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Time for a new radiator?

SteamIsNotMyThing
SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
edited December 2020 in Strictly Steam







Hi,

First time posting, I've done my research and tried most of what I've read on my problem but I still cannot solve it so posting so the experts may be able to help.

Context: Small single family cape house in New Jersey. Steam single pipe radiators. Dunkirk boiler in basement. 4 radiators on first floor, 2nd floor bedroom has only a single pipe baseboard type radiator. Pressuretrol - 404A set to .5 (Maybe a half of thread holding the screw in) w/ a 1 lb differential. I'm not a plumber but I would like to try all I can before calling the pros. I've lived here approx 12 years and this problem seems to have gotten worse over time.

Actual pressures get to 3.5 psi (cut-out) and then down to 2.5 before it cuts back in. Cut-out lasts for maybe 30 seconds before the pressure drops enough to cut back in. I know - too high - but the pigtail is clean and I cannot loosen that screw any further without it coming out. I'm measuring this pressure right at the pressuretrol (I put a T underneath it with a 15-PSi gauge so I can watch it). The main boiler gauge goes to 30 and doesn't really move until more than 5 psi) - I know this because years ago, I had a completely clogged pigtail and learned why I have an emergency 20-psi safety valve on top of boiler.

Problem:

1) No matter how many valves I try 1 Radiator on first floor (furthest from boiler) spits water until steam reaches the valve. I get about 32 oz of water a day (fills my under-valve thermos daily). Water spits during the air escaping until steam reaches the valve and it closes - then the pressure starts to build in the boiler.

Because of this, I need to add water to the radiator weekly (No auto-feeder) and I don't like doing this as new water creates more mud and (I believe) will eventually cause leaks.

-----
Things I've tried:
I replaced the valve many times and tried various sizes (small hole, larger) and manufactures (Gorton / Hoffman, cheapo-depot etc..). Spit stops and valve closes once steam reaches, until it cools. Almost entire radiator gets hot, although the corner section below the valve stays cold for a long-long time if ever even gets warm.

Control valve is completely open - all of them are. Appears to be in very good condition.

Recently added fiberglass insulation in basement (didn't finish all of it) but got 21 feet of insulation covering about 85% of the spitting radiator length. No noticeable help.

Pitch - all radiators cannot be pitched any more I have a 2x4 under the far end of the spitting radiator. Level almost 1.5 bubbles. This riser also pitches very nicely towards main (height of floor joist in the 8 or so feet of the run). Main appears pitched throughout length though not as drastic.

Boiler cleaner - tried Squick - two years ago - loved it and certainly stopped a lot of my issues - this year I added a similar cleaner (some yellow liquid) and it helps with the banging and helps remove the mud.

----
The next step for me is to take off this radiator and clean it out with a garden hose. But this is a large, heavy and messy job. Wondering if there are any other thoughts before taking this step.

---
Edit - Added 3 photos - in the radiator photo the red marked section is not getting hot (might be normal). As for the pigtail - very clean as water freely flows through (just cleaned / checked yesterday) and as for calibrating the pressuretrol - all of the water spits before the gauge at trol gets to register any PSI.

Yes, the water is currently muddy - I added the cleaner last week and will drain out some crud tomorrow and replace with new water. My 'yellow cup' has crystal clear water inside of it.

----
Edit2: Added three more photos : Front / Back of furnace and a main vent at far end of house/furnace right before it turns to come back to boiler.

I bought a .05" (1/20) hex and will try lowering the pressure (calibrate the 'trol and report back.) Will also lower the pitch a bit more in the problem radiator to improve the look (though until that cup goes away, I'm not that concerned with the block of wood.

I still get hammering though think it's isolated to a single other radiator and figure I can tackle one problem at a time.

Edit3 : I've adjusted the pressuretrol thanks to NeilC to the PERFECT pressure - however, still dripping water. My house is 80 degrees right now (due to all my testing) so going to shut it down for a few hours and let the system cool.

