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Equalizer disabled experiment video

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ethicalpaul
ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
edited March 2023 in Strictly Steam

I installed a valve on my equalizer so we could all see what it does, have a look and let me know what you think, thanks!

But please try to stay constructive if possible

NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
GGrossRusty2WMno57neilcAlan (California Radiant) Forbes
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Comments

  • Rusty2
    Rusty2 Member Posts: 69
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    That was remarkable Paul, that you actually had the wherewithall to follow through with your experiment. I'm just a dumb home owner, so all I know is what I read on the forum and in a couple of books. However, your experiment demonstrates, to me at least, that the equalizer in a "modern" residential low pressure steam system doesn't have any apparent function. At this point maybe it's like our appendix. Possibly in steam systems of 100 or more years ago when the "equalizer" was given its name it did serve a function. Thank you for thinking and for your curiosity and constant search for knowledge shared here on this forum.

    ethicalpaulMikeAmannAlan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Thanks Rusty!

    Don't give me too much credit—that's the beauty of having a steam boiler in my house and working in a different industry, so when I get home I'm not sick of the topic 😅

    Note that I don't think it doesn't have a function—it is a great drip from the header and there are edge cases where it will prevent the hartford loop from having an air bubble in it. I'm not sure when it got this name but apparently old books called it a "bleeder" or "drip".

    What I hoped to show (and I think I have shown) is that it seems NOT to have any effect on the thing that the industry currently thinks is its most important function, to prevent the water from being pushed out of the boiler under normal operating conditions. Thanks again for your note.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Rusty2
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Thanks for your note @Gsmith. I have never observed a partial vacuum in the main while the boiler was steaming. I've had that sight glass on my end-of-main drop for years, have observed it throughout many complete cycles, and have never seen the water level reach it except when I perform the very weird and unusual step of closing that supply valve as I did in the video explicitly to force the kind of pressure imbalance that the Equalizer was purpoted to prevent (but has no effect on as shown in my video).

    I think the equalizer really does provide pressure equalization and prevents the water from leaving the boiler. 


    Respectfully, I think I proved otherwise. I'll leave the valve closed for the rest of the heating season if I thought that would convince anyone 😅

    Maybe think of it as you point out as simply a drip, which besides returning water from the header also helps equalize the steam and system pressure.

    Yes, it's an excellent header drip. But I won't think of it as equalizing the steam and system pressure, because as shown in the video, it has zero effect on any pressure in the system. Thanks again!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Rusty2
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 855
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    @ethicalpaul I've been hesitant to comment as I don't really have a strong opinion on the pipe being referred to as the equalizer pipe. To be honest, I never really gave it much thought. As many on this site are well aware many items in the heating business may not have the best names for 2023 (furnace, pump, header, steam vent, smoke pipe, etc.)

    That being said, would you consider doing a cold start of your boiler with the "equalizer" valve you recently installed in the closed position? If this idea or experiment went like I suspect it would, maybe we'll all learn something. Perhaps we would even keep calling this pipe (or piping) and equalizer? I'm only half kidding, I think you would have a lot of water hammer in the steam main, damage your main and perhaps radiator vents, etc. Did you happen to try my idea and I somehow missed it?

    ethicalpaulMad Dog_2
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Hi Scott! Just to clarify, yes I think it's mis-named, but the bigger importance is that lots of people believe that it has some effect on the pressures of the steam system, where my drawings and now my experiment seem to show that it has no effect.

    Sure, I can run a heating cycle with the valve closed. Would you like to see my normal very boring heating cycle with 1" of WC pressure, or should I close a bunch of my radiators again so we can see some pressure build up?

    It sounds like you are thinking that if the valve is closed from startup that it will indeed result in a pressure differential that will drive lots of water into the main where it will cause nasty hammer. I'm pretty sure it won't but I'm happy to run that version of the experiment and record it, thanks!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Chris_L
    Chris_L Member Posts: 336
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    @ethicalpaul I too would like to see what happens on a completely cold start, with the equalizer valve closed, and everything else as you normally operate. Please take a video of the sight glass and compare it under the same conditions with the equalizer valve open.

