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    Looking over existing steam system (14 Posts)

  • thefonzz2625 thefonzz2625 @ 12:09 PM
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    Looking over existing steam system

    Bought new house, looking over the existing one pipe steam system.  Very satisfied owner of 'We've got steam heat!' and 'Greening Steam' . After reading both books I've noticed several things about my steam system that aren't quite up to spec.

    It appears this "Steam Main" is a Vent:


    My regular steam main is hooked up to cast iron, but the wet return is copper (which I think is OK):


    However, it is flush to the floor, which might make it moderately difficult to insulate:


    I've also noticed my supply lines are copper and not steel and as per my reading they can't flex with the pressure steam gives out. I can't seem to find the skim tap either:









    Already cranked the pressuretrol down to .5 with a differential of one, I don't see the water surging that much. The boiler dates to 03/2000, Burnham Boiler Model: SIN4LNCP-LE2

    Any other general best practices are welcome.
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 2:00 PM
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    existing system

    do you know that the pressure is correct, even though you have cranked down the  p-troll? a 0-3 psi gauge would verify those settings.
    is there a Hartford loop?
    those main vents look too small.
    is the boiler water clean, and steady?
    have the burner tubes ever been cleaned?
    make sure no laundry detergent is stored to close to the boiler, as the fumes may contain some chemical which will accelerate the deterioration of the boiler sections.
    the steam supplies out from the boiler should be insulated, but check first the layout/diameters/number of risers conform to the installation manual for that boiler, [is 1 riser enough?].
    try running the boiler with the auto-fill valved off to check for leaks [verify the lwco will cut off the burner if the water gets low]---nbc
  • thefonzz2625 thefonzz2625 @ 4:35 PM
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    Baseline on system

    I don't know that the pressure is correct, the 0-30 psi gauge is dead. Can both gauges be on at the same time?

    Not sure if there is a hartford loop, trying to compare pictures to the books I have and I don't see any similarities...

    I've drained the boiler from the bottom and that got rid of some sediment, however I don't see a skim tap that I can use.

    I was going to install an auto feeder with a meter to monitor water usage

    I've also found the I/O for my Independence 4 boiler, but the way the accessories are configured I don't see a way to get the doors off and get to the inside.

    I'm trying to get a baseline on the system. I've also found that the rooms are heating unevenly, and while some radiators are really hot, some are luke-warm. I want to establish best practice maintenance especially considering I can't account for the years of possible neglect.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 7:20 PM
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    Specific questions...

    I don't know that the pressure is correct, the 0-30 psi gauge is dead. Can both gauges be on at the same time?
    Yes.  Perhaps more to the point, the 0 - 30 gauge has to be there to keep the insurance and building inspector types happy.  You can, however, come up with an arrangement of Ts and Ls and nipples so that they can share a connection.

    Not sure if there is a hartford loop, trying to compare pictures to the books I have and I don't see any similarities...
    The way your copper wet return is configured works in somewhat the same way as a Hartford loop would work.  Not perfect, but if it isn't banging, I wouldn't worry about it.

    I've drained the boiler from the bottom and that got rid of some sediment, however I don't see a skim tap that I can use.
    A skim tap is not always present -- although there is probably a tapping hiding under the cover of the boiler.  But -- if the water level is reasonably constant when the boiler is steaming, it's not something you need to do unless you were to do a good bit of new piping.

    I was going to install an auto feeder with a meter to monitor water usage
    You will find differences of opinion on auto feeders.  I like them, for precisely the reason you mention.  They are not, though, and shouldn't be used as an excuse for never looking at the boiler!

    I've also found the I/O for my Independence 4 boiler, but the way the accessories are configured I don't see a way to get the doors off and get to the inside.
    Does look a little difficult... can you at least get at the burner enough for a tech. to check it and clean it?  (I don't regard burner maintenance as a do-it-yourself item.  Some people do...)

    I'm trying to get a baseline on the system. I've also found that the rooms are heating unevenly, and while some radiators are really hot, some are luke-warm. I want to establish best practice maintenance especially considering I can't account for the years of possible neglect.

    Step one is going to be much more main venting.  It's hard on most systems to have too much main venting, and you have the places to put it.  I assume it is one pipe.  If so, then from there you can start fiddling with the radiator vents to get them to heat more evenly.  If not, you can adjust the radiator valves themselves -- but you need to make sure all the traps are functioning.  But get the mains vented first.
    Jamie

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

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    This post was edited by an admin on March 24, 2013 7:22 PM.
  • Rod Rod @ 2:01 PM
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    Welcome to the Wall!

    Hi- Welcome to the “Wall”!  From your pictures it would show that some of the near boiler piping is less than ideal, however, the main question would be, how is the system working at the moment and what problems are you having with it ?    The system would be probably be helped by an increase in main venting .You can’t over vent on the main venting but be careful with the radiator vents as over venting on them can cause problems. Do you have a I&O manual for your boiler? If not, you can get on here:  http://www.usboiler.net/resources/product-literature.php   Choose the one for the Independence model. There is also other literature on the Independence model available. I store all my manuals and steam info in clear plastic sheet covers in a 3 ring binder. That keeps them easily available for future reference.

