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Getting Rectorseal into a boiler

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Hi everyone,
I’m a homeowner without much plumbing know-how. I have a Williamson gas-fired steam boiler that has always had corrosion problems and I got a bottle of Rectorseal 8-way to try to fix it. The problem is getting it into my boiler. The plumber who installed it told me to remove the safety valve to pour it in. But the copper ell attached means I can’t unscrew it directly (see photo). My plumber said to cut the copper pipe where the green arrow is, unscrew the safety valve, pour in Rectorseal, screw the safety valve back on with some teflon tape, and he gave me a little copper sweat coupling that he says I should just crimp on with pliers to reattach the copper ell where I cut it. This has the virtue of being something I can do, but I wonder if I’d be going against loads of codes and insurance rules if I just crimp this thing afterwards. On the other hand I may need to repeat this from time to time so I want some way of opening and closing it myself and not having to have the plumber properly solder it every time. What do you all think of this scheme? Thanks for any advice!

Comments

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,544
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    Have the plumber come over and install a union in the outlet pipe of the relief valve so it can be easily removed.

    Or (and this would be cheaper than calling the plumber) go to the big box (home depot or lowes) and buy a 3/4" x 6" threaded pipe nipple, some pipe dope and a 90 degree elbow and screw it into the relief valve. Then have them cut you a piece of pipe long enough to get you about 6" from the floor and screw it in for the drop pipe. The drop pipe should only have a thread on one end.
    ethicalpaul
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,785
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    Pick up a 3/4" shark bite coupling , it can be removed and reused in the future

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited January 2022
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    Your plumber understands that no one will likely ever look at, or touch that pipe so he gave a very pragmatic solution that is indeed probably a code violation. It is good, however, to see that he installed your Pressure Relief Valve in the correct orientation.

    I used a threaded drop pipe on mine just like @EBEBRATT-Ed described.

    I like the shark bite idea except that I think they aren't really meant for repeated removal/reinstallation (although in this use I can't see it being a problem).

    Do you have a skim tapping set up? That can easily be made to allow for pouring stuff in, and gives the benefit of letting you skim if you need to. That's what I use.

    but stepping back, what are the corrosion problems you have had? I'm interested to understand which problem you are trying to actually fix here!
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    You guys are awesome--already several good ideas.
    The Sharkbite is appealing--looking into how to install them it looks like the little pipe I would cut might not be long enough so I might still have to attach new threaded pipe and elbow, but once set up it would be a pretty easy way to disconnect and reconnect every time I need to get in.
    ethicalpaul, no unfortunately there's no skim tapping. There's a hole in the boiler housing at about that point with insulation behind it. They said they skimmed it when they first installed it but now there's nothing there. Not sure what exactly is behind that insulation.
    The issue is that I always have dirty water, and after I drain and flush a lot until I have pretty clean water, it always gets muddy again pretty quickly. I have various radiators hissing when they shouldn't, spitting water on occasion, and I blame this on dirty water constantly throwing crud in the vents, so I'm hoping keeping the water clean will let my whole system behave better.
    ethicalpaul
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    Also, hopefully Sharkbites don't mind spending a lot of time hot? And I have a cutting tool but it looks like I'll need some deburring tools too, and maybe the special tongs for removing the Sharkbite.
  • Jon_blaney
    Jon_blaney Member Posts: 316
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    Is there a skim port? Picture?

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited January 2022
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    You can do the shark bite, just cut the vertical pipe, not the horizontal one. That will let you spin off the horizontal pipe and the elbow together.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the shark bite spending time hot...this joint doesn't really have to be super watertight--its only purpose is to direct hot water and steam down to the floor in case of high pressure due to pressuretrol failure or a plugged pressuretrol pipe. Plus if it's on the vertical, it won't get very hot there.

    And you won't have to worry about deburring it if you're using a pipe cutter not a hacksaw (for this application). It will be fine since it's not carrying water under pressure. And the removal tool is a little curved piece of plastic they sell at Home Depot for like $1.

