Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

can you use copper for a steam radiator return?

bbillcee
bbillcee Member Posts: 33
i have an old black pipe return that was buried under a door that is rotting put...can i replace this with copper? if so is there a problem mixing the metals?
«1

Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,421
    The die hard steamers will say not to. But it has been done successfully by many. There may be some issues with dissimilar metal over time but the time is going to be many years. Then it is the next guy's problem. That is why you want to get black pipe and fittings (not galvanized) just in case YOU are the next guy. Seems like the Black Pipe will insure that YOU are not the next guy.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,165
    Shouldn't be a problem... I hope... having done that a few times...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,374
    @bbillcee

    The general rule is copper is ok below the boiler water line. Above the boiler water line it should be black pipe.

    But sometimes you do the best you can. Certainly the steam near boiler piping and the steam mains should not be copper
    Hap_Hazzard
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,421

    Shouldn't be a problem... I hope... having done that a few times...

    @Jamie Hall says it's ok... then it's ok. He has done this and he is still at the location where he did it... so he IS that NEXT GUY!

    ...and hs has over 7 times more posts than me!
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,001
    Concerning the dissimilar metals, many suggest a brass valve between the copper and black iron....at each end.
    IIWM, I would add a hose bib in the copper at each end. Then you could flush the line and see what might be in there after a few years.
  • bbillcee
    bbillcee Member Posts: 33
    thanks guys, here some pics of the mess!



  • delcrossv
    delcrossv Member Posts: 177
    Threaded brass pipe?
    Trying to squeeze the best out of a Weil-McLain JB-5 running a 1912 1 pipe system.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,374
    Those elbows should be taken off and replaced with tees. When you drop under a doorway your also supposed to pipe over the door for a vent. But if it heated well before i guess you can skip that.

    I wouldn't hesitate to use copper there. You should put something around the pipe under the floor to prevent corossion.
    bbillceeEdTheHeaterMan
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 4,008
    What happened to the pex discussion? Seems that pex would be rated at far more than 30 psi at 212 f and would solve a lot of ground and masonry contact problems in a wet return.
    bbillceeethicalpaul
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,001
    Can you explain the piping on that radiator in the picture?
    Does it heat well?
    Where does the pipe on the left side go to?
    bbillcee
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,847
    Ok, this is weird to me. There is a bottom connection feeding from the top, there is a top connection feeding from the bottom. This is the basement, that's a wet return.

    That entire rad, or a large portion of it, has to be below the boiler water line, unless the boiler is in a deep pit? Even so, the radiator connections make no sense.

    For the original question I'd do copper on that, and the aforementioned tees (for me for cleanouts) all day long. I'd also install it in such a manner that if more of the other run rotted out, I could easily replace it. Either unions, or running the copper above ground a short distance as it's easier to cut later.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,139
    mattmia2 said:

    What happened to the pex discussion? Seems that pex would be rated at far more than 30 psi at 212 f and would solve a lot of ground and masonry contact problems in a wet return.

    I can't find ratings for anything higher than 200 degrees, but it's OK for 80psi at that temperature so I would think it would be fine for any wet return, especially a buried one where the ground will act to cool it.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    mattmia2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,165
    I've never seen a reference to PEX being able to withstand anything over 200 F. One has to remember that the strength doesn't fall gently and gracefully with temperature... things melt or begin to deform very easily.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,139
    edited November 22
    OK what is the temperature of a wet return? I think I'd bet it's well under 200 and now I must check :)
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,165

    OK what is the temperature of a wet return? I think I'd bet it's well under 200 and now I must check :)

    Should be well under 200. It might be warm... but not much more than that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 4,008
    I guess the issue might be if something goes awry and it ends up dry and full of steam.
    JUGHNE
  • bbillcee
    bbillcee Member Posts: 33
    JUGHNE said:
    Can you explain the piping on that radiator in the picture? Does it heat well? Where does the pipe on the left side go to?
    My great uncle Had the house built in 35, my father bought it off him in 66 and I bought in 2006 .. the story was that this configuration was taken from “popular mechanics” back in the day… it’s simply using the return hot water to put out some additional heat with the radiator hooked in … does the radiator get hot? Yes not burning but it puts out heat … I’m not a plumber but it seems to work🤷🏻‍♂️I would assume the rad has to fully fill up with water before it returns to the boiler… I have question That maybe someone here can answer… how much water actually raturns? A gallon? 5 gallons? 10 gallons?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,374
    @bbillcee

    It depends on how much condensate come back through that pipe.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,001
    Heating with steam condensate returning.

