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SteamMax Return Piping

trivetman
trivetman Member Posts: 178
edited March 2023 in Strictly Steam
A new SteamMax started going into the house today!

I am super excited to hopefully not be woken up by hammering pipes in the middle of the night anymore!!

The guy installing it seem to know what he's doing. he's walked me through how the header is going to be piped and it's spot on how I read it's supposed to be done.

Two questions I've got for the Wall

1) The only thing I've asked for that he's really not wanting to do, is put an isolation valve on the wet return. It sounds like (there's a bit of a language barrier, so I'm like 75% sure this is what he's telling me) he's afraid it'll get left in the closed position by mistake and starve the boiler of water.

I looked in the manual and what I want is right in the specs (circled red in the pic). He's putting an access Tee/Valve on the wet return for drainage and flushing, just without a way to isolate it from the boiler. I will have access valves at both ends of the wet returns so I can flush water through for a cleanout, but just have to be careful the flow isn't so much that it starts to fill into the boiler as well.

Thoughts?

2) He made a big deal about telling me about the access point to clean out the boiler at the return, basically the Plugged Tee circled blue in the specs. This is at the low point, so any cleanout from this plugged tee would mean a full boiler drain, right? How often should this be done?

Thanks as always


Mad Dog_2
«1

Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,828
    edited March 2023
    You might want to talk money. tell him that with no valve... you will deduct $500.00 off the total. it is very easy. Draw an X thru the valve and then write = $500.00 discount. Circle the valve and write = full price. That will usually eliminate the language barrier. I might also want a king valve to build pressure above the normal operating pressure for blowing out the mud legs 10 years from now. BUT you want to exercise those valves every year.

    Before he leaves the job, make sure the boiler is skimmed and will he return in a week to skim again?
    Hold some $$$ back to insure the boiler works as expected. And finally you can remove the valve handles so someone does not close them by accident.

    Mr. Ed
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    Mad Dog_2Intplm.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    Thanks Ed -  I’m not trying to play hardball with this at this point.  More scoping out if that valve actually is a bad idea because mistakes can happen.  I also think he might have been concerned about the valve clogging up but am not positive (like I said, bit of a language barrier)

    Its a large company and the guy doing the install doesn’t see the money one way or another.  Ive done a few AC and heat pump installs with them and have been happy with both installs and ongoing maintenance so am not worried about them coming back to do whats been promised..  I didn’t think they had steam expertise but gave them a call when I was having trouble finding options and pictures of their headers and piping looked pretty good.

    Anyways,  I can go through the sales guy if needed to try to bridge the language barrier.  Just trying to figure out if I should push for it or if theres real reasons that valve is a bad idea.
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Listen to Mr Ed.  Play Hardball. This is YOUR boiler & $.   Not only should he put in the valve, make sure its a GATE valve not a Ball valve .  Ball valves have the Teflon ring inside that seals the chrome Ball.  It does not hold up well not steam condensate for long and may not fully seal closed after a few years.  Ask me how 🤔 I know....Also Gate valves are ALWAYS full port not so with Ball valves.  Mad 🐕 Dog
    CLamb
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    success!  Talked him into it!
    CLambIntplm.
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,505
    You want that valve, exactly as shown in the diagram. Standard with us. This arrangement allows you to flush your entire system. This is done by closing the king valve, opening the drain underneath the king valve, and running the system. With the king valve closed the returning condensate cannot return to the boiler, and will instead flow out the drain. To keep the boiler running you will need to open the boiler feed valve slightly, at roughly the rate that condensate is being removed. Takes an hour or 3, but the entire system gets flushed. That's not possible without this arrangement.
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
    Intplm.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    Does running the system with the king valve on the wet return closed flush the radiators and piping above the basement in a different way than regular operation?  I would think all the sludge ends up in the wet return whether that valve is closed or not!
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    Have him remove the handle from the valve so it won't get accidentally closed and explain you'll keep it off.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    Have him remove the handle from the valve so it won't get accidentally closed and explain you'll keep it off.
    Handle removal was already part of this morning’s negotiation!
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited March 2023
    OK then LOL!

