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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on August 21, 2014

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Recent Posts

steam gauge

@ March 5, 2009 12:19 PM in Low Pressure Steam Gauges

i got a wika 0-15 oz. gauge, and when it is mounted on the pigtail, or "syphon tube" it is protected from the temperature of the steam. conventional pressure gauges have an "internal syphon", which is convenient for the gauge mfg. as it seems to plug up requiring replacement. the code requires the orig 0-30 psi gauge to remain on the boiler, but it is useless for our purposes. if they would advertise here they could sell a lot of gauges!--nbc

tub taps

@ March 5, 2009 12:02 PM in Is there a Old faucet questions. maybe something here--nbc

sight-glass leaking

@ March 5, 2009 11:27 AM in Water Leaking from Glass Tube

if you have a pro help you with this, have him check the pressure on your system, as the increase of the leak while "heating up" may indicate over-pressure. it should be as low as it can go-under 1 psi is ideal.--nbc

low pressure gauge

@ March 5, 2009 11:22 AM in Low Pressure Steam Gauges

i found the best selection at mine is 0-15 ounces, ideal foe steam heating systems. i mounted it on the same pigtail as my vaporstat. if you have no vaporstat, and think your pressure may be higher, ask them how much over-pressure the gauge can stand without permanent dammage. my system cuts in at 3 ounces, and cuts out at 10 ounces. be sure to mention that you heard about them on they will advertise here!--nbc

the new green

@ March 5, 2009 10:30 AM in Yellow is the New Green

when i visited the Bitish Virgin Islands, the public toilets had nice little hand-written signs.... if it's yellow.. let it mellow.. if it's brown.. flush it down...! --nbc

leaking returns

@ March 5, 2009 9:05 AM in Steam Returns

what about rigid, or flexible copper tubing? just make sure it is well under the waterline.--nbc

leaking sight glass

@ March 5, 2009 9:00 AM in Water Leaking from Glass Tube

i doubt that condensation could be causing moisture to form on the sight-glass on your BOILER. from time to time, the rubber washers on the top and bottom of the glass tube will get hard and leak. however the cure is to close both valves [gauge-cocks] and unscrew the nuts holding them in place. the tube can then be removed and new washers put on. however, you say that you have closed the gauge-cocks and still it leaks. that would make the changing of the washers a job for a pro, and should include replacing the gauge-cocks as well. those gauge-cocks should be left open so that the water level can be seen. if you have to operate like this, then be absolutely certain that your low water cut off is working! some times the nuts can be tightened, to stop the leaking, but there is a risk of breaking the tube, and if your gauge-cocks don't work, you will have no water in the boiler, only on the floor! post a picture of the leak and maybe there is some other solution.nbc

american standard

@ March 5, 2009 8:24 AM in Is there a Old faucet questions.

what a pretty old tub faucet, although probably non-code complying in rsgard to the placement of the spout. does it have removable valve seats, which someone could adapt from some other model? alternatively, a listing could be placed on e-bay with a very high reserve, and identified as "looking for this", instead of "for sale"--nbc


@ March 4, 2009 4:24 PM in Mechanics of Short Cycling

i think most of the back pressure, causing excessive short-cycling in steam systems, is due to ineffective main venting. if you have enough venting to let the air out, then the steam will be in the radiation quickly condensing and reducing the system pressure. on the other hand, if venting is so small, that the steam pressure is trying to squeeeeze the air out through constipated little openings, and therefore short-cycles more as it is just on the edge of the cut-out pressure. not sure whether i was as clear on my theory as i like to be-maybe i will think of an automobile simile later--nbc

the big oicture

@ March 4, 2009 10:11 AM in New Steam Boiler, many new problems...

somehow your post now has a decent size to it. the picture is embedded in the text, and of a good size for the old eyes who are looking here! glad you got your problems solved! were you able to get the original installer to redo the piping, or did you have to find someone else? one thing home-owners need is a sample contract, spelling out the necessity of proper piping in a boiler installation. some attention needs to be given also to: where does the contract stop in regard to the boiler installer's responsabilities with hidden pre-existing knuckle-headed problems, such as plugged/missing vents, badly pitched pipes,etc? the other good thing about your story, is that you are now willing to share your newly acquired steam diagnostic skills with others. this certainly the case with many who visit here, including myself, and the "star" Rod[and many others-thanks to all]. now if we could just get washington, and the UN to work along the same lines.--nbc


@ March 4, 2009 8:47 AM in Optimal Heat Transfer from Radiators

for checking the speed of steam arrival, melting butter never lies! just make sure the butter pats, and plates are all the same size, and temp when you start. all the butter should go liquid at the same time. don't worry about the temp for now, it's the steam arrival time you are most concerned with here. don't forget the toast to have when you are finished!--nbc

leaking vent

@ March 4, 2009 8:38 AM in Steam Furnace

if i were in your place, i would make sure there was only pure water in the boiler-no cleaner. so do some more skimming, and then drain, and replace all the left-over water. next i would get a good low pressure gauge and verify my pressure to be as low as possible-under 16 ounces. unfortunately, standard pressuretrols are often inaccurate at the necessary low pressure settings, so you probably will need a vaporstat. finally i would get some new main vents-the bigger the gortons, the better on the dry returns[protected against water-hammer]. if any water spitting issues remain, then check your piping for slope, and conformity with the mfg's piping layout for your model boiler.--nbc

au contraire

@ March 3, 2009 6:18 PM in Optimal Heat Transfer from Radiators

if you have really measured a radiator surface temperature of 220 deg, the pressure would be set too high. i think that the surface temperature should be no more than about 215 deg at each rad, and ALL EQUAL [sounds like some of yours are more equal than others]. use the melting butter test with a helper to establish whether they all get equally hot at the same time. get a copy of dan's "the lost art of steam heating here and look at the chapter dealing with 2-pipe systems. i think the steam arrival at different rads is varying too much, possibly due to venting problems coupled with high pressure[some 2-pipe sytems work at 2 ounces!]--nbc

spitting valves

@ March 3, 2009 4:30 PM in Spitting thermostatic radiator valves

maybe moving the gorton d's to the top floor would even things out. it does sound as if the main venting could do with an increase in capacity.--nbc

smarts ain't cheap!

