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Correction of NearBoilerPiping on New Steam Boiler Install

DaveGateway
DaveGateway Member Posts: 568
Last year I hired a contractor to replace the original steam boiler in my 4800 sqft home (two pipe steam with condensate return pump). I installed a Weil McClain 450K BTU EGH steam boiler. Since I still have six radiators that do not heat and water hammer in one of my two main steam loops, I hired a different contractor (found him on this site) who initially got the radiators working (clogged trap in wet return and backed down system pressure). While here the new contractor pointed out a number of problems with the near boiler piping on the new boiler.

The original installer has agreed to return to correct some near boiler piping errors (header is undersized, steam feed has a ngegative slope, and the distance from the waterline to the header is less than 24").

Since I am going to have the near boiler piping corrected, should I also have him do the following? I would appreciate your expert advice:

1) Should the boiler be place on the floor instead of on blocks? The original installer said he placed the boiler on blocks to maintain the "A" Dimension (Ref; Lost Art) but he could not explain why he couldn't put the boiler on the floor - as far as I can tell, doing so will not make any wet returns dry (Ref: pg26-27 Lost Art). And since I have a condensate pump would that matter anyway?

2) Should I insist on header offsets (Ref: pg 52 Lost Art? I have circled the areas where the risers meet the headers - they are 90 degree angles at the present.

3) Is there a minimum horizontal distance required/recommended between the riser closest to the steam takeoff and the steam take-off itself? One contractor I consulted said there should be a 12" minimum - I show this as dimension X on the picture below.

4) Likewise is there a minimum horizontal distance required/recommended between the steam take-off and the return piping bend? - I show this as dimension Z on the picture below. The same contractor I consulter said there should be 8" here.

5) Should the equalizer piping be modified so the 45 degree jog back to the plane of the boiler water feed be dropped so as to be below the waterline?

6) Should I consider a drop header? What would be the advantages? If I have at least 24" between the waterline and the header, will that give me enough height to produce dry steam?

Once I get the boiler piped correctly, we will work on cleaning out returns and repacing traps. I am glad to have found a new contractor who seems willing to help me straighten out my system.

Thank you,
Mickey Shield
Grosse Pointe Michigan

Comments

  • eleft_4
    eleft_4 Member Posts: 509
    cement blocks lying on their side

    have little strength, the picture gives me chills, the holes must be vertical.

    al
  • See it all the time Al

    under the old Blueray boilers . Granted , they're 4 inch cinder , not 8 inch like in this pic . But the 4 inchers don't lose their intergrity over a few decades .

    8 inch cinder blocks on their side look kinda iffy though , don't they ?
  • Dave Meers
    Dave Meers Member Posts: 103
    near boiler piping

    Hi Mickey,

    You have a lot going on here. The pics and info are great, but do you have something on the condensate return pump since that is important to some of your problems. What we know so far is...

    1) The boiler does not need to be on blocks. The original contractor is mistaken since "A" dimension refers to a one-pipe gravity return system and you have a two-pipe pump return system. I like a boiler on a concrete pad, up 1-2" off the floor.

    2) There are offsets on the supply risers from the boiler outlets to the header. He got that right.

    3) There is no recommended distance between the riser and the supply main takeoff. Yours is at the bare minimum, a little space is nice, not a make or break situation.

    4) Likewise there is no recommended distance in the Weil-McLain instructions for the return drop, but again you are at the minimum and a little space is nice.

    5) Equalizer piping should be kept to a minimum of distance and number of fittings, so there is very little pressure drop. When you re-pipe, have the 45s removed.
    I can't see the connection on the picture clearly enough. Can we get a better one please? However, the feed should always be below the waterline. I recommend 2" below for gravity feed and 4" below for pumped feed. Weil McLain recommends between 2-4".

    6) Drop headers are very popular with this crowd and have their place. They do a great job of drying out the steam before it goes out to the system. I'll need more info before we recommend that. The present header does have some other problems that aren't mentioned. It should be full size across the top of the boiler, not the riser size. That needs to be corrected. The proper size header, and at least 24" above the waterline will help assure dry steam.

    The new contractor is absolutely correct about checking the traps and cleaning and/or replacing any clogged wet returns. I'd still like to get more info on your condensate return pump.

    Hope this helps you and your contractors. Please feel free to contact me with any additional information or questions.

    Best regards, Pat
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Condensate Pump & Other Equalizer Pics

    Thanks for your reply Pat. I will have the boiler taken off the blocks and put on a concrete pad. I will not worry about trying to get any more horizontal distance between the last riser and the steam takeoff and the steam takeoff and the return.

