Dave in QCA
Joined on May 6, 2010
Last Post on May 17, 2013
@ January 25, 2013 11:40 PM in Uneven Heating & General 20's Trane AdviceCall Dave Bunnell. He can assess the system and its problems and will give you the best advice for repairs and changes necessary to get this system back into shape so that it can last another 80 years.
@ January 25, 2013 11:13 PM in Huge Pipe Radiators, Old Theatre.I see a very long thread coming.....
@ January 25, 2013 10:55 PM in Crossover trapHere is a link to a diagram of the Mepco trap I used. http://www.mepcollc.com/content/products/1505J.pdf
Main reason I used it was that I already had it. It just occured to me that a simple angle trap could be install upside down and it probably wouldn't ever lose a drop.
@ January 25, 2013 10:49 PM in Crossover trapJoe, I did it as an experiment because I was frustrated with my Gorton 2s and the fact that they vented great on a cold start up but once the system was warm, the mains didn't cool down enough to get them wide open and their performance on my system was not satisfactory.
I replaced one of my three stations, which was an antler with 2 G-2s on it with on single Dunham/Mepco 1--E trap with a straight through configuration. It performed as well as the pair of G-2s on the cold start and it worked equally as well when the system was warm. I was mainly wanting to observe the performance because my plan was to install crossover traps, which is now complete with the new boiler installation.
The one downside was that during each cycle there would be a few drips of condensation fall out of the outlet of the trap, perhaps 2-5 dribbles, not more. If i had reconfigured the trap so that an collected condensate would not run out, but would gather in the outlet port and then run back through the trap when the steam was down, I don't think I would have lost a drop. Of course most main vents have a float to close on water and this would not give you that.
It would be important to consider the venting capacity of the trap. The new Hoffman 17-c is very slow. Mepcos are fast and trouble free as always. Armstrong has a nice little bellows trap that is very fast.
As for brevity, it is a luxury for those who know what their talking about. It takes me so many words because I'm thinking it out as I'm talking.... Sorry. :)
@ January 25, 2013 10:30 PM in Higher pressure in colder weatherFinding competant and qualified professionals who know how to work on historic buildings is similar in difficulty to finding a qualified steam pro. The first challenge is knowning what you're looking for. Once you know that, you begin the search and it is always amazing to discover the talent that is out there.
@ January 25, 2013 4:47 PM in New Boiler at the Best MansionWell, I have been working on installing the new insulation and painting the old, trying to get the boiler room ready for the camera. Was down several days with a bad cold and then when I was about over that I came down with the stomach flu bug that is going around. Today, back among the living, I was ready to go take some pictures, grabbed the camera, and its dead! Battery won't charge. I guess that's what happens when it gets dropped. I'll go buy a new camera and post soon.
Utility Bill Just In!!! It was a 36 day billing cycle, UGH I hate when they do that! The entire billing period has only the new boiler on it. Total Therms = 1168, Total Degree Days = 1525. Cost = $885. Therms/DD = 0.76. Same Period Last Year w/Old Boiler, Therms = 1412, DD = 1262, Therms/DD = 1.11. Last year was a mild year, previous January bills have had usage as high as 1,800 therms. I guess we're seeing savings of about 1/3, which is what I was expecting.
Still not able to draw a real significant vacuum. Have been chasing down a few leaky valve stems, found a small leak in a main and will have it repaired soon.
Lots of skimming!!! I've got it pretty clean and not much is coming out of the skimmer anymore. I guess its time to dump the water and fill it up with a fresh batch as per the installation manual. Water line is pretty steady, but should still be a bit better.
I have the final burner settings turned out to be 360,000 BUT Lo Fire and 680,000 Hi Fire. Second Hi-Lo Vaporstat is set up and works fine, but so far I've been running only on Lo Fire and it has been working fine. Hi Fire was really for the future restoration of the steam system in the garage. Were getting good even distribution. Prolonged firing will completely heat the radiators. I've also noticed that the chimney does not stay as warm, and therefore it is not the uncontrolled source of heat that it has been in the past. Also, the floor of the room above the boiler room is not longer a radiant floor! I took the temp of the concrete ceiling in the boiler room the last day the old boiler was running and it was actually 110F! Now, its about 85F.
