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Steam Head - Help Me

how well it works!

You'll just have to keep flushing the boiler and system until all the rust is out. This often happens when you do extensive work on a steam system. Keep at it, you'll get it clean.

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Comments

  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Steam Head - Help Me

    Frank, Ken from Gorton Valves suggested I post this to you.

    I live in Wilmington, NC and no one here does residential steam boilers – the only steam we have is from the heat in August. Thus I have undertaken a project on my own and I am the furthest thing from a plumber that has walked the earth. But necessity has dictated I learn.

    I have 3 basic problems. 1) Loud water hammer at the start of every heating cycle that lasts 1-4 minutes. 2) Great water fluctuation in the sight glass (like the whole length of it) – so much so that the boiler typically stops 1-3 times per heating cycles so water can flow back into the boiler from the pipes. 3) The water is very dirty (mostly rust I think).

    Background: The reason for the issues is that I needed to move the boiler so that I could use my basement for other purposes besides a place for pipe spaghetti. The ceilings are about 9 feet high and I have piped things high enough so that I could finish the space off in the future if needed. The boiler is now located in the middle of the basement – my house is more or less square. The good news is that the system heats more evenly (all the radiators come on at almost the same time), faster, and it appears more efficiently than ever before. The system was originally put in in 1905. I have replaced all of the steam vents, either since the move, or in the last 7 years. Off of the boiler I have 3 branches (with one split into part “A” & “B”) going to the four corners of the house (it’s a square). Two of the branches are “counter-flow” with no Hartford Loop. On the 3rd branch part “A” is counter flow with no Hartford Loop and part “B” rises about 10 feet from it’s split with “A” (there are no radiators over this 10 feet) – and from that “peak” tilts down – feeding two radiators – and creates my version of a Hartford Loop. Everything is graded about 1 inch per 5 feet or more, including the down hill part of the loop. I have a Gorton #1 on the Hartford Loop. I have insulated the pipes. I have cleaned the boiler by skimming (lots), using TSP (several times), flushed the radiators and pipes out from the radiator end with a garden hose, and hosed out the inside of the boiler itself. Much of the pipe in the basement is new (is that why I am having such a problem with rust? The pipes haven’t seasoned (gotten good and coated with rust) or is it the hammer shaking it loose?).

    I have read one of Dan’s older books and read everything on this web site that pertains to steam heat. But I am dumbfounded, and have lost a lot of sleep over the last 9 weeks due to the hammer. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The only thing I see that changes the quantity of hammer (not the water level or dirt/rust) is if it is warm outside (and thus in the basement) and I run the boiler. The pipes do not hammer as much then – it’s like the boiler is too powerful now that I have moved and re-piped the system, and the pipes get so hot so fast they make noise from the temperature change, or that they heat up so fast that the steam condenses faster and creates water blockage and thus the hammer (does this make sense)?? I have the boiler down as low as it will go (should I “plug” some of burners or will that do anything?) Also, the PSI is set to about 1 – 1.5.

    Any help would be appreciated. As I said I am far far away from those who know steam.

    Thanks,
    Neal Huggins
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    I hope that Frank or some other luminary can help...

    ... in the meantime, how about taking and posting some pictures and a diagram of the system as it was, and as it is today?
  • Plumdog_2
    Plumdog_2 Member Posts: 873
    am I getting more ignorant all the time?

    what are those symbols in you text? I thought they were swearwords at first.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    No worries...

    ... My guess is a unhappy transition from his text editor to the Wall. Perhaps those are "smart quotes" from Word rearing their ugly head.
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    You are correct. I didn't even see that when I brought it in from Word. oops.
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Steam Head - Help Me (Corrected grammer)

    Frank, Ken from Gorton Valves suggested I post this to you.

    I live in Wilmington, NC and no one here does residential steam boilers - the only steam we have is from the heat in August. Thus I have undertaken a project on my own and I am the furthest thing from a plumber that has walked the earth. But necessity has dictated I learn.

