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Steam Pressure and Short Cycle?

tinlau
tinlau Member Posts: 13
Sorry if this is a bit long. I recently noticed loud hissing from my Burnham steam boiler while it's running after it gets hot. It's in a utility closet in the basement so I don't know if it's always like that or a new thing. After observing it running from cold to hot, I noticed at some point after it gets hot the pressure gauge starts going up, and it doesn't shut off until almost 10psi, goes back down to around 5psi and fires up the boiler again.

After a bunch of Googling and reading comments on this forum, I looked at the pressuretrol and it is set to around 7-8psi and a diff of 3-4 psi, too high from what I've been reading. I lowered it to just over 2psi and a diff of 2psi. The pressuretrol only goes down to 2psi for the main and the diff.

Now it seems the boiler is running better, and my heating is about the same, radiators are still getting hot as usual. But I notice the boiler is cycling on and off due to the pressuretrol every 3-3:30 minutes. The pressure gauge goes up to around 3-4psi then goes down to .5-1psi before firing up the boiler again.

I guess my actual questions are:

1 - Is 10psi too high for a residential 1 family home?

2 - Is my pressuretrol settings of just over 2psi on main and 2psi diff OK? I don't feel any difference in heating amount and time in the house compared to the previous settings.

3 - Is cycling every 3-3:30 considered short cycling? The pressure seems to build up and get releases pretty quickly.

Thanks!
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Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,265
    How many pipes are connected to each radiator...1 or 2 ?
    What do you have for steam main pipe vents in the basement?
    They should be somewhere after the last radiator connection and possibly near the boiler.
    Pictures of everything helps.
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    edited March 17
    Thanks for your reply! I'm pretty new to this, what pictures would be helpful? I think almost everything is inside walls. The main steam pipe goes out of the utility closet then runs along the basement ceiling a bit and into a wall.

    Pipes to radiators - it's one pipe to each radiator

    Steam main pipe vent - I had to look this up, I actually don't see one anywhere. Can it be inside a wall or something?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,265
    Pictures of the boiler, showing piping floor to ceiling, on all 4 sides.
    The steam leaves that room thru the large main pipe and condensate water returns usually thru another smaller pipe. Do you see that pipe? it could be coming up thru the floor near the boiler.

    Show any other pipes outside the boiler room also.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    One pipe to each radiator? One pipe steam.

    Can you post a picture of the pressure control device? We should be able to tell you how to set it lower. It should be possible to set it to a still lower cutout pressure, which would be very good. Even 3 to 4 psi is still too high for most steam heating systems -- ;most run very nicely on a maximum of 1.5 psi. 10 psi is way way too much -- but, hopefully, won't have actually destroyed the vents on the radiators...

    A main line steam vent would be somewhere on the main steam pipe -- as the name implies. But... it may well be buried in a wall or in a ceiling somewhere. There are ways to check that.

    As for the cycling, that's not at all uncommon. Assuming that this starts to happen ;a little while after the boiler fires up -- say even as little as 10 minutes -- all it means is that the boiler is bigger than it should be. Not to worry about it. What is happening is that the boiler is making steam faster than the radiators can use it, and the pressure control just stops the boiler for a bit to let the radiators catch up.

    Which, incidentally, saves fuel... and money...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    I took a few photos, they are attached below. It doesn't start to cycle until maybe 10-15 mins after firing up and all the radiators start getting hot. It usually takes 30-40 mins to raise the temp 1-2 degrees before the thermostat turns off.

    Being home all the time has made me notice a lot of things about the house I've never noticed for years. Not sure if it's a good thing or not, but guess it's good? LOL

    Front of the boiler, with the steam pipe going up. It just an angle pipe at the ceiling and straight pipe going out the door, not shown in the picture.


    The left side of the boiler, I believe that's the return at the bottom.


    The pressuretrol.


    The pipe leaving the utility closet.


    The pipe outside the utility closet into the wall on the other side.

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,265
    How does the return pipe get to the other end of the house?
    If buried underground the other end has to come up somewhere.

    What are the two small (copper?) pipes on the return part of the boiler?
    Where do they go?
    Maybe back up and take pictures.

