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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on September 1, 2014

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Installing a new boiler will not cure other problems.

@ March 10, 2011 10:01 AM in Figuring out EDR, help!

Steam boilers are rated in both Net IBR output and sq ft of steam. double check your measurements to see if and why you might be off. It will take forever to get payback by replacing an oversized boiler with a smaller one. One key is to make sure everything else in the system is correct; this includes the venting, the thermostat,  and the piping

I have a steam boiler that is grossly oversized by about 2.7 to 1 and I heat the house relatively cheaply. I have insulated all of my basement piping, have insulation in the attic, and replaced the worst windows on the second floor. This winter has been more expensive than last because it's been windier (i live one block away from Quincy Bay). The other key is to make the building tight by stoping all air infiltration and insulating.



@ March 8, 2011 9:35 PM in Radiator air vents filled with water

It could be that but check the radiator and the pipis that feed it to be sure they are sloped back towards the boiler.

If the air valves are stuck open try boiling them in white vinigar for 15-30 minutes to clyar the calcium deposits.



@ March 8, 2011 5:33 PM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

Those are great vents, if one does clog try boiling it in white vinegar for 15-30 minutes


Gorton #2

@ March 8, 2011 12:44 PM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing


If you have a drip at the end of that lop then increasing the venting is likely to help . Your diagram indicates that right hand loop is 42 feet if I'm reading it right, put a Gorton #2  there and see what that does for you. just keep in mind it's a large vent as I said earlier.

What are you using for radiator vents?

You should still do what you can to get that piping insulated.


drip that right loop?

@ March 8, 2011 10:52 AM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

I'm assuming you have single pipe steam. Does the steam main slope down as it goes away from the boiler? Make sure all the steam mains are sloped correctly, especially that outer loop.

Increasing that loops venting will help but I'm not sure it will be enough - try it and see. use twice the venting on that loop that you do on the other two. The problem I see is that it that right hand loop comes off and then reconnects to the steam main it is not going to be easy convincing enough steam to go down that loop because it's just easier for it to continue around that main loop. If you could disconnect the return side of that right hand loop and send it down to a drip I think you would get better performance out of it. Increasing that loops venting will help but I'm not sure it will be enough - try it and see.

Getting asbestos removed is very expensive unless your old enough to do it yourself (with mask and ventilation). I've done it myself by wetting everything down with a surfacant to keep any fibers from getting airborne. one person spays while the other removes the asbestos. Not recommended but sometimes you've got to do what you have to do.



@ March 8, 2011 8:44 AM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

If we average out the three mains at 44 ft that gives us 1.66 cu ft of air that has to be expelled so steam can fill each main. The faster you vent those mains the better so I would start with Gorton #2's and be prepared to add more if needed.

Be warned that the Gorton #2 is a large vent, make sure you have room for them. If space is an issue you could use 3ea Gorton #1's mounted on an antler, that would cost a liitle more. The Gorton #2's come with a 1/2" male thread (Gorton #1 can be had with a 3/4" male) so you may need to adapt that down which will need even more height.

Does the system heat ok now, especially in that right hand loop? If that loop return really does tap back into the main it might be starved for steam and be slow to heat. Steam always favors the path of least resistance.


They are too small

@ March 7, 2011 1:30 PM in Main vents

If each main has 2.8 cu ft then you need at least one Gorton #2 on each of those mains and maybe two. The Ventrite (probably a #35) has about 40% the venting capacity of the Gorton #1 and the #1 has about 30% the capacity of the #2.

You want to get that air out of the mains fast.


Actual cost of gas.

@ March 7, 2011 8:11 AM in oil usage

That is the total bill divided by the number of therms. When they try to get you to switch all they talk about is the cost of natural gas, when you ask them about delivery and service charges they get very quiet.

When my 15 year old oil fired V75 bites the dust I'll take a look at gas but not till then because it would take a long time to earn the conversion cost back. With my luck the boiler would keel over the month after I had the work done.


$1.93 / therm in Boston

@ March 6, 2011 2:52 PM in oil usage

As of Jan 18, 2011 the cost for natural gas in Boston was $1.93 per therm which is equivalent to $2.70 for a gallon of oil (my dealer was getting about $3 a gallon then)

Oil right now is $3.46 per gallon if your lucky. I'd like to make those commodity traders drink a gallon of #2.

Talk about getting shafted!


Slow and steady

@ March 5, 2011 8:33 AM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

Since you had that low water cutoff replaced 18 months ago, that pigtail should come out ok, you might want to put a bit of penetrating oil on the the joint between the LWCO and pigtail a day or two before you go at it. Wipe any excess oil off before you remove it so the oil doesn't get into the boiler. Just apply steady increasing pressure and it should start to turn.

