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Near-Boiler Piping in Steam Heating Systems

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HeatingHelp
HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 636
edited May 2020 in THE MAIN WALL
Near-Boiler Piping in Steam Heating Systems

In this video Dan Holohan shares his knowledge about near-boiler piping in steam heating systems. Proper piping around the boiler is crucial because it’s being used to slow the steam down and dry it out.

Read the full story here


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  • Trying2LearnNewTrick
    Trying2LearnNewTrick Member Posts: 1
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    This was awesome, Dan !!!! I am a homeowner, (and a huge fan for 20 years), my 1 pipe steam boiler looks just like that ! Except for 2 big differences (I will get to in a sec). When I moved in 20 years ago, I bought your book 'The Lost Art of Steam Heating' (which I had signed by you! thanks) and read 'The Wall' on your website and learned all about venting. I have replaced all the radiator vents and the main vents, and have been flushing and maintaining since. I didn't think much of near boiler piping as I have not had any real problems in the 20 years I have been in this house. I have noticed that the water levels in the glass get violent when boiler gets going. Today I just watched this video about near boiler piping! Oh.. boy... so... the differences - 1. my risers are only 12in high, and 2 (big problem) - the connection to the steam system is between the risers !! My REAL question is - Should I change the near boiler piping at this point, after using it for 20 years, and it was installed in the early 80's? I Have is a Peerless G-561-W-S which has 130,000 BTU/Hr rating (Which is probably oversized anyway). Thoughts?
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,525
    edited May 2020
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    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed that video. As for the near-boiler piping, any steam boiler will perform better when piped properly, even one that's been living in sin for 20 years. We get used to watching thing work "well enough" and we begin to think that's normal. It's not.
    Retired and loving it.
    GeoffreyG
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
    edited November 2020
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    Hi Dan, I also just bought your book Revisited. I am learning so much. Finally found my main line vent and it looks 40 years old and corroded over. Replacing that today.

    But, I have a similar problem with the installation of the steam piping take off coming from between the risers. However I don’t see how it can be piped any differently because there is a huge vertical header pipe that ends up right in the middle of the pit. Should I have the other side of risers make a bunch of twists and turns to come before the vertical riser so that all the steam flows one direction towards the equalizer?
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
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  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,525
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    It's always going to work at its best when the steam and the water aren't fighting each other. Any carry-over water coming out of the boiler is going to go left and not toward the equalizer. That affects the quality of the steam, raises the fuel bill, and can lead to water hammer if there's enough carry-over water.
    Retired and loving it.
    ethicalpaulGeoffreyG
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Steam doesn't mind turning corners very much
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    GeoffreyG
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
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    That’s what is happening.  I’m getting water hammer a little after startup and then short cycling a few times before finally the water seems hot enough to finally get past that.  I appreciate the comment about steam not minding corners.

    So I am thinking of getting this repiped correctly.  My only question is if there is a minimum amount of space there needs to be between the risers where they join the header?  For example, in the picture above can I just install a T between the first riser and the vertical header?
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,525
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    There's no minimum space required between the takeoffs from the header to the system. Ideally, however, there should be about a foot of horizontal space between the last takeoff from the header to the equalizer. This is so the carry-over water in the header doesn't bounce off the equalizer's elbow and try to get up into the takeoff.
    Retired and loving it.
    GeoffreyG
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    I know I see so many well enough that the home owners thinks that’s how it is when it’s not really even close to being what it should be and usually all the issue that well enough seems to be creating . I have a few that each time I service I feel I’m going into the same song and dance about there near boiler piping especially after the home owner lists there issues . And as time goes on the material and price of things go up and so does the price tag for repiping .by the time they are ready to repipe the boiler needs replacement and they get the cheapest guy and they install it wrong back to square one . Human nature I guess peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    GeoffreyGethicalpaul
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
    edited November 2020
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    You are absolutely right clammy...I'm trying to change history here. :) True story - my last boiler block failed after just 10 years because one of the risers was capped (a no-no in Dan's book on page 83). So I got a new block and had it installed, but this time using two risers. Solved one problem and created another - now I have water hammer and a bunch of wet steam surging down the main because the near boiler piping was done incorrectly as you can see in the picture above.

    So here's my last question....I notice on page 88 the header offset. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it ok that the risers come into the header at 90 degree angles or should they come into the header pipe in the direction of the equalizer at 45 degrees or so?

    By the way Dan, do you offer video call consultations as a side-gig? I see you're "retired and loving it", but figured it can't hurt to ask. :D
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,525
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    The 90-degree is okay. And thanks for the offer but I think I'll just keep watching the birds at the feeder. Much quieter. :)
    Retired and loving it.
    GeoffreyG
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
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    I understand. I am retired as well and am also watching the bird feeder. Got some baby blue jays, a cardinal and a bunch of house finches in all colors. I'm starting feeder watch with Cornell this year. But I digress. Thanks for your help, and for the great education in your book!
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,525
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    Thanks! Enjoy those baby jays. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • GeoffreyG
    GeoffreyG Member Posts: 6
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    Just wanted to update the thread with how I got my boiler repiped. Another good lesson I learned was to get to know your boiler’s installation manual because otherwise the plumber was ready to repipe it with undersized piping until I showed him the manual. The instructions called for a 3” header (I have a larger system than most).  3” pipe and fittings are super expensive, but cost didn’t matter to me.  I wanted it done right. 

    So now, from the left, we have 1) one 2” riser with a 90 into the header, the 2) second 2” riser goes left before T-ing into the 3” header so that it comes before the 3) take off into the house which is set back a little from the 4) 2” equalizer.  And just like that my water hammer is GONE and my steam is DRY, the radiator vents are QUIET, the entire house is BALANCED, and as a result I’m SAVING MONEY!  

    Learn from my bad experience.  Read Dan’s book, read your boiler’s installation manual, never assume the initial installation was done correctly, never assume that the current plumber has read the installation manual or understands how steam operates, and never accept that leaky and noisy vents, water hammer and short cycling are just a normal part of a steam system.  I spent $4,000+ for a new block with piping AND then for the plumber to come back for re-piping - and it was all AVOIDABLE!  

    Near boiler piping is the most important part of a steam system.  Get it piped right and you’ll never regret it, no matter what it costs.

    Again, thank you Dan for the education!  And thanks to all of you who post on the forums.  I’ve never been so excited to talk about steam! :D