@ January 25, 2013 9:37 AM in Higher pressure in colder weatherYour observed pressure of 0.05 psi, or about 1 ounce is optimal condition during the partial steaming of your system. In mild weather the system cycles are not long enough to fully heat the radiators and so you never reach a fully steamed condition. As the weather gets colder, the steam cycles last longer and you get to the point that the radiators are filled with steam, all air has been vented, and the vents close.
Two things change at this point. First, there is no more air to be vented and so the vents close, causing pressure to build up. Second, and even more important is that at this point, there is no more cold cast iron condensation huge amounts of steam. Now, while the condensation rate in the radiators is still very significant because it still takes a large amount of steam to maintain the temperature, the amount of steam being condensed decreases.
When the system's capacity to take steam from the boiler has reduced, the pressure will begin to rise.
High pressures are seldom necessary on domestic steam heating systems. Since your system is getting even distribution to all radiators on the cycles with about 1 ounce of pressure, you already know that the system works great at those very low pressures. If you want to save some money, you might turn down the pressure. The pressuretrols are never accurate to the scale or dial. You just about have to tinker with to find a point where the boiler shuts off as the pressure rises, yet comes back on as the pressure drops. If you adjust it too low, it won't come back on at all. Of course, a Vaporstat is excellent for low pressure operation.
@ January 2, 2013 5:48 PM in thoughts on 1 vs 2 boilersI don't know if I have gotten back to you with the results on my boiler install and firing rates, etc.
My new boiler is firing at 390,000 on low fire. It is running at 83% efficiency on first pass of tuning. We'll see if we can get it any better. Here is the big part for orifice systems... I am making enough steam to hold 8 oz in the mains (that is how my orifices were sized) for 1269 EDR. I beleive that I had given the example of the calculations before, and the indeed are correct. NO Pickup factor needed. My calculations had told me that I needed to fire at 378,000, I'm firing at 390,000. Maybe I am running a hair over 8oz.... dont know for sure. Either way, the numbers are pretty much spot on.
@ January 2, 2013 4:37 PM in A post Steamhead responded to a couple years agoWhen folks refer to the dry return on a 2-pipe system, their usually referring to the condensate return lines where they are above the waterline of the boiler. It is these dry returns that should not be so hot that you can't touch them.
On a 1-pipe system, the dry return is actually the end of the main, which is carrying air, steam, and all of the condensate return. In a 1-pipe, it is called a dry return until it drops below the water line. To avoid this confusion on a 2-pipe system, I like to refer the these as "end of main drips", because that is pretty much what they are.
Yes, it is normal for these to be HOT. Steam is coming all the way to the vent and condensated from the steam main will be quite hot as well.
@ December 30, 2012 3:59 PM in New steam control principlenbc, I think that the Tekmar may already do what you are thinking, more or less. I have my outdoor sensor installed on the north side of the building. Since the building is stucco, it is attached and edge of a basement window jam about 3 feet above grade. The window has a storm on it and I don't think it leaks much, but since the sensor is in a little nook by a window, it tends to read warmer than the actual ODA temp when there is no wind. When there is a north wind, the sensor will read the ODA precisely correct. So, the Tekmar is seeing a warmer or colder temperature dependent on whether the wind is blowing. But, this is a minor effect, maybe five degrees ODA temp and this would have a small yet real effect on the cycle length.
Indoor sensors provide the correction that is needed to compensate for wind, sun, cloudy days, etc. Keep in mind, the Tekmar runs just fine with the standard 2 sensors. One is the ODA sensor and the other is located at the end of the steam main. The outdoor air temperature tells the Tekmar how long the on cycle should be. The end of main sensor tells the Tekmar when steam has been established and that is the beginning of the cycle time. The older heattimers functioned with only these two sensors, but I think they have improved the design in the new models by adding the option of indoor sensors. Tekmar provides for input from one or two indoor sensors. Actually, you can add mutiples as well and they will average, but lets keep it simple for this explanation. I have two indoor sensors, on in the downstairs north and one in the downstairs south. Depending on whether it is sunny, cloudy, windy, etc., the south room might be the coldest, but more often than not, the north room is the coldest. Tekmar gives the option of selecting one sensor or both, I choose both. It also gives the option of averaging the two, or picking the coldest of the two. I pick the coldest. So, the Tekmar then looks at the coldest sensor to see whether that space temp is the same as the room target. If it is, then the cycle length will be the normal calculated length, the same as if I had no indoor sensors. But, we all know that things drift, especially with changing weather. If the indoor temp begins to drift upward, the cycle lenght will be adjusted downward. if the room temp begins to drift downward, the cycle lenght will be increased slightly. Thus, it is the feedback from the coolest room sensor that fine tunes the cycle lenght, and this alone compensates for wind or no wind and maintaines a very stable and smooth space temperature.
