Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Improper Near Boiler Piping Issues

Erik5721 Member Posts: 2

I contemplated writing this Forum for quite some time, but decided to satisfy as many small issues as possible , first.

Am giving you the shortest version possible, to answer as many questions that you may ask.

Have a 2 Story Stone bldg with Large Open Attic area , located in Upstate NY.

Bldg dates to 1915 & originally was a Factory, converted into 5 Apts in 1970.

Each floor is app 3000 Sq Ft

When purchased in 2019, The Existing Boiler was a Utica JC 500K 2 Pipe / Wet Return system, feeding 28 C I Radiators.

No radiators are piped in the basement.

Most were of the 14 - 16 K BTU rating, according to converted measurements.

The Basement Mains to Traps , are 2" on Boiler side of bldg & 2 1/2" into 2" on opposite side.

Condensate lines are 1" & 1 1/4"

Most Main Run outs are 3/4 , Risers to above floors are 1" , With 1/2" condensate piping from each Radiator.

Radiators do Not have attached Steam Traps, nor appear to ever had.

An 18 Gal Hoffman Condensate tank With 2 Respective F & T Traps are located 3/4 down stream the bldg length from boiler.

Condensate is Returned to a 30 Gal Hoffman Boiler Feed Tank , a few feet from boiler

The attic originally had 4 sets of risers with Radiators removed, derived from finding the old Floor openings.

2 CI Radiators were installed for the time being, with antlers, having 4 Gorton #2 Vents on Each side of Attic, as No Main Vents were found in this bldg at All.

Boiler data plate was 2007 , with some controls dating to 2014.

Boiler ran off a Pressuretrol , with #67 LWC & a secondary Cycleguard LWC, which was improperly placed into the Lowest tap on end section.

Although many aspects needed to be addressed, the Boiler did operate & satisfy the bldg, with issues.

A Chronic issue, was that the boiler was Short Cycling.

First thing I did was to purchase Dan's Book , The Lost Art Of Steam Heat -Revisited, for which many hours were spent absorbing it's contents & then discussing with many local people in the Heating business.

This book taught a Career long Roofing Contractor, the Simple basics of Steam & of The Dead Men, associated with our bldg system.

Sequence of Work Performed:

Re Pitched & Re hung Every inch of Both Basement Mains, Run outs and Condensate lines.

Located & replaced clogged condensate sections of piping.

Cleaned All Strainers & Condensate sumps.

Verified proper operation of Both F & T Traps.

Installed 2" wall thickness F/G Insulation on All basement Mains & Run outs to underside of Wood flooring.

*This alone, brought basement temps from 75 - 95, down to 60 - 65 Degrees, sending those Lost BTU's to Upper Levels of bldg.

Replaced Pressuretrol with a Vaporstat, set at 1 1/2 Lbs , without ever getting a reading on a 0 - 5 PSI Gauge.

Cleaned Chimney throat of Much accumulated debris.

Boiler was still short cycling , with Cycleguard running Boiler for 15 Min & Off for 90 Seconds , Constantly , 24 Hrs a day...

Bldg thermostat had been improperly placed in a 1st fl unit, certainly Not helping the matter.

As the Bldg renovation continued, each Apt was downsized or re configured in size, eliminating the Huge old Column Type Radiators for Smaller CI Tube Radiators, generally 5-10K each.

The Bldg was expanded to 9 Apts , with a Total of 30 Radiators, with a BTU Load of App 328, 650.

T Stat was then centrally placed into Upper Staircase wall, below heat load of upper hallway ceiling, & appears to be well suited, maintaining exactly the Set point in each Apt & Hallways/ Stairs.

Still, A Gauge reading was never present, thinking that the Load was Equal to the Boiler output.

Gorton # 1 Vents were placed on 2nd fl radiators, before Valves, at Front of bldg quickly purging those 4 risers, which had never happened before.

The CycleGuard was replaced with a Watchdog LWC , eliminating the Preset Run time / Short Cycling schedule of the Cycleguard control.

TRV valves were installed into each of the New 7 Apts, in the hopes of keeping more Steam in the mains, for a longer period.

The Boiler starting leaking badly from cracked sections in early Dec 2021, resulting in a New Boiler Install.