    One of the stated purposes of the equalizer is that it stablizes the water line (keeps it from bouncing around too much). That makes sense to me as on a cold start there is a lot more condensation in the main and far less distance for the pressure wave to travel with the equalizer in place. But I'd like to see what the test shows.

    Also, you probalby don't want to test this, but would you agree that a break in the wet return (e.g., with the boiler off) will drain the boiler if the equalizer valve is turned off (the water syphons out) but not if it is on.

    Mad Dog_2
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Hi Chris, happy to run and record that experiment.

    Side issue—I do think it's a myth that there is more condensation in the main during a cold start. Compare the EDR of a main against the EDR of all radiators in the house fully condensing late in a heating cycle. There's no comparison. But the difference probably isn't that great either way…remember, the boiler creates steam at the same rate no matter where in the heating cycle so really the condensation must be about the same (until full steam saturation through the system and resulting pressure rise)

    Also, you probalby don't want to test this, but would you agree that a break in the wet return (e.g., with the boiler off) will drain the boiler if the equalizer valve is turned off (the water syphons out) but not if it is on.

    I think it probably would, yes, but the boiler will drain anyway relatively quickly due to steam production. I'm not sure why everyone keeps bringing up broken wet returns, it's not really related to the error I'm trying to address that the equalizer keeps water from being pushed out during normal operation. Just how often are everybody's wet returns breaking anyway?? 😅

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • dko
    dko Member Posts: 597
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    Wet return breaking protection is just an inherent benefit of the equalizer being conveniently piped into the hartford loop.

    I agree it has nothing to do with what you are trying to to experiment with. Nor is the hartford loop

    ethicalpaulMad Dog_2
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,703
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    I wonder if it matters when there are multiple mains, heading off in different lengths and directions,

    diferent length wet returns and all,

    Paul, in your simple single loop system everything balances,

    but in a bigger house or building, with pipes doing differing things?

    ponder that,

    I won't sleep tonight now.

    known to beat dead horses
    ethicalpaulMad Dog_2
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    I'll have to wait until I buy a bigger house that runs on steam, or someone else is crazy enough to repeat this experiment at their house to find out for sure, @neilc, but I can't think of why it would be any different 😀 The length of stuff shouldn't matter in any measurable way, nor the number of mains/wet returns.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    I did run the experiment that a few people asked for where I closed my equalizer valve at the start of a call for heat, and kept it closed through the entire call to see if anything interesting would happen. Nothing did!

    Warning, this video is extremely boring, but if you love watching boilers boil with annoying commentary, feel free:

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
    edited March 2023
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    OK, I might be spliting hairs here but, I agree that the equalizer does nothing at the end of the main. It only does something at the boiler supply and return. And since you are not operating at higher pressures (as I said before) you don't need the equalizer. But look at these 2 frames at the low pressure of 2.5 PSI within one minute of each other.

    There is a difference of 1/4" water column with the valve open and the valve closed. (Splitting Hairs). See the boiler water level in the gauge glass. Now if you leave the boiler operating at 10 PSI (Please don't do it on porpose) because of some malfunction, there could be more than 1.5" WC (0.070 PSI) pressure difference.

    I thought that you were referring to the Magnehelic location… and I was referring to the close nipple location so we were not understanding each other because of the different locations we were each referring to. Every time I made reference to the close nipple location, you jumped back to the end of the main location.

    I agree that the equalizer will do nothing for the water level at the end of the main location. How can it? it's too far away. You have the correct idea. The equalizer does nothing to equalize the pressure at the end of the main. I must agree with you based on that definition of equal, it is incorrect. And as your test confirmed the water level difference will not happen in 2 to 3 minutes. It may take an hour or more for that pressure difference with the valve closed to have any measurable difference (bigger than 1/4"). But if you get that difference to happen, then you open that valve, the pressure will equalize within a few seconds. But the test will need to be on something bigger than your system. I would not want you to cause any problems on your system by going to 10 PSI in order to get close to something measurable.    

