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The case of the steam noob and the cold bedroom

Hello,

I recently moved into an old 1920’s house in the cold north. I’ve got steam heat (which is new to me) and a cold bedroom.  After doing a little bit of research, I bought a new vent for the cold radiator and replaced it. I also checked the slope and sloped it a bit more towards the on/off valve. the valve is a Home Depot cheapo and I imagine there are better quality valves out there. Sloping the radiator got rid of the banging and clacking but only the first three fins heat up and the room stays cold. 

I have also fully opened the vent in the cold room and put the rest on the main on “slow/1.” I’ve noticed that other radiators towards the end of the main also are slow to heat. I believe the problem is in the main vent. I have attached a picture of what I believe to be the main vent on each main. The older, rusted looking one is on the side of the cold bedroom. Is that actually the main vent for that side? I also need to insulate the boiler mains in the basement. I think it was probably asbestos that got removed but then never replaced. That should increase the efficiency of my steam heat, correct? 

Thanks,
Mike

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,954
    I'm not even sure what kind of vent -- if it even is one -- that rusted looking thing is. Whatever, neither it nor the shiny one are fit for the purpose. How long are these mains? There may be some clever ways to improve matters a lot!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mike7832
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,654
    That's a new one on me too! Don't throw it out when you replace it.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,655
    I think the caution of don't tip it over until you figure out what it is, it might be filled with mercury applies here.
  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7


    Here is a picture of where the main becomes a return. I am unsure where that 45 above the mystery vent goes to. I think it is angled outside of the house which is confusing to me. 

    Since my tape measure decided to disappear on me, I’m not sure how long the mains are. I’d say the one with the weird rusted thing is about 20’ and the one with the silver vent is 15’. 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,655
    That pipe on the 45 looks like it goes up through the outside wall to serve a radiator on an upper floor or in an attic.
  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7
    Thanks Matt. As I sat looking at the picture I noticed that 45 is the radiator not heating. I don’t see any other vent like object in that area so I think that rusty 45 up is what is being used as the main vent. Is unthreading that one and threading a new on there something y’all would recommend a DIYer to do or is this in hire the professional territory? 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,655
    It shouldn't be hard with a big adjustable wrench and a pipe wrench, grip the pipe wrench on the fitting or pipe such that you can squeeze the handle of the pie wrench and the adjustable wrench together to break it loose. Put some teflon tape on the threads of the new vent. Make sure you use the pipe wrench to hold the pipe in place while you unscrew the vent.
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 790
    @mike7832 It sounds like you are saying the 45 up is the vent for the radiator. Find out what is at the other end of the vertical pipe after the 45 up (radiator, more pipe, top of riser vents, something else?? ).

    In any event, based on what I see, the 45 up probably goes to at least one radiator somewhere. Hopefully that radiator(s) has/have vents of their own. It is wise to know what is really at the other end.

    I don't know what the little fittings are on the pipes screwed into the side of the pipe going down. My guess is it is some kind of antique vent. Other HHers are more knowledgeable on that stuff.

    The little fittings are probably what is supposed to be a main vent after the last radiator riser as the return goes back to the boiler. By the way, drilling a hole in a pipe and threading another pipe into that hole isn't exactly by code (as far as I know, but not something that hasn't happened as a shortcut or was tolerated in the days when the system was built).

    It would be a pain to remove the large elbow above those fittings and put in a proper T and proper length nipple to ensure a new vent would work properly. At least you need to find out if those fittings actually provide some function. If they are, in fact, a main vent, then replace it with a modern one of the proper size for the piping to be vented.

    Bottom line, make sure you know what you have before you jump into ripping things apart.



  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,654
    It's some sort of antique vent. Send it to me when you take it off, I'd like to see what it is. I doubt it has mercury in it but be careful.

    The pipe it's on looks like 1/4". Gorton makes a vertical #D vent which would serve your mains perfectly. I think it might be available with a 1/4" thread but the standard size is 1/8". This would require a reducing coupling or bushing.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 6,655
    It might be some version of a vent with a carbon element and those knobs adjust the element.
  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7
    After finding my tape measure, I measured my mains. The longer main with the antique vent is roughly 45' long and my other main is roughly 31' long. I have 3" external diameter pipes. I believe my boiler is set at 2 psi. The current vent pipe diameter is 3/4". So in theory I'd have 2.2 cubic feet in the longer main and 1.5 cubic feet of air in the smaller main. I'm thinking of getting a Gorton #1air eliminator for both sides. Would that be adequate?
    AmazingAKM
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,954
    Probably...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,912
    Good advice above.

    If you remove the vent off of your cold radiator and steam still won't come out of it (don't leave it this way) then you can be sure there is a "sag" or "low spot" creating a water trap that is blocking your steam flow there.

