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The Wall
nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on September 1, 2014

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Recent Posts

skimming methods

@ September 10, 2009 11:51 AM in Skimming this weekend

i would fill it up to the top today, and then let it drip out tomorrow, or the w/e. if you can pipe the discharge over to a floor drain, it is sooo much easier.
the manufacturer of your boiler may have specific recommendations as to procedure. for instance peerless specifies the use of arm and hammer washing soda, and a little simmering. when i did mine, i added the washing soda, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. then while simmering, i added  makeup water very slowly. finally cut the burner off, and continued adding water for a few hours, all made easier by a temporary connection to the floor drain.-nbc

mini-split a/c

@ September 10, 2009 11:25 AM in Replace radiators w/ forced air?

yes,have a look at the mfgs site..nbc

heating system choices

@ September 10, 2009 9:38 AM in Replace radiators w/ forced air?

is the present system steam, or hot water? if i were you i would keep the present system  [thoroughly checked out and maintained]. forced air is always going to be less efficient than hydronics at putting the heat where you want it.
however, i understand the need for air conditioning, and so i would suggest this sort of "mini-split" system:
or this

the great outdoors

@ September 8, 2009 7:48 AM in I didn't think they could do it

everyone can benefit from the 40 days in the wilderness.
"watched an Eagle steal a nice salmon from an Osprey"
that was the sort of behaviour which caused Benjamin franklin to be disappointed in the choice of eagle as our national symbol. his choice of a more noble bird........the turkey!!-nbc

getting to know about steam

@ September 6, 2009 10:58 PM in Reaching out for help:

i don't know whether you have a steam system yourself; but working on a system with some problems can be a real eyeopener. studying dan's books will also be helpful.
could you volunteer as a steam troubleshooter for maybe a church or public housing project? if you have the right problems, and a real interest in steam heating; you will learn pretty quickly.--nbc

vaporstat selection

@ September 3, 2009 6:04 PM in sizing for new boiler

i think that having a vaporstat is not merely an advantage but almost a necessity, as these systems only work really well at low pressures [with generous main venting].
do a search here for "vaporstat" and the correct honeywell part number will be found. i think the key is "break on rise" 0-16 oz.--nbc

hot water from steam boiler

@ September 3, 2009 8:06 AM in Need 2 boilers?

does the smith have enough reserve capacity, beyond the needs of the radiators and piping for making hot water? a hotel probably has larger hot water needs than say an apartment building-especially if they have a restaurant, and do their own linen washing.
is the dhw boiler completely shot? i would do some  calculations of hot water consumption, before removing it. it could be junked later when you know it is not needed. i would think there could be some advantages in keeping dhw production separate from heating in a heavy use situation. so just "slide it out of the way" until you are certain it won't be needed!--nbc

aging steamer

@ September 3, 2009 7:53 AM in sizing for new boiler

i don't suppose the original owner of the building would have tolerated any heating imbalance in his new building when it was built, therefore i assume this system worked well at some long ago point, with properly sized [and working]  radiators in every area.
check your main vents, as it seems as if the steam is not arriving at all radiators simultaneously, and a new boiler will be no better until this is corrected. are there sags in the piping keeping the steam from flowing freely?
when you put in the new boiler, don't waste any money on a pressuretrol, get a vaporstat. if a pressuretrol comes with the new boiler, it can be used to hold open the manufacturers installation book, while you follow  them without deviation. afterwards, when painted with gold paint, the pressuretrol makes a unique christmas tree decoration for one of your "favorite" relations.
others will be better quailified to advise on boiler size [all i can say is that it matters]. this may be an application for 2-stage firing controlled by a second vaporstat.--nbc

time to visit the boiler

@ September 3, 2009 7:35 AM in Gurgling Radiator but it ain't on

have a look at the boiler when you hear the noise. if it makes domestic hot water as well for the house, it may be firing too hot. i also would suggest turning the boiler on at the thermostat to see whether the noise appears. observation of these systems is the first step in any repair or maintainance.--nbc

mysterious radiator noise

@ September 2, 2009 7:51 AM in Gurgling Radiator but it ain't on

what type of system is this radiator on, and does it make hot-water?
the controls should prevent it from steaming, if it is only making hot water.
during these episodes of gurgling, what is the boiler doing?
is the noise really coming from the radiator, or only heard there?--nbc

1-pipe steam water hammer

@ September 2, 2009 7:43 AM in Water Hammer

check your main vents for operation, and you may need to increase their number, and capacity. in my experience, the radiator vents do not plug up as quickly as the [maybe improperly installed] main vents. start with those first, and just test trhe radiator vents with the "blow-through" method. also the radiator vents only have capacity to handle the air removal of the riser and radiator, leaving the main vents to handle the large volume of air in the boiler, and main steam lines. don't be paying for extra fuel to squeeezze your air out-let it leave easily on it's own through generous MAIN-LINE VENTS!!! 
did you have water-hammer last season? if it has suddenly appeared, then check your steam pressure with a good low pressure gauge [ ounces ] on the same pigtail as your vaporstat. make sure the system is in the 3-12 ounce range for quickest response. your pigtail may have become clogged, and unable to let the vaporstat "feel" the boiler pressure.
if the waterlogged radiator condition persists even with proper low pressure and venting, then look at your boiler water-line: is it steady, and clean? check your near boiler piping and compare it to the downloaded mfgs's installation in structions.--nbc

church steam system

@ August 31, 2009 10:00 PM in Radiator Covers

is the system functioning well now? some insulation board between the radiators, and the outside wall might help. if you change to hot water heat unnecessarily, instead of making the steam work as well as it no doubt once did, it might be a shame, or at the very least a waste of money. many radiators have been recessed into walls [probably insulated with blankets in those days] and worked well as long as the airflow was not obstructed. new hot water radiators of the equivalent btu will be much larger, and the cost of new boiler, piping, and radiators, may take many sundays to pay for.
more important in the quest for greater economy of operation would be to keep things in good repair and adjustment.--nbc


