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Steam coming out condensate tank vent

austinfogt
austinfogt Member Posts: 9
Hello all, I own a ~2k square foot rental property that has a single pipe steam system.

The issue I am chasing (and have been for some time) is that during the heating cycle, steam will start blowing out the atmospheric vent of the condensate tank.

There are about 13 radiators (I need to do an accurate count), and all have functioning steam vents on them (new or tested). The system is somewhat new, with the boiler and condensate tank being spliced in to the old cast pipe with copper.

I've had 4 local heating companies out and all 4 have said its functioning as designed, and that's just not true so I am coming to you guys for whatever assistance you can provide.

Things I have done so far:
Extended hartford loop, replaced many of the radiator vents, drained and refilled boiler, turned down the pressure stat to as low as it will go, and finally last year I did some research and discovered there just weren't main line vents installed (there were but they were radiator sized vents), so I installed two Gorton #1s at the end of both primary loops.

I don't know what to do next, is the boiler oversized? I am short on time to get this issue fixed before the next tenants move in, and the massive amount of steam escaping the boiler is causing mold issues. At this point I would be more than happy to pay for someone who knows these systems to do some phone counseling with me.

Any assistance appreciated!

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Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,931
    Usually with a cond pump there is a F&T trap on the end of the steam main.
    Can you post pictures of all the piping around the boiler. Also any thing that might look like a trap on the end of the steam main.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,834
    Also, @austinfogt , where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,739
    A 2,000 square foot, 1-pipe steam system with 13 radiators doesn't seem like the place for a condensate receiver tank. But as @JUGHNE said, if there is a need for it to be there, it ought to be on the gravity side of a steam trap or some piping arrangement to protect it from live steam.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,249
    @austinfogt

    With a condensate pump you must have a steam trap or a loop seal. Follow the return line that brings the condensate into the feed tank untill you find it. Take a few pictures
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    I am located in Marquette Michigan, it gets very cold here.

    Attached are some pictures, if you'd like some different angles or anything let me know. 



  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,814
    First, steam should never come out anywhere, if it does there is always a problem.
    Second, I'm reasonably sure, as others suggested, that you don't even need the tank. It looks like someone hacked on that system quite a bit over the years and someone thought it was a good idea to add it, when it probably never had one before. You have plenty of height there and nothing I can see in those pics that prevents gravity return directly into the boiler.

    The issue it seems you are having is an absence of knowledgeable contractors in the area if they don't even understand steam coming out is a problem.

    I've seen people from Michigan on here before and it seems like a dead zone for getting a good steam contractor. Not sure if anyone else may have a suggestion on that one.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    That poor boiler... sigh...

    Well, at least part of your problem is quite visible. Consider those two pipes with the vents on them. Are those steam return lines to the boiler? That is to say, are they separated in any way from the regular steam mains? If not, they contain steam (which you would notice by the vents getting hot and closing). Under boiler pressure. Now -- they go, so far as I can make out, straight down and into the condensate tank via a short nipple and an equally short up leg. If all that is so, is it any wonder that steam gets into the condensate tank and on out the vent? Anything over half a psi is going to blow right through that.

    You basically have two choices: lose the condensate tank (it's not needed) and connect those two vertical pipes with vents on them, at floor level, to a proper Hartford loop (I don't see one of those, either) or put F&T traps on both those vertical pipes.

    And those two pipes with vents on them have to be connected below the boiler water line or -- with the tank -- after the F&Ts.

    That's for starters.

    I have no idea who did the rest of the piping and plumbing I see, but I sure hope it wasn't a licensed person.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,949
    edited May 3
    They are in marquette which is about 500 miles from metro detroit where most of the population is and there are few residential contractors that know steam around detroit.

    Get "the lost art of steam heating" and read.

    Where does that copper pipe that drops down between the boiler and the condensate pump go?

    edit: i see now, it is just the water feed.

    Pressure is the only way i see that steam can get in to the tank. clogged pigtail, control not working, control that doesn't go low enough.

    Does it bang or is steam in the condensate tank your only problem?
    bucksnort
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    Lots to digest here. I'll answer from the bottom up as best I can.

    Steam coming out the tank is my only issue.

    The two steam mains make a circle and come back and down into what I believe is the hartford loop seen beside the condensate tank, that is the only thing standing between steam and condensate tank vent. I'll attach another picture so it's clear what I'm talking about.

    It's my understanding that the loop should keep steam out of the tank, I've never seen another steam system, so I have no idea what a proper sized loop looks like, I will do some research of my own on this topic.

