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First home, first steam experience. Help me learn more than I already have.

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Hello everyone. My fiance and I just purchased our first home. A mid fifties cape cod equipped with single pipe steam. We have been there a little under a month and i've been lurking on this site trying to absorb as much info as I can to understand my single pipe steam system as this is both our first experiences with steam. So far I've conquered replacing a stuck air valve and tightening some hissing packing nuts but this morning I came across an issue I seek your advice over.

Some background on the system, I apologize I don't have any pictures at the moment. When we put an offer on the house it had an in ground oil tank and old oil fired boiler. As part of the term of the sale we had them pull the oil tank and install a gas fired Weil-McLain boiler. A reputable installer did the work and my (limited) understanding is the work was done well. besides this I don't think the system has been very well maintained as I have had to replace air valves and tighten packing nuts left and right.

so here is what I ran into today, I woke up this morning to a cold house with no heat. Visual inspection of the boiler showed a low water indicator. The boiler is roughly two months old we have lived there 3 weeks and I have not added water in that time because until this morning I operated under the assumption it would receive water automatically (again first time steam person lots of learning going on). So I open the valve and allow enough water in for the low water indicator to turn off plus enough to raise it a bit on the sight gauge and it kicks on to heat up.

The house is just below 60* at this point and the thermostat is set to 69 so the boiler has a lot of work to do this is probably the longest its run since we moved in. I let it run for a long while and check some radiators and a whole bunch are hissing at the packing nut which until now I have never noticed. I go down just to look at the boiler and for the first time ever I glance at the pressure gauge and it's at 6psi which in the back of my head from reading here seems high so I turn the heat down because it's pretty warm in there anyway. Some more research later and I see my Honeywell pressuretrol is set to 2psi "cut in" does this indicate my pressuretrol is not functioning as it should?

Sorry for the information dump and the possibly uneducated fool blathering nonsense. I have the original installer set to come take a look at the boiler tomorrow and I am on the hunt for a local plumber who is very versed in steam because besides the new boiler I think the whole system needs a good once over for probably the first time in many years.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,310
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    Your guess on the pressuretrol is not quite correct -- but close. The cutin should be set to about 0.7 psi -- near, but not quite at, the bottom of the scale. Then, inside it -- you'll have to take the cover off but that's no big deal -- there is a white wheel with numbers -- and an index mark. Set it so the number 1 is next to the index mark.

    That's going to help.

    There may be other problems, but -- one step at a time.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    delta T
  • delta T
    delta T Member Posts: 884
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    Some things to check if you are confident in your handiness skill. Make sure the pigtail connecting the pressurtrol to the boiler is clear (this will involve removing the wiring from the control, but just label the wires and put them back how they were). Make sure that is an accurate pressure reading on the gauge. gauges are not always accurate. Jaime is correct, if you have a cut-in scale on the front, that is the low bound of the pressure where the boiler will turn back on. The white wheel inside the control is the differential. cut-in plus differential equals cut out. adjust this as Jaime suggests. Try to find all the small leaks and repair them, and find your main vents and make sure they are functioning.
  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    Your guess on the pressuretrol is not quite correct -- but close. The cutin should be set to about 0.7 psi -- near, but not quite at, the bottom of the scale. Then, inside it -- you'll have to take the cover off but that's no big deal -- there is a white wheel with numbers -- and an index mark. Set it so the number 1 is next to the index mark.

    That's going to help.

    There may be other problems, but -- one step at a time.

    Thank you I will take a look into this after work today. So after some reading the inside dial changes the differential. In interest of learning does this means it should now turn off at 1.7 psi?
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 627
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    Wow 6psi.... Do you have a low pressure gauge on there or are you relying on the factory 30psi one?
  • delta T
    delta T Member Posts: 884
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    roju1985 said:

    Thank you I will take a look into this after work today. So after some reading the inside dial changes the differential. In interest of learning does this means it should now turn off at 1.7 psi?

    Yes. 2 PSI was condered to be a maximum design pressure. It should work just fine at 1.7. On one pipe systems the pressure at the boiler affects the ability of water to the boiler. Do some research on this site on "A dimension" to get a feel for how this works, but to sum up, if the pressure in the boiler is too high, water will not return to the boiler but will pile up in the ends of the mains and cause all sorts of problems.

