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Vent choice for single pipe steam: did I make a mistake?

I bought my house in October. It has a single-pipe steam system with a new Burnham MegaSteam boiler (installed Jan 2018) and seven radiators. Five are on the first floor and two on the second floor. When I moved in, all of my radiators had Vent-Rite #1 vents attached. I adjusted all of the vents shortly after moving in so that I got even heat from all the radiators and I was very satisfied with the result. With each heating cycle, each radiator was getting appropriately hot and the vent was shutting off at the right time. There were a few problems, though:
  1. Some of the vents were a bit loud while venting
  2. Some of the vents leaked and would never fully seal even on the lowest setting
I believe I had all the vents set for somewhere between 1 and 2.5 and the heat distribution was great.

I read the installation manual for my MegaSteam and one of the first instructions says to replace all vents when installing the new boiler. That was clearly not done because these vents were obviously many years old, some with paint from when the radiator was painted and yellowed knobs. I decided to do as instructed and replace the vents, hoping to resolve some of the gripes I listed above.

I wasn't sure what to get so, without doing too much homework, got Varivalve Adjustable Angle Vents due to their good reviews on SupplyHouse and their claim to support low-pressure steam. https://www.supplyhouse.com/Varivalve-VAAV-Varivalve-Adjustable-Angle-Air-Valve-3840000-p#product-overview

I installed them this past weekend and I'm not too happy. On the first floor, I've had to turn all five down to the lowest possible setting to make sure the steam gets up to the second floor. Still, the first floor vents take too long to close, so the first floor gets up to temperature (where the thermostat is) before the second floor gets fully hot. To ensure the second floor vents are not restricting the flow, I have them open to about 3. The problem is they never close, so when the system starts to cool down, it sucks air in through the second floor vents, making a big woosh sound in the bedrooms.

I feel like I made a mistake with these vents because I can't adjust the first floor vents low enough! Should I return them for new Vent-Rite #1 vents like I had before and hope that new Vent-Rites don't have the issues I had with my old Vent-Rites? Is there anything actually different about these vents? Technical specifications are surprisingly hard to come by for these mechanical devices.

Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081
    Return them. The vent rite is the slowest adjustable vent and the varivalve is the fastest most aggressive with very little real control.

    Typically the people that like them don’t have proper main venting and the aggressive nature can compensate for that, but the control can be horrible if there is any at all.

    What is your main venting like?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,995
    How about vents on the mains in the basement? That would be the first thing to address
  • muftobration
    muftobration Member Posts: 9
    edited December 2019
    Okay. Thank you for information regarding the two kinds of vents. It sounds like I made the wrong choice with VariValve vents, since I was actually getting good results with Vent-Rite #1 vents before.

    My main has a Vent-Rite #35. I attached some pictures of the main vent, which is at the end of the dry return, and the boiler to give context.
  • You need one Gorton #2 for each 20 feet of main, or one big mouth vent for each 50 feet, and both are the same price!
    Insulate you’re pipes for better performance.—NBC
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    I agree with NBC, your main venting is to small. BTW whoever installed that boiler did a great job.

    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
    Hap_Hazzardmisterheat
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927
    I'm sorry to say, but it seems like you may have violated rule #1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you haven't actually thrown away the old vents yet, just put them back on and get on with venting the mains.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JimmyNJ
    JimmyNJ Member Posts: 107
    Echo what Jamie say and hope that you didn't toss the Ventrite #1's as they are terrific vents. I actually had the opposite experience where I went and replaced all my varivalve with vent-rite' #1's (and they were not easy to find and definitely not cheap). I also didn't even have main vents and after getting those (gordon #2's) installed noticed a big difference in system performance.
  • muftobration
    muftobration Member Posts: 9
    Thanks, all. I did not throw away the Vent-Rites. I plan to reinstall them tonight if I can get away with turning off the heat for an hour or so (it was 9F in MA this morning!). I'll replace just the leaking vents with new Vent-Rites.

