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Near Boiler Piping??

Hi Everyone.  First off, fantastic forum.  I would be in well above my head if it weren't for this group. 

We are having our cracked Burnham V7 replaced soon and are looking at other things to fix when the new one is installed.  (Quite likely a Weil Mclain SGO, any thoughts on this?).  I'm trying to tune the system up and have found a few other things I'd like the guys to do when they are installing.  Change the steam trap on the main (2 pipe system so no traps on the radiators), re-pack some of the leaking radiator valves, etc.

I've been doing a little research on proper near boiler piping.  I've ordered "We Got Steam Heat" but it hasn't arrived yet.  Attached is a photo of our setup.  From the diagrams I've seen I'm finding it hard to determine if it is ok for the boiler riseres to connect directly into the main with T's (right by the equalizer) and to have the equalizer come straight off the main back to the hartford loop.  It seems to me that this could cause some wet steam, but wanted to ask the experts.  Would it be worth having a header put in to connect the risers and the equalizer before connecting to the main?

Also wondering if it's worth replacing or cleaning out the wet return during this procedure. 

On another note.  The current unit has been pumping steam up through the chimney for half the season.  Quite a bit at this point.  Should I ask about a chimney liner with the WM or any other units? 

Thanks in advance!
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Comments

  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,393
    Good, Bad, Ugly

    The first thing I notice with your setup is that all of the steam wants to go to the right, the condensate wants to go to the left. All of that condensate has to play, "Mother May I" with the outgoing steam. So yes, make a proper header (you have plenty of height it seems), with an equalizer before departing to your radiators. Not seeing the larger picture, you may have a "switch-back" of piping, but that is OK. Insulation looks good, by the way. Too bad it will be dealt with.. :)



    One thing you said was that it is '2-pipe steam so no traps'. Do you mean, "2-pipe steam BUT no traps"? The older systems had express returns down to the basement wet return which formed a seal, the same essential function as a trap. Just have to ask so we know what we are working with here.



    Your last sentence, you said that the boiler has been pumping steam up the chimney and should you line it? Do you mean there is a dry return line into the chimney acting as a vacuum? Or do you have a leak above the waterline?



    If the latter and you want to line the chimney, that is like having an oil leak on your car and installing a gutter to protect the driveway. The leak will be replaced with the boiler, so much the better.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,340
    Follow the piping diagram

    i can't see exactly what you have there but make sure they pipe it like the installation manual tells them to. The manual has specific piping instructions on pages 14 through 16, make sure it is piped in threaded steel (NOT COPPER)  and that they use the correct size pipe. To many installers can't handle 2-1/2 or 3" pipe so they like to pipe it all in 2", that will not work right.



    If it's done right it should purr like a kitten.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    How ugly is ugly?

    Thanks!

    All the radiators are connected to 2 seperate pipes.  One, the main, the other, I assume is what you call the "express return" which is hung just below the main and connects back at the base of the hartford loop.  This is also the the pipe that the apparent single rattling steam trap is located.

    The main does split, make complete loop around and back to the boiler, so could it be the case that the condensate actually drains in the same direction of the steam flow?



     
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited February 2011
    Since you are starting from scratch

    with a new boiler, it would be best to pipe it right, using both boiler risers, rising at least 24", and then dropping into the drop header.  Whether or not you need 2 system risers cannot be determined from this photo.  The wet returns are normally replaced with a new boiler.  Here is an informative video on the subject of "near boiler piping" narrated by Dan the man Holohan.  Now is the time to be thinking about King Valves.  King valves sure make life easy for cleaning, testing and tweaking.  http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/107/Steam-Heating/118/Steam-boiler-near-boiler-piping  There are some excellent examples of drop headers here on the site  http://www.heatinghelp.com/search/results/drop-header/1  Here is the manual for the WM SGO line.  http://www.weil-mclain.com/en/multimedia-library/pdf/weil-mclain-pdf/products/boilers/oil-boilers/sgo/sgo-boiler-manual.pdf.pdf  see page 16 for piping diagram.  "meet or exceed manufacturers specifications" are some powerful words to have in your contract with your installer.  Good luck and have fun!
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    To drop, or not to drop...

