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what to fix first?

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I live in a five story brownstone and have a one pipe steam system. We have the following symptoms,

1. Banging pipes
2. Loud hissing vents
3. Leaking radiators (some worse than others) (rusty water)
4. Uneven heating

So the gambit. On the plus side it is manageable we are not freezing.

From reading the lost art I see the following problems with our system,

A. Very little main venting, and not on all the main branches
B. Improper near boiler piping, the header height is marginally okay but the main branches come from the center of the two boiler vertical risers instead of the side (no drop header) and there are no valves there to test the boiler.
C. The pressure is set too high, 3-5psi
D. Many rads have been removed so the boiler is oversized (replaced with heat pumps on one floor)
E. There is a thermostat control and its placement is not helpful for even heating. (in a warm hallway)

As we cannot immediately fix all the problems I am trying to decide what are the best things to do right away and what we should save up for.

My understanding is that if we want to lower the pressure we will have to add main venting, which would probably help the most, but if we do that without fixing the near boiler piping will wet steam just ruin the new air vents? More leaking in the basement instead of the apartments.

If not all the rads can be put back, roughly 1/5 of an already oversized system, will the boiler have to be replaced once other fixes are made to prevent short cycling?

Comments

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    My opinion for most bang for the buck with the quickest turnaround:

    1. Send us pictures of the boiler and near piping
    2. Set the pressuretrol or other pressure limiting device to cutout at 1.5 psi with a 1 differential. This will stop you from wastefully building pressure and will help with your #1, hissing vents
    3. Ensure the pigtail is clean and install a low-pressure gauge so you can see what's actually going on
    4. Add your main vents. This will help with the pressure situation. The closer this step is to #1 above the better.
    5. Put the thermostat in a logical place. This will help with temperature balancing everywhere
    6. See if you can downfire the boiler with the help of a knowledgeable steam contractor to get its size closer to correct
    7. Now you can start to balance the problem radiatiors that are either too hot or too cold. Start by reducing the venting on the too hot ones.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • jmbott
    jmbott Member Posts: 6
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    Here are some pictures of the near boiler piping. There may be issues with the angle of the mains as well, one branch feeds the risers in the front, the other the risers in the back of the building. The main pressure guage seems to be broken and these were taken after a boiler cleaning so the sight gauge is less brown currently.





  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited February 2022
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    Yeah the factory gauge will break after about 30 minutes of use, that's why everyone should have a low-pressure one added as well.

    That's a big boiler and it looks like they reduced the supply pipes down to 2" which seems inappropriate but I'd have to see the manual to know for sure. And as you said the order of piping is wrong. It might still run OK but you will want good venting and low pressure for sure.

    When you install the main vents, that's a good time to check if boiler water is getting blasted into your mains. That would be the number one problem I would fear with that boiler.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • jmbott
    jmbott Member Posts: 6
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    Thanks.

    1. I want to install the main vents but it may take a bit to get someone to do the work. Does it make sense to try to lower the pressure before that happens or the higher pressure is neccesary to get heat to the furthest rads while there is improper venting, water in the mains? I understand lower pressure provides more heat capacity but I think I am still unclear on this point if there are blockages.

    2. If the main vents are installed and the boiler is blasting water into the mains will this ruin the vents?

    2.1. Are the (relatively new) air vents on the radiators that are leaking water already broken or if the system is fixed they will be okay? (these were the first recomended replacement)
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    The reducing tee in the header to the equalizer is really wrong, it will keep the water in the header instead of letting it drain in to the equalizer.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    1. yes lower the pressure regardless. I wouldn't say lower pressure provides more heat capacity, but it's so beneficial in other ways.
    2. The vents I use are hard to "ruin" but they can get fouled/jammed up with gunk from dirty boiler water.
    2.1 They might be gunked up or they might be OK. What type are they?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    You might find vents stuck closed(in mains or radiators or both) when you lower the pressure. With high enough pressure the steam will compress the air that the bad vent isn't letting out and let some steam in to the radiator but that isn't how is is supposed to work.
    ethicalpaul
  • jmbott
    jmbott Member Posts: 6
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    That makes sense.

    The newer radiator air vents are mostly Gorton C or D.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited February 2022
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    Those are almost certainly too large for radiators. The D is equivalent to the Gorton #1 main vent. But in my experience they don't get gunked up very easily, and can often be washed out if they do.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    jmbott said:

    That makes sense.

    The newer radiator air vents are mostly Gorton C or D.

    Those are big vents and probably put there due to lack of main venting.

    Personally I'd go after the main venting first, that's the biggest bang for the buck. Proper venting can extend the run times before building excessive pressure.

    Do you know the age of the boiler? If it's fairly new, it may be worth looking into a repipe, if it has some years on it, I'd just budget for replacement when it dies. The piping isn't even close to right and almost certainly contributing to wet steam, but you may still be able to get it to run satisfactorily.

    If you are trying to get to know your system, I would also suggest doing an EDR survey of the radiation. This will give you and idea how well (or not well) the boiler is sized to the system. We typically see very oversized boilers here, so don't be shocked if yours is. Judging by the piping I don't think the installer knows what they are doing. It also helps with sizing radiator vents, that along with the geography of each.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • jmbott
    jmbott Member Posts: 6
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    The boiler nameplate says 10/2003 on it. I assume that is manufacture date but coming close to 20 years old. What lifespan can you generally expect?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    jmbott said:

    The boiler nameplate says 10/2003 on it. I assume that is manufacture date but coming close to 20 years old. What lifespan can you generally expect?

    If you read around this website enough you will see those Burnham don't have a good reputation for longevity. A typical cast iron steam boiler should last at least 30 years, but those Burnham's don't seem to live up to that.

    Knowing what I know from this site, I'd start saving for a replacement.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaul
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 1,007
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    Post a picture of the boiler nameplate with model number and DOE Heating Capacity if you can.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,653
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    KC_Jones said:

    jmbott said:

    The boiler nameplate says 10/2003 on it. I assume that is manufacture date but coming close to 20 years old. What lifespan can you generally expect?

    If you read around this website enough you will see those Burnham don't have a good reputation for longevity. A typical cast iron steam boiler should last at least 30 years, but those Burnham's don't seem to live up to that.

    Knowing what I know from this site, I'd start saving for a replacement.
    of course they all seem to be piped very wrong and appear to be connected to a system about 1/4 of the edr that they should supply.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    But so are the other makes...
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • jmbott
    jmbott Member Posts: 6
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    Boiler Model Number KIN11LNC-LL2

    DOE HTG CAP: BTU/HR
    NET I=B=R Ratings

    Steam: 900 SQ. FT.
    Steam: 216,000 BTU/HR
    Water: 250,000 BTU/HR