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Boiler Header Piping: How bad is it?

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Essex123
Essex123 Member Posts: 2
I have a Weil-McLain EG/PEG-50 steam boiler. It was installed by the prior owner. @JohnNY very kindly helped me diagnose that my boiler header piping is messed up. I can't say enough good things about John and I absolutely trust his take on this, but I don't want to bother him more than necessary with follow up questions and I figured posting here would allow others to benefit from the question in the future.

So: Why is the current configuration so bad, how significant are the likely effects of it being bad on the system and its efficiency, and how important is it that I have this fixed?






Comments

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,759
    edited December 2022
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    The short answer is the order of pipes as they enter or exit the header is incorrect.

    You want the supplies to enter the header first, from the sides or the top. Yours enter from the sides, that part is OK.

    But you want any exits from the header to the mains to occur AFTER all of the supplies from the boiler.

    Otherwise, the steam can tend to pull water up into the main with it.

    Also, after the header you want a nice smooth downturn back into the boiler to let any water in the header travel easily back down to the boiler. Yours hits a tee and some of the water may not go the right direction and might also get "picked up" by the steam and carried toward your mains.

    Yours isn't the worst that can exist, but it's definitely not right.

    To be able to see this for yourself at some point, you can download any steam boiler installation manual and they show nice drawings of how it is supposed to be.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,093
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    In addition to what Paul posted;
    If you look in the install manual for this boiler, it may be around in an opened plastic bag, the horizontal header perhaps should be 3".

    And one of your steam mains looks to be 2 1/2" or 3" and is connected with only a 2" riser.

    Also the book will state how far above the water line the header or top of the boiler risers should be. You might check that also.

    The two 3" risers are to your advantage in that the some of the water may fall out of the steam and back into the boiler without consequence.
    ethicalpaul
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,711
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    2 - 3 inch boiler risers reducing down to a 2 inch, incorrect header and system main takeoffs in wrong order, as Jamie mentions, and all that.
    known to beat dead horses
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 926
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    As others have pointed out, that piping is incorrect in several ways; however, we have seen much worse here. The main question is: how well does the system work? If it heats quietly and evenly, without water spitting from places where it shouldn’t, you should probably just insulate the pipes.

    Bburd
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,244
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    bburd said:
    As others have pointed out, that piping is incorrect in several ways; however, we have seen much worse here. The main question is: how well does the system work? If it heats quietly and evenly, without water spitting from places where it shouldn’t, you should probably just insulate the pipes.
    SMH…
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,764
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    It's simple. The installer who was either too lazy to read or couldn't read did not follow the MFG instructions. Probably because he thought he knew better.

    Only you can decide by how the system performs
    ethicalpaul
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,244
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    JohnNY said:


    bburd said:

    As others have pointed out, that piping is incorrect in several ways; however, we have seen much worse here. The main question is: how well does the system work? If it heats quietly and evenly, without water spitting from places where it shouldn’t, you should probably just insulate the pipes.

    SMH…

    I have a different take on things like this. Any marginally trained monkey can pipe a boiler well enough that steam eventually makes its way to any connected radiators. The end result is a warm room, granted, but that shouldn't be good enough. It's not practical to test for dry steam in the field but when you see piping like this on a header you know the steam being produced is of poor quality and much of it is not even leaving the header or near boiler piping to get in to the system. So, the poster is paying to create steam that isn't being used to heat the home. The piping and header has to be right. Not just *good enough*. For these reasons I personally feel a professional obligation to steer this poster away from his quest to correct his issues with more vents when distribution piping is a glaring problem.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
    ScottSecorCLambPC7060
  • Essex123
    Essex123 Member Posts: 2
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    Thanks everyone, this has been really informative.

    1. The manual states that the header pipe should be 24" above the water line, which itself is about 24" from the ground. I measured, and it looks like we're okay there.

    BUT

    2. For this size boiler, the manual calls for a single 2.5" riser or double 2" risers, both with a minimum 2.5" header. As others mentioned, my setup has two 3" risers and only a 2" header. Even the largest EGH-115/125 boilers only call for double 2.5" risers with a 4" header. It seems like if anything, that header should be larger than the risers, not smaller. According to the manual, there's no situation where the header should be smaller than the riser(s)....

    3. The perspective in the photos is tricky, but both mains are 2". The header is 2" and the risers connecting the header to the mains are also 2". So basically the entire setup is 2", except for the risers from the boiler which are 3". I guess whoever installed it figured if the mains are only 2" then why bother with a larger header....

    4. That's all in addition to what others mentioned -- exits from the headers to the mains should come after the supplies from the boiler; and after the header there should be a downturn back into the boiler.

    This all results in me "paying to create steam that isn't being used to heat the home", and that's not ideal.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,915
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    Essex123 said:

    Thanks everyone, this has been really informative.

    1. The manual states that the header pipe should be 24" above the water line, which itself is about 24" from the ground. I measured, and it looks like we're okay there.

    BUT

    2. For this size boiler, the manual calls for a single 2.5" riser or double 2" risers, both with a minimum 2.5" header. As others mentioned, my setup has two 3" risers and only a 2" header. Even the largest EGH-115/125 boilers only call for double 2.5" risers with a 4" header. It seems like if anything, that header should be larger than the risers, not smaller. According to the manual, there's no situation where the header should be smaller than the riser(s)....

    3. The perspective in the photos is tricky, but both mains are 2". The header is 2" and the risers connecting the header to the mains are also 2". So basically the entire setup is 2", except for the risers from the boiler which are 3". I guess whoever installed it figured if the mains are only 2" then why bother with a larger header....

    4. That's all in addition to what others mentioned -- exits from the headers to the mains should come after the supplies from the boiler; and after the header there should be a downturn back into the boiler.

    This all results in me "paying to create steam that isn't being used to heat the home", and that's not ideal.

    So
    1) "it looks like we're okay there" Take a ruler and measure to make sure.
    2, 3, & 4) Put simply Its Wrong.
  • realliveplumber
    realliveplumber Member Posts: 354
    edited December 2022
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    If the waterline is 24" above the ground, and you have 18" risers, the header might not be 24" above the waterline.
  • Matt_67
    Matt_67 Member Posts: 295
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    In the long run you’ll be happier if you make it right. The system will run better and it will also make any future issues easier to troubleshoot. The challenge with a poor installation is determining to what extent the bad installation is causing the current problem. I’ve found it’s usually cheaper to start by fixing what’s obviously wrong.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    You need to have the boiler repiped properly or it shall never perform correctly . Are those main back pitched? A 3 inch header using both tappings and possibly drips on those two mains if there back pitched . Unfortunately on repipes like your it’s about a boiler shy of a new install except the boiler already there . The difference between a properly piped boiler and yours is the quality of steam the boiler produces and sends out to the system in a ideal world your boiler would produce dry steam ,dry steam does a job wet steam just folds back into condensate and never heats a system in a timely or even manner . The difference is a boiler that is installed incorrectly and one that is installed properly w ease of servicing and the provision for cleaning the water side of the boiler and of course a proper header and correct near boiler piping this is the make or break deal breaker . Without a boiler producing dry steam your system will be a marginal performer and will never operate as it was intended to . These types of job are not cheap and require some one who has a clue not just anybody w a big pipe wrench . Also after all said and done w your piping how about venting and water side and wet return flushing ,often things that are old need to be either flushed or replaced . It like getting a new car and having your old tires re installed same thing .
    Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating