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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on July 30, 2014

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Recent Posts

raising the pipe

@ March 2, 2011 12:19 PM in Can Steam Gas Pipes be raised higher into ceiling? (see photos)

if you have a copy of "the lost art of steam heating", available from the shop here, it would be easier for you to follow the advice.
is that the only steam main? how many radiators are fed from it. if you can post a diagram of the layout, then we can help.
the point jaimie is making, is that the condensate return may be more easily rerouted along the floor back to the boiler. the main is a bit more challenging to move without disturbing the drainage from each radiator.--nbc

steam control

@ March 1, 2011 3:21 PM in mecanik

what is controlling the system now, and does it work? some steam problems may seem to be control issues but are not.
you can either use a honeywell visionpro thermostat with its remote sensor mounted in an upper northwest room inside wall, with the control in a secure location; or you can install a more sophisticated tekmar 279 which controls the on time based  on outside temperature.
it's important to make sure that there is no deferred maintenance for either system to compensate for. the main venting needs to be capacious to allow the air to escape quickly as the steam is rising. you do not want to pay the gas company for its forced eviction! the pressure should be low. on my 55 rad system 2 ounces is the norm with maybe 8 ounces on a really cold night!  the only benefit to higher pressure is to the gas company! the goal is to get steam into each top floor radiator at the same time.
night set-backs may not save any money, because the fuel burned to raise the temperature may equal the fuel saved at the lower temperature.--nbc

dirty sight glass

@ March 1, 2011 2:33 PM in Steam Boiler Cleaning Issue

sounds like the rust and sediment would be more completely flushed out from the boiler, using the drain valve, at the bottom of the boiler, and if you had a drain valve on the wet return, that could also be drained.
a floor drain would be handy to discharge into for this purpose, otherwise, get a lot of 5 gal buckets.
there are a couple of ways to go about this: every day for a week, after the boiler has been off for a while, to let the rust settle to the bottom; drain the boiler until the water runs clear [auto-fill turned or valved off, until the draining is complete, then back on for the refill]. 
maybe more than a week will be required. the alternative  would be to completely drain the boiler, and refill when cool.
close the stop-cocks, and take the tube out of the sight-glass, and use a small bottle-brush to clean it so you know the results of your labors!
i have a couple of old speaker magnets on the lowest run of my wet return to trap rust particles, but i am not sure how effective that is!--nbc

returns sucking up water

@ March 1, 2011 1:55 PM in Vermont Plumber

are you sure that this happens at shut down? maybe it is the pressure while steaming, which is pushing the water too high in the returns. when you measure the pressure, don't rely on the useless, but unfortunately required 0-30 psi gauge. instead get a good low-pressure gauge [ 0-3 psi].
if this is a problem with unwanted vacuum, then are the main vents working in both directions-air out, and air in? a hoffman vacuum vent looks just like a straight one.
look for any horizontal part of the returns which are at the same height as the boiler waterline, no matter how far upstream. we had such a problem, and it drove us crazy, but when the returns were repiped straight down to the floor, our 55 rad, gravity system now has a constant waterline.--nbc

multi-unit steam control

@ March 1, 2011 12:58 PM in To use or not use the temperature sensor on the return?

i think this control is one which has been recommended by boilerpro of chicago, and maybe a search here will bring up his thoughts on the subject.
this seems to be their website:
do you now have the complete rd steam control system, or only the remnants?
bear in mind that these controls cannot compensate for any lack of venting, over-pressure, or other deferred maintainance. hopefully your new boiler is now skimmed, properly main-vented with a back-pressure of 2 ounces, and a cutout of 12 ounces,  with steam arriving at all the top floor rads simultaneously, and then you can start tuning the control!--nbc

controling spitting radiator

@ March 1, 2011 11:08 AM in spitting steam vaues

i would replace those 2 vents with a hoffman 40 in the lower, and a pipe plug in the lower. some condensate must be collecting in the pipe, maybe in a low spot, and therefore blows out through that float-less vent. keep your pressure as low as possible, and see if there is improvement.--nbc

hot water loop from a steam boiler

@ February 27, 2011 1:16 AM in Adding Heat in Basement

if you look in the shop here you can order a copy of "the lost art of steam heating", and there is a section describing a hot water loop with radiators from a steam boiler. it works well but you have to follow certain steps to enable it to function properly, and not upset the rest of the system.--nbc

my theory too

@ February 26, 2011 7:52 PM in Radiator Valves

yes! put on the most capacious main venting you can buy, and install. you can never have too much.
the larger vents will have a lower air velocity along with back-pressure, and will be less likely to plug up with debris over the course of a few years.--nbc