    Thanks Crash!

    I've got about 36 - 40 inches from the water line to the main, do you think a drop header is really needed or would a standard header then up to the main work?

    Really appreciate the links.  The video was great.  I will definately have a discussion about piping prior to installation.  In general, would a new install (especially with a different brand boiler) include re-piping?  I would assume that the measurements between ports/drains are not at all consistent between models?
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    A drop header

     doesn't really cost too much more.  Y'know., if you compare it to the benefits.  It makes the job less difficult for the installer.  (theres an idea, let him pay for it)  I almost talked myself into an oversized dropped header, but I settled for regular size.  Get some opinions.  You might also want to get some opinions on your existing mains and how to tie into them.  Could you post a few more pics?  If its hard to get in a shot, try laying down on your back and shoot the ceiling.

    Where are you located?
  • new boiler discussion

    why not add up now the edr of all your radiators, and size the new boiler to that figure--not the old boiler! get a good low-pressure gauge and 16 oz. vaporstat, as your system may be an old vapor system with no traps, and low pressure is the way to go.--nbc
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited February 2011
    Here is a nice photo

     to help you visualize your project.  



    Which way does your main slope? 

    1-toward the boiler

    2-away from the boiler 

    3-no slope 
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    double pitching?

    Not sure if this is normal, and a little tricky to determine as it is very mild.  The main pipe from the risers runs for about 10ft or so before it splits into 2 (one off a T, the other extends a little more and transitions with an elbow).  These two 2ndary mains definately pitch in the same direction as the steam back to the boiler.  The main pipe, however, seems fairly level, if not slightly pitched back, against the flow of steam.  There are no radiators branching off this section of the pipe, and it is well insulated, so I would think there is very minimal condensation is this short section.  We've never had any water hammer problems at all.  In fact, the system is silent except for the burner and the rattling old trap. 
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    edited February 2011
    Take some pics of your radiators

    this is either an Orifice system or maybe a Kriebel, Richardson or similar system if it doesn't have radiator traps. We need to know this to make some more specific recommendations.



    Also post a pic of this trap you say is on the steam main. All of this has a bearing on how the new boiler goes in.



    The best oil-fired steamer out there now is the Burnham MegaSteam. It's not an evolution of the V-7/V-8 design but a completely new one, and is also the most efficient one available as well as being much easier to service. If I were choosing between an SGO and a MegaSteam, the latter would win hands down.



    Here's a link to our latest MegaSteam installation:



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/135345/MegaSteaming-on-Marylands-Eastern-Shore
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Rad pics

    Here is a pic of the trap & the radiator.  The home was built in 1916 and is in southern CT if that helps.



    Thanks!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    That radiator is newer than the house

    it's a large-tube type which didn't come out till the mid 1920s. This system may have been installed some time after the house was built.



    The radiator return elbow looks ordinary, but the valve might have a name on it that would give us a clue.



    And the trap looks like some sort of air vent, but I've never seen one like that. Where exactly is it installed? Is there a name on it?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    What's in a name

    Hard to make out.  On the boxy part of the trap it looks like "INILT", and on the actual trap part it looks like "Fat Apple" or something like that.  The radiator valves are easier to make out.  They have a decorative "thermostat" that goes from 1 to 10 and the name is New York Heater and Supply Co.
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Missed it

    Also, the trap is installed on the return line just before it re-enters the boiler.  On the radiator valve there is a decorative "TS" overlaying each other.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    edited February 2011
    BINGO!!!

    You have a "Thermal" system. This was marketed in the 1920s so it matches the age of your radiator. It is covered in chapter 15 of "The Lost Art of Steam Heating".



    This is definitely an Orifice-type Vapor system. Those old lever-handle valves could be set so they'd only allow a certain amount of steam to flow when wide open. The idea is to fill the radiators to only 80-85% of their capacity at a certain system pressure. This way, you don't need traps to keep the steam out of the dry returns.



