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Richarson Three in one steam system

GRunk Member Posts: 3
Good Morning
I'm new to this site but have visited a few times over the years.
I have a new customer that has a Richardson type three in one ,2-pipe steam system
(I believe installed in the early 1920's)
The main vents, radiator traps and graduated radiator supply valves where manufactured by Continental Brass St. Louis (There is a patent date on main valve July 30 1918)
As far as I can tell nothing has been changed to the piping and and radiators from original install.
The boiler was replaced approx. 20 years ago and has been working fine without issues until about 2years ago.
A couple of New Jersey Natural Gas Techs have come in and flushed and serviced the boiler a few times. Which would relieve the problem of the banging in the mains some what. But it doesn't last for long. (according to the homeowner. She has owned the house for about 5 years)
Now I enter into the picture so to speak.
After spending time in the basement ,running the system and seeing whats going on I have found that one of the main vents is leaking steam from the check valve and that there is a trap at one of the radiators that is stuck open.

This is my question,
I want to try and keep the system as original if possible.
I am going to have to replace the leaking main vent and because of where it was installed (right next to a floor beam) I have to cut it out to replace.
What vent would I use that is available? Hoffman or other.

Second, the trap at the radiator that needs to be cleaned or needs to be replaced.
If replaced what trap would work on this type of system? Hoffman or other.

Also I will be calling Hoffman as well to get there input.

George Ruhnke


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,918
    Three in one -- bravo! So you get three comments... Step one is -- make sure the pressure is controlled properly, by which I mean below 8 ounces. That's absolutely critical with all the vapour systems -- and easy to do.

    OK. Step 2 -- that trap. What exactly is it? Are there any markings on it? In many cases either Barnes & Jones or Tunstall will be able to suggest a replacement -- or very often just a repair inside assembly, which saves you taking the thing apart. I've found that sadly Hoffman itself, now that it is part of a conglomerate (I forget which one) seems to have a case of corporate amnesia, but it's always worth a try.

    Step 3 -- What information is available on that leaking vent? Any markings on that? If not, I'd suggest -- without seeing it, which is always risky -- replacing it with a Gorton #2. Because the Gorton is kind of large, you may have to get slightly clever with some nipples and maybe a union and some other fittings to get it on there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • GRunk
    GRunk Member Posts: 3
    Jamie Hall
    Thanks for the reply
    There is very few markings on the main vent.
    I believe it to be a float and thermostatic vent with an equipped check valve.
    Man. by Continental Brass Patent 1918 as are the traps and supply valves
    The traps have V V P all in one on a plate attached to them
    Pressure is set to 8oz the first thing I checked
    The main vent looks very close to the picture in Dan Holohan's book The Lost Art of Steam Heating
    Richardson style Tee shape
    This is my first time seeing this type of system in 43 years of doing this, I want to get it right.
  • GRunk
    GRunk Member Posts: 3

  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,094
    Put a Hoffmann 76 vacuum vent on that main and also if there is not a vaporstat install one . If the pressure is low like under 8 oz those water seal traps will be fine . Remove the plug and use a pipe cleaner to clean the little air hole in the slight u bend . I would also suggest to either remove the fitting and clean the section of the radiator sometimes crap builds up and blocks the u bend from draining properly you can use a small pump sprayer to flush too it a little easier . Thiose traps have no moving parts to break I would not replace w anything . The few I have ran into that where original still maintained vacuum and on start up when steaming the distruvution is u equaled . On vacuum systems I usually install a ball valve and radiator key vent so when draining And such you can open them to remove the vacuum as to not suck in air from a boiler drain which tends to stir up all type of crud .if there s check valves dis assembly and clean flush out any wet returns to. Richardson where a great one to bad there’s so many butched up ones . 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: 22,918

    thank you, @clammy !
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,726
    Those are not traps on the radiators- they are later-version water seals. They can be cleaned if radiators don't heat.

    Also, the Hoffman #76 vent does not have enough throughput for running one of these systems on vacuum with an oil- or gas-fired boiler. If you really want to run vacuum, use several #76 vents. If it were my job I'd use a Gorton #2, which has good throughput but doesn't hold vacuum.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service