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Help! Clanking Heating Pipe and Hissing Radiators

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Hi everyone, I live in a 6 unit building in Brooklyn, built in 1917, that uses a single pipe, steam heating system. I’ve replaced every air valve on my radiators, opened them all the way, and ensured they had proper tilt. I also did the same in the units above and below me (I know the neighbors). However, I’m still having these problems:

1. in the kitchen, there is no radiator but a straight heating pipe. It clanks INCREDIBLY LOUD for ten-fifteen minutes, when starting up, and then dies down to a gurgling sound. The pipe downstairs does not have this problem. I went upstairs and the air valve on their pipe was turned upside down, but I put it right side up and it hisses loudly but doesn’t clank anymore. Only mine clanks. I then took out the floor board around my pipe and made a large hole, so that it wouldn’t bang if it expanded (assuming that was the issue), but it made no difference — It still clanked next time it turned on. I’ve attached a video.
Clanking: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UFQcdt3Bbz8Q12WvmDSVyb7xZAq8kB4a/view?usp=drivesdk
After starting up, no more clanking but there is a weird, thick, watery noise: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Hr2cJO56UqLTVMkp2KTxMSWAy6BvaCic/view?usp=drivesdk

2. In the living room, the air valve hisses continuously whenever heat comes on. Videos attached. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fpORaJebMsVyTPN2nMwR5SAGTC5NN3wl/view?usp=drivesdk

3. In one of the bedrooms, the radiator makes a gurgling light clanking noise. I checked the shut valve and I think it’s only half way open, but as you can see in the video (also attached) the valve is completely broken — it just spins in place without moving up or down. Any idea of how to fix? https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vf9uE0xnD9h4Fb3Jqd9NXC6h4gU986Qe/view?usp=drivesdk

I have access to the boiler room. The pressuretrol was set to 2, but I brought it down to .7psi (I think, my dads a super so I know my way around tools, but im not an expert). That helped the hissing slightly but didn’t fix any of the clanking. 

Any and all help, especially with the kitchen heating pipe, would be amazing. 


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Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    Sounds like you have condensate which isn't draining properly. Find all the almost horizontal pipes 00 even short ones -- you can and make sure they are pitched to drain adequately.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    @Jamie Hall where would these horizontal pipes be? In the basement? The kitchen pipe is totally vertical from the first to third floor. 
  • dennis53
    dennis53 Member Posts: 58
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    Perhaps the pressuretrol is not seeing the actual pressure in the boiler and the pigtail could be clogged.
    Also adding main vents could help with the symptoms you are seeing and hearing. I agree with Jamie that the underlying cause is probably trapped water in the piping.
    Dennis
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    @Jamie Hall where would these horizontal pipes be? In the basement? The kitchen pipe is totally vertical from the first to third floor. 

    could be anywhere -- the clanks telegraph all over the place. In between floors is a favourite for little short pieces since the radiator is never right above the riser except maybe the top floor. Basement. Hiding...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    These are the photos of the boiler… does anything look wrong? 


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,324
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    I see the manual reset pressuretrol, and it's set OK -- but I can't see where the active one (the grey box) is set. Tha's important.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    qwertydave
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    It’s set at 0.5psi and I opened it up and the differential is set to one. 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    Is the water line stable in the boiler, is it surging or mostly stable while it is steaming?
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    When it’s steaming the water in the gauge here is jumping. Is that what you mean?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    Yes. That's your problem. Probably needs to be skimmed to get oil off of the surface of the water but it could be other things too. That is throwing liquid water up in to the system.
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Would draining and refilling the boiler to a lower water level help?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    no, not if there is oil in it. the oil floats on top so it just re-coats the inside of the boiler as it drains. It has to be slowly drained off I think through that pipe under the relief valve. Heat it to just steaming, turn it off, put a container under the skim port, open the valve and turn on the manual feed just enough that a thin stream of water comes out the skim port. you may need to do that for a couple hours a couple times. reheat the fresh water to steaming after you are done to drive the oxygen out of it. If you see oil in the container that is your problem.
    qwertydave
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Thanks Matt. I looked up skimming and I have a good idea of how to do it now too, per your instructions. I was just wondering. Do you think this the skimming/relief valve?


