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Steam Main Vent - found vacuum vents on mains...

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Need recommendation on main vents.

Background:
Myself: decent knowledge of steam heat for a homeowner, this is my second home with steam, and in the first home I had the old ancient boiler replaced, so I went through that process. No I'm on my second steam system. No money to replace the old boiler at the moment so I need to keep it alive as long as possible.

Home: approx 3400 ftsq, 3 story home in northern NJ. 19 Rads throughout (vents are random brands and questionable how/if venting properly), house has zero insulation and home is like swiss cheese (yes I know this should be my top priority)

Boiler: Weil-McLain very old hard to even guess, maybe 60 years old, maybe more. It was originally oil but was converted to NG. Info from the boiler tag: Boiler Size: A-B-672, Series 1, Oil 3.2 GPH, Baffles - No, Sq. Ft. Steam - 1070, MBH Water: 256.6, ASME Max W.P. Water: 30 PSI, Steam .15 PSI, Safety - 342 LB/Hr, Relief: 342 MBH. There is a hot water loop to heat the basement that does not work (only moderately interested in getting it to work.

Thermostat: Honeywell Quartz Chronotherm (really old), on first floor in dinning room (somewhat central location on first floor, it's just off the foyer.

System: One Pipe parallel with dry return, two mains, front main - 55 ft, rear main - 48 ft, steam will reach all the rads. I believe 2" pipe.

Initial Problem: House is not balanced, with T-stat set to 67, first floor temp range: 62 - 67, second floor temp range: 69 - 72, third floor temp range: 73 - 78. I'm assuming need to balance rads with new vents. I've got a lot of Gorton D's where they shouldn't be, a bunch of beat up MoM's, two Varivalves, some other random old ones and a couple cheap Chinese brands. BUT before I started buying new rad valves and trying to balance I checked my mains...

Second "potential" Problem: Main vents. Each main has a Gorton 1 at the very end of the return and they look newer, but haven't removed to test. Each main also has/had Dolan vacuum vent at the end of the main, after the last rad and right before the U on the return, the front main vacuum vent extension is plugged and now broken so that wasn't even working, and the rear main vacuum vent doesn't appear to really work either.

So Question: What should I do about the main vents? Are the two Gorton 1's enough? Should I upgrade to 2's, add more 1's or 2's, should I replace the vacuum vents at the end of the mains with proper vents?

Thanks,

Brian

Comments

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited January 2020
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    I would add a Gorton #2 to each main and keep the Gorton #1's on there as well, if they work. Those old Dolan vents aren't doing much of anything, if they even work. Once you properly vent the end of mains, you can begin to balance the radiators. Get rid of the cheap Chinese vents. They won't work for long. Get rid of the varivalves. They vent to aggressively, even at their lowest setting.
    Vent-Rite makes a great adjustable vent and using them will allow you to adjust them without having to play with a number of different size vents.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,578
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    Check the anticipator in the Chronotherm, and adjust to make the run cycles longer, which will fill the pipes fully with steam.
    Definitely get some Gorton #2's on the returns, (they are good for 20 feet of 2 inch pipe.--NBC
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    For the best bang for ur bucks get Barnes and jones big mouth for ur mains and if your going to do it ur self then just pick up a bunch of maid o mist vents there cheap and ur can change the vent caps from one size to another without removing the vent . After ur have it balanced to your comfort replace them w gorton s of the same size they will last longer and again are the best bang for your buck . Are your steam mains insulated if not you should have them insulated in many cases insulation of piping has returned poorly performing systems to properly performing systems . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • MLHapgood
    MLHapgood Member Posts: 3
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    Thank you all for your advice! On the maid o mist suggestion, it's funny you mention that because it's been easy with the few I have to change out the vent caps, but was unsure of investing too much into a cheaper product. I'll take your advice a buy just a couple more MoM to assist the few Gortons I already have to balance, then switch to all Gortons.

    The anticipator is not something I've messed with, I did check the old Chronothern and it's set right in the middle at 0.4, I think I'll address the main vents first before a little trial and error with the anticipator.

    When trying to remove the 1/8 stem for the main vents, the stem cracked (actually already cracked as someone clearly painted over/into the existing crack). Any advice on how to remove a 1/8" stem that was directly threaded into main? I haven't attempted yet, just temporarily and crudely "plugged the hole".
    I've got two Gorton #2's ready to go in at the end of the mains.