    Frederic Tudor, of Boston, patented the Orifice principle in 1885. Read about him here, he appears at the end of the article:



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/163/Older-Steam-Heating-Systems/1302/European-Heating-Systems-circa-1907



    Orifice disks can be used on the newer radiators (or convectors, if you have any) to properly regulate them. The boiler should have a Vaporstat rather than a Pressuretrol to keep the pressure below one pound. And the steam mains need to be properly vented, not just the dry returns.



    The steam header should be one size larger than specified so the steam will be absolutely dry. Vapor systems are incredibly quick when the steam is dry. Here's a pic of  a Kriebel system where we replaced the boiler- the old header was 5-inch, so instead of removing it we ran the 3-inch line from the new header into it. It's basically a 2-stage header. Yes, that's an SGO; the MegaSteam was still being developed at that time.



    That old air trap belongs in a heating museum. Do not let anyone scrap it.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,393
    There are few moments of clarity

    such as this one!

    Just awesome.

    Enough to make an engineer weepy....

    :)
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Brilliant!

    Fantastic.  Thanks so much for all the advice.  My copy of "We Got Steam Heat" arived Sat. afternoon.  3/4's through it already.  A couple of follow up questions.

    1. "Header should be one size larger than specified so the steam will be absolutely dry" - does this mean that if we are going with a 4 section boiler it should be sized for a 5 section?  Is this to allow for the greater expansion of a very low pressure system?  Should the equalizer be sized up as well or does that matter?

    2. Orafice disks - this is the radiator valve at the input right?  Are these still made?  Are they re-packable or re-pairable?  A few of them are leaking, which may have caused the water loss, which may have eaten out the innards of the last boiler.

    3. Venting the main - Since the main splits into 2 loops I assume it would need a vent at the end of each loop prior to the wet return?

    4. Water meter - considering asking for this to be installed to track any water added to minimize possible corrosion in the future.  Good idea?

    5.  Finally, additional price.  I have very little concept for what these additional parts will add to the job.  I'm planning to have an discussion with the contractor we want to go with.  We like him a lot.  Looks like we're looking at 3 vents, vaprostat vs pressuretrol, water meter, and labor.  I know price discussions are a no-no on this forum, but anyone willing to state if this would be a significant increase over the cost of the boiler?  Trying to determine if I'm looking at 100's more or 1000's more. 



    Thanks!
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    I'll answer what I can

    1-header, next size up means, if the boiler manual calls for a 3" header make it a 4"

    2-disks, I don't know

    3-main vents, yes at each end.  Likely several needed.  We need the pipe size and length to calculate what you need.  Steamhead said something about that museum vent you have.  You need to figure out something for there.

    4-water meter, yes great idea.  VXT is a popular brand around here.

    5-vaporstat is a must have.  0-16 ounces.  Cost is a one time thing, satisfaction lasts a lifetime.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Orifice Disks

    Orifice disks are available from Tunstall http://www.tunstall-inc.com/inletorifice.html.

    I've also attached an article on orifices that may be of help to you. Having a 1 pipe steam system, I'm always envious of those who discover they have a vapor system as one can do so much more to increase efficiency with a vapor system. They were "the Cadillac" of their time and still are.

    - Rod
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    There are

     some great photo's of next size up headers in this post here  http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/135363/Drop-header
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    edited February 2011
    Not much to add

    bur regarding the header- for example if you go with the MegaSteam, Burnham says on the first three sizes you can get away with a 2-inch header. We use 2-1/2" on these- it's pretty much our minimum header size, and the larger pipe size decreases the velocity of the steam so any water that got up that far will drain away more easily. The MegaSteam has the biggest steam chest by far of any residential steamer, so you're starting with drier steam to begin with, and upsizing the header makes it a slam-dunk.



    Here are some pics of our MegaSteam installations. See what I mean?



    Orifice disks fit into union connections at radiator or convector valves. The orifice is drilled to the proper size before installation. Or, you can still find valves with built-in orificing like your originals, but they aren't cheap.



