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Steam in the south

Turbo Dave
Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
Hello all. I've been asked to develop a repair plan for a steam system in a courthouse in TN. The complaint is a lack of heat throughout the building. While I've followed here for years, I'm only experienced in hot water systems. I've not gained access to the top floor yet and have not seen any vents so far. I will measure all radiators to determine EDR before I leave here in 2 days. Please see attached photos. You can see the original boiler location at a diagonal from the left of the current boiler. I've not made sense of the piping at all so far. Your thoughts please. Thanks!











Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,173
    Oh help. Well, you are going to have a jolly time. You have one picture of a very old thermostatic radiator trap -- can you get a maker off of that? You also have a picture of a probably equally old radiator inlet valve. I don't suppose there's a maker on that?

    That said I'm going to go out on a limb here -- not that unusual! -- and say that there is a good chance that this was, once upon a time, a vapour -- low pressure -- system, and that the main venting and probably only venting was at or near the old boiler, on piping which has been long since almost hopelessly rearranged (the las picture shows something which might possibly be an air eliminator? Tucked up against the ceiling?)(that horzontal "radiator" might have been a condenser provided on the air outlet such as is found in some systems)

    I think the approach I would suggest is to assume that pretty much everything in that tangle of pipes and fittings and check valves and so on in the vicinity of the boiler is suspect, and to go back to the radiators themselves. Then go from there to the steam mains feeding them and the dry returns bringing condensate back and, likely air to a main vent (or that condenser) or... ?? And any wet returns and associated condensate drips.

    Trace all those back to the vicinity of the boiler. Then blot that plumber's nightmare from your mind's eye and figure out how the steam mains, dry returns, and wet returns might have connected to a boiler. Fundamentally, the steam mains would have been fed from a header of some kind. The dry returns would have joined and been vented and then dropped to the wet return. That drop and any wet returns would have fed into the bottom of a Hartford loop and thence into the boiler. Keep it simple!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Turbo Davemattmia2EdTheHeaterMan
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,380
    Two pipe vapor system which I am not an expert on.

    Get a copy of Dan'd book Lost Art of Steam Heat Revisited if you don't have one.

    Your going to need it.

    You probably have "Crossover traps" and your vent should be on or nears the boiler return trap

    Turbo Davemattmia2
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,515
    I suspect a lack of main venting, trapping the air, and preventing steam from flowing to the rads.
    A thermal camera would show which pipes are main supplies, and which are returns. It might also enable the location of any crossover traps, and of defective radiator traps.
    I think you can assume that it may follow the general layout of a Dunham two-pipe system.
    Probably all the radiator, and any crossover traps will need to have new guts installed.
    I wonder if that boiler needs another riser.
    Picture 5 shows what appears to be a main vent above the fire extinguisher, which may not even be in the right place, and certainly looks inoperative.—NBC
    Turbo Dave
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    Yes, I expect this will be fun! I have a copy of LAoSH back at my office in Alaska. I could not get photos of the job before I arrived, and was surprised to see a steam system vs. hot water. I will go back and see if I can get info off any of the traps. I went back to a post from 2011, but the links provided to the Dunham system from Steamhead are no longer available for viewing. I'll report back with more photos.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 4,008
    Look for a name on that device that is to the left of the boiler near the ceiling with the multi bolt cover as well.
    Turbo Dave
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 761
    This looks like an old Dunham vapor system.
    It operated on steam pressures from 4-8 oz. steam pressure.
    I think you will need to replace the steam traps or elements if available.
    This includes the radiator valves.
    Do not see air venting for the system.
    May have had crossover traps.
    The old check valves at the base of the return should also be replaced.

    The problem seems to have occurred when the boiler was changed out.

    need better pictures to help identify some of the parts.

    To make the system work better orificed radiator valves need to be installed.
    Mepco is the place you can get most parts, especially the radiator valves.
    You can have mepco set the orifices by supplying the edr of each radiator. Important mark the location of each radiator so the correct valve will be put on each radiator.