    I have 3 basic problems. 1) Loud water hammer at the start of every heating cycle that lasts 1-4 minutes. 2) Great water fluctuation in the sight glass (like the whole length of it) - so much so that the boiler typically stops 1-3 times per heating cycles so water can flow back into the boiler from the pipes. 3) The water is very dirty (mostly rust I think).

    Background: The reason for the issues is that I needed to move the boiler so that I could use my basement for other purposes besides a place for pipe spaghetti. The ceilings are about 9 feet high and I have piped things high enough so that I could finish the space off in the future if needed. The boiler is now located in the middle of the basement - my house is more or less square. The good news is that the system heats more evenly (all the radiators come on at almost the same time), faster, and it appears more efficiently than ever before. The system was originally put in in 1905. I have replaced all of the steam vents, either since the move, or in the last 7 years. Off of the boiler I have 3 branches (with one split into part "A" & "B") going to the four corners of the house (it's a square). Two of the branches are "counter-flow" with no Hartford Loop. On the 3rd branch part "A" is counter flow with no Hartford Loop and part "B" rises about 10 feet from it's split with "A" (there are no radiators over this 10 feet) - and from that "peak" tilts down - feeding two radiators - and creates my version of a Hartford Loop. Everything is graded about 1 inch per 5 feet or more, including the down hill part of the loop. I have a Gorton #1 on the Hartford Loop. I have insulated the pipes. I have cleaned the boiler by skimming (lots), using TSP (several times), flushed the radiators and pipes out from the radiator end with a garden hose, and hosed out the inside of the boiler itself. Much of the pipe in the basement is new (is that why I am having such a problem with rust? The pipes haven't seasoned (gotten good and coated with rust) or is it the hammer shaking it loose?).

    I have read one of Dan's older books and read everything on this web site that pertains to steam heat. But I am dumbfounded, and have lost a lot of sleep over the last 9 weeks due to the hammer. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The only thing I see that changes the quantity of hammer (not the water level or dirt/rust) is if it is warm outside (and thus in the basement) and I run the boiler. The pipes do not hammer as much then - it's like the boiler is too powerful now that I have moved and re-piped the system, and the pipes get so hot so fast they make noise from the temperature change, or that they heat up so fast that the steam condenses faster and creates water blockage and thus the hammer (does this make sense)?? I have the boiler down as low as it will go (should I "plug" some of burners or will that do anything?) Also, the PSI is set to about 1 - 1.5.

    Any help would be appreciated. As I said I am far far away from those who know steam.

    Thanks, Neal
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Well, for starters

    I'd say the dirt is at least part of your problem. This will interfere with steam formation, and what steam you do get will likely be wet (carrying a lot of water with it). This is one leading cause of water hammer.

    How about posting some pics of the boiler area and a couple of radiators?

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  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    Sounds like you got a big oil slick happening, skim it down if you've got a skim valve, or blow it down and start over. sal soda to clean it out, or a little Squick might do the trick. Otherwise you're into near boiler piping. With a dirty sight glass I'm betting on oil from a recent repair. Good luck.
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Pictures for Steam Head

    Thanks for the info. I am unclear on several things (from the guy who posted below). What is a skim valve/how do I put on/where do I put one on. When I skimmed it I did it the wrong way and just slowly let the water out of the bottom and then tunred the water on for several hours. What is "blowing it down"? What is sal soda (is that TSP?) or Squick?

    There does seem to be a lot of moisture in the steam, although I'll admit steam always seems moist to me.

    The attached pics are before, durring, and after my home-made insualation. I have not ordered the "official" stuff, but the R rating on what I have I believe is higher.

    Thanks again.

    The Steamer of the South - Neal
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    More than a repair, a re-piping.

    See other reply I posted please.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Now Neal,

    I am but a homeowner myself, but let me give you first impressions, to which I am sure that Steamhead will add far more sage advice.

    Your header has a bull-headed T. AFAIK, that is not a good thing. You'd want the take-off to occur before the equalizer loop begins. I also see no Hartford loop down there either. If you decide to re-pipe the header (as I suspect you ought to), consider attaching the 3 mains directly to it instead of having them branch from each other.