Re-Uploaded my photos with arrows to show flow and hopefully a proper Hartford loop (though that's what I'm reading about now).
«1

Comments

  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    edited December 2020
    Your operating pressure is way too high. I'm sure that's contributing to your problem with the radiator.

    But, can you explain more about the bottom corner of the radiator not getting hot? Do you mean the radiator feet? Can you post a picture and highlight the area that's not heating on the radiator?
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Sometime the boiler port where the pigtail connects can be plugged. If you remove the pressure control you should be able to easily blow into the pigtail, after pushing out the trap water, back into the boiler.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    you need to deal with the pressure being this high,
    if you're sure of the pigtail, ie: you blew thru it all the way into the boiler,
    then it might be time for a new Ptrol, or vaporstat,
    but first,
    if you search these threads here, there are posts of adjusting / calibrating the Ptrol, maybe there's service left in it,
    and a last thought, how clean is the ptrol? they can get gummy dirty at the lever, clean and light lube,
    another last thought,
    how is the water in the sightglass? dirty? bouncy when firing?
    known to beat dead horses
    SteamIsNotMyThing
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    found this,
    known to beat dead horses
    SteamIsNotMyThing
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    Thank you - I have seen that but have been reluctant to try because the water spits before my 15psi pressure gauge can even get to register any psi. Currently cannot find a .05 hex to fit - #6 Torx seems to be a bit off - I guess this is my next step.

    Added photos and (believe) i addressed the rest of the very helpful comments.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    edited December 2020
    can we see a picture from the top of the boiler to the ceiling?
    trying to see what you have as a header, and its equalizer,

    is the water in the sightglass dirty and bouncing a lot?
    I don't see a way for you to skim that boiler, this could be an issue.
    known to beat dead horses
    ethicalpaul
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 893
    edited December 2020
    A new radiator is not going to help you.

    Have you tried putting a slower vent on that radiator? Have you opened up the supply valve to confirm that the disc is still attached to the stem, not detached and sitting where it can interfere with the flow of steam and condensate?

    Bburd
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    Does the radiator spitting start immediately when the boiler starts, or does it start once the steam makes it to the radiator?
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,971
    The bottom corner of a radiator like that usually doesn't get hot, unless the steam run goes on for a very long time. Just the nature of it. Also, it shouldn't need that much pitch, and perhaps you can experiment with lowering that end a bit -- might look better, too!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,627
    Like @neilc I fear what I can’t see of your near boiler piping. The pressure is bad as everyone has said, but I’m pretty sure that amount of water at the vent is due to wet steam (water) getting carried into your main.

    At this pressure it could also be pushing return water back up your main. Do you get any hammering (looks like you mentioned it in passing)? Do you have a main vent?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    SteamIsNotMyThing
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    added a bunch of photos now. As to skimming - I youtubed this the other day (groans are abound I'm sure) and thought it could help - though I don't think it did. The way I did this was by removing the safety valve and hooking the elbow and a hose to some of that run-out piping. had it trickling out for about 15 minutes - didn't see much oil but I don't think I hurt it.

    I may do this again tomorrow now that the cleaner I added last week has had a chance to work its magic. I'll plan to add the other half of the cleaner after I skim a 2nd time and leave it for the remainder of the season.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    I think somebody piped you a water pump,
    unless it's hiding, I don't see a header, nor its equalizer.
    all your wet steam is just going up, and out throughout your system til it hits a vent or return pipe.
    That needs to be repiped.
    find your manual and the piping diagram,
    do you see what is missing?
    the loop from the boiler riser, back to the return.

    skimming, can't be done thru the top like that, the oils just stick to all the tops inside, and won't find that little outlet,
    you want that 2 1/2 plug next to the top of your sightglass, which may (will) be a big deal to get out now, make sure you get this in the repipe.
    what some have done in this case is to , , ,
    close the bottom port of the sight glass,
    open or remove the sightglass clean out(the bottom there),
    and skim thru the top port, down thru the glass,
    not ideal, but your next best option,
    15 minutes is not enough, hours, not minutes.
    known to beat dead horses
    SteamIsNotMyThingethicalpaul
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    Neilc - Thank you - I have no idea what a header or equalizer is. So will research a bit and then likely call a pro. But if what you say is true, it sounds like bad news. My wet-steam going up until a vent or return is how I thought it was supposed to work. I guess not.

