## Jamie Hall

Joined on September 16, 2002

Last Post on June 19, 2013

### yes and yes

@ January 1, 2009 3:31 PM in Water Hammer or Expanding Pipe

it takes very little change in contact for a pipe to start making expansion noises where none were before! Sometimes just a change in the hangers will do it. And yes, anything touching the pipe can make clicks, groans, squeaks, and other fun-house type noises.

### another 'customer' comment

@ December 30, 2008 7:58 PM in Number of service calls per day

I'm a building super, so I'm usually around. Still... however, the company that does my oil burner work for me (I do the steam side myself, but oil burners? No, thanks -- not trained for that!) has a system which works great: they tell me what day they can schedule for -- which may be some time off, unless it's an emergency -- but not the time. The dispatcher calls me an hour ahead of when the tech will get there, and that's that. I love it. How they work it on the company side I don't know... Emergencies (which are almost always ran out of oil -- we have automatic delivery, but it's not reliable) are another story. I have yet to wait more than two hours for the tech to get here, and I (and my predecessors) have been dealing with this outfit for over 60 years. I don't know how they do the emergency stuff either -- but again, I love it! Now if they'd get someone on board who could spin black iron pipe and diagnose and maintain the steam side... oh well, can't have everything!

### good grief

@ December 30, 2008 6:25 PM in EDR Equivalent for steel pipe with fins

where did that come from? Lower math: measure the diameter of the fins, figure the area of one fin (3.14 times the square of the diameter, divided by 4). Subtract the cross section area of the pipe (4" pipe is about 12 square inches). Count the number of fins per foot, multiply by the area you got by the subtraction and multiply by 2. That's the number of square inches of radiation per foot of pipe. Multiply by the feet of pipe and divide by 144; that will give you a sort of approximation to the effective radiating area and thus the EDR.

### and if there is a sight glass

@ December 30, 2008 6:18 PM in Steam or hydronic? What do we have?

you should see a water line in it, anywhere from a quarter to half way up when the boiler is off. If you don't, you still have steam -- but the boiler is either too full or, much less likely, too empty (it shouldn't run if it's too empty!). If the boiler is too full, there's your problem! Either try to get a different fellow from the heating company, or... just possibly... try a different company!

### Well now...

@ December 30, 2008 3:00 PM in Is dryer steam better?

it would have been nice to have used both tappings and brought 2 2" lines up to the 4" line. However... as I said before, if it's quiet and not bouncing that much -- never out of the glass -- I'd leave it alone. There might be a slight gain in efficiency, but the 4" is going to take whatever water was in there out anyway... so... but then I've been accused of being lazy before!

### If it ain't broke...

@ December 29, 2008 8:31 PM in Is dryer steam better?

don't fix it. It is not at all uncommon to take a 2" riser from the boiler and run it into a 4" header -- as has been noted, this will allow any water droplets in there to drop out and go back to the boiler where they belong. Do not, however, confuse what we here on the Wall call wet steam -- which has water droplets in it -- with what a thermodynamics engineer would call saturated steam, nor dry steam (which we use to mean steam without water droplets) with superheated steam. There are very very very few heating systems which use superheated steam (although almost all steam engines did, and do). You can have dry saturated steam -- which is what we are looking for. And saturated steam has some really interesting properties which can really ruin the day for the unwary heating person!

### Asbestos

@ December 28, 2008 6:47 PM in Just learning about steam

If the insulation is older, it probably is asbestos. This is not the disaster it might seem! If it is in decent shape (that is, still wrapped on nicely, with the bands in place, and the joints solid (not powdery), your best be may be to wrap it, rather than removing it. This can be done fairly easily with plaster cloth (that is a sort of gauze --well, heavier than that -- impregnated with plaster which is used by doctors to make casts on broken legs). It isn't that expensive, and although it is a little messy to put up, it isn't that hard to do either (but do use a very good respirator while you're doing it, and vacuum with a HEPA filter afterwards!). Most place that's legal. Although Mass. can be funny about that sort of thing...

### I suspect

@ December 23, 2008 4:43 PM in Boiler piped for reverse flow?

our usual piping is a holdover from gravity and steam systems -- we are a pretty conservative lot, after all! The pump would have to overcome the natural convection in the boiler, but that's really pretty minor in the overall scheme of things...

