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Rookie here. 2 Pipe Steam system with no traps.

CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
Greetings Steam heads,

First of all, I love the book and learning all about the lost art of steam but like I said in my title I am a rookie but eager to figure out my system.

I live in a 1924 old colonial home in Danbury, CT. I have a 2 pipe stem system with only one vent on the return line. This vent has some sort of stomach-shaped object attached to it. I have 14 cast iron radiators that have new 3/4 blue fin valves installed but they used to have new york supply co valves installed that are from 1911.

I recently had my peerless boiler replaced with Burnham pin7sni-he2 steam boiler and I have been having issues with short cycling. The plumber installed main vents saying thats why your system isnt working. Low and behold its still short cycling.

He then changes the honeywell pressuretrol main psi to 1psi and the diff to .5. Still not working. So I decided to contact a steam specialist and here is what he has uncovered.

1 - The boiler piping is not to the burnham installation specification. (Plumber is having a Burnham rep come out to verify even though the spec shows my installation is incorrect. This may be my short cycle issue)
2 - He believes I have a richardson vapor system installed since there is now steam traps or venting on the main prior to the new install.
3 - the old valves were orifice valves. (All pictures are attached to this thread)
4 - 2 main vents are now installed but it may not need to due to my system being a vapor system
5 - I should have a honeywell vaporstat installed not a honewell pressuretrol.

Any help with identifying my system would be a huge help to trying to figure out what I need to do to get it right. Should I have main venting? What is that stomach-shaped object with a vent?










I have attached as many photos as I think is need to help me out. I look forward to hearing what everyone has to say. I have yet to find a plumber that knows steam in my area so this maybe an opportunity to get a service contract as well!

Marco
«1

Comments

  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    do you have your manual and can you see how that's not piped anywhere near correctly?
    (and we'll ignore the copper for now)
    CarcoethicalpaulMaxMercy
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    Oh my goodness.

    Well, yes. It was a vapour system. And that type of vapour system didn't need steam traps because each valve was carefully calibrated to match the radiator to which it was attached and the pressure at which the boiler ran.

    I expect that you have gotten rid of the beautiful old valves. So, for starters, you basically have two choices: install orifices on each of the new valves, calibrated to the size of the radiator and the pressure, or install traps on all of the radiators. Take your pick; neither option is going to be cheap -- or much fun. (If you haven't already tossed the old valves, you might be able to put them back).

    Second, as you have indicated you are aware, your near boiler piping is completely and catastrophically wrong. Not only is it in copper, which is wrong, but the piping arrangement almost couldn't be worse.

    Third, you haven't indicated what, if anything, connects the mains to the dry returns (overhead). There should have been crossover traps. It doesn't appear that you have a wet return, so there also should have been loop seals. What happens at the ends of the mains? Pictures, please! I'll wait to comment on main venting until you come back on this one.

    Fourth, you haven't said how the boiler was sized. Given the quality of the near boiler piping, I doubt that much thought was given to that. It should have been sized by determining the total EDR of the radiation in the house, and then matched to that.

    Danbury is an oddly blank spot on the map of contractors who know anything about steam, but I seem to recall that @dobro23 works in that area, and it is remotely possible that you could get @Charlie from wmass to come out.

    You've got work to do.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    Should I vent the mains and the returns on this system? I have attached a photo of my main runs and return lines at the boiler.





  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall Thanks for the reply. To answer your questions, there are no traps on my system except the elbow ball valves possibly installed at my radiators. Also, I dont know what the stomach shaped object with the hofmann 75 installed is. it may be an air eliminator. The boiler I have is 210,000 btu. Attached to this message is the radiator sheet I gave the plumber to size the boiler.
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    edited November 21
    @neilc You're not kidding. Attached is the piping installation page for my boiler.
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    you're gonna need approx. height and width on these,
    then to match that all up to a chart that is found here also
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    edited November 21
    Carco said:

    @neilc You're not kidding. Attached is the piping installation page for my boiler.

    yah, push for the clouded drop header in the upper right,
    and do not accept copper above the water line at the boiler,
    looks like you have a return or 2 tied together too high also,
    someone will need to sort that out.
    ethicalpaul
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @neilc As requested, here is the radiator list with all sizes.


