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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on August 20, 2014

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a real reinvention of steam heating

@ March 4, 2011 11:28 PM in New steam mini tube system installed in my own house. (Iron Fireman style)

hats off to you for this most succesful experiment!!
could a system vacuum be of benefit here?--nbc

maybe this will be a solution!

@ March 4, 2011 5:29 PM in Change Existing Forced Air To Hydronic Heat With Baseboards

show this thread to your boilerman:

restoring old heating system

@ March 4, 2011 11:48 AM in Change Existing Forced Air To Hydronic Heat With Baseboards

probably, your old house once had radiators and pipes as its original heating system, so there are probably already the piping routes just waiting to be reused [except the attic]. modern radiators for hot water do not have the bulk of the originals, but would work well for hot water.
the hot water system would be more controllable, and the new ductless mini-splits by mitsubishi, fujitsu,  [and others] are more controllable as each one would handle several rooms which could be set individually, unlike a central system, where it is all or nothing.
perhaps jaimie can add something here on the reaction of various musical instruments to the hydronic as opposed to the scorched air environment. 
please keep us informed as this project evolves, as i am sure many people are in the same boat.--nbc

plummmmer ignores nonfuctioning boiler control

@ March 4, 2011 8:13 AM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

this like the mechanic saying,"i knew your tires were leaking, so i put more air in them to compensate". what other parts of your boiler has he neglected---pressure relief valve?
to test the pressuretrol, you need an accurate gauge, whose range spans the pressuretrol range, as the 0-30 psi gauge is just not accurate enough. then you can observe the action [or inaction] of the pressuretrol.
if the pressuretrol is not shutting down the boiler at the cutout, it may be due to a clogged pigtail, which should have been checked, and cleaned by the plummmmer.
if the pressuretrol is mechanically broken, then consider replacing it with a 0-16 ounce  vaporstat, so that you are not paying for extra gas to over-pressure the system.--nbc

swapping radiators

@ March 4, 2011 7:58 AM in Several questions on my steam system

that sounds like the best solution. remember that if the steam shutoff valves are not the same on both radiators, that you will need to change the spud, or the valve itself. the spud and the valve are part of a set and must be kept togerther.--nbc


@ March 4, 2011 1:07 AM in Could someone verify my thermostat theory?

what make of control is now controlling your building? is it possible that it once had an indoor sensor, which has now been lost?
with the price of gas, and the great possibility for waste, the installation of a proper control system, supported by a current mfg should be on your list for your "adopted child". when you say the apartments are overheated, can you estimate how much gas has been wasted?  i suspect that the changeover to an effective control would save enough fuel to pay for the control in a few months! if the budget is very limited, a honeywell visionpro, or tekmar thermostat would at least monitor the inside temperature.
while you are deciding what to do about the control system, why not check out the rest of the system, as far as main venting, over-pressure, and pipe insulation.--nbc

radiator crack

@ March 3, 2011 8:21 PM in Several questions on my steam system

that is more drastic than i expected. maybe some jb weld would close it up for a short term repair, but probably it will need replacing. the radiator valve will probably also need replacing, unless you can remove the spud without damage, and reuse it in the replacement radiator.
if there are any scrap yards in your area, let them know that you are looking for a radiator. some steam/hydronics companies keep old ones on hand but would likely expect to be paid to do the installation [maybe not such a bad idea in your case].--nbc

broken vent and radiator

@ March 3, 2011 3:29 PM in Several questions on my steam system

can you show us a picture of the broken radiator? i would think, that the hole could be drilled out to the next larger size, tapped for the external diameter of  a bushing put in, whose internal size is the 1/8 in. needed for the new vent. when you use a tap on the radiator, use care not to go in crooked, so as not to put more stress on the radiator walls. perhaps a bit of practice on some other bit of metal will give you the experience you need.
you would find it helpful to have a copy of "the lost art of steaming" from the shop here in order to understand better the principles of operation, and terminology of steam heat.
the needed main vent will need to be beyond the last radiator on the line, which in a counter flow system is at the end; and in a parallel flow system would be close to the boiler on the dry return. surely there should be some previous location, now capped/plugged.
when you experience the water-hammer, can you tell if it was in the pipe, or the radiator, and beginning, or end of cycle?--nbc

dan's trip to iceland & ish2011

@ March 3, 2011 7:18 AM in dan's trip to iceland & ish2011

dan sez:  " Oh, and I'll be stopping in Iceland on the way back to check out their geothermal plants. All their heating comes right out of the ground. Imagine that"
why that's nothing. our heating comes out of the ground too!--nbc.

vaporstat vs pressuretrol

@ March 3, 2011 6:58 AM in Near Boiler Piping??

maybe there would be less potential for confusion if you specified the pressure to be no more than 6 ounces, controlled by a 0-16 ounce vaporstat mounted higher than the skimming-waterline height, and verified by a 0-15 ounce gauge. as far as price difference is concerned, go to the pex supply website, and compare the prices of pressuretrol, and vaporstat. since there is little difference between the price of a gorton #1 and #2, i would use the maximum amount of venting possible. --nbc

steam issues

@ March 3, 2011 12:59 AM in 2types of radiators in the same house?

don't worry about those steam problems, as we will help you fix them one by one, starting with main venting!--nbc

removing the immovable plug

@ March 3, 2011 12:40 AM in boiler experts -removing plug from boiler block

wasn't there a procedure involving melting paraffin onto the plug before removal?
has that now fallen out of favor, or did it not work?--nbc 

ny vapor system

@ March 2, 2011 7:45 PM in Pounds or Ounces

definitely ounces, so a 16 oz vaporstat will be needed, along with our favorite gauge [ 0-15 ounce]. keep the useless 0-30 psi gauge on the boiler, as it is required by code.
the device on the end of the return must be a main vent of some sort, and it may well not work at pressures more than 6 oz. does it seem to work before the pressure gets up there? it may contain a check valve within to maintain a vacuum. that may have to be defeated so that the vacuum can be relieved.--nbc

shop vac for return

@ March 2, 2011 7:38 PM in One pipe steam heating system condensate return.

jaimie is right as usual, and very right in this case. this line has most likely sagged, causing a pool of condensate, which is preventing the air from escaping in front of the steam, or the main vent on this line is closed due to over-pressure, with the same result.
check your pressure with a good low-pressure gauge [ psi]. try to get the pressure down to 1.5 psi [basic functionality], or 8 ounces [vaporstat needed for economy and comfort].
if you would like even more economy and reliability, try to cut that condensate tank out of the return and go with gravity. there are not many situations where you really need any sort of pump like that, and it is a service liability.--nbc

condensate temperature sensor missing?

@ March 2, 2011 1:24 PM in To use or not use the temperature sensor on the return?

without some sort of "steam established" sensor, how will the controller know when to start timing the burn?--nbc

steam control experiment

@ March 2, 2011 1:08 PM in To use or not use the temperature sensor on the return?

i will certainly be interested in the results of your experiment. was this controller removed from a demolished building, or was there some other reason for its retirement? is this a home-brewed device, or from some current mfg?
i presume that this controller uses the usual method of establishing the run-time for the boiler, based on outside temperature; and starting the timing of the duration of the burn when the condensate sensor has detected the proper temperature in the return pipe.  you say that the clock is missing, but hopefully that is not the burn timer.--nbc

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