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    Pressure too high, Bills too high, Temps too low (22 Posts)

  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 9:35 AM
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    Pressure too high, Bills too high, Temps too low

    Hi all. Heading into our 3rd winter with our Lennox GSB8-187E. 3,100 square foot house. Single pipe system.
    Seems like I really have to crank the thermostat (75) to get upstairs radiators to heat. Peak month bills remain high $400-$600. (Old house/old windows don't help, but.....)
    Pressure when running is nearly 10! And at rest (I just looked) is at, like 4. Cut-in was set to .5 last year if not year before.
    All radiator vents are new (within last 5 years).
    Thoughts on pressure and weak heat? (I've read about additional tap/vents on far radiators?).
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 9:40 AM
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    You may have a bad gauge

    or a plugged pigtail under the Pressuretrol. This is a job for a pro, since excessive pressure is a safety issue.

    Measure the length and diameter of each of your steam mains and tell us what main vents are on them. The one in the pic looks like a Hoffman, but which model?

    That boiler is a re-branded Dunkirk Plymouth, and the connections from the boiler to the system are not correct. These boilers are very sensitive to improper piping, which degrades the steam quality. Here's a pic of one piped correctly- see the difference? I think your boiler is large enough that it would need two risers from the boiler to the header (the horizontal pipe just above the boiler, where the steam mains take off) to keep the velocity low and avoid pulling water up with the steam.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"

    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists

    Oil & Gas Burner Service

    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    This post was edited by an admin on October 21, 2011 9:47 AM.
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 10:05 AM
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    Pressure too high, Bills too high, Temps too low

    Valves are Hoffman 75H. At rest pressure is now at zero. I've attached a better view of the piping. Elbows on the pipes are stamped 2.5".
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 9:59 AM
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    high pressure lennox

    i also suggest you call in a pro. the first thing he will do is to replace the 30 psi gauge, that gauge although required by code, is almost useless for verifying the low pressures required by steam, so why not get a good low-pressure gauge [ 0-2 psi, and have him mount it on the same pigtail as the pressuretrol. unfortunately the 30 psi gauge is still required. only then will you be able to see what pressure the pressuretrol is sensing, and maintaining. sometimes the pigtail gets blocked with sediment, especially if the new boiler has not been properly cleaned after the new installation [see skimming].
    check your main vents down by the boiler. if they are not working, the radiators will take too long to heat up because the air in the pipes cannot get out quickly enough. radiator vents are no substitute, and good quality ones rarely fail in my experience.--nbc
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 10:19 AM
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    skimming and valve check

    is skimming something I can do myself? I read a bit and it says to let water drain slowly for a long time. Likely don't want to pay a tech to sit and watch a hose drain for hours. Does system have to be stone cold when skimming?

    And how do I check the main valves?

    PS: I'm only moderately handy. No metal plumbing/piping skills. + finding "a pro" for steam in St. Louis has been sort of impossible.
  • BobC BobC @ 10:51 AM
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    Questions and suggestions

    Is this a 2 pipe system? Are there pipes at each end of the radiators or does one end have an air valve halfway up the side opposite the steam valve (has a knob on it)?

    That boiler piping is not correct and it will be pretty expensive to fix but for proper operation and boiler longevity. it's going to need fixing. Steam systems work best at low pressures and with your flaky gauge you really don't know where you are now. The pigtail on the pressuretrol should ee checked to be sure it's not plugged and the 0-30 gauge should be checked also.

    I've attached a picture that shows how i added one to my boiler, I bought all the fittings at a local hardware store and the low pressure gauge from Most people use the 0 to 2 or 3 PSI model with a presuretrol, where the boiler pressure is 1.5 to 2PSi (lower is always better).  The 0-16 oz model is for use with a vaporstat where a boiler is operated at 8-12oz.

    Main air vents can be damaged by high pressure. Try timing the how long it takes for steam to reach each of your main air vents, they should both get hot and close at about the same time. The Hoffmans make a pretty good clink when they close, can you hear both those vents closing after the steam mains get full?

    All the piping in the basement should be insulated with 1" fiberglass
    pipe insulation to keep the heat upstairs where it belongs.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 12:01 PM
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    What's wrong with the piping?

    thanks all for the input. Two have said the piping is wrong. Can you describe in simple terms what's wrong with it? This is a single pipe system. thanks
  • moneypitfeeder moneypitfeeder @ 6:10 PM
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    really should read this

    Dan wrote a really nice intro into steam heat that you should take a look at, also the library here is a great place for info too.