    Are there any panels or grills in the basement that might hid steam vents?
    Also look in closets.
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    edited March 17
    I've looked around previously, there's nothing showing. I assume it's all inside the walls. I haven't done any renovations since I purchased the house, so I have no idea what is behind the walls. I do see this knob in the basement bathroom at the end of the house, no idea what it's for. I have the picture below.

    As for the copper pipes, that is for the automatic water feeder and the water circulating return. There are baseboard heaters in the basement that a pump on the other side of the boiler runs. As for a better picture, sorry, it's the best I can do, it's very small inside and don't have enough space.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    Oh good! You have the lovely old mercury bulb subtractive pressuretrol! Those things are just about bulletproof -- and yours is set just about right. Leave it. However... they are absurdly sensitive to being level. There is a little pendulum arrow at the back of the case which indicates with a marker when they are level. Make sure yours is. The way yours is set the burner should cut off at about 2 psi, and start up again at about 0.5 psi.

    But don't let anyone replace it!!! They are much more reliable than the newer ones.

    Now however, it is quite possible that the curly pipe -- referred to as a pigtail -- may be clogged. Next time you have your pro. come and clean the boiler and adjust the burner (you do do that, don't you?) you might see if he or she will take the pigtail off and make sure it's clear. In the meantime, next time the boiler fires, up, go and watch the mercury bulb (it's as good a pressure gauge as any). If it smoothly moves up and then flips, then smoothly (and probably quite quickly) moves back and flips back, chances are pretty good the pigtail is fine -- or at least good enough.

    I have no idea what that valve is... so I'd leave it alone.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,355
    Just a minor detail, but that Pressuretrol is mounted wrong. The mercury switch should be perpendicular to the loop of the pigtail.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    edited March 17
    Funny story, I was in the basement monitoring the boiler and when I came back up my wife was mad at me. Apparently, she thought I was on the computer behind her and she was talking to me for half an hour before she realizes I wasn't there. :D

    So according to the pendulum inside, it's level, but I don't think it is. I actually set the main a little more below the 2psi mark, I assume it's OK to set it below 2psi? After monitoring it for a few on/off cycles, it cuts out at around 2.5psi and starts back up at around .5 psi. The pressure gauge goes from 0-5, so I'm just estimating. One on/off cycle is around 3min 15secs, give and take a few seconds. And I'm seeing the bulb inside the pressuretrol move to turn the boiler on and off.

    And I think I have a theory on why the pressure was set so high, the back bedroom (kids room) is slow to heat up, the previous owners must have cranked up the pressure in hopes that it will heat up faster.

    Well, it's been like this for years, I guess whatever damage is done. I'm actually still hearing a hiss once the psi builds up, but not seeing any steam. I assume it's just venting steam through the chimney. The system still heats well, but I'll probably need to replace it soon.

    After researching this for the past week, now I know boilers need regular maintenance by a pro. I've only been doing what my dad told me, let the dirty water out before turning it on in the winter. And I've also learned I've been letting water out the wrong valve, that's why there wasn't much "dirty" water. When I drained it a few days ago, it was like chocolate milk.

    Well, live and learn, and I've certainly learned a lot this week!
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13

    Just a minor detail, but that Pressuretrol is mounted wrong. The mercury switch should be perpendicular to the loop of the pigtail.

    It seems to be working, is there a reason for this?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    tinlau said:

    Just a minor detail, but that Pressuretrol is mounted wrong. The mercury switch should be perpendicular to the loop of the pigtail.

    It seems to be working, is there a reason for this?
    Yes there is -- as the pigtail heats up, it actually uncoils just a little. Since the pressuretrol should be level, it will be sometimes -- and not others. At the pressure you are working at, it isn't worth playing with now, but if you were to take the pigtail off to clean it sometime, it would worth changing.

    I've found that the pendulum sometimes lies. A better check is to set a good short level across the top of the plastic case and level that instead. You can twist the pigtail's connection to the boiler enough to do that without causing a leak.

    The only reliable way to check for a leak while the system is operating is water usage. There should be very little -- less than a gallon a week is good. If there isn't, then you don't have a leak at least big enough to worry about. I doubt very much that it's venting steam through the chimney, and I'm a little puzzled as to why you should put that idea forward.

