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110 year old 2 pipe steam system, help needed. Area code 68901

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135

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  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
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    There are many recommendations all are good.
    What is shown in the first radiator is a piping connection that may have been for a Paul System. Paul system used an injector or pump to remove air from the system.

    Or a vapor system that used the radiator vent connection connecting to a a master vent in the basement.

    Cannot find my data on this system so i can not name it.

    In this type of vapor system the steam pressure was very low and all the heat was removed from the steam and hot air vapor traveled down the air removal piping to a master vent valve. The air then was released to the chimney or vented to the outside of the building.

    If all the piping for the air release is still intact and the system is operating in a vapor state you can connect all the piping from the radiators to one master pipe line and and a several large vent valves to vent the air from the radiators.

    That is my best shot at improving the system if that has not been done already,

    Jake
    JHamburger
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,173
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    @JUGHNE - Wow, sounds like a interesting visit and a long day for you.

    “We did not run it very long today, (It was 70 degrees outside).”  

    Haha. Typical NE weather.  Next week it’s going be a high of 16 degree mid week. 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    IIUC, a Paul system had a special air/vacuum vent at each radiator.
    No evidence of Paul vents. Most small piping connections look original....1/8 nipple...1/8 x 1/4 90.....1/4" union.....1/4 x 1/2" coupling then 1/2 dropping under floor and possible all connected together and ending with the 3/4" connected to the bottom of the wet return at the boiler.

    I wondered about connecting that 3/4 to it's own air vent however:
    The first rad to pass steam to the small manifold would close the air vent leaving other rads possibly not vent adequately.
    If the vent stayed closed until cooling off then would the condensate be locked in the rad as the existing steam condensed?

    There are pipe slope issues for proper drain back.
    When the boiler fires up a little steam the boiler gains water, perhaps from captive water in the rads or return piping?
    I have had a 2 pipe system retain water over the summer, fire the boiler and get cold return water within minutes.

    This is 170 miles from me, I had just a long hour on site.
    PC7060
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,613
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    @JUGHNE

    Sounds like water hanging in the system on shutdown and the steam is pushing it back. bad pitch or a plugged wet return if you have any
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Ed, I think it is all of the above.

    No rad air vent to open at the end of steam cycle, vacuum created in rads.

    Bad pitch is certainly at play here.

    Wet return is limited right at the boiler....maybe some drops plugged??
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Woke up this morning with a question in my mind.

    If a single pipe runout is dripped just under the rad riser and that drip line, (well above the water line), goes back to the wet return manifold at the boiler.....

    then can another drip line, from other rad, tie into that horizontal drip return line and have only a single drop at the wet return?

    All is above the water line until reaching the boiler wet return manifold.

    Then of course the return drip line should have an air vent just like a EOM or dry return?

    This system has at least one of these shared drip returns.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,544
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    I win would think so. 
    Retired and loving it.
    JUGHNE
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,613
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    @JUGHNE

    That's sounds fine. It's just a steam line when it's above the water line. As long as it's pitched so all the condensate can drain to the boiler. My only concern would be steam getting to the horizontal pipe first and keeping returning condensate from draining down the pipe (counterflow). But since all the "steam Lines" the drips are equalized with steam pressure I would guess it would be ok if it doesn't hammer.
    JUGHNE
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    I am posting new pictures hoping someone can help me to understand what's going on with my piping and if changing to a single pipe system would be best.

    First series starts under stairway rad and also shows copper pipe to newly installed rad and back to boiler below water line.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
    edited December 2021
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    Started off with 2 pipes, one steam and another smaller pipe under, both tieing into a vertical pipe. There does no seem to be a vent on any of these pipes. Should there be?
    JUGHNE
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    This is close to the same condition.  2 lines running to vertical pipe, I believe goes to second floor. No steam vent in sight.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
    edited December 2021
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  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,735
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    Those paint cans remind me of my grandfather...
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    These pictures show a steam line going to the living room rad. Then turns to tie into dining room rad, and also supplies steam to the vertical pipe mentioned earlier in the second set of pictures going to second floor. I believe that small steam lines join above and travel back to boiler just below main vents in this instance.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    There is an insulated water line in the center up high with the ball valve if anyone is not confused enough

