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130 year old building, help!

Recently purchased a 130 year old (15,000sq ft) building with a steam boiler. So far the boiler has been running smooth with the exception of a few leaks in the steam supply line and needing to add water to keep it running, an issue I know but more later. 

We have a two pipe system and all radiators have Hoffman thermostatic traps. SOME radiators have air vents installed but not all. In fact maybe half here or there have them. Some with vents are hot and some without vents are hot (and vice versa with cold) 

Today in an attempted trouble shoot  I found an air vent had water in it and I cleared it out and that radiator started working. 

My father has a building (he’s owned about 4 years) and it has a boiler, two pipe system and  none of his radiators have air vents. 

How do I find out if my set up needs air vents or not? 

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    If the radiators have traps then they do NOT need vents and you don't want them. They may have been added as a kludge to "fix" failed traps. Other traps may be failed open -- and those radiators will work just fine, but other radiators on the same return won't work or work very poorly.

    I'm thinking it's time you looked at all the traps...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Mad Dog_2MysticSteam
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    What do the steam inlet valves look like?

    And all piping around the boiler?
    MysticSteam
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832

    If the radiators have traps then they do NOT need vents and you don't want them. They may have been added as a kludge to "fix" failed traps. Other traps may be failed open -- and those radiators will work just fine, but other radiators on the same return won't work or work very poorly.

    I'm thinking it's time you looked at all the traps...

    This. @MysticSteam , where are you located? We might know someone who can help you..............
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Pictures Mystic!  It will take a lot of guess work out of the equation.   Mad Dog 
    MysticSteam
  • FStephenMasek
    FStephenMasek Member Posts: 88
    If one picture is worth 1,000 words, one word is only worth 1,000th of a picture.....
    Author of Illustrated Practical Asbestos: For Consultants, Contractors, Property Managers & Regulators
    Mad Dog_2
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    Okay, so I am in Iron River, in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I will get some pictures of some radiators. So far as I can tell they are mostly Hoffman c17 steam traps (on the condensation side) and the supply are just basic gate valves. 

    That makes sense that they might try a cheap hole tap and an air vent solution instead of fixing it properly. 

    What pictures are we looking for specifically? I will take tomorrow and post here.
    reggiMad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    We need pics of all boiler piping any any exposed pipes in the basement and a few rads.    Mad 🐕 Dog
    dabrakeman
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Are you  anywhere near Charlevoix Michigan?   Mad 🐕 Dog
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552
    It's 5 hrs Charlevoix to Iron River.
    MysticSteam
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832
    About the same from Milwaukee to Iron River. I think that's the way I'd go- Milwaukee has a nice airport and you can rent a car there. And it should be a real pretty drive upstate.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    So I pulled open the c17 steam traps and this is what I found …I have one that has been updated to a 3500 (not pictured) and one to a different type(I watched in a video but can’t remember the name offhand) Two pictures look similar but maybe the shroud is missing on the one? I have followed a video online to replace the inner parts of the c17 and the “old” parts they pulled out looked nothing like this? Is this something even older perhaps? 

  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    Mad Dog_2 said:
    We need pics of all boiler piping any any exposed pipes in the basement and a few rads.    Mad 🐕 Dog

  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    To confuse this matter further….I have one radiator in the whole building that has only one pipe…the inlet…pictured here. Does this radiator need an air vent? Please advise. 
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 912
    As a one pipe radiator, yes, that needs an air vent.

    Bburd
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    bburd said:
    As a one pipe radiator, yes, that needs an air vent.
    So if this radiator has a functioning air vent it should be operational? 
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 912
    edited February 2023
    That is only one of many conditions required for the radiator to work properly. There needs to be enough steam to reach it, the rad and pipes need to be correctly pitched for drainage, the pipes need to be properly sized and the near boiler piping needs to be arranged per the boiler manufacturer's instructions to deliver dry steam to the system.

    System pressure must be low enough to allow the vent to open and close, and prevent damaging it; typically 2 psig or less.

    There should also be provision to vent air from the mains. 

    Bburd
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Sorry just saw this. Will look after supper. Mad Dog 🐕 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832
    I see several problems:

    1- soot staining around the upper door on the boiler. Probably combustion or chimney issues.

    2- That main vent looks pathetically small.

    3- Is that return pump actually hooked up? If so, I'd bet it's not needed unless there is radiation at or below the boiler's height.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    jimna01
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    What is the second pump for? The smaller one to the right.
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    Steamhead said:
    I see several problems: 1- soot staining around the upper door on the boiler. Probably combustion or chimney issues. 2- That main vent looks pathetically small. 3- Is that return pump actually hooked up? If so, I'd bet it's not needed unless there is radiation at or below the boiler's height.
    1) From what I have found (paperwork in basement) the boiler is from 64 and is likely in need of an update? (Another conversation entirely) 

    2) can you specify main vent? I have 2 3” pipes coming out of the top that I THINK are the supply? 

    3) no that one is not live, there is a return pump elsewhere in the building. 
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    JUGHNE said:
    What is the second pump for? The smaller one to the right.
    That’s a great question. One I would also like to know. This is what it looked like upon purchase. None of this pump or it’s electrical seem to be live at all? 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832

    .........2) can you specify main vent? I have 2 3” pipes coming out of the top that I THINK are the supply?..........

    How long is each steam main?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    The return pump elsewhere in the building......does it have a F&T feeding it and is that pump tank vented?

    Pictures would be good showing it's piping.
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    JUGHNE said:
    The return pump elsewhere in the building......does it have a F&T feeding it and is that pump tank vented? Pictures would be good showing it's piping.
    I will get some pictures of this as well. I do not know what F&T means. Can you define?  
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    F&T means "float and thermostatic trap". It's a device which allows condensate to move through it, and a limited amount of air for venting, but closes against steam.

    In a system with condensate receivers vented to the atmosphere, you have to have one -- working -- on every pipe which connects a steam main to a return. On two pipe systems, with true dry returns, you neither need not want them on the dry return drips, but you still need them on the steam main drips.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    jimna01
  • MysticSteam
    MysticSteam Member Posts: 10
    So I have such a massive system and area here that I’m finding difficulty getting clear direction here with limited back and forth via this forum. 

    I don’t know if it’s out of bounds to ask if any one of you folks would consider an actual phone call or video call to get a more in depth understanding of this situation??? 

    Please and thank you. 😆 
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Whats up Mystic?  You wanna talk?  Mad Dog 🐕 516.322.2881  anytime   😊