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basic steam questions

yes the flu (sp?) was blocked but that was one of the other things that was addressed by the contractor...they installed a new hor water tank too and checked the venting of both. thanks for the tips so far! i will see if i can check the pressuretrol as suggested. the house is f or sale and i am a short-term renter so unlikely that any major work will be undertaken right now. i'm glad to have the chance to learn about the system and this site and the forums seem like a great place to learn and ask questions.


  • mark tomlinson
    mark tomlinson Member Posts: 3
    basic steam questions

    hi am renting 120-yr old house with a 1-line steam system in pittsburgh pa. and just learning the basics about steam heat systems. moved in jan 1. the boiler would not stay lit so the owner had a contractor out and they "cleaned" the boiler out, also installed an automatic feed (apparently had been done once a week manually before due to broken parts). they also installed a new setabck thermostat because the old one "gave out" within 8 hours of the other repairs. now the bills are coming in at $300/mo, it aint that big of a house, and i'm thernostatting into the lower 60's (60 low 65 high) , and wondering about a few things that the system is doing. first is that i hear these rattles, almost sounds like someting clanging around in the pipes, seems to happen mostly when the system is on but not running full-out. second is that a few of the radiator vents seem to vent constantly. third is there is a slow leak in the glass water level pipe, leaks maybe a couple of gallons a week. also there seems to be a lot of steam venting from around this glass pipe. following contractors instructions i am draing the system every few days to take out dirty water. after i do that the rattling seems to stop, the steam seems to stop, system seems quieter and running more calmly. i guess my main interest is are any of these normal behavior or probelms? and are they easily addressable problems for a renter who does not own and cant do major repairs? lastly what kid of temp setbacks can i do and still be efficient? i am very interested in the system running as efficiently as possible so it costs less to run. many thanks!
  • mark tomlinson
    mark tomlinson Member Posts: 3



    ps these pics were taken after i did a drain tonight. the glass pipe is about half full. i guess that usually when i go down to do the drains i usually find it full and steam hissing out from same area - ? a half hour later when i went down to take these pics everything seemed quieter and calm. the boiler is a "weil-mclean" and i am told is about 10 yrs old. the new thermostat is a white-rodgers. i am not aware of any other drains or releases, "vents" on the system other then the ones on the radiators. there are 2 radiators on 1st floor and 3 on 2nd floor. the main steam pipe is the large one headed up in the top pic and in the bootom pic the smaller one coming in from the left is a return pipe i think...the bucket is strategically positioned to catch both drains and also leaks :)
  • Bob W._2
    Bob W._2 Member Posts: 79
    I see no one has replied to your post....

    Posts get buried quick on this Board. Maybe some of the steam guys here will be able to help. Your system definitely needs it.
  • E. Holtman
    E. Holtman Member Posts: 15
    I'm no expert...

    but I'm learning as I go. I started with Dan's book "the lost art of steam heating". It's probably the least expensive way to improve your system. Given that you are a renter, you don't want to spend money on someone else's system. It sounds like there are components that need replacing. Maybe your landlord will compensate you for the parts if you do the work. The most important thing is to make sure the pressuretrol (which maintains the appropriate pressure in the boiler) is set right. Dan's book will show you how to figure it and do it. Probably you want it to cut in at 1/2 psi and out at 1-1/2 psi. If it's been worked on by people who don't know steam, chances are it's set too high. (Mine had a 'cut in' setting and a 'differential' setting: cut in + differential = cut out).
    Good luck to you.
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909

    The scorch marks around the domestic water plate make me nervous. That is an indicator of flue gas leakage.

    Call the local gas provider and have them do a Carbon Monoxide test on that boiler.

    If I was talking to your landlord I would tell him to replace the system. It has not been serviced properly for many years.

    Mark H

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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,992
    First off, fix the leaks

    and do a combustion analysis as Mark says. If the boiler cannot be made to burn clean it should be replaced. Also check to see that the chimney is not blocked, this can also cause sooting.

    There should be a large vent at the end of the steam main before it drops into the return. If not, one needs to be added. This will reduce the boiler's run-time as well as saving gas.

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