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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on April 23, 2014

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Recent Posts

condensate return pumping

@ February 7, 2011 11:51 PM in Steam Control

if the condensate return was installed for a reason, then maybe it was done by knuckleheads. probably a messed up installation of the steam coil contributed to the mistaken view that there would not be enough water in the boiler to make adequate steam to fill the pipes and rads without running out of water. that and an increase in system pressure most likely interfered with the normal operation of vents and traps, causing dysfunction. if i am wrong, then thankfully the 2 lwco's you will have on the new one will keep the boiler safe!
if you look at the original plans you will see how well thought out the mechanical systems were in those days. people  [especially new building owners!!] would not have tolerated anything less than perfect temperature control. don't let the present condition of deferred maintenance affect the plans for the future renovations, except to improve, and return the systems to their original condition!
good luck in explaining all of this to members of some government department!!--nbc

electrolytic corrosion

@ February 7, 2011 10:53 AM in Dirty Boiler water

when copper and iron/steel are threaded together, and in the presence of water, a small current is generated which can remove the iron molecules, especially when the iron is galvanised. the dirty water may be rust particles which have been "liberated"  by this electro-chemical reaction.
that is why plumbers use a dielectric fitting which isolates each side from the other. various university studies have proved both sides of the electrolysis/corrosion argument, and now the standard practise is to isolate each material using a brass fitting, as the dielectrics are prone to leaking.
the real problem with copper on headers is that of the higher coefficient of expansion, which can put undue stress on the boiler sections. your piping seems not to follow the standards which are required by the mfg's installation requirements, and so when you correct it, be sure to use iron pipe.
can you turn off your auto-fill, and observe how long it takes for the boiler to need water?--nbc

spud removal

@ February 7, 2011 10:37 AM in Trying to remove radiator spud

have a look at the threads on the new spud, which you are going to install; and i think you can see that it follows the usual righty-tighty, lefty-loosey of all plumbing threads, except for the threaded nipples on certain radiator sections, which have different handed threads on each end. therefore turning the nipple draws the sections together.--nbc

correcting bad install

@ February 7, 2011 9:43 AM in Bad replacement install

the only thing you can do in this case is to give them a price altogether for :
1.repiping the boiler per the installation manual. plus
2.adding adequate main venting to the end of main [is it counterflow?]. plus
3.insulating the piping.
download the manual, and let them see for themselves.
trying to plug burners etc. will always be a gamble.
if they do not want to pay, then so be it. it is possible they could insulate the pipes themselves, and save a bit.--nbc

2 boiler piping

@ February 6, 2011 8:10 PM in Sizing steam header

i notice that burnham piping arrangement shows no hartford loop, and i wonder if that is a sort of typo.
maybe a gifford loop would control the waterline in the inactive boiler, as it decouples it from the pressure-rising in the return.--nbc

dirty water

@ February 6, 2011 12:06 AM in Dirty Boiler water

when the tech comes back, he should clean the pigtail under the pressuretrol, as i think it has become blocked, resulting in  a drastic rise in pressure.
as you must have an auto-fill device, ask the tech to close it off and show you how to turn it on, when needed. with your current problems, the boiler will be over-filling frequently.
cleaning the boiler is very important, and you may need more cleaning than the one draining you had at first. skimming may be needed to remove any oils from the top of the boiler water.--nbc

or this method......

@ February 5, 2011 8:39 PM in Multilple Main Vents

install a good low-pressure gauge, [ 0-2 psi].   as the system starts from cold, and air begins to escape, the correct amount of venting on the mains will show a very low back-pressure of about 2 ounces. when the main vents have closed, then the air is escaping through the radiator vents and the pressure should be a little higher.--nbc

mysterious water disappearance

@ February 5, 2011 10:03 AM in Boiler needs constant refilling

where could it be going? can you see steam coming out your chimney, when the boiler is firing?
can you switch it off, and let it cool, then overfill well above the top of the boiler, and look for leaks into the firebox?
are there any buried returns which could have sprung a hidden leak?--nbc

2pipe vents

@ February 5, 2011 9:20 AM in Vents on indirect radiators, time to replace?

normally, a 2-pipe system has traps to remove the air, and allow the steam in. maybe you can draw a diagram of the piping layout.
the small diameter of the supply pipes i see may indicate a low-pressure vapor system, and these had various means of venting. in short, your vents are looking tired, but i am not sure they are in the right place.--nbc

pressuretrol problems

@ February 5, 2011 9:05 AM in Wild cycle, roasted tenant is good on a cold day.

try measuring the pressure both with and without the snubbers. i think the snubbers may increase the response time to any very low-pressure reading, and that may affect the apparent sensitivity of the pressuretrol. otherwise a new vaporstat should be on your list soon. i am certainly of little faith when it comes to pressuretrols, as the one supplied with my new boiler, failed in a week, in such a way as to allow the pressure to go up to the 2nd pressuretrol cut-out of 10 psi!
if there are still pockets of air in the returns, at shutdown, these will expand into the vacuum formed, and will slow down the drop to negative pressure. these pockets in my system,would be in the dry returns, downstream of the vents.--nbc

zone control needed for small bldg?