    Second - to everyone that commented on my pressure. I have good news to report there. I bought a 1/20" allen key and calibrated the 404A - I got so lucky (with about 1/2 turn) as now it's dialed in PERFECTLY! 1.5 psi cutout .5 psi cut-in.

    I didn't stop the water from bubbling out (as the water spits before the vents can even close to build that pressure at the 'trol). but I will look into NeilC recommendations.
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    try the sightglass skim,
    an hour or 2,
    you only want trickle going thru the glass, not a full stream flush,
    you want to think there's only 1/2 of that upper port flowing water thru that upper port so oil can float out on top,
    just a trickle thru the glass,

    the dirty water/ violent boiling/ bouncing sightglass, only makes the wet steam worse,

    that and the lower pressure,
    maybe the water pump will calm down some,
    known to beat dead horses
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    I haven't ruled out that you don't have debris or a blockage in your radiator that is damming water behind it.

    With that much pitch there shouldn't be water remaining in the radiator between heating cycles.

    Yes, your near boiler piping appears to have issues. But I would expect wet steam to cause problems system wide and not be localized to just one radiator.

    I asked about when spitting occurs. If it happens during start up before the steam reaches radiator than it's water trapped in the radiator. If it starts once the steam reaches the radiator than it's probably related to your pressure/boiler piping. Or possibly that radiator is too big for its connection and the condensate can't return against the flow of the steam.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    The spitting happens first - before any steam reaches it. I've slammed this radiator with a rubber mallet a bunch to try to loosen any gunk. Pressure is now 1.5 / .5 (calibrated my 'trol).

    I think you're right - water must be getting trapped - if I decide to take out the radiator to clean it can a garden hose do it or do I need to rent a pressure washer w/a long stick? Can I use a snake on this thing? - how do people clean these (or do they)?
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    You could first try disconnecting it, shifting it over some, and use a rod or something long enough to reach the full length of the radiator through the connection hole. You might be able to remove or dislodge whatever is in there (if it's clogged). You also might be able to at least shine a light in and see if there's standing water.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    acwagner said:

    I haven't ruled out that you don't have debris or a blockage in your radiator that is damming water behind it.

    With that much pitch there shouldn't be water remaining in the radiator between heating cycles.

    Yes, your near boiler piping appears to have issues. But I would expect wet steam to cause problems system wide and not be localized to just one radiator.

    I asked about when spitting occurs. If it happens during start up before the steam reaches radiator than it's water trapped in the radiator. If it starts once the steam reaches the radiator than it's probably related to your pressure/boiler piping. Or possibly that radiator is too big for its connection and the condensate can't return against the flow of the steam.

    working on what acwagner is saying,
    can you lift the valve end of the rad?
    maybe the pipe under the floor is holding?
    or it's worth checking the valve for a dropped disc,
    known to beat dead horses
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    I'll try anything at this point... but I'm having a hard time following this.

    And thank you all to this excellent community!

    @neilc

    "close the bottom port of the sight glass,
    open or remove the sightglass clean out(the bottom there),
    and skim thru the top port, down thru the glass,
    not ideal, but your next best option,
    15 minutes is not enough, hours, not minutes."

    Trying to understand this. Are you saying to \:

    1) Leave the 2.5" port just above glass closed (have nothing to pipe to this even if I were to open).
    2) Close the red valve at bottom of site glass.
    3) Unscrew the top - red valve (clean out?) until it comes off and water runs out allowing trickle of water for hours?

    I don't see how water would come down through the glass if done this way ...