    CONDENSATE PUMP
    The Condensate pump is a Hoffman "Watchman" Type: WC 8 20; EDR: 8000; PSI: 20. A Westinghouse 1/3 HP AC Motor powers it. As you can see, when the trap was opened up just above the pump (that is the line from the end of the two steam mains) it was plugged with gunk. Once that was opened, the six not heating radiators heated. But now I am getting no heat again - time to clean out all the returns I guess as the two mains heat up quickly and nicely (must be vented o.k.).

    The pump is a little worrisome though. There seems to be quite a lag before the pump pushes the water back into the boiler - then the boiler calls for water from auto fresh feed.

    EQUALIZER RETURN
    Here are two more pictures of the return piping situation. There is a 45 degree bend in the side view, front view and plan view above the waterline. (You can't really see the waterline in the pictures as it is at the top of the glass!)

    HEADER
    The header will be raised (in addition to the boiler lowered) so I will have more than 24" from the waterline to the header (only 20" at present). It will also be increased to 3" (per WM installation spec) and the steam takeoff pitch corrected. I am hoping that will allow me greater opportunity to correct the entire system problem with trap and wet return maintenance.

    F&T TRAPS Needed?
    There are no F&T Traps at the end of my two steam main loops. Rather there are regular steam traps. Is that ok? Or should I be looking to add F&Ts. I am getting good steam flow to the end of the main quickly....I am now thinking my no heat problems lies in the radiator traps and clogged returns.

    Radiator Traps
    In the spring, I plan to replace all my radiator traps (34). Most are Trane but I have a few Hoffman. Is it better to rebuild the traps or replace? Have you ever heard of Sterling Traps? One contractor told me they are better because they are designed to fail in the closed position, thereby calling notice to a failed trap right away? Your thoughts?

    Thanks again!
    Mickey
  • Hmm , my first question is

    do you think the condensate pump is truly needed ? Looks like the returns drop down into the pump at ground level with the boiler ? Are there traps on each radiator ? Steamhead or Noel know far more about this side of things than I do . Hope they see this post .

    A few suggestions though . I would keep the boiler up on blocks - solid 4 inch is my preference . If the boiler sits directly on the ground theres a chance it'll eventually dig itself into the floor , or even heat the floor till it crumbles apart .

    The drop header is an excellent idea in this particular situation . I would come up to at least the minimum 24 inches above the water line , then dip down enough so that connecting to the system main will be easy . It also gives you the header offsets you mention ( I think that's what you're referring to ) - extra swing joints in case something expands more than what it's connected to .

    I've been piping the horizontal tees going to the system with close nipples for many a steamer and haven't had any adverse problems to speak of . I also keep a minimum distance between the last steam tee and the equalizer ell - same great results . I just posted a steam job we finished today with that type of setup ( almost ) - it's under the heading "Temporary steam heat " . I do recommend using a full size ell or close to it , to drop into the Loop . Going for the straightest run with the equalizer is a good idea , but not that critical . Having that pipe sized to specs or even larger is more important in my opinion .

    Good luck with the repipe of the system . Don't forget to take pics after the completed job and post them here .
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Thank You Ron....

    I did see your post today with the temporary boiler turned permanent! And I see what you mean by the drop header.

    I am not sure whether or not the condensate pump is needed either. I had one contractor suggest it's removal and another said to keep it and adjust the control. Guess there would be no harm in bypassing it to see if the system works better without it. Right now I have too much water sitting in the boiler....not sure what will happen when the temp drops tonight and it kicks on! But first things first - I have to have the near boiler piping done right.

    Thanks for your help.
    Mickey

  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Your Temp Steam

    I have been watching the wall recently and did check out your post. I paid special attention to your drop header arrangement. Is a drop header really if you clear more than the 24"? Thanks.
    Mickey
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
    I agree with Ron..

    why do you have a condensate pump in a house????did the house originally come with it? or was it gravity? I'd change the block to solid as was suggested..the piping is fine..yes there is things that i would do different but its function is probably fine..i see worse installs functioning..if your having problems with the system i dought seriously if changing any of this piping will make it different as its not a bad job..ive seen boat loads worse..and its common practice to elevate a steam boiler to match the water line of the original coal boiler..which brings me back to the pump..why is it there?
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Yes Condensate Pump Was Here with House

    We moved into the house five years ago. The pump was connected to the original boiler which was first coal, then oil then gas. I am not sure when the condensate pump was put in. Maybe they were having a hard time building enough pressure to return the water to the tall boiler. The waterline of the old boiler was higher than my new boiler. If I place the boiler on a concrete pad or on 4" solid blocks as Ron suggested, maybe I can bypass the condensate pump and eliminate the overfill problem I am seeming to have. But I am still having the original contractor revise the near boiler piping to at least manufacturers's specs (24" header to waterline height and a header properly sized). After all, that's what I already paid him to do. Thanks for confirming Ron's thoughts. I know we will still have things to work on to get my system running properly after the near boiler piping is corrected.

