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    Steam boiler: main vents and automatic water feeders... (51 Posts)

  • lowwater lowwater @ 10:59 AM
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    Steam boiler: main vents and automatic water feeders...

    I have a steam boiler system in our house, and had plumber "A" change the return pipes (we are finishing our basement). He installed two main vents in the pipes. Plumber "A" somehow disappeared after appearing on Fox 5 "Shame on you".

    The two main vents have been spraying water out of the vents, so I called another plumber, "B". Plumber "B" initially identified an issue with a pressure that was too high in the system (he lowered this from 12 to 2 psi). He also capped off the vents, since according to him proper radiator vents are sufficient and main venting is only necessary on larger steam boilers (he mentioned apartment buildings as an example)

    My question is: is that correct?

    Also, he advised against installing an automatic water feeder, since it's harder to identify an issue (during the winter we normally have to refeed every 2-3 weeks). What are your thoughts?

    Thank you!
  • nicholas bonham-carter nicholas bonham-carter @ 11:15 AM
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    Plumbers A and B

    The fox "shame on you" sounds interesting.
    Main vents are needed for balance, and economy. What size are the rad vents?
    Good on plumber B for not choosing a feeder, as they are such a problem!
    Your pressure can be lower with generous main vents. My one-pipe system heats 55 rads on 3 floors at 2+ ounces, using a vaporstat.--NBC
  • lowwater lowwater @ 11:31 AM
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    vents

    We have "Maid-O-Mist # 40M 1/8 in." vents on our radiators
  • JStar JStar @ 11:29 AM
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    Steam

    Don't let Plumber B back in your house. Unless he is going to reinstall the vents, at no cost to you.

    Main vents are one of the most critical parts of a steam system. They will balance the steam, and save you a whole lot of money on fuel.
    - Joe Starosielec
    http://thatcherhvac
    http://facebook.com/thatcherhvac



    Guaranteed performance. Guaranteed energy savings.


    Serving all of NJ, NYC, Southern NY State, and eastern PA.

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    (Formerly "ecuacool")
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 1:09 PM
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    Oh dear...

    yeah, you need those main vents back, and the bigger the better.  You also need the pressure lowered -- 1 1/2 psi max.

    I myself don't mind automatic feeders -- provided they have a meter on them.
    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
  • lowwater lowwater @ 1:51 PM
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    Vents

    Any thoughts why the main vents are leaking a LOT of water? The valves were already replaced. Do I need another vent, like the Hoffman 75?
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 11:40 AM.
  • JStar JStar @ 3:44 PM
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    Vents

    Can you take pictures of the vents, and the return piping that it is attached to? How high above the floor is the return and vent?

    PS. Plumbing =/= Steam Heating. Steam is its own field, with its own intricacies. Not all plumbers work on steam, or know to. He may be a great plumber, but he lacks a good bit of knowledge about steam systems.
    - Joe Starosielec
    http://thatcherhvac
    http://facebook.com/thatcherhvac



    Guaranteed performance. Guaranteed energy savings.


    Serving all of NJ, NYC, Southern NY State, and eastern PA.

    Consultation anywhere.

    (Formerly "ecuacool")
    This post was edited by an admin on August 6, 2013 3:47 PM.
  • bn bn @ 3:50 PM
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    Air vents leaking

    Did you have any issues with leaking main vents before the returns were replaced? If not, then the return lines are the root cause of the leaks. Most steam systems can run without main vents, BUT the fuel costs will be more and the system will almost certainly be out of balance. The main vents are not defective. They are not designed to hold in in water. They are designed to let out air and hold in steam. Don't keep on replacing the air vents. It is a waste of money. There is some problem, somewhere, that is causing too much water to be in your system.
  • bn bn @ 3:54 PM
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    Refilling

    You mentioned that you need to refill your boiler every 2-3 weeks. That is bad! The more often that you fill your boiler, the shorter the lifespan of the boiler. Find the leak and repair! Might be the leaking main vents. This is one of the reasons that I don't like auto feeders. You could potentially have an ongoing, undetected leak that will go on for years. The auto feeder will mask the fact that you have a leak and will in the process slowly and cruelly assassinate your boiler.
    This post was edited by an admin on August 6, 2013 3:55 PM.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 4:16 PM
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    Some more information

    Thanks all for the replies. I really appreciate it. Tonight I'll also post some pictures, maybe this helps.