    That rad would stay full of water up to the height of the boiler water line.
    It is part of the wet return system.

    All your wet return lines below the boiler water line are always full of water.
    It sits in the pipe and part of your radiator until some more is added to the end where the pipe drops down from the heating main.
    Add in one end and it flows out the other end.

    That is why maybe it might be good to replace all the wet return you have, if practical. Nasty water sits in it all year long.
    It is like a trap under the sink.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,139
    mattmia2 said:

    I guess the issue might be if something goes awry and it ends up dry and full of steam.

    If your wet return is dry and full of steam you have bigger problems
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Hap_Hazzard
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,165

    mattmia2 said:

    I guess the issue might be if something goes awry and it ends up dry and full of steam.

    If your wet return is dry and full of steam you have bigger problems
    Like... much bigger problems!

    On the return water question -- that's not hard to figure out. Every 10,000 BTUh that the boiler is putting out will result in about 1.25 gallons of condensate per hour. We usually think in terms of gallons per minute for water flow -- but for condensate we are talking fractions of a cup per minute!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ethicalpaul
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,847
    Interesting idea, I’m guessing there is a drip off the main that feeds the condensate into the bottom.

    I can’t imagine how much crud must be in that thing.

    Has it ever been flushed out?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 4,008
    KC_Jones said:

    Interesting idea, I’m guessing there is a drip off the main that feeds the condensate into the bottom.

    I can’t imagine how much crud must be in that thing.

    Has it ever been flushed out?

    Since it doesn't appear that there is any way to do that without a fair bit of surgery, i'm going to go with no.
  • bbillcee
    bbillcee Member Posts: 33
    mattmia2 said:

    KC_Jones said:

    Interesting idea, I’m guessing there is a drip off the main that feeds the condensate into the bottom.

    I can’t imagine how much crud must be in that thing.

    Has it ever been flushed out?

    Since it doesn't appear that there is any way to do that without a fair bit of surgery, i'm going to go with no.
    the original returns failed in 1980 so that when this stuff was put in and its never been flushed


  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,719
    bbillcee said:


    JUGHNE said:

    Can you explain the piping on that radiator in the picture?
    Does it heat well?
    Where does the pipe on the left side go to?

    My great uncle Had the house built in 35, my father bought it off him in 66 and I bought in 2006 .. the story was that this configuration was taken from “popular mechanics” back in the day… it’s simply using the return hot water to put out some additional heat with the radiator hooked in … does the radiator get hot? Yes not burning but it puts out heat … I’m not a plumber but it seems to work🤷🏻‍♂️I would assume the rad has to fully fill up with water before it returns to the boiler… I have question That maybe someone here can answer… how much water actually raturns? A gallon? 5 gallons? 10 gallons?


    It's an interesting condenser. No need for traps?
  • bbillcee
    bbillcee Member Posts: 33
    JUGHNE said:

    It is something that an article in "Popular Mechanics" was the idea for this.
    Once upon a time people would do things like this.
    Say, change the pulley speed for heating to AC etc.
    Thermocouple change outs were just something any guy could do.
    I had some Handy Man books from that era, it was surprising what projects the homeowner would take on.

    And the next generation would learn to do the same type of things.

    Today they are challenged to change the furnace filter.

    Some literally do not know if they have 2 heating units or where they are.

    lol very true!

  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,419
    You probably already know this, but you'll want to use type L copper.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    bbillcee
  • bbillcee
    bbillcee Member Posts: 33

    You probably already know this, but you'll want to use type L copper.

    yes! thx

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,232
    Has anyone tried boiling some PVC pipe in a saucepan to see how it reacts to 212 temperatures? Don't let the wife catch you doing this.

    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
    ethicalpaulEdTheHeaterMan
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,419
    BobC said:

    Has anyone tried boiling some PVC pipe in a saucepan to see how it reacts to 212 temperatures?

    I haven't, but the rated maximum working temperature is 140°F. That's even less than PEX.