    As for the main venting, is the Vent-Rite #35 insufficient? I started reading the venting section of The Lost Art, but I haven't finished it. I'll post some more info and pictures about my system when I get home.

    Thank you all for the help.
  • tkos115
    tkos115 Member Posts: 86
    I used to have a vent-rite #35 on my main which wasn't big enough for my system. (Approx. 65ft for the main). I switched it out for a bigmouth vent and it was a very noticeable difference in run time of the boiler and getting heat. I have 7 radiators in my house as well with only 2 upstairs. I used gorton vents and were good for a year, this year a couple have been giving me issues with leaking a little or spitting when the boiler has been running for awhile. I would recommend the big mouth vent, a bit pricey but they vent really nice and my boiler runs less.
  • coelcanth
    coelcanth Member Posts: 89
    you might be able to resurrect some of the old vents that aren't closing all the way by boiling them for a bit in a solution of white vinegar or citric acid in water.
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 702
    edited December 2019
    We're partial to Gorton products. We've installed thousands of them with never a problem. They are made in USA. The Vent-Rites are made in China and assembled here. We've had a few inconsistencies with them.

    I second KC Jones' opinions of the Vari-Vents. They cost us a fortune in problems which the maufacturer would not address.

    As always, make sure your mains are well vented, and radiator runouts pitched properly. That's one nice boiler installation. Get some insulation on those pipes when you can.
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 211
    My newer Venrite #1 vents do not seem quite as well made as the one or two older ones I have. But they still allow the control over vent rate, and fully close if desired, with a simpler mechanism than a Hoffman 1A. If the Dole 1A were still around I'd have probably used them. If only Barnes & Jones would make a 1/8" adjustable rad vent I'd have tried them out too.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    I don't see the advantage of adjustable vents. Aside from experimental balancing, you should never need to change the venting rate, and you can accomplish the same thing with Maid o' Mist vents by swapping out the vent ports. Once you've determined to correct size, you can leave it alone unless it goes bad, and then you can replace it with the same-sized Gorton if you think they're a better vent for the money.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    BobC
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 211

    I don't see the advantage of adjustable vents. Aside from experimental balancing, you should never need to change the venting rate, and you can accomplish the same thing with Maid o' Mist vents by swapping out the vent ports. Once you've determined to correct size, you can leave it alone unless it goes bad, and then you can replace it with the same-sized Gorton if you think they're a better vent for the money.

    I had plenty of experimentation to do due to some funky near boiler piping. I have adjustables all around for that reason, and there's no point in changing them yet again. And if a room does need an adjustment of some kind I can just spin the dial, with zero risk of anything snapping off in my hands on a 12 degree day in February :smile:
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    But when a variable vent that hasn't been adjusted in years goes bad, does it need to be replaced with another adjustable vent? In theory, it shouldn't, but in practice it does, because you can't be sure if the last setting on that vent corresponds to a #4 or a D, so you have to buy another variable vent and fuss with it until you get about the same venting as the one you replaced. If I have to replace one of my vents, I can not only replace it with the same-sized vent, I can transfer the vent port to the new vent if I use another MoM vent. So I just see adjustable vents as a kind of flawed paradigm, adding more moving parts and requiring more work in the long run.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    i don't understand why Gorton didn't follow the Maid O mist (jacobus) lead and use interchangeable orifices. It makes things a lot easier from a stocking and usability angle. The maid O Mist 5L that comes with all five orifices is not widely stocked. If I were Maid O mist I'd also offer a bag of the 5 orifices for say $10 - a nice big profit margin and a huge benefit for both contractors and homeowners.