    Mickey
  • Robert O'Connor_7
    Robert O'Connor_7 Member Posts: 688
    WM...

    Your install really isn't too bad as jerry just mentioned. I would get rid of, or fill up (some how??) the cavity in the cider blocks (or change to solid block) this would be a real good idea. The theory of the boiler grinding into the floor is valid, but only for section failure and get ready people cause I predict WM is gonna start requiring steel runners for expantion soon. The near boiler piping is shy of the recommended 24" but I too have seen much worse. Without looking at a EGH boiler manual (I believe I've stopped opening the booklet in 1980 lol) the EGH 85 needs two supplies @ 2" with a 3" header , these however are minimum sizes (it never hurts to increase but it isn't necessary). The equalizer offset is not a problem IMHO. I did notice, or didn't notice a boiler drain in it's proper location. I would have installed a full port ball valve there. In regards to the condensate pump, or the need for one?? I prefer without, if possible, although the only way I know if one is really needed is to measure and time the returning condensate (lets face it, this is a tiny boiler) most systems can be flushed and therefore eliminate the need. If however, I must install, I'd use a feed unit with a MM150S LWCO, and do away with the feeder. All in all it really doesn't seem too bad...Robert O'Connor/NJ
  • Sure

    I have no real data to confirm this , just gut intuition - I believe dropping the header decreases water carryover into the mains . Seems like we have much fewer spitting vent problems since starting the practice .

    And it also makes connecting the 2 boiler risers together much , much easier . Best money spent on an extra couple of street ells .
  • Just remember

    that the air has to get out of the system somehow . The vent connected to the pump might be the only one . Although on 2nd glance I think I see a main vent above the pump in the piping - the green thing ?

    Can you tell us how the radiators are set up ? Do they have individual traps ?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    I'll bet

    that Trane Vapor system you are so lucky to have, once had a Direct Return Trap which failed. So someone thought a pump would be a good replacement.

    But in such a case, all you need is to replace the Pressuretrol with a Vaporstat which cannot be set higher than 1 PSI. This was why the Return Trap was there- to make sure the water could get back to the boiler no matter what its pressure was. Boiler pressure was difficult to control closely in the old days- we didn't have Vaporstats then.

    I'd ditch the pump and the extra traps and install a Vaporstat.

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  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Ditching the Pump

    Thanks Frank....if I ditch the pump, do I need to keep the boiler waterlevel above the existing wet return line (it runs from my second steam loop to the connecting point at the pump about 24" from the floor)? I just went down to check that dimension and saw that my waterlevel with system at rest is past the top of the glass. I will have to do something.

    Also, when you say ditch the traps, do you mean the idea of putting in F&T traps or my need to replace radiator traps?

    I need to replace a number of radiator traps (probably 10 of my 28).....determined this by checking temp differential at trap input and output. Have you heard of the Sterling Smarttrap? Supposedly it only fails in the closed position - if one fails, it would be easy to pinpoint.

    Thank you for your time. Mickey
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Thank You

    Thank you for your input too.....lots to consider. I am still insisting that the near boiler piping be installed to WM specs....the contractor agreed it was not. There is a blow down valve on the right side, but no ball valve in the boiler drain (which is capped). I will have that done so I can flush the system. Will also have drains/strainers but in my wet return lines so I can flush those more easily too.

    I will share your comments about the condensate pump with the contractor.....since so many wallies don't seem to think I need it, maybe we will give it a shot and bypass it.

    But six of my radiators are not working and two are very slow......I will have to work on that as soon as the near boiler piping is corrected. Our eight year old prays for heat everytime she goes to bed!

    Thanks, Mickey
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    If the boiler's lowest permissible waterline

    is below the wet return, and the points where the dry return drips into the wet return, it needs to be raised. Since the boiler will be repiped, this can be as simple as raising it higher off the floor. If you can't get enough height, use a False Water Line. This is shown in "The Lost Art of Steam Heating".

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  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Thanks - any thought on Sterling Radiator Traps

    I will be sure the water line will not fall below the wet/dry junction.

    But any thoughts on the Sterling Radiator Traps I mentioned? The literature says they fail in a closed position....sounds almost too good to be true. I don't want to be chasing around steam problems from radiator to radiator for the rest of my life! - I've got may hands full with four kids!