    You’ll find it very helpful to add a 0 - 3 PSI Gauge which are available from the gauge store
    http://www.valworx.com/product/low-pressure-gauge-25-0-3-psi
    Here’s some discussion on the wall about this gauge:   http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/140128/Failed-low-pressure-Wika-gauge
    You need to leave your present 0-30 PSI gauge in place as it is required by insurance /code.
    Pex Supply on the internet is a good source for main and radiator vents.
    - Rod
    This post was edited by an admin on March 24, 2013 2:08 PM.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 4:31 PM
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    No need

    to insulate the wet return, so the clearance to the floor isn't a problem -- and having it piped in copper isn't a problem, either.

    You seem to have lovely locations to add some main venting, which can only help.

    Carry on!
    Jamie

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

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 9:57 AM
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    Also measure

    how long your steam mains are, what pipe size and what vents are on them.The bullet-shaped vent is a Hoffman #4A but I'm not sure what the other one is. These measurements will tell us how much main venting you need.
    "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.
  • BobC BobC @ 10:19 AM
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    MOM

    That second main vent is a Maid O Mist radiator vent that is screwed into an adapter. Your main venting is probably to small, once you tell us what the approximate length and size of the steam mains we can advise you of what size vents you should have.

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

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

    3PSI gauge
  • Rod Rod @ 5:38 PM
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    You need the 0-30 PSI Gauge

    Hi- If your 0-30 psi gauge isn’t working, when the boiler is cold and the system shut off, I would remove it and see if the port connecting it to the boiler is plugged up and needs cleaning. If you need a new 0-30 PSI gauge, try Pex Supply  http://www.pexsupply.com/   and enter this SKU # in the search window:  100325-01
    Attached is a chart to help you determine pipe sizes so you can get a measurement on your steam mains.  Use the circumference measurement as that is the easiest.                
    Radiators- Have you used a bubble level and checked your radiators for proper slope? They should slope very slightly towards the steam inlet. This help “encourage” the condensate (water) to leave the radiator and return to the boiler. What is the make and model of the vents on your radiators?
    -Rod
  • thefonzz2625 thefonzz2625 @ 8:42 PM
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    Cleaned

    I managed to get the 0-30 gauge off and saw that it was full of crud. Cleaned it, the threads (male and female) and it started to read 2-2.5 psi when my pressuretrol was adjusted to .5 with a diff of 1. I guess it's time for a vaporstat?

    I already have an auto water feeder, but it doesn't have any way of indicating how much water it has been feeding.

    The steam mains are 2" and one run is about 19ft while the other run is about 27 ft.

    Vents are assorted. Maid-o-mist, Vari-valve, Hoffman, Gorton. I can't go by the manufacturer's recommendations, the way the house is situated, all of the rooms are within 400 sq ft of the thermostat.

    Bubble level is coming shortly. Still building up stock after Sandy... :-\

    In regards to "adding to the main", do you mean with 'antlers'?
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 12:25 AM
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    I'd vent those mains

    with one Gorton #1 or Hoffman #75 on the short main, and one #1 or #75 plus the existing 4A on the longer one.

    If the existing Maid-o-Mist is a #1 or #D, it can be used in this setup.
    "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.
  • Rod Rod @ 2:44 PM
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    Vents

    Hi- You mentioned that you already have “Greening Steam”. If you go to the table at the top of page 130,  you will see the figures showing the per foot of the volume of air for different sizes of pipe. Choose the figure that matches the size of your mains and  multiply this by the length of your mains and that will give you the volume of air that needs to be vented.  
          The most popular main vents used by the members of the “Wall” seem to be the Gorton #1, the Gorton #2 and the Hoffman #75.  (See Page 131, “Greening Steam”)   Venting capacity wise: 1ea.  Gorton #2 equals 3 ea. Gorton #1(s),  2 ea Hoffman #75(s) equals 1 ea Gorton #2   Your local heating supply or on the internet, Pex Supply, is a good source for these main vents.
    You want to vent your steam mains as quickly as possible for the size of the vent hole in the main. Generally you can’t get in trouble by venting your mains too quickly. Using an “antler” is a good idea especially if you use multiple main vents. Keep in mind that the Gorton #2 is physically quite large so if you have limited height above the steam main you may run into clearance problems in which case it would be better to go with multiple Gorton #1 (s) which is a smaller physical size.

    Radiator Vents- Above it is mentioned that you want to vent your steam mains quickly so initially one would think that venting your radiators quickly would also be a good idea. This is NOT the case! Over venting radiators can cause an imbalance in steam distribution which will then leave some radiators red hot and other radiators cold. There is an old steam adage- ”Vent your mains quickly and you radiators slowly!”  The Vari Valves vents are used a lot as a quick fix bandaid for lack of good main venting.  While they do have their uses, in a lot of cases because of their very large venting capacity, they can cause an imbalance in the steam distribution so I would consider changing the ones you now have to a slower vent and see what difference that makes to the steam distribution.  
    Glad to hear your gauge is now working. Since that was plugged up you might also want to check the pigtail on the Pressuretrol as that may also be restricted too.  You may want to consider a vaporstat down the line but at this point I would get other things straightened out first.
    - Rod
  • thefonzz2625 thefonzz2625 @ 7:54 AM
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    degunked

    Pigtail was filled with crud. System seems to be cutting off around 1.5 like it should now. Will check out greening steam tonight.

    Is all this crud a sign of something else? Or just deferred maintenance?
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 9:56 AM
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    It's probably just

    deferred maintenance...
    Jamie

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

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
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