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The Return of the old Bryant boiler

PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
"Return", as in wet return. The other thread was getting to be way too long.

The experts here noticed pretty quickly that the header drip was connected to the main return drip above the water line, which leads to steam being pushed into both ends of the main loop. And they were right. So my challenge, should I decide to accept it, is to move that connection point from the main drip at "A" to the wet return at "B" in the following pic.


(The woodstove is in the way but will be removed before doing this.)

Here's a pic of the Wet Return, all 2-1/2 feet of it. It and the drips are all 2" pipe.


Here's the end of it, where my plan is to remove the cap, add another tee, drop the header drip into the tee top, and put a ball valve on the end (for cleaning). (If you have a better idea, pls tell).


First question is, how the heck do you screw a tee onto this, so close to the floor?
1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
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Comments

  • GrallertGrallert Member Posts: 442
    You'll have to break that union and gently lift the horizontal return.
    Hap_Hazzard
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,171
    Looks like you could just break the unions and rearrange the fittings between A and B to swap the union and the tee at A and put a longer nipple out of the 45 to connect it below the water line.

    A valve and hose adapter or cap is a good idea to be able to flush the return.
    PrecaudethicalpaulBillyO
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Very interesting, @mattmia2 . You're saying: No added tee. Flip the pipe from the tee at A to the union above B, invert the elbow, then drop the new drip to it from the 45. Correct?

    Does the new drip need to be 2"?

    You guys are so clever. Piping is a lot more imaginative than I would have ever thought.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,171
    I just see an easy way to plumb it. The real steam people can confirm that it will work OK. It needs to tie in a certain distance below the water line so the weight of the water keeps the pressure of the steam from pushing through the water.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited February 13
    Understood. Yesterday I was wondering if, using the existing arrangement, a U could be added between the header drip and the main drip tee, and fill it with water (like a pigtail). Similar concept as a "false water line", I believe. Would that be sufficient to stop the steam?

    But that might be more complicated to pull off than your idea.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,924
    I would take apart the union on the header drip and remove the 90 & 45 off of the tee in the return drop. Put a plug in that tee. Put the union and 45 back on the header drip to measure with.

    Take the cap off the return down low and put a tee on their for flushing and cleaning. Put the run of the new tee on the existing tee and screw the new tee on until the bull of the tee points to 3 oclock. Put a nipple and a 90 in the bull of the tee, make this line up with the union and the 45 you took off of the header drip.

    1 more 90 and a nipple pointing up into the 45 with a piece of pipe and your done.
    PrecaudSTEVEusaPA
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited February 13

    1 more 90 and a nipple pointing up into the 45 with a piece of pipe and your done.

    Another interesting approach! Methinks you meant tee instead of 90, though.

    PS - what are "bull" and "run" of the tee? My guess is, the run is between the long ends.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited February 15
    Does the header drip need to be 2" pipe like it is now?
    I checked all but one local source for iron pipe today, and there's no 2" in town.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,568
    > @Precaud said:
    > Does the header drip need to be 2" pipe like it is now?
    > I checked all but one local source for iron pipe today, and there's no 2" in town.

    Not in my opinion, it doesn’t. Peerless states 1-1/4 for their smaller to mid boilers and 1-1/2 for larger ones.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Precaud
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Thanks @ethicalpaul , that makes sense to me, given that, in this case, the only water in this drip will be from the short counterflow branch, which has only one active radiator on it. Plus whatever condenses in the header before it heats up, of course...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,171
    the header is the one place that can have an appreciable amount of water:
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited February 16
    No doubt the lower header is pretty wet and resembles what the video shows. And the equalizer is probably pretty busy. But from what I've learned here, in this oddball setup, I doubt any water makes it to the upper one.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    mattmia2
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited March 1
    Another view of the wet return and Hartford loop.



    The red arrow points to a capped tee in the equalizer. Is this a useful access point for cleaning/maintenance? It doesn't look like it to me. What would you use it for?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • New England SteamWorksNew England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,352
    SteaMaster tablet!


    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
    ethicalpaulPrecaud
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307

    SteaMaster tablet!

    Perhaps it's not useless after all :)
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 489
    That tee can come in very handy when trying to clean the system of oils. It is something I am probably going to start adding to our standard installs. When the boiler is new, guess where most of the oils end up .....in the equalizer. If you can skim thr oil out of the equalizer, then you get the oil out faster.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    Precaudethicalpaul
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Interesting. So you would suck water out of that tee with a vac with the boiler steaming?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 489
    No. Just shut down the boiler and skim it like the main boiler skimming.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 269
    The header drip must be connected directly into the boiler.
    The Hartford loop should start at the low side of the header drip.
    You need to rearrange the piping where all drips connect in the wet return.