    Mr. Ed

    PS. Nice video. thanks for that test. You are awesome and help all of us to better understand steam.

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    ethicalpaulMikeAmann
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,385
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    Hello @ethicalpaul,

    A few comments.

    I do enjoy all the videos. Keep them coming.

    Don't leave your equlizer valve closed for the rest of the seasion. I fear your drop header will eventually flood and cut off or reducing the Steam flow causing no heat to your home and posiblly Pressuretrol cycling. And this may all happen when you are away from home.

    As far as the use of your riser valves in the first video, Interesting, but for better or just different testing of the Equalizer functionality experiment, a valve to create pressure diferential between the 'Near Boiler Piping' as a whole and the rest of the system should be after the header, where the header connects to the main.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Thanks Ed! I agree we were talking past each other somewhat, but don't gaslight me my friend 😂! For years, people, and I believe The Lost Art have been saying that the equalizer kept water in the boiler (and there was no talk of a wet return leak at that time), preventing water from rising up the drop to the wet return.

    That is the only thing I meant to address in this discussion.

    But look at these 2 frames at the low pressure of 2.5 PSI within one minute of each other. 

    There is a difference of 1/4" water column with the valve open and the valve closed. (Splitting Hairs).


    Yes, I would say if you take a screenshot one minute apart of a steaming boiler and you are looking at 1/4" of variance in the gauge glass you are indeed splitting hairs 😏!! I don't think that had anything to do with the valve. Although if you look at my second video in this thread, where I kept the valve closed during the whole cycle, then opened it, I predicted there would be water that collected there from condensed steam, and there was, and that made the water level bounce, as any addition of water into the boiler would.

    And as your test confirmed the water level difference will not happen in 2 to 3 minutes. It may take an hour or more for that pressure difference with the valve closed to have any measurable difference (bigger than 1/4").

    See the 2nd video in this thread where I ran an entire hour long call for heat with the valve closed. It's very boring!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Thanks @109A_5 , I agree with you about the near piping filling with water if I were to leave that valve closed.

    And yes I agree about the correct location of the King Valve. The reason I put valves where you see them on my steam supply was so that I could see if there was any difference in performance with one supply vs two. See my earlier video entitled "Are the manufacturer's specs enough to make dry steam?" or something like that.

    In my case, the spec calls for just a single 2" supply and I found that was just fine.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 855
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    @ethicalpaul I have to admit, I am surpirsed.

    In the roughly one hour experiment it appears that nothing was affected (like you assumed). Can we assume that there was a lot more condensate in the single return than normal, as the equalizer was closed? Maybe not, as there appears to be litte carryover once the near boiler piping was fully warmed up.

    I agree with @109A_5 that long term there would likely be issues with leaving the equalizer pipe valve closed due to condensate buildup. I assumed this would happen almost immediately and was wrong.

    We rarely (if ever) work on systems with only a few "active" radiators and such short mains and short returns (wet or dry). As a matter of fact, I can't remember a house in our area that has a 2" main that is reduced to 1.5" that feeds seven radiators. Typically there is one or two full size two inch mains (that do not reduce until they turn into a return (dry or wet). In addition, for the typical seven radiator house (three bedroom, one bath) around here, the 1.25" wet return is about twenty or thirty feet long (yes prone to clogging/rotting). We also almost never install a cycle gaurd on any system, I personally do not like the concept of turning a steam boiler off while it's trying to warm a house (and the pressure is still very low). I'm not sure any of this makes a difference.

    I've been to three or four of Dan's steam seminars over the years. We been using many of Dan's suggeetions along with the manufacturer's instructions with very few premautre failures. I'm not quite ready to stop installing equalizer pipes on any steam job.