    As to the back bedroom not heating as you'd like, there could be any number of reasons for that. I usually don't suggest putting a faster vent on a slow radiator, but you could try that. A more likely reason, though, is that the pipe leading to that radiator may not be adequately insulated -- if at all -- and that can slow a radiator dramatically.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Hap_Hazzard
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    edited March 18

    I've found that the pendulum sometimes lies. A better check is to set a good short level across the top of the plastic case and level that instead. You can twist the pigtail's connection to the boiler enough to do that without causing a leak.

    I put a level at the top, it's definitely not level, but I'm not going to touch it. I'm not comfortable undoing any pipes. And I think I have it dialed well enough with actual 2.5psi cutoff and .5psi restart.

    The only reliable way to check for a leak while the system is operating is water usage. There should be very little -- less than a gallon a week is good. If there isn't, then you don't have a leak at least big enough to worry about. I doubt very much that it's venting steam through the chimney, and I'm a little puzzled as to why you should put that idea forward.

    I'm not sure how I can check the water usage since I have an automatic water feeder and the water level goes up and down with usage it seems.

    I think there's a steam leak going to the chimney because I can hear the hissing when the PSI goes up. I don't feel or see steam anywhere around the boiler, but I can feel the air is more humid in the closet after the boiler runs. Unless this is normal? I'm not sure what is normal, since this is the first time I've actually spent time monitoring the boiler as it runs. And since the PSI does go up easily, I'm assuming even if there is a steam leak, it's a small one.

    As to the back bedroom not heating as you'd like, there could be any number of reasons for that. I usually don't suggest putting a faster vent on a slow radiator, but you could try that. A more likely reason, though, is that the pipe leading to that radiator may not be adequately insulated -- if at all -- and that can slow a radiator dramatically.

    I think the back bedroom is fine, the radiator just takes longer to get hot, but it's piping hot once the thermostat is satisfied and the boiler turns off. It's just my theory that the previous owners made some adjustments trying to speed it up, since I don't think it would have been installed like that.
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    @tinlau , Not sure how long you had 10 psi to cut off. i have read that most residential rad steam air vents have max psi, about 3 psi its possible higher psi could damage the air vents both main and rads if long term high psi)
    unless you have air vents that can handle higher psi ( i understand that you have corrected the Ptrol settings.)

    i have a 70 year old steam boiler, has similar Ptrol , and low psi attached to the pig tail. pig tail was old. rusted and clogged. i bought a new pig tail from local store for less than $8:00. if you dont want to change or clean the pig tail, have a service tech replace it. it will be worth while.

    there are two ways to get to the bottom of it, and possibly more. but I will list two that I would go by, if I were you; at your discretion.

    Option 1:

    In regards to steam leak and going out of the chimney would mean you have a leak somewhere in the boiler. and in regards to humidity level being high in the boiler room, you can check this be getting a very inexpensive digital humidity meter. put the humidity meter there when the boiler has not been running for a while, check the humidity level once the boiler start time, and when the boiler shut down after heat cycle.

    I don t have a auto water feeder, not sure if you can temporally stop it. if so try doing following
    (1) disable auto water feeder temporally.
    (2) note the water level on sight glass
    (3) run the boiler for few heat cycles (check the water level frequently while the boiler is running to make sure boiler is not loosing water fast and you will not blow it up if there is no water in the boiler.
    (4) check the water level on sight glass tube and see if it has dropped significantly ( after heat cycles)

    ** make sure you check the water level while steam is not being produced by the boiler, when the boiler runs and start steam that is why you see the sight glass water level going up and down...

    make sure you let you wife know you will be at the boiler room, running up and down to figure out what is happening with the boiler / heating system. Dont forget to turn the auto water feeder back on.

    Option 2:
    Much safer and recommended highly.
    (1) Hire your boiler service provider to troubleshoot it (unfortunately you will have to spend couple of hundred or little more.)
    (2) Keep wife and kids happy and spend quality time with them while a pro evaluate, and address anything to improve your heating system. there is a find a contractor section on this site.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    best and good luck!


    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    LS123 said:

    @tinlau , Not sure how long you had 10 psi to cut off. i have read that most residential rad steam air vents have max psi, about 3 psi its possible higher psi could damage the air vents both main and rads if long term high psi)
    unless you have air vents that can handle higher psi ( i understand that you have corrected the Ptrol settings.)