  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall The old valves were already replaced when I purchased the home. I found one in the basement which is pictured above. I would love to get those back but as stated in this thread, the orifice was sized to the radiator which would be interesting to see if I could get them again but they are from 1911 so I doubt it. You stated I should install traps now at all my radiators. That is costly but Im looking to have this system running right to todays standards.
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    yeah, I just looked for, and can not find that edr chart,
    maybe someone else can post the link,
    then the math is still on you.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    If the radiator outlets still have the ball valves on them, then you may not need traps -- if you can keep the pressure low. For which you will need a vapourstat, which you will keep set to 6 ounces per square inch cutout with a 4 ounce differential.

    I still don't see any exact location where a steam main ends and how, if, it connects to the matching dry return. If there is no connection, or only a water seal loop, then yes -- you will need main vents at the ends of each steam main. Often overlooked on this type of system, though, is you will need a main vent on the dry returns before they drop to the boiler. That one seems to be there -- that gadget you have mentioned. If the dry returns drop to the boiler before they tie together (they shouldn't, but someone may have done that...) then each of them needs its own main vent.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    edited November 21
    Carco said:



    this one in front scares me,
    and now I realise I'm looking at the "header" in back
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    I think that arrangement in front is two of the dry returns... have you really looked at the "header" and riser and equalizer piping? It's... interesting.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • neilcneilc Member Posts: 918
    right, but can they connect up high like that ?
    and yeah the NBP is , interesting again
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    neilc said:

    right, but can they connect up high like that ?
    and yeah the NBP is , interesting again

    Yes, if they are truly dry returns, which I think they may be.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,407
    Could you post pictures of the "ball valves" on the radiators?
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,538
    Yeah, those two returns shouldn't be connected above the water line. Along with a host of other issues
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall Attached to this thread is a photo indicating which line is the end of the return line and which is the end of the supply. As you can see they do tie in at the end as per the picture. Im beginning to believe that main venting is not necessary correct?


  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @jughne Ill take a photo of the ball valves tomorrow and post it here.
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    Here is an updated photo differentiating which pipe is which.


  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 14,048
    edited November 22
    @Carco , does that valve say "New York Heating & Supply Co" on top?

    If so, we've ID'd your system. It is a "Thermal System". This is basically an orifice vapor system, as described in chapter 15 of "The Lost Art of Steam Heating".

    The logo on the side of the valve shown is that of Pierce, Butler & Pierce Co., a huge heating manufacturer which was located in Syracuse, NY. It is possible they stenciled one of their customers' names (whatever Supply Co.) on these valves.

    I have several Pierce fitter's books (catalogs) and a similar valve is shown in them all. They don't say specifically whether these had orificing capability, but most such valves did.

    I'm willing to bet the radiator return elbows are ordinary ones without anything inside them. The one in the pic certainly doesn't look like a Richardson.

    The device on the dry return is probably some sort of float trap/air vent, which was supposed to close if water rose too high in the system.

    And your main vents are too small.
    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
    Carco
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,407
    My guess is that the end of return and end of main should connect together down in the wet return below the water line.
    Carco
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Steamhead Thanks for the reply. The vent that you saw was recently installed by the plumber who installed the boiler. Originally there was only one vent on the float trap/air vent. I replaced that vent with a hoffman 75 but I believe my mains do not need to be vented according to this type of system correct?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    I think this poor thing has had at least two generations of knucklehead.

    The folks above are quite right -- having been mangled, the return must drop below the water line, and the end of the main has to have that drip -- but it has to go below the water line before it connects to anything else.

    I had assumed -- silly me -- that both lines were returns.

    I notice that the steam line is considerably lower than the return line, which is just weird.

    It would be very helpful if it were possible to draw a sketch of the steam main(s?) and return(s?) to show, or even if, they run in relation to each other.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    Carco
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall As requested, attached to this post is a drawing of the piping, venting and radiator layout.
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @dobro23 @Charlie from wmass Good morning. @Jamie Hall has stated in the thread above that either of you may be interested in evaluating my homes steam system and to see how we can get this running right. The plumbing company that installed the boiler is having a burnham rep come by my home to assess the boiler installation. 

    I can't wait to see his face once he sees this copper boiler installation nightmare. 