Lead times of 12 - 16 Weeks , forced us to Secure Replacement Sections & other components from Utica Boiler , Using the Existing Near Boiler Piping, Due to Time & Outside Temperature issues.

It has always been discussed to replace the Near Boiler Piping, but could not be done at that time.

It is scheduled for This September.

Boiler was Rebuilt on Existing Base , Along with New Burner tubes & Gas Valve, which was Calibrated to Factory specs.

Boiler Still Continued to Short Cycle , even after adjusting Vaporstat.

For Insurance purposes, the Boiler was inspected by the New York State Boiler Division.

As well as Numerous others, the Inspector commented that the Near Boiler Piping was Not Correct & that was the reason for Chronic Short Cycling for both the Old & New Boilers.

Will attempt to attach Photos of Old Boiler, showing Existing conditions, before Insulating Header, etc.

I believe that correcting the Old / Improper Piping design to a Needed Drop Header, would suffice this problem.

Any comments , suggestions or Drawings on correcting the piping issues, would be Greatly Appreciated.

Thank You,



  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
    A quick assessment of your boilers near boiler piping which is welded show that even though you have a semi swing joint there should be 2 more companion flanges to allow for expansion . Without which there not much room for pipe expansion between your boiler outlets . Welded header usually if not set up will crack a boiler from stress over time . This boiler should have been piped in threaded steel . If your boiler is not drastically over sized and is short cycling then there’s one or two issues . Mis calibrated vaporstat which would require a low pressure gauge and a continuity checker and chk it's cut in and cut out . Be sure your pigtail and pressuregauge assembly are clean. If this is a two pipe system then no radiator in the system should have a air vent. Your steam mains should either have a crossover trap or main vents at the end of the mains and your dry returns should have main vents . Being a condensate pump was added I would guess at some point it was added because of a newer boiler was installed w a lower water level and issue occurred and that was there best idea . Most older two-pipe system where gravity return system w no condensate pumps . I decent steam guy would recommend usually to get rid of the condensate pump and traps and Install a false water line to create a water seal between the ends of the steam mains and the dry returns and bring the system back to its original design . On original gravity return two pipe system there where no condensate pumps and for the best result and operation most of these types of systems work and distribute steam better when put back to its original design .
    Has the boiler been skimmed and flushed . Unless all your mains up to your traps are hot in close timing ,balancing will be impossible and again without proper vents the boiler will cycle on pressure. I would really image that a competent professional steam guy would have done a better job on the piping but from the looks of it there skill and steam knowledge was limited and driven by price and getting the work .
    Is the sight glass bouncing while steaming and is there any cycling on the low water cut off and even as a new install has the low water cut off been blown down and check for proper operation . On another note was the gas pressure inlet and manifold pressures tested to ensure that the boiler is being supplied with the proper gas supply over firing a boiler will cause short cycling.
    Your boilers installation company should be able to get this right other wise you may not have the correct contractor . In closing there’s always a decent price difference between a contractor and a real knowledgeable steam guy of which I don’t believe you had . Peace and good luck and continue reading and knowledge is power .
    Ps the near boiler piping is not correct and your draining back to the boiler off the one riser and the system take off are in the completely wrong place ,you need a real steam guy not a guy that can weld pipe you need one who can read direction and a stick pipe drawing . Real suggestion would be find a real steam contractor Nd get it re piped or wait a few year till you replace it again because it will crack once agin and that just a matter of time . Just telling The truth Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,244
    What in the world....
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,909
    JohnNY said:

    What in the world....

    Once Seen can't be unseen!
  • Erik5721
    Erik5721 Member Posts: 2
    Hello John

    Glad you liked Our Header

    Would you be able to Visit this location , and / or perform the Proper work ?


  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,857
    JohnNY said:

    What in the world....

    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
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,737
    Ther is no way for water to get out of the header unless it runs back into the boiler. That's problem #1
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,165
    This comes from a novice homeowner that grew up with steam heat.

    The heating plant needs a great deal of work by starting with removing all the near boiler piping and if possible, replace the boiler with a new boiler with multiple steam chest tapping's-4 would be better in the top of the steam chest to create more wet steam quickly and feed the wet steam to a double drop header or perhaps 2 double drop headers to feed dry steam to the building.