    I've been in the house for 8 years, so it's been at least that long. The heat's worked exactly the same since I moved in so I never actually looked into it. I'm not really a handy guy. Being home for a year makes you aware of a lot of things happening in your house. :/
    LS123 said:

    i have a 70 year old steam boiler, has similar Ptrol , and low psi attached to the pig tail. pig tail was old. rusted and clogged. i bought a new pig tail from local store for less than $8:00. if you dont want to change or clean the pig tail, have a service tech replace it. it will be worth while.

    The pressuretrol seems to work perfectly, the psi was set way too high, but I have it dialed in and it's working consistently.
    LS123 said:


    In regards to steam leak and going out of the chimney would mean you have a leak somewhere in the boiler. and in regards to humidity level being high in the boiler room, you can check this be getting a very inexpensive digital humidity meter. put the humidity meter there when the boiler has not been running for a while, check the humidity level once the boiler start time, and when the boiler shut down after heat cycle.

    I don t have a auto water feeder, not sure if you can temporally stop it. if so try doing following
    (1) disable auto water feeder temporally.
    (2) note the water level on sight glass
    (3) run the boiler for few heat cycles (check the water level frequently while the boiler is running to make sure boiler is not loosing water fast and you will not blow it up if there is no water in the boiler.
    (4) check the water level on sight glass tube and see if it has dropped significantly ( after heat cycles)

    Humidity meter! Genius! I put a humidity meter in there before and after a complete cycle. It was reading like 42% at the start and 55% at the end. So it does seem like that hissing sound is a leak somewhere.

    The automatic water feeder is wired into a metal box with other wires, I rather not mess with it. The water level dropped to nothing at the end of the cycle, but after an hour it returned to maybe half-inch less than before. I'll check it out again later tonight.
    LS123 said:
    Are the contractors listed on this site reputable or vetted? I've been looking up plumbers and HVAC companies, but don't know a good place to look. I don't mind paying a little more for professional and quality work, but I definitely don't want to be taken to the cleaners.

    Thanks for everyone's help and comments so far!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    @tinlau , you ask "Are the contractors listed on this site reputable or vetted? I've been looking up plumbers and HVAC companies, but don't know a good place to look. I don't mind paying a little more for professional and quality work, but I definitely don't want to be taken to the cleaners."

    Not in the sense that someone goes out and checks each one out, no. In fact, they pay to be listed -- one of the ways this site can survive. That said most of us kind of know who's who, and what they do and how well they do it. I don't know of any who are less than very good -- and some of the people listed are the very best in the business. If you let us know where you are located (you may have, but it's up there somewhere...) perhaps we can make suggestions. I might add that not all of the very good people we know of have chosen to list themselves, so just because you don't find someone doesn't mean we don't know of someone.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    @tinlau ... i agree when you are at home a lot you tend to notice things and start wondering.... seems like you have done what you feel comfortable thus far. Its good that you are considering hiring a pro (Steam Heat Pro that is)

    in regards to steam leak, humidity level going up indicate to me you must have something in the boiler room that is old and leaking... obviously you have good hearing! :) like Br. @Jamie Hall mentioned, steam leak may not going up the chimney because you noticed the humidity level going up in the boiler room... some of the pipes behind the boiler look bit old and rusted.. leak may be from one of them..just a guess.....or sight glass washers burned out and leak steam as the boiler go up in psi ( i experienced this and replace the washers and tube, tube also had a small chip too) , i also had to replace some old beat up air valves from heaters, and one main air valve that was shooting out steam...

    once you confirm, loosing 1/2 inch of water from sight glass (per one heat cycle to me is a lot of water... and I live in north east CT and it gets cold and windy....luckily my average use of boiler is about 7 hours in 24 hours ( I have 0.85 GPH nozzle)... good you have a auto water feeder working ( only thing is when you keep adding new water it increase the deterioration of the water chamber, oxidation etc...

    ... actual humidity may be higher than what it reads, since the boiler room get hot and some air actually go out the chimney after combustion...

