pressure issue is caused by the inadequate main venting and a steam volume requirement substantially lower than what the boiler is capable of putting out.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,724
    @MotoMan , where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,917
    I'll have to my copy of Lost Art -- it's around here somewhere -- but I'm thinking that even 1 1/4 is too small for that big radiator, and 1 is almost certainly too small.

    And when I say below the water line -- I mean all the way to wherever they finally turn vertical. Those connections I mentioned, for instance, must be below the water line, and so must that whole length of sloping pipe and the level piece which goes around the corner.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    In one of the three pictures above I see what looks like two returns tied together close to the water line of the boiler. the pipe then goes down to the floor and over to the boiler return.

    Where do those returns come from and how close to the boiler water level are they? Returns should not tie together till they are below the minimum water level of the boiler by several inches.

    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
    JUGHNE
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9
    Steamhead said:

    @MotoMan , where are you located?

    About 15 mi. north of Scranton, PA
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9

    I'll have to my copy of Lost Art -- it's around here somewhere -- but I'm thinking that even 1 1/4 is too small for that big radiator, and 1 is almost certainly too small.

    And when I say below the water line -- I mean all the way to wherever they finally turn vertical. Those connections I mentioned, for instance, must be below the water line, and so must that whole length of sloping pipe and the level piece which goes around the corner.

    I see what you're saying. That wouldn't be an issue to fix, just some time and another piece of pipe to drop it down further and then run it along the ground. Should that side of the main have a vent also?
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9
    BobC said:

    In one of the three pictures above I see what looks like two returns tied together close to the water line of the boiler. the pipe then goes down to the floor and over to the boiler return.

    Where do those returns come from and how close to the boiler water level are they? Returns should not tie together till they are below the minimum water level of the boiler by several inches.

    Bob

    If you're talking about the small silver pipes to the right of the boiler, they're the returns from the kitchen and dining room baseboards. The baseboards have two pipes. They meet there, then drop to the floor and tie into the return coming from the main next to the furnace.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849

    I'll have to my copy of Lost Art -- it's around here somewhere -- but I'm thinking that even 1 1/4 is too small for that big radiator, and 1 is almost certainly too small.

    The Dead Men often ran 1" pipe to second and third floor radiators because it makes for less air to be pushed through the vent. Mine are all like that, and they seem to work fine.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    As BobC pointed out:

    The kit and dining rm BB could be passing steam down and then back up to each other. This would close both air vents, causing one of them to not heat well.
    If the tie for those returns is not well below the water level then one of the air vents may closes early.
  • MotoMan
    MotoMan Member Posts: 9
    JUGHNE said:

    As BobC pointed out:

    The kit and dining rm BB could be passing steam down and then back up to each other. This would close both air vents, causing one of them to not heat well.
    If the tie for those returns is not well below the water level then one of the air vents may closes early.

    Those rooms have no issues getting heat. They heat fast, sometimes too fast causing the thermostat to shut everything down before the other rooms are warm. Especially the bedroom.