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The Wall
Jamie Hall

Jamie Hall

Joined on September 16, 2002

Last Post on July 31, 2014

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Recent Posts

At first sight...

@ November 10, 2008 8:55 AM in Fixed Leaks, Two-Pipe Steam Heat System Goes Haywire

but hopefully someone more knowledgeable in controls will chime in -- it looks as though one of those controls is the cut in pressure and the other cut out pressure. The cut out pressure is the pressure at which the burner will stop running; that one should ideally be about 1 psi, but those old units are unreliable at less than about 2... do your best. The other should be labelled 'cut out' and is the pressure at which the burner will restart; set that one as low as it will reliably go -- which may take some fiddling. Better yet, get your plumber to get a Honeywell Vapourstat and install it with a T off one of the existing pigtails (make sure the pigtails are clear!) and wire it in instead; set it to 1 psi cutout and a differential of 0.5. Can't hurt (although they aren't cheap) and just might help... a lot.

I use

@ November 8, 2008 9:34 PM in smartdraw, visio or autocad lt for mech. drawings?

DesignCad 3D Max18 (I've used it for everything from a $10,000,000 waste water treatment plant to my plans for my own house to (don't laugh) my HO model railroad) -- price is very very reasonable, it's AutoCad compatible (but doesn't cost like AutoCad). Very very stable, very easy to learn... available from (they're the ones that make it).

one thing to watch

@ November 8, 2008 9:25 PM in Efficiency - Heating whole house vs half a house...

is that the unheated rooms must stay above the dew point, or you'll get condensation in there and possibly mold.

touch pads

@ November 6, 2008 12:08 PM in Vision Pro 8500 Dead to the Touch Thermostat

there is a very good reason that touch screen systems only have a one year warranty: the mean time between failure on them isn't a whole lot longer than that. Try to find a thermostat which uses push buttons for control, rather than a touch screen.

Carlin 900nnn series controls dying

@ November 5, 2008 9:28 AM in Carlin 900nnn series control

Any ideas on why a Carlin 900nnn series control for an oil-fired hot water heater would be dying? I've replace 2 of them in the last 3 months on a job -- ground looks good, neutral's good, power's no worse than any around here (Connecticut -- pretty lousy power, but not that lousy I would think). The original control was a 90000C which lasted 2 years; it died, replaced it with a 90000B (which is all I had on the truck) which lasted 3 months; just replace that with a 90200...

not quite

@ November 1, 2008 6:16 PM in Steam Trap on Radiator

at the lightbulb level, but not too far from it -- there are stores on-line (State Supply? I forget at the moment) which, given the model of the trap -- which you have -- offer replacement innards (float, seats, themostatic mechanism, the works). You unscrew the top (that's where it can get interesting), pop out the old, pop in the new...

well now...

@ October 30, 2008 6:29 PM in Radiator sounds like rainwater in a downspout

do you hear the gurgle right from the start? Or does it wait until steam hits the radiator? I still think that it's the condensate... but I've been wrong before!

Almost certainly

@ October 30, 2008 6:23 PM in Steam Trap on Radiator

a bad trap. The mechanism that allows air to get out (but not steam) is different from the one that allows water to get out -- thus it is quite possible (in fact, very likely!) that when the trap goes, it will go in just this way. Fortunately, unless you have something really really strange, it's really easy to open the trap and replace the innards.

Almost certainly

@ October 30, 2008 6:23 PM in Steam Trap on Radiator

a bad trap. The mechanism that allows air to get out (but not steam) is different from the one that allows water to get out -- thus it is quite possible (in fact, very likely!) that when the trap goes, it will go in just this way. Fortunately, unless you have something really really strange, it's really easy to open the trap and replace the innards.

to which I might add...

@ October 30, 2008 6:18 PM in Desperately seeking end to banging and boiler problems

the water in the sight glass should look clean! Also, when the boiler is firing, it should be pretty steady in level -- it won't be perfectly steady, but it shouldn't bounce around a lot. We'll keep thinking...

Good show!

@ October 30, 2008 8:58 AM in hot water Radiators and Single Entry valve

I know about wood heated Vermont houses -- lived in one in Brookfield for years and years. Don't blame you a bit for going to something you don't have to split and carry! Pity you can't find someone to spin pipe -- but those folks are a bit thin on the ground (my teacher has died, or I'd suggest him! -- and I don't live there any more). Easiest way to test the radiator that I can think of, if you have the height, is to set it all up with the valve and all then run a hose or pipe up 20 feet and fill it all with water. If the water level drops, she's leaking. If not, she isn't. If there is insulation in your outside walls, and the pex is inside the insulation and just covered by sheetrock, you shouldn't need anything more (even in Vermont!) but I won't guarantee anything... !

well, one possibility...