    As @Jamie Hall mentioned there are lots of good, capable and experienced people are listed in the find contractor list. @Jamie Hall is also very knowledgeable and knows a lot about heating. perhaps you can send a privet message to him your zip code find couple of names that provide steam heating services.

    i usually get at least two estimates or evaluations... I plan to get some work done on my boiler in the summer since i dont have anything urgent to do on my system at the moment...

    Best!
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 475
    When you have the opportunity, you should insulate the mains from the boiler at least to the last riser to a radiator. Some people also insulate the returns, but that's not all that common, apparently.

    The main idea here is to send the heat where you want it.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 475
    Since your system has operated as high as 10psig from what you stated, make sure all of your vents do work and they do not leak.

    When you check the level of the Ptrol, you do it from side to side, not front to back. Fig. 2 on page 4 shows the proper orientation. The sketch also has the pressure gauge on the pigtail,

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.supplyhouse.com/manuals/1296597322000/46822_PROD_FILE.pdf

    What's important is the pigtail orientation like @Jamie Hall mentioned and level as I said above.
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    I'm located in Brooklyn, New York. Since it's the end of the heating season, I don't know if I want to have it looked at now or in the fall. Everything is working, better than before even, so not really in a rush. But that hissing is a concern. The hissing is pretty audible, but it was actually loud when it was running at 10psi, that's why I heard it and went to investigate.

    I did a search on https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/ and was thinking of calling Vigilante Plumbing and Heating, they have close to 500 reviews on Google. Anyone with experience with them?

    Thanks!
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    @tinlau ... you sight glass must have... been leaking some steam and water, but sight glass alone would not leak the amount you are loosing now in one hour.

    make sure you check the sight glass after the cycle and when the rads are no longer hot. my last tech was keep tightening the sight glass ( probably thats why it is chipped and leak even more.)

    it is possible some steam escaping from you sight glass. it has brown watermark like mine... also probably most steam vents and main vents need replacement (also as @SteamingatMohawk mentioned.

    see the signs of leaking sight glass
    mine first the yours pics for comparison...



    Best!
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    I don't have experience with Vigilante, I regret to say. The people I would recommend in your area are Absolute Mechanical, 718-492-3057, Danny Scully 516-887-1122 over in Malverne, and John Cataneo, (646) 598-7230. I know that any of those three will do an excellent job for you.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Dan_NJ
    Dan_NJ Member Posts: 169
    tinlau said:


    ... Since it's the end of the heating season, I don't know if I want to have it looked at now or in the fall. ...

    The Spring might be the best time to get someone to at least evaluate it. By fall you might find the best guys are all booked up
    LS123ethicalpaulBobC
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to have your system inspected now assuming inspection cost is reasonable. i would plan to get any work done in summer, this way in fall you know everything is working well and has time test it out before winter. most people wait for fall... when the techs are busy.... plus having an inspection would give you an idea how much you will have to spend to get your system updated and all fixed... and what needed to be done... just a thought... best!
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    So it seems my father knows a local licensed HVAC guy. I had him over this morning to look at my water heater that I think was leaking gas. It seems both the pipes for my water heater and boiler were leaking gas.

    While he was there, I had him check out the boiler as well, he filled it with water and it leaked. He said it's probably a small hole at the top since everything still works. I will most likely be replacing both the boiler and water heater (very old) around May.

    The HVAC guy says he won't install Burnham boilers since he doesn't think they are good, I think he said he prefers "Slimline" but I Googled it after he left and didn't find a gas boiler by that name. Any ideas? He says the heat exchanger on these uses a thicker metal and lasts longer.

    Thanks!
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    hi, perhaps he was referring to Slant/Fin ? i am also new to the site. perhaps one of the more experience forum members knows what you searched for... best!
    www.slantfin.com
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,265
    One often gets a hole in the boiler by too much fresh water being added.
    If you have a return under the floor it may be leaking. It must come up thru the floor near the boiler. If you could find the other end of it where it comes up inside a finished wall you could flush and test it for leaks.
    Otherwise plan on replacing your new boiler is a few short years.

