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Trane Mercury seal or KMC info wanted

JonByk
JonByk Member Posts: 3
edited January 18 in THE MAIN WALL
Does anyone have any information (drawings, patents, pictures) about turn of the century steam vacuum systems that used mercury? Thanks to this resource I was able to find some info on the Trane Mercury Seal, but I am searching for a schematic that shows how big these units were, and how much mercury they contained.

A plumber I know was a installing a new steam boiler and when he pitched the return line a large amount mercury spilled out of the pipes. The amount of mercury that spilled was much more than in a thermostat or switch. The mercury spill has created quite the headache for the homeowner, but the cleanup is currently underway. We are trying to gather as much information about these systems and assess how common they were.

Any information on these systems would be much appreciated! Thanks!

-Jon

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    Odd that it was in the return pipes. The mercury was usually quite safely contained in whatever gadget was used -- but it wouldn't be the first time by a long shot that someone who didn't know what the gadget was tipped it and spilled the contents.

    In answer to "how much", depending on exactly what gadget it was, it could easily be upwards of several pounds.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JonByk
    JonByk Member Posts: 3
    edited January 18
    Yes, someone definitely could have spilled it. But it is also likely that depending on the construction of the device, that mercury escaped into the steam lines as vapor and then condensed out as a liquid in different part of the system. One of terrifying physical properties of mercury; it is constantly vaporizing, even at room temperature (imagine dry ice). As the ambient temperatures rises it vaporizes at an exponential rate, but unlike dry ice once the temperature drops it will condense back to its liquid form. If the device got warm or hot, it is certain the mercury vaporized at an astonishing rate and more than likely is deposited in all the piping and radiators.
  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 84
    A search of the Internet Archive produces 17 hits. I don't know if they have the information you want. https://archive.org/search.php?query=%22trane+mercury+seal%22&sin=TXT&page=5
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,637
    Those system where not steam but gravity hot water and the mercury I believe was contained in one chamber and assisted in increasing gravity flow . I have never heard of a steam system using mercury are you sure your plumber knows what type of system he has in front of him . Quite possibly a Honeywell unique ? Do the radiators have a single inlet which has both a supply and return piping if so that.s a gravity hot water system and high probability that it was a Honeywell unique gravity system w a heat generator which was located in the basement and usually a open tank in the attic .some one may have stirred it up in a attempt to flush or bleed system or when they draining . I have know idea how much mercury they contained but I guess it s a issue now . I have never seen a unique that was steam either , unless I’m completely wrong that system ain’t steam you better have the plumber take a closer look . I ve seen these and worked on them but the generator and the open expansion tank was long gone and had been converted from gravity Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    I might add to @clammy 's remarks... even if this was a steam system, such as the Trane you mention, the mercury should never have been heated enough to migrate, at least not is any significant quantity.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    Guys, there were steam systems that used mercury pots, through which they vented air to produce vacuum. It was not limited to hot water. Trane and KMC are examples. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    That's what I was thinking, @DanHolohan , but weren't they set up so the mercury should never have seen steam?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    Yes, Jamie, but someone may have power-washed the piping on a boiler replacement and moved the mercury. That’s what I suspect. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373

    Yes, Jamie, but someone may have power-washed the piping on a boiler replacement and moved the mercury. That’s what I suspect. 

    Wouldn't surprise me a bit...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JonByk
    JonByk Member Posts: 3
    Thanks @CLamb thats very helpful. This system is definitely a steam system. The big question is how the mercury got into the steam lines. Unfortunately the mercury seal device seems to be long gone so we may never know.
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