@ March 3, 2009 12:49 PM in Steam rated home thermostat - where?

download the user/installer manual, and you will see how sophisticated it is. it's probaly overkill for a single family house. in mine i put the honeywell visionpro with remote indoor sensor [1/4 th the cost] in a cold room, and keep the temp at a constant 67 deg. the colder location acts a bit like the outdoor sensor of the tekmar.--nbc

spitting trv's

@ March 3, 2009 12:41 PM in Spitting thermostatic radiator valves

i would concentrate on balancing the system so the trv's can be put on the shelf, or sent back to the supplier. here is the list of things to do in order of importance: 1.check your pressure, and make it 12 ounces or less! a vaporstat, and low pressure gauge may be a necessary, but worthwhile investment. your pigtail may be plugged right now and unable to "feel" the pressure. 2.check your venting on the basement steam lines, and double their capacity, so that steam arrives at the mains a few minutes after the boiler begins to steam- again a very worthwhile investment. 3.examine the difference between the radiator vents on the 3rd 4th floors. the 3rd floor vents must have more capacity than the 4th, but you want it the other way round!if the vents are the same you may have to put bigger gortons on the top floor to get the steam up the risers as quickly as possible. 4. if after this you have a problem with one radiator, then use a trv on that. i view them as band-aids, only to be used where all other efforts have failed, but they are NOT a substitute for proper function. an analogy would be oiling dragging brakes instead of fixing them. 5.check your thermostat location and anticipation. don't automatically think that setback will save any fuel, until the other problems are resolved. these old steam systems can be suprisingly..quiet...even...economical, in spite of prevailing opinion, as long as they are kept in tune!--nbc

more thermostat thoughts

@ March 3, 2009 10:28 AM in Steam rated home thermostat - where?

look at the tekmar 279, i think it has a moderate bit of intelligence. it's about time some manufacturer developed a thermostat which interfaces with a pc, instead of having poorly designed menu driven setup features.--nbc

steam thermostat

@ March 3, 2009 8:07 AM in Steam rated home thermostat - where?

start with honeywell/white rogers. if you do not need night setback, [many find that setback does not save fuel], then the h/well hockey puck,IF LISTED FOR STEAM on the box to be as good as any. a series of dip switches set the t-stat for various heating configurations. t-stat location deserves some consideration too.--nbc

boiler replacement

@ March 3, 2009 7:55 AM in Chicago 3-flat, Steam boiler - replacement or alternatives?

i am sure you have many things to think about with the immenent replacement of your boiler, but i would like to add that a gravity return system is always my preference. an auto-fill/condensate pump can be a source of trouble later. it can often mask other problems such as leaks, and will make them worse. my system is 3 times the capacity of yours, with 54 radiators, and no pump. i did have to extend the water capacity slightly, but nothing is powered, and can easily be disconnected from the system. as a result, i can have a battery-backup running the system the next time a tree limb hits the powerline. why not see if your boiler is still made, or has parts available. your fuel bills may go down enough, so that even without the high efficiency rebate the expence will be easier to bear.--nbc

\"ells\" needed

@ March 2, 2009 8:14 PM in looking for parts

jay writes "Nicholas, I've been struggling with the firewall issues at the shop and cannot seem to respond to the heating helpers. If you could forward any potential suppliers that were disclosed that would be much appreciated. I need 14-1.25" return ells and 2-1.5" return ells. Thanks --Jay--" my email is if you do not receive a quick acknowlegement from jay.

leaking boiler

@ March 2, 2009 7:56 PM in Chicago 3-flat, Steam boiler - replacement or alternatives?

if the leak is below the waterline, there is a possibility that adding...white pepper...oatmeal...flax seed...or commercial stop leak will get you to the end of the winter. during the spring, you will be able to look at the cure. i would consult with a knowlegable steam man locally about the temporary sealing, as it will need a good skimming after adding these ingredients to the mix. without knowing the particulars of your situation, i would guess that you can have new sections put in the old boiler. however, do a radiation study to see if your old boiler was the right size to begin with. as you will read in dan's book, the boiler size is calculated by radiator sizes-NOT building heat loss. assuming it is the right size, when you have it repaired, make sure to get a vaporstat, low pressure gauge and plenty of main line air vents on the steam lines. you will be amazed at the difference in comfort and economy. some thought as to thermostat adjustment/location would be good too. also make sure that the steam piping is correct, and you will never regret your decision to repair rather than replace. in repairing the old boiler, you may also avoid some code required changes which would add to the cost of the installation, such as chimney re-lining.--nbc

leaking boiler

@ March 2, 2009 5:55 PM in Chicago 3-flat, Steam boiler - replacement or alternatives?

if you have a return buried underground, that pipe may be the leaker in this case, and may be able to be repiped above the floor. why not get a copy of "the lost art of steam heating" here and become more knowlegable/able to deal with installers. check the boiler for a leak by over-filling it to the top of the relief valve, and wait for a few hours, to see if water leaks from the boiler sections. as i said it may not be the boiler, but the return piping. my boiler went 35 years before the end so you may have more time left "on the meter". as you get it back up and running-leak fixed,etc. go through the deferred maintainance, and keep the pressure down below 12 ounces, and install plenty of MAIN line air vents. you will be surprised how well these old steam systems can perform, and much of the work can be done by you!--nbc