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Minneapolis area steam expert?

Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
I am looking for a recommendation for a steam expert near Minneapolis, MN. I am hoping to have someone look at our 1923 9-unit one pipe steam system. The Find a Contractor page gave me O results in 100 mile radius.
Any ideas for me?
Thanks, Krista.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,975
    I can't recall that we've ever had someone in the Minneapolis area.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,564
    edited April 24
    Maybe Jugne can be persuaded to have a look. Or a visit to a wholesale plumbing supplier, may get some names.
    In the meantime, can you list any problems you may have with it?
    Pictures of the boiler, and piping, along with some radiators may help get the advice going.--NBC
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 713
    edited April 24
    Central Nebraska to Minneapolis would be quite trip even for a intrepid steamer as @JUGHNE:#
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    Thanks Jamie. So sad, lots of steam and hot water systems here.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,023
    There must be someone there that knows something. I would suggest visiting a supply house as well. I wouldn't call I would go there.
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbesluketheplumber
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    That's a good idea, I'll try that. Thanks!
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    I'll take some photos tomorrow and get back to you. 
  • nde
    nde Member Posts: 48
    edited April 25
    Call McQuillan Brothers they have a steam boiler video on youtube and seem to know their stuff.
  • doc_havoc
    doc_havoc Member Posts: 3
    Ryan Plumbing and Heating
    McQuillan Bros
    They're the first two that come to mind.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,901
    doc_havoc said:

    Ryan Plumbing and Heating
    McQuillan Bros
    They're the first two that come to mind.

    T Y Doc.
  • doc_havoc
    doc_havoc Member Posts: 3
    Your other option would be to reach out to Pipefitters Local 539 (Minneapolis Pipefitters) or Local 455 (St. Paul Pipefitters). Either one of them can provide a list of contractors that are completely capable of meeting all your steam system needs.
  • Pumpguy
    Pumpguy Member Posts: 541
    You might also contact State Supply in St. Paul. They are very knowledgeable when it comes to steam systems and might be able to suggest someone. Their phone # is 1-877 775 7705.
    Dennis Pataki. Former Service Manager and Heating Pump Product Manager for Nash Engineering Company. Phone: 1-888 853 9963
    Website: www.nashjenningspumps.com

    The first step in solving any problem is TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,406
    After 15 years of working in Minneapolis on steam and hot water systems as a 539 pipefitter, McQuillan Bros or MMC are the only two companies I'd let touch my steam system. And no, I never worked for either of them.
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    edited April 26
    These are great ideas, thank you all so much for pointing me in the right direction.

    I took some photos today and I'm kind of interested in your first impressions of the near-boiler piping and venting. I live in the garden level unit of this condo and am hoping to bring something to the condo board to hopefully get our system better looked at.

    Problems we have encountered:
    - Cold (mid-60s) in furthest unit (which has one of the 2 temp sensors in the building)
    - The condensate pump / boiler water feeder runs a lot (we can hear it in the garden-level unit).
    - Sometimes the pump runs continuously, the water level is at the top on the water glass, and we let water to mid-way and the pump stops. Sometimes we tap the boiler water level gauge to get the pump to stop.
    - Rarely, we find water spurting out of the vents in the boiler room, the vents on one of the mains in the laundry main, and sometimes also out of the vents in the unit directly above the boiler room.
    - In the garden unit, we can hear ocean waves in the main that runs near the ceiling in our living room.
    - Radiator vents tend to hiss in this building.

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,564
    It sounds as though a lot of water is being thrown up into the main, which could indicate oily water, or incorrect piping. Pictures 2 and 3 show an unusual piping arrangement for the supply, which is probably not the manufacturer required layout. There is also only one riser supplying steam, and many larger boilers use both tappings.
    What make and model of boiler do you have? From that we could see what minimum pipe size/layout requirements should have been installed.
    Having to tap on the boiler Low Water Cut Off may indicate a sticking float, which could be bad. The lower of the 2 LWCO’s should have a reset capability, to indicate a problem which needs to be investigated, when the water level reaches that level. Are they ever flushed out regularly?
    When I see a condensate pump, I always think of them as a bandaid for improper piping. On my system of 55 radiators, and 1,050,000 BTU, there is no such pump, and water returns by gravity
    Hissing radiators would indicate a lack of main vent capacity, along with higher pressure than needed, during the venting phase at the beginning of each burn. I have a low pressure gauge graduated in ounces on my system in addition to the (useless) factory supplied 0-30 psi gauge. Checking the pressure as the system starts making steam, and pushing the air out of the main pipes, shows me if I have enough main vents. Two ounces of back-pressure, or less is all that is required, as even the Empire State Building needs only 3 psi to send steam up to the top. With enough venting on the system, steam will fill all the supply pipes first, and then rise up to all the radiators simultaneously, in a balanced system. Don’t let anyone tell you that hissing radiators are normal, as they should, and can be silent.
    I also view the Heatimer as the work of the devil, as it can so easily be misprogrammed. Many were installed, as cure all panaceas for unbalanced systems. I have a conventional HoneyWell VisionPro thermostat with a wired remote sensor in the most exposed room in the house. I also do not use temperature setbacks, which do not really save enough gas usage to be worthwhile.
    So this summers projects should include making sure—
    1. The LWCO, and pump wiring is working properly.
    2. The main vents are adequate and working at the few ounces of low pressure needed for the system.
    3. Checking the operation of the pressuretrol, so it keeps the pressure down below 1.5 psi max.
    Remember that you will be the eyes and ears of the steam expert who you engage to turn any pipes.
    Even removing the oil from the water, if present is something which can be done by you, if the skimming port is installed as it should have been.
    Where is the water on the floor coming from?—NBC
  • PC7060
    PC7060 Member Posts: 713
    Can you take a couple pictures from a few feet back and try to capture it the entire boiler in the photo.? Interested to see how the piping comes out of the boiler And how they connect into the steam mains. Would expect to see two pipes coming out (risers).
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,805
    I think your pictures win the internet today
    known to beat dead horses
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,805
    edited April 26
    I see counterflow,
    I don't think I see equalizer,
    I'm not sure why I see condensate pump,
    the boiler return belongs down at the floor