    -----
    @acwagner - I will unscrew the radiator and clean out the bottom of it right now (hope I don't make a mess) - will report back in a few hours - I hope I find a ton of solid gunk and this is my problem.

    by the way - the closest radiator still hammers even 30 minutes after the boiler has been shutoff.
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 247
    edited December 2020
    It looks like this - the top valve on the sight glass stays open, the bottom valve is closed, and the drain plug the bottom of the lower sight glass fitting is removed. In this example it's been replaced with a valve:

    https://youtu.be/lO2oR9JhF0M
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    Thank you @dan_nj - makes full sense now. I now know why I was confused. My bottom valve can close but doesn't have a drain plug (it does come to a point/small nut underneath it) - maybe I can just unscrew this and water will flow out even with the valve closed. (see photo)


  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    as per Dan NJ, great video,

    forget the 2.5 port, unless they left it finger tight it is more trouble than worth at this point.
    known to beat dead horses
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 247
    edited December 2020
    You want the bottom sight glass valve closed, and the top one open, with the 1/4" bottom drain plug on the lower sight glass fitting removed, then slowly run the water level up to the height of the upper sight glass fitting and you'll be skimming. Check out this one from Gordo for best setup - makes it handy to clean the glass when you're doing maintenance, but for now plan to replace the 1/4" plug after you've skimmed for a while.

    https://youtu.be/_z8v1YOQcM4
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27


    p

    Update! Solved - @acwagner was right! (Though I haven't fully reseated and heated up yet to prove it).

    I unscrewed the radiator - moved it 4 inches and took a long 1" PVC pipe I had to clean it out. Attached is the mess I made, RIP my carpet. (I Haven't looked under those towels yet though glad I placed them there before I plunged the murky depths.).

    Sink photo includes the mud I blew out of the clean end of the PVC directly into my sink.

    Thanks @Dan_nj and @neilc - will do this skimming tomorrow.
    Dan_NJacwagner
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    open and check that valve while you're there and all apart
    known to beat dead horses
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    Wow, you got yourself a radiator Hoover Dam! Hopefully you can get it all out with that PVC pipe.

    You should be able to get rid of that unsightly 2x4 now, too.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,627
    Don’t be surprised if water still shows up in expected places. That boiler piping is bad
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    kenlmad
  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 187
    edited January 2021
    sorry for cutting in @SteamIsNotMyThing as i don't have any advice for you, but could someone explain to me what i'm seeing with that near-boiler piping?

    it looks like there's the pressure relief valve coming out the top where a riser should go, and the actual riser leaves the side of the boiler, not the top...so that would leave the driest steam just collecting at the top of the boiler chamber while wet steam and just actual big droplets of water all get pushed through that side pipe? is that a correct understanding of what i'm seeing? thanks for any insight, still just trying to learn this stuff
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,627
    This design has the steam outlet ports on the side. It’s called a Dunkirk design. The biggest problem is there’s no header. The header’s job is to separate water from the steam, so this boiler will tend to act like a percolator 
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 187

    This design has the steam outlet ports on the side. It’s called a Dunkirk design. The biggest problem is there’s no header. The header’s job is to separate water from the steam, so this boiler will tend to act like a percolator 

    Oh okay, this is just the first side-ported one I've come across (or more likely just the first one i noticed was side-ported). Seems kinda strange to me. seems like it would be better to have the opening be flush on the top of the steam chamber instead of being another 4" down. seems to me like this design would draw much wetter steam, and it doesn't even really have the benefit of gravity to fall back to the boiler, cause whatever water does drop out has to travel horizontally along the bottom of that pipe section against the outrushing steam...

    of course this is just a newbie musing. i'm sure if it were really bad people wouldn't make it this way. this isn't exactly cutting edge technology, they've had awhile now to work out the kinks of this steam heat thing...
    ethicalpaul
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    edited January 2021
    @ethicalpaul - Thank you for the words. I’m not quite sure I understand the piping issue just yet. @SlowYourRoll may be able to explain it as he seems to also understand.

    Is there a better piping solution using my furnace? Are there photos that you can link with this Dunkirk or similar boiler? Sometimes seeing the correct solution will help me understand my problem.