    BTW, for those Riello fanboys out there, the I&O manual that came with our latest MegaSteam included Riello burner information. So that burner will probably be an option soon.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Could it be...

    That the return elbow on the radiators is actually a return elbow trap?  If I'm understanding the orafice discussion correctly this will limit the steam into the radiator, and may help to keep steam out of the return line if there were no return trap, but is there a way to tell if the elbow is indeed a trap?  I'll check for markings/names tonight.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    I doubt it

    the Thermal system is described as using ordinary radiator return ells. The orifice is at the steam connection, as part of the valve, and that serves to keep steam out of the dry return as long as the pressure is kept low- which you want to do anyway, for efficiency.



    But you never know what the Dead Men might have done- so if you feel like disconnecting a rad and having a look, go ahead. If the return ell is the usual one on this system, it will be wide open thru the tailpiece (part that stays in the radiator, do not attempt to remove this unless it's already broken) as well as the ell itself.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Vaporstat standard on Megasteam?

    Spoke with on of the potential installers yesterday.  We walked through the whole system and discussed the near boiler pipe kit that Burnham offers, seems like a no brainer, they use it on all installs.  Talked about replacing the vent on the return line and adding one at each end of the looped main.  Overall, very pleased.  One thing he said when I mentioned the need for a vaporstat vs pressuretrol was that it comes standard with the megasteam.  Can anyone verify?  This looks like it could be a subtractive pressuretrol, easily confused with a vaporstat.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,566
    edited March 2011
    vaporstat vs pressuretrol

    maybe there would be less potential for confusion if you specified the pressure to be no more than 6 ounces, controlled by a 0-16 ounce vaporstat mounted higher than the skimming-waterline height, and verified by a 0-15 ounce gauge. as far as price difference is concerned, go to the pex supply website, and compare the prices of pressuretrol, and vaporstat. since there is little difference between the price of a gorton #1 and #2, i would use the maximum amount of venting possible. --nbc
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Hot Air

    Thanks Crash.

    The 0-15 ounce guage is the guage that would be mounted to the boiler or is this a tool that the installer would have in his kit?



    Gorton #2 is preffered right?  I'm not sure how to tell which has more venting power, but from the reviews on the site it seems this is the one to use.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    I'll answer what I can

    1-Burnham piping kit, Steamhead has all-ready recomended that you need to exceed manufacturers specifications so that your Thermal System will run the best it can.  Does the kit exceed the minimum specs.

    2a-Vent on Return, I still don't know about that one

    2b-Vent at end of mains.  End of main is a pretty loose phrase.  When we say end, we mean 15" from the end.  There are many reasons why it should be done this way.  You likely need more than one on each side.  Can we see a photo?

    3-Vaporstat is a must have.  No ifs ands or buts.  Your Thermal System requires the pressure to be kept low. 

    4-Gauge, 0-15 ounces, and a 0-30 psi. need to be mounted on the boiler.

    5-Gorton #2,  Yes, they are the best. 

    I suppose you have figured it out by now but you have a very special system.  There were not very many to begin with, and there are not very many left.  You have an important piece of steam history in your home.  We are very fortunate to have someone that can recognise these great old systems.  Thanks Steamhead!
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Antique (not antiquated) systems

    Honestly we had no idea when we bought the house just over a year ago.  We've always had an affinity toward old houses and I couldn't be more excited to have stumbled on this forum and, with all your assistance, discovered that we have a true treasure of a heating system.  I've just ordered "The Lost art..." to get some more research on the system we have.  Does anyone know of any other resources on Thermal Systems?  I've scoured the resources section here and there are many descriptions of other vapor systems, but none that deal directly with a "Thermal". 

    I'll send some more photos when I get a chance.  I assume a new check valve will have to go in as well, is that standard?
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Valve research/repair

    A few of the valves are leaking, and there are a couple that have been switched out (or completely new radiators) with more modern valves.  Any idea if these are fixable or where one would look to find replacements that are close to the original?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    That's right

    it's an upgraded Pressuretrol, not a Vaporstat. Since this class of boiler can be used from running a Thermal system all the way up to steaming crabs, they put on a Pressuretrol. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    edited March 2011
    Maybe Dan will have something

    on the Thermal, or knows someone who does. But when you get down to it, it's an Orifice system.