    Finally, I do appreciate the experiments. I have never lived in a house with steam heat. As a result, most of the time I visit a steam heated house, apartment building, church, school, etc, I am there for a problem. I rarely spend time at the site when the system is working perfectly. On these jobs, we have to imagine what is going on inside the pipes, radiators, boiler supply piping, etc. Thankfully, we can "see" many parts of the system at Paul's house.

    ethicalpaulMikeAmann
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    Thanks Scott, I do have a huge advantage living with this thing! Just ask my wife, it's definitely part of the family!

    I do have to repeat, I have never suggested not installing the equalizer. It has several nice things about it that advantage it over those installs without one (I think the most important one is as a header drain), so you're preaching to the choir there 🙂

    Can we assume that there was a lot more condensate in the single return than normal, as the equalizer was closed? Maybe not, as there appears to be litte carryover once the near boiler piping was fully warmed up.

    If you mean was there a different amount of water in my wet return, I would say no. The only difference I saw was that with the valve closed for the entire call for heat, condensation from the equalizer did pile up in there as you expected. I would say there was zero carryover…the water that was in my header was from condensation as the header and nearby pipes were heated from cold.

     In addition, for the typical seven radiator house (three bedroom, one bath) around here, the 1.25" wet return is about twenty or thirty feet long (yes prone to clogging/rotting).

    Yes I see that. Mine is shorter than it used to be since I improved my end-of-main situation. In my house, the main makes a partial tour around the basement and ends up very close to the boiler. The wet return is now so short I even made it 1". I also have the water feed located over there connected to a tee at the bottom of the end-of-main drip, so I can open up both ends and shoot water through there, but it stays pretty clean just with occasional opening of the cleanout valve on the boiler side of the return.

    We also almost never install a cycle gaurd on any system, I personally do not like the concept of turning a steam boiler off while it's trying to warm a house (and the pressure is still very low). I'm not sure any of this makes a difference.

    I didn't choose to install it, it came on the packaged boiler from Peerless so I left it on there because once I saw it operating, it didn't bother me. They have an optional wiring method where the timer of the Cyclegard resets at the start of a call for heat. Honestly I can't imagine why they don't come with that feature enabled from the factory, it would make the device much less hatable 😂 Overall though, it is a very very safe way to check for a good water level, and the way most people never look at their water level for months or even years, I can't argue with the lawyer who designed it 🤣

    Thanks so much for your comments and all the good work you've done here in NJ!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Chris_L
    Chris_L Member Posts: 336
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    @ethicalpaul thanks for this second video. Though I have to admit it was TLDW for me.

    I was hoping to see what happened to the boiler water line, as shown in the sight glass, during startup and initial steaming. All I could see from the video was pressure readings, which don't really interstest me—though the vibration in the low pressure gauge at times makes me wonder what the boiler water level is doing.

    If it is not too much trouble (or too warm outside), can you film the sight glass at cold startup under normal operation—all radiator valves open but equalizer valve closed. No need to film more than a few minutes beyond the time the water starts boiling, say when your main vents close. Thanks.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Sure I can do that, but the water line was stable as always. I don't blame you for not watching the whole thing! On the actual youtube.com page for it there are links to the different parts.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
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    Gaslighting, Really? Paul I would never minipulate the facts like that. I'm just showing unedited stills of your video

    LOL 🐗 + (🦀 -B+P) photo attached.

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
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    But actually Paul. Here are unedited screen shots before and after the surge of condensate that "almost'' prove my point of the Equalizer creating a balance "AT THE BOILER". The first is just before you open the valve (= No Equalizer) and the water level is not quite 3 quarter inch marks above the cross hashmark. This is after the boiler has (assumed) no pressure left, and there is expected to be no friction pressure drop from A. The end of the main and B. The boiler and C.The equalizer because there is no force from the boiler's steam.

    This second photo is less than 30 seconds after the equalizer valve is open (= Has Equalizer) to allow time for the rocking effect of instantly creating an equalizer or the huge column of water that just happened to enter the boiler (of which I have my doubts about the volume being more that a few ounces. to a cup at the most, in one hour of operation). But this is close to the last frame of the video showing this view, before you cut to the end of main to prove your point.