    If you have a system that needs balancing and have no real idea what sizes will work the MOM's are a third the cost of equivalent Gortons and the 5L (all 5 orifices) is less than half the cost of a Gorton (current prices at Amazon). I agree with Hap that that 5L is a boon but you can replace any failed MOM's with Gorton of the same size if you think the Gorton is a better vent. I've used MOM's for over 3 years and all are still working

    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
    ethicalpaulHap_Hazzard
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 702
    Simple difference: American labor and quality vs. Chinese.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Are Gortons made in China? Maid o' Mists aren't. Unless Chicago moved to China.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 702
    edited December 2019
    The Maid o' Mists from Home Depot are marked "CHINA". Amazon also lists them as "Manufactered in China".
    Last Gortons I've bought are made here.
    https://www.amazon.com/Steam-valves-Maid-Angle-steam/dp/B000SBDTIG
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Mine don't say China anywhere on them. They say Chicago. Besides, I think you really need to get over this "everything made in China is junk" mentality. When was the last time you used an American made cell phone?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    ethicalpaul
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 702
    edited December 2019
    Whatever you say. Buy the cheap stuff and have fun. Our customers wouldn't tolerate it and the City and our reputation won't allow it.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    I don’t think it’s MoM at home depot, it’s a knockoff. Mine say Chicago too and they are very nicely made imho. Buy one for $7.50 from Supplyhouse, examine it, and install it. I bet you won’t call it cheap junk.

    As for China, they only make junk when American companies or customers demand it. When a company demands quality from there, as from any supplier, they get it.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    wz25CanuckerHap_Hazzard
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 713
    @ethicalpaul couldn't agree more on the China manufacturers. The junk arrives because the companies are to cheap to QC anything or bother to request a higher standard. If they make something substandard and it isn't pointed out, that's on the company that accepts it and doesn't have anything to do with the quality available from China.
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,032
    Vari-vent are to fast a venter for the radiators themselves. They are a decent main vent thou when physical size matters that much. The also have an issue when water skins over the opening. which it will.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 211
    I just picked up two Gortons, a C and D, to try out on the last two radiators on the colder side of my ring main. Gorton D would not close at all, right out of the box. Put the C on there and it seems fine. 50% fail rate.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Wait a sec. Is it possible that it didn't close because the steam never got to it? Does it close if you turn it upside-down and blow into it?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 211

    Wait a sec. Is it possible that it didn't close because the steam never got to it? Does it close if you turn it upside-down and blow into it?

    Sat there with a fully hot rad and listened to it hiss. Lost close to a pint of water in the boiler due to this open vent. It closes just fine when I flip it over. I should stamp it DEFECTIVE when I return it so they can't ship to some other sucker.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,756
    Don't let this one incident discourage you. They're good vents and they stand behind them. Seriously. I own a few of them myself. In fact, the first one I got was a #2, and it had a dent in it—probably not their fault, but they replaced it and covered the shipping.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 873
    From what I see. Uninsulated steam piping can be your problem.
    You spoke about a whooshing sound when the boiler went off, you said that whooshing sound was air being sucked into the radiator.

    Steam is 1700 times the volume of water, when steam condenses it shrinks 1700 times and causes a vacuum. Air vents are supposed to allow air into the radiators to allow water to flow back into the boiler. If the vacuum was not broken water would remain in the radiator and bang like the hammers of hell.

    The insulation was probably removed when the new boiler was installed and this can cause your vent valve problems.

    Additionally you need the heat in the living spaces not the basement. Also the bare piping is costing you the loss of 15% of the steam needed to heat the house.

    Jake

    PS I like the Gorton #1 for a steam main vent
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 686
    edited December 2019
    I had similar issues with Gorton's recently. They are a good company and offered to replace my faulty vent.

    One thing to check before you determine they are faulty is to check their pitch, they need to be vertical, if they are off vertical they don't like to close correctly or drain properly. When you pitch them correctly they are virtually silent.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Hmm I can’t picture how a closed air vent would prevent water from flowing out of a condensing hot radiator
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,927

    Hmm I can’t picture how a closed air vent would prevent water from flowing out of a condensing hot radiator

    It won't. Who said that? Can't find it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,177
    > @Jamie Hall said:
    > (Quote)
    > It won't. Who said that? Can't find it.

    Jake said it above about if vacuum forms when the boiler goes off and the vent stays closed. Actually vacuum can't do that. Gravity still returns the water as normal.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
    ethicalpaul