    The Burnham piping kit is designed for the minimum specs, not as an upgrade. Much of it could still be used, you just want to upsize the horizontal pipe and fittings.



    A vent on the dry return would replace that old air trap, which should then go to a heating museum.



    Both gauges are needed- for the low-pressure I tend to prefer one that can read at least 24 ounces, to give some headroom if needed.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Just Venting

    Gorton #2 vs Hoffman 75?  I've heard rumors of leaking in the Gorton?  Is that a common issue?  If there are head space issues is there a preferable solution?  Should be placed at least 15" from main connection to wet return.  Would it be a problem if it connects to the final elbow before it drops to 1.5" pipe down to the wet return?



    Thanks!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    Measure

    the length and diameter of each of your steam mains, and post the figures here. We can tell you what you need.



    For the dry return, a single Gorton #2 should be fine on a system of that size.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Main length

    14' of 3" pipe which splits into 2 mains.  Short side is 22' of 2" pipe.  Long side is 43' of 2" pipe with a 2nd split that leads to 9' of additional 2" pipe.
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    WWYD (What Would You Do)

    Getting the hard sell on converting to a hot water system.  Any thoughts on this? 
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    The hard sell?

    I usually just get angry and kick them out.  The angry part usually convinces them not to come back. 
  • BeerGuy
    BeerGuy Member Posts: 24
    Weighing the possible benefits

    Playing devils advocate here for a minute, but the arguments for a conversion seem to be as follows.



    1. Better warrenty on boilers, longer lasting

    2. Less maintenance

    3. lower energy use

    4. easier to expand if there is an addition



    Downside seems to be higher initial cost.  Radiators likely sized for higher tempurature.  Am I missing anything?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Converting to Hot Water

    If you are considering a whole new hot water system that is one thing but if they are proposing to "mickey mouse" your present steam system into a hot water system, I'd be VERY leery of that. A lot of the pros on here won't do this as the potential for disaster and resulting liability is too high.  You're taking old steam piping and radiators which have been running at under 2 PSI pressure ( in your case, a vapor system, on ounces of pressure) and introducing  a liquid  (Hot water) at a much higher pressure and keeping your fingers crossed that it holds together.

    Another potential problem is that with steam the radiator runs at 212 degrees though with HW it will only reach a maximum of around 180 so there is potential for your present radiators being undersized and not producing enough heat.

    Economically I think you'll find it makes much more sense to restore the old system especially since you have a vapor system as they have a lot more potential to being "tweeked" to improve their efficiency. Even if you were considering a completely new HW system it might be more beneficial  to fix the steam system and put the extra monetary difference into improved insulating of your home. Payback wise, insulation is always the best investment you can make.

    - Rod
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    Throw that guy out

    he doesn't know what he's talking about.



    Your Thermal system runs on 8 ounces pressure, max. On hot-water it would need 12 pounds in a 2-story building, 18 in a 3-story, and higher than that it isn't really practical from a pressure standpoint. This increased pressure WILL find any weak spots in the radiators and piping, which will leak and damage your house. I've seen where this has happened and it's not pretty.



    Then there's the issue Rod raised of whether the radiator sizes are big enough to work with hot-water. Many times they aren't. And even if they are, they will need water hot enough that a condensing boiler won't condense most of the time. Bye-bye, promised high efficiency.



    Speaking of condensing boilers, they require as much if not more maintenance than your V-7 does. If they're not maintained they lose efficiency rapidly. And some of their heat exchangers have been failing a lot sooner than they should have.



    Then there's the issue of the small piping used in the return lines. If it's not repiped, you'll need a much larger pump to move enough water thru it to properly feed the radiators. That's another expense.



    Our company does not convert steam systems to hot-water. We don't need the headaches or liability.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,637
    Try Tunstall

    they might have something, and they've been known to design a new part if asked.



    www.tunstall-inc.com
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
This discussion has been closed.