    That being said if either of you are interested I would love to have my system assessed correctly and know how to move forward since I do not have the pierce valves installed anymore. 

    Even when the burnham rep arrives and says it's all wrong, I have a feeling they will not know what to do anyway especially since they installed the boiler piping all wrong. The burnham installation spec that I posted is my ammo going forward.

    I still don't know if I should remove the newly installed vents on my mains. Those were never there and the only vent I had was at the return line with the float trap device.

    I look forward to hearing from either of you and again thank you everyone on this thread for all your feedback. 

    Marco
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    Thanks for the pdf -- that clarifies it for me. Quick look here shows -- the steam lines should not reconnect at the boiler, and the ends of the steam lines will need vents. The returns connecting at the boiler is fine, but they need that vent as well.

    I'll try to get back to this today, but it's Sunday, so quite likely not.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    Carco
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    edited November 22
    @JUGHNE As you requested, attached to this thread is a photo of the elbows. As you suspected, no ball valves which means no traps in my system.


  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,061
    Beware that Burnham might not want to shame the contractor who bought their boiler too much so have the diagram in your hand and gently but firmly get them to acknowledge that the installation is not at all correct. Good luck!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Carco
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @ethicalpaul I'm not looking to degrade these folks. I just want to have it installed right. I've already stop payment on the last payment I made to them so they will be eager to install this correctly.

    I have already printed up the installation pages for the rep and the plumbers so thanks for the advice.
    ethicalpaul
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall the mains connect from the left and right runs at a "T" and then pipe to the boiler. I'll provide a photo later today. Thanks for the quick feedback!
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,556
    I didn’t read through all the posts but I would start off w the boiler is piped wrong and done in copper to boot.to work properly that boiler needs to be repiped ,repairing all the other stuff won’t improve much ,get a pro and repipe it w both tapping into a drop header redo the dry returns and see where u stand . All other improvement will not remedy any of your issues . Don’t let that plumber do any more work on your system he know not what he does he s just wasting your money and time .the burmham rep may say the piping good gotta side w who s buying and installing just to save face ,did the old peerless have as many issues . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Carcoethicalpaul
  • clammyclammy Member Posts: 2,556
    Like the fact that there are no drains or even a tee on the return for cleaning the boiler . This installer hasn’t a clue
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Carcoethicalpaul
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,852
    The problem with the steam mains looping and reconnecting like that lies in trying to vent them. When the system was initially installed, it may be that the installer was depending entirely on the radiators effectively venting the mains -- and in an earlier time, this may have been quite adequate, as steam might have built more slowly. For that matter, it might still be fine. The question is not does it conform to some current practice, but does it work. If the radiators all get steam at more or less the same time -- there will be some variation -- and if that happens at a reasonably low pressure, say a few ounces or so, then I'd probably leave it be just as is -- so far as the steam mains go.

    It is also possible that that single Hoffman #75 on the return is adequate -- but there I'd be inclined to add a Gorton #2 to it, on an antler above the float contraption.

    I do have another slight concern. How does condensate return? In some of the pictures it almost looks as though some of the mains or returns go down and then up again? May be an illusion. Whatever, wander around the basement and consider how would water -- at any point in eirther a main or return -- get back to the boiler without making a puddle.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,407
    Is the main steam feed main right above the boiler the highest point in the entire system?
    Then after that point is everything sloped to drain back towards the boiler? (Just to assure that all pipes are parallel flow).

    I worked on a 1920's house with almost the same set up, an express main from the boiler to the opposite end of the house.
    It had been quite hacked up.
    It did have traps.....most had no guts inside.
    The valves were "wantabe orifice type" look a likes that had mostly failed beyond repair.

    The ends of each main were dropped at the boiler into a wet return. The same for each end of the returns....4 drops total.
    The return trap/air vent that would have vented air into the chimney was long gone. There were 2 rad air vents randomly installed.
    Obviously didn't heat well at all. Hammer and hiss.

    All trap remaining guts removed (in effect what you have now).
    Most rad valves replaced with standard (like you have now)
    Orifice installed in each rad valve union (what you used to have)
    Orifice drilled/sized to allow only 80% of rad fill based on EDR and 2 PSI
    Two Gorton G2 main vents installed on the horizontal pipe of each of the 4 drops.

