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Service company recommendations in Pennsylvania

Hello! I am looking for recommendations for a service tech/company in Central/Northeastern Pennsylvania. I'm located between Williamsport, PA and Wilkes-Barre, PA. The closest I found using the contractor search was one in Lititz, but they don't service my area.

I have a 1985 Peerless natural gas steam boiler in a home built in the 1850s. There are 10 single pipe radiators hooked up to it. We moved into the house in spring of 2018 and had a local company do yearly cleanings, but I'm concerned that they're not super familiar with the quirks of steam systems. It heats well and quickly, but when it is refires after the first cycle, it is making a loud low humming noise through one of main the pipes that go to one side of the house. It almost sounds like a big low boat horn. I can feel the pipe vibrating when I put my hand on it, it's not like a violent rattle, just enough to cause a low, sometimes loud hum.

This is my first house, first time with steam, and I'm pretty sure the previous owners didn't know much either -- they only lived there for 2 years before selling. They weren't in love with the quirks of a historic home, so I'm concerned that it wasn't really looked after. I've learned a few things, but not enough to know if a service company is any good or not. I'd love to get an expert out to check the system out and also to teach me what sort of things to look out for, and what things I can do myself.

Any suggestions? Thanks!!!!

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,947
    Try @STEVEusaPA . Not sure he gets that far. You might also see if @EzzyT is licensed in Pennsylvania.
    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
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,205
    @Jamie Hall thanks for the vote of confidence. Wrong end of the state, about 4 hours away.
    steve
  • JPL941JPL941 Member Posts: 46
    Steam Specialists in Williamsport. They repiped my system and follow all rules and manufacture recs. They are excellent.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,867
    JPL941 said:

    Steam Specialists in Williamsport. They repiped my system and follow all rules and manufacture recs. They are excellent.

    Well, this is an example of why they need to be on "Find a Contractor". Might want to put a bug in their ear............
    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
    Hap_Hazzardethicalpaul
  • Double DDouble D Member Posts: 352
    Post some pictures of the boiler showing all of the piping around it and pictures of the pipe that's giving you the loud humming.
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    Here's some pics of it. The big pipe that goes up and makes a T, the pipe going right is the loud one I think. It vibrates the most, anyways. It goes through the foundation (shown in one of the pictures) and under the crawlspace to 5 or 6 of the radiators. The basement is only under half the house. The other half of the house has a low crawlspace. I think one of these days I'm going to have to drag myself under there and check out the pipes.. it's 2-3 feet high and you basically have to army crawl through it.

    Another question, if you don't mind.. How do I know when the main vents are bad?





  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 809
    the 2 inch black steam pipe?
    or the larger silver exhaust vent ?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,947
    Where does that smaller flue come from? I don't like that arrangement, not one little bit.

    On the vent -- if that is your only vent, it's way too small, even if it is working.
    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
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    Neilc - the black pipe. That pipe coming out of the top left of the boiler, it goes straight up and makes a T.

    Jamie - the smaller flue is from the hot water heater. There are at least 2 other vents that I can see in the basement, not sure if there's more in the crawlspace. They all look like that one. I have a feeling this set up is a bit like the rest of the house, worked on here and there with different people of varying skills and methodologies.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,867
    Those are old Dole vents- way too small. Measure the length and diameter of each steam main and we'll tell you what you need.
    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
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 809
    wise **** in me says the pipe doesn't know the words.

    if you're feeling the pipe vibrate, is the boiler vibrating also?
    at the same time ?
    what pressure are you seeing when the boiler runs?
    I'm thinking the main venting is holding back and being the source of the foghorning,
    replacing the main vents so they pass air better might clear this up(?)
    if you're feeling the boiler vibrate aslo, then maybe the burners are suspect also(?)
    have the burners been cleaned and tuned ?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    edited January 1
    @at6869: That boiler looks just like mine. Is yours a 61-05 or a 561? I've never been able to determine my boiler's date of manufacture, but as near as I can tell it's 1983 or older.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,205
    Your flue pipe venting is dangerously wrong. Probably why they removed the baro in the tee as they were getting spillage.
    steve
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    Hap_Hazzard - it is a G-561-SP-1 from about 1984 I think?

    STEVEusaPA, what about it is wrong? Is it something I can fix or do I need to hire someone?

    I think I found some of the issue with the vibrating. The sight glass seals are going bad, so it's losing a little steam there. I also found another leak in one of the pipes that branch off a main. It's not very bad yet, kind of a steady drip when the steam is going through. It's in a bad spot though, of course.

    I also went under the crawlspace and found 2 heavy disconnected pipes resting on the steam pipes for that half of the house. I was able to lift one of them, but the other one I'll have to go in with better tools.

    It looks like the half of the house with basement has separate steam and return pipes, while the half with the crawlspace uses a single pipe setup so it's all flowing in the same pipes. The side with single pipes is the noisy one, so I'm thinking maybe the condensate isn't getting back to the boiler as well as it should?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Does the single pipe (countercurrent main) have a drip near the boiler? If it doesn't it should. You can't just let the condensate run back to the riser.