    The drawing of the boiler return system has critical measurements.

    Do not forget the pipe insulation!

    The Dunham air check or known as a penny valve has a very low cracking pressure and you may need two of them to vent the air from the system.
    The air check may allow the system to go into a vacuum w2hen the boiler shuts down.

    Jake

    See the enclosure.

    Turbo Dave
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    Good to hear from you, @Turbo Dave !

    That's a Dunham Return system, as shown in chapter 15 of Lost Art- and yes, it's a Vapor system.

    You can see the Return Trap and the Air Trap a.k.a. Float Trap/Air Eliminator in the last pic. The Air Trap is the only air vent in the entire system, so if it can't vent, the system won't heat properly. Remember, if the air can't get out, the steam can't get in. I've seen cases where the float gets stuck closed, but could open it by pushing a sight-glass rod down thru the vent opening.

    The traps look like Dunham #1-series- might be 1, 1A thru 1E or whatever, but you can still get parts for them. Dunham still exists as MEPCO, and you can also get parts from Barnes & Jones or Tunstall. Don't forget the crossover traps, where the best option is to replace them with Big Mouths.

    The boiler is a Dunkirk with the usual Beavis & Butt-Head piping job we see so frequently on Dunkirks. It needs to be re-piped, with a minimum 2 2-1/2" risers and a 3" header. Only then will you get dry steam.

    Where in TN is this?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    mattmia2EBEBRATT-Ed
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    @Steamhead Hello again. This is in Woodbury, TN, where our trip 10 years ago originated from. It's fantastic how quickly the system was identified here. What an amazing resource this forum is. I would have brought LAoSH if I had known it was steam system. I anticipate the boiler being replaced as part of the project, but that is undetermined at the moment. I will be able to go back into the building today to measure all radiators and take the Dunham piping drawing in with me for comparison.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    Take more pics too!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Turbo Dave
  • jblum
    jblum Member Posts: 2
    edited May 28
    I noticed that the boiler looks like it's piped for hydronic heating, not steam.
    I have not seen a steam boiler with a side header connection. A steam boiler needs ample-sized vertical outlets that extend a header close to ceiling level so that dry steam goes out to the building and carryover flows directly back into the boiler.

    This system was designed for a coal-fired boiler that had a large water capacity compared to modern boilers, and that was started slowly, taking time before it reached a full fire. Modern boilers have a small water capacity and start at full fire. There is a need to include a condensate return tank/boiler feed unit to maintain a steady water level in the boiler.

    Jim Blum
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,173
    Actually there are steam boilers with side outlets. They take a little more care in piping, but they are common enough.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    jblum said:

    I noticed that the boiler looks like it's piped for hydronic heating, not steam.
    I have not seen a steam boiler with a side header connection. A steam boiler needs ample-sized vertical outlets that extend a header close to ceiling level so that dry steam goes out to the building and carryover flows directly back into the boiler.

    As I said- a Beavis & Butt-Head piping job.
    jblum said:

    This system was designed for a coal-fired boiler that had a large water capacity compared to modern boilers, and that was started slowly, taking time before it reached a full fire. Modern boilers have a small water capacity and start at full fire. There is a need to include a condensate return tank/boiler feed unit to maintain a steady water level in the boiler.

    Not always. Remember, when you boil a certain quantity of water it expands 1700 times. Most times that's enough to fill the system with steam without using that much boiler water as long as the steam pressure is kept low. Vapor systems like this were designed to run on ounces, rather than pounds of pressure, so if you raise the pressure too much you'll boil too much water in the boiler, which then needs to be made up from somewhere.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    mattmia2
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    edited June 11
    @Steamhead and @dopey27177:
    I took many more photos and measured every radiator in the building.
    1) I need to determine total EDR to select a new boiler. Most radiators seem to be the "water" type tube. I am unsure about how to figure the radiators suspended in the basement though.
    2) I am leaning towards a Peerless 63 or 64, depending on EDR. Are the near-boiler piping kits from Peerless worthwhile, or is a drop header worth the additional labor? I would use a local plumber there to cut and thread.
    3) The customer desires individual space temperature control. My first thought are TRVs. Is there a reason these could not be used throughout? I want to replace the radiator valves regardless, many have been replaced with Trane Thermatics.