wiring a vaporstat

@ February 26, 2011 7:47 PM in Vaporstat Not Working

my vaporstat is using the upper and lower terminals like yours. i think the middle terminal makes it into a "make on rise".
if you can take the cover off and actuate the rocking lever at the bottom [with a wood pencil] while firing then you can see if it is cutting off the circuit, and therefore the boiler.
honeywell should really put a tell-tale light on these controls, so it could be readily seen if:
there is power to the control,
if the vaporstat swich is open or closed.
how expensive would that be? and yet so valuable to the owner!!--nbc

baseboard installation

@ February 26, 2011 7:40 PM in one pipe steam radiator

sometimes there can be problems with inadequate heat from mixed baseboard-radiator systems because of the difference in the thermal mass of both. that room may become cold after the switch.--nbc

new boiler discussion

@ February 26, 2011 6:03 PM in Near Boiler Piping??

why not add up now the edr of all your radiators, and size the new boiler to that figure--not the old boiler! get a good low-pressure gauge and 16 oz. vaporstat, as your system may be an old vapor system with no traps, and low pressure is the way to go.--nbc

vaporstat fried?

@ February 26, 2011 1:00 PM in Vaporstat Not Working

did you try bobc's suggestion of actuating the lever inside to see if the switch will cut the power when firing? you don't have the "make on rise model" do you?--nbc

non functioning vaporstat

@ February 26, 2011 11:20 AM in Vaporstat Not Working

i think i had that same problem, with a snubber installed, so i took the snubber off, and all seems well. if the rads are hissing, that would indicate a need for more main venting.--nbc

presuretrol problems

@ February 25, 2011 10:31 PM in Pressuretrol failure?

yes the pigtail can become clogged after a year's inattention; but i think the design is flawed in such a way as to fail when adjusted too low. some of the linkage becomes unhitched and then the pressure can gallop out of bounds. there seems to be no fail-safe, and that's why "they suck so badly" [in the words of others]. they are really only useful for keeping the installation manual open to the right page while you are installing a vaporstat!--nbc

bad trap?

@ February 25, 2011 5:59 PM in A love hate relationship

if you open the bad trap, and remove the insides, then close it back up, will the radiator then work? did you tell us what your pressure was in ounces?--nbc

off again-on again

@ February 25, 2011 4:47 PM in A love hate relationship

could steam in the returns from another bad trap be closing that rad trap down, and preventing it from doing its job?--nbc

backflushing radiators

@ February 25, 2011 2:31 PM in A love hate relationship

here is an earlier thread on the subject. i am not sure about using a vacuum, but i know this works:

redoing the piping oneself

@ February 25, 2011 2:26 PM in Old boiler re-piping?

yes, but of course wait until summer!
the use of a drop header will make it easier to get the header laid out properly, and will make the steam dryer.
there is some sort of procedure described here for the removal of old bushings with melted paraffin wax. do a search and maybe the details of that will pop up. of course that may be more effective while the boiler is still running.--nbc


@ February 25, 2011 2:18 PM in Any Norther NJ steam experts (morris county)

i would look at your pressure while firing, while you are taking those pictures. the non-functioning main vents could most likely be due to over-pressure. you will probably need a good low-pressure gauge from as the code required 0-30 psi gauge is useles for diagnostics.
most 2-pipe systems do not use radiator vents, and most work best on a pressure of less than 1.5 psi [basic functionality], down to 2 onces[economy and comfort].--nbc

good one brad

@ February 24, 2011 10:38 PM in Whistling steam boiler

as always the right words for any occasion-bravo!.--nbc

five pound vapor system

@ February 24, 2011 10:35 PM in Trap Application

if the system is getting up to 5 psi, then that is why the traps are not working, as it is out of their range. get a 16 ounce vaporstat to be sure the pressure is in the range of ounces. also check that the air is escaping with a back-pressure of 2 ounces, using a good low pressure gauge [, 0-15 oz.].--nbc

piping peculiarities

@ February 24, 2011 12:02 PM in One Cold Radiator

have you compared the piping diagram in the installation manual for the boiler with what your piping is now, both in pipe diameters/materials, and riser heights?
from the picture it looks to me as though the riser diameters may have been bushed down as they exit the boiler, and of course copper is certainly not desirable because of its high coefficient of expansion putting undue force on the block.
i think the piping you have now is sending too much water up with the steam, and that is interfering with the venting, and steam distribution in the radiators.
is the hunter thermostat set properly for steam heat? it probably has an anticipator to prevent temperature over-shoot, and if not set right, the thermostat can be satisfied before the radiators are all full of steam.
an additional larger main vent, like a gorton #2 would help to fill the mains full of steam first before it rises up to the radiators above.--nbc