### not only does it reduce

@ December 23, 2008 11:20 AM in Boiler piped for reverse flow?

thermal shock, but it's good thermodynamic sense, too: the heat transfer rate of any heat exchanger (and that's what a hot water boiler is!) is determined by the temperature difference on the two sides of the plate or pipe or whatever. The way that's piped, you've got cooler water in contact with cooler stack gas and warmer water in contact with warmer gas -- splendid arrangement! Nice even heat exchange, and you can get the stack gas down to a lower temperature that way (in principle...) and hence get better efficiency.

### Not that many things...

@ December 23, 2008 11:12 AM in Steam Heat - Again!

that can cause both water hammer and a spitting vent! In one pipe steam, the condensate (water) has to be able to flow away from the radiator (or anywhere else it forms) back to the boiler. The steam is progressing the other way, at speed. Anything that can interfere with the flow of water back to the boiler will do it. For starters: check and make sure that the valve to her radiator is really and truly fully open. They've been known to seem open, but be only partly open. Then check the entire pipe back from the radiator to the basement. Any horizontal section -- however short -- shouldn't be exactly horizontal. It must pitch down towards the boiler (or up to the radiator, if you like!) anywhere from a quarter to a half inch per foot -- more is better here; that isn't a maximum but is an absolute minimum. Shim as needed to get it that way. Why did it start with the new boiler? Hard to say; you don't mention whether the takeoff for this radiator is closest to the boiler, but if it is there is a chance that you are getting wet steam due to near-boiler piping problems, and that the only pipe it gets into is this one. Doesn't sound likely... could also be that the new boiler simply puts out more steam! And what was marginal before is over the edge. But check all the pipe runs first.

### I sympathise!

@ December 21, 2008 9:05 PM in Steam radiators and programable thermostats

My place was finished in 1893, with various additions from about 1780 (original) to then. A few thoughts (mostly from my own experience). Windows. The payback on new windows is long. Like, very long -- even at today's energy prices. Don't let a contractor fool you on that. You will do much better to make sure that they are in good condition (there will always be some draughts with old double hungs, but some gentle work can minimize that) and use plastic until you can afford to put good old-fashioned aluminium triple track storm windows on the outside. Much less expensive than whole new windows, and almost as effective. As has been mentioned, most Honeywell digital thermostats have setback capabilities (and you can get some of them in big box stores; they aren't hard to install), and can be set to one cycle per hour, which is correct for steam and cast iron radiators. Not all. Check before you buy! I know the model RTH7500D will work. Putting one in will make a difference, really. The instructions which come with it are pretty good as to setup -- select 'oil or gas steam' (one cycle per hour) (that's well down the menu, but it's there). As to setback, that's kind of debatable with steam; I use a 5 degree setback at night (65 day, 60 night) and it seems to be as far as I can go before the boiler burns more fuel trying to heat up in the morning than it saves not running at night. Good luck!

### If it only happens

@ December 21, 2008 3:24 PM in Water Hammer

on one zone, and then only when the other one is pumping, one possibility which occurs to me is that the zone valve on the problem zone may be closing rather slowly. This would allow water to be pushed back (the pump now being off) by the other zone, perhaps, and slamming the check valve on the pump. Just a thought...

### several thoughts

@ December 18, 2008 1:57 PM in Vacuum type air vents

and I hope the real experts chime in... But, to get started. Are you sure there ever were thermostatic elements in the outlets to the radiators? Not all two pipe steam systems used them -- some, particularly vapour, used orifices on the radiators to control flow. Provided the pressures are low enough, that works fine. That said, if they really are traps with missing elements, the system won't work properly at all until they are replaced. Can you get new elements? Replacement elements are available for quite a number of the old traps, and much cheaper than replacing the whole trap! Your old boy's notions as to pressure are exactly right. However, no steam system would hold a vacuum forever, and air will get into the system -- that's what the main vents are for. Old systems fired on coal could, and did, run at a slight vacuum when the coal fire was banked. Unfortunately, neither oil nor gas firing works that way; when the burner turns off, it's off, and the system will quickly come to atmospheric pressure -- vacuum vents or no. Nice that the old boy remembers, though -- suggests that he may really know something about steam! Modern main vents do let air in when the burner stops. They also let it out in a hurry when it starts up again. Not to worry. Somehow I have an idea that that 1948 boiler doesn't owe you anything, and may be costing you a lot in terms of efficiency, or lack of efficiency!

