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Jamie Hall

Jamie Hall

Joined on September 16, 2002

Last Post on April 17, 2014

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You should be able

@ June 20, 2009 6:19 PM in Steam heat benefits

to accumulate quite a list by the time we are through! Quiet No moving parts Low maintenance Even heat (assuming you have it set up right!) Steady heat Simple For starters...

Where exactly

@ June 20, 2009 9:53 AM in One-Pipe Steam Boiler Replacement

in northwestern Connecticut? I am not a pro (I'm a building superintendent near Winsted), butI have a good deal of experience with steam systems and would be happy to help you out some. Send me an e-mail direct if you like.


@ June 17, 2009 5:24 PM in Steam Trap Locations

Sure. For example, crossover traps at the ends of steam mains (which allow air to get into the dry returns, but not steam, thus allowing the steam mains to vent faster) are very commonly use. More details?


@ June 17, 2009 5:23 PM in Kriebel Vapor vacuum systems

before you do anything else -- anything at all -- you have to get the pressure down. You won't even be able to diagnose any of the other problems until you do. A vapourstat, and make sure the pigtail is clear (or use a new one); I'd say no more than 9 or 10 ounces max. pressure. Then you can start finding out what else is amiss. The TRVs can be used, yes. However, do be aware that if there is a significant number of them, and the radiators they are on are not orificed down properly, and they close, the system will probably short cycle rather annoyingly, as the boiler will be oversized for the remaining radiation. Much better to get it balanced as well as you can with orifices as required, and then if you really need them, use the TRVs.

I've followed these things

@ June 16, 2009 4:27 PM in comparing oil pricing to gas

over the years (just curiousity; I have a choice where I live: oil or oil!)(unless I want to go LP, and I'm not that wealthy) and what I've noticed is that the prices tend to track, when considered (as Steamhead suggested) on a fully costed, per therm or BTU basis. Oil tends to be a little more up and down, while gas tends to be steadier, but over the long run I've not seen that there's much in it, one way or the other. Which means, translated to the check book, that unless what you've got is really truly busted, stay with it -- you'll never get your money back, and that goes either way (if you have oil, stay with it; if you have gas, stay with that). As to efficiency? They're so close in practical terms (skip the advertising) that there's nothing in that, either.


@ June 16, 2009 4:22 PM in Best time for annual service?

Do it now. There's another factor: you may still have to (or at least be able to) run the boiler for a bit after it gets serviced, to make sure that all is well. It does happen that, for instance, in an effort to get efficiency up the air gets slightly off, and then it's fine while the tech is there, but that first cold night... she won't fire. So do it now. For all of Ross's reasons and mine too!

Gerry's right, Will --

@ June 13, 2009 7:59 PM in How many single pipe systems still exist?

It's not all that hard, once you get your head around it, and the guys on this Wall are absolutely incredible at helping out when help is needed! Go for it!

on the other hand...

@ June 9, 2009 10:28 AM in low water cutoff

if you're a belt and braces sort of chap, like me, you have a low water cutoff with automatic reset, probably linked to the auto fill, and a second one, set lower -- like right at the bottom of the glass -- with a manual reset. Probably not needed on a small residential boiler, but... and on a larger boiler, capable of launching the whole structure into low orbit, not such a bad idea perhaps...

You're definetly on the right track

@ June 6, 2009 8:19 PM in Two-Pipe Vapor - Dunham Home Heating System

but do heed Steamhead's comments -- and make sure that you have good main venting before you do anything else. Then, as he says, start to worry about traps. Traps fail in two ways: stuck shut or stuck open. Stuck shut (particularly those crossover traps) and you'll get no heat or very little or slow heat in the affected areas; stuck open and you may get no heat at all! You can find a stuck open trap fairly easily, though -- the return after the trap can be warm, even rather hot, but not to the ouch! point. Also, pressure is critical on these systems -- the good news is that if you don't have a vapourstat, you can get one and install it on your existing boiler (use a new, preferably red brass, pigtail) -- and then, when you do get that new boiler (which will drop your heating bill dramatically) you already have the vapourstat, ready to install. Vapour steam systems, like yours, are very economical, once you get them set up right -- which isn't all that hard. When you do put a new boiler in, you should see significant savings (just be darn sure that when you put it in, it gets piped properly! and that the water line is no lower than, and not much higher than, the existing water line!!).

You might have a point...

@ June 3, 2009 3:00 PM in Buderus won't run on generator

Hadn't thought of that. The generator should be wired so that when the transfer switch is thrown to it, its ground and neutral are connected to the ground and neutral of the house switchgear, as well as, obviously, both hot lines. If that is the case, and the voltage is reasonably close to line (120/240 or possibly 120/208 3 phase) and the frequency is reasonably close to 60 hz, it really should work... hmm...