    So here's the situation. The old return pipes were running across the basement ceiling, and since we want to finish our basement we needed to have these rerouted. That's why we hired a plumber, "A" to reroute these pipes. We haven't had a need to turn the heat on in the house, since this was done a few months back. We only had the heat on to test the system.

    So, plumber "A" reroute the pipes which included 2 new vents. I did some tests with the heating system after he had finished the job, and I noticed the leaks.

    When plumber "A" disappeared after appearing on "Shame on you" (scamming people with air conditioning installs apparently), I hired plumber "B".

    Plumber B noticed the high pressure in the boiler (he said it was around 10-12 psi (?), lowered it to 2 and though that would solve the issue). On a side note, I am not sure if the high pressure has anything to do with the amount of times I need to refill the boiler.

    When that didn't solve the issue, he explained that the radiator vents should be sufficient and capped the main vents.

    PS - I decided to not install the automatic water feeder.
  • bn bn @ 4:26 PM
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    steam expert

    You really should get in a steam expert. Incorrectly run return pipes could lead to water backing into the mains and out the vents. You need entire system checked for leaks and repaired as needed. You should have main vents. Capping the vents can be an expensive and painful bandaid.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 4:50 PM
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    Thanks

    Some good advise here...
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 11:42 AM.
  • bn bn @ 4:59 PM
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    not really

    Believe it or not, most professionals who work on steam, are close to clueless. This is just one more example. Sad but true.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 8:54 PM
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    pictures

    Hope this helps.

    So there is one return pipe on the left, with 1 return. That return really has not leaked.

    The second return pipe is at the bottom (right), and that's the one that's leaking.
  • bn bn @ 9:37 PM
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    Boiler water

    What is that green stuff in the water? Did someone add chemicals? Chemicals can cause water to surge and foam which will in turn lead to water being thrown into the pipes. First pic is blurry. Can you redo? Also can you post pics of the pipes coming from top of boiler?
  • lowwater lowwater @ 9:45 PM
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    More..

    Yes, Plumber A added chemicals. He said it was needed...

    Hope these pictures help... Thanks!

    Note: we have a second baseboard heating furnace covering the attic and our den (if you're wondering about the unit behind the steam boiler).
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 9:39 AM.
  • bn bn @ 10:27 PM
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    Flush

    Try flushing the chemicals out of the boiler. Drain all the water out and refill. Repeat until water loses that greenish color. Might take a bunch of times. After the final time that you fill the boiler make sure to run the boiler for 20 minutes. Turn the thermostat to a very high setting. This may solve the problem.
  • bn bn @ 10:29 PM
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    Pipe height

    How high is that horizontal pipe on the left side from the ground? How high is the middle of the water glass from the ground? The pipe should be 28" higher then the middle of the glass. Also what is the model # of the boiler?
  • lowwater lowwater @ 9:40 AM
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    chemical

    Out of curiosity: what is wrong with chemicals? And what would have been the purpose of using it?
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 8:59 PM
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    Chemicals

    Some people here use Steammaster tablets, and I clean mine with washing soda (aka soda ash). If there is a specific problem with your water supply, certain very specific treatment may be beneficial, but you should never use anything you don't need.

    Almost anything you add to the boiler water will increase the boiling point of the water, and the greater the boiling point elevation the more violently it boils when it comes to a boil. This sends more water droplets into the system--wet steam--and that's very bad for a whole lot of reasons. Some chemicals may cause minerals to precipitate, accelerating scale formation. Some chemicals cause foaming and surging.

    The purpose of using it would be to give you the impression that he was doing something when, in reality, he was out of ideas. Maybe I'm being unfair, but anybody who proposed pouring chemicals, other than H₂O, into my boiler, without doing a water analysis (of the boiler water and the tap water) first, would get the boot!
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • lowwater lowwater @ 9:40 AM
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    Dimensions

    Distance left pipe floor - ground: 77"

    Distance center water glass - ground: 27"

    Model: Burnham Model SIN5LNC-LE2
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 9:41 AM.
  • bn bn @ 5:37 PM
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    ok

    Your horizontal pipe is 50" above the waterline. You should be ok then. Try flushing the boiler
  • bn bn @ 5:38 PM
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    Near boiler piping

    Seems to be ok
  • JStar JStar @ 6:08 AM
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    Returns

    First, that one vent is connected to the wet return. It is completely useless there. It needs to be high up on a dry return.