The hard thing to grasp in this system is that the main controller never runs the boiler to directly satisfy the indoor sensor in the manner that a thermostat does.
If it were possible to create a digital thermostat, that had a sensor on the end of the steam main so it could know when steam was established, and this would be used to activate an anticipator circuit. And, if the anticipator circuit was intelligent and was linked to the outdoor air temperature which would adjust the amount of anticipation, so that it would not tend to overshoot in mild weather and also would not undershoot in cold weather. If such a thermostat existed, its performance in terms of space temperature control would be very much the same as the Tekmar, although the way in which it would achieve a steady space temperature control would be different because of actually running the boiler to satisfy the thermostat.
Hope this helps.
@ December 29, 2012 1:51 PM in Latest MegaSteam!Only Trying to find a rational reason for their course of action, which seems to be so irrational. Maybe it there is some stubborn guy somewhere in the chain of command who made a decision.... and for whatever reason, he's determined to stick with it.
Maybe they'll introduce a new model with a new name, perhaps they call it the "Ubersteam" or something. And it might consist of what is essentially a Megasteam block, with a modified cabinet and a gas burner train. I have a feeling that they're never going to backtrack on this "no gas for Megasteam" decision, unless someone gets fired.
For some reason, this just made me think of a Burnham boiler that was listed on ebay for quite some time. It had a major typo in the title, and thus it was listed as a "Burnaham" Steam Boiler. I hate to stoop to silly ridicule, but somehow "Burn-a-ham" has a certain ring to it.
@ December 29, 2012 12:00 PM in Pressuretrols working with Heat TimersTravis, a little more information might help us understand your system. What type of boiler do you have. Is it an atmospheric type or do you have a power burner. A power burner has a purge time of around 1 minute and that can effect pressure swing on pressuretrol cycling.
But, to your question as to how the Heat Timer and the pressuretrol work together, perhaps it is best to think of how they work independently of each other.
The Heat Timer does not control the burner directly, but rather indirectly, because there are other devices that may turn off the burner, such as a pressuretrol or low water cut off, etc. What the HeatTimer does, is to issue a call for heat, then it recognizes when the steam has been established, and then it times the call for heat (steam cycle) based on the outdoor temperature and sometimes indoor sensors as well. So the HeatTimer is telling the system how long steam should be "up", not how long the burner should run, as other things may cause the burner to cycle.
The pressuretrol is there to limit the steam pressure. The problem with the pressuretrol is that the factory markings are seldom correct and it may take some tinkering with the control while watching the pressure gauge to get it set correctly. If you have it set to limit pressure to 2 psi, then you would want it to re-energize the burner at about 1 psi. If you have a power burner, the system may indeed fall to 0 before the burner lights and begins to build the pressure back up to 2 psi. If this is the case, I would consider having the burner tuned down a little bit, but that all depends on how long it takes to build pressure in the first place.
It is possible that you may have a coincidental occurrence in which the pressuretrol trips on pressure and shuts the burner off. Then, before the pressure drops far enough to restart the burner, the HeatTimer ends its call for heat, thus resulting in the system going into the "off" part of the HeatTimer cycle.
@ December 29, 2012 11:27 AM in Latest MegaSteam!......But don't want to tell us the results--and don't want to put it on the market.
Right now, the Megasteam is the most efficient steam boiler on the market--period! It tests at 86% on oil and that is amazing. However, when looking at many other boilers firing on oil, the Megasteam is only 0.5 - 1.0% above them. That is a small difference, but still significant when they are at the top of the heap.
Of course, when comparing gas firing to oil firing on other boilers, there is always a significant difference between oil firing efficiency and gas firing efficiency with the gas being1.5 - 2.5% less efficient. If you apply that difference to the Megasteam, it might test out at 83.5 - 84.5% efficient on gas. This is still better than their Independence model, but not by much. I suspect that more importantly, that amazing 86% rating would become confused and its stellar rating would become a little tarnished. Thus, it all comes down to the marketing department and where they think the business lies. Right now, they are enjoying the position of having the most efficient steam boiler in the world. I am sure they don't want to confuse or diminish that status.
