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What in the world is going on here?

impudence Member Posts: 4
edited December 2022 in Strictly Steam
I bought my house a few years ago. Everything is done wrong in this house. I've been fixing things non-stop since I bought the place. When I go out to my garage in the morning (during heating season) I have been finding my the floor wet. I had thought it was coming from the water line for the hose. I have been admittedly lazy in tracking down the problem. When I finally decided to properly investigate what I found has me baffled.

The house is a one pipe steam system. Here is the boiler.

For reasons that I don't understand, there is a huge radiator in my uninsulated garage. I had closed the shut-off valve for this radiator when I moved in.

When investigating the source of the leak, I found this situation behind some paneling. The pipe to the right is hot and goes to the garage radiator. The green pipe is baffling as it comes out of the other side of the radiator (which I think makes no sense for a one pipe system). The larger pipe to the left comes directly from the boiler. Last and most important, the silver pipe next to it is broken off right at the elbow. The pipe is mostly filled with what feels like dirt. I obviously assume this is the source of the leak, but it seems to happen at night when the system is off, and I haven't caught it in the act.

This is the other side of the wall from those pipes. 4 go in but only 2 come out. Only the main line and the line to the garage radiator come out the other side. I also suspect there is a branch off inside the wall that is feeding radiators upstairs.

Here is where it gets weirder. The main pipe goes up to the ceiling in the garage and turns. The smaller broken line follows.

As they go across the ceiling, the main has a branch that splits in two and goes into the room above on both sides. The previous owner removed the radiators and capped off those two lines.

At the other end of the garage, the main line goes into this bizarre monstrosity. To clarify what you are seeing, the main drops down and goes into the smaller pipe which as I mentioned earlier is broken off. I have checked the pipes with my infrared heat gun. The main is hot all the way until it joins the smaller pipe. Everything after that is cold.

What I think is happening here is that they have somehow closed off the pipe at that connection. However, it is not closed completely, and some water is seeping out and coming out of the broken pipe.

Despite being miserly with running the heat our bills are enormous. Additionally, the water feeder to the boiler is constantly notifying us of excessive water use. I assume everything about this situation is wrong. We are losing massive amounts of heat to the cold garage for no reason.

What should be done here? The piping makes no sense to me. Can the main line just be capped off where it enters the garage? I'm going to have a plumber come in but I want to know as much as possible about the situation before I hire someone.


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832
    That system has been knuckleheaded. You need a Steam Man. Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    bburdIronmanLong Beach Ed
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    edited December 2022
    Steamhead's correct. Perhaps the garage radiator was installed as a two pipe radiator, the broken pipe was its return pipe and the closed valve is leaking some steam into the radiator that's ending up dripping out of the broken return. Excess make-up water will eat up your boiler quickly. The location of the leak must be found and corrected. Since you have hidden pipes, they have to be accessed to check for leaks.

    If the plumber you hire can't explain exactly how that system was designed to work and what was changed, move on to a different plumber. Lots of effort went into messing this system up. Don't spend money adding to that mess.

    If the guy you call says he installed that boiler, call someone else.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,920
    Sound advice from Smart Steam men.  Mad Dog
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,632
    I think that loop is for expansion. That is the return for that main. It probably continues in that wall, or there is a vent buried in that wall and it drops down to a wet return in the wall.