    The addition of 8-way might (might) keep your water from getting "dirty" as fast, if that "dirt" is really rust that is forming inside your boiler which it could be. Don't add as much as they say on the bottle. Get some litmus PH test strips on Amazon (they are cheap) and just add it until your PH is 9-11. I do this myself.

    Note that the introduction of 8-way may also free up more gunk, so you might have to flush one or more two times this season, but give it some time between flushes if that occurs. Introduction of fresh water is the killer of boilers so exercise restraint there. My old boiler which suffered from too much makeup water for years, I was never able to get it completely cleaned out--similar to what you describe. Make sure your system isn't leaking steam--as indicated by you having to add makeup water more than like 1/2 gallon per month

    Finally (hah) I will say that "dirty water" is often blamed for wet steam/carryover/surging (all of which are water getting thrown into your steam mains during a heating cycle), but my time here has taught me that such issues are far more often caused by improper near boiler piping. If you want to post some pics of your boiler and near piping from 6-10 feet away from different angles, people here can see if something's going on there.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    Sure, here are some pics. Thanks for everyone's comments. I had this installed 10 years ago. The house is 90 years old. You can see that I put some insulation on the piping but I should probably do the rest. The original mains and risers have good ol' asbestos insulation (encapsulated, at least on the mains). Btw the concrete blocks were because I read Dan Holohan's book and insisted to the plumber to raise the new boiler to match the water level of the original behemoth it was replacing (coal-fired, converted to oil). He agreed to put it on 4 cinder blocks but then said it would have made the exhaust too high to go into the flue with the correct piping so he put it on 2 blocks instead. By my measurements this puts the water level in the middle of a big long wet return which I don't like but am stuck with.
    And yes I think my system is leaky. The automatic water feeder doesn't have a counter so I don't know my rate of makeup water use. I'm hoping cleaner water will help it leak less, and once the water is clean if there are any vents still giving me trouble it's a good time to replace them. The two steam mains each have a Gorton #2 vent, but I'm suspicious if they're still venting. They're hard to access. Maybe it's time to replace them. (I thought they were pricey at $55 apiece, now they're up to $110! Even Hoffman 1A's are now >$35 each! What's going on?)

    I was expecting to have to do some more flushing after adding Rectorseal but I better brace myself for this still not solving everything...



  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    I'm sorry to report that I don't think the 8-way is going to help you with your wet steam.

    The near boiler piping is dramatically incorrect. It's kind of darkly comical...it's like there was an attempt to make a header, but the risers to your mains don't utilize it. My opinion is that this system will always be prone to wet steam production and poor performance until the near-boiler piping is re-done. But I'm just a homeowner myself so we'll see what the pros here say about it.

    You may be able to get it performing OK if it's close to the right size and the water level isn't too high and the water isn't frothing. But it might be a real challenge with that piping.

    The waterline should be fine...it's mostly a concern when it is higher than it was before. But the blocks usually don't hurt and can be a real benefit if you ever have some flooding.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    neilc
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    ethicalpaul, you may well be right--it's not clear to me what's wrong with the near-boiler piping and I'm curious what any pros have to say. But there is a dirty water problem and hopefully the Rectorseal will at least help with that part. I'll try it and see how much trouble remains afterward. :)
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,706
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    You need a skim port installed to fix the dirty water problem.
    This should've been installed when the boiler was done. That boiler's been running for 10 years and was never skimmed!?

    But Paul's right, the piping is just bad.


    Also, and some may disagree, but I really don't like how that block is sitting up on stacked pavers like that with a huge gap down the center.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited January 2022
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    I think the OP said that his installer said he skimmed it but yes, it should still have a skim tapping (a capped pipe in the skim port). What it probably has now is a plug in the skim port.

    The purpose of the near-boiler piping is primarily to separate the steam from the water that can get carried up with it. This is accomplished by making the steam and water turn corners from the supplies to the horizontal header pipe, and then from the header to the vertical risers that connect to your mains. Steam turns the corners with almost no trouble and then continues "dry" to your radiators, but the water will hit the corners and get "caught" by the pipes then allowed to flow back into the boiler via a pipe called the "equalizer".

