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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on April 20, 2014

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Highly recommended plumber

@ March 15, 2014 10:59 AM in Sight glass "empties" when boiler is firing

All through the year there are pictures of improper installations here, with plenty of problems.
The thing they all have in common is "done by a highly recommended plumber"
And so recommended by whom-neighbor, coworker, fellow church-goer?
Unfortunately, most people wouldn't know if the job was done properly or not, if they have no decrease in in performance from the previous state of operation, "hey, it's steam, what can you expect?"
This situation makes this website even more important for people to visit before the work is done. Also, it makes it more important for qualified installers to register themselves here.--NBC

trap removal

@ March 13, 2014 7:40 PM in General steam trap question

what about using socket wrenches with extension pieces?--NBC

Short bursts of very high pressure

@ March 13, 2014 5:59 PM in pressuretrol psi gauge relationship?

Is your pressuretrol on the same tee as the gauge? If so that would rule out the possibility of a plugged pigtail. I think the linkage on the pressuretrol has become disconnected, and is letting the pressure run up.
There should be some threads on here dealing with pressuretrol repair, if you search.
If your venting is adequate, you should be able to get steam to all the rads with a few ounces of pressure. You may still cut out several times on pressure if the boiler is oversized.--NBC

Fixing Farmers fixes

@ March 13, 2014 12:09 PM in feeding counter flow loops

Show us the pictures, and we'll go from there.
It sounds like bad venting, and resulting cranking up the pressure to compensate would be the first thing., and don't forget to check the thermostat!
Remind them that the initial fine tuning (venting, and pressure adjustment) is best carried out when it's still cold, and the copper pipe removal could be a summer job, along with correcting/dripping the counter flow branches (maybe using the old copper pipe removed from the boiler supplies).
Tell them that the initial improvement they will see from that work is only the beginning, and that the copper needs to be removed for reasons of longevity. If they like visiting scrap yards, tell them to take the scrap copper themselves to sell it. Otherwise they will never know how little it's worth (relatively).
Hope I haven't been preaching to the choir here, as I know from your many contributions here how experienced with steam you are!--NBC

Correcting improper steam piping

@ March 13, 2014 10:34 AM in feeding counter flow loops

What are the symptoms which now cause the home owner to want to correct?
Uneven heat in some areas, cold in others?
Noises water-hammer?
High fuel bills?
Water loss?
Shortened boiler life because of the copper pipe?
All of the above?
If they don't have enough symptoms, they may not know how badly the system is working, and not wish to spend any Monet.
Luckily Peerless has some definite instructions in its Color of Steam book showing exactly how a counter flow main should be piped, and they might benefit from reading that, and the Lost Art of Steam Heating, from here. You don't want to give too much of a description, in case they try to shop your piping program around. I think in one of the threads here is a story of how a steam pro gave detailed repiping instructions as part of a bid, and then the owner shopped the plan out to a cheap knucklehead, who did not follow the instructions. When things didn't work as planned, the owners sued not only the knucklehead, but also the steam pro!!!--NBC

2 stage controls

@ March 12, 2014 11:43 PM in Stage-fired boiler controls?

I think the wiring needs to accommodate not only the vaporstat connection to the lag boiler, but also the switching of the thermostat (second stage wire) to either boiler.
I am not enough of an electrician to do that, but maybe Jaimie can.
To repeat my control theory, the thermostat has 2 output paths: first stage, and second stage. The first stage will fire first, and most often, and if that lead boiler has trouble keeping up with the heating load, then the thermostat will energize the second stage, and the lag boiler will fire. The lag boiler will have the vaporstat wired in series so that when the low pressure is attained, it will cut off, even though the thermostat second stage calls for heat. Soon after a few pressure cycles, the thermostat 2 stage will be satisfied, and the system will be fed with steam from the lead boiler (still running) at sub atmospheric pressures.
In order to switch either boiler from lead to lag, and vice versa, needs some fancy wiring, and yet would be good to do as you don't know which one to choose for either job. Just make sure that the vaporstat is on the second stage output wire from the thermostat, and then connect to some sort of switcher. I don't think a vaporstat is needed on the first stage, because one boiler on its own will not produce any pressure above zero.--NBC

Main vents

@ March 12, 2014 11:22 PM in Not enough heat with new boiler set at low pressure.

I don't have the venting information for all the makes on this computer, so I can't check those Hoffman capacities. You need not only new vents, but also of large capacity. I would put on a Gorton 2 at each location.--NBC

Room by room heat loss?

@ March 12, 2014 6:46 PM in Sizing old cast iron water radiators that froze

Would that be worth the trouble?--NBC

Has she been to the right sites on the internet

@ March 11, 2014 8:29 PM in Converting one pipe steam to hot water!?

Do a search here for mustashian , and you will see a prime example of misinformation on the subject of heating. The internet is a wonderful source of information but like any drug must be used with caution.
The client may have seen the efficiency ratings of mod-con boilers in the range of 90+%, but it is the system efficiency which matters. Get her to come here, and she will soon see the benefits of repairing the system she already has.--NBC

Tweeking the radiator valves

@ March 11, 2014 1:03 PM in Not enough heat with new boiler set at low pressure.