  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
    edited December 2022
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    I think that valve and pipe pointing down from the tee is the skim port but looking at the manual for that boiler will confirm.
    qwertydave
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 917
    edited December 2022
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    Your near-boiler piping does not meet the manufacturer’s installation requirements or trade standards. You have a colliding header:  the steam takeoffs to the system are in between the two risers from the boiler, which will tend to carry water up into the system with the steam. This water will tend to find any low spot in the piping (which should also be corrected to proper pitch for drainage) and cause or worsen the clanking noise (water hammer) you have heard.

    The correct order is both boiler risers, then the system takeoffs, then the equalizer. That way, any water carried up out of the boiler should drain down the equalizer into the return.



    Bburd
    ethicalpaul
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    bburd said:

    Your near-boiler piping does not meet the manufacturer’s installation requirements or trade standards. You have a colliding header:  the steam takeoffs to the system are in between the two risers from the boiler, which will tend to carry water up into the system with the steam. This water will tend to find any low spot in the piping (which should also be corrected to proper pitch for drainage) and cause or worsen the clanking noise (water hammer) you have heard.

    The correct order is both boiler risers, then the system takeoffs, then the equalizer. That way, any water carried up out of the boiler should drain down the equalizer into the return.


    The boiler piping appears to be correct(or pretty close) it is in a u with the risers on the first section, the mains in the second section, then the end turning down to the equalizer. It is hard to see in those pictures.
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 917
    edited December 2022
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    It certainly is hard to see, but I can see where it may be possible.

    Bburd
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Just to give y’all an update. Guy from the boiler company came and put in a chemical cleaner (didn’t catch the name of it but it made the water bright green). I know that’s the band-aid approach to this, but landlady does not want me skimming it and the boiler company seems too lazy to do it on their own. 
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
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    The 0-30psi gauge is required by code but will be useless in telling you what the actual operating pressure is at. A Tee with a low pressure gauge (0-3psi) before one of the pressuretrols would be a good location.

    The primary pressuretrol could be malfunctioning or perhaps not even working or the pigtail could be clogged. This could cause the pressure to rise significantly and if it has to rely on the secondary p-trol at 10psi!!! that is way too much pressure. All of the vents would probably bite the dust at that point.

    Water does not belong in the pipes. The boiler could be surging due to contaminants and sending the water UP the pipes or condensate may have a hard time making it back down due to poorly pitched horizontal runs.

    Clean the boiler
    Adjust the pressure to 1.5psi, with a 1psi differential
    Inspect, replace the main vents
    Inspect, replace the radiator vents
    qwertydave
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    The bright green treatment is probably SurgeX and I'd be shocked if it helped. Good luck.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Thanks. I also have my doubts about the green stuff.

    Another thing I realized, since the kitchen risers seem to be the worse suspects, banging the loudest, is that the valve on the riser on the third floor might be the problem. It’s something like the NORCA AVA 125.

    could this be causing the clanking in the risers? The radiators don’t even make much noise now beyond the hissing air valves from time to time.


  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552
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    If the landlady won't even let you skim the boiler and the pros you have access to are (let's say) not taking it seriously, then you are in a bit of a pickle. I would suggest 1) sending a copy of this discussion to the landlady and 2) finding a contractor in the "Find a contractor in your area" site (link in blue field at top of this discussion)
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    If the people who think it doesn't need to be skimmed are the ones that installed it then it probably never was and still has the oil in it from when the new boiler and piping were installed.

    The water in the mains will rust the mains and eventually you will have to replace rotted out sections of main too.
    ethicalpaul
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Let’s say I do convince her to get it skimmed and the boiler stops surging. Is there any chance that the air vent on the risers could still be to be blame? 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    No, but remind us, what air vent on the risers? :sweat_smile:
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    Hammer is caused by steam colliding with water in the piping and collapsing, the water could be there for a number of reasons but the vent isn't really one of them. The most common are a boiler throwing it up in to the mains because it is surging or priming or it is not draining because of improper pitch or piping.

    The hissing is because the pressuretrol is set too high or other vents aren't working or are missing. Those vents could be not working because they have closed because they encountered liquid water and have closed to stop that from spraying out, depending on their construction. They also could just be bad or clogged.
    qwertydaveethicalpaul
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Ahhh I see now. Thank you for that rundown. That makes sense. I checked the vents on this side of the building and they are all in working order, so it must be the surging then, and potentially a problem with the pressuretrol.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
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    That riser is a lot to vent too, you might just need to put a larger vent on it with some piping to adapt it.
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 975
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    From what i can see and what was mentioned before but not confirm is the 2 supply takeoffs are between the two risers coming out of the boiler. a big time no go. need a pic that has a better view to see the piping arrangement of the header. If this is the case you can skim all you want but your going to have a lot of wet steam regardless of how clean you get it.
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
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    The boiler is piped wrong and that sorry excuse for a skim port is valueless. This is a new installation. Get the installers back and have it done correctly. How do people get away with things like this?
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
    ethicalpaulCLamb
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,739
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    @qwertydave ask the landlady a very, very serious question. Ask her if she likes giving people money do do things wrong. And as a result will keep paying those people money to do it wrong AND not fix anything. In other words she is throwing her money down the drain, which is your rent, which, whether people like it or not, means your rent ends up being higher because of her poor choices.