    Also you now have the chance to install the correct sized boiler by measuring the connected radiation. It sounds like your boiler is too large for the job.
    Although the HVAC guy may be good at what he does, steam systems are just a completely different system than hot water.
    LS123
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    LS123 said:

    hi, perhaps he was referring to Slant/Fin ? i am also new to the site. perhaps one of the more experience forum members knows what you searched for... best!
    www.slantfin.com

    I looked up Slant Fin, that might be it, he did say it was narrower but about the same depth. Are these boilers good?
    JUGHNE said:

    One often gets a hole in the boiler by too much fresh water being added.
    If you have a return under the floor it may be leaking. It must come up thru the floor near the boiler. If you could find the other end of it where it comes up inside a finished wall you could flush and test it for leaks.
    Otherwise plan on replacing your new boiler is a few short years.

    Unfortunately, all the return pipes are under the floor or behind walls, I've looked around and can't find any exposed parts other than what is behind the boiler. My radiator vents are pretty "active" and I think one of them is cracked, they are probably all bad from years of high PSI. I'm thinking all the lost water is being lost there. Will need to have the HVAC guy factor that in their quote.

    Time to switch to electric heat? My Dyson is actually heating my first floor pretty well. :D
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    https://www.slantfin.com/history/ and a google search "stant finn steam boilers rating" or "slant fin boilers reviews"

    I have heard lots of good things, but somebody more experienced in this forum might be able to give a better assessment of slant fin boilers.

    As @JUGHNE mentioned, you should find the return line, as well as main vents... it may be even worth to spend few dollars extra and have the return lines (especially berried lines under the foundation)

    It is best to have a steam specialist do the job right and its definitely worthwhile. Try the steam specialist from the names that was given by Br. @Jamie Hall

    I have a 70 year old steam system which still works as a new one, the team system was installed so well and I probably not have to worry much for a while. My return lines are above ground, I can see the main vents.

    Reason many on the forum suggest a steam specialist, once it is done right, you would not have any worries for a long while.

    I had a oil burner service specialist for 4+ years, he only clean the boiler, replace filters and nozzle. From the forum I found out my main vents and some radiator vents needed replacement. And insulating the main pipes etc... boiler and lines have not been flushed for 5 years. by looking at it, it may not need a flushing, since I dont have to add water, perhaps a little once or twice a month. I dont have a auto water feeder. Although boiler is 70 years, it has about 15 year old burner and use very little oil ( 0.85 Gallons Per Hour) heats up the house really well....

    I highly recommend that you at least have one of the steam specialist recommended give you an evaluation / estimate of your whole steam heating system (not just replace the boiler)

    Best!
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    should be:

    As @JUGHNE mentioned, you should find the return line, as well as main vents... it may be even worth to spend few dollars extra and have the return lines (especially berried lines under the foundation) replaced.
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,746
    If it is Slant/Fin, that is a very high quality brand. As always, the real value is in the installation -- particularly with steam.

    Electric heat, unless you are either in an area with very low electricity cost or an area where a heat pump system has and can maintain a COP or at least 3 in the colder temperatures of the year is almost never a cost effective option. Neither is the case where you live. Where you have a steam system in place, you will be best served by finding a contractor -- I suggested 3 -- who can bring it up to speed and replace the boiler, if needed, and do it properly.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    LS123
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    edited March 20
    LS123 said:


    As @JUGHNE mentioned, you should find the return line, as well as main vents... it may be even worth to spend few dollars extra and have the return lines (especially berried lines under the foundation) replaced.

    Unfortunately, I feel like it's going to be a lot more than a few dollars. Honestly, this house has been a pain ever since we moved in. If I'm going to be ripping out walls and floors to find and fix a pipe, I should probably be doing some renovations while I'm at it. And all of this will come with a cost, which I will have to account for. I'm going to have to sleep on this for a few weeks. I've been trying to talk my wife into selling the house, but she's not on board with that idea. I feel like a lot of shady/strange things were done to this house by the previous owners. :/

    If it is Slant/Fin, that is a very high quality brand. As always, the real value is in the installation -- particularly with steam.

    Electric heat, unless you are either in an area with very low electricity cost or an area where a heat pump system has and can maintain a COP or at least 3 in the colder temperatures of the year is almost never a cost effective option. Neither is the case where you live. Where you have a steam system in place, you will be best served by finding a contractor -- I suggested 3 -- who can bring it up to speed and replace the boiler, if needed, and do it properly.

    That's great to hear! It seems Slant Fin only makes one steam boiler. Is steam that rare nowadays? Both my parents and my house use steam, so I actually thought it was normal.