    Jake
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307

    The header drip must be connected directly into the boiler.
    The Hartford loop should start at the low side of the header drip.
    You need to rearrange the piping where all drips connect in the wet return.

    Jake

    The header drip is not shown in the photo. It does have a problem, in that it is connected to the wet return above the water line, but that will be corrected as soon as heating season ends.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    The heating season here is definitely winding down; it's been 6 days since the boiler last came on. We're due to have a cold snap early next week, after which I will shut it down and begin planned maintenance, testing, and repairs. Known parts needed will be here this afternoon.

    AFAIK, this system has never received regular maintenance, certainly not by me in the 30 years I've owned this house, and unlikely for many years prior to that. After I bought the place in 1990, I asked the prior owner who had installed/maintained the boiler; they said "to the best of my knowledge, it was ...". I called the company, the guy told me yes, his dad owned the company back then and 'may have' serviced it. He didn't do steam any more, there was no calling for it, but he'd gladly do an inspection. He came and showed me how to light the pilot, told me to open the blowdown valve once a month until it ran clear, adjusted the flame color using the air controls, saw that it responded to the thermostat properly, and called it good.

    Thanks to this website, I now know that was a woefully inadequate inspection and maintenance.

    Since 1990, it has only been serviced once. In 2005, the tap where city water enters the boiler clogged, from years of calcium buildup. The plumber added a tee with plug for future cleaning.

    So, back to now. Here is what I plan to do, in the order I thought best. After #3, I am not so sure of the proper order. Please critique the list in any way you see fit; add, subtract, change the order, add details, whatever. I've never done this before and want to do it right.

    1. Remove top and side panels. Leak test the boiler. If it passes, continue to Step 2. If not, weep and go to Plan B. :)
    2. Clean and flush the wet return piping. Add reducer and hose adapter for future cleaning.
    3. Move the header drip connection to below the water line (as detailed above).
    4. Drain and flush the boiler; in through the draincock, out the wet return.
    5. If possible, remove front plug and clean return passage.
    6. Clean city water pressure reducer.
    7. Disassemble and clean LWCO and autofeeder, install new gaskets.
    8. Install new washers in all shutoff valves.
    9. Refill and test.

    Am I missing anything?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,101
    Make sure you run the boiler up to steam after any flushing to get rid of any oxygen in the newly added water.

    Consider adding something like Steam Master to the water if you notice a lot of rust in the water. Don't follow the instructions on the battle, one tablet is usually enough - 1-1/2 or 2 tablets if it's a big boiler. As long as the water turns a very light purple your fine.


    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
    Precaud
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited April 11
    Thanks @BobC , I haven't considered those tablets but will look into them. I will definitely be running the system through a deep heat cycle or two, to see the change from correcting the drip piping, and any change in water use and condensate return speed.

    Related to the matter of iron and oxygen; most likely, the boiler and NBP will be open to air for a couple weeks while I do this, exposing the innards to oxygen. Is this something too be concerned about? It seems unavoidable.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,101
    Most pipes in steam system are exposed to oxygen every time the boiler shuts down at the end of a heating cycle so don't be concerned about that.

    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
    Precaud
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. I imagine the amount of free oxygen in water pales in comparison to that in the cyclic breathing...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Outside temps are forecast to hit 80 by Wednesday, so time to get started on this thing.

    Ready to open the hood. Am very interested to see what it looks like underneath. I don't think the top has ever been so free of clutter like this.


    Rotating the top aside reveals the internal draft hood and steam channel.


    With the hood lifted off. It looks like it was puttied in place originally. Apart from some surface rust, the castings look remarkably good for a 65 yr old, at least to these untrained eyes. No obvious holes or things that would indicate a bad leak. If you see something suspicious, pls let me know.


    Tomorrow I'll fill it to the header for the leak test. Fingers crossed...
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited April 25
    A couple questions. Here's a pic showing the steam channel and the "putty" that I assume was originally intended to seal the draft hood to the sections.


    It reminds me of 3M FB136 Fireblock Sealant, which I've used for stovepipe applications:
    https://3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Fire-Block-Sealant-FB-136/?N=5002385+3294069375&rt=rud

    Do you think the sealant is necessary when I put it back together? It certainly wasn't sealed when I removed the hood and it's been drafting fine.

    2. The steam channel castings and nipples are held together with two rods. One is shown in the photo, one is on the other side. This one is snug; the one in back is quite loose. Should I snug it up, or leave it as it is?

    @PMJ , do the sections in your stove look like this one?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    And now the bad news. There is a crack in the second section from the rear, 2-1/2" above the water line.