I think the questions that only the future will answer are:
1 What will become of the Megasteam model in a decreasing oil market?
2 To what degree to patent rights that Burnham owns restrict other manufacturers development of a 3-pass boiler with all fire surfaces located below he water line?
3. What is going on in research and development at Burnham Commercial, Weil-McLain, Peerless Boiler, Utica, etc. in regards to their power burner boilers and experimenting with configurations similar to the Megasteam.
I realize that my own situation is a tiny portion of the market, but, if the Megasteam had been available in gas, I would have purchased 2 of them! But, since that is not the case, I purchased a Weil-Mclain 680 instead. I am running at 83% combustion efficiency on low fire, and that ain't bad.
@ December 26, 2012 11:01 AM in Steamed up over Steam Boiler Short CyclingThe recommendation for steam systems with cast iron radiators is 1 cycle per hour. You might feel a small temperature fluctuation, but not much, perhaps none at all.
@ December 22, 2012 8:30 PM in Latest MegaSteam!Steamhead, another beautiful install! Congrats! I too am waiting for gas burners for the Megasteam, but I just couldn't waiting any longer for my own project. Darnit!
@ December 22, 2012 10:37 AM in auto feed system - necessary?Elfie, if you have not already purchased "The Lost Art of Steam Heating", you should. It will be very valuable to you and I think will help give you a basic understanding of a steam system and its components. Read all of Chapter 11 on condensate and feedwater tanks and pumps. Once you have read that, you should read the whole book. When you're finished, read it again. Then read it once more just for good measure. You need to get a better handle on the basics. I am quite alarmed by your lack of understanding of your system as indicated by the questions you ask. As the old adage goes, "There is no such thing as a stupid question." But, I'll add to that, "except for a question that is asked when you already know the answer but are hoping someone will give you wrong answer that might justify a bad plan of action."
.......As you know, the feedwater tank collects the condensate from the system. The feedwater pump returns it to the boiler on call from water from the boiler. If the feedwater tank water level gets too low, fresh makeup water is added to the tank.
If this unit is not working, how is the water going to get back to the boiler?
If the feedwater pump runs while the tank is dry, it will ruin the seals in the pump. If the boiler is not able to get water, the LWCO will shut off the burner. If the LWCO fails, the boiler will dry fire. If the boiler dry fires, it could get so hot that it starts the building on fire, it could explode of water suddenly returns for some reason. Either one of the above situations could kill people.
Residential gravity return systems are different. The condensate returns to the boiler without a pump. Residential systems may have an auto feed setup for adding makeup water to the system. Some don't. But, the boiler is fine as long as no condensate is lost and as long as someone routinely checks the water gauge.
@ December 22, 2012 9:43 AM in New Boiler at the Best MansionYes, just about as proud as a new papa...
10:15 AM Wednesday 12/19, the Riello burner was delivered. Cut-over began immediately. This job was complicated somewhat because the location of the boiler was being changed and this required some work to the main where the old boiler connected. By 4:30 the last of the piping was completed. There were plenty of details to keep the installer busy while we waited for the burner tech. About 7 PM, the burner tech arrived after having been tied up on another service call and by 8 PM we had steam!
The preliminary numbers are quite good! Boiler is rated at a max of 780,000 BTU input, firing at 390,000 on low fire. Combustion efficiency is coming in at 83%. Boiler is maintaining 8 oz. of pressure in mains against orifices with a total capacity of 1269 EDR at 8 oz. On an extended steaming time of more than 30 minutes, the radiators fully heat and the condensate returning to the boiler is less than 100F. My calculations were as follows:
1269 Sq Ft x 225 BTU/Sq Ft (at 0 psi) x 1.1 (Piping loss, NO PICKUP FACTOR) x 1 BTU (input)/0.81 BTU (output) = 387,872 BTU Input Required.
Explanation: Pickup factor not used on an orificed system because the radiators are separated from the boiler and mains.