    The test that will prove or disprove your thesis is just to open the Equalizer valve after the boiler is up to 5 PSI for as short a time as it takes to get the steam to 5 PSi then watch the water level in the gauge glass for about one minute before you open the valve and about 1 minute after you open the valve. That would prove to me that Mr. Spence was teaching on a wrong assumption.

    The test might go like this.

    1. Operate boiler with the valve open [= has Equalizer] so not to collect too much condensate
    2. When boiler gets close to 5 PSI close the valve [= no equalizer]
    3. Operate for 10 more minutes at 5 PSI
    4. Film about 1 minute before the next step
    5. Open valve [= has Equalizer] instantly
    6. Film for at least 30 more seconds after the valve is open.

    The camera angle will not change for the 2 minutes before and after the valve opening exercise, and will be slightly lower and be on the valve and gauge glass the entire time.

    If you do this test, then your argument about "Equalizing nothing" will be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in my mind anyway. Or at least by the preponderance of the evidence.

    Mr. Ed

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    ethicalpaulMikeAmann
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    The gaslighting part was the idea that people didn't think the waterline at the end-of-main drip was affected by the equalizer, read carefully what I wrote:

    Thanks Ed! I agree we were talking past each other somewhat, but don't gaslight me my friend 😂! For years, people, and I believe The Lost Art have been saying that the equalizer kept water in the boiler (and there was no talk of a wet return leak at that time), preventing water from rising up the drop to the wet return.

    That is the only thing I meant to address in this discussion.

    Regarding the gauge glass levels, don't forget the whole time condensate was returning to the boiler, I made note of that in for sure the 2nd video and I think the first video. So screenshots of the water levels are not really persuasive.

    You can come over and flip the lever yourself and see that it's not affecting anything if you want but I might put you to work on my kitchen renovation 😂

    You made those easy-to-follow steps so I'll see if I can make another video for you.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    I'm still thinking about what Mr. Spence taught you, Mr. Ed—

    The way it was explained to me, back in 1974 by Mr. Spence, who was in his late 60s at the time, (he qualifies as one of the dead men) that the <5 PSI that you have provided in your drawing can only be 4 PSI or it can also be 3 PSI requiring a greater dimension "A". Some designers operated their boilers well over 5 PSI back then. This would create the potential for a 3 or 4 or even 5 PSI difference in the steam pressure at the far end where the column of water at the other end might be 9 feet.. That much pressure difference could lead to catastrophic boiler failure about 2 to 3 times a week. 

    So he did teach that there could be a large pressure difference at the far end of the wet return that would result in a need for a greater dimension "A"?

    Do you recall what were the situations that could lead to that large a pressure differential? The only way I can get anything more than an ounce or so of pressure differential (even while I have 5psi) is by closing off my equivalent to the "King" valve while the boiler is running (not advisable unless with extreme caution)

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,215
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    The video was useful and I certainly give you credit. However, it still hasn't addressed what I believe to be the main purpose of the equalizer….working with the Hartford Loop to prevent the water from backing out of the boiler below the safe water line if a wet return fails. And wet returns fail all the time, now that most of them are over 90 years old and many are buried beneath the floor.

    I agree, it probably doesn't do much of anything, if anything at all, when all is well in the system. Of course, Henry Gifford has seen that his higher version of the Hartford Loop provides a more stable water line in the boiler

    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    I have thought about that and seen a few people mention that.

    Let me share my thoughts on it: (all these assume a failed LWCO)

    Without a Hartford loop or EQ a leak will drain the boiler

    With a HL loop and no EQ a leak will drain the boiler and probably act as a siphon too but probably won't be much different from above

    With both, a leak will drain the boiler to the HL line and then when the boiler fires, the rest of the water will get transferred as steam to the leaky return anyway

    Finally this weird case: if you have a HL and no EQ if you fill the boiler from empty via the wet return as my setup would do, you will get an air bubble in the HL that might cause issues.

    I still see these as edge cases with the main purpose being a header drain.