    Your flue exhaust looks like it's wiggling its way to the chimney... ideally, I think, it ought not ever pitch downwards, yet the picture seems to imply that the flue overshoots, then corrects its pitch towards the chimney.

    It's also not clear whether the pitch of the pipes is correct. The picture in which you show the supply and the return seems to show the two pipes running in paralell. I would think that the supply would slope opposite from the return. Depending on the system, it may benefit from a vent being screwed into the "T" (though with an extension to carry it higher).
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Looks like a Weil-McLain boiler

    do NOT use any chemical or cleaner in this boiler that W-M doesn't approve. The section joints in this boiler use gaskets rather than push nipples, and adding the wrong stuff can rot them out.

    The near-boiler piping is wrong too. The branches must come off from the horizontal portion of the header. The counterflow branches must be drained to the wet return before the condensate can re-enter the header. This might contribute to the banging.

    From the pics it doesn't appear that your Harford Loop is installed properly either. Check Dan's diagrams and the boiler's installation manual (which you can download if you don't have it) to see how it should be.

    Also check the pitch on the counterflow branches- they should pitch back one inch in ten feet toward the boiler.

    All mains should be vented with properly-sized main vents placed at or near their ends. Measure the length and diameter of each main and we can tell you what vents you need.

    With that said, the actual pipe-assembly workmanship looks fairly neat. Did you do this yourself?

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  • adayton_2
    adayton_2 Member Posts: 130
    Steamhead Header

    question...Does one pipe also benefit from "drop" header design?

    Alfred
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    > do NOT use any chemical or cleaner in this boiler

    > that W-M doesn't approve. The section joints in

    > this boiler use gaskets rather than push nipples,

    > and adding the wrong stuff can rot them out.

    > The near-boiler piping is wrong too. The branches

    > must come off from the horizontal portion of the

    > header. The counterflow branches must be drained

    > to the wet return before the condensate can

    > re-enter the header. This might contribute to the

    > banging.

    >

    > From the pics it doesn't appear that

    > your Harford Loop is installed properly either.

    > Check Dan's diagrams and the boiler's

    > installation manual (which you can download if

    > you don't have it) to see how it should be.

    > Also check the pitch on the counterflow branches-

    > they should pitch back one inch in ten feet

    > toward the boiler.

    >

    > All mains should be vented

    > with properly-sized main vents placed at or near

    > their ends. Measure the length and diameter of

    > each main and we can tell you what vents you

    > need.

    >

    > With that said, the actual

    > pipe-assembly workmanship looks fairly neat. Did

    > you do this yourself?

    >

    > _A

    > HREF="http://www.heatinghelp.com/getListed.cfm?id=

    > 367&Step=30"_To Learn More About This

    > Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in

    > "Find A Professional"_/A_



  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    It is a WM from about 1993

    Steamhead,

    Thanks for the info. It is a WM from about 1993. I will cease and desist from using the TSP. I have not used it in a while and have flushed the system a lot since then.

    I see what you are saying about the branches coming off of the header. All I did was keep the old little loop there and work off of the top - as the original piping was (That one never hammered). As for draining the counter - flow branches – they need to go into the Hartford loop I am gathering? I can see the logic in that, though the banging is not occurring there (you can feel it at the location in the pipe when it occurs).

    As for my version of a Hartford Loop. I guess I was taking the easy route. I know the little pipe is big enough to carry the water (and it does have a Gorton main #1 on it). I don’t have a nipple on it, nor did the original piping, thus why I didn’t put one on (I found this web site and Dan’s book after I had done most all of the piping. I was guessing and just looking at the old system here).

    The pitch if anything is more than the 1 in 10. More like 1 in 4 or 5. Is that a problem?

    As for main vents – I have the one (mentioned above) and when I described how quick the radiators heat, Ken at Gorton said I probably only needed the one on the end of the branch with the Hartford Loop. I can put ones on, but I don’t really have an end to the pipes as per Dan’s diagrams. I just turn up to the radiators. If you still suggest, can I just put the main vents back 12 inches from that rise (this is going to be hard to do with the little clearance I have).