So this is what the numbers told me I needed. Several of the pros, as I recall Steamhead and Boilerpro, told me that my old Pennco boiler running at a reduced firing rate was very inefficient, probably around 55% as I recall. I really didn't think it could be that bad, and therefore really didn't have complete faith in the calculations for the new boiler. Keep in mind, the old boiler was firing at 600,000 BTU to hold 8 oz in the mains and the numbers said that all I needed in an 81% efficient boiler was 387,000 BTU to do the same thing. As you can see, the numbers were correct because I am firing at 390,000 BTU on Low Fire and the system is holding 8 oz. This means that the old boiler was about 52% efficient! Ugh! Don't you just hate it when the pros are right? Who woulda thunk that they could toss out a number and hit the nail on the head? Ahhh... Knowledge. It is an amazing thing!
Hi fire will give me plenty of reserve capacity to add the old garage and apartment to the load at a future date. The EDR added will be 425. With garage added and the old indirect radiators in the main house, the total firing rate needed will be 643,595 BTU, which is well within the capacity of the WM 680 boiler's 780,000 max firing rate.
Additional things I like about the boiler: It has big thick sections, lots of mass and beefy cast iron. The weight empty is 1843 lbs. Large steam chest and nice big passages between the sections. Large water content of 53 gallons. The Riello 2-stage burner with acoustic cover is considerably more quiet than other power burners I have seen, and it runs on a little 1/8 HP motor. 2-stage firing will give me flexibility in the future to heat the whole property. Hi-Lo Vapor-stat with manual override switch will allow the system to automatically adjust firing to match the load, as occupants may turn off radiators in bedrooms, etc.
Things I don't like about the boiler: Well, I really thought that I wanted a boiler with cast iron push nipples. However, I have heard so many comments from the pros, both pro and con, and it seems that the vast majority seem to think that WM gaskets are fine if they are installed correctly in the first place. I monitored the assembly of the block and I can say it was done precisely according to the book. I am comfortable that the gaskets will be just fine.
So that's it! I'll be posting some pictures as soon as the insulation is completed. Still have a few fittings left to wrap up. Looking for an old easy chair for "the super" (that's me). And thinking how great the boiler room would look with a fresh coat of paint! I keep thinking maybe Crash will come over and show me how it's done!
A great big thank you goes out to J. L. Brady & Co. and the crew, Ben, Jim, Jimmy, and Jake. You guys do great work! Oh, salesman Scott deserves a thank you too, because he is the one that convinced me his crew would do a great job.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
@ December 21, 2012 8:20 AM in Basement Radiators completely wrong?While you don't see them piped this way very often, and you're getting some mixed messages from the message board here, I have to say that this radiator is piped completely correctly.
Most piping handbooks that show two pipe systems without a condensate tank and with a wet return, will show devices mounted below the steam and condenstate mains piped like this. Most often you may see it on an indirect radiator.
Consider normal radiators piped in above the mains, the return piping and trap have to carry both condensate and air. When the rad is below the mains you have to drip the condensate to a wet return, but the air won't go through that, so you have to take an separate air line up to the return piping. Dunham often used an airline vent instead of a trap, this was much like Paul vent and Hoffman still makes their version of this.
If your condensate tank is blowing steam, there is another problem. Of course at pressures that you are running you really don't need one. I bet if you look at the tank and where the wet returns tie into it, you will find other drip legs fromt he steam piping dropping to the wet return. Also, I will bet that the rise of that wet return to the condensate tank is very small and the operating pressure in your mains is pushing all the water out of the wet returns and allowing steam to flow in. That just a hunch because I have seen exactly the same thing in a few other problematic Trane systems that have been posted here.
Take a picture of your condensate tank and also the return piping.
@ December 21, 2012 8:08 AM in nervous breathing air ventsWhen you updated your air vents, what type did you install? After the new boiler was installed, have you clocked the meter to verify that it is burner at the rate it is supposed to?
@ December 18, 2012 9:54 PM in thoughts on 1 vs 2 boilersDave, I am glad you jumped in on this. I had told Vaporvac about this same install that you did and that it worked very well. What burners did you use? Would you advise 2 stage or modulating or would your consider the fact that 2 boilers=2 stages to begin with and that is good enough?
@ December 17, 2012 1:09 PM in Trane Vapor Heating System HelpWould you be keeping the old boiler to use with oil or with wood and coal? If wood/coal, do you still have the grates?
If it were my system, I would be thinking about replacement and removal of the old boiler, it can't have a lot of life left, and is probably not too efficient. But, I would do everything that I could to keep the Trane system intact, including the return trap.
Can you take some pictures and post please?