  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    @mattmia2 probably same vintage, they haven't moved in over 20 years.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Another question, the small lines going to the wet return, would there be any benefit in adding a steam vent to them before they went down below the boiler water line? 
    What happens to the steam when it gets to the point its below the water line? Does it just stop and condensate. Does it go up the risers to the main vents?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,735
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    So here is a question, did this ever work well as a gas/oil system or was it something that really only worked right with the continuous modulated steam source from coal?
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
    edited December 2021
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    I cannot answer that question. When I bought the house in 1998, it was very noisy.
    The boiler at that time had been installed in the 1970's. Parts of it's predecessor were still in the basement.

    I had the old plumber/boiler guy come over to show me what to keep an eye on. He passed away shortly after that. 

    Our current model (2007) I bought from a commercial building 5 years ago. Had a local plumber install with the slant fin install manual. 
    Through the years, a lot of pipe have been replaced. Shoring has been put in to steady or raise the floors. Pipe hangers have been removed. I am a student of the art of boiler and steam piping. Recently retired, taking care of my wife, doing what I can when I can.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Looking at pictures 1 thru 4:

    1. pipes thru the brick going to the stair rad.
    Steam on top with drip return on the bottom going back to wet return.
    John, what is that tube just to the left of the riser. Your air vent line?
    If so where does it go, can you show us?
    Pipes lying on the ground? Pipe at an angle near ceiling? or are they just dead scraps?

    2. Top steam bullheaded tee into another bullhead tee.
    The left insulated pipe goes to the stair rad...the right pipe with the ball valve goes to the recently added "Front Parlor" rad (copper run).
    The bullhead tee in the foreground of the picture, to and from IDK.

    3. Top is steam as described above. Lower is return of drip line going left to wet return. (in the direction of the water heater tank). The ball valve connected to what the plumber considered to be the return from the radiator, it is actually the small air vent line. Copper also.

    John, is that a gas line held up by the hole strap with the 1/4" bolt in it?
    Looks like the electrician didn't get the Romex over the top of the pipe...that is not supporting is it?

    4. The drip return goes just past the WH tank and drops to the wet return.
    (I see no where that that steam section is vented anywhere)


    I suggested John to drill and tap an 1/8" opening in the top of that pipe back at least +16" from the 90 elbow drop.
    Install a straight Gorton "C" at that point. (I originally told him a #5, but it looks like a C will vent more thru the 1/8 port.

    The steam line that is drilled thru that beam....does that feed the stairs & Front Parlor rads? Or anything else?

    Also, John, one point that has not been mentioned. Are all the radiators sloped to drain back to the bottom steam inlet valve?
    Go for at least 1/8" per foot....nothing crazy....just so they can drain the water back down thru the inlet valve. Put something under the far end legs, maybe just some furniture leg casters or plywood spacers. 2x4 lever with block for a fulcrum to raise the end. They are heavy...you know that.


    Picture # 5:

    Outside corner, on concrete ledge floor.
    It looks like a steam line going to a rad riser....room name??
    There is also a small pipe perpendicular to the steam line, about 4-5' to the right.
    Is that connected to the air vent line for that rad? It almost looks like copper.
    And where does it go?
    I assume scrap pipe lying on the ledge floor?

    Pictures 6-7-8

    Looks like steam pipe going to riser to second floor, (inside kitchen wall?).
    Drip line down lying on ledge floor going over to the end of the ledge and dropping to the floor becoming a wet return. Then connected to the bottom of wet return manifold at the boiler.

    In #7, with the tape measure on the ledge, what is the pipe above the steam pipe?
    Is that gas pipe?
    Also the pipe on the ledge floor is it sloped to drain towards the boiler or do you think it would be full of water?

    That's all for tonight John.
    Keep your eye out for that "Outside smoker's upright ashtray"...about 3' tall that we talked about. The mercury pot.

