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Help me keep my old boiler alive and well

guzzinerd
guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
edited January 2023 in Strictly Steam
I mentioned yesterday I bought a 1930s, 6-unit single story apt building in the New Mexico mountains last year, @ 7k feet.

Unfortunately it's an area lacking steam specialists so it's been maintained by various local plumbing companies.  Checked your find a contractor and it comes up with zero at max range.  I'm no expert but I'd love to keep it going as long as possible.  I do have a copy of the art of steam heating. Seems to be working well, only one radiator out of the 28 in the building has a small leak that I'll take care of when Spring rolls around.   I just insulated the steam pipes in the boiler room, the rest are wrapped with a grey clay-ish wrap.  The returns are all bare.  The entire craw space (48"-60" high) is pretty warm. 

Here are pics, any comments, advice etc are welcome.  I really want to tune it and keep it going.  thanks


Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
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Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    Looks like a Vapor system. That Return Trap looks like a Dunham. Can you post a few pics of radiators, also the ends of the steam mains to see what's there?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    guzzinerd
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    Steamhead said:
    Looks like a Vapor system. That Return Trap looks like a Dunham. Can you post a few pics of radiators, also the ends of the steam mains to see what's there?
    I'll take some pics tomorrow and post them up. Thanks 🙏
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 495
    Cool ! 
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
    guzzinerd
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Ok, here are some pics of the 3 sizes of radiators in each apt along with pics of the 4 far corners of the mains from the boiler.

    Only found one pressure valve on the main installed near a similar valve on the return (2nd pic). I didn't see any others besides those in the boiler room itself.


    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
    jjinri
  • FStephenMasek
    FStephenMasek Member Posts: 88
    edited January 2023
    Nice old system! Of course take care with the asbestos pipe insulation. Keep it in good condition and there is no need to remove it, unless it is in the way of work which needs to be done. An abatement contractor can repair the deteriorated/damaged mudded pipe elbow insulation (remove and replace, or wrap with new canvas).
    Author of Illustrated Practical Asbestos: For Consultants, Contractors, Property Managers & Regulators
    guzzinerdjjinri
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Ok, thanks Paul.  That's the sort of help I'm in this forum for.
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
    EdTheHeaterManethicalpaul
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,513
    Love the bathroom floor tile... You have some fancy radiator covers too.
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    mattmia2SuperTechCLambguzzinerd
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715

    Only found one pressure valve on the main installed near a similar valve on the return (2nd pic).


    Just so your terminology doesn't confuse what people think you're talking about, those aren't pressure valves, they are "main vents"
    And those main vents look rather small- how long is each steam main, and what pipe size?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Steamhead said:
    Only found one pressure valve on the main installed near a similar valve on the return (2nd pic).
    Just so your terminology doesn't confuse what people think you're talking about, those aren't pressure valves, they are "main vents"
    And those main vents look rather small- how long is each steam main, and what pipe size?
    The pipes run approx 50' in one direction and 30' in the other.  The original plans specify 1/2" mains with 1" return mains but I'd have to go back under to verify.  Not in town today.

    Thanks
    Alex


    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,404
    That note is for the slope of the pipe, not the pipe size.
    ethicalpaul
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    mattmia2 said:
    That note is for the slope of the pipe, not the pipe size.
    Ok, glad i posted that.  Will measure them tomorrow 
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    That is a pretty busy print shown. Do you have the full set for the building.
    There may be a page with only piping shown.

    It looked like 2" shown, look for a legend to show what solid, dashed lines represent.
    The pipes with the arrows indicate the flow of steam and/or condensate return.

    The term 2" pipe is measured on the inside of the pipe. the outside will be almost 2 1/2".
    ethicalpaul
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    guzzinerd said:


    Steamhead said:

    Only found one pressure valve on the main installed near a similar valve on the return (2nd pic).


    Just so your terminology doesn't confuse what people think you're talking about, those aren't pressure valves, they are "main vents"
    And those main vents look rather small- how long is each steam main, and what pipe size?

    The pipes run approx 50' in one direction and 30' in the other.  The original plans specify 1/2" mains with 1" return mains but I'd have to go back under to verify.  Not in town today.

    Thanks
    Alex




    Those mains are bigger than 1/2". I'd guess 2-1/2" but we'd need to verify that.

    Regardless, you need more venting. Put one Gorton #2 vent on the shorter steam main. On the longer one, install a tee and put a Gorton #2 AND one of your existing vents on there. This should balance the system and let the steam reach the ends of both mains at about the same time.

    For the return lines, put a Gorton #2 on each.

    Then watch how much faster the system heats up.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    JUGHNE said:
    That is a pretty busy print shown. Do you have the full set for the building. There may be a page with only piping shown. It looked like 2" shown, look for a legend to show what solid, dashed lines represent. The pipes with the arrows indicate the flow of steam and/or condensate return. The term 2" pipe is measured on the inside of the pipe. the outside will be almost 2 1/2".
    I found these drawings in an archive in El Paso, they are from 1931 and this is the only page showing the pipes. 

    Went down just now and looks like, measuring od, the return is 1.25" and the main is 1.75". This isn't the original boiler so they may have changed the lines when they put in the Bryant.
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Steamhead said:
    Thank you for the link. Replace both?