    Thanks to all!
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,734
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    Do yourself a favor and leave the MoM's in there until (if) they fail.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    To remove a broken vent piece I usually use a e z out usually the ones that are like a screw thread and then I re tap the threads ,then install the new one w a little pipe sealant .As for the heat anticipatory on the chronotherm thermostat I would say it’s like close to 30 years old it’s done it time get a simple non programmable digital thermostat nothing to fancy it will be much more accurate then a mercury switch stat like your old one . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    SuperTech
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    As for installing main vents usually we will cut in a new tee even if there’s a little piping that has to be done ,usually a1/8 or 1/4 tapping is to restrictive for main venting , usually we will install a 3/4 take off which we will add a big mouth or gorton to . Are your steam main insulated it’s a big factor to getting heat to the rad water instead of heating your basement ,by any chance have your done a edr on your rads to be sure that your boiler is properly sized if undersized it could be a issue to getting all your rads heating just not enough gas in the tank and if the mains are not insulated it only adds insult to injury . I’m based in north jersey if u still having issues give me a ring peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • Fizz
    Fizz Member Posts: 547
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    Where's your thermostat in relation to rooms being heated?
  • MLHapgood
    MLHapgood Member Posts: 3
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    The t-stat is located in the dinning room somewhat central to the first floor. I've been thinking about updating the Tstat, so next on list.

    I got the 1/8 threaded end out, using caveman techniques, chisel and hammer, but it popped out. And currently replaced with a little plug since haven't determined how yet to install the big Gorton's. The vacuum valves were clogged any way and the Gorton 1's have been taking care of any venting all along so i'm sure a few more days is fine.

    I was wondering if a small 1/8 tap is sufficient, especially when I see the 1/2 inlet for the Gorton vent. Going from 1/8 with adapters to 1/2 looks silly. Can I tap a larger diameter in the existing pipe? The current 1/8 is on a 90 degree elbow. I'd feel confident taping a new larger hole myself, but not replacing the entire elbow or doing any real pipe work.

    All my pipes are insulated.

    Side question. I have a ceiling radiator in the garage and it's located directly above the front door. Above the garage is the front door and it is an open but covered porch all original to the house. I've seen these ceiling rads in the basement of these old Hapgood houses before. I'm assuming it was meant to keep the outside porch floor warm to melt snow. But just a guess, my infrared gun other other day measured the floor temp above the radiator at 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the porch. But the porch is covered and doesn't get snow.
    Question: I should shut off this radiator right? It's not heating the garage as it's nowhere near insulated. Part of me feels like if I'm making steam, how much extra does it really cost to fill one more radiator, but that may be wrong thinking. I was also contemplating moving that same ceiling radiator into the basement, under the cold kitchen.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,734
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    I would shut its valve or cap it yeah. Steam ain't free
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,436
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    A Hapgood house? They're rare. Cedric's home is one, and that's one of the reasons it's a National Historic Site.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    As far as shutting off the radiator, I'd ask a couple questions:
    1. Is the boiler already over-sized? If so, shutting that radiator off may cause even more short cycling.
    2. Where is your thermostat? I assume it is in the conditioned part of the house and it's going to take whatever amount of steam it takes to satisfy the Thermostat. I doubt that the amount of steam required to heat that particular radiator is significant. Shutting it off would be a great option if the boiler were under-sized which we rarely see.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,734
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    #1 is correct of course, but between #1 and #2 it sounds like you are making the same argument as "if you're short cycling, you should vent steam to the outside to reduce it". You aren't saying that, are you @Fred ?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    #1 is correct of course, but between #1 and #2 it sounds like you are making the same argument as "if you're short cycling, you should vent steam to the outside to reduce it". You aren't saying that, are you @Fred ?

    Absolutely not. There is a huge difference between using all the radiators you have on a system and venting to the atmosphere. My point was, if you are already over-sized (an unknown at this point) why aggravate that situation by shutting more radiators down.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,734
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    I hear you and I see what you are saying, but he already said that radiator is venting to the atmosphere because his garage is uninsulated and cold.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    I hear you and I see what you are saying, but he already said that radiator is venting to the atmosphere because his garage is uninsulated and cold.

    I guess I don't read his comment the same way. Many of our homes are uninsulated and would be cold were it not for us heating to a comfortable level. Lots of garages have radiators in them; not to bring them up to the temp of the living spaces but to knock the edge off of the garage space.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,893
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    Fred said:

    Lots of garages have radiators in them; not to bring them up to the temp of the living spaces but to knock the edge off of the garage space.

    Actually, the reason those old garages were heated was to keep the water from freezing in the old cars' engine block and radiator. They didn't have automotive antifreeze back then.

    If the garage was not heated, you had to drain the block and radiator when you put the car away, and refill them when you wanted to use it again.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
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    My boiler is about 25 percent oversized. I was able to eliminate short cycling with massive main venting, Gorton rad vents sized to include the air in the run outs and 2 cph.

    If that radiator were to be shut off and it is an over sized boiler it is not insurmountable.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    If you live in a place where they salt the roads heavily in the winter, a heated garage is not good for your car. It makes the fenderbergs melt into salty water, and the rate of the corosion reaction is faster at higher temperatures.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24