@ August 31, 2009 5:07 AM in Steam Heater that won't turn off

i forgot to mention in my previous post that you can turn off the radiators by turning the hoffman #40 upside down [as a temporary solution only]. be careful to turn it only 180 deg, so as not to loosen the threads.
an achieveable  goal for your landlady would be: get the system functioning as it originally did. that would mean making sure that the steam arrives at all the radiators on a given floor at almost the same time, once the control has determined a need for heat. in addition the control should react properly with steam, and not "run over" beyond the set-point, causing everyone to boil in some areas or freeze in others. this may cost the equivalent of a few  months worth of fuel, but would save a LOT of  money, especially in your climate!
the person who has responded to you in your area is one of the most knowlegeable, and thoughtful contributors here on the subject of steam heat. it seems to me that whoever up to now has been maintaining this system has not kept it working as it should: quiet, even, comfortable, and economical.--nbc

overheating steam systemm

@ August 30, 2009 12:21 PM in Steam Heater that won't turn off

this would be a good application for thermostatic radiator VENTS, which would keep the steam from entering the radiator if the room were already too hot, and save money as well.
has the system been serviced on a regular basis? it could reduce  fuel consumption by as much as 1/3rd, if it were functioning as well as it once did when first installed, all those years ago. the owners then would not have tolerated overheating at that time. the difference is that there are fewer "steam professionals"  around to keep things in order. luckily you have arrived at this site where there is a good stock of professional steam advice, and answers.
why not order a copy of "the lost art of steam heating" fro the shop here, and it will explain many things about steam heat in a simple, easy to understand way. you will then be able to diagnose some problems, so that the professional can then know where to start with repairs or adjustments.
as steamhead has wisely said, pictures are worth a thousand words.--nbc

heating conundrum-owners in a quandry

@ August 27, 2009 10:56 PM in Heating Quandrum

it seems that your basement is the only part being heated by electricity-is that right?
if so for your $1k, you would get a bigger bang for the buck by minimizing heat loss. recycling the heat from the dryer could be a possibility, instead of blowing it all outside! making sure the thermostat was set right [anticipation,etc.] would be very important.
usually basements are lower heat loss areas than elsewhere in the house.--nbc

how did he do it??

@ August 25, 2009 10:05 PM in New floor, now radiator too high

if you can, when you have solved the problem, post some pix of the radiator height problem and its solution!!  many others will have this sort of problem, and your experiences will be invaluable on this site!!--thank you--nbc

no vents

@ August 25, 2009 4:03 PM in 2 stage gas burner

that must be an old system! when first installed, the coal fire was  set up at the beginning of cold weather, and burned more or less continuously throughout the winter. therefore there was no need to deal with air removal repeatedly everytime the burner kicks on, because, this fire never went off!. when the fire was at its lowest, in the early morning there would have been some steam still in the radiators, even though at negligeable pressure.
now that your system has been "modernized" beyond the coal stage, you will have to find a way to put main vents in. is it counter-flow or parallel? there will be a noticeable improvement when you get adequate venting on board.--nbc

radiator height adjustment

@ August 25, 2009 10:14 AM in New floor, now radiator too high

if you have access to the riser below,can you put in a longer nipple, or even unscrew it a bit? sometimes there is enough give in the pipes to lever the valve up that sort of short distance. you may have to adjust the elbows, or a pipe hanger underneath.--nbc

2-stage burner control

@ August 25, 2009 8:21 AM in 2 stage gas burner

the only way i know how this can be done is with a second vaporstat. firing from cold, the burner operates at high fire until the second vaporstat determines the set interim pressure has been achieved [3 oz?]. then the burner drops to low fire, and if the pressure can be maintained, stays at that firing rate.  usually the burner will be cycling back and forth, high-low fire.
usually the valves are designed to give 100/75 % gas. surely this will save fuel as it favors running the burner for longer periods of time at lower rates, once the pick-up factor has been reached,  all the pipes have been warmed up, and the air is out of the system, etc..--nbc

email addr.

@ August 23, 2009 7:43 PM in dan can you help?

i believe it is in that posting. isn't this it:
Author: HT in Pa (

dan can you help?

@ August 23, 2009 6:40 PM in dan can you help?

this gentleman is having trouble logging on and may need help:

Conference:'s The Wall
Forum: The Wall (For General Questions)
Topic: Rewire aquastat for cold start?

Date: August 22, 2009 10:49 PM
Author: HT in Pa (
Subject: How to find new forum?

Nicholas, or anyone who might read this. I still connot get to the new and improved (the wall) forum. Appreciate any help. thanks


oval chimney liner

@ August 21, 2009 8:49 AM in Venting Steam Boiler through side of house

would this work?--nbc