    Is there a vent at the end of this main?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Looking at your pictures I see un-insulated pipe. The pipe gives off heat to the basement, The steam in the pipe condenses and condensate forms. The condensate in the steam main will cause banging or slushing noises.

    The vibrations in the piping in the crawl space may be related to the excess condensate that travels with steam.

    The heat loss in the basement could be about 20% of what your heat load for the building is.

    Because you say that heat is good throughout the building the main vents in the basement area is OK.

    When you go to change the vents you can replace them with Gorton #1 vent valves or Jacobus vent valves.

    Before real trouble shooting can begin you need to cover the steam piping.

    1" fiberglass insulation is more than adequate to do the job.
    The materials are not cheap but they have a 5-7 year payback.
    Additionally, if the cause of your problem is excessive condensate you will not need an expert to trouble shoot yur system.

    Jake
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    at6869 said:

    Hap_Hazzard - it is a G-561-SP-1 from about 1984 I think?

    Does your serial number look like "61-#####" or "####-######"? If it's the latter, the last four digits are the month and year of manufacture. If the former, it was made prior to 1984, and the first two digits are the series and the last five are just a serial number. The older serial numbers didn't contain any date information, and PB Heat says they have no information about dates of manufacture of boilers made by the Peerless Heater Company.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    Hap_Hazzard -- in the crawlspace, it looks like there's one main pipe that branches off to the various radiators. All the radiators off that main have just one pipe going to and from them. Right before the main starts branching to the rads, there is a smaller pipe connected below it that goes through the basement foundation to the bottom of the boiler. That pipe goes through the foundation to the basement and connects to the other return pipes to the bottom of the boiler. That is what the Dole vent is attached to in the pictures I posted.

    The serial number on it is "Peerless 61-33219" so I guess it's pretty old! It starts up without complaint though, and the burners all fire up evenly. It just makes that humming noise after the first cycling. You can hear it everywhere in the house, especially the rooms above the crawlspace. We didn't hear it the first winter we were here, just this second winter. The house was built in 1858 and wooden, so it's always shifting a bit with weather and season changes. It's almost like a living, breathing thing we live in.

    Will wrapping the pipes cause the basement to be much cooler? It's kind of nice having it stay a little warm because it keeps the floors from being so cold, but if it'll really help the whole system, we'll definitely do it. The pipes in the crawlspace are wrapped with asbestos (yikes) but the inspector we used when we bought the house said to keep it since it helps and no one goes in there anyways.

    The guy who serviced it our first winter redid some of the exhaust venting, maybe it's messed up from him.. I didn't really get to see what he was doing. He was down there a long time, said it was really dirty, but that he cleaned it up and replaced some exhaust pipes.

    Sorry for being so unknowledgeable.. my husband is a "set it and forget it (until it breaks)" kind of guy. He's got more of a disposable mindset, and I like obsessively researching and fixing things until they're well past fixing. Should've seen me with the snowblower pulled apart in our kitchen last winter replacing the carburetor and spark plugs when it wasn't running right and died. In another life, I'd be a mechanic. If I can find an old steam expert in my area, I'd like to get them to teach me as much as they're willing to show me.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    at6869 said:

    The serial number on it is "Peerless 61-33219" so I guess it's pretty old!

    Mine's 61-19188, so it must be even older. Still going strong though. Do you still have the original OEM Manual?

    Mine doesn't have a skim tapping, does yours?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    I actually do have the owners manual, although the installers didn't bother writing any info down on the make, date of installation, etc. Also have a Honeywell pressuretrol manual, Honeywell ignition system manual, and McDonnell & Miller water feeder and cutoff manual.

    I'm not sure if it has a skim port, unfortunately. What should I look for?
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    It sounds like you have the same manuals I have.

    This is a snapshot from a 2003 series 61/62 IOM manual:

    The tapping labeled "Q" in the figure is the skim port. It's a 1½" tapping located just above the water line on the same side as the safety valve.

    I don't have one on mine. I even took off the jacket and looked for it. It isn't shown in my Instruction Manual either. It doesn't even show that side of the boiler.

    I found another ¾" tapping next to the safety valve that I've been using for skimming, but it's not ideal.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • at6869at6869 Member Posts: 7
    I had a poke around, and don't see anything in that vicinity, unfortunately.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,263
    Yeah, I don't think they had them before 2003.

    BTW, I can't find a copyright date in my manual, but at the bottom of the cover page it says "Form No. P-8170-6." I can't see how to get a date from that, but I was wondering what yours said.

    Also, my gas control manual says "G.S. REV. 11-80," which does look like a date, but it doesn't really prove anything other than that the boiler was probably made sometime after November 1980. The Pressuretrol manual says "S.K. 7-73 (.005)" so they clearly didn't revise their manuals every month.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA

    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 306
    Again the obvious problem is no insulation, read my prior comment here is some more info on pipe insulation.

    Additionally, The steam header from the boiler looks like the same size or smaller than the steam mains. Typically the header is at least one pipe larger than the stem mains.


    Jake

    Hap_Hazzard
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