    4) I fear overheating of this building, once the system is restored to it's full potential. Tennessee is much warmer than 100 years ago, and they plan to replace the leaky single-pane windows with triples in the near future. I plan a Tekmar 279 control and 552 thermostat, but am still wary of overheat complaints.

    Please see the additional photos. I have a good GoPro video as well. I've not shared one before, maybe an upload to YouTube?

    Thanks!

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    edited June 11
    You're on the right track. From the type of radiators there, that system was installed sometime between 1925 and 1939.

    The ceiling radiators are actually standard wall rads. You'll find examples from that time period on pages 130, 158 and 181 of "E.D.R.". Use whichever one is the closest match.

    Get your radiation count done, pick out your boiler and then we'll talk about piping.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    edited June 12
    I forgot to mention I got this book from Ebay. It's great!
    PC7060
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    We have several editions of the Dunham book, starting with the #214 IIRC.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Turbo DavePC7060
  • Mike_Breault
    Mike_Breault Member Posts: 34
    Good day, Mike from tekmar here. you mentioned the 552 with the 279. the 279 is not a TN control, nor does it use a thermostat. If you need indoor feedback the 054 RTU can be used (up to 2) as a sensor input. (other room sensors like the 084 as well, then the target temp can be programmed.
    Turbo Dave
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    Hi Mike. I recommended this a decade ago, but this will be my first 279 installation. I remembered an indoor sensor should be used, but forgot a thermostat will not. A 076 will be fine. I extol the virtues of indoor temperature feedback on a regular basis. While I'm sure the sales volume is low, a 2-stage TN steam control would be a fantastic offering. Thank you for your help.
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    @ Steamhead said "Get your radiation count done, pick out your boiler and then we'll talk about piping."

    OK. I received my copy of EDR (Thank you again Dan Holohan!) and easily found the radiators. 1432 sq ft. A Peerless #64-11 has a capacity of 1433 sq ft. That's nearly double the gross input BTU of the Dunkirk that's been there the last 30 years. One reason the building has been cold for sure.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863

    @Steamhead said "Get your radiation count done, pick out your boiler and then we'll talk about piping."

    OK. I received my copy of EDR (Thank you again Dan Holohan!) and easily found the radiators. 1432 sq ft. A Peerless #64-11 has a capacity of 1433 sq ft. That's nearly double the gross input BTU of the Dunkirk that's been there the last 30 years. One reason the building has been cold for sure.

    "Uhhhhh, Beavis, is this boiler big enough?"

    "Who cares, Butt-head- huh-huh huh-huh huh-huh"

    The 63/64 series manual is here:

    https://www.peerlessboilers.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/6364_TT8066-R18_IOM_web.pdf

    On pages 15-16, it specifies two 3" risers to a 4" header. I would do a drop header to better allow for expansion and contraction. Peerless unfortunately does not offer a piping kit for boilers this size. If there are no good suppliers in that area, you might end up getting your nipples and fittings from someplace like Supplyhouse.com .

    If there is a lot of uninsulated steam pipe or if rads have been removed, I'd take @DanHolohan 's advice and use a greater pickup factor. That would put you into the 64-12, which would use the same piping.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Turbo Dave
    Turbo Dave Member Posts: 76
    Thankfully there's a Ferguson within 30 miles, so pipe and fittings won't be hard to obtain. I know from reading here that a drop header is best, that will be the plan. We will insulate all exposed piping in the basement. There has been 1 radiator removed. I'll get the pricing for vents, valves, traps, etc. and put a bid together soon.
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,172
    @ Steamhead said "Get your radiation count done, pick out your boiler and then we'll talk about piping." OK. I received my copy of EDR (Thank you again Dan Holohan!) and easily found the radiators. 1432 sq ft. A Peerless #64-11 has a capacity of 1433 sq ft. That's nearly double the gross input BTU of the Dunkirk that's been there the last 30 years. One reason the building has been cold for sure.