    Also any pipes or plugged holes stuck into the chimney.
    PC7060
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    @JUGHNE sorry to be so late in answering.
    Between daily chores and doctor's visits, I took the liberty to move the rad from the parlor out to the glassed in porch. I guess waiting 3 or more weeks for any plumber to show, makes me upset enough to tackle that too.😁
    Before I get back to you on your points called out for me, I am going to get rid of extra wiring and learn pipe sizes, more learning. There are many more pipes scurrying around that we did not see. Perhaps a schematic would be helpful. I plan on delaying any more projects to get this done.

  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    @JUGHNE before I start on answering your questions, I have more observations to show. Maybe reason for sight glass rising at startup? The pipe with level is the 2 in. Line with branch steam lines (3) spreading out. It is sloping down to upturned elbow. I don't see how it could not hold water.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Shouldn't all of the branch lines slope back?
    PC7060
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    1. An abandoned wire and lathe hanging down. The small pipe runs along the ceiling and comes out through brick wall and ties to another one and slopes toward vertical pipes with vents.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    2. Both pipes are steam pipes. Little pipe I explained before. This explains why I had heat on both sides of parlor rad when installed. Now turned off with ball valve and Hoffman 1A air vent installed.
    Goes up to 1st. Bedroom. 

    3. See answer 2.
    Yes, good work.
    Phone wire left behind. It is not supporting pipe.
    5. Goes to 3rd bedroom. There are two lines perpendicular.  Steam line to dining room rad and small piping coming back to tie into small pipe from bedroom heading back toward boiler elbows over to steam line and drops over to vertical pipe to wet return below main vent.



  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
    edited December 2021
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    Attached drawings of house layout. I hope some of it makes sense.




  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Does the wet return work as a steam trap? The steam supply piping returns to the boiler below the main vents above the boiler water line, but below the main vents, except for one branch line that goes directly to the wet return without a vent.

    The small pipe coming from the radiators appear to tie back into the larger steam lines that slope back to the boiler. If the steam forces itself into the wet return,  would'nt  the collision of the 2 be noticeable? Or does the boiler itself heat up the wet return before the steam returns?
    Photos of wet return piping shown.
    3rd photo shows connection of steam line returning on floor and elbowing up to manifold(?). This comes from drip line that comes back from 3rd bedroom that runs along the shelf. The line dropping down on the left is not vented. 
    The 2nd photo is a continuation showing how the return goes around and ties into the boiler in 1st photo.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    John,
    The wet return will work as a steam seal or in effect a trap.
    Think of a trap under a sink, it will pass water but not sewer gases/air back into your house.
    The water seal will stop the passage of steam if it is deep enough.
    1 PSI of pressure will push or raise water 28".
    So that is a reason to keep the steam pressure as low as possible.

    Your Steam Heat book does explain that pressure and water return height pretty well.

    So a good water seal will stop the steam, let water drain but the problem is it will not let air pass. The air has to get pushed out somewhere in order for the steam to pass freely or things will be slow to heat.

    As far as water hammer, in the wet return the steam is on top of the water pushing down. IMO, you only get water hammer in a horizontal pipe that has a small water pool on the bottom and the steam passes over it to suddenly boil and expand that water by a factor of 1600 times. It gets big real fast...actually an explosion within the pipes.
    Or if the water wins and cools the steam, then the steam collapses by that same factor of 1600.
    It shrinks quickly and creates a vacuum that both steam and water will rush towards and resemble a multi car pile up on the freeway, and you can hear the crashes.


    And as far as slope to drain back to the returns.
    Ideally, in theory all water should be able to drain back to the boiler.
    Some could even drain back down the steam pipe into the boiler header, this is not the best situation but may work out OK.

    You have some steam pipes running downhill towards the radiator but have the 2 tees stacked up under the riser and the drip pipe on the bottom tee should return the water towards the boiler and also the air to be vented.

    We talked about tapping for the vent on top of that line that goes by the water heater and drops to the floor (has the bolted flange on the drop). That return was not vented.

    Another place for a vent would be the pipe that lays on the ledge and drops to the floor and comes up under the return manifold. Definitely no way for the air to pass there. You could drill into the vertical drop (the smaller pipe) under the tee about 2/3 of the way up from the ledge. An 1/8" tap with nipple and 90 so a vent would stand straight up......this is the ledge that has the box of staples and the tape measure on the ledge in the pictures.