Those valves should be fully open, so that the condensate can drain out underneath the steam.
I think you will find when you get the main vents up to capacity, you will see how the system operated when it was new!--NBC

Yes it is a bandaid

@ March 11, 2014 6:05 AM in Question about two pipe system

Allowing a faulty trap to remain on a system will throw off the balance of the system, and could cause the destruction of other traps in the system. Do you hear any water-hammer?
Get your plumber to fix things rather than using a shortcut to correct only the symptoms rather than the underlying cause.--NBC

Main vents?

@ March 11, 2014 6:01 AM in Not enough heat with new boiler set at low pressure.

You didn't mention the condition of the main vents, which do all the venting work for the system, as opposed to the radiator vents which are sized for the radiators. If the mains are inadequate, then you have been paying for a lot of extra fuel to force the air out of constipated little vents, under high pressure (30%?).
Post some pictures of the main vents, and we can advise some replacements. Keep the pressure low, and make the system work as it did when new.--NBC

Unusual conversion

@ March 10, 2014 11:06 PM in Converting one pipe steam to hot water!?

Is there some reason for your question?
Is the present system not functioning properly?
Any sort of conversion from steam to hot water will require new oiler, pipes, and radiators, to make sure there are no leaks, and that there is enough radiation capacity to heat with cooler water, instead of steam. Let's fix your system as it is.--NBC

Overheated rooms

@ March 10, 2014 11:01 PM in Room heat loss calcs

If this is a building more then 50 years old, which has not been changed,, and has the original radiators, then you can be pretty sure that the radiators were properly sized for the rooms.
If you have had balance problems, then that would be the likely cause of some rooms being overheated.
Take some pictures of the boiler, and your main vents, and we can probably see what the next course of action for you should be.--NBC

New boiler

@ March 10, 2014 8:04 AM in Room heat loss calcs

Are you just checking the existing radiators for correct sizing? Use the SlantFin heat loss app for the BTU requirements for each room.
To size the replacement boiler, the combined total radiation EDR of the building radiators must be tallied-not the heat loss. The EDR is expressed in square feet of steam, and then a boiler whose square feet EDR matches most closely is the right choice. When you use this method, the piping factor is already factored in. Simply replacing the boiler with another one of the same size may not give good results.
You may wish to install 2 smaller boilers each of 1/2 the total needed.--NBC

Nice pictures

@ March 9, 2014 11:11 AM in Midco LNB-250 modulating burner firing pics

This burner is the future of steam efficiency for the modern age, especially with Mark's control.!--NBC

Hoffman system details

@ March 9, 2014 11:08 AM in Hoffman system details

I've been studying all the Hoffman literature from the library here, and cannot see the orientation of the check valves isolating the air eliminator circuit from the returns and supply. Any advice on their direction, and why they are that way?--NBC

Mixing rads and baseboard

@ March 8, 2014 11:50 PM in Radiator to baseboard

As their thermal mass qualities are quite different, it is not a good idea to mix the two types of radiation in the same house. This would be more of a problem on an unbalanced system such as yours. In a balanced system, all the radiators will receive steam at the same time and for the same duration, which does not seem to be the case with yours.
Most likely, you need to increase the main venting, and slow down the radiator venting, to balance things out. Excessive pressure can also slow the steam down in the supplies. Post some pictures of your main vent, and radiator vents, and we will go from there.--NBC

Probe type level switches

@ March 8, 2014 10:03 PM in Probe Type Level Switches

These switches have been used for a slightly different purpose by Gerry Gill, and Steve Pajek for their steam mini tube system as a pressure control. They may have some experiences to relate.--NBC

Final steps-the controls

@ March 8, 2014 9:56 PM in Stage-fired boiler controls?

I'm so glad to hear your report of good operation, even though you have to flip switches to get some heat.
Now that the boilers and burners are operational, with 2 different burn rates, I wonder how important the Taco boiler switcher is. It would be better to log the results further to see which one should be the lead boiler, and which the lag.
As I see the control strategy, when firing from cold with a two-stage thermostat, the thermostat will energize both boilers. As they fire, and the steam fills the system, the vaporstat will cut off the lag boiler at the setting you choose-from 2 ounces to 6, (if the pressure should rise that high). As the inside temperature has risen by this time, the 2-stage thermostat will probably reduce firing to 1-stage(boiler), and the lead boiler will carry the load.
During most of the winter, the temperatures are average, instead of very cold like the design temperature. Maybe these average winter temperatures can be handled by the smaller 200k boiler, and if so, that would be the lead, which will continue firing when the lag has been cut off by the 2nd stage of the thermostat, or the vaporstat.
In a vacuum system, at moderate cold temperatures, the vaporstat will rarely see the 2-6ounces of maximum pressure, so it will be up to the thermostat to do most of the controlling of the 2 boilers, while operating so much of the time at sub atmospheric pressures. Some experimental time will be needed to determine the correct setting of the CPH on the thermostat.
I'll probably be doing the same thing with my chapel Dunham project this summer, and so any observations you may have will be useful.
Keep up the good work--you are a great credit to all of us non-professionals on this site!!--NBC

Contractor choice

@ March 6, 2014 10:57 PM in Need Help - New Gas Boiler for Steam System Problems

How did you find the installer?
If you have to take him to court, I am sure you can have someone here write up a description of what was done wrong, but let's get to the bottom of the problem first-take those pictures, with the naked pipes exposed.--NBC

Checking the traps

@ March 6, 2014 10:35 PM in Steam traps?

State supply.com would be one source. You could check Ebay for other peoples non-functional throwaways for the best price.--NBC
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