    show the pressure gage, and what does it get to when running,
    show the Ptrol or pressure control device, and how it attaches to the boiler,
    show the sightglass,

    where does that 1.5 or 2 inch pipe coming off the boiler riser go?
    (2nd and forth picture)
    known to beat dead horses
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    edited April 27
    Hello Again,

    Your questions answered:

    - The boiler is Weil-McClain LGB-9 Series 2, natural gas
    - I'm not sure how often it is flushed out
    - The water in the photo was from the condensate pump, I guess overflow? It was the pipe that is open at ground level. It was streaming pretty fast at that point. It is dry today. There is another leak on the boiler on the side with the sight glass - looks like a lot of corrosion, see the photo below. This is a slow drip, then faster when the boiler is running.
    - The 1.5 or 2 inch pipe coming off the boiler riser seems to be a main(?) that leads to 2 units on the SE corner of the building, main floor and second floor.
    - The thermostat is a Honeywell VisionPRO 8000 that is somehow connected to 2 units - the one furthest from the boiler in the NW corner second floor, and the one that the weird second main first goes to on the SE corner, main level.
    - the water in the sight glass is about half way up, and when the boiler is on, it doesn't move more than a couple centimeters. The glass has a lot of rusty residue inside it on the lower half.

    Photos coming...
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    edited April 27

    Weird main that goes to SE corner units:

    Pipe comes from right and goes to corner on the right side of frame.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    You'd think they could have cracked the manual if they were going to go through all the trouble of welding...
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,767
    I actually did go to the Twin Cities and look at a steam system.
    There was someone posting in 2015 with steam issues.
    We had a family function near there and so I spent a couple of hours looking at that system.
    Also went to a Dan Holohan seminar in 2015 in Minneapolis.
    His visit was sponsored by Ferguson Supply.
    That supply house may have some contacts for steam people also in addition to the ones mentioned above.

    For your system it looks to start out as a counter flow steam main with a drip that perhaps could be considered an equalizer.

    But it must then become parallel flow after leaving the boiler room as there are return lines with air vents.

    Not sure how the return lines connect to the feeder pump tank or where the pump puts the water into the boiler......Note: I can see that now.
    Your pump does not appear to have a throttling device on the outlet. Without that device the pump can put the water in too quickly. Possibly pushing water up into the steam main thru the "equalizer" drip.

    Do you have any pipes that go into or out of the basement floor?

    You mentioned vents on the radiators, do all the rads have only one inlet valve and one vent. Possibly some could have two valves and also an air vent.

    Your sight glass should show more activity. The ports into the boiler may be partially plugged.
    Your piping leading from the boiler to the controls and gauge should be opened and cleaned. Installing a few tees rather than 90 elbows would make that an easy future cleaning process.

    You have 2 Low Water Cut Off's they should be "blown down" weekly to insure that the floats work properly. That is opening the ball valve below them to pass water for several seconds.
    This should be done when the fire is burning and the fire should shut down.
    The top one should also start the pump for a few seconds.

    Then the lower LWCO, when blown down, should stop the fire and not restart until
    the reset lever/button is pushed.

    Do you ever have steam coming out of the feeder pump tank thru the high rise vent or the floor pipe. If so that is a major issue that can kill the pump motor....$$$$.

    However, you do have a skim tapping which is often overlooked on installation.
    This is the pipe coming out just above the top sight glass knob/valve.

    Skimming is a slow process that could take hours but it cleans the top oils etc. off the water. Many will not take the time to do it correctly but may show you the process. Anyone can do this if shown.

    Someone here may know about this.....your thermostat usually requires either one or four remote sensors to average the temp for operation. IDNB that only 2 will do the job correctly.

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,554
    The condensate pump is probably because the near boiler piping is causing much of the liquid water in the boiler to be up in the mains instead of in the boiler.
  • Krista_MN
    Krista_MN Member Posts: 8
    Here are answers to the latest questions:
    - I don't see any pipes coming out of the floor
    - I haven't noticed steam coming out of the feeder pump tank.
    - The radiators only have one inlet valve.

    I think I have plenty here to bring back to the board. Thank you for all your help with this!