    I'm in Silver City 
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    edited January 2023
    Get four Gorton #2 vents, and install them as outlined in my earlier post.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    Steamhead said:
    Get four Gorton #2 vents, and install them as outlined in my earlier post.
    Ah yes, i see it now.  Thanks will do and report back.  

    Edit: 4 x #2s ordered and on the way 
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    With the #2 Gortons on the way should I also fit Wye strainers while I'm at it?
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,185
    edited January 2023
    You're my hero! Looks like a great building. Enjoy vintage rental real estate, a passion of mine.

    According to the drawing, your mains are 2" with 1- 1/4" branches. Your returns are 1" with 3/4" branches.
    guzzinerd
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Ed, when looking at that print did you see the work "Kewanee" drawn on the boiler?

    Those that I have seen have a pretty high water line.

    This replacement would have a much lower water line.
    Could affect his returns?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    guzzinerd said:

    With the #2 Gortons on the way should I also fit Wye strainers while I'm at it?

    We usually don't. Since the vents are mounted vertically, dirt doesn't reach them unless the system floods.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    guzzinerd
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    JUGHNE said:

    Ed, when looking at that print did you see the work "Kewanee" drawn on the boiler?

    Those that I have seen have a pretty high water line.

    This replacement would have a much lower water line.
    Could affect his returns?

    It could. But first, let's get him properly vented and see where we are.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    JUGHNE
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,185
    The print calls out a Kewanee #1745. Yes, high water line.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    What device could you read that on?
    With my Ipad I could barely make out the Kewanee, but I need new bifocals.
    mattmia2
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,185
    Looking at and enlarging it on a desktop PC.
    JUGHNE
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    Ok.  I have the Gorton #2s on the long end of the line.  Will see how they do after sun down when it gets cold

    Regarding the other side with no valves, not sure how to approach that.  Once i expose a section of the main do I need to cut a piece out and rethread a new section for the Gorton?  Should I be able to do it within a couple of hours?  I don't want to start something that i can't finish before the boiler fires up for the evening.

    Thanks
    Alex


    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    Are there vents on that main now?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    Not that i saw but i didn't look at it all.  Will go down again tomorrow.

    Regarding the new vents.  The tenant in the unit above them told me the radiators heated up 35 minutes quicker than usual and is super-happy.  I went down and it's nice and quiet, no hissing, leaks, hammers etc.
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
    mattmia2CLambMikeAmann
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    Went down again this morning and found only one other vent on the return a couple feet away from the boiler shown in the pic.  I included a pic of the layout again showing the location of the new Gorton #2s (red circle), boiler (green circle) and second return vent (yellow circle).

    Where and when/how should I add the other two Gorton #2s?

    Thanks
    Alex




    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    See if you can locate the end of the steam main(s) on the left side of that diagram- is there a vent at that location?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Steamhead said:
    See if you can locate the end of the steam main(s) on the left side of that diagram- is there a vent at that location?
    No, don't see any to the left of the boiler room 
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
    reggi
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    edited January 2023
    OK- you need to pipe them in the same way the others were. Use the last takeoff on that main and dry return.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    Steamhead said:
    OK- you need to pipe them in the same way the others were. Use the last takeoff on that main and dry return.
    I assume I'll have to cut off a section and do some threading down there?  
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,404
    You can probably just take out a section and have combination of nipples and fittings with a union to replace the section of pipe.
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    mattmia2 said:
    You can probably just take out a section and have combination of nipples and fittings with a union to replace the section of pipe.
    Do you think i can just unscrew the sections or will i need to cut them out?  I was afraid years of steam would make them impossible to remove without cutting no?
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,404
    It depends. Sometimes it will unscrew with some big wrenches used properly, other times it won't. If it won't it is usually easiest to either shatter a fitting with 2 small sledges if it is the right type of fitting or to cut a slot almost to the threads and split the fitting with a cold chisel. It is easier to cut a filling off a pipe than a pipe out of a fitting(although the latter is also possible).
    Long Beach Edguzzinerd
  • guzzinerd
    guzzinerd Member Posts: 226
    edited January 2023
    mattmia2 said:
    It depends. Sometimes it will unscrew with some big wrenches used properly, other times it won't. If it won't it is usually easiest to either shatter a fitting with 2 small sledges if it is the right type of fitting or to cut a slot almost to the threads and split the fitting with a cold chisel. It is easier to cut a filling off a pipe than a pipe out of a fitting(although the latter is also possible).
    Ok.  I'll probably wait until Spring so I'll have time to install them without worrying about the heat coming on .

    Can i try map gas to loosen up the threads or is that a hazard on those pipes?
    Bryant 245-8 2-pipe steam in a 1930s 6-unit 1-story apt building in the NM mountains.  26 radiators heating up 3800sqf.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,580
    edited January 2023
    > I was afraid years of steam would make them impossible to remove without cutting no?

    Steam is not magic, and steel pipes aren't afraid of it. Rust is rust. But even on my 2" original steam main pipes, I can get most of them loose with a couple 18" or 24" pipe wrenches, a 3 or 4 foot cheater pipe, a wooden board to hold the backup wrench and some swearing. And I'm a weakling.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    guzzinerd