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Skimming

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fxrgrunt
fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
Good afternoon all. New to the forum and was recommended over to it right out of We Got Steam. So I have a 1 pipe steam system. Two 2" mains running to 10 radiators throughout a 2 story home. I had 9 of the radiators sent to metal man restoration to be dipped and coated. They look great. Installed hoffman 1As on all when I reinstalled them. In the process now of reinsulating all the pipes even though I cant decide between 1" or 1.5" thick insulation. I had my annual boiler inspection and the gentleman mentioned something about my boiler surging and not having a skim tap. Me, not knowing what this was at the time stood there confused assuming that I was going to get hosed with charges. However he did not want to cut my heat off because it was 17 degrees in NY and said we can reschedule for a nicer day. Its great because it gave me time to research and I feel like I can install the skim nipple and valve myself and compelte this task on my own. Additionally I am guessing the surging is coming from the oils that were probably introduced to the radiators when they were dipped, blasted and painted so I am sure I will be skimming a few times over the next couple weeks/months.

Now my question is where on this boiler should I be installing the tap for skimming. On the side that the header is on there is already a T with a cap that I could pipe off of but not sure if that is ideal. On the side that the gauge is on there is a 2 1/4 inch tap as well that I could run a nipple with valve out of. I've also read you could pipe a T off the pressure release but mine is on top and I heard it should be on the side if you do this. Also, should I go with 1"insulation or 1.5"? Any info would be much appreciated. See attached.

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  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    Just remove the plug that is in the tee ,there’s your skim tapping. I would put a 21/2 x 1 1/2 bushing and then add a nipple and elbow and possibly a piece of pipe for a drop . From the looks of the sight glass the boiler is dirty looking like mostly mud . I would first wand the boiler from the top through the plug in the tee it the only upside to side outlet boilers in my opinion and then fill and skim . Open the lower drain valve and empty the boiler and insert a wanding tool and flush water thru each section spray and loosing mud and debrie from the water side of each section finally when you see that it’s all clear and no mud or dirty water is draining out ,close the drain use the boiler feed valve and fill the boiler to normal water level ,turn on the boiler and let fire till the water is about to steam and shut off the burner and fill w water till it comes out the skim tapping trickle water out the skim tapping until it runs clear . Drain to proper level and install the plug again and your clean . From the looks of your pictures it hard to tell if your Hartford loop is correct . As for insulation use a mim 1 inch wall thicker is better but make sure u have the clearance . Near boiler piping doesn’t look to great either but that’s another topic but could be your reason for surging . Usually we use both tapping on that style boiler they tend to perform better w less surging . You can go online and download the installation and operation manual it will give a diagram and pipe dimension for the proper piping of your boiler , usually there riser and header dimension are on the small side and most pro s always tend to upsize them for dryer steam and better system overall performance . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    fxrgruntethicalpaul
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    On a quick note they should also be cleaning the pigtail ,sight glass and removing and cleaning your low water cut off probe aside from testing them for proper operation . Aside from the water side of things they should be giving some attention to the gas and flue side of things also but sometimes a lot of that stuff is not included or they don’t do that type of service . Peace and good lucks clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    clammy said:
    Just remove the plug that is in the tee ,there’s your skim tapping. I would put a 21/2 x 1 1/2 bushing and then add a nipple and elbow and possibly a piece of pipe for a drop . From the looks of the sight glass the boiler is dirty looking like mostly mud . I would first wand the boiler from the top through the plug in the tee it the only upside to side outlet boilers in my opinion and then fill and skim . Open the lower drain valve and empty the boiler and insert a wanding tool and flush water thru each section spray and loosing mud and debrie from the water side of each section finally when you see that it’s all clear and no mud or dirty water is draining out ,close the drain use the boiler feed valve and fill the boiler to normal water level ,turn on the boiler and let fire till the water is about to steam and shut off the burner and fill w water till it comes out the skim tapping trickle water out the skim tapping until it runs clear . Drain to proper level and install the plug again and your clean . From the looks of your pictures it hard to tell if your Hartford loop is correct . As for insulation use a mim 1 inch wall thicker is better but make sure u have the clearance . Near boiler piping doesn’t look to great either but that’s another topic but could be your reason for surging . Usually we use both tapping on that style boiler they tend to perform better w less surging . You can go online and download the installation and operation manual it will give a diagram and pipe dimension for the proper piping of your boiler , usually there riser and header dimension are on the small side and most pro s always tend to upsize them for dryer steam and better system overall performance . Peace and good luck clammy
    I appreciate the quick response and the great info. I moved here about 2 years ago and looks like this work was all done around 2015 so I am not even sure who did it. Being you mentioned the near boiler piping and Hartford loop here are more pictures. I am definitely getting wet steam right now because my first radiator of the dining room keeps getting water in the vent preventing it from heating after it cools the first time. If I pop it off and empty the water that radiator will heat right back up. Issue is that one is in my thermostat room so hopefully the cleaning and skimming fixes that and it's not the near boiler piping causing that issue. Thanks!