    Also, should I skim for oil and how best do I do that (see my last post)?

    I had some help from a friend who owns a pipe threader, but we designed and did the work ourselves.

    Thanks again - Southern Steamer - Neal
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Optical Illusions.

    The ehaust lines looking funny must be result of the picture. AS for the pipe pitch as noted above they are at 1 inch per 4 or 5 feet. I know that is enough, but is it too much? I see the picture where my Hartford Loop starts looks wrong, but it is just the picture again.

    Also what is a "bull-headed T" and "AFAIK."

    Thanks for the help.

  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Diagram

    Does the attached diagram make sense and is it at all correct?

    So repiping around the boiler will help hammmer many feet from it? Interesting?

    Neal
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    A skim valve is a large tap at or right below the water line. A lot of guys plug em because they don't want to waste a valve. I usually come out with a nipple, st 90 aiming down, ball valve, and a plug just easy tight no dope for safety. No TSP! Sal soda is washing soda, Arm and Hammer still makes it. Some manufacturers have it in the install manual in their startup procedure. Peerless is one. It doesn't stay in the boiler but by all means check your manufacturer. Squick is a powder from Silver King, floats on top of the water grabs any oil and sends it to the bottom to be drained off. The rest stays on top and promotes dry steam. Directions on can, I've had good luck with it. If you decide to clean the sight glass, be careful, tricky if you don't know how, be sure to hold the glass off the bottom when you put it back together or you'll break it, Not too tight. Blow down is done with a boiler under pressure, generally to get the gunk out of the feed valve, must be done often in heating season. You can also turn off the feed valve and blow it down all the way to the bottom drain. Good way to test the lo-water cut outs, if you do it while it's firing. Doesn' hurt to let it cool a bit, before re-filling, slowly, especially with those gasketed sections. I usually plan them for around lunch time. Test your safeties on the way up. Good luck
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    PS - You can reduce the skim valve size after it turns the corner for economy. Reducing 90, nipple, 1" ball valve, plug, easier to get into the bucket too. Good luck.
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    Last PS I certainly agree that the header is wrong, and it definately makes for wet-steam, but surging up and down on start up is the classic sign of an oil slick. When I do near boiler piping I always wipe down the inside of the pipe, spray it with my watered down orangina that I use for sweatin, re-wipe, and generally don't have too much of a problem, though I do cheat and throw in a hand ful of Squick while the big holes are open. Then I don't have to skim, wash or blow-down. But then I put the header in right. By the way, I did run into a big header piped that way some years ago that had that piping config in the install manual on site. Yes, they had wet steam. No, I didn't bad mouth the manufacturer (he who shall not be named), just built it into the other work. Perfection angers the Gods. Big time saver. I'd start with the easy stuff first, but if you're gonna change the piping anyway, do it then.
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    You're right, there is no Hartford loop. On the flue I don't think anyone recommends putting a elbow right on the collector. 1 ft min may even be code. I'd throw in a section of straight and roll it over. Put the seams on the back side; not up, not down. I screw em and tape em. Looks good, customers love it. Good luck
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    Jerry,
    Thanks for the info. I got up with WM and found out about their specific cleaning instructions. See this link

    http://www.weil-mclain.com/contractor/TechServiceBulletins/sb0102.pdf

    My hope is that this cleaning will do the trick. I really don't want to get the pipe threader out again. That is not my day job.

    Did you look at my hand-drawn proposed plan. Is that what you would do? My only other thought was just make my branches come off of the header there on the horizontal pipe, and not put a Hartof Loop wet return. In other words leave everything as it, but come off the header in the horizontal part, not the corner. Will that work?