    The way your boiler is piped was exactly how my boiler was piped. I have corrected the near boiler piping, and now the steam is roaring down the mains much faster. Thereby getting heat to my rads much, much faster. While the system you have currently operates, it will never work efficiently.
    steam newbie
  • crash2009 crash2009 @ 7:09 PM
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    Dee's is piped right

      Here is the link to the one she built
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 12:50 PM
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    steamhead posted a picture showing correct piping.  You have two risers going directly to two separate mains.

    These risers MUST go to a single common horizontal header and then both steam mains connect to the header.  The header is the horizontal pipe you see in steamhead's picture.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    This post was edited by an admin on October 21, 2011 12:51 PM.
  • BobC BobC @ 12:53 PM
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    No steam header

    To my eyes it looks like the installer used the two steam outlets to feed separate steam mains; he should have fed the mains from a boiler header being careful not to take steam off between the two boiler steam outlets. Without a boiler header you don't have an equalizer or a hartford loop. As it is now piped that boiler is probably making wet steam and i would not be surprised if there was surging and water hammer as well. All of this drives up fuel consumption.

    I've attached a diagram from a Dunkirk Manual to show you what I mean. To operate correctly the boiler has to be piped like the diagram and the piping has to be sized correctly

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • David Nadle David Nadle @ 2:51 PM
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    You should correct the near boiler piping but you may want to tackle that next summer. By the time you find someone willing to thread iron it will be Thanksgiving. I think there are some things you can try right now.

    1. Regarding high bills, the peak month bill doesn't seem that out of line for a leaky 3,100 ft^2 house. Ask around and get a ballpark figure for comparable homes in your area (without boiler problems). Give the choice of spending to repipe the boiler or getting a blower door test with air sealing work and some extra attic insulation I would choose the latter.

    2. Regarding comfort, cranking the thermostat to 75° is just extending the cycle. It's taking too long for steam to reach upstairs. What kind of vents do you have on those radiators? You may simply need faster vents, not additional vents. If you have main vents on both mains but one is not working that would really through the house out of balance. You might need bigger main vents as well. Crank up the thermostat and start a stopwatch when the boiler risers get hot. Then count the minutes until the takeoffs for the furthest radiators down each main get hot. Under 5 minutes is ok. More than that and you need more main venting. 

    3. Regarding pressure, you should have the boiler serviced and ask them to make sure the pigtails are clean and test the gauge. Personally I think if you were really at 10 psi the radiator vents would be howling. But having the boiler serviced will give you a chance to form a relationship with a company that can help you down the road when it's time to repipe or replace.
    Other things to do:
    Cut the power to the boiler and take off the cover of the pressuretrol. There's a little white wheel. Record its setting and turn it down to 1 if necessary.
    Insulate the mains, right down to the unions in the two risers. When you get repiped have the near boiler piping insulated. You are spending a lot of money heating the basement.
    After you've got the mains filling quickly, crank up the thermostat and run around the house measuring how long it takes each radiator to get hot. You may need to slow some down with slower vents and speed others up with faster vents. 
  • Pictures

    Here's a picture showing the preferred piping.  The piping is especially important on these boilers because they have very little steam separation area in the boiler and the connections between the sections are very small creating very high velocities that can carry water out the boiler.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)
    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert

    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 4:53 PM
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    Thanks all for the input. Looking forward to getting this piped right (and yeah, I know I need to insulate everything. I'll add that to my list).

    Thanks again!
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 1:44 PM
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    tech just left....

    Thanks again for all the input from folks. Tech just left. Knowledgeable, nice guy. He'd been here before for a service call. Spent lots of time hearing all my issues/suggestions and talking me through stuff. So....
    - System has full loops on both sides -- sends and returns. So no header necessary.
    - He skimmed off a bunch of gunky water. Sight glass had bubbles in it -- a first this year. Things clear and running smoothly now.
    - Pressure gauge is off. He will replace.
    - Main vents are fine.
    - He brought the cut-in UP.
    - Our thermostat is on a warm wall (pipes behind it). So, would be wise to relocate it.
    - Didn't mess with the pigtail.
    So.....we'll see what happens.
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 1:54 PM
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    Find someone else.

    I'm a homeowner not a pro, and fairly new to steam but what he told you doesn't make any sense.

    Maybe a pro can explain.  What confuses and scares me the most is:
     System has full loops on both sides -- sends and returns. So no header necessary.   ????
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    This post was edited by an admin on October 27, 2011 1:55 PM.
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 2:07 PM
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    two loops

    there are both a hot send and cold return on both the left and right sides of the boiler. One serves, say, the east side of the house; the other serves the west.

    Should you still have a single header?
  • BobC BobC @ 2:18 PM
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    Find someone else

    He might be a nice guy but his knowledge of steam is lacking, see if you can find somebody who knows steam. You might want to pick up some of the books on this site so you will understand how the system should work

    Skimming out the gunk was a good move and will help the boiler work better.

