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Any steam experts in Utah?

Mark_10
Mark_10 Member Posts: 9
Having trouble finding help around here on a single pipe steam system. Anyone out there?

Comments

  • Dan Law
    Dan Law Member Posts: 59
    Wall Help

    Not in Utah (Michigan) but I'll give it a try via "The Wall" if you'd like. What's up?
  • Mark_10
    Mark_10 Member Posts: 9


  • Mark_10
    Mark_10 Member Posts: 9


    It’s a long convoluted story up to this point, but the bottom line is I’ve got two 400,000 BTU cast iron sectional steam boilers that were installed (replacing an ancient coal fueled unit that had been converted to natural gas) within the past two years that appear to have gotten plugged with scale / sediment, overheated and cracked. I need to determine whether to try to salvage the steam system or move on to something else. I don’t know if the sediment is caused from mineral in the make up water, or if it’s coming back from the steam lines. I’ll post up more detailed photos soon as I can. These will show you the basic screwed up installation though.
  • It's the piping that caused the cracks, in my opinion

    Check your boiler piping against the instructions for the near boiler piping in your manual.

    DON'T reuse that "header" arrangement!

    Noel
  • jack_4
    jack_4 Member Posts: 43
    Additional

    Just to add to Noel's post.
    Headers are not to be welded, you need the twist in the thread joints to prevent cracking the castings.

    Header pipe is not even close. You need dual risers per boiler then a larger header.

    Then what is with all those 90's and valves at the header?

    As Noel said, piping problems.
  • Boonierat
    Boonierat Member Posts: 58
    Piping

    This one is clear as can be; there's no place for piping to 'flex'. This is text book stuff.
    Something has to give and it appears that the boiler(s) has.
    I just looked at Weil McLain, Peerless and an old H.B. Smith manual and all three illustrate the same thing. Riser(s) coming up off each boiler seperatly and connecting into a manifold (for lack of a better word)at an offset. Allows for plenty of flexing. This pic is gonna replace the last one I've been using on my wallpaper. Last one was a real beauty, this one is not far off the mark. Hope you can salvage this job, good luck.
    Stay loose; stay well,...................Nels
  • Mark A. Custis
    Mark A. Custis Member Posts: 247
    The boys are right on the piping

    and I have included a swing joint type of near boiler piping to allow the pipes to move. It would be a lot of work, but you could replace the broken sections and reassemble.

    Send the welded header out for a paint job and use it for yard art.

    Utah is a bit far for us.

    Mark

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  • Dan Law
    Dan Law Member Posts: 59
    Cracked sections

    > It’s a long convoluted story up to this point,

    > but the bottom line is I’ve got two 400,000 BTU

    > cast iron sectional steam boilers that were

    > installed (replacing an ancient coal fueled unit

    > that had been converted to natural gas) within

    > the past two years that appear to have gotten

    > plugged with scale / sediment, overheated and

    > cracked. I need to determine whether to try to

    > salvage the steam system or move on to something

    > else. I don’t know if the sediment is caused from

    > mineral in the make up water, or if it’s coming

    > back from the steam lines. I’ll post up more

    > detailed photos soon as I can. These will show

    > you the basic screwed up installation though.



  • Dan Law
    Dan Law Member Posts: 59
    Cracked sections

    Sorry to be so long getting back to you - busy bid day. I agree with all the others -
    the piping is the problem, both in terms of the sections cracking and the sediment
    build up. I'll bet you've got considerable priming going on. You mentioned make
    up water concerns - do you have a lot of make up? You shouldn't.
    My best advice is to order tonight a copy of Dan's Lost Art book if you don't
    already have one. It'll be the best $ you ever spend on steam. As you seem to
    already indicate, your on the process of correcting years of "work" done before
    you arrived. This is THE book to show you how it is supposed to be. The header
    piping is the first obvious thing, but you gotta look at the whole picture.

    Since
    most of this stuff was designed long before any of us were born, there's no good
    point of reference in our own experience. The book is your porthole to the past.
    I highly recommend it before you make another move. You can become the steam expert of Utah!

    Personally, I think the Victorian home DESERVES a heating system of the same
    character as the home itself.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    What a good header should look like

    This one's piped in glass for demonstration purposes. The configuration is just right, with two 24-inch risers to the header, then the steam main takeoff, then the equalizer.

    The second photo is a "drop header" installed by Mad Dog on a Burnham boiler. This is used to make the risers to the header even taller.

    The third one is one we installed on a Columbia boiler. It has a slightly different configuration, but does the same job.

    With two boilers, each should have its own header (and Hartford Loop too). The steam mains from these should then feed into another header, which in turn feeds the steam system mains.


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    All Steamed Up, Inc.
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    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    Piping for two boilers

    should look something like this (Columbia's version). Note that the header that receives steam from both boilers and passes it to the steam system mains is a "drop header".