    So that explains why it builds no pressure on the gauge, and why water use decreases if I run it at 1/2 to 5/8 on the gauge glass, instead of just above 3/4, where the water line is.

    Given that this is a backup system, and I have only a year or so more in this house, I have some thinking to do.

    Meanwhile, I am going to proceed with the maintenance, since I have the parts on hand.

    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PMJPMJ Member Posts: 950
    @precaud, I've never had the top off.

    I'll start to worry about holes or cracks when I can't hold vacuum anymore.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,762
    Precaud said:

    And now the bad news. There is a crack in the second section from the rear, 2-1/2" above the water line.


    So that explains why it builds no pressure on the gauge, and why water use decreases if I run it at 1/2 to 5/8 on the gauge glass, instead of just above 3/4, where the water line is.

    Given that this is a backup system, and I have only a year or so more in this house, I have some thinking to do.

    Meanwhile, I am going to proceed with the maintenance, since I have the parts on hand.

    The buyer is going to want a working system, and a new boiler is a great selling point.
    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_Hazzard
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited April 26
    Not around here. Nobody is installing steam here. The only potential future occupant that would like steam is my son. Everyone else would want hot water or something else, something that is serviceable by locals.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PMJPMJ Member Posts: 950
    Precaud said:

    Not around here. Nobody is installing steam here. The only potential future occupant that would like steam is my son. Everyone else would want hot water or something else, something that is serviceable by locals.

    Unfortunately its not just around you.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
    SuperTech
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited April 27
    Yeah, click on "FInd a Contrator" above and look at the map. It's mostly empty space. The nearest one to me is in Utah, over 350 miles.

    Look in the local Yellow Pages for HVAC or plumbing. The business is healthy; all the biggest players have full -page ads, some even full-color inserts. You will not find the word "steam" in any of the ads; "boiler" only in a couple. Same for Albuquerque, 60 miles south.

    Residential steam systems require basements. We don't have 'em here. Very rare.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    edited April 27
    So, after a long talk with my son, who may or may not want to live here if/when I move out, we both agreed this is a really bad time to have to decide whether to put in a new boiler or not. If it can wait until next spring, other pending life changes will have played out and this choice will be much clearer; new steam boiler, or something else.

    So I am going to use the ol' Bryant for another season. This does not feel like a risky or difficult decision. It's an excellent heater, plays its backup role really well and efficiently, and water loss is not huge; about a pint a day at worst. It will be even less in a few days when I fix the header drip issue. After that I may or may not try to patch the crack, we'll see.

    Also, as suggested in the previous few posts, if a new boiler does get installed, I'll be the one doing it. And I don't think my plumbing chops are up to that task yet. Continuing with this maintenance project will be a step in that direction.

    So onward we go.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    ethicalpaul
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Made good progress today, thanks to the guys in the Plumbing forum. Removing ancient 2" pipe is challenging, indeed.



    Decades of sludge in the wet return. No wonder condensate took forever to return.



    I capped all openings to keep the sludge nice and wet overnight.
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    SuperTechethicalpaul
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    It's ready for the new drip pipe, which I'll get manana. I ended up going with @EBEBRATT-Ed 's approach, because I couldn't get the male part of the union off the old pipe.



    Some random first-timer observations:
    : Sludge in the return was not all as bad as it looked in last post's pic. Because the pipe was sloped toward that cap, it was deeper on that end.
    : Because the return pipe is so short (2.5 ft.), a wet-dry vac was most useful getting the bulk of sediment out - the hose could be shoved up the whole length. After that. the flush from the boiler was more of a "rinse" of the finer stuff.
    : Assembly was a lot easier than teardown. Having to remove some of the old fittings so they could be reused really slowed things down.

    This latter point makes the thought of piping a new boiler a little less intimidating. Just a little... :)
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    mattmia2ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 1,568
    That was exactly my experience. Nothing like convincing a few joints older than me to come free to make anything seem possible :) It's looking good!
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Precaud
  • PrecaudPrecaud Member Posts: 307
    Thanks. Though I'd say your plumbing chops are way ahead of mine... I'll be watching posts of your upcoming install with great interest - will it be this year?
    1950's Bryant boiler in a 1-pipe steam system at 7,000 ft in northern NM, where basements are rare.
    ethicalpaul
  • Chris_LChris_L Member Posts: 177
    @Precaud, it looks like the header drip is again connected to the return drip above the water line. I thought you were trying to avoid that.

    Can you explain why you did it that way, or is it actually below the water line?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 10,845
    @Precaud Is that crack an actual water leak, or is it just a leak on the fire side of the boiler? If you fill it up (literally) does it actually leak water?

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
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