    Thanks - Neal
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    Try the easy stuff first, by all means. Looks like tsp is ok after all, news to me. I think washing soda is sodium carbonate, but my chemistry days are behind me. On that note I would try the skimming first, and if you can find a some Squick you might be in for a pleasant surprise. In any case it would be good to remove these issues from the loop before the heavy wrenching begins. Your diagram doesn't resemble a Hartford loop to me, maybe Im not seeing it right. I'd go for the cleaning first, and maybe be sure that the boiler isn't over firing, check the manifold pressure, or just turn it down a tad if the flame is lifting off the burner. Good luck.
  • Dave_4
    Dave_4 Member Posts: 1,405
    Southern Steam

    Bump
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,317


    The Hartford loop and the header/takeoffs need to be changed as Frank, Constantin and the other posters have noted.

    The one thing that stands out to me is the lack of swing joints in the piping.

    There is one picture of a steam main running right to left with a radiator takeoff on top, It then runs into a plugged tee and drops down to form a
    dry return that flows left to right. There is no possible way that those two pipes can be pitched correctly without the use of swing joints.

    Letting the pipes sag to produce pitch will not work and will put excessive strain on the piping. Lots of stuf to fix here.Good Luck,

    ED


    Ed
  • S Ebels
    S Ebels Member Posts: 2,322
    So Neal.........

    How did this all turn out?
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Swing Joints

    Ed,

    You are correct, there are no swing joints. However, the pitch over the length of the pipe is more than sufficient. 20 to 1 or less.

    After the help from this site and tinkering with it, the system was finally working as well as it ever had in my lifetime when warm weather finally came around last spring. The only thing I was unable to get to a satisfactory level was the color of the water. No matter how much cleaning I did, it always was rusty. I seemed to have finally gotten the oil out, but there was still rust. Could that just be new pipes oxidizing and it will be gone in a few years?

    I did my renovations in the basement that were the reason for the re-piping, and now I just have to wait for cold weather... Some of the pipes are in ceilings now (acoustical tile so at least I can get to things), but it seems that - at least before the work - every year or two there was some small leak somewhere. I just hope it's in the exposed parts.

    I'm not sure if I am ready for cold... it was a long winter last year fooling with this thing...

    NEAL
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Cleaning

    Well, cold weather has finally come, the system is heating phenomenally, .... and the cleaning continues.

    Of course a few weeks ago the valve that allows gas to flow broke and I had to get a new one - took days to get the part down here. And the gas guy who put it in (I don't play with gas) who is from NY tried to tell me that I didn't have a Hartford Loop - I sort of do, but what he was describing was completely wrong (thanks to you guys here and Dan's books I even knew that).


    Anyway, I have been cleaning per manufacturer instructions and just plain flushing... still dirty water. The water level "bounces" about 4-5 inches (often it gets so low that the burner shuts off - and occasionally the low water attempts to fill and then on the next cycle it is too full and "throws" water into the pipes hammering away). I am guessing that this is still from the dirt/rust? (not much in the way of oil anymore). Is there any chance I have fouled up the near boiler piping so that this bouncing would occur? (I sure hope not).

    Thanks again for helping out this stem novice down south.

    Neal
    Wilmington, NC
  • Keep skimming and flushing

    that boiler is still full of dirt! Try flushing it out with a hose when it's cool- NEVER when it's hot!

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  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    Will do. I did that last season from the top down - got a little hose nozzle and took off all the stem vents and went to every radiator. But I'm not sure if I did it at the boiler. I will try it and get back to you.

    Thanks again. If you're ever in Wilmington I will buy you dinner.

    Neal
  • Jerry_15
    Jerry_15 Member Posts: 379


    The other Jerry may be giving me a good name. I tryed to advise just down-firing the boiler for a test. Doesn't seem to have come up. Simple things first is a good mantra. Good luck.
  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20
    Down-Firing

    You know, I have read about down-firing, but am not sure as to what that entails - in other words, how do you do it??

    Neal
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,702
    The best investment you could make right now.......

    would be to have Steam Head pay a visit to the job. It will save you alot of aggravation down the line. Mad Dog

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  • Neal Huggins
    Neal Huggins Member Posts: 20


    I would love that. But I live in Wilmington, NC - I've even offered to buy him dinner :)
This discussion has been closed.