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Automatic water feeder & ideal water level

Good Morning! I noticed that with sudden drops in temperature or when the thermostat setting is increased, the gremlins in my steam system come to visit. A chain of events spawned the latest visit ended in large amounts of steam erupting from one of my main vents ( this occurred right before the thermostat told the told to shut off.) Last night I noticed that one of the cheap big box radiator vents was continuously releasing air. The radiator is one of two large radiators. I replaced the vent with a varivalve opened all the way, until the Gorton valves I ordered come in. That stopped the continuous air release and everything seem to run “smoothly.” At 3 am, I awoke to a sound I couldn’t identify at first but know it had something to do with the steam system. By the time i reached the basement, the noise had stopped. I checked the water level sight glass to see the water a half inch from the top and noticed the automatic water feeder registered it filled 2 gallons to the boiler. I drained the water to bring the level to slightly under half. I generally have the water level around 1/3 to 2/5 full but I left it slightly higher the usual for fear another boiler run would trigger the feeder and I would be awoken again (entirely selfish move on my part.) Luckily, I slept until the alarm went off and heard no noises while I anxiously drank my first cup of coffee. Only when it was time to bring my daughter to school, did the next gremlin appear. My daughter and I both heard it and I went down to the basement to see the one of the main vents ( I have 2 - Gorton no. 2 ) releasing large amounts of steam. Within less then a minute the the boiler shut off ( I believe that came from the thermostat reaching its set temperature.)
I realize there are a lot of variables and a lot that also is missing, but my question is .... can water level by itself cause steam to erupt from the main vents? Is there an ideal level to maintain (in the sight glass?) I am not looking to open the inevitable can of worms, just hoping to tweak the system I have that seem to run well enough for me.
Thank you for you time and expertise

Comments

  • bmma
    bmma Member Posts: 30
    edited November 2020
    What is the pressure gauge on the boiler reading when the vents are releasing steam, and what is your pressuretrol set to?
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88
    I’m including a picture in case I’m getting the settings wrong but pressure gauge is steady at 1 psi. I am running it right now and seeing if the main vents start steaming again. I didn’t get to see where the pressure was when it occurred this morning because the boiler shut off before i could check the gauge. I don’t remember exactly what the pressure troll is set out.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,585
    Perhaps the pigtail is blocked and the pressure is rising so high in the boiler that it's pushing water out of the boiler into the return, which then is triggering the water feed.

    But there is usually a delay on the water feed, so I would imagine the pressure would subside and the water would return before that would occur.

    The main vent "releasing steam" is definitely a warning sign that the pressure is getting higher than it should. They should never release steam under normal operation.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    tomsloancamp
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88
    edited November 2020
    @ethicalpaul although I don’t want to, I could crank the thermostat settting up 2 degrees and see if I can trigger the releasing steam. I haven’t had a problem this morning since. Most of the radiator vents collect some condensation. However, I haven’t had a problem until we had our first cold night last night and I just happened to turn up the thermostat 1 degree. Question, can you open the radiator vent too much? Seems more likely that the pigtail was blocked. What happens to the pressure reading of your stream if too wet? I’m wondering if wet steam could be a trigger.
    ethicalpaul
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,667
    check your pigtail first
    known to beat dead horses
    ethicalpaultomsloancamp
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,585
    edited November 2020
    Water can definitely interfere in the closing of some main vents. It would be great if you could watch it during the recovery from a setback, whether now or some morning.

    Look for the pressure rising, that will tell you if your gauge can "see" the pressure. Listen for strange gurgling sounds. Watch the water level glass during this.

    Question, can you open the radiator vent too much?

    You can vent a radiator enough that some problems can occur, yes, but not massive system problems like a main vent releasing steam.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    tomsloancamp
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,667
    I think you can just make it out in the picture,
    the gage is piped with the Ptrol,
    check the pigtail
    known to beat dead horses
    tomsloancamp
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,912
    As said -- check the pigtail. A further comment, though -- that gauge is required by code and your insurance, but is quite unhelpful when checking system performance. If you really want to do that, you need to add a 0 to 3 psi gauge.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    tomsloancampethicalpaul
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,667
    it looks new, and clean, on the outside, I would still check that it is clear, inside,
    how does the water look in the sightglass?
    dirty?
    does the water line bounce much when steaming ?
    known to beat dead horses
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88
    The boiler is 1 year old (as is sightglass, pressurtrol, gauge). I had some issues early one with severe hammering in main but went away with a skimming the oil from the install. The water is tinted but not too dirty (translucent grey/yellow.) i turned the thermostat up and ran the boiler again with still no steam release from the main vents. The water line bounces approximately 1 inch. I’ll wait and see the next time we have a cold snap.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,585
    Might as well show us a picture of the boiler piping from the top of the boiler to the ceiling :)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,912
    Bouncing one inch isn't a problem.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,585
    It was kind of difficult to make out with all the foil, but the piping looks good, congratulations! It's a big deal.

    Why all the insulation on the ceiling? don't you like warm floors? :)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • tomsloancamp
    tomsloancamp Member Posts: 88
    edited November 2020
    I kind of went overkill with wrapping the piping and didn’t know where to stop. The insulation is the ductwork from the central air system.
    ethicalpaul