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Black Pipe or Copper Wet Return

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taylorgeo
taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
I have a one-pipe steam system and a brand new Burnham gas boiler.

I'm running a new wet return above ground in an unheated garage here in the NE. The garage is under an attached row house.

Just wanted to get a few more opinions on whether to use black pipe or copper, and if anyone thinks the wet return would be in danger of freezing/bursting.

My plumber will only run it through my unheated finished basement because he's worried that I might leave the garage door open accidentally in the middle of winter. I assured him, that's extremely unlikely.

Any thoughts?

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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,310
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    If it goes through a space like a garage, plan on it freezing sooner or later. The best intentions, and all that. There isn't that much flow (60,000 BTUh is roughly a pint per minute), but the pipe is full of water.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    If your going to run it through the garage i would insulate the pipe and put some heat tape on it so it would add some heat when IT DOES get too cold.

    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
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,852
    edited March 2022
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    taylorgeo said:

    I have a one-pipe steam system and a brand new Burnham gas boiler.

    I'm running a new wet return above ground in an unheated garage here in the NE. The garage is under an attached row house.

    Just wanted to get a few more opinions on whether to use black pipe or copper, and if anyone thinks the wet return would be in danger of freezing/bursting.

    My plumber will only run it through my unheated finished basement because he's worried that I might leave the garage door open accidentally in the middle of winter. I assured him, that's extremely unlikely.

    Any thoughts?

    Unlikely means It can happen!

    X-2 on insulate and heat tape. FrostTex heat tape is self-regulating and uses about 6 watts per ft.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    Insulate the pipe in the garage with fiberglass pipe insulation and build a wooden box around it. Stuff the box with loose fiberglass. Use screws to make the box removable.

    copper is easier to run no problem using it below the water line
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,692
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    Where was the return previously?
    Did it have any problems freezing or did it last 80-100 years?
    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
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,692
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    pecmsg said:
    I have a one-pipe steam system and a brand new Burnham gas boiler. I'm running a new wet return above ground in an unheated garage here in the NE. The garage is under an attached row house. Just wanted to get a few more opinions on whether to use black pipe or copper, and if anyone thinks the wet return would be in danger of freezing/bursting. My plumber will only run it through my unheated finished basement because he's worried that I might leave the garage door open accidentally in the middle of winter. I assured him, that's extremely unlikely. Any thoughts?
    Unlikely means It can happen! X-2 on insulate and heat tape. FrostTex heat tape is self-regulating and uses about 6 watts per ft.
    Every house where it gets below freezing even occasionally has the possibly of every pipe in it freezing under the right conditions.

    But it's unlikely so we don't wrap all of them in heater tape.    ;)
    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: 5,702
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    Use pex and let it freeze
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,692
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    Use pex and let it freeze
    But if it freezes the water can't return until it thaws. :)
    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
  • taylorgeo
    taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
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    ChrisJ said:

    Where was the return previously?
    Did it have any problems freezing or did it last 80-100 years?

    The return was in the garage as well, but below ground. Pipes are 82 years old. Never had a pipe freeze.

    And the unheated finished basement doesn't seem to be that much warmer than the adjacent garage. I live in the lower New York area, and though it can get really cold, it's not exactly the upper midwest.

    It's funny, I had two other plumbers come to the house and they had ZERO reservations about putting the return pipe above ground in the garage.

    It just kills me to put the return pipe in my finished basement.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,692
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    The problem I guess I have is even though I kind of busted his chops @pecmsg and others are right.

    I don't like piping where it may freeze if it's avoidable.  And it usually is avoidable.

    I pick function over form every time my self...


    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
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,160
    edited March 2022
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    You’ve got two good options with @ethicalpaul recommendation use pex or using copper in a insulated box per @EBEBRATT-Ed.   
  • taylorgeo
    taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
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    ChrisJ said:

    The problem I guess I have is even though I kind of busted his chops @pecmsg and others are right.

    I don't like piping where it may freeze if it's avoidable.  And it usually is avoidable.

    I pick function over form every time my self...


    I bought a room thermometer and it seems that my garage is about 20 degrees warmer than the outside temp. And my basement 10 degrees warmer than my garage. Would you put any stock into these numbers?

    And at this point, I'm sure you all are rolling your eyes. I apologize in advance, just very stressed out.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,061
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    With the box we talked about in your other posting, I feel you would have no worries.
    Even here in Hamletville, people seldom leave their garage doors open, certainly not in the wintertime.

    I open the door, back out and watch the door close while adjusting mirrors (wife's car) and latching the seat belt....something seldom done in small town driving habits is buckling up.

    But the car in the garage is the "good" car, which means a going down "the" highway trip. ;)
    PC7060reggi
  • taylorgeo
    taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
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    JUGHNE said:

    With the box we talked about in your other posting, I feel you would have no worries.
    Even here in Hamletville, people seldom leave their garage doors open, certainly not in the wintertime.

    I open the door, back out and watch the door close while adjusting mirrors (wife's car) and latching the seat belt....something seldom done in small town driving habits is buckling up.

    But the car in the garage is the "good" car, which means a going down "the" highway trip. ;)

    Wanna build that box for me? I'll be in Raleigh in May, I'll pick it up!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @taylorgeo

    Even in the finished basement a nice wooden box built around the pipe where the wall meets the floor it wouldn't look bad at all after a while you wouldn't even notice it
  • taylorgeo
    taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
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    @taylorgeo

    Even in the finished basement a nice wooden box built around the pipe where the wall meets the floor it wouldn't look bad at all after a while you wouldn't even notice it

    If I did go through my unheated finished basement, should I skip the fiberglass insulation on the copper pipe?
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 1,160
    edited March 2022
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    JUGHNE said:
    With the box we talked about in your other posting, I feel you would have no worries. Even here in Hamletville, people seldom leave their garage doors open, certainly not in the wintertime. I open the door, back out and watch the door close while adjusting mirrors (wife's car) and latching the seat belt....something seldom done in small town driving habits is buckling up. But the car in the garage is the "good" car, which means a going down "the" highway trip. ;)
    @JUGHNE - I had my finger poised the disagree button when I saw “latching the seat belt”, but I reconsidered when read your codicil text “seldom done in small town driving”. 

     :D:D:D
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    @taylorgeo

    I am assuming you have water pipes etc. in the basement. If they don't freeze the condensate won't either so you could skip the insulation in the basement
  • taylorgeo
    taylorgeo Member Posts: 74
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    Wet Return is complete! Thank goodness, it's 25 degrees with a windchill of 9 degrees tonight.

    We went with the 1.25" Black Pipe. Looks/functioning great. Will post pics soon.

    You all are the best. Glad I found this forum.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    You may notice some rust in your boiler water. Don't worry, it's just the new pipes breaking in. You can flush it out periodically, and eventually it will stop. Also, keep an eye out for bouncing water level in the gauge glass. If oil got into the boiler from the new popes, you might need to skim.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24