  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    Your tee with the plug is only 2", there is a reducer bushing installed into the 2 1/2 port. This should have been 2 1/2" out and up and for the horizontal header before it dropped down as the equalizer. This may contribute to wet steam also.
    Cleaning may solve your problems....it is a fairly major job to repipe and I would certainly try the cleaning first.

    But as Clammy said wand washing and then skimming will go a long way in improving the steam.
    I would reduce the 2" to 1 1/4" skim port.
    Some of these boilers have reduced openings between sections and if you do not reduce you only skim the section closest to the port. You want to float the oils above all the sections inside and reducing the outlet will do that.

    There are U-tube video's for wand washing your boiler.
    Also here on the wall is a posting "Losing 10 gallons a Month"
    It has info on easy skimming, I have tried this technique and it works well.
    fxrgrunt
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    I've seen worse! :smile:
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    I've seen worse! :smile:
    After reading the manual it does state it should have been piped 2 1/2" from the boiler to the header so I love that the previous owners hired a knucklehead to install this. I'm sure it was someone who said they didnt need that manual because they know what they are doing. Out of curiosity to all, if I did end up needing to repipe the near boiler piping, what is the going rate for that? 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,539
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    I agree with @ethicalpaul

    Piping isn't text book but it's not terrible. A good cleaning and skimming you will probably be fine
    ethicalpaul
  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    Insulating the supply pipes may also reduce the wetness of the steam.—NBC
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    As other filled in the blanks ,the near boiler piping is off and so is the Hartford loop it should be a close or shoulder nipple and a elbow facing down ,the way it is it probably makes some noise . As for pricing we don’t discuss on line . The one steam main should not have that horizontal pipe and then 2 elbows it should have been straight vertical into the existing main or add a small drip . The boilers looks to be about 5 years old it may pays to repiped it properly being it has a good 15 year life span left and then u will get 15 years of dry steam and proper operation . Wet steam does no good in all aspects it does not put the heat where it’s needed in a timely manner ,increases condensate in mains and leads to pipe grooving and leaking . While your at it get mains vents either cut in or replaced and new quality radiator vents . Wet steam sucks and makes balancing difficult at best .if your in for the long haul get it fix and working as it should . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    Closer look this is a counter flow system and yes it’s piped wrong hence the banging . You need drips for each main and forget the main vents ,this type of system really needs dry steam other wise they work terrible ,get it repiped and new rad vents then look into insulating that piping then you ll be in good shape , both supply tapping should have been used and and it should be 2 2/12 risers into a 3 inch header w 2 inch over head drop supplies and a drip for each main ,then ur in good shape clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    clammy said:
    Closer look this is a counter flow system and yes it’s piped wrong hence the banging . You need drips for each main and forget the main vents ,this type of system really needs dry steam other wise they work terrible ,get it repiped and new rad vents then look into insulating that piping then you ll be in good shape , both supply tapping should have been used and and it should be 2 2/12 risers into a 3 inch header w 2 inch over head drop supplies and a drip for each main ,then ur in good shape clammy
    Fortunately I have not been getting any banging thus far and the system was running great prior to removing the asbestos and the sandblasting/painting of all the radiators albeit one radiator closest to the boiler that's vent easy plugged up. I would definitely like to get through this winter and then consider repiping as I will live in this house 10-11 years until I am out of the Army and retire. However their are no steam pros in my area of Albany New York and using the finder not even within 100 miles. Clammy is actually the closest one in Mahwah about an hour and 45 mins from me. Most of the companies around here are large HVAC companies fishing for a big job to do the easiest way and I have yet to get a guy come out that I feel knows what they are doing when it comes to steam. If anyone knows someone up this way or knows someone willing to travel that would be great.

    Damian
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    And just to compound your life more, is that a garage door in the back ground that would allow a vehicle to be parked inside?
    Also in one picture there looked to be 3 fuel jugs sitting across from the boiler.

    There is a graphic warning label on the water heater showing gas fumes traveling across the floor to find the flame of appliances.
    Just pointing this out for you information.

    Most codes require gas burning appliances to be installed 18" above the floor of a garage for this reason.