    Just how many catastrophic wet return leaks with a failed lwco are happening? Remember even with Hartford loop and EQ the resident would have to inspect the boiler before the water steamed out to prevent a dry fire. Good luck!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    the Gifford loop is cool, it acts as a kind of check valve for the boiler water but a decently piped boiler doesn't suffer from hyperactive water line anyway.

    and plus, I want my water line to move around so I don't rust out in one spot faster. I fill mine a gallon above normal and don't fill again until it's a gallon below. What do you think of that?

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
    edited March 2023
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    Thanks for the reply @ethicalpaul. I might see a new video in the next few days… Maybe…?

    You did jump back the end of main in your response.

    You asked "Do you recall what were the situations that could lead to that large a pressure differential? The only way I can get anything more than an ounce or so of pressure differential (even while I have 5psi) is by closing off my equivalent to the "King" valve while the boiler is running (not advisable unless with extreme caution)"


    So the way I see it... lets forget about your boiler. Lets look at a church that I had as a customer.

    Weil McLain series 78 boiler replaced a Mills boiler from the early 1900s. Already existing were 3 honeywell Zone Valves. One was on a 3" main, the other two were on 4" mains. It worked fine for all the years that I cleaned the boiler. When I installed the Weil McLain in ~ 2000ish. and did not want to depend on the 60+. year old threaded valves, so I welded flanges on to the existing mains and replaced those valves with something that was readiy available. It worked well again. To save on operating cost for heating the bookeepers office, the Pastyors office and two bathrooms, (that was on one of the 4" Zones) I added a Baseboard hot water loop off of a tankless coil. and I also added pipe insulation to all the pipes in the crawlspace and the boiler room and other sections of the piping. This is the same church that I spoke of with the buried wet return that rotted the office floor in a pervious post

    15+ years after that new boiler was installed something weird happened. There was some electrical phenomenon that created a failed open gas valve on a power gas burner. The Three steam zones were closed. There was on electricity in the building but there was that stuck gas valve. No electric for the burner fan, No electric for the water feed. No electricity at all. But there was a flame. Eventually there was an explosion at about 3:00 AM and the Cape May Fire Department called me to evaluate the boiler . It was gone.

    But since there were 3 steam valves closed on the mains and there was a flame in the boiler that would not shut off, The pressure most likely got to15 PSI. that pressure pushed the water out of the boiler since there was no place for the steam to go into the radiators. the water level dropped to the level of the Hartford Loop. The pressure pushed the water back past the equalizer up the wet return. There was still a fire in the boiler. The pop off valve opened and released all the steam pressure. The water would have rushed back into the return with no steam pressure. There would be lots of water hammer. If this happened during the daytime when the building was occupied, that gas meter could have been shut off and the boiler would have been saved.   


    The boiler insurance inspection service from the State of NJ, determined that the gas valve stuck open at 10:48PM  That is when the clocks stopped in the church building and offices. The electrical failure was confined to the church due to an open neutral at the transformer on the poll out back of the church.   The fire department responded at 2:30 AM and I got the call at 3:00 AM.   So that Hartford loop and equalizer kept the water from leaving the boiler for almost 5 hours.  Making a racket in the building that would have prompted something that might have saved that boiler.  

    So there is an example of what might happen on a boiler. What are the chances that you could have the water back out into the return?   It happened to one of my customers.  That is one chance too many.     

    Mr.Ed

    PS. Paul, I took the GASLIGHTING definition of making someone question their beliefs using eronious facts and made a joke. Look closer at the picture I posted with the doctored gauge glass measurements. No offense intended or taken. I made the water hight difference over 1" and with obvious photo doctoring (I would not even call it photoshopping) LOL 😈😈😈😈


    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    ethicalpaul
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,526
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    If the boiler pressure is high enough it will push the water out the wet return if there is no check valve in the wet return or no equalizer/hartford loop.

    EdTheHeaterMan
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,686
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    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    Thanks @EBEBRATT-Ed , I would also like to know how I might be able to see this occur. In my video, you can see I got to 5psi at both the boiler and the far end of the main with no noticeable departure of water from the boiler.