    The loop pictured is approximately two feet tall, the right side is coming from where both steam main ends tee together then drop down, soon after their vents. It then does the pictured drop, comes up to feed into the condensate tank. The feed is very roughly an inch below boiler water line.





    The whole thing was installed by a local company who put their sticker on the boiler. It was not hacked up after install, except by me who added the steam vents last year.
    dennis53
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    After reading, and looking, it doesn't have a hartford loop. The trap section pictured above is something I don't know the name of. I could moderately easily cut the tank out, and plumb in a proper hartford loop with a water supply.

    I'll wait for some more opinions and more of my own research before getting the saw out though... 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,949
    That loop is just a water seal, it keeps the steam from the return out of the condensate tank. If the pressure is greater than the weight of the water in the water seal, it will push through the water and in to the tank, likely with a lot of water hammer in the process. 1 psi is about 27 inches of water so you probably either need a vaporstat or to make that loop closer to 3.5 ft. I wonder what problem they were trying to solve with that condensate tank.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    "t's my understanding that the loop should keep steam out of the tank, I've never seen another steam system, so I have no idea what a proper sized loop looks like, I will do some research of my own on this topic."

    Well... it would, if the steam pressure were low enough. If it really is two feet from the bottom of the loop to the outlet in the tank, the most it will withstand is 13 OUNCES per square inch pressure. Anything over that and the steam will just blow right through and into the tank. And into the atmosphere. Not good.

    Please do do the research, but I think you will find that first, you don't need the condensate tank and pump and all that at all. Second, the two vertical lines coming down where the vents are must come all the way down to the floor before they join. Otherwise steam can go from one to the other and close both vents before the air is out of the slower main. Uneven heat. Then, having joined at the floor they will go over to the bottom of a Hartford loop, and on into the boiler. The equalizer from the boiler header must feed into the top of the Hartford loop.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,249
    @austinfogt

    Unfortunately your piping is a mess. Try lowering the steam pressure as much as possible
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,931
    Did you clean the pigtail under the pressure control? All the way into the boiler and look at the bottom of the pressure control?

    That looks to be a feeder pump....rather than the usual condensate pump.
    The boiler calls for water the feeder pump runs.....with a condensate pump it just runs when full, doesn't care what the boiler needs.

    They may have added the feeder pump concerned that the water would not return to the boiler quick enough.

    But with only your 2 over head returns (end of mains) the water should flow readily.
    (Unlike wet return pipes on or under the floor that are sludged up).
    But your boiler piping leaves a lot to be desired, it could be throwing wet steam up to the mains and running the water level low. The feeder tank gives you a reserve of water to use if this is a problem.

    If you go on line and look for your boiler model number, there will be a manual (maybe 60 pages) you can view. There are a few pages showing boiler piping.
    That looks to be a Utica boiler, could be any number of name brands on it, but the side outlets was common to Utica IIRC.
    At least they used both outlets and gave you a skim port on one tee.
    The pipe is most likely too small. Copper is not considered good for steam piping above the water line.

    You need very low pressure....won't even show on the factory 30 PSI gauge.
    Or elevate the pump to get a deeper loop seal from the steam.

    The steam and high temps will eventually wreck the pump seal.
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,739
    Those pictures are shocking. The room needs one professional to get in there and fix it.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber
    in New York
    in New Jersey
    for Consulting Work
    or take his class.
    JUGHNEEBEBRATT-Ed
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,249
    @JohnNY

    I was thinking the same but afraid to spit that out :)
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039

    @JohnNY

    I was thinking the same but afraid to spit that out :)

    That's sort of what I was getting at with my comment on hoping that the work wasn't that of a licensed professional...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Kickstand55
    Kickstand55 Member Posts: 32
    Good Grief Charlie Brown!
    What a HACK JOB. With all that I see here, and there's a lot, I believe it best to cut out the tank, totally re-pipe the entire system correctly with iron, add vents on the returns. Most important, before you do anything, check the pitch on the piping to see if any corrections are needed. Don't forget the pipe insulation.
    Everything needs to be in order for this system to be efficient and trouble free. Maintenance is also important.
    I would contact the installer and ask what they will do to make corrections.
    Was there a permit taken and an inspection done? Were they licensed inline with the task performed? If not, that can pose trouble for the installer, if it was a legit contractor, and if not, bigger trouble.
    Here in New Hampshire, the authorities are looking to charge unlicensed and licensed contractors with misdemeanors and felonies for non permitted work, failures, damage and so on. Scary stuff.
    All mechanical work except repairs, (maybe not in your jurisdiction) should have permits and inspections.
    It covers you and the property if there is a catastrophic failure, water/flood, mold, rot or worse. Insurance companies can opt not to pay damages if that is the case. I've heard these stories.
    I'm not trying to stir trouble here. You're the person handing out the money for a job that's supposed to be well done. We want you to be safe and have a comfortable operating system. I believe that's the reason you came here.
    Good Luck with your endeavors.
    P.S. Let us know how this works out. Otherwise we'll all be waiting and wondering until we're Dead Men.
    Dave
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,228
    Most inspectors know absolutely nothing about steam, as long as the gas pipe has no obvious openings they are happy to get in and out as fast as possible.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,949
    Assuming marquette even has an inspection and permitting process.
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, even if that wasn't what I was hoping to hear.

