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Poorly balanced steam system in church schoolhouse.

Double DDouble D Member Posts: 352
I had an interesting tour through a small church schoolhouse today. In the boiler room, the original fire tube boilers were still in place. Piping orientation looks good but header is only 18" from the water line. I assumed the pressure was going to be high when they said they can hear the steam rush through the pipes. I didn't expect to see it set that high. Radiator and crossover traps are all the same Illinois 1G with the exception of a couple being B&J 122's and 1 Hoffman 8c-s. Most of the radiators have TRV's, with a combination of Honeywell and Braukmann. Most of the radiators have air vents on them. One of the crossover traps drains into a radiator. I assume that is not a good idea. There is a dry return below the radiator that can have a tee cut in.
By no means am I looking for anything to do but this is the church of a close friend who asked me to take a look at some of the problems they're having that nobody seems to be able to fix. In the past they have had yearly contracts with some very large reputable companies but when I walk through the building, I don't see anything that tells me the system is being maintained by someone with steam knowledge. Hopefully a combination of this post and what I have in documentation about vapor systems and steam heating will be enough to get them thinking. I'm seeing a lot of money being wasted in fuel.


  • ratioratio Member Posts: 2,330
    Ya gotta love it! See of you can find someone in the congregation who is trainable (your buddy?) and sic him on things, one step at a time.

    What I found in my church school was the air vents went on when the trap fouled & the radiator quit heating. The radiator's probably full of water, keep that in mind when you pop the cap on the traps.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,698
    Oy... lot of room for improvement there.

    The TRVs are going to make it remarkably difficult to get the system balanced and operating properly; if I were to start to play with it I'd set them all wide open until I got things under control.

    The vents on the radiators probably aren't really hurting anything. I'd hunt around, though, and find out where the vents on the dry returns are -- or were -- unless all the radiators drop directly into wet returns. If you can find the dry return vents, make sure they are working properly and are large enough; they probably aren't.

    I love that trap at the end of the steam main going into a radiator. That's one way to drip an end of main... but it doesn't qualify as a crossover trap, as it depends on the air vent on the radiator to exhaust air -- and I'll bet there is another trap on the outlet to the radiator, anyway. But it will serve as a drip...

    That said, it's possible that there may be crossover traps on the steam mains somewhere in that jungle. If there are and they are real, make sure they are working -- and see the comment about vents on the dry returns.

    I suppose as a generic sort of thing I'd get the mains vented (either with vents or crossover traps) and the dry returns vented as my first step. I think I might try disabling the radiator vents and TRVs, once I got that done, and see how well balanced the system was. Check that all the traps are actually working, of course.

    There are a number of peculiarities with the piping in the vicinity of the boilers... but they aren't likely to be the culprits in unbalanced heat. What needs to happen there is that someone (you?) need to sit there for a while and think about why it was done the way it was, and why it works -- if it works. And how to make it work better.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Double DDouble D Member Posts: 352
    @ratio After showing my buddy what I saw wrong with the system, pushing for me to get in there is exactly what he's doing.

    @Jamie Hall The system is venting through a vent on a boiler feed tank. I have found a couple crossover traps, still need to check them but for the time being I was just there for an observation. Looking at the lengths of all the branch mains, it looks like those Big Mouth crossovers will come in handy. Radiator traps are all repairable. I'd like to get that pressure down below a pound. It's set close to 5lbs on that pressuretrol. I will check all radiator traps.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,123
    Jacking up the pressure is often a way for the non steam person to overcome the stuck closed crossover traps.--NBC
    Double D
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