    Second, the other vent is on a very low horizontal pipe. The dry return needs to be 28" above the waterline as a minimum. Even though the vent is raised, the pipe will syphon water up into.

    Both returns look undersized as well.
    - Joe Starosielec
    http://thatcherhvac
    http://facebook.com/thatcherhvac



    Guaranteed performance. Guaranteed energy savings.


    Serving all of NJ, NYC, Southern NY State, and eastern PA.

    Consultation anywhere.

    (Formerly "ecuacool")
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 6:09 AM.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 9:42 AM
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    returns

    If would leave the wet return capped, would one vent (right) work? Would I need a specific valve?

    I thought the right pipe was too close to the burner somehow...
  • bn bn @ 9:54 AM
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    no

    If you only have one main vented then the rads connected to that main would get steam much quicker. The system would be badly out of balance. Time to get a steam pro.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 10:23 AM
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    q

    - Why are the chemicals bad in your opinion?
    - What would be a good location for the "right" vent? Can it be further up the return pipe?
    This post was edited by an admin on August 7, 2013 11:42 AM.
  • bn bn @ 5:34 PM
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    A

    Chemicals will make the water in the boiler surge and jump from the boiler into the system.
    Raising the vent won't help. The problem is with the horizontal pipe leading to the vertical pipe that the vent is on.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 6:31 PM
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    Plumber B

    Here's the answer from Plumber B, after I pointed him to this thread: "In a residential home there should be no vents on the returns" [the vents are indeed on the returns]. Does this makes sense?
  • JStar JStar @ 6:34 PM
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    Vents

    If this is true, then all of my customers saving 30% on their fuel bills by upgrading/adding vents must be mistaken or delusional.
    - Joe Starosielec
    http://thatcherhvac
    http://facebook.com/thatcherhvac



    Guaranteed performance. Guaranteed energy savings.


    Serving all of NJ, NYC, Southern NY State, and eastern PA.

    Consultation anywhere.

    (Formerly "ecuacool")
  • bn bn @ 7:34 PM
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    ditto

    You don't need main vents UNLESS you want your system to be balanced and efficient. Please do yourself a favor and send Mr B on his way. He really shouldn't be working on steam systems.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 7:38 PM
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    If there are no main vents...

    the only way the air can get out is through the radiator vents -- which aren't meant to do that.  This is assuming a one pipe system, which has radiator vents.

    Two pipe systems have no radiator vents, but do have a return from each radiator -- and they absolutely have to have return main vents (and sometimes main vents on the suply mains, too -- depends on how the system is piped).

    Get the main vents restored.
    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
  • lowwater lowwater @ 9:18 AM
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    Thanks

    Thanks all. I'm getting some quotes from heating experts of this forum to have the vents installed. Thanks again.
  • bn bn @ 1:31 PM
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    Vents

    Sorry to keep beating the same drum, but you have more issues than lack of vents. There was water coming out the vents. The reason the water was coming out of the vents has nothing to do with the quality of the vents. There is a totally different issue that also needs to be addressed. If you just replace the vents, you will have the exact same problems. Where are you located?
  • lowwater lowwater @ 3:28 PM
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    To clarify

    The old vent pipes will remain sealed. The new vents will be installed in a different location. I'm located in Nassau County NY
  • bn bn @ 5:32 PM
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    Buzz

    Feel free to give me a buzz through the link in the bottom of this post or by clicking on my posting handle(BN). We service most of Nassau County. The fact that you had water coming out of the vents is a clear sign of a problem. Moving the vents may or may not prevent water from coming out. However, moving the vents will definitely not get to the underlying problem. There is much water where it shouldn't be and you need to know why. Any plumber that won't address underlying problems, should not be let through the door and definitely should not be let out the door with a check in his hand.
    This post was edited by an admin on August 12, 2013 5:33 PM.
  • This post has been deleted!

  • Danny Scully Danny Scully @ 3:59 PM
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    Any reason?

    Any reason why my post with my company name, number, and website was deleted?
  • Dan Holohan Dan Holohan @ 4:54 PM
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    Yes, Danny.

    And I emailed you early this morning to explain. You may have missed that.