    I went over to the code department and attempted to look up the permit that the system was installed under, but they purge their records after 10 years, and they were unwilling to look in the archives. I don't think calling the original installer will get me anywhere as the system has been in place and heating the house for years at this point. I believe it was installed two owners before me. Plus if they installed it wrong in the first place, I have little faith that they would be capable of fixing it.

    I have called a few other contractors, and none work on steam system so I will be going this one alone. I have purchased the book referenced above, and will learn about how to properly pipe the system, and re-pipe everything that was done in copper removing the condensate tank in the process.

    I will update you all once the process is under way.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    And don't forget, @austinfogt , to ask questions anytime you are uncertain or want another viewpoint -- we may be occasionally harsh, but we do try to help folks out when we can!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,122
    Once you see and "internalize" what it should actually be like and start cutting, I think you are just going to be constantly shaking your head as you cut more and more unnecessary pieces out. It should be pretty fun!

    As a born and raised Michigander I wish you the best result!
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,931
    At least the price of scrap copper is at an all time high.
    ethicalpaulJohnNY
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,949
    The header is...unique, but i'm not sure it is so bad functionally. The condensate /feed tank is the weird and almost certainly unnecessary part.

    Is the water line stable in the boiler when it is steaming? Did we ask before?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,249
    edited May 5
    @austinfogt

    Don't take the condensate tank to the scrap yard until you are sure you can run without it, you would hate to have to buy another one. maybe it was added for water capacity.

    When you repipe the returns you might want to leave a tee and a avlve to bypass the condensate tank. That way if you need it it can be piped in easily without repiping everything
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 748
    Remove the condensate pump!!
    Tie all the steam main drips into a wet return at the floor level.
    The wet return will be horizontal piped just above the floor, with full sized clean out ts to allow for periodic removal of sludge, Each steam main drip must have a vent valve 6-12" from the vertical drop. I recommend Gorton #1 vent valves on each drip.
    If you install steam traps on each steam drip you are looking at a price tag of more than $500.00.
    The size of your house does not require a condensate pump, that condensate tank could work well in a small apartment house that has long condensate lag time.

    No traps no pump no mechanical maintenance.

    jake
    JohnNYaustinfogt
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    edited July 23
    I finally have an update worth sharing.

    Found a mechanical contractor who seems to know what he's talking about,said all the right things, and I do actually believe he knows his stuff.

    I was not prepared for the quote I recieved, I could still knock it out myself, but I would have to buy all the iron pipe cutting and threading equipment, the pipe, etc, but probably could save a few dollars at the end of it, assuming I get the layout correct.. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,834
    edited July 22
    We do NOT discuss pricing on this forum. You need to edit that out. See: https://heatinghelp.com/forum-user-manual

    With that said- this is a bigger job than you think. Assuming the job is done right, it takes a lot of time and effort.

    That is a Dunkirk boiler, which may have been re-branded. It requires two 2-1/2" risers to the header. I would increase the header size to 3-inch, since Dunkirk gas boilers are known for producing wet steam. The larger header will help dry the steam out.

    It would also make sense to arrange the header so, when it comes time to replace that boiler, the header won't have to be repiped. Why do the work twice?

    Also- I don't think we ever definitely established what type of steam system this is. Are there two pipes connected to each radiator, or just one?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,931
    I have seen your $ numbers above (they should go away soon), and you will not save the amount you are thinking of.

    I have studied here on the wall and numerous books; and serviced and repaired boilers for about 20 years and finally get to do replacement consisting of 3 units.

    It is good that I have the entire summer for this as I am over the 1/2 way point just now.