    Throw away or return those big box junk vents, they are complete junk.

    Get Maid O Mist or Gorton ones from supplyhouse.com they have lots of options as described above. The #1 can vent a lot of air, especially given your lack of ventilation, it is a fine place to start.

    Don't worry about insulation until you get this steam distribution problem figured out. The lack of insulation isn't causing your problem.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,044
    If I recall the standard that a Gorton #2 would be needed for every 20' of 2" steam main.
    It sounds like he might have 2 1/2" mains, 45' and 31' long.
  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7
    edited November 23
    Calipers measured my mains at a little under 3”. I ordered a Gorton #2 based on what their website said. I couldn’t find any actual technical information regarding what vent for what size main. Is there a info sheet I’m missing or should I call them? 

    My calipers measure the main valve as like .68 inches so I’m not sure what size pipe it is. 

    What size Gortons do you recommend for the radiators? #4 on the first floor and #6 on the second? 
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 658
    edited November 23
    There are pipe fitting companies that make threaded mechanical tees that clamp onto a pipe. You could purchase one of these tees the right size for your needs, drill back from You would now have a vent installed at the end of that steam main. the end of that pipe with a hole saw before the down turn elbow and install a main line vent to replace that old thing that nobody knows what it is. Check with Zoro or search for "threaded mechanical tees" for use with steam.

    I really like to see old steam piping systems that were installed correctly, the way the old experts did it before a non professional got his hands on it and corrected the "Old Dead Men".
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,912
    > the way the old experts did it before a non professional got his hands on it and corrected the "Old Dead Men".

    Do you mean "before a professional got his hands on it"?

    Mike if you are going to buy a bunch of new vents to dial in your balancing, I would recommend Maid O Mist, since they have exchangeable orifices so you can change the size without changing the vent. They even sell a model that comes with all orifices.

    I'd buy a #4 for each downstairs radiator and a #5 for each upstairs radiator and maybe two of the ones that come with all orifice sizes to have some extra orifices and a couple extra vents on hand for if any fail (they shouldn't if your pressure is low).

    Then one at a time you increase by one size any rooms that are cold. Do just one because every change will change how the other radiators work. Run it for at least a couple days between each change.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,273
    There has been an update in this case. The coroners report can not give an exact time of death for the radiator. The room temperature has been to cold to get the liver temperature. Still unsolved. perhaps one of the Retired Guys have some perspective on getting some new fittings. Shout out to all you @retiredguy detectives for your input. It is appreciated. look at https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/comment/1721807#Comment_1721807 for story details
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org

  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7
    The long awaited epilogue. I received my parts from supply warehouse, unfortunately I was uneducated about the size of pipes and the one I had was too big, first time I’ve had that problem. After consulting the google machine, I learned the outside diameter of pipes does not match up with the actual size of the pipe. I then obtained the proper pipes, I decided to increase the 3/8 pipe to 1/2 from the elbow. I surprisingly was able to get the old vent off with some penetrating oil and some muscle. I did some googling on the proper way to wrap Teflon and attached everything as tight as I could with my trusty pipe wrench. I threw a T on before the Gorton #2 in case I would like to add another at some point. Steamhead, where would you like me to mail the old vent?

    I’ve attached a picture. How’d I do? I’m going to spray it with some soapy water and fire up the heat. Then I’ve probably got to figure out the vent on the other main. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,654
    Looks good, Mike. How does it work?

    And, check your PM.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • mike7832
    mike7832 Member Posts: 7
    It looks over six minutes for the steam to get to the last riser with the new vent. The cold bedroom radiator is still heating up slower than the last riser on the shorter main. I figure that one Gorton #2 is doing the majority of the venting. Would it be worth it to add a second one on the larger main and replace the shiny one on the shorter main with one as well? I’m going to order some Maid o Mists for the radiators and would rather have one big order. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,654
    Can't hurt.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,912
    Before you do that, time it 5 minutes after timing it the first time. This will give you the real venting time, as opposed to adding in the time it takes for the steam to heat up the main.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 285
    @mike7832 6 minutes from what baseline? When your boiler started up or when first start getting steam into the header? Either way doing as @ethicalpaul says is best to remove the variance of heating up the main. After getting a time (per @ethicalpauls instructions) you may also want to
    time it with the Gorton #2 removed (open pipe) again 5 minutes after the proceedeing test. Switch the boiler off when steam gets to the opening. Be careful of the steam of course. This would be your "ideal venting". Others may have different opinions, but I would say if you are more than 30s or so slower with the single Gorton #2 then add another Gorton #2. I have two on a main about 5 ft shorter than yours.
    ethicalpaul