    I am curious about the piping here as I can't fully make it out, but I have a feeling it is piped incorrectly as @JohnNY said. I attached a picture marked up with this question. Where does the pipe marked in red connect to the header? Can you get a picture of that? Incorrect piping can add to these problems. If it is piped incorrectly, then reference my first paragraph. They should fix it without any additional money because they have been paid to do it properly already, their choice to do it wrong shouldn't cost the customer.



    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    bburd
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,670
    edited December 2022
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    KC_Jones said:

    @qwertydave ask the landlady a very, very serious question. Ask her if she likes giving people money do do things wrong. And as a result will keep paying those people money to do it wrong AND not fix anything. In other words she is throwing her money down the drain, which is your rent, which, whether people like it or not, means your rent ends up being higher because of her poor choices.

    I am curious about the piping here as I can't fully make it out, but I have a feeling it is piped incorrectly as @JohnNY said. I attached a picture marked up with this question. Where does the pipe marked in red connect to the header? Can you get a picture of that? Incorrect piping can add to these problems. If it is piped incorrectly, then reference my first paragraph. They should fix it without any additional money because they have been paid to do it properly already, their choice to do it wrong shouldn't cost the customer.



    It is difficult to see, but it appears there are 2 pipes in a u for the header, the risers from the boiler connect to the left hand pipe and the risers to the mains connect to the right hand side of the u. It is missing swing joints.


  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 281
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    @mattmia2 Maybe a drawing would help explain the near boiler piping better than the photos.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    Or photos from a higher angle or some angle where the pipes weren't hiding the other pipes.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    mattmia2
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    Hey everyone. Thanks for all the comments and help. I really appreciate it, and agree with the comments about the landlady and boiler crew. It’s all around really frustrating. I’ll send better pics of the piping when I get down there again.

    She trusts me so I did go down tonight and skim the boiler for an hour. I did it right — no larger than a pencil’s diameter of water, etc. I turned the boiler back on and there was no difference in the noise,  not even in the slightest. 

    I know skimming is a multiple hour thing, and even multiple time thing, but could it really be that even after one hour there’d be not even the slightest difference? Is this oil thing a zero sum game? If so, I’ll go back there and skim again, though it certainly wasn’t fun to just stand there and do nothing for an hour in the basement. 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
    edited December 2022
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    Skimming is your best chance because obviously you aren't going to be able to go down there and fix the near-boiler piping (which I do suspect to be wrong).

    I've never subscribed to the "pencil thick stream", there's just no need for it to be that slow.

    What water level did you drain it to after you were done skimming?

    I can tell you with certainty that you should be able to improve the situation. Check out my video which lets you see what you are trying to prevent. In this video I raised the water level very high so that I could see some water appear in the risers:

    https://youtu.be/MhUM2vRyGBE


    Then in this video I had added some oil to the boiler to show what that does:

    https://youtu.be/jvt8qxBaRJU
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    qwertydaveBodycount
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552
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    If the piping is in a U then it seems it should be correct enough. If it isn't you could try just shutting off that supply valve on the riser KC_Jones marked with red. I'm not implying that would be correct for this size of a boiler but it might be a way to test whether the issue resides with wet steam.
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    @ethicalpaul wow, thanks for these videos, they’re super informative and really helpful.

    I filled it up to where I marked it in green in this photo. When the boiler guy came, he showed me the arrow on that part (I don’t know what it is, circled in red) and said that the water level should be above that. Marked in blue, however, is where there’s a metal sign (you can’t totally see it in the photo) that says “minimum water level.” Is this too much water.

    also, are you saying I can skim with a much quicker stream?
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,231
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    I did go down tonight and skim the boiler for an hour.

    You skimmed it from where? There's no skim port valve installed on that boiler.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
    CLamb
  • qwertydave
    qwertydave Member Posts: 15
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    @JohnNY from this thing. It’s the top most outlet hole on the water tank.