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wet return flush question(s)

Hello folks, I have a single-pipe steam system that has a buried wet return with no obvious way to flush it. Included pictures of the near-boiler piping and the main. The main is pitched away from the boiler and ends in a wet return that is buried for at least 15-20'. It pops back up right next to the boiler and connects with the fill valve, a drain valve and one other (copper, not-buried) wet return before connecting to the hartford loop. I hope the pics are helpful, but I can provide more and/or illustrate these if there is something not clear.

I guess I just cannot figure out how I'm supposed to flush the buried wet return. There are no valves where I could shut off the hartford loop, so any water I add to the system will just go right into the boiler, correct?

I'm assuming the simplest thing would be to have someone install

1) a shut off on the horizontal length between where the loop pops out of the floor and where it connects with the T that continues to the fill/drain horizontally and the hartford loops vertically. In other words: the horizontal pipe with the union in it.
2) a drain valve just *before* that shut off, so that I can close the new shut off valve, open the new drain valve, and then open the existing fill valve and just over fill the piping until the water starts pouring out of the new drain.

Is this the best/simplest way to have a means of keeping the wet return clear? Is there some way to do it that doesn't involve installing one or both of the above?

Thanks again, if there is something I missed, please lmk--THANK YOU!










Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,736
    Without valves or a place to connect a water source to, it does make things more difficult.

    I'd also suggest without a valve at the low point of the wet return, trying to get crud up and out will also be difficult. Usually all drain/cleaning valves or cleanouts are at the low point, or at least level with the lowest point. In your case that would require breaking up some concrete. That piping is obviously newer as evidence by the PVC pipe sleeve its in. Not sure why someone went to that effort and didn't provide a way to flush it for maintenance.

    Is there a specific issue you are currently having that is driving you to want to flush it?

    If it was me and I wanted to attempt to flush it out, because of a possible clog. I'd drain the boiler completely. Find my main vent, hook a hose up in that location (or just shove it in the hole), then open the valve near the boiler connected to the return piping (before the Harford loop connection) and see what happens. It's better than nothing.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    snugglez
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
    Just a quicky.

    Remove the elbows where the pipe come out of the ground, install a T on the run with a nipple and cap and pipe back into the boiler from the bull of t. The underground can be cleaned with a wet vac, if that dose not work because the underground pipe has hard crud in it you my need to snake out the line before the wet vac will remove the crud.

    The best way to protect the boiler is to install a copper wet return, 1" piping is good for 72,000 btu heat load and 11/4" is good for 240,000 heat load.

    If you will change to copper all h access points to drain or a the wet return can be done.

    Additionally, insulating the steam main will go long way in improving system efficiency.

    Where are the quick vets in the basement?

    Jake




    snugglez
  • snugglez
    snugglez Member Posts: 21
    KC_Jones said:

    Without valves or a place to connect a water source to, it does make things more difficult.

    I'd also suggest without a valve at the low point of the wet return, trying to get crud up and out will also be difficult. Usually all drain/cleaning valves or cleanouts are at the low point, or at least level with the lowest point. In your case that would require breaking up some concrete. That piping is obviously newer as evidence by the PVC pipe sleeve its in. Not sure why someone went to that effort and didn't provide a way to flush it for maintenance.

    Is there a specific issue you are currently having that is driving you to want to flush it?

    If it was me and I wanted to attempt to flush it out, because of a possible clog. I'd drain the boiler completely. Find my main vent, hook a hose up in that location (or just shove it in the hole), then open the valve near the boiler connected to the return piping (before the Harford loop connection) and see what happens. It's better than nothing.

    There's no issue at the moment, I just know that if I wait until there is a problem, I'll have a BIG problem (hardened gunk and no return until it's cleared). I might as well just deal with it this spring when the heating system is done.

    Yeah, why indeed do allllll that work and not put in a couple of shut offs/valves... SOMETHING. I actually called the installer of the boiler (for the previous owner) just to see if they would come by to service it. No response. Lol.

    I have no main vent (something I was going to post in a separate thread about, actually). Again: all that work, and no main vents. Whhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy.
  • snugglez
    snugglez Member Posts: 21

    Just a quicky.

    Remove the elbows where the pipe come out of the ground, install a T on the run with a nipple and cap and pipe back into the boiler from the bull of t. The underground can be cleaned with a wet vac, if that dose not work because the underground pipe has hard crud in it you my need to snake out the line before the wet vac will remove the crud.

    The best way to protect the boiler is to install a copper wet return, 1" piping is good for 72,000 btu heat load and 11/4" is good for 240,000 heat load.

    If you will change to copper all h access points to drain or a the wet return can be done.

    Additionally, insulating the steam main will go long way in improving system efficiency.

    Where are the quick vets in the basement?