    Please don't yell; but, If I deserve to be yelled at.......

    Thinking out loud, having an attic and only two stories would make it an ideal candidate for top fed gravity hot water heat since it has 2 sets of pipe passages.

  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,388
    Erik5721 said:

    Boiler Still Continued to Short Cycle , even after adjusting Vaporstat.

    Kind of wondering about that red handled valve next to the condensate pump in the last picture of the series. It appears closed, hopefully they are not running the system that way.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
    edited July 2022
    Are any of your mains vented , does your condensate tank have a open vent or Is the tank capped if so add a vent ,my guess is your air locked because you have no main venting and your tank is plugged . If steam is blowing out of the open vent pipe then u have bad f and t traps and other issues .
    As for the near boiler piping a good fitter should be able to cut all that crap back to your system take offs and raise your boiler riser to your existing take off tees and remove the reducer in the elbow and drop a mim 2 inch equilizer and pipe it back to the boiler w a tee in the drop for your Hartford loop at the correct height .Off of the header directly before your drop add a tee for a equilizer line for a false water line .
    Again do a walk through and find where your wet returns and end of the dry returns tie together . You want to be sure that you set your false water line to give you a water seal of at least 14 inch this is saying you are using a vaporstat .
    I see you have some added framing above your boiler . This will limit your height unless removed . Please remember to get your header a mim of 24 inch above the water line . You should also remove the reducer on the boiler inlet and replace w full sized tee w a plug to wash the boiler bottom out .
    Again your gas line size should be checked to assure that your not under fired due to undersized gas line and or under sized gas service and meter. Also your inlet and outlet gas pressure should be checked .
    That small 67 low water cut off would be a no go for me and I may have installed a float type type but possibly something w a larger float assembly instead of the cheapest tiniest lwco available I know that is what they come w but it don’t make it right . The piping for your pressuretrols looks a bit weird being it’s piped on both side .
    Being this is in a commercial building a resettable lwco is usually required and a smart idea to protect your investment . Usually for secondary lwco I use a probe type .
    From the looks of it a good knowledgeable low pressure steam fitter should have no problem correcting the piping but good steam fitters and the material do not come cheaply and from the looks of that boiler room it would not be cheap but it is do able . Now just find some one who is willing do do the right thing and pay them what they want and end the madness . Most possible you will be lower your gas comsumpition especially if all it does is short cycle by ending your short cycling and getting heat out to your system. Please remember that residential 1 and 2 pipe steam systems operate properly when supplied w dry steam not wet and that correct near boiler piping is directly related to dry steam production and proper system operation with which as forgiving as steam is its only a straw on a camel back that throws it out . So get it done correctly and don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish or as history states it will be repeated .
    Again I highly doubt the condensate pump is required in your system just the actions of someone who just don’t know and wanted to get heat and get payed . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,838
    You need to figure out what the distribution system was originally and de-knucklehead it. Except for a few rare exceptions the radiators in a 2 pipe system vent through the returns.

    Do you have any radiators with original valves on them? It sounds like you have a vapor system where the steam pressure is kept very low and either a special valve or an orifice plate in combination with the low pressure limits the amount of steam entering the radiator to the amount that the radiator can condense so the steam never reaches the return, no steam trap is needed because the steam never reaches the outlet of the radiator, it is condensed to water before it gets there.

    You probably need to remove the radiator vents and make sure the radiators can vent through the returns through main vents or a steam trap on the return.

    The supply mains need to either have steam traps that let them vent in to the returns or additional main vents if they connect to the returns through water seals below the water line(it sounds like you have traps)

    It sounds like the boiler is shutting down on low water cutout, not short cycling.

    The most likely possibility is the incorrect near boiler piping combined with oil that needs to be skimmed from the boiler causing surging or high ph water causing priming is throwing liquid water in to the mains which cant return as fast as it is being thrown in the system is emptying the boiler

    The other way the boiler could be getting emptied is the water is getting pushed in to the returns or the condensate pump or leaking past a bad or missing check valve in to the condensate pump.

    I think the condensate pump was installed as a misguided attempt to fix the problem of the water leaving the boiler as a liquid and is unnecessary.