    On first start up, the woman in the house reports that she can "feel heat without hearing it". That gets you points on your report card.

    The boiler piping should not have worked as well as it did.
    Side tap with only one side connected.
    The system ended up running on ounces with a vaporstat without short cycling.
    The return lines are cool to cold when operating.
    Even with orifices sized for 2 PSI there was still adequate heat,
    they could be drilled larger if needed.

    This system and yours was designed to pass all air thru the returns and to the main air vent at the boiler.
    IMO, this was the based on coal burning or the mentality passed on even with oil or gas conversion. With the result of slow air venting.

    The steam main air vents were added to speed up the steam delivery back to the drop loop at the boiler.
    The return air vents were probably unnecessary as only air and cool condensate returns....an open pipe would have sufficed unless there was a problem. I erred on the side of caution as this job is 140 miles away.

    The orifice is simply a copper cup that fits in the valve union.
    I get them drilled to 1/8" and then size up as needed for each rad.
    The typical orifice costs $10-15, depending the pipe size.
    You can imagine the ease of installing one.
    To replace your union 90's with a trap would require removing the existing spud into the radiator and unscrewing the 90 from the riser pipe......I would easily imagine adding a zero to the guesstimate above.....plus changing elements every 5-10 years.

    This method has worked for several school houses that had overheating control problems.
    Carcodobro23
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    @Jamie Hall The supply and returns all run around my basement as per my drawing and then meet at the boiler. They do not With all the feed back, the plumber connected them incorrectly above the water line. Ate this point, all the boiler piping needs to be replaced to spec. I was able to find an old photo of my 1993 peerless that failed. As you can see, both the return and supply met and connected below the water line.

    As far as the current setup both the return and supply meet back at the boiler connect, go down to a loop and then connect to boiler piping at the bottom, then go back up and connect to the boiler piping on the supply feed again. I have attached a photo of the current setup and previous installation. The peerless boilers cast iron tank began leaking hence why it was replaced.



  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,538
    @Carco

    Any good steam person knows that copper steam piping is not the best, and most all steam folks wouldn't allow copper.

    But, Propress is approved for steam. The Burnham rep is likely not going to degrade the plumber for using copper.

    He will only comment on the piping configuration being correct/incorrect and the correct size.

    Unless you told the plumber you wanted steel pipe before he started your probably out of luck with that.

    Also, this may be the only boiler you ever buy. The plumber will buy many more. The Burnham rep does not want to loose the plumbers business which @ethicalpaul mentioned
    ethicalpaulCarco
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,407
    Were the end of mains always teed together?
    The piping under the insulation may be newer than the original install.
    That vertical riser on the left side, does that go anywhere?

    So your steam can go anywhere around the main in either direction.
    And now can do the same in the return lines.
    The steam would travel to the left side of the house closing those vents, (which seem to be in odd places).
    And also maybe close the return air vent.

    These vents may close early in the cycle.

    The right side of the house piping may stay full of air being compressed by the boiler causing short cycling.

    Just an armchair WAG.
    ethicalpaul
  • CarcoCarco Member Posts: 33
    edited November 22
    @EBEBRATT-Ed Thanks for the reply. The supply feeds have always been connected together. Attached is the PDF drawing of my 2 pipe system.

    I questioned copper being installed the day of and he said he's used it before. I wanted black pipe from the get go so he's aware that I questioned it.

    Regardless they have to redo the piping as it is total incorrect. Ill be pushing for black pipe but I have a feeling that I will be hiring someone else to install the boiler piping anyway. I mean look at how they installed it? I doesn't give me confidence that they'll know what they are doing going forward. The plumber that did this job hired an outside supposed steam guy and look at what happened there.

    The good thing is I called my credit card company and had a stop put on the last payment so if they want to get paid, they'll need to do it right.

    Once the boiler piping is to spec, i'm sure the short cycling will end. I will then go ahead and antler my venting on the return, remove all unused risers for old radiator runs and install steam traps on all 12 radiators.

    That vertical riser user to go to a radiator in our second floor bathroom but we had it removed. The contractor should of removed that piece of piping and plugged it but didn't. I will be removing some of these off my mains, returns and plugging them all in the near future.

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