### All of which

@ December 17, 2008 2:34 PM in A comedy of errors

is why I ride Amtrak whenever possible. As a Pullman porter (remember them?) said once: If you've got trouble on a train, why, there you is -- but if you've got trouble on a plane, why, where is you? Cheer up -- I had to drive to Newark (2 and a half hours each way in the pouring rain) to collect my daughter the other day because Continental cancelled a flight...

### electric wiring

@ December 17, 2008 2:31 PM in Electric space heaters versus steam

nbc is right on -- first thing to do is do as much as you can for the steam system. Which given the situation may not be that much. I would be in serious doubt about the capability of your electrical system, unless it is really up to date -- which seems unlikely. First, it is quite likely that the sockets may not be properly grounded. If they are three prong, get a tester -- they're cheap -- and check. If they're two prong, they're not, or if the tester indicates they're not good, they're not. And not safe with a heater (in my view, at least). Second, check the fusing vs. the wire size. Can't tell you how often I've seen circuits over-fused (typically 20 amp fuses on what should be a 15 amp circuit). If you are in any doubt at all about this, use NO MORE THAN ONE space heater on each circuit (not each plug -- each circuit). Keep all combustibles at least 3 feet from the heaters, no matter what they say. And stay safe.

@ December 15, 2008 4:15 PM in Lead in Domestic Hot Water -- Hot Water Heater?

doesn't mean that someone didn't use lead solder. Unlikely to be the W-M equipment.

### afraid I have to agree with Erik on this one

@ December 14, 2008 8:19 PM in Money savings question

although you may very likely save money on heating fuel, it is quite probable that there will be damage -- possibly mold, almost certainly plaster damage and damage to things like books and wall paper -- in the unheated part of the house. This may not be apparent right away -- plaster damage and mold in particular may take years to show up -- but can be frighteningly expensive to repair, once it has happened.

### fundamentally, Bill

@ December 14, 2008 8:14 PM in no pressure gas fired steam boiler

you are on the right track... sort of. When the boiler fires up, steam is evaporated (boiled). As Nick notes below, 3 ounces is plenty of pressure -- and you'll not see that on any gauge. What happens next, though, is that the steam rushes out to the radiators, displacing the air through the vents (so the bigger the vent, the faster a radiator will heat). When it gets to the radiator, though, it promptly condenses -- heating the radiator. The only time pressure will actually build in a system is once all the radiators are pretty well hot across, and all the vents are closed. Then pressure may build; how fast depends on how much radiator you have vs. how much fire you have (how much steam is being made). It is quite possible in a system which is sized 'just right' that pressure won't build at all! The thing you were missing is the steam condensing in the radiators... It does sound as though improving the venting might help those two slower radiators. It also sounds, though, as though the whole thing may be slightly undersized. You mention a two hour run time. Unless you are recovering from a big setback, or are working with a very cold day out, I wonder a bit whether you are getting enough heat! If a system is just maintaining the house temperature, a properly sized one really shouldn't run more than 30 to 40 minutes every couple of hours...

### particularly

@ December 13, 2008 5:28 PM in New Steam Boiler High-Pitched Whine

if it is an oil burner, the pipe feeding the burner from the tank. Your plumber might not hear it, if it's really high frequency. Some of us older folk don't hear that high anymore... eh? What's that you say?

### Murphy, good buddy...

@ December 8, 2008 8:33 PM in Steam leak

leaking onto the floor is not normal. No way, no how. It is most likely that there is a cracked section in the boiler, and it is almost impossible to fix that -- much better off with a new one. The home inspection chap should have found that; whether you have any recourse or not I wouldn't know -- I'm a building super, not a lawyer! Do post your location and we'll see if there are any pro's in your area -- there might well be.

### I use

@ November 26, 2008 9:09 PM in Cad Drawing

DesignCAD 3D Max 18 -- AutoCAD compatible, 3D, has parametrics for piping if you're into that, a really good library of fittings available... And costs \$99 from www.upperspace.com. I've used it for years, professionaly.

### not sure where you are located, but...

@ November 26, 2008 9:07 PM in Propane, heating oil ...choices?

around here (southern New England) natural gas is about the same as oil and propane is anywhere from two to three times as much, per BTU. My boiler (steam), which is pretty typical, runs on oil at about 84% efficiency; even a top of the line mod-con won't run enough higher to ever recover the cost of the propane!