    There is much more time and thought involved in the assembly of piping than one imagines.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 748
    This is my second visit to your problem!

    You got a quote for a full repipe.

    What is he going to do?
    Remember you have no team traps, you have loop seals hat cannot work because they can't be equalized.
    You have a condensate pump that does not need to be in this small heating system.

    Your boiler piping is a mess and needs to be done over as per the manufacturers instructions.
    The most economical repair for you is to fix the boiler piping, drop the end of steam main runs to the floor and install Vent valves at each drop leg.

    By dropping the end of steam main runs to the floor you are installing a wet return. The piping from each wet return can be 1" tied int an 1 1//4" main return piped to the boiler and connected to a Hartfort Loop. A wet return means you do not need a condensate pump.

    On paper have contractor state what all the work is and guarantee a result.

    My estimate for this job if done correctly can go into 5 numbers.

    Jake
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    Apologies for breaking the rules, I have edited my post to bring it back in line.

    It is a single pipe steam system, one pipe to each radiator.

    I will request a more detailed scope of work from the contractor, the quote I was sent included a single line item "re-pipe boiler".

    I truely appreciate all the replies, thank you for your time
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 748
    Did you get a price to do the whole job?

    Did he also include the the re-pipe of the the returns to wet returns and cover the steam piping?

    Jake
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    Well I decided to accept proposal for a full re-pipe. They finished the installation yesterday, but their tech has to come fire it up which won't happen for a week or two.


  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,931
    This certainly looks a lot better.
    Did you or the installer ever look at the install manual for this boiler?
    As Steamhead mentioned the boiler riser are to be 2 1/2" to a 2 1/2" header.
    Your risers look to reduce to 2" right at the boiler.

    So please let us know how this compromise works out in the future.

    I assume you do manual water fill as needed?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,834
    edited August 27
    JUGHNE said:

    As Steamhead mentioned the boiler riser are to be 2 1/2" to a 2 1/2" header.
    Your risers look to reduce to 2" right at the boiler.

    I see the same thing. Do NOT accept this work. The risers from the boiler to the header MUST be 2-1/2" and the header needs to be at least that size.

    It looks like the guy just copied what was there, rather than reading the manual. The manual is here:

    https://dunkirk.com/sites/default/files/14683003 DUNKIRK PSB IOM REV N.pdf

    The piping specifications are on pages 10-11 of the PDF file.

    Don't pay them until it's right.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • austinfogt
    austinfogt Member Posts: 9
    Unfortunately I feel like I am reading a thread from a homeowner where I just shake my head at their stupidity.

    I wrote the check, it's in the mail now.

    They made some excuse about not having the equipment to thread 2.5 inch and how it isn't standard, blah blah. 

    I don't really have another choice of company to deal with, and their guy claims it won't affect the anything on a system of this size. I don't really buy it, but the house is heating, and according to them they fulfilled their end of the contract by providing a working system.

    Someone please tell me in practical terms what I am losing by not have 2.5 inch piping? I've learned a lesson in contract writing here, but I need to know whether I should quietly take my licks and be better for the next one, or press this issue further. 


    Additional update:


    2 weeks (warm weeks) after start up the LWCO stopped everything and someone had to go fill the boiler up, so now they're coming back to put in an auto fill (the VXT recommended somewhere else). Is this normal? As the property is a rental I can't expect the tenants to fill the boiler, but I can go flush it as needed at the start and end of heating season.

    Again thank you all for your help, and patience
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,039
    It shouldn't have used that much water in that length of time -- but the VXT is exactly what you need for a place that doesn't have a building super or somebody of the sort to keep an eye on things.

    Question is... where'd the water go? It would be well to find out...

    On the 2 inch pipe. Lazy. But... if it isn't giving you water hammer problems, the worst it will do is hurt your efficiency overall somewhat.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,425
    edited November 16
    The smaller-than-spec size pipe increases the steam velocity, which can suck water out of the boiler and that will affect the quality of the steam. That can lead to water-level problems at the boiler. 

    Physics doesn’t care that the guy didn’t show up with the necessary tools to install the pipe size the boiler manufacturer insists is necessary. Physics will do what it does, hence the need for the larger pipe. 
    Retired and loving it.
    JohnNY
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,249
    @austinfogt

    Your installer could have measured the 2 1/2" pipe and found a supply house or a mechanical contractor to cut it for them.

    They only would have to have had 3 pieces of pipe cut and threaded. The rest could have been purchased pipe nipples.

    What a shame it couldn't have been done right
    BobC