@ February 5, 2011 12:17 AM in Steam Control

for that size building, all that is needed to heat the building evenly, and economically. is a single zone system. remember that the fuel used to recover temperature often equals that fuel which is not burnt during the setback. if you had a larger building, then maybe a zoned system would benefit. more likely a dual boiler system would be better.
do a search here for boilerpro's excellent treatise on sizing steam boilers. you may find that 2 boilers, with staged firing would give you the control you need.--nbc

heating the basement

@ February 5, 2011 12:08 AM in Basement Heating?

how cold is your basement without heating?--nbc

15,000 sq/ft upgrade

@ February 3, 2011 8:01 PM in Steam Control

i think you are right to keep the steam, and i am sure that i speak for all here when i say thank you for your complimentary remarks; however it is the cumulative years of experience, and enthusiasm which really solves problems, and answers questions here.
certainly, you must measure your edr, before selecting the replacement boiler. as you noted, there will be quite a difference between the capacity of a steam boiler, and the heat lost by the structure; however, if you measured the therms of gas burnt during heating, those figures would be closer.
the secret to effective, and comfortable steam heating with radiators is good main venting, at low pressure-a few ounces or so, attainable only with a vaporstat, monitored by a 0-15 ounce gauge.
is this building one floor or several? i would try to do without any sort of condensate pump or the like as it introduces the element of mechanical frailty into the system. my own 1,050,000 btu , 55 rad system on 3 floors is all gravity, and i can run it on a ups if the power goes down. most modern sectional boilers are designed to have enough water to fill the system with steam, without running dry, as long as there is no restriction in the return piping.
as far as control systems go, there is probably some steam boiler control from tekmar, which is internet-capable, but why bother? --nbc

boiler control

@ February 3, 2011 5:15 PM in Getting my cycles correct

i am using a honeywell visionpro thermostat, with a remote sensor in the coldest apartment bedroom. the main unit is in my area, so i have exclusive control, over my 55 radiators.
if you have been reading posts here for a while, you will know that there is general agreement that night setback is not economical, as the boiler burns so much fuel to recover, although this model does have that feature. look at the specs on honeywells website, or on pex supply, and see if it's right for you.--nbc

1-pipe problems

@ February 3, 2011 11:50 AM in Short Cycle Problem

if you have a 15 ounce gauge, you can see from the back-pressure during main-venting whether the total main-venting is adequate or not. aim for 2 ounces at a minimum. the low back-pressure enables the mains to fill first, and then the risers will all fill evenly, although with perhaps with a higher back-pressure because of their smaller vents.--nbc

leak detection

@ February 3, 2011 11:42 AM in Hole in the boiler

can you see excessive steam coming out of your chimney?
the other method of detecting a leak is to over-fill the boiler, well above the top and watch for signs of a leak over a period of a few hours.
even that 0-15 psi gauge is not very sensitive at seeing the low pressures needed for steam. i suggest, a 0-3 psi, from the gaugestore .com.--nbc 

band-aid for leaking pipe?

@ February 3, 2011 10:42 AM in Is there a wrap that works for leaking steam elbow?

get out your sawsall, and pipe wrench as probably, it is best to fix it right once and for all.
what is the maximum pressure this system gets up to? if the pressuretrol is running wild, some joints will leak, so turning down the pressure to 1.5 psi max might reduce the problem. for other joints of the same age. you will not be able to see much with the standard 0-30 psi gauge, so get a 0-3 psi from, and you will know what the exact pressure is, and be able to protect the other old joints in the system!
how much make-up water has been being added to this boiler? too much will kill the boiler with the excessive oxygen of the fresh water.--nbc

low pressure gauge

@ February 1, 2011 8:31 PM in uneven heating

 it is wika, but make sure it is 0-15 ounce, not inches of water.--nbc

source for vaporstats

@ February 1, 2011 12:47 PM in found two vaporstats which to buy?

try patriot supply, and go for the L408J1009 --nbc

used vaporstats

@ February 1, 2011 11:02 AM in found two vaporstats which to buy?

if they are not "new in the box" from a real supply company, then i would buy at least two so you will be more likely to have at least one which sort of works. have a look at pex supply for new.--nbc

temperature tell-tale

@ February 1, 2011 8:34 AM in G O R T O N # 2

maybe the gorton could have a transparent back with some sort of visible pointer, then one could see when the vent had closed.--nbc

main vent selection

@ February 1, 2011 8:31 AM in uneven heating

for a start, i would put the maid o mists on the shortest run and a couple of gorton # 2's on the longest run. a good low pressure gauge [ ounce] would show you the back-pressure during venting which should be 2 ounces at most. after you have made the venting changes, you may still need more on the shorter run, because i don't think the maid o mists are very capacious. remember, you can never have too much main venting. ironically, steam travels quickest at low pressures in the post venting stage, so the gauge would show you the steaming pressure as well.
when you are sure that the horizontal mains are venting as quickly as possible, then you could change the radiator vents to something slower like the hoffmans, reserving any larger ones for top floor radiators.--nbc