    Oh to answer your question, you can do a lot of cleanout without draining the entire boiler...but it's a lot easier if you put a full port ball valve there instead of the plug!

    And you won't hardly need any cleanout at all if you keep your PH at 10-11 with a product such as 8-Way. It dramatically, DRAMATICALLY reduces corrosion
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    If you put a plugged tee in that mud leg (which is proper piping practice) use a brass plug so you can remove it after the first year or so. An iron plug will rust in place quickly.

    I consider this much more important than the valve on the return.
    Mad Dog_2
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023
    He put an iron cap on the mud leg for cleanout, not a plug.  Is that easy enough to wrench off if it gets a little rust?

    He’s got the headers all built.  Two more questions.

    The swing joint on the header is built with a real short horizontal nipple.  Theres only about an inch of nipple showing between the elbow off the riser and the header tee.  Is there enough horizontal space there for the swing joint to be effective?

    Other thing: the equilizer is 1.5” pipe.  Specs call for 2”.  Theres also a horizontal section of the equilizer halfway down.  I don’t know if that matters but the manual has a straight drop.

    tell me I am worried about nothing,  or at least not much.  I am not looking forward to a conversation where I am demanding the header be rebuilt.

    Its extremely hard to figure out every detail of someone elses work before they do it,  never mind getting them to do it a different way when they’re a pro and my qualifications are that I surf this cool internet hvac site and think I know it all.


    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Like this??? On new installs of wet returns I also have Gate valves on each drip in to the wet return and a tee w Boiler drain on each end so I can get a house and blow the Be-Jesus! Out of those muddy wet returns with ANY water pressure I choose.   I also like to use two 45s or long turn 90s so I can get a snake 🐍 thru as well.  Maintenance is a breeze.  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    The valve on the mud line is oriented a little differently but it looks to me like itll do the job.  Its also a ball valve which he promised will last 50 years.  It is full port.  If the teflon fails, deal with changing it out then.  I’m not too worried about that.

    Those swing joints look ok?  They just look very different than most other headers being so short on the horizontal.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited March 2023
    The swing joint on the header is built with a real short horizontal nipple. Theres only about an inch of nipple showing between the elbow off the riser and the header tee. Is there enough horizontal space there for the swing joint to be effective?


    It's fine, no horizontal space is required. Dirty little secret: as soon as it's fully installed the "swing" joints don't swing. Anyone who has disassembled a header (or tried) knows that nothing is "swinging"

    Other thing: the equilizer is 1.5” pipe. Specs call for 2”. Theres also a horizontal section of the equilizer halfway down. I don’t know if that matters but the manual has a straight drop.


    It's fine. If the boiler water is remotely reasonable and the piping is correct, there will be little or more likely no water flowing down it anyway. See my video below and others where I purposely poisoned my boiler water:

    https://youtu.be/4IymyZB4wlI


    https://youtu.be/jvt8qxBaRJU
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023
    Awesome thanks.

    ive got plenty of height on the risers.  Almost 36” from the waterline.  He’ll be starting it up today.  Ive got high hopes I hear nothing!!
    ethicalpaul
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,505
    Equalizer needs to be 2", if that is what the manual calls for.
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    I'm all for following the manual, fine, but curious: is that due to water evacuation from the header or for equalization of pressure?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    Is the header sloped to drain down into the equalizer drop pipe?

    Maybe it is just the angle of the camera/picture.

  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023
    The header is pitched.  
    No banging at startup!!!
    ethicalpaul
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,202
    I would say the job is done properly, not perfectly. It's fine. If the boiler's sized correctly and the vents are good you should be fine.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    Perfect is for dreamers.  I am pretty happy with this turnout.  Its quiet, heating all the rads, and seems sized right.  Its not building any pressure with a 30+ minute run
    Mad Dog_2ethicalpaul
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Congrats.  I can't see all angles but for the header I give the installer a C +  mad Dog
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Can you get shot of Hartford Loop? Returns...feed water tie in  mad Dog
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    Mad Dog_2 said:
    Congrats.  I can't see all angles but for the header I give the installer a C +  mad Dog
    Based on what we see here, this is an A-
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mad Dog_2
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    Mad dog -  you grade on a rough curve!

