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Help Balancing Steam System

We just moved into a new house with a 1-pipe steam system, and we have noticed that the system is really poorly balanced, and also pretty slow to respond (45min to get appreciable heat). There are 2 stories, and the house has the boiler on one side of the house. Right now the 1st floor radiators near the boiler get hot first, and then the rest of the first floor. The system needs to run for a really long time to get any kind of heat on the second floor far side radiators, and last night we operated at about 10 degrees different in that far room compared to the 1st floor. We are in MA, so the temperatures haven't been that bad yet, but that might make the balance even worse. The worst room is also the room we'd want to be 1-2 degrees warmer than the rest of the house if we had to pick.

All of the heating elements are either steam convectors (9) or little steam baseboards (2) (in the bathrooms), and they all have straight vents of various types. The ones close will vent steam when hot and the system has been running for a while. There is one on the second floor that seems to never get hot (even though the inlet pipe does get hot) so I'm hoping a new vent helps that. In addition, there are 2 heat exchanged hot-water loops running off the boiler, 1 is radiant in-floor and 1 has 2 radiators. These seem to work great.

I am planning to do the following, and wanted to make sure a few pieces of my plan are okay.

1) Install a new Gorton #2 in an UNHEATED garage where the last riser leaves (this is the line feeding the cold room too). I've attached a picture of outside and the vent inside. I'll remove that cap and install the vent on there (not a lot of space to add an antler there). This will be the 2nd main vent on the line, but the other is a no-name little vent just on the far side of the wall (inside the basement). Since the space to work there is limited I was going to leave that vent. Can I vent in what is almost outside space without issue? This run is probably 50-60ft long too where it goes outside. Will I need more than the Gorton #2 on it?

2) Install all new varivalve air valves on the radiators to take my time trying to balance the system. Since they're all straight valves, I don't think I can use a Ventrite 1A (Which I'd prefer based on quality consensus). Can I instead use the angled ventrite valves plus a street 90? If so, how do I guarantee the 90's threads wind up so when tight my vent is vertical?

3) Insulate everything exposed with 1" fiberglass. And the garage stuff with at least 1.5" fiberglass. Today there is 1/2" on the straight accessible sections, but it feels pretty weak without the risers and fittings properly insulated. The basement is toasty when the boiler runs. Is 1" enough? Especially outside.

4) Have a steam person out to help/teach me about boiler and cleaning the return etc. We have a request out to someone who does a lot of steam work to look at the system, but no idea how far out they are and the 1 plumber we had out was not great (told me insulation doesn't matter to a steam system's efficiency and I should expect loud bangs). If anyone can recommend someone in the Boston area I'm all ears. Should I wait for a pro to come out before insulating/messing with main vents?



  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,431
    1. I don't see a huge issue with that location given what you have to work with. The location inside is more ideal from a standpoint of system function, but unless you are willing to cut a hole in that ceiling you can't get a properly sized vent there.
    2. I'd use an elbow before going with the varivalves. Put the 90 on the vent first, then screw it in. On small threads like that, and the low pressures these run, hand tight is good enough in my opinion. @ethicalpaul uses Maid-O-Mist vents with replaceable orifices, I'm not sure if that system works on their straight vents or not, perhaps he could offer some insight.
    3. 1" is the generally accepted amount and seems to have the best bang for the buck. I'd agree if you have an almost outside area with steam piping, a little more can't hurt.
    4. Yeah, never invite that guy back again, also send him here, we can teach him. ;) As far as Boston goes, I'm not super familiar with that area and can't remember if @Charlie from wmass goes into Boston.

    If you'd like more comment and input, post pictures of anything you are curious about, you'd be surprised how much can be explained remotely.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,539
    @KC_Jones has you n the right track there. The other top notch man who works in the Boston area is Ryan from @New England SteamWorks .
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • scv900
    scv900 Member Posts: 9
    Thanks everyone!

    @KC_Jones - Just so I understand a bit more, why is the inside location more ideal for the vent? That location is a closet, so cutting a hole in the ceiling and making a little box for a vent isn't out of the question.

    I also wanted to get this all up to be able to head out to a couple supply shops tomorrow, but as I find more I'll definitely post my questions, this place has been so helpful.

    I also know I'll eventually have questions on the boiler. The boiler itself seems to run fine, so I'm trying to get the piping/venting into good shape first, but I know cleaning the system out will be important at some point (site glass is currently a little muddy looking, not sure when that becomes too muddy).
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,431
    On occasion if there is enough condensate at the end of the main, it can bang into the vent and cause it to fail, or shorten it's life. That's why yours is before the very end of the main. Also, inside it won't tend to open too quickly, remember it functions from temperature, so cooling it down too quickly may cause some unusual behavior. If that's your only option, it's much better than not having them.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,227
    the vent in the garage?
    you're not supposed to have holes in ceilings and walls in a garage,
    codes state that the garage stays an envelope to help eliminate possibilities of CO, from cars, getting back into the house's living quarters,
    having the vent on the inside of that wall is your better bet.
    known to beat dead horses
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 4,820
    @ethicalpaul uses Maid-O-Mist vents with replaceable orifices, I'm not sure if that system works on their straight vents or not, perhaps he could offer some insight.

    Yes, all the MoM vents meant for steam share this orifice, even their main vent the #1 (which is the same as a Gorton #1 and a Gorton D). You can even turn any MoM into a very decent main vent by just removing whatever orifice happens to be on it (which makes it equivalent to a #1)
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,801
    Due to the vent locations I would look at venting the tops of some of the risers in the problem areas. You might want to remove your radiator valves and install tees with vents on the tees and then a straight radiator valve into the rad.

    It's a little bit of work but probably the best solution
  • scv900
    scv900 Member Posts: 9
    So I was able to get some Maid-o-mist valves, and unfortunately I can't get them installed because the housing on the convector is in the way, the valves are a bit too big to screw in (they interfere with the sheet metal housing since the hole is tapped right on the edge of the convector). Since the housing on the convector is screwed into the wall, I'm leaning toward getting 2 different 1/8 90s per convector (~$50 total) to move the vent away from the housing and hoping that solves it since it is probably easier than getting different vents or dissembling every convector.

    Makes sense to me from my understanding, but wanted to be sure checking here.

    Picture here

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,431
    I’d use 45 elbows, not 90’s, that is if the 45’s got enough offset.  You can get water in the vents sometimes and the 45’s will allow for drainage better than 2 90’s.

    if necessary you could put a short nipple between the 45’s to increase the offset.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15