    Thanks for all you help! I feel I am getting close.
    Mickey
  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    Another problem with boiler on blocks

    The bottom of the EGH series boiler is open. If the boiler is not set on a continuous surface, excess air enters the combustion chamber and hurts efficiency. I suspect it could also cool the combustion process so much as to cause high CO levels. The boiler should be on a continuous surface...On the floor or a poured concrete pad. I belive this may alos be in the directions. If you need to keep that wet return wet, pour a pad high enough or move the wet return down. It almost sounds like it might be good to replace that return anyway if it is that plugged up. Copper is fine here....often preferred by many... for the return.

    I also question the need for the pump. I have growing collection of condensate pumps I've removed from systems that did not need them.....ever or not with a newer boiler. Just be sure to provide venting for your mains and returns before you drop them below the boiler waterline. It probably was put in when the old boiler was converted from coal to oil or gas and a pressuretrol added. The pressure got too high and water could no longer return to the boiler. I see that quite often. With the newer boiler's lower waterline and the addition of a Vaporstat, you should be able to get rid of it.

    Oh, if you want that boiler to last, I'd put some metal slides under the legs. I have seen many EGH boilers fail because they crack at the top of the legs because the legs can't move as the boiler expands and contracts. There is not much strengthening where those legs go into the water jacket casting. I prefer boilers that can float on a seperate base or have stronger castings at this stress point.

    Boilerpro
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    They're new to me

    But I've had good results with Tunstall "Capsule" and Barnes & Jones "Cage" replacement insides for existing traps. Also Hoffman "Bear Trap" modules where they will fit existing traps, but these are more limited than the first two brands.

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  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    The Green Thing

    Ron....the green thing is a vent, but it is on the dry return. The main steam vent is the small round shiny thing. The south loop main heats quickly and gets hot, so I know it is working. I have another end of main piped/vented similarly on the north side of my house - it too heats quickly.

    Yes, all the radiators have individual traps....most are Trane and a few are Hoffman. Some are most likely bad - am considering replacing all with a Sterling Trap - it is designed to fail in the closed position - that would sure prevent a failed trap from reeking havoc on my system. Ever heard of them?
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
    sterlings are

    very good traps..you will like them..
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Sterling SmartTrap

    In case you are interested here is the link to the literature that contains info on the Sterling SmartTrap (thermostatic radiator trap designed to fail in the closed position).

    http://www.sterlco.com/images_products/files/Final Steam Traps.pdf
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Affordable?

    I still need to price them out vs. replacing the guts with parts Steamhead recommended (below). But I would like to get my system working and be done with it!
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
    oh by all means, replace the guts

    its cheaper, your not messing around changing pipes if the new trap doesn't fit exactly, etc....but you have to be able to get its top off..not always easy..my steam partners been having barnes & jones company make replacement in'erds for mouat and ideal thermostatic traps we deal with..works very well..kudo's to B&J..
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Mickey

    Can you shrink this pic just a little , or maybe uncheck the box that displays the pic ? It's making it real hard to read the responses if you have to scroll from left to right .
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Removed Pics as Requested

    Sorry for the inconvenience Ron.....I didn't know unchecking the box was an option. Thank you and all the others who so graciously donated their time to provide their two cents on my system.
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28


    Thank you....I will have to price out the differential.

    But how will I know if the new in'erds fail down the road?

    Is measuring the temp differential across the trap the best way? I measured the temp differential on one trap - the temp out was 30deg hotter than the temp going into the trap....sure didn't make sense to me!
  • No problem

    I try to keep my pictures at 600 pixels width by 800 height , which fits my screen just enough to not scroll left to right . I do have my laptop set to the highest resolution though - I wonder if my pics come out too big also ? Gotta check somehow .

    Combining all the info you get from the steam experts here with the repiping crew that's coming and I bet the ssytem will eventually work excellent . By the way , is it your town that's featured in the John Cusack movie , Grosse Point Blank ?
  • Michele
    Michele Member Posts: 28
    Yes

    But believe it or not I've never seen the movie!
  • John Shea
    John Shea Member Posts: 247
    Wallie success story.

    I'm pleased to announce that this system is now running very well.

    I had the pleasure of working with Mickey to convert this system back to gravity. A few of the tasks performed on this system:

    1. Removed condensate pump
    2. Re-created wet return
    3. Removed drip by-passes/repiped to full capacity (1 1/4")
    4. Increased main venting
    5. Tested and replaced defective traps.

    The system now doesn't take on fresh feed water, heats relatively evenly throughout (except one trouble radiator) and heats up very quickly.

    I am trying to get into the business and Mickey gave me the opportunity to work with her to resolve her heating problems. (Thanks Mickey!)

    Thanks to Dan for the wall and his books and to the many fine people here on the Wall for giving their good advice.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    Glad to help

    I know Mickey is happy, and I'll bet Reuben Trane is smiling from above. And those Gorton #2 vents look real sharp!

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