    I'm definitely going to keep your suggested contractors in my phone book, thank you for your recommendations! Once I'm ready I'll be calling for a quote.

    About the electric heat idea, I'm not even going as far as heat pump, just space heaters. LOL It's going to be the most hassle free option, if it breaks, just order another one from Amazon and plug it in. But I know it's probably going to cost like 3x more to run than gas. It's a dumb idea, I know. LOL

    I only had this thought because I actually use a plug in thermostats (https://www.amazon.com/Lux-Automatic-Programmable-Thermostat-Compatible/dp/B000E7NYY8/) in my son's room with an electric oil filled radiator, since we keep his room a few degrees warmer than the rest of the house at night (he kicks off his blankets). It's 5/2 day programmable and it's been working pretty well for a few years.
    LS123
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    @tinlau

    you would not need to dig the berried lines and put the new return lines under ground / floor in the basement. New return lines probably would not need to be berried. you can leave the berried lines where they are if you getting above ground return line...

    I suggested replacing rerun line for the following reasons:
    - in the long term, high PSI (10 PSI for a while) , Cement / concrete, constantly adding new water, high temp etc. only increase the deterioration of the return line faster (as @JUGHNE mentioned)
    - As u mentioned previous owners may have cut corners to save money and nobody knows what was done.
    - Having an updated heating system will only add value to u r property
    - If you plan to sell, home inspector(s) of new buyers may notice the current condition of the heating system; and you may have to sell at a lower price.
    - Having a good working steam system will save lots of money in the long run. Such as increased efficiency, savings on fuel, nice and warm comfortable home for your family.
    ** most importantly If wife don't want to sell the house and stay comfortably at your house, and it is your HOME for a while... u got no choice bro :smiley: -

    ** in regards to ripping walls (at the moment... we are just assuming that you may need to rip large sections of wall), it may be minimal damages to the walls with a pro. The pipes / steam main vents, boiler etc. needs a inspection. in fact a good pro may have a camera that can be used to take a look at what is behind the wall with small hole. Also they dont need to take lots of walls out to put new return line (this is a guess, I dont know how your house / walls look like, and made of)

    If you basement is really old, I do not know if they have plaster walls or dry walls. regardless, fixing few small holes with some Drywall Repair Patch, some compound etc dont equate to major renovations. to fix damages to the walls not that costly (unless whole walls are taken down. how to fix the walls are only a guess... base on my experience. These days most people have completed basements ( and section out oil tank, hot water heater, boilers in certain rooms, and hidden away, like your boiler room)

    I would hope a more experience member in the forum would give feed back if steam is considered rare... I dont think so. When I had looked up some boilers, some good once have efficiency above 85 - to low 90s.

    The emphasize is on get a good boiler, have a experienced / reputable steam heat SYSTEMS pro give you an evaluation and estimate. (system - because, heating systems are not just a boiler) And getting the install done correctly like Br. @Jamie Hall mentioned. In my own experience, my system been here for 70+ years and probably would last another 20 years easily. It was well designed, and well installed.

    Getting the job done right by a pro will save you a lot. ( as mentioned by other members, and base on my own experience well installed steam systems, once a year clean up and replace few inexpensive parts, combustion chamber analysis and set up correctly, will last a very long time.

    Best way to use an example why you should have a steam pro look at your heating system is like this:

    For an example say a person has a some kind of discomfort in nose, throat, and ears.... person would probably go to the primary care physician, may be he knows whats going on, give you meds etc.... but the health issue is recurring...then the person go back to PCP and say... still having issues randomly, i need to get to the bottom of this.... then the PCP will refer you to a ear, nose, throat (ENT)specialist... and go from there... that is why majority of the forum members recommend a steam heating system pro eval / estimate u r system.... :smiley:

    Programmable Tstats are good, so may available... preference probably would be base on each home owners comfort level... once the heating system has been fixed / upgraded, you probably would not need a plug in one to keep you child's room warmer.

    You should take your time and decide what you would like to do, who you should get evaluations, what products to use etc. Especially as you mentioned you don't need to replace the boiler in a rush.

    It seems like you are learning a lot from everyone who has contributed to your discussion on the forum.
    Don't come to conclusion that you would have major repairs to the floors, walls, etc yet. you are just getting started with estimates and evaluations of your steam heating system.