    You posted your phone number and website and asked for some business within this thread and that's why I deleted it. It's not fair to the guys who pay a dollar a day to advertise here when you solicit business without having an ad. I suggested in my email that you take an ad that will link to your posts automatically, which would bring you new business.

    Thanks for your understanding.
    Site Administrator
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  • Dan Holohan Dan Holohan @ 4:56 PM
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    At the top of the Wall:

    Four simple requests:
    Please be nice; don't discuss pricing, and don't post advertisements.
    And please post in the area that best fits your interests. Thanks.
    Site Administrator
    dan@heatinghelp.com













    Hug your kids.
  • Danny Scully Danny Scully @ 9:30 PM
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    The last time

    The last time you suggested I advertise through your website I emailed you personally and asked what the next step was, you never responded. So, please email me and let me know the next step. Also, I did not receive an email explaining the deleted post. Email me directly if you could danny@scullysplumbing.com
  • Dan Holohan Dan Holohan @ 9:47 PM
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    Email address

    The address you gave when you signed up on the site was webmaster@scullysplumbing.com. That's the one I've been writing too.

    Signing up for Find a Contractor is pretty simple. Go to that part of the site, click on Get Listed, sign in and fill in the form with your company details and a description of the job you'd like to feature. Once you do that, Debbie will call to get your credit card info and ask home many days you'd like.

    We look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.
    Site Administrator
    dan@heatinghelp.com













    Hug your kids.
  • Danny Scully Danny Scully @ 10:05 PM
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    I checked that email

    I checked that email, I have nothing from you? Either way, thanks for the info.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 10:11 PM
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    Thanks

    I want to thank all the help and advise.

    Anyone who is offering services, please PM me and I'll get back to you. Much appreciated.

    Mark
  • lowwater lowwater @ 3:05 PM
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    Update

    So... A quick update. I hired a heating plumber affiliated with the plumber and they put the vents in place - see photos. They really handled this professionally. Thoughts?
  • Craigs Craigs @ 10:01 PM
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    Copper.....

    8o

    All I wanted to say..
  • JohnNY JohnNY @ 7:01 AM
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    Well, those are vents alright.

    This thread just keeps getting worse.
    Lowwater, if it's in your budget, find a heating contractor that advertises here and have your (dry) returns replaced with threaded steel pipe and fittings.
    Your best bet by far is to have the system restored as closely as possible to its original design, or a design consistent with installation practices used by the original installers.
    Perhaps Plumber C is that contractor. I don't know.
    You've ruled out Plumber A, please do the same for Plumber B.

    Here is a typical warning included in boiler manufacturer's literature explaining the risks of using copper in a steam heating system. I suspect all of that copper contributed to the need to add chemicals to your boiler water.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 4:27 PM
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    John

    John,

    Thanks for the reply. I had 3 heating contractors over to give me estimates, and all 3 of them are on this site! All 3 of them were knowledgeable, friendly and professional and I decided to go with the one who gave me the most affordable (although still expensive!) quote.

    None of them commented on the piping material; they just recommended changing the return from a dry into a wet return.
  • JohnNY JohnNY @ 8:58 PM
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  • Danny Scully Danny Scully @ 6:47 AM
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    I am plumber "C"

    I am plumber "C" and recommended lowering the return lines to be wet, as they are currently too low above the boiler water line to properly be dry returns. Copper wet returns are acceptable and commonly practiced, which is why I didn't raise this issue as my customer is considering it as a future project. Due to budgetary constraints, however, we were only able to install new main vents, and skim the boiler at this time. I ran the system for quite a while (sweating) with no issues. Mains got hot evenly and quickly, no spitting vents, waterline hardly moved. Ill keep everyone posted.
  • lowwater lowwater @ 12:08 PM
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    Thanks Danny

    I did not wanted to call anyone out, but Danny did a great job.

    And Danny is correct - ideally I should have done a few other changes, but I have spent thousands of dollars on plumbing in the past few months, and I simply can't afford to do more. Our plan is to see how the system works over the winter and see if we need to make any changes.
  • Danny Scully Danny Scully @ 5:37 PM
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    I understand

    I understand, and I didn't think you were calling me out. I planed on posting the pictures as well but you beat me to it; always like to give us wallies an update. Keep me informed when the heating season starts. As I said, our work comes with a guarantee.
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