    Copper lasts forever as potable water piping. If fresh water in all its varying compositions doesn't hurt it, it should be fine for condensate, which is basically distilled water with a lot of dissolved iron.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,350
    bbillcee said:


    JUGHNE said:

    Can you explain the piping on that radiator in the picture?
    Does it heat well?
    Where does the pipe on the left side go to?

    My great uncle Had the house built in 35, my father bought it off him in 66 and I bought in 2006 .. the story was that this configuration was taken from “popular mechanics” back in the day… it’s simply using the return hot water to put out some additional heat with the radiator hooked in … does the radiator get hot? Yes not burning but it puts out heat … I’m not a plumber but it seems to work🤷🏻‍♂️I would assume the rad has to fully fill up with water before it returns to the boiler… I have question That maybe someone here can answer… how much water actually raturns? A gallon? 5 gallons? 10 gallons?


    Do you need the heat there? Or I should ask Do you need to waste the fuel keeping that rad hot?

    Is that the condensate coming down to the left? Is yes can you run it closer to the ceiling until your past the door?
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,139
    Copper lasts forever as potable water piping. If fresh water in all its varying compositions doesn't hurt it, it should be fine for condensate, which is basically distilled water with a lot of dissolved iron.


    If "forever" is 5-50 years, sure :)
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    ChrisJ
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 4,008

    Copper lasts forever as potable water piping. If fresh water in all its varying compositions doesn't hurt it, it should be fine for condensate, which is basically distilled water with a lot of dissolved iron.


    If "forever" is 5-50 years, sure :)
    About half of mine is about 70 and still in good shape and it has spent its life in ann arbor water that turns brass screws and washers to powder.
    ethicalpaul
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,001
    Pecmsg, you are thinking that cond rad is wasting fuel?

    True, but I can see benefits to a little heat in the basement.
    Especially if the piping is insulated.
    Less waste heat than what sits in the boiler when not firing.

    It is probably a sludge collector though.
    Keeping sludge out of the wet return and boiler.
    I can see it causing slow condensate return eventually.

    Would have been handy to have a drain port on the other lower tapping.

    And I though it would be full only up to the water line....wrong....it has to fill completely up to spill out of the top connection.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,139
    mattmia2 said:

    About half of mine is about 70 and still in good shape and it has spent its life in ann arbor water that turns brass screws and washers to powder.

    Congrats! I had the same experience in Michigan when I lived there, but google "copper pinholes"
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,350
    JUGHNE said:

    Pecmsg, you are thinking that cond rad is wasting fuel?

    True, but I can see benefits to a little heat in the basement.
    Especially if the piping is insulated.
    Less waste heat than what sits in the boiler when not firing.

    It is probably a sludge collector though.
    Keeping sludge out of the wet return and boiler.
    I can see it causing slow condensate return eventually.

    Would have been handy to have a drain port on the other lower tapping.

    And I though it would be full only up to the water line....wrong....it has to fill completely up to spill out of the top connection.

    If the heats NOT needed in the basement, then yes, it is wasting fuel, just like uninsulated pipes. If they want the heat thats fine.
    JUGHNE
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 508
    edited November 23
    It would interesting to looks at the rad through a FLIR camera to see how far up the sludge has accumulated. 
    I have to admit the multiple elbows and reduction in size of the return makes me uncomfortable. At some point it’s going to completely fill up and present a puzzle/headache to someone.  
    IMHO, I’d follow @pecmsg advice and route the pipe as it comes down the wall with a 90 to go over the top of the door and then over to the boiler. 
    The radiator is not capturing free heat, the boiler will have to replace that energy during the next cycle.  I admit the residual heat would likely be given up to the boiler room regardless doesn't impacting operating cost. Just shifting where the residue energy in the condensate gets dissipated. 
    If you want to heat that room you can do a hot water heat off the boiler below the waterline as I’ve seen people discuss on the forum. Seems like it was refer to as a “Bronx” or “Brooklyn” system. 
     
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,001
    That pipe may be a separate return??
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 508
    Good point.  I see the larger (1-1/4”?) line come down and into the lower radiator inlet and come out the upper port on opposite side and down into what looks like a tee to a smaller 3/4” line that returns to boiler on one side and wraps around corner other side. 

    Is that a second smaller condensate return?