    If water gets past the header into your main, then it can get "carried" along by the flowing steam and cause several issues. Looking at your boiler, you can see a straight vertical path from the boiler to your mains, bypassing the "header" that you sort of have on there. Often installers don't look at the pictures in the manual, but yours seems to have looked but not very carefully.

    Dan's books available on this site have good information about this, they are highly recommended, but here is a very nice presentation from Peerless that explains it:

    https://www.peerlessboilers.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/OnePipeSteam.pdf
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,706
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    I guess that's possible but it seems a bit awkward to skim it and then install the side panel with the insulation neatly over the plug like it was never done.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    ethicalpaulneilc
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    ethicalpaul, I have read The Lost Art of Steam Heating (and I should review the parts about near-boiler piping) but wow, that pdf is an awesome distillation of the main points!
    The piping will be a tough issue to fix. I had this done by what seems like the only plumber near me who knows steam systems at all. The owner has lots of experience but had never heard of Dan Holohan and I didn't want to be a **** but I was photocopying pages to show him to impress upon him the importance of the water line moving as much as it would, but he was pretty dismissive. Anyway my recollection is that they said they skimmed it for hours when first installed. Don't know why it was left as it was. I do wish I had a working skim port. Maybe it's worth having the plumber put one in. Or maybe it wouldn't make much difference if it's mainly a piping problem!
    ethicalpaul
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,973
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    Boiler piping is an absolute mess. Where are you located?
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,973
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    Does anyone have any info on interaction between 8-way (or other boiler treatments) and copper? Have in my head that there can be potential issues (could be wrong about that, chemistry is certainly not my strong point). 
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    steam doctor, I'm in central Connecticut.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Well @RedHerring it could be both a piping problem and a water quality problem...but I have no personal experience to know if oils in the boiler will continue to cause wet steam after 10 years, or if they eventually sort of deteriorate into nothing after that much time.

    And yes it's a big job to repipe a boiler...it's almost as much labor as a new installation. You do have a nice long distance from the waterline to the main so it does seem possible that if the water was in good shape (and the boiler is the right size) you could have a chance to have it operating OK. We've seen even worse installs before.

    As everyone has heard me say too many times, I have sight glasses on my steam risers and I know that no water gets thrown up even 6 inches above my boiler...so my header is sitting there not even having to separate any water out...but my boiler is also sized correctly. That's another unknown in your case.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • RedHerring
    RedHerring Member Posts: 15
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    Just to follow up, I took the idea suggested by @Big Ed_4 and elaborated by @ethicalpaul and cut the vertical copper pipe, then rejoined at the end using a shark bite. Worked great.
    I was going to pour in 1 pint of Rectorseal 8-way but chickened out and put a little over 1 cup. (I think my boiler holds around 15 gal.) 24 hours later, no huge difference one way or the other--some of the lavender color, some solids suspended in the water, rads maybe hissing less, no major surging or water level bobbing around. I'll give it some time, probably flush out and replace Rectorseal in a few days while I work at addressing other problems in the system. Thanks for the advice!
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Nice. Don’t be in a hurry to flush too fast. Let it churn for awhile. If it surges, then flush.

    good job starting slow with the 8-way. I do think a pint of 8-way will get you to a good ph but there’s no rush, you can ease into it. You can get ph test strips cheap on Amazon 
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
    edited January 2022
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    Nice job! Less is more when it comes to Rectorseal. My steam boiler holds about 10 gallons of water and I use 8oz. Gets my pH to around 10-11 which I think is perfect. Zero solids and the water is crystal clear (and lavender-ish).

    If you can... get a pH meter, not the strips, for about $15 off of amazon to measure the pH. I think the purple water tends to skew the resulting color on the pH strips...but maybe not.

    Start slow and keep adding until the pH is around 10.5. Replace the water once a week for a few weeks with new Rectorseal to clean it out.
    Zolof808