    Jake




    Mmmmm, interesting idea with the wet vac. I actually have a transfer pump that I used to pump out my basement, so I think your idea of just putting in a T there is very very sensible. Thank you!!
  • snugglez
    snugglez Member Posts: 21
    edited February 2022
    snugglez said:

    Just a quicky.

    Remove the elbows where the pipe come out of the ground, install a T on the run with a nipple and cap and pipe back into the boiler from the bull of t. The underground can be cleaned with a wet vac, if that dose not work because the underground pipe has hard crud in it you my need to snake out the line before the wet vac will remove the crud.

    The best way to protect the boiler is to install a copper wet return, 1" piping is good for 72,000 btu heat load and 11/4" is good for 240,000 heat load.

    If you will change to copper all h access points to drain or a the wet return can be done.

    Additionally, insulating the steam main will go long way in improving system efficiency.

    Where are the quick vets in the basement?

    Jake




    Mmmmm, interesting idea with the wet vac. I actually have a transfer pump that I used to pump out my basement, so I think your idea of just putting in a T there is very very sensible. Thank you!!
    I realize I didn't answer your other points:

    1. I definitely would consider replacing with copper, but honestly it's working now so if I can just keep it clear with a little effort I think I'll skip it. If I were doing major work I would certainly run new copper.

    2. no vents at all in basement. I'll be posting another thread about how and where to put some...

    3. I do plan to insulate, though I actually like that the basement is so warm--makes the first floor floor nice and toasty and, well, the house has zero wall insulation. When I bought it I had masssave install attic insulation and airseal the basement. The walls... ugh, I know from experience how much of a mess that makes so I put it off.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    If you like the temperature of the basement, I wouldn't spend money to insulate. There's just no real benefit.

    You will see slightly faster heat arrival upstairs with insulation, but it's very minimal like a few minutes.

    the concern about additional condensation is not realistic. The main pipes are already carrying all the condensation from all your radiators and the pipes create much less condensation than a radiator.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    snugglez
  • snugglez
    snugglez Member Posts: 21

    If you like the temperature of the basement, I wouldn't spend money to insulate. There's just no real benefit.

    You will see slightly faster heat arrival upstairs with insulation, but it's very minimal like a few minutes.

    the concern about additional condensation is not realistic. The main pipes are already carrying all the condensation from all your radiators and the pipes create much less condensation than a radiator.

    Yeah, I am in no rush to insulate. If I stop using the basement as much I guess I would consider it, but given that I treat it like part of my living space, I'm fine keeping it heated.

    I guess I'm not clear on what you mean about additional condensation? I'm not tracking what that is in response to--sorry if I'm being dumb.

    Thank you!
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,477
    You might want to add some boiler treatment to your boiler so the water chemistry inhibits corrosion. I installed my Smith G8 in 2013 and used steam master from the get go, the boiler water is crystal clear with a slight violet hue. Steamaster isn't sold any more but I've heard 8 way is good also.

    Some have a religious set against anything but pure water but it's my boiler and my wallet that will be flattened by an unnecessry boiler failure.

    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
    snugglez
  • Dennis
    Dennis Member Posts: 101
    How is easy, the doing is the hard part. I spy a union, start there install a ball or gate valve and a boiler drain. Find the other end and do the same.
    Just do it, right.
    snugglez
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    snugglez said:

    Yeah, I am in no rush to insulate. If I stop using the basement as much I guess I would consider it, but given that I treat it like part of my living space, I'm fine keeping it heated.

    I guess I'm not clear on what you mean about additional condensation? I'm not tracking what that is in response to--sorry if I'm being dumb.

    Thank you!

    Not dumb at all.

    Steam condenses to water of course. This happens in our radiators. But it also happens in every pipe that supplies the radiators: the supply pipe from the boiler to the header, the header itself, the supply to the main, the main itself, and every radiator supply pipe.

    All those pipes are in effect radiators where some of your steam will condense to water.

    So some people have a thought that unless the pipes are insulated, the amount of extra condensate from those pipes will harm the operation of your system.

    But my position is that this has no basis in fact.

    Even insulated pipes get cold after all. Does the system fail or get harmed by the pipes warming up? No.

    And even an uninsulated pipe has far less surface area than any radiator, and since the pipes already carry all the condensation from all the radiators, the additional tiny amount of radiation from the pipes themselves cannot matter.

    So my position is that the value of insulation is to put more of the heat where you want it faster. If you do want some heat in the space where the pipes are, then there is no need to insulate.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    snugglez
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 887
    Just to let you know:

    2" black pipe equals 1/2 a square foot (EDR) per linear foot of pipe.
    You can go to the steam tables to see the EDR of all size pipes and do your own calculations on the heat loss of unisulated pipe in the basement.

    Jake
    ethicalpaulsnugglez