  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    It does look like that 90 will have water sitting in it. Do you get water hammer at that spot?
    Sometime in the past one end got pulled down and/or the other end got jacked up.
    It could have happened with the boiler replacement.
    It would most likely be very involved to correct that slope.

    You mentioned previously that you opened that check valve down low on the return manifold. Can you remove the swing flapper that is inside it, usually they will come out for cleaning or replacement. You could leave the flapper out, replace the top cap and see if there are any changes to the water level when the boiler fires.

    When you open that check you should get a fair amount of water out as the return manifold should be full of water up to the Hartford Loop height.

    Of these suggestions of the 2 vents and removal of the check valve, I would do only one at a time and see what changes may occur.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    I don't notice Hammering anywhere at the boiler. Which is amazing looking at the piping.

    The return, below the water line going to the boiler, is one of the first pipes that is hot before the main valves close, is that normal?

    When I did remove the flapper in the past, I don't remember exactly when, there was hardly any water recovered. Is it possible that would mean the vertical pipes are plugged? If so wouldn't there be overflow through the valves? I will open it back up when it warms up a little more.

    I do remember talk about the additional valves, but I can't find which one was preferred.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,428
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    "The return, below the water line going to the boiler, is one of the first pipes that is hot before the main valves close, is that normal?"

    Say what? If a pipe is below the boiler water line, it should never have steam in it -- and it should never be more than just barely warm. Something is amiss there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
    edited December 2021
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    Both of the lines that JUGHNE has suggested putting valves on are steam pipes, unvented that go to the wet return. Should say vents, not valves.
    Would that make the difference? The entire manifold (correct name?) With the vertical pipe attached Below water line is hot. The steam going the wrong direction?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    For review: his CI rads are steam only. 1 pipe valve inlet down low as normal.
    Instead of a rad air vent there is a 1/8" pipe tapped into where the typical air vent would be.
    That tap then increased in size to 1/2" above the floor and goes down to where, were are not sure.

    I think it is connected into the returns. So perhaps the steam passes thru rad down vent pipe into returns, closing some vents early??, and perhaps percolating thru the wet return, heating the return manifold.

    I believe that this system heats, then boiler turns off and steam in rads condenses and with out a way for air to get back into the rads, because the vent pipes are, in effect, under water, the water is held up until the boiler fires again and some pressure breaks the vacuum and the water returns.
    When boiler fires I did see the sight glass fill to the top and then go down to about normal.

    Possibly the best thing to do is disconnect and cap the vent pipes. Then install rad air vents on each radiator to allow the air back into the radiator after each cycle.

    Still there are 2 return lines that need air vents as discussed above.
    The check valve should not be needed, IMO.

    This is my best WAG from reading here and a maybe 90 minute visit to the house.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    John, we talked about air vents......not valves.

    We need to use the right terms so that others here know what we are talking about.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Yes, we were talking vents not valves. You are correct.
    Smaller than the main vents.
    JUGHNE
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    @JUGHNE, I did open up the check valve and after the water drained down to that level in the boiler, I removed the valve and refilled the boiler. After several days running, I would say there is no difference. I believe you said that I should install a Gorton C in 2 locations. They are calling it an equalizing valve for 2 pipes running parallel. Can you explain what will change in the way of the mechanics of the steam system? Hopefully for the better?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Those vents would act as small main pipe air vents.
    You have multiple small steam branches, some of which are not vented.

    The one by the water heater would go on top of the pipe.
    The other would go either on the top of the steam pipe at the ledge or on the drip/drop vertical pipe about a foot below the double tees. (this is for the long small pipe lying on the ledge and connected to the bottom of the return manifold).
    If you put the vent on the vertical pipe you will need a short nipple, 90 ell and another nipple with a coupling to use the vents you mention. I think they were 1/8".
    The size you used on the radiator upstairs.

    These vents will allow the steam to get to the radiator quicker.
    Then the radiators need to be vented by some means.
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Fortunately the Gorton C has a model they call angle. It has a 90 degree 1/8" nipple connection to the vent opening, to work on vertical pipe installation.
    Mosherd1
  • JHamburger
    JHamburger Member Posts: 86
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    Do you think the variable Hoffman 1A will be the best to balance the radiators?