    To Learn More About This Contractor, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Contractor"
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Mark_10
    Mark_10 Member Posts: 9


    You are absolutely correct about looking at the big picture. Logically, a correct installation is the first step I would think. I agree about the header not being anything close to what is shown in the installation instructions, and I had no idea what sort of problems it might be causing to the system. I was sure it must have been restricting the steam since the instructions indicate there should be a 4” riser off of both sides of each the unit rather than one 4” shared by both. However, I am having trouble seeing how expansion of this header would induce unusual stress on the sections. (I’m not defending the piping in any way, just trying to understand the logic) The only connection point to the boilers is in the center, and I would think the sections could expand outward away from the center tee. Upward movement should not be restricted since the header is hanging from the floor joists above. I am guessing the need to take on make-up water is an indication of a leak? Is there a way to monitor the flow?

    Think I’ll order the book.
  • You won't regret buying the book

    The boilers won't pull apart, in your case. You are correct. If the boilers had both risers from each boiler brought up and welded into the bottom of the header, like your single riser is, the cold header would stay fast in place, while the boilers were heating and expanding.


    HOWEVER, the risers height and diameter determine the velocity of the water and steam leaving the boilers. The header is the place that the water and steam seperate. In theory, the header is the fattest, and slowest pipe in the system. The equalizer that comes off the far END must be full size as indicated in the manual. It handles an extremely large volume of water, at about 30 MPH, that comes past the steam take-offs. If you don't handle this water, it flies up into the system. THAT missing water bares the top of the boiler, inside. As that happens over and over, it strains the iron. Eventually, it'll leak.

    Check out these other glass boiler piping shots. This gives a good idea of what happens inside the risers and in the header. Notice how full the equalizer pipe is.

    Noel
  • Dan Law
    Dan Law Member Posts: 59
    Section crack follow up

    Your right about the actual boiler being able to move, relative to the poor piping. It's the velocity factor involved in the exiting steam thru too small a header. The water level can actually slant within the boiler from the velocity and priming going on. This can leave portions of the sections without any water in them, while othe parts of the same section can be wetted. You can imagine what happens when the dry, overheated portion comes back in contact with water - Blamo!

    I've had the opportunity to see the glass piped steam boiler others have posted here. If you EVER get the same opportunity, drop whatever you doing and go. You won't belive what your seeing, and how little the sight glass really indicates. You'll come away with a whole new perspective on what the sight glass has been telling (or not telling) you all these years. And and even better visualization of the velocity and turbulence in the steam chest. It's a real eye opener.
  • Mark_10
    Mark_10 Member Posts: 9


    Book is on order; I expect it will help answer many questions. I’ve attached a page from the O/I manual addressing water conditioning for systems that are not real tight. Do you have any experience with doing that?
    Thanks,
    Mark
  • George Berkeley
    George Berkeley Member Posts: 40
    Keep or replace

    I don't think anyone directly answered that question for you.

    In my opinion, you should keep the system. Fixing it will not be free but is better than replacement. You need to repair the cracked sections, re-pipe that header system then look at the rest of the system for other issues. Rememer this word. VENT!

    Read Dan's book, ask questions here, and find a local plumber that can cut and thread large black iron pipe, and is willing to take directions from us. We can talk you thru this.

    Or, find the local plumber and offer to fly one of out. I bet you would get a taker.
  • Mark_10
    Mark_10 Member Posts: 9


    Thanks, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions.
    I’ll need a bigger wrench.

  • George Berkeley
    George Berkeley Member Posts: 40
    A bigger wrench...

    A bigger wrench, a bigger threader, and a lot of umph!

    Plan on hanging the weight of the headers off the joist, and do not allow much weight to rest on the boilers.
  • Dan Law
    Dan Law Member Posts: 59
    Water Treatment

    Mark,

    I have some experience in water treatment - I'd say I'm neutral on the subject
    except in industrial, 100% make up applications. But more to the point, you
    shouldn't be having significant amounts of make up. If you are, gotta find the
    leaks and fix them. You won't be able to deal with large amounts of make up in an
    automatically fired, probably unattended space heating boiler by use of chemicals. Yes, it can be
    done, but the reality is it won't get done. Better by far to get the system tight. The
    clean out procedure is necessary. Just finished one ourselves. If the system has
    been flooding or severely priming, you've been washing all that crud from the old
    piping into the boiler. It's gotta go. Blow down, skim, clean if necessary. I use
    Dan's recommendation in the last chapter of his book your ordering (see it's worth
    it already!)

    All this adds up in $$$, but keep your customer focused on the alternative and the
    associated cost of a complete new system - big bucks!

    I know I keep pounding on this, but put in the read time BEFORE making any
    moves. Thinking about chemicals at this point is way too premature. Don't fall for
    the "Magic goop in a bottle" seduction. There are good chemicals, but your
    problems are 90% mechanical / piping. Remember this stuff was all designed to
    work before chemicals were in wide use. Proper piping, and clean. Keep me
    posted.
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