    The reason, as I see it, is that no matter what pressure was put out by the boiler at the near side of the wet return, it was apparently very well balanced by the pressure sent through the main to the far end of the wet return. Now granted, I only got to 5psi, but I can't think of how any value would make a difference in this scenario. So I can't figure out how to make a pressure differential there without doing weird things like at the end of the first video above (choking down the steam supply which lowered the pressure in the main compared to the wet return).

    Now maybe in commercial/large systems there are situations that do present a pressure mismatch. Like maybe opening up a main that was closed, or bringing a large system online very fast in some other way that I am ignorant of.

    But in residential steam, I can't think of how to make that occur. If you share a way I'd appreciate it!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    @EdTheHeaterMan I read your interesting story with appreciation! I don't think it applies to my question of "does the equalizer affect how much water gets pushed out the wet return of a boiler in operation?" (see @EBEBRATT-Ed 's statement above for what I'm talking about) but I appreciated it none-the-less!

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
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    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited March 2023
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    But there is no low pressure. In my experiments up to 5psi, the pressure is nearly identical at the boiler and at the far end of the main. The water line at the far end of the wet return doesn't budge. That's the question—what is the circumstance where there is a large pressure difference?

    I have a suspicion that when people saw water squirting out of their main vent, and the water level at the boiler dropping, they were really seeing surging and they blamed it on some kind of pressure issue instead.

    Then they said "we better install a check valve". Then it still happened and/or their valve caused actual pressure problems. Then they tried the equalizer design and it shunted the surging water back to the boiler instead of up the main and they said "this thing fixed our pressure problem!! Let's call it the Equalizer!" This is total conjecture on my part LOL

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,686
    edited March 2023
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    The pressure at the end of the steam main is going to be very close to the same as the return side of the boiler, isn't it?


    Steam pressure cannot push harder against the return than it can out of the supply, it's a differential setup by nature and the friction losses even through 500 feet of pipe isn't much when we're talking in terms of PSI. The only thing pushing down against the water in the boiler is the same steam that's pushing out of the supply. There's no way for one to be higher than the other, is there?

    Math doesn't lie.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,838
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    I was answering this Paul. Do you recall what were the situations that could lead to that large a pressure differential? The only way I can get anything more than an ounce or so of pressure differential (even while I have 5psi) is by closing off my equivalent to the "King" valve while the boiler is running (not advisable unless with extreme caution)"

    Specifically the part about “recall a situation that could lead to that large a pressure”… “is by closing off my"…"king valve”.    Did I misinterpret that statement/query?

    As I stated many times now.  You may not need it but your heater is not “every” heater.  And the Church heater may have been saved as a result of that “unnecessary pipe design”, if the electrical failure happened 12 hours later when people were awake.  

    Was I answering a query you did not mean to post with those words? “recall a situation that could lead to that large a pressure”… “is by closing off my"…"king valve”

    I recalled a church with the "equivelent of a closed king valve"

    So I will state it again That Equalizer in the instruction book was NOT written in there for YOUR boiler, it was written in there for everyone's boiler. Just in case one of those other boilers has a situation like the one in the church. By the way, when the boiler cracked, it did not leave the boiler room like so many other boilers did over 100 years ago. it failed safely. No one was hurt, No one was injured and no property was damaged, other than the boiler itself. And that was covered by insurance from some company in Hartford… They provide boiler insurance… Go Figure!

    Go Phillies!

    Mr. Ed

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    OK Ed, I guess we are destined to have communication issues relating to this 😅

    What I'm looking for is how does a pressure differential between the boiler and the end of the main occur? I understand it may not be possible on my boiler, but how about on other boilers?

