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2 pipe steam system

I live in a house built before 1900
It was originally heated with city steam which is a great idea but fell into disuse in Scranton well before I bought this house. When the city turned off the steam they installed a boiler which I guess does the jobs but there a re a few inherent problems.
1 the slope of the return is away from the boiler as the steam used to enter the rear of the house and the condensate went out the sewer in the front. Therefore all the return piping is sloped away from the boiler.(the return line starts about 2 feet high at the boiler and goes around the house(both ways) till it meets in the front of the house at floor level)
2 All of the radiators seem to have vents on them and in addition have traps under the floor in the basement going into what is now a wet return(sloped the wrong way) I am not sure if this setup is normal for city stem (vents and traps) but I am not sure if it should be modified now(we've had a boiler for 30+ years)
3 I have one spot that I get hammering when the steam comes on. I dont see any obviously slanted pipes but it is only in one spot on the system
4 Over the years I had had 2 F&T traps in the basement start spitting water which I "solved" by ducktaping the vent closed .
5 Now I have a radiator at the end of the line is dripping water out the vent.

My conclusion is the return my have gotten clogged and therefore water is not returning to the boiler as needed and is looking for the lowest hole to escape which now happens to be in my office
My plumber who doesn't claim to be a steam expert thinks maybe the trap on the radiator is broken and wants to try to replace the guts on that to see if that will help(he did replace one section of return lines a few years ago and doesn't think they should be totally clogged)
looking to see if any steam experts are living in the Scranton, PA area or if anyone thinks they have any other Ideas
If Dan wants to make a trip to the beautiful Poconos I'm sure I could find a couple of customers who would like their systems diagnosed as quite a few of us have not been thrilled with the steam experts we have found



  • Yosef Guttman
    Yosef Guttman Member Posts: 11
    Just a comment my idea was to put a condensation pump at the end of the return and pump it back to the boiler that way.
    any comments
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,544
    If the return line is all under the boiler water level the pitch doesn't really matter but it should be level.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
    Lots of questions... !

    Let's see. If, as @EBEBRATT-Ed said the, whole line is below the water level of the boiler it really doesn't make any difference which way it slopes

    And you don't need a pump.

    However, it is possible the return is partly clogged.

    You mention that all the radiators are two pipe, but with vents. Do both valves come in low on the radiator, one at each end? Or is one end -- from the steam main -- high, and the other -- to the return -- low? If the latter, is the return to which they attach high, and is there a vent on it, too, or do they all go to that low around the basement return?

    What do the F&T traps connect to -- inlet and outlet?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Yosef Guttman
    Yosef Guttman Member Posts: 11
    The radiators are not true radiators they are really convectors, meaning the steam comes into them splits into three pipes and goes the length of the convector thru aluminum fins, The inlet and the vent are really on the same level.
    the F&T traps seem to be at the end of the main lines and connect to the steam headers and go into the main return line

    the setup of the first floor radiators seems to be the steam comes in the left side there is a vent on the right side and then the pipe goes down to the basement where there is a trap before it gets dumped in tothe main return. The 2nd and 3rd floor radiators.convectors seem to be similer I am just not sure if there is a tarp on every line down to the return I just havent traced the exactly( it is more difficult now as we put up some drywall over some of the piping)