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New to steam heat

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Danny_3
Danny_3 Member Posts: 1
I'll warn you - this isn't going to be short, but I do need some help...

I purchased a house in MD with a single pipe steam system (wet return) running on oil. This was new for me, because I grew up in the midwest with electric and wood heat. I had noticed some things, and now I'm figuring out that they're not normal since I bought a couple of Dan's books. I had heard that steam systems are noisy (from a local heating company), so I thought my vents hissing were normal. Now I know they're not.

I am going to be finishing the basement, and I want to fix the heating system at the same time. The main pipes are out in the room now, and I'd like to tuck them into the walls. The problem is windows at the top of the walls. I have to figure out if I can successfully go below the windows (below). I plan on starting this endevour this spring, and I'm trying to figure out the plan this winter so I'll have everything ready to go once it's warm enough to turn off the heat.

Here are the problems I've identified so far:

1. My Hartford Loop comes in 21" ABOVE my water line, and doesn't use a close nipple (17" apart)
2. No insulation on any piping (easy to fix)
3. All my radiator vents hiss while the boiler is running (no water squirting)
4. I've got a cut-in of 5 psi and a cut-out of 6 psi
5. All the piping right above the boiler is copper (the rest is steel)
6. My main has a bullhead tee at the boiler
7. Some of my main riser take-offs are at a 90 degree angle to the main
8. My main vents are old and probably clogged
9. My radiator vents are all old and of various kinds except for one new Hoffman #40 in my kitchen
10. There's one pipe that takes off the main, and goes straight into the wet return
11. I think some of the riser and take-off piping is too small, but I haven't confirmed that yet.
12. Not a problem necessarily - all my radiators are big - most about 40 EDR, and one that's 70 EDR

Here's the good things right now:

1. My "A" dimension is 47.5"
2. My header is 34" above the water line
3. The mains are pitched properly
4. No water hammer
5. No surging in the water gauge glass
6. The system heats really well

I have a few questions that hopefully you guys can answer for me:

1. What pitch should I have on the wet return piping?
2. How do I figure out how to size radiators for a given room? I'm going to be moving some walls, and making some rooms bigger on the first floor. I'm also going to be re-insulating the house.
3. How do I determine if my boiler if fired correctly (or is that even something I can do)?
4. Where can I use copper, and where should I not use copper piping when I redo it?
5. When I come off the main, is there a minimum horizontal distance I need to go, or can I just put a take off at 45 deg and then go straight up to the radiator?
6. If I drop my "A" dimension down to 14", do you think it will hurt me (I need to go under some windows)? I've got about 300 EDR of load in radiators (72,000 BTU). I haven't figured the piping load yet (because I haven't designed the piping layout yet).
7. I know I should have a main pitch of 1" every 10 ft. Can I make a 12"+ straight drop in the main without hurting performance (relates back to those darn windows I need to go under)?
8. I'm considering having the boiler switched over from oil to gas (the local heating company says mine can be switched pretty easily...). I've got gas running down my street, so that's not a problem. Do you recommend it? I've heard gas is a little cheaper, and I won't have that huge tank to deal with in the basement (275 gallon).

At this point, I think I'm going to rip out every pipe in the system, and start from scratch. All the mains were going to have to be moved, and most of the near-boiler piping is screwed up...

Sorry about the long post with all the questions. I've worked with lots of stuff in my life (I grew up on a farm), but this is very new to me. I just want to make sure I do it right the first time. I appreciate any and all help you can give me. If there are any books you suggest, I'll sure buy them and read up. Especially regarding how to size radiators for a room...