@ October 29, 2008 6:40 PM in Radiator sounds like rainwater in a downspout

do you have a significant night setback? If so, it could just be the condensate from a good full run running out the traps and down the return... Does it do it every time the system runs? Or just in the morning?


@ October 29, 2008 6:38 PM in hot water Radiators and Single Entry valve

are you converting a steam system to hydronic? If so, may I ask why? Steam is easy to get running properly, and just as good (if not better) quality heat. If you are converting, there are a lot of things to consider... and most of the folks on the Wall would not recommend doing it!

does it work?

@ October 28, 2008 9:03 PM in vacuum

As Nicholas said, older steam systems were intended to pull a vacuum. Nothing wrong with it, by itself -- if anything, it might reassure you that there are no leaks! If the system is otherwise working OK, not to worry. On the other hand, if you need more venting or if you are having water level problems, get and read Dan's book...

Brad's first post

@ October 28, 2008 11:41 AM in New Twist on HeatingHelp?

is, as usual, excellent. A few additional comments. First, windows: if you have decent storm windows, just make sure that the inner sashes are in decent shape and closed. Good new windows are not cheap, and it would be very hard to get a payback on the cost; as someone said, old ones, properly maintained, are about 85% as good. Infiltration is the real biggy. Find it and fix it -- a nice cold windy day is ideal for this. Along the sills in the foundation is often overlooked. There are some spray-on foams (Icynene comes to mind, and I've spec'ed it very successfully in some historic house renovations) which really seal tight, and don't need an extra vapour barrier or draft barrier. Any of the spray-ons, however, is problematic in a wall, unless you plan to open either the inside or the outside: they can expand enough to pop plaster or dry wall, and it can be difficult in a wall to make sure that all the spaces get filled. Have fun!

biggest single problem

@ October 27, 2008 9:56 AM in Copper pipe for new steam radiators.. Yes or No?

with copper for steam radiators is stress. As the pipe expands when the steam hits it, it wants to move. Threaded pipe can move (just a little) at the threaded joints and do this forever; sweated copper pipe cannot -- so unless there is some pipe configuration to take up the expansion by flexing the pipe itself, the stress on those solder joints is going to be terrific. I have a few bits of copper radiator pipe which are OK after about 50 years -- but the joints were made up by a real old time master plumber, and in each one there is opportunity for the pipe itself to flex. Spinning threaded pipe -- even threading pipe -- isn't that hard once you get the hang of it. Corrosion can be a problem, but not usually.

check your pH

@ October 23, 2008 10:14 AM in Pinhole leaks copper piping

it is, most likely, a velocity problem -- but low pH won't help a bit, and it is possible that you have a pH problem as well...

on a T

@ October 23, 2008 10:10 AM in Steam Mains How many do I need?

above the main -- and the leg of the T should join the main not at the end, but 10 or 15 inches or so back...

one would think...

@ October 23, 2008 10:08 AM in 2 pipe steam issues

that the traps on the radiators would let the air out of the radiator and into the condensate return. Doesn't seem to work that way... There should be a radiator trap, as several have said, at the end of that misbehaving steam line, just looping over into the dry return. That will let the air out of the steam line, and get it back to the vent. Shouldn't need another vent.

for example

@ October 15, 2008 9:36 PM in two pipe steam with traps and air vents

Vapourstats. However, it will say on it... somewhere... whether it is subtractive or not.

John's right...

@ October 15, 2008 9:29 AM in Zoning Steam

although you can use zone valves, they are likely to be much more expensive and much less flexible -- and you have to be sure that even when the zone valve is close the system can still have the proper venting and returns (it can be done; I've done it). The other warning on zone valves is that they must, repeat MUST, be full port when open. Gates or balls, full pipe diameter (not reduced through the valve and then back up). Otherwise, believe it or not the steam just won't get by them in any usable quantity even when they are open (please don't ask how I know...)


@ October 15, 2008 9:24 AM in Short Cycling

It would be nice to get the boiler sized and fired like that... Actually, one can come pretty close on a simple temperature maintain, although one does need to take into account the pipes as well as the radiator EDR when setting boiler size and firing -- those pipes, even if insulated, do soak up a fair amount of steam. But as I say one can get close; the pressure will start to rise as the space warms, but ideally the space temperature will shut off the thermostat at the same time as the vapourstat shuts off the boiler. However, recovering from a setback? Different story. You have a much longer run time (how much longer depends on the setback). If you have enough boiler/fire to warm the whole system up (all radiators hot) the pressure will rise and the vapourstat will shut the boiler off... and on... and off... just as you described. Until the space is warmed up again. What you are describing is normal.