    That boiler needs a properly configured header to run correctly and efficiently. It has to be piped per the diagram in the installation manual, if it's not it will probably be inefficient and may shorten it's life. You can live with it for the winter but it needs to be straightened out preferably before it dies an early death. BTW it's not going to be cheap to pipe it right.

    What is the pressuretrol set to right now and why did he think the cut in pressure had to be raised? My pressuretrol was set with a cutout of 1.5PSI and a cut in of 0.5psi and I replaced it with a vaporstat because i wanted to operate at a lower pressure (12OZ cut out and 4 oz cut in).

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • moneypitfeeder moneypitfeeder @ 8:09 PM
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    It really depends what you want

    But honestly, if you plan to live in the house awhile, you're going to want the boiler installed correctly from an efficiency standpoint. Pay an installer now, or pay the gas co lots more for years to come. Yes the way its piped will work, and with the height you have, you won't experience the banging and water hammer many people do with improper near boiler work. But you can look at any boiler manufacturers install diagrams, and they all specify the near boiler piping as critical to install. That reason, as Mr. Holohan so aptly put, was that to get the efficiency ratings on such small boilers, they made the near boiler piping in essence part of the boiler. It becomes the drying chamber for the steam that was previously in the boiler when even residences had boilers the size of the titanic. While no one can tell you exactly how much you would save, I can tell you after having the "roughly" same setup you had, I've cut the time to heat my rads by over 1/2. Look around on here there is a ton of info. Good luck
    steam newbie
  • Rod Rod @ 12:53 AM
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    Boiler Piping needs to be changed

    Hi Pat -
       Your local “professional’s" comments would be rather amusing if his incompetence wasn’t costing you money.
        I can see where you are in a bit of a dilemma here as you are getting a lot of  advice on this post but it’s from people you don’t really know and then you’re getting something quite different in the way of advice  from your local “professional”.  Who do you believe?

    Perhaps it would help a bit to qualify the people that are replying to you on this post. Steamhead and Boiler Pro are high regarded professionals and both are acknowledged by their peers as very highly competent in the area of steam heating.  The rest of us including myself are homeowners and while we have various levels of steam knowledge, obviously aren’t anywhere near the same league as Steamhead and Boiler Pro.  When they tell you something you can take it to the bank so follow their advice. All the rest of us do.

    Bob C has provided you with a drawing by the manufacturer, Dunkirk, of how your model boiler is to be piped. Most manufacturers provide instructions as to pipes sizes and configurations of how the boiler is to be piped. Your boiler is a Lennox which  as Steamhead mentioned is a rebranded Dunkirk Plymouth. Perhaps for your own piece of mind you should see what Lennox recommends for piping in their I&O (Installation & Operation) manual for your boiler. I’m pretty confident it is nothing like the way you boiler is presently piped. Compare the drawing Bob C provided with the picture Boiler Pro sent . You will see that they are very similar. A header is required and certain pipe sizes and heights need to be maintained.

    You might also want to take a look at this video by Dan on the importance of near boiler piping.

    As others have mentioned you need to get the maximum operating pressure down to under 2 PSI. Building excess pressure uses fuel. The pigtail should be taken off and cleaned at least annually. They do get plugged up especially if they are steel. I replaced mine with a pigtail of red brass and it has remained a lot cleaner.

    I would also suggest that you get some of the steam books that are available on this website. I would start with “We Got Steam Heat!”    This book is a good introduction to residential steam heating . It is easy reading and written so the homeowner can understand it. A couple of evenings of reading will put you light years ahead in your knowledge of residential steam systems. This book will save you money big time. My copy as saved me at least 100 times its cost.

    David Nadle’s suggest is a good one in that you may now want to wait till spring before taking on the changes in the piping. Think about getting the gauges and pressure straightened out and  improving the main venting. From what I can see you could benefit quite a bit by adding more main vent capacity.  
    - Rod
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 8:42 AM
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    Thanks, Rod

    I just do my best.............
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"

    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists

    Oil & Gas Burner Service

    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Pat_M Pat_M @ 8:50 AM
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    Ok, I know....

    I greatly appreciate all the input. And I trust that I'm hearing from the pros and experienced homeowners with lessons-learned. (In fact, I'm pretty amazed by the speed of response and level of detail that this board provides. Kudos.)

    Believe me, I want to have this thing piped right and running efficienctly. One problem is: I can't find a good guy in St. Louis. I've googled. I've asked this board. Etc. And if I find "a good guy" in St. Louis, how do I know he's truly got the smarts? I guess I could show him my system and say "what do you see wrong with this?"

    PS: I have read "we got steam heat" -- greatly enjoyed it and did the few things that this mildly handy guy can do.
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