Danny

Comments

  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
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    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including boiler instructions, was that single pipe systems typically operate at around 1 psi. This means buttom out the cut-in at 0.5 psi and rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure should not be necessary for a single family single pipe system and will likely not help "anything". Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed open when hot. I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go, and everything is working smoothly. I still get air from the vents (no main vents), but it is at lower pressure (breathing instead of hissing).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including boiler instructions, was that single pipe systems typically operate at around 1 psi. This means buttom out the cut-in at 0.5 psi and rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure should not be necessary for a single family single pipe system and will likely not help "anything". Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot. I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go, and everything is working smoothly. I still get air from the vents (no main vents), but it is at lower pressure (breathing instead of hissing).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including boiler instructions, was that single pipe systems typically operate at around 1 psi. This means buttom out the cut-in at 0.5 psi and rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure should not be necessary for a single family single pipe system and will likely not help "anything". Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot. I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go, and everything has been working smoothly with temperatures down to the low teens so far. I still get air from the vents (no main vents), but it is lower pressure (not as loud).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including my boiler instructions, was that the Pressuretrol for a typical single family single pipe system should typically be set at its minimum cut-in of 0.5 psi and a rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure than necessary is less efficient. Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi anyway (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot. I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go. Everything has been working smoothly with temperatures down to the low teens so far. I still get air from the vents (no main vents), but it is lower pressure (not as loud).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including my boiler instructions, was that the Pressuretrol for a typical single family single pipe system should typically be set at its minimum cut-in of 0.5 psi and a rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure than necessary is less efficient. Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi anyway (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot (even though it had power to proper pins and would open with its test switch). I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go. Everything has been working smoothly with temperatures down to the low teens so far. I still get air from the vents (no main vents), but it is lower pressure (not as loud).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including my boiler instructions, was that the Pressuretrol for a typical single family single pipe system should typically be set at its minimum cut-in of 0.5 psi and a rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure than necessary is less efficient. Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi anyway (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot (even though it had power to proper pins and would open with its test switch). I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go. Everything has been working smoothly with temperatures down to the low teens so far. I still get air from radiator vents (no main vents), but it is lower pressure (not as loud).
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    Options
    Pressuretrol too high

    I am also new to steam heat (home purchased this summer). One thing I learned from various sources, including my boiler instructions, was that the Pressuretrol for a single family single pipe system should typically be set at its minimum cut-in of 0.5 psi and a rise of 1 psi (1.5 psi cut-out).

    Higher pressure than necessary is less efficient. Some adjustable radiator air vents only work properly up to 1.5 psi anyway (although fixed ones can work up to 10 psi).

    My system had been cranked all the way up to about 8-9 psi, probably due to an Effikal vent damper that intermittantly failed to open when hot (even though it had power to proper pins and would open with its test switch). I replaced the vent damper with a Honeywell (that works) and set the Pressuretrol as low as it would go. Everything has been working smoothly with temperatures down to the low teens so far. I still get air from radiator vents (no main vents), but it is lower pressure (not as loud).
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,887
    Options
    Danny, where in Maryland are you?

    I'm located in Baltimore- e-mail me at the above address or call me on (410) 466-8116 and we'll talk.

    I can tell you right off the bat you need to lower your pressure. That system was designed to run at no more than 2 pounds. If you have the usual small gray box, first turn the power off. Set the cut-in to 0.5 PSI, then remove the cover and set the differential (white wheel) to 1. Replace the cover and turn the power on.

    You should never use copper on pipes that carry steam. But copper is OK for wet returns.

    The Hartford Loop should be piped according to the boiler manufacturer's instructions. If the boiler was made in the last 30 years or so, I can probably still get this information.

    Gas seems to be fashionable now but even with the alleged "deregulation" in Maryland, there isn't much competition, and the local utility still gets their cut. Oil, on the other hand, is in competition and if you don't like your supplier you can always switch. Newer oil-fired steam boilers are just as clean and efficient as gas, if properly taken care of.

    There are ways to pipe the main so it will be out of the way of your basement renovations. I'd have to see the job to be more specific.

    To size the radiators for the reconfigured first and second floors, I'd have to calculate the heat-loss of each room. This would of course take into account the insulation you plan to put in.

    Call or e-mail me and let's talk.

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This discussion has been closed.