    I'm not challenging you, I'm just trying to understand. There's so much you know that I don't. And I'm looking for during somewhat normal operation, such that would have inspired people to install a check valve in their wet return, which I think we can all agree is rather problematic.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,385
    edited March 2023
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    Hello @ethicalpaul,

    I think for you to possibly 'see' what you want to see you need to do two things. A valve between the header and the main for the purpose of building pressure and leave your riser valves fully open, and a sight glass like your others either where your equalizer valve is now or just above it. So that the bottom of the sight glass is at about your normal water line level. Your equalizer valve could be above the sight glass.

    With the 'King' valve in this position you can make a much more dramatic pressure differential between the Near Boiler Piping as a whole and the Main.

    Did your 3 PSI gauge survive ?

    As for; @ChrisJ

    How?

    I look at it this way, with no equalizer, the surface area (Square inches) of water exposed to the steam pressure in the boiler is huge as compaired to the surface area in the vertical return pipe. So with the boiler's pressure lowering the boiler's water level (a small deviation, since water does not compress and does have a place to go) and with the pressure differential across the system it will greatly raise the water level in the vertical return pipe until the weight of the water causes an equilibrium. Adding the Equalizer pipe with a normal header does a few things, limits the water height near the boiler (it can spill back into the boiler via the header) and also adds more (Square inches) of vertical pipe outside of the boiler.

    Its like a Manometer with a pressure source in the middle of one of the vertical pipes, except with a Manometer usually the tube is the same diameter on both sides.

    Also I suspect older boilers had much larger surface area of the water as compaired to newer boilers so the effect was greater with the older boilers. Since Paul's boiler is newer and small it will be harder to see the effect.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,686
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    I need some time to think about it, but I like that explination.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
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    @109A_5 thanks for the reply

    I think for you to posibly 'see' what you want to see you need to do two things. A valve between the header and the main for the purpose of building pressure and leave your riser valves fully open, and a sight glass like your others either where your equalizer valve is now or just above it. So that the bottom of the sight glass is at about your normal water line level. Your equalizer valve could be above the sight glass.

    With the valve in this position you can make a much more dramatic pressure differential between the Near Boiler Piping as a whole and the Main.

    Well that would be artificial. Why I'm asking is that people have told me that there are situations where a boiler will push water out of its back, into the wet return, raising the level of the water at the drip into the wet return at the far end of the main. I have not been able to repeat this in experiment, either mental or real-world. So that's why i keep asking how can it happen, so I don't look like a fool going around saying "it can't happen". I am open to the idea that it's possible outside my little basement, but I just haven't heard what might cause it in normal operation or even occasional abnormal operation.

    I think my 3psi gauge was fine after going to 5psi.

    I look at it this way, with no equalizer, the surface area (Square inches) of water exposed to the steam pressure in the boiler is huge as compaired to the surface area in the vertical return pipe. So with the boiler's pressure lowering the boiler's water level (a small deviation, since water does not compress and does have a place to go) and with the pressure differential across the system it will greatly raise the water level in the vertical return pipe until the weight of the water causes an equilibrium. Adding the Equalizer pipe with a normal header does a few things, limits the water height near the boiler (it can spillback into the boiler via the header) and adds more (Square inches) of vertical pipe outside of the boiler.

    Its like a Manometer with a pressure source in the middle of one of the vertical pipes, except with a Manometer usually the tube is the same diameter on both sides.

    Also I suspect older boilers had much larger surface area of the water as compaired to newer boilers so the effect was greater with the older boilers. Since Paul's boiler is newer and small it will be harder to see the effect.

    There is no effect. The pressure during operation of my boiler, from cold start to full steam, 0psi to 5psi shows no measurable or observable variance in pressure between the steam chamber and the end of the main. If there were a differential, we'd have seen the water level rise.

    Only by artificially limiting the flow of steam to my header was I able to force a difference to occur.

    I think in any residential system with properly sized pipes, there is going to be no measurable difference and no water rise. As the capacity grows, the main gets bigger, the wet return gets bigger, everything gets bigger which reduces any friction or delay in transmission of the pressure from the steam chamber to the far end of the mains.

    So I'll just keep asking for awhile: What is the situation in non-residental steam where those two pressures can vary?

    How about in the case of a condensate pump/storage situation?

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el