    We are not the code police here but just want you to be aware of potential issues.
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    JUGHNE said:
    And just to compound your life more, is that a garage door in the back ground that would allow a vehicle to be parked inside? Also in one picture there looked to be 3 fuel jugs sitting across from the boiler. There is a graphic warning label on the water heater showing gas fumes traveling across the floor to find the flame of appliances. Just pointing this out for you information. Most codes require gas burning appliances to be installed 18" above the floor of a garage for this reason. We are not the code police here but just want you to be aware of potential issues.
    I appreciated the info. I will most definitely move the fuel cans. Placed them there the other day actually when I was cleaning the other side of the garage and did not move them back so thanks for pointing out. The first door in the picture is an outside exit. The second further door is a garage door however the floor dips down a foot or so at the entrance and all the way back to allow clearance for vehicles so I think that would meet the guidelines you stated above accounting for the fact that the blocks the boiler sits on are taller than 6". Correct me if I'm wrong.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    The intent of this 18" is to place a source of ignition above the floor in the event of a gas leak in a vehicle or even a lawnmower, snow blower etc.
    Even the fumes from gas jugs that might outgas as the lids are seldom vapor tight.
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    JUGHNE said:
    The intent of this 18" is to place a source of ignition above the floor in the event of a gas leak in a vehicle or even a lawnmower, snow blower etc. Even the fumes from gas jugs that might outgas as the lids are seldom vapor tight.
    Got ya. So essentially I need to raise the boiler as well and should do that if everything gets re- piped. I also should probably just get a shed to keep all my other small engine equipment and fuel cans. We don't actually pull vehicles in the garage. My lifted jeep would either take out the house or rip the top of the jeep off haha. 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    Just removing any fuel containers from the room will probably suffice now that you are aware of the potential.

    Raising the boiler also raises the water line which can have bad consequences.
    fxrgrunt
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    JUGHNE said:
    Just removing any fuel containers from the room will probably suffice now that you are aware of the potential. Raising the boiler also raises the water line which can have bad consequences.
    Hey. I appreciate the info and you guys all looking out. I've been on the forum for a day and I feel like I have gotten more info in 24 hours than I have received in any other forum. Steam systems are extremely fascinating once you start reading into it and learning.
    ethicalpaul
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 508
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    fxrgrunt said:

    Steam systems are extremely fascinating once you start reading into it and learning.

    LOL, I'm not sure I've even seen a steam boiler much less worked on one, but I've been gorging myself on the knowledge of this group recently with all the recent posts on steam heat. I also think they're fascinating.


    fxrgrunt
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    MaxMercy said:
    Steam systems are extremely fascinating once you start reading into it and learning.
    LOL, I'm not sure I've even seen a steam boiler much less worked on one, but I've been gorging myself on the knowledge of this group recently with all the recent posts on steam heat. I also think they're fascinating.
    100% man. Just having the knowledge is great. I swear when I sell this house I'm going to have an entire notebook and the We Got Steam book to hand over to the next owner and say "your welcome". I for one enjoy being able to tune up a product to increase efficiency. I hope I can get there with this system and educate the next person so they dont have these headaches. This forum is second to none when it comes to pros willing to share their knowledge at no cost.

    MaxMercy
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
    edited November 2020
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    Now that I see that garage door there it would be wise to insulate the pipe and in case I think I would go w 1 1/2 wall thickness ,you have a counter flow and not insulated that doesn’t help quite it down . As for it kinda being in a garage and the raising the boiler and hot water heater to meet codes may not work to well in relationship to ceiling height ,boiler piping and such but you could frame up a mechanical room and add a fan in a can for combustion air and then it s not a issue . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
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    It has been said that abestoes abatement people can mess up your pipe hangers.
    Before reinsulating you want to check the slope of the steam mains.
    If it is counterflow as Clammy says then the pipes should slope so as to drain back to the boiler.
    The slope needs to be consistant with no belly sags.
    Extra hangers are always a good idea.
    ethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,539
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    I did a few jobs near Albany and was horrified at the sloppy work done in that area........It's like the Wild Wild West an anything goes.

    I never could understand that being Albany is the Capitol of NY you would think everything would be ship shape
    ethicalpaul
  • fxrgrunt
    fxrgrunt Member Posts: 157
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    clammy said:
    Now that I see that garage door there it would be wise to insulate the pipe and in case I think I would go w 1 1/2 wall thickness ,you have a counter flow and not insulated that doesn’t help quite it down . As for it kinda being in a garage and the raising the boiler and hot water heater to meet codes may not work to well in relationship to ceiling height ,boiler piping and such but you could frame up a mechanical room and add a fan in a can for combustion air and then it s not a issue . Peace and good luck clammy
    How do I know that the boiler is counterflow?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,062
    edited November 2020
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    The slope of the steam mains....counter flow is having the steam traveling in one direction away from the boiler with the condensate returning in the same pipe back towards the boiler.

    The low point of the steam main is at the boiler so the condensate water will flow by gravity back to the boiler.

    Mostly we see parallel flow, steam going out towards the rads and condensate flowing in the same direction as steam.
    The high point of the steam is at the boiler and at the end of the steam main is a return pipe to return the water. The return would be lower than the steam main and slope down towards the boiler to drain the water back. Unless you have a "wet" return which is below the water line of the boiler....it is always full of water....your system dumps water in one end and it comes out the other....the pipe is always full.

    By using a level you can determine which way the condensate will flow in the steam main.

    Some mains may have a combination of both, perhaps a short counterflow pipe for starting and then change slope for parallel flow after that.
    Or one main could be parallel and the other counterflow.