    As I understand it - my water returns down the other pipe, and into the lower portion of the Hartford loop.  I don’t think (because of pitch) that it will return through the same pipe the steam exits from. The return pipe is shown in photo 1 (far end of house from radiator) and in the arrows in photo 2).
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,671
    just search your model # and Dunkirk and you should be able to download your manual,
    or someone here will throw you a link

    known to beat dead horses
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    I have the manual - psb-4d

    still - after looking at pages 9 and 10 I don’t know where I’m off.

    https://dunkirk.com/sites/default/files/PSB%20Series%20II%20IOM%20Rev.%20C.pdf


  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 187

    @ethicalpaul - Thank you for the words. I’m not quite sure I understand the piping issue just yet. @SlowYourRoll may be able to explain it as he seems to also understand.

    i appreciate the nod, but you'll get a much better answer from the other posters on here, as i'm still very new to this.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,627
    edited January 2021
    The stuff you surmised about the side outlets agrees with my and others’ thoughts @SlowYourRoll.

    @SteamIsNotMyThing good job finding the diagram. This is the thing you don’t seem to have. Look for the We Got Steam Heat book on the store of this site. It will explain things. But this circled horizontal part is the header. Imagine you are steam carrying frothing bubbles of boiling water out the side outlet pipes. The header lets the water separate from you so you go up and the water stays down. On your boiler, you (the steam) just carry the water up.



    It looks like this when it happens. This is my old boiler, also a Dunkirk: ( go to 2:30 in )

    https://youtu.be/Si-FoRQVIpA


    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    @SteamIsNotMyThing good job finding the diagram. This is the thing you don’t seem to have. Look for the We Got Steam Heat book on the store of this site. It will explain things. But this circled horizontal part is the header. Imagine you are steam carrying frothing bubbles of boiling water out the side outlet pipes. The header lets the water separate from you so you go up and the water stays down. On your boiler, you (the steam) just carry the water up.
    Thank you! Always thought the water was fine just running back down the return using the lower half of the pipe but this header concept makes sense too. I guess water is running up the steam exit as well.

    Insulation may help, a header is ideal.
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    I'd consider the near boiler piping a longer term project. That's not easy or cheap to do. And, given the history of your boiler, probably best to replace the boiler with the piping.

    There are other smaller projects that will improve things immediately. As others have said, definitely give your boiler a good skim first. You might have to do it multiple times over the course of a few weeks, especially since the boiler probably was never skimmed after it was installed. Also try to flushout the boiler after you skim. If your radiator had that much sediment in it I can't imagine what the rest of your system is like. You should notice a big difference in the water line during operation after you do the skim/flush. It should be relatively steady when steaming.

    Also, in your first photo, I can see your main vent. I can't tell what kind it is, but it's clearly inadequate and likely not contributing much. Increasing the main venting capacity will lower the operating pressure, and will also decrease the time it takes steam to get to your radiators. It looks like you could put larger vents up in the joist bay and help protect them from hammer on the main line. Look up "vent antlers" on this site for examples of putting multiple vents on a single pipe tapping. If you need help figuring out the venting we can give you pointers.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • SteamIsNotMyThing
    SteamIsNotMyThing Member Posts: 27
    @dan_nj - To Skim from the top valve, If I close the bottom valve and remove the 1/4" nut under the lower valve I now expected the water in the site glass to flow out. It doesn't - even with the top valve completely open.

    Does this mean I can only (easily) skim through the lower valve if the bottom valve is open? Is that less effective but still worthy?
  • acwagner
    acwagner Member Posts: 505
    The lower orifice is probably clogged. Try sticking a wire in it to clear it.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 247
    edited January 2021
    If the water level in the boiler is at or above the level of the top sight glass tapping, and that top valve is in fact open, you should have water flowing down through the sight glass and out the bottom. If it's not flowing I would think the tapping is blocked somehow. Skimming from the lower level would be ineffective.

    When you say water does not flow out - does the water that *was* in the sight glass flow out at least? If not, the lower tapping itself is plugged up.