I thought about this

@ June 2, 2009 9:41 PM in 1 boiler zoned or two

when replacing the boiler in the place I take care of -- but didn't do it. I think you will be better off, and get better heat, with two boilers, nicely sized for their respective circuits. As the guys have noted, one boiler is going to be horribly oversized for either circuit alone, if it's properly sized for the whole thing. The downside is, of course, the extra capital and maintenance on two boilers vs. one. However, I think that you will still be better off with the two separate...

The steam lines

@ June 2, 2009 9:36 PM in need suggestions for removing supply valve one pipe steam

shouldn't need cleaning, of any kind (although it is possible the wet return(s) in the basement might). As NBC noted, check your pressure. It should be possible, although possibly only just possible, to repack the valves to hold OK on the perhaps 12 ounces of pressure they'll see. Also, as he notes, they should only be turned very rarely, if ever. I'd avoid taking them off, if I could possibly help it. On the water pipes, I recently finished re-plumbing all the risers in a somewhat similar house -- with PEX. I was able to slip the half inch PEX in the space left in the risers around the galvanized. Left the galvanized in place (much too hard to take it out) but disconnected. Replace the galvanized in the basement with copper -- looks better. Cleaining old galavanized is pretty close to a 100 percent guaranteed leak somewhere... where you'll never see it (until you get the flood).


@ June 1, 2009 9:00 PM in Your personal heating system?

6 section 80, Beckett oil burner, feeding a lovely lovely intact original Hoffmann Vapour system -- all original traps, differential loop (but nice new Gorton vents!!!)(and a new section of wet return).

I used to be...

@ June 1, 2009 8:56 PM in New H2O piping in old house

a strictly copper guy for water pipes but... I have recently had a major job of replacing galvanized iron plumbing in an old National Register historic house, where damage to the plaster was simply not acceptable; not even a little bit. Worse, the plumbing vertical runs went up over (yup) a stone interior foundation, leaving me about 6 inches of play in which I could have dropped the galvanized, cut off 6 inches, dropped the galvanized, cut off 6 inches... and so on. I was able to slip half inch PEX in in the space left in the chase around the galvanized (dropped a fish tape in from the top, pulled the PEX back up). Worked just fine. Left the old galvanized in place, just disconnected (which will puzzle the dickens out of the next guy, but that's his problem). Saved me a LOT of time...


@ June 1, 2009 8:49 PM in fixing soldered seam in 3 inch copper steam pipe

I do have an opinion. For low pressure, on cast iron, some repair resins and putties do work. Sometimes. On a soldered copper seam? I very much doubt it. I'd replace it and be done with it.

and we wonder

@ May 29, 2009 8:30 PM in OK to use 14 gauge pigtails on a 20 amp/12 gauge circuit?

why DIYers get in trouble. If I saw that in an inspection, I'd flunk it. Of course, the homeowner is free to plug an 18 gauge extension cord into it, and run it under a rug to a space heater... sigh.

Probably not

@ May 29, 2009 10:21 AM in Converting steam to hot water system?

which is why I said my comment was politically incorrect. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for taking the taxmen for a long ride -- but not if it's not the best way to do something, or if it's going to cost me money in the long run. Unless a tax credit is really huge (and $1500 isn't, in this instance), I would never base a purchase or repair/replacement decision on the existence of a tax credit.


@ May 29, 2009 8:46 AM in Converting steam to hot water system?

If I may be so bold as to make a politically incorrect comment... the actual operating efficiency over a heating season of the two units Steamhead mentioned will probably be just as good, if not better, than an 'EnergyStar rated' unit -- provided both are set up by a competent technician. The efficiency of a boiler is much more closely tied to the guy who adjusts it than to a little label on the side...

Double check

@ May 27, 2009 5:47 PM in sizing

your arithmetic and, if it's right (probably is!) go with your best judgement -- you're the pro. on this one. Won't be the first time and existing boiler is oversized...


@ May 27, 2009 5:45 PM in Converting steam to hot water system?

you really truly have to for some reason, don't do it. You will almost certainly have to replace most of the radiators, as they will leak. You will also have to repipe the whole thing. You not gain anything significant on fuel usage from a hot water system over a properly operating, modern steam boiler -- in fact, you may well lose. The Burnham Megasteam is good, but almost any good modern boiler will do the trick. Do get the book NBC suggested; one of the keys to steam is maintaining the system properly, but that isn't hard once you get the hang of it (in fact, in most cases it doesn't involve any work at all, once any problems are identified and fixed -- and you may wind up having to do nothing at all except replace the boiler). So... As I said before, just Don't Do It!

Freedom isn't free --

@ May 24, 2009 5:49 PM in To Our Veterans

God bless you all, and keep you in the hollow of His hand.

even if

@ May 24, 2009 5:47 PM in Moving radiators

you don't move the riser coming up, you should be able to do this without much trouble. It will be better, yes, if you can use 45's rather than 90's to make the turns. It is absolutely necessary to maintain the slope of the pipe back towards the boiler, so you will want to raise the radiators about a half inch or so as well, to compensate for the longer run, if you don't move the riser.