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Boiler Piping replacement before cold season

ruben356
ruben356 Member Posts: 23
edited September 23 in Strictly Steam
Hello all. Seeking some guidance on how and if I should change the piping on this boiler. Helping my parents out, as their boiler needs some TLC before the cold weather kicks in. I plan to add correct drain valves that are missing and have caused condensation to sit and eat the pipes away, and possibly re pipe the return lines so that they are closer together. Also not sure if the header is ok the way it is pictured or should I plan to change that as well. Any piping recommendations welcomed, not sure if to use copper or stick to mostly iron pipe. I should say the system has been like this for close to 10+ years and they don’t usually have problems heating the house, besides a few leaks cause by clogged pressuretrol over the years. 

Explanation of current piping: header goes in two directions. One pipe to front of house radiators, other to back of house  the returns are the same deal. Return at front of boiler and other return (rusted) at rear of boiler. Boiler only serves 1 floor in the house. 
^ rear return, and water feed.

^better picture or rear return. Where condensation has sat for years, no drain.
 
^ pipe that joins rear return/water feed to front return/Hartford loop. 
^ general piping.
^ Closer header look. Pipe on the left, heads rear of house radiators, pipe to the right heads front of house. 

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,424
    Well... I'm not sure how far you want to go with this, but as I expect you are aware that header and equalizer arrangement could hardly be more wrong. Do you have the boiler installation manual? If not, but you have the model number, you may be able to find it on the Utica Boilers web site -- or some one of us may have it.

    And Uticas -- like any side outlet boiler -- work much better if piped properly.

    Correcting it will require some fairly extensive repiping -- in threaded pipe, which you may or may not want to attempt yourself. Eventually you will wind up with the two outlets coming up about 30 inches above the water line in the boiler, then turning to go horizontal to join a proper header. Then, farther along the header , which is pitching down away from the two risers, you would connect the two steam mains to the house. Then finally, at the far end of the header (the low end) you will turn vertically down; this will be the equalizer. The bottom of the equalizer will go into the top of the Hartford loop (look it up). The wet returns will all be joined and come to the lower end of a pipe extending down to near the floor from the Hartford Loop (the other side of the Hartford Loop goes into the boiler return fitting), also near the floor).

    As I say, all this in threaded iron pipe and fittings.

    It's harder to describe in print than it is to actually do it! But -- there's a lot of pipe fitting there.

    At the same time you will want to take out that very unhappy return and replace it. On the return piping, make sure that you have blowoff valves at low points (full port ball valves) or at the very least Ts with plugs rather than elbows.

    An alternative, of course, would be to get a competent steam professional in there to repipe it all correctly. This assumes there is one in your area, of course. So... where are you located? It's quite possible that we know someone on whom we could rely to do the job right.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ruben356
    ruben356 Member Posts: 23

    Well... I'm not sure how far you want to go with this, but as I expect you are aware that header and equalizer arrangement could hardly be more wrong. Do you have the boiler installation manual? If not, but you have the model number, you may be able to find it on the Utica Boilers web site -- or some one of us may have it.

    And Uticas -- like any side outlet boiler -- work much better if piped properly.

    Correcting it will require some fairly extensive repiping -- in threaded pipe, which you may or may not want to attempt yourself. Eventually you will wind up with the two outlets coming up about 30 inches above the water line in the boiler, then turning to go horizontal to join a proper header. Then, farther along the header , which is pitching down away from the two risers, you would connect the two steam mains to the house. Then finally, at the far end of the header (the low end) you will turn vertically down; this will be the equalizer. The bottom of the equalizer will go into the top of the Hartford loop (look it up). The wet returns will all be joined and come to the lower end of a pipe extending down to near the floor from the Hartford Loop (the other side of the Hartford Loop goes into the boiler return fitting), also near the floor).

    As I say, all this in threaded iron pipe and fittings.

    It's harder to describe in print than it is to actually do it! But -- there's a lot of pipe fitting there.

    At the same time you will want to take out that very unhappy return and replace it. On the return piping, make sure that you have blowoff valves at low points (full port ball valves) or at the very least Ts with plugs rather than elbows.

    An alternative, of course, would be to get a competent steam professional in there to repipe it all correctly. This assumes there is one in your area, of course. So... where are you located? It's quite possible that we know someone on whom we could rely to do the job right.

    Well, I will be honest. The budget we have for this is not too large, including what I am throwing in to help them out. I was honestly thinking of just routing the rear return and the water feed to the front of the boiler, and join them closer to the hartford loop and the other return. Since they don't have any issues with heating, and the biggest issue is this improperly piped return/ no drain taps. I was hoping to get away with just moving the return and cleaning up that piping a bit.

    I don't think I have the proper tools to tackle a complete repiping. They have been wanting to upgrade the heating system to hydronic for some time now, and I am thinking a competent steam professional's price might be close to just upgrading to a hydronic system. The feed pipes are old and burried, as their basement is mostly finished. We are in the Northern NJ area, I am sure there should be plenty of professionals about.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,633
    By upgrading to hydronic, do you mean hot water heating, rather than steam heating?  A proper repipe will be expensive, but a lot less expensive than the hot water conversion you propose.  Would this conversion include a new boiler?  If so, you are looking at a 5 figure price tag… and the first number may not be a one.   (We don’t talk pricing here… one of the rules). So reconsider your budget in order to avoid the existing boiler possible failure because someone did a real bad copper piping job. 
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,766
    Why repipe the returns when the near boiler piping is garbage and not even close to anything resembling proper near boiler piping it s as though some one w zero experience in steam boilers nor reading did the job. When I see boilers piped completely wrong that work the first thing I think and know is that if I where to have done the job in such a fashion it would never work but some hackaroo does it and it works just amazing . As I always say steam is quite forgiving and looking at that only proves it . But at what cost mis piped steam boiler only produce wet steam give poor performance and high fuel consumption that’s the cost and over time rot your steam mains . If converting to hot water just remove everything theres nothing to re use and if they do plan for head aches , and if planning baseboard in a older home plan on them just getting screwed to the existing base molding unless your getting a gc in to do wall repairs . Get the boiler repiped properly and all the vents up dated and boiler cleaned properly it won’t be cheap but it will be cheaper then a properly installed hot water boiler unless u get the same guy that did the steam boiler then possible cheaper . Even though I see a hot water boiler off to the side has anyone ever checked the chimney to see if it can handle the btu s or is that not really important ? I would think so . Either way weather a re pipe or conversion it s still some bucks and you would need that steam boiler removed or convert it to hot water which for myself would not even be on my radar no need for that liability ,but some may say go for it not . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,424
    Frsst comment here -- if you are even remotely contemplating "upgrading" to hydronic (hot water, that would be far more expensive than fixing what you've got. If your budget is having trouble thinking about fixing what you have, you'll never be able to do hydronic. Furthermore, hydronic -- even if it worked, which is unlikely without a completely new system (all new boiler, pipes, radiation, the works) is unlikely to keep you warm.

    Now having said that, there are at least two excellent professionals in your area who can actually help you out -- @clammy , who replied to you abobe, and @EzzyT . Send them a PM to arrange to come and look at this.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England