    *** one of my favorites, one of my friend said to me to slow down when my younger days with a home project... he said "Rome was not built in a day" ( 100s and 100s of years)....I agreed... it takes time to do thing well planned and correctly... I also had a wise As* response to him... I said "it got burned quickly" (Great Fire of Rome, 6 days)

    I hope you will continue to engage this forum with any other questions you may have...
    Wish you best @tinlau !

    ** As @SteamingatMohawk mentioned you can save some money by insulating steam pipes in the basement. I read it takes about 13K BUT each time to heat up cool, cold steam pipes. Perhaps in the spring, summer project.

    13K few times a day x (times) x7 x30 x 12 x 10 would probably add up to good amount of money.
    *** I do not know exactly how 13K lost BTU from cold pipe was calculated. It may be far less, and / or far more on each house, system.



    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    Correction:
    13K few times a day x (times) x7 (days) x 4 (weeks) x 12 (months) x 10 (years) would probably add up to good amount of money. Or 13K few times a day x 365 (days)

    *** I do not know exactly how 13K lost BTU from cold pipe was calculated. It may be far less, and / or far more on each house / system.
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 475
    My calculations:

    Warm up BTU 13000
    hot temp 212
    cold temp 70
    cp BTU/#F 0.12 (This is the specific heat capacity, to heat or cool 1 lb of metal (steel, cast iron) 1 degree)

    energy per # 17.04 (Energy to heat up 1 lb from 70 to 212)

    # metal 762.9 ( Lb of metal to require 13000 BTU)

    The assumption is this is at least the weight of piping and radiators to heat up. It's probably not too far off for a single family house with less than about 10 radiators of different sizes.
    LS123
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    @SteamingatMohawk , thank you for this info on how to calculate amount of btu to warm up the supply pipes from a cold start. It seems like if no insulation, drafty colder basement that get below 70F, say 50F would take more BTU each cold start. thanks and Best!
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 475
    Yes, it's only the metal and ignoring heat losses.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,956
    LS123 said:
    Correction: 13K few times a day x (times) x7 (days) x 4 (weeks) x 12 (months) x 10 (years) would probably add up to good amount of money. Or 13K few times a day x 365 (days) 
    That second equation is easier and more accurate except that who runs their boiler all year? 😅
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 403
    good point there @ethicalpaul .... my calculations were intended for living in somewhere in the world it is cold 365 days and you have to heat your crib daily ... LOL


    Perhaps, one of those smart tstats that gives you daily hours of burner run time during any days you have to run the boiler would be correct as you point out.... or just run for few very cold days may give one a idea... but I was trying to point out value of insulation, and keeping basements warm so less oil be burned to heat up the pipes before the rads... :smiley:
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
    ethicalpaul
  • tinlau
    tinlau Member Posts: 13
    LS123 said:


    Programmable Tstats are good, so may available... preference probably would be base on each home owners comfort level... once the heating system has been fixed / upgraded, you probably would not need a plug in one to keep you child's room warmer.

    The heating in my son's room is fine, we keep the house at 65 at night, but use the plug in thermostat and oil filled heater to keep only his room at 70. It's actually a pretty nifty gadget, my friend got the same for his son's room.
    LS123 said:


    It seems like you are learning a lot from everyone who has contributed to your discussion on the forum.
    Don't come to conclusion that you would have major repairs to the floors, walls, etc yet. you are just getting started with estimates and evaluations of your steam heating system.

    Yes, you got that right! I'm VERY grateful to everyone who answered my questions and gave recommendations and comments. I really did learn a lot about my system this past week. I honestly didn't know what is normal or not with my boiler before this. I was able to correct the issue with the boiler pressure by setting the pressuretrol, but from what I understand, a properly running system is not supposed to build up that much pressure.

    Unfortunately, I did find out I have a hole in the heat exchanger, so I'll need to replace the boiler. And water heater while I'm at it because it's ancient.

    On an unrelated note, I did the math on using electric heat. Assuming I use 4kWh for heat for 12 hours a day during the coldest month (30 days), and using my most recent electricity rate of $.25/kWh (including delivery), it would cost me $360. :s
    LS123
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