    Hi not sure if you did this job yet but my opinion I’d use a WM 4-80 or 5-80 with a Carlin or powerflame, can’t beat a wet base boiler for a large job.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,357

    Hello all. I've been asked to develop a repair plan for a steam system in a courthouse in TN. The complaint is a lack of heat throughout the building. While I've followed here for years, I'm only experienced in hot water systems. I've not gained access to the top floor yet and have not seen any vents so far. I will measure all radiators to determine EDR before I leave here in 2 days. Please see attached photos. You can see the original boiler location at a diagonal from the left of the current boiler. I've not made sense of the piping at all so far. Your thoughts please. Thanks!











    @DanHolohan got some free time.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,447
    This is going to work very well once you're done. Thanks for sharing!
    Retired and loving it.
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 761
    Recommended:

    Replace all check valves in the system, they are well past their life.
    Rebuild all Dunham steam traps, replace all traps that are not Dunham with Dunham traps, makes life easier when repair parts ae needed because you cn keep some elements on hand when a trap fails.
    Use Dunham orificed radiator valves, have Dunham set orifice by radiator size, have them mark the valves by radiator size you supply.
    since the building will upgrade the envelope have Dunham cut back the orifice by 15%.
    Cover all exposed steam pipe with 1" fiberglass insulation.
    On crossover piping repair or replace the steam traps.

    Jake
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,515
    Also, do not reveal all of your plans, but simply state the improvements of performance. Someone in control, may have a brother-in-law who they feel could do a cheaper job.
    You will make much more when you return to correct the mistakes!—NBC
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 492
    edited July 21
    I worked for a large boiler company in Pittsburgh, Pa and any time we quoted a job another company would take our bid and use our quote to beat our price. Our quotes always listed the parts and equipment, so shopping our quotes was easy. My idea for a solution was to quote a job as usual but to list all the wrong sizes and models of parts that I knew were not compatible. The first job we did this on yielded a lot of nasty phone calls from competitors that would never check on any of the items listed probably because it took too much time. They would just order and install what we listed. Imagine their frustration after they installed the wrong equipment and it would never perform as it was supposed to. After a few of these quotes, nobody shopped our quotes, since they never knew if our quotes had any flaws in it.
    ratioAlan (California Radiant) ForbesCLamb
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863

    I worked for a large boiler company in Pittsburgh, Pa and any time we quoted a job another company would take our bid and use our quote to beat our price. Our quotes always listed the parts and equipment, so shopping our quotes was easy. My idea for a solution was to quote a job as usual but to list all the wrong sizes and models of parts that I knew were not compatible. The first job we did this on yielded a lot of nasty phone calls from competitors that would never check on any of the items listed probably because it took too much time. They would just order and install what we listed. Imagine their frustration after they installed the wrong equipment and it would never perform as it was supposed to. After a few of these quotes, nobody shopped our quotes, since they never knew if our quotes had any flaws in it.

    I love this! >:)

    This is why we never break down our quotes- they just list, for example, the boiler or indirect model "and anything else needed". If someone comes back and wants everything listed, we refuse, knowing they are just shopping our quote. At this point, we know they're wasting our time.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ratio
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 761
    Never had a situation like that. The above makes good sense.
    I did things a little different. I just provided a bid and guaranteed a certain fuel savings and comfort level.
    If that was not reached Certain percentiles would be subtracted from the final bill. This was a punch list listed in the proposal that would return money to the customer. Never got stuck because most places I worked in were so bad in operation that I could not miss.

    Jake
  • @Turbo Dave What a fantastic opportunity for us to follow along and learn. Keep it coming!
    Often wrong, never in doubt.