  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    Wow 6psi.... Do you have a low pressure gauge on there or are you relying on the factory 30psi one?

    It's the factory 30 psi gauge
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 627
    edited February 2021
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    @roju1985 Those gauges are famously inaccurate. If you can do it yourself it would be good to add a 0-3psi gauge so you can get a much better idea of where you are.
    **EDIT....you have to keep the 30psi gauge on there, you can't swap it out for the low pressure one. Its a code violation if you don't have a 30psi gauge.

    But for a start as Jamie Hall said lower to cut in to as low as it will go (0.5-0.7) and and the differential to as low as it will go (1ish).

    A single pipe systems likes low pressure. Mine typically operates around 1oz (1/16th psi) and at 3.5oz every radiator in the house is full of steam and screaming hot.

    The lower the pressure the better. Less fuel, less stress on the parts, less leaks, etc.
  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    @roju1985 Those gauges are famously inaccurate. If you can do it yourself it would be good to add a 0-3psi gauge so you can get a much better idea of where you are.
    **EDIT....you have to keep the 30psi gauge on there, you can't swap it out for the low pressure one. Its a code violation if you don't have a 30psi gauge.

    But for a start as Jamie Hall said lower to cut in to as low as it will go (0.5-0.7) and and the differential to as low as it will go (1ish).

    A single pipe systems likes low pressure. Mine typically operates around 1oz (1/16th psi) and at 3.5oz every radiator in the house is full of steam and screaming hot.

    The lower the pressure the better. Less fuel, less stress on the parts, less leaks, etc.

    That's what I'm learning, I'd like to get much more familiar with the system and really get it working properly. Like I said I don't think it's been well maintained and I'm slowly informing myself of how it works and trying to figure it all out. Thankfully the internet and knowledgeable people like yourself are great aids to that.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
    edited February 2021
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    Do you remember in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, Old Man Parker (Ralphie's Dad) went to battle with the furnace in the basement? There is a modicum of truth to that depiction of the man of the house tinkering with the heating plant. Back in the early days of central heating, making adjustments to the controls, and changing out gauges and parts were considered NORMAL MAINTENANCE items for the homeowner. And HeatingHelp.com is the place to will find the best information for your STEAM BOILER adventures.

    Just think, Someday your little 10-year old may grow up to tell the story of how his DAD was the best steam boiler adventurer in the county. I know, just engaged and not even married yet... but you are still a novice at steam boilers. This will all come in time!

    Good luck with your steam boiler. If you are at all handy with tools, you can add this gauge with a few fittings to get better at knowing what is going on inside your steam boiler. https://www.supplyhouse.com/Winters-Instruments-PLP305-2-1-2-PLP-Steel-Low-Pressure-Gauge-1-4-Bottom-NPT-w-Brass-Internals-0-5-PSI

    Add this valve to keep the gauge safe from harm. The gauge only needs to be connected when someone is looking at the gauge, so turn the valve off when you are not looking at the gauge.
    https://www.supplyhouse.com/Apollo-Valves-94MBV02-1-4-FNPT-x-MNPT-Mini-Ball-Valve

    You will also need a 1/4" black Tee fitting and assorted 1/4" black elbow and pipe fittings to make the final connection to your existing gauge and the new gauge because the 30 PSI gauge should remain in place without a valve between the gauge and the boiler.

    Good luck with your new home and we all wish you many happy years with it.

    Yours Truly,
    Mr.Ed
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    @EdTheHeaterMan Thank you for the kind words and I hope you are right! I don't mind getting my hands dirty and thankfully I am handy so I think I'll get this thing sorted with time.

    I see you're from South Jersey our house is in the other end of the state in Bergen county.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    You're in steam country for sure, welcome (Essex near Passaic here) but be wary of plumbers. Find a real steam professional to let you know how well the installer did, or post the pictures and we'll have at it :)
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • roju1985
    roju1985 Member Posts: 8
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    @ethicalpaul yes that's what i'm finding, I'm hoping to find someone who has a great grasp of steam in my neck of the woods.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @roju1985

    There are sever steam experts in NJ so maybe your in luck including @EzzyT & @clammy
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,295
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    @roju1985 you can reach me at 2018878856 maybe I could stop by and take a look 
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856