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Do I need a condendate tank

I have a two-pipe gravity fed steam heating system in my new home (built 1929). As part of bathroom renovations we had some radiators relocated. The general contractor brought in the reputable commercial steam contractor because they were suppose to have the most knowledgeable about steam. In the end, one of the radiators they moved does not work because the feed and return lines turn up for about 2 inches before they head to the basement (pictures say a 1000 words). Of course everything is covered in tile now and cannot be accessed.

The steam contractor is now suggesting a condensate tank (at his cost) because it will make the entire system more efficient and will likely allow the faulty raditor to work. He states that he cannot believe that a tank had not been put on earlier and that my system defintely needs one. Based on what I can find, it does not seem that this is the correct way to go. Furthermore, it seems that an electric pump is part of a condensate tank system. I currently can operate my system without electricity and do not want to limit that capability. Can anyone give me some advise. I have doubts on what the expert is telling me. Thanks in advance.


  • JK_3
    JK_3 Member Posts: 240
    Turn up ??

    What do you mean turn up? Are you saying that the piping or the radiator are not able to drain completely out (holding 2" of water)? If that is what is going on then it is never going to work. posting some pics of the untouched rads and the new or relocated rads including the piping and inlet/outlet of the rads may help? Also I find it very unlikly that you need a condensate tank but I cant say for sure without more info?
    Life is Good !! Enjoy it !!
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,045
    edited December 2011
    no you don't need a condensate tank.

    you do however need another contractor..that pipe will never drain if it turns up and forms a water seal in the pipe. The radiator will need to be repiped..this should have been tested during the rough in..radiators get roughed in and OPERATED during rough in to prove to all parties involved that the piping is correct and that they operate. They then get removed and set aside for the rest of construction..this way everyone knows when the work was done the radiators worked. If the carpenters or others step on pipes and change pitches its then on them to pay for the correction..thats why we always prove operation.
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,399
    see also

    my reply this thread on the main wall.  But Gerry is one of the best, and has it right.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,776
    NO, you don't need a condensate tank, and your piping won't work!

    Early vapor systems usually had a return device or other mechanical devices that would kick into action if the pressure got up to the point that gravity could not return the condensate to the boiler.  Those devices are no longer manufactured. 

    The general assumption of many contractors and engineers who really don't understand how the old vapor systems operated is that, 1.  The pressure of the system is going to go up to 2 psi.   and if the pressure is going to be allowed to climb to 2 psi, which will prevent gravity return, the solution is, 2.  a condensate return pump and tank set.

    Of course, the more cost effective solution is to install a vapor stat that limits the pressure to 8 - 12 oz of pressure so that the gravity return can happen on its own.  This device is much less expensive than a condensate return pump, and it does not require ongoing maintenance expense.  Furthermore, the system will operate less expensively at lower pressures.

    The solution is simple and straightforward, and for the most part is not part of the knowledge base of the current generation of hvac engineers and contractors.

    As for your piping.  At first, when reading the verbal description of the problem, I was sympathetic to the contractor because I thought that perhaps his experience was in hot water and he did not understand the subtle differences.  However, when seeing the pics that you posted on this thread on the main wall, I can categorically state that the piping for this radiator, if it was a hot water system would not circulate because he created air traps without the ability to vent out the air pockets.  But it's not water, it's steam.  And as a steam system, it will not work, because he created a trap situation that both the steam line and the return line will not drain, and therefore this radiator will remain stone cold, regardless of what else is going on in the system.  I hope there is a way to correct the piping, because it will never work. 

    The ability to thread 2 iron pipes together without getting the threads crossed does not make a contractor qualified to pipe steam or hot water heating systems.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • GeorgeV
    GeorgeV Member Posts: 16

    That is why this is so amazing and perplexing. We hired the commercial boiler company to avoid the contractor that said he could work on steam but had not clue what he was doing. These guys supposedly install large commercial systems throughout the state. They have to know what they are doing, they were just not interested in my job and did not care.

    Thanks for your input. It has put my mind at ease as to what to do with these guys and confirmed that they must be lying to me in an attempt to get out of their predicament.
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