    Ethicapaul -  note the detached valve handle!!


    ethicalpaul
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    Yes, I am Super Critical and highly meticulous, with all work, with mine being judged the most harshly. I decided on DAY ONE in September of 1986, that I would strive to the best Plumbing and Heating man that ever lived..to Earn my place among the Deadmen at some point. Many, times, starting out I was slow and ripped things out to do them again. I NEVER left shafty or sub-par work even at 2am trying to get heat going on a boiler job that started at 7am. Sometimes I fell short, but went back fresh the next day to correct. You know what drove and motivated me???? I wanted ANY plumber or tradesman to see my work and go WOW! I don't even do work that good, but maybe I should try harder. I did it for the next young man or woman 50 years from now, who would "gaze at my work and marvel at my Skills" (Holohan Poster) and say: MAN! THAT's the quality o f work that I wanna do! Just as I did when I opened a wall to expose a battery of 10 commercial toilet roughings and the Cast Iron Lead & Oakum is PERFECT, and the Galvanized vents are PERFECTLY pitched...and the Kennedy-Tucker Fittings were all lined up and sqaured away. When I see the High Qaulity work here at the Wall of some of My Peers, for example my Old Boss, Richie English, it stirs something deep inside me and stokes my fires to be THAT good on my next job. Life is too short to be average or medicore. Both my Parents, and both sets of Grandparents had Sterling Reputations in their fields are were considered the best. That was and is my goal.

    The Grade:

    1) What's with the Swing check in the wet return there? They haven't been needed since the coal days.
    2) Why didn't you 45 offset the eqaulizer? That can cause banging in a surging water line situation.
    3) What's with all the bushings? Bushings should be used RARELY and not in plain sight if you can help it.
    Amateurish.
    4) That Horizontal Header is definitely pitched the wrong way (Counter-Flow) No reason to do this when
    you're repiping everything.
    5) It's not the end of the world, but that make up water is best piped in to the wet return for blending
    and power flushing purposes.
    6) You did such a nice job mounting the Low pressure gauge up safe and high, why not the 30 pounder?
    ALL guages should be on their own Pigtail for protection from the Maelstrom and longevity.
    7) In almost 40 years of installing steam boilers, I've never took the handle off a Hartford Loop valve.
    What's the fear? Homeowner will know soon enough that the valves closed. This isn't a Fire Sprinkler
    system or Medical Gas situation where a closed valve will cause death. Be careful whom you take advice
    from...their actual industry experience is..........?????
    8) The 1/2" Copper feeder line is not anywhere near level and looks like its resting on top of the header..
    electrolysis anyone? Where is the ball valve on the feeder bypass? Saved $$ there?
    9) You wasted a 3" Black Union on the header that you didn't need $$$$ Boss won't like that!
    10) Any reason you used a Malleable coupling on the eqaulizer drop? Stock & Die? You don't even need an
    expensive Ridgid 700 or 300. Do it by hand...two threads...
    12) Rectorseal #5. That 's fine for pipe dope but should be barely visible so that an inspector wonders if
    you even used any.

    Critical and harsh judge? Yes, the goal is always perfection or as close as you can get to it.
    Overall, not bad, I have seen so much worse. You/He just need to clean up the act a bit. As long as it works, and you're happy, that's all that matters. Mad Dog

    New England SteamWorksdabrakemanBenDplumber
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023
    Got it. C+ on the Mad Dog scale!

    Well,  all Ill say is its a tough scale to beat but I do appreciate the drive for perfection!  also a couple of things might be optical illusions from the pics.  (The header is definitely pitched correctly and the waterline is close to the header, but doesn’t touch).

