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New Steam Boiler Problem

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Rborgiajr
Rborgiajr Member Posts: 3
We did an oil conversion to gas a little over a year ago, and ever since the conversion was done, we have had no heat on the second floor of the house. It’s a steam system, with the 1st floor on radiators (I believe 2 pipe) and the second floor has hot water baseboards. We installed another zone of baseboards in basement with the conversion and they work, only the second floor not working. The plumber who installed has been back a number of times to bleed the system, and change the circulator and change some piping but it hasn’t worked. It’s a burnham independence boiler. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks much

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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    The second floor baseboards... are they a separate zone from the basement ones? And, if so, how are they controlled? Zone valves? Zone pumps?

    I presume that the hot water heating zone is separated from the boiler water by a heat exchanger or storage tank? And, if so, what is the pressure reading for the hot water zones?

    Note that if it isn't separated -- if the hot water zones operate by taking boiler water and pumping it around -- you will have a really bad time getting and maintaining circulation on the second floor.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • Rborgiajr
    Rborgiajr Member Posts: 3
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    They are separate zones, I believe pumps, and not sure about the last question. I don’t believe it’s a heat exchanger. I took some pictures of the system. Is it possible to fix, or is it possible to put steam to the second floor?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    If you close the valves (I hope they exist) to the basement zone, do you get heat on the second floor?

    Looking at the photos -- which really don't show all the piping -- it looks as though this is an open system -- that is, using boiler water directly -- with only one pump and that can work (and evidently did!) but has to be well thought out. With that much elevation, you are very close to vapour locking the second floor radiators and unless the basement zone is valved off when the second floor is calling, you'll get little if any flow up there -- and you won't get any at all if the pump can't put out enough head to get the water up there in the first place, once it vapour locks.

    And it would be possible to extend steam to the second floor -- but I couldn't recommend it, as steam doesn't play well with baseboards. It would be better to arrange the second floor as a separate zone from the basement, and have it run from a heat exchanger or small indirect tank. You'd need another pump for it (and an expansion tank), but you could then run it at enough pressure so you'd never have to worry about bleeding it once you got it set up.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Rborgiajr
    Rborgiajr Member Posts: 3
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    Thanks so much!! This is so helpful. Are there better photos we should take? We think the basement and upper floor are on separate zones. The small indirect tank makes sense, maybe we’ll ask plumber about this. Do you service Long Island?? 😬
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,041
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    Does not seem to have proper isolation and purge valves. 2nd floor zone needs to be filled with water and purged from air. The air vent on the loop will cause more problems then it will solve. Professor Dan has written about this topic extensively. Called a condensate hot water heating loop.
    Grallert
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,297
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    All that near boiler piping is all wrong and no where near to the boiler manufacturers minimum specifications. That’s where you should start from, otherwise your just waiting your time and money. Clearly you need to find a new plumbing contractor who knows how to work on these systems.
    Where are you located? If you click on the link “Find a contractor” on this site you might find one or a few who service your area.
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,041
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    Agree with @EzzyT. That piping is hideous
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    When the plumber put that hot water loop for the second floor he snowed you.

    That system can be make to work by manually filling the wot water loop with water. once that loop is filed with water it will stay in the pipe. It works like a straw, Unfortunately any time the boiler is drained down you lose that prime and you have to start all over again.

    You need to go on Dan's site to find the proper piping arrangement to make this work.

    Jake
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    Hear is a picture of what the piping system must be.
    see attachment.

    Jake


  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,041
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    @dopey27177. I have used that piping method numerous times for first floor setups. Results were great. 2nd floors were a mixed bag. Some had trouble holding prime. Wouldn't recommend for 2nd floors. Would use a heat exchanger instead. Just my personal experience
    lchmb
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    @dopey27177. I have used that piping method numerous times for first floor setups. Results were great. 2nd floors were a mixed bag. Some had trouble holding prime. Wouldn't recommend for 2nd floors. Would use a heat exchanger instead. Just my personal experience

    I'm not surprised the second floor results were iffish. As I noted earlier, on the second floor in an open system like that you are very close to pressures which will allow the water to boil in the pipe. When that happens, you get a vapour lock there and you will lose the prime -- and then you're done. Have to start all over.

    Use a heat exchanger.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    can run this system up to thirty feet in height,

    Dan has 11 pages written on this type of system.

    I sent the simple drawing with explanations,

    To much to print and scan, see my chicken scratching, it tells you where you can find his publication.

    I know it works I did it my moms house for to room 40 years ago.
    It was still working in 1991 when she sold the house.

    Jake.

    Does not work well with pipes larger than 3/4"

    Jake
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    I did a whoops.

    In a more sophisticated drawing there is bypass piping loop thqt blends the returning condensate water with the high temperature water from the boiler.

    You need temperature gauges to balance the water temperature,

    The way I understand her under utilized steam system you could
    drop the circulating water temperatures to about 190 degrees.

    No steaming in the convectors or ant such problems to cause loss of prime.

    Jake
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 671
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    The air vent shouldn't be there, or anywhere on that water loop. The hot water zone needs to be tempered with its own return water to keep it from flashing to steam when it get upstairs.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
    STEAM DOCTORmattmia2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    One possibly important point for hot water loops off boilers. If the loop is the only one, and if the pump has enough head -- even at low flow -- to raise the water to the highest point -- then you don't have the loss of prime problem and they will work just fine.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ubipa
    ubipa Member Posts: 17
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    How many radiators are on your first floor? Any thought into just dropping the steam and going completely hot water?
  • Zipper13
    Zipper13 Member Posts: 229
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    ubipa said:

    How many radiators are on your first floor? Any thought into just dropping the steam and going completely hot water?

    Suggesting dropping steam for hot water can be dangerous around these parts of teh internet!
    New owner of a 1920s home with steam heat north of Boston.
    Just trying to learn what I can do myself and what I just shouldn't touch
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,849
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    @Rborgiajr

    @dopey27177 is correct to fill that system you have to shut down the boiler and flood the system up to the second floor.

    All the piping on the water zones have to be 100% air tight. It will work but a heat exchanger is a better solution.

    And your plumber ....give him a reading test. he didn't follow the boiler manual. He will give you every excuse. he's done 1000s of boilers he's been doing it for 40 years etcetcetc

    It's wrong
  • ubipa
    ubipa Member Posts: 17
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    LOL.. nothing wrong with steam, but steam and hot water is like chocolate covered slim Jim’s. Just why?

    If you have 2 pipe radiators and they are a just overhead... might be easier converting them than maintaining a hybrid steam system in the long run. Been there, didn’t enjoy it.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,981
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    Are there any automatic vents at the top of the system? That one at the bottom might be ok, but one at the top will cause it to fill with air and be airlocked.

    That pump looks to be cast iron. How do people feel about that in this application?
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
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    One possibly important point for hot water loops off boilers. If the loop is the only one, and if the pump has enough head -- even at low flow -- to raise the water to the highest point -- then you don't have the loss of prime problem and they will work just fine.

    Haven’t even been able to self prime my indirect tank that’s only 1’ above the boiler water line at the highest point.

    TO make it work, you need isolation valves and a drain so you can purge it to a drain or back to the boiler. But as mentioned, after that you should be fine up to about 30’. That’s 13psi of head. But you need a bypass loop ot get water temp down under 200F.

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