    The removed handle on the return.  I did that myself after he told me why he didn’t want to put it on in the first place.  I guess years ago a valve he put in that place got turned by a service tech who forgot to turn it back when he left.  Boiler cracked and everyone started pointing fingers.

    so a little risk management…Im all for it.  I am happy I did get him to put the valve there.  And its operating nice and quiet after two days

    but..thanks for sharing your grading key!
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918
    The way your boiler is piped it Can't run out of feed water if that valve is closed.  Also, a working LWCO would have prevented that.  If you tell the HO they need annual maintenance and they don't do it...AINT YOURE FAULT been down this road.  Mad Dog
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023

    So this is unexpected!!


    ive noticed the sound of the boiler short cycling and came down to inspect.


    its building over 1# of pressure quickly on startup, with cold radiators. The vaporstat kept cutting out triggering the short cycle.


    I shorted the vaporstat switch to investigate. Pressure surges to 1.5# within a minute or so of startup (mains are hot but radiators cold), then drops and stabilizes at 12oz. Just before the pressure drop, i hear a pronounced sound from the vents on the dry returns, like air is being forced out of there faster than normal.

    Maybe one or more dry return vent is stuck closed? How do i check that? What else can it be?

    This would make sense: something is restricting air and steam flow through the system, building pressure. This thing gives away after less than a minute and the pressure buildup pushes air to the vents extra quick. What could be restricting flow for less than a minute upon startup (and return for the next startup)?

    I never saw this pressure build than drop on the old boiler. Granted I hadn't been observing the startup pressure for quite a while so it might have happened without my knowledge as of late.


    i am going to keep the vaporstat bypassed and set pressuretrol to the minimum cutout for now until I figure this out.

    Anybody got an idea?

  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,918

    Dirty Boiler water. Mad

  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178

    ooohhhh….maybe. They haven't yet come back to skim. I was gonna let them do it but maybe i do some myself

  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
    edited March 2023

    well….definitely dirty water was causing the pressure surging. Installers came back to skim. I don't think they skimmed as much as flushed with tsp, drained and flushed it a couple times. Oh well….at least it got piped right.

    pressure surging and foam in the sight glass are back a day or two after the initial 'skimming' so now its up to me.

    Skimming is easy enough but I have no idea when i am done. I don't see visible oil but i do have small bubbles forming in the bucket which don't go away quickly which I am guessing is evidence of the oils. Attaching a pic that I am not sure is good enough to see anything. Am I skimming until these go completely away? How often do I run the gas as I am skimming? Ive done so a couple times and the runoff goes real quickly from near clear to sludge brown.


  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178

    i can already see the foam starting to form in the sight glass after running it for 10 minutes after a couple hours skimming this morning. Wasn't sure I was done….but I was sure I had to get ready for work

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701

    I'd just do it for awhile (like an hour) then let it run for a week or two, then repeat as needed. There are diminishing returns from prolonging a single session—the gunk has to be floating free on the surface.

    After a few times it will be nice.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    trivetman
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 552

    I agree in my limited experience (of one😅) that it takes a few shots to get it good. After my install the tech skimmed for about 15 minutes and as expected I had lots of surging and rusty water in the glass. Over the next week or so I went down daily and alternated between draining a bit of the sludgy water at the bottom from the spigot valve and retopping the water level one day and the next day after the boiler had been shut down for a while but still warm skimming by opening the skim port and trickling in feed water slowly and skimming for a little less than an hour. Repeated this sequence about three times over a week or so. Took care of most of the issue. I've never added any additives to my boiler either.

    I've always wondered whether cleaning the pipes prior to installation would cut down on the amount of skimming required and whether anyon really did that?

    You could get some insulation on the new pipes if you are satisfied with the piping.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701

    Yes, anything you do to reduce the amount of oil going into the boiler will help. I have heard a couple people here say they wash all new pipes with dishwashing liquid before installation but I've never done it (but I have a very easy skim setup)

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703

    skimmimg can take a while, hours, and can require multiple times skimming,

    maybe I missed it, but, I don't see what you have for a skim port in any of your pictures, is it there, or are you just draining off the botom ?

    known to beat dead horses
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 178

    And last question (I hope!)…..why on earth did they spray paint all the piping black? I asked the guy and whatever answer he gave me, it was lost in translation.