On your venting setup, give us the approximate length and diameter of each main and what make and model of vent you have on them so we can see if you need larger vents. i would be suspicious of the vent that doesn't appear to be working but lets determine the pipe volume before replacing anything.


Cleaning the pigtail

@ March 4, 2011 5:02 PM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing


First shut off the power to the boiler at the circuit breaker panel. Also you might want to find a source for a replacement pigtail just in case you can't clear the old one (sometimes they get fouled really bad). Yours was disassembled recently so you should be ok. Start early so you have time to hit a supply house if you have to.

Make sure it looks like you have enough room to unscrew that pressuretrol from the pigtail, some installations had that done before the low water cutoff was installed and they don't give you enough swing room.

Start by unwiring the pressuretrol and removing the cable from the pressuretrol. make sure you make a note of how the pressuretrol is wired so you can put it back. Next use a small pipe wrench to hold the pigtail while you use an adjustable wrench on the brass hex at the bottom of the pressuretrol to loosen and remove it.

Next unscrew the pigtail from the low water cutoff, a Jorgenson clamp is really handy for this step. just apply steady pressure to get it going because you really don't want to snap anything off. Once you have the pigtail off run water through it to clean out any crud. Use stiff wire to help clean all the crud out. If you look at the bottom of the pressuretrol, inside the brass hex, you will see a very small hole - mike sure that is clear. Then make sure the low water cutoff port is clear of any debris.

Once everything is clear just reverse the steps to reassemble everything using pipe dope or teflon tape to seal the pipe threads

good luck,


Does the gauge ever read zero?

@ March 4, 2011 8:50 AM in Pressure Cut-Off Testing

What does your gauge read when the boiler is cold? If it doesn't read zero the gauge is probably shot and you should consider installing an auxiliary 3PSI gauge that will let you see what is really going on. You have to leave the 30PSI gauge in place because there are regulations that require it.

To see if the pressuretrol is capable of working try the following - if you have the Honeywell PA404 pressuretrol. Do this when the system is off, kill the circuit breaker that supplies the boiler. Take the cover off the pressurertrol and find the lever that goes between the microswitch and the pressure diaphram that senses the boiler pressure. If you move that lever up at the microswitch end you should hear it click - that is the sound the microswitch makes.

If it does click, turn on the power and turn up the thermostat so the system starts to run. Do not touch the switch terminals because they might have 120v on them and you don't want to come in contact with that. Now if you actuate that lever the system should stop, when you release the lever the system will restart after a short delay - assuming the thermostat has not been satisfied. All this does is verify the microswitch and the lever are free and appear to be working, it does not mean the pressuretrol is still working.

If that works then nbc is right about it probably being a clogged pigtail or perhaps a bad pressuretrol, most of the time it's a clogged pigtail. The plumber should correct that but if you don't trust him you can do it yourself. Cleaning out the pigtail is not hard, if you would like to try cleaning it out yourself post some pictures so we can explain how it's done.


It will take considerable force

@ March 2, 2011 7:54 AM in Any Tips on unscrewing/loosening an old pigtail?

It looks like there was some kind of thread sealant used on the installation so that pigtail should be removable. It will take considerable force to get that started. You might try some KROIL or PB Blaster penetrating oil on that joint for a couple of days before going at it again.

I've used jorgensen wooden clamps on those with great success, the large clamp gives you a lot of leverage and you can apply force gradually so the chance of snapping anything off is reduced.

We're at the beginning of March now, if the amount of force required makes yo nervous, wait til spring when yo won't need heat - just in case.


Good news

@ March 1, 2011 2:13 PM in Figuring out EDR, help!


I'm glad reducing the pressure solved a lot of your problems.

If you can post some pictures of your boiler and the piping that comes and goes from it perhaps we can suggest some other things ypu can do to make the system work better - and cheaper.


A 1.3 pickup factor might be fine.

@ March 1, 2011 8:24 AM in boiler replacement advice

I believe using a pickup factor of 1.3 should be fine in your case because I'm assuming the basement is not an unheated space in your case. Also i believe the Net IBR on the name plate implies a 1.3 pickup factor, if you choose a boiler by matching the EDR I think you'll be fine.  Make sure you know what your main vents capacity is and see if it should be increased because the new boiler is likely to make steam faster than the old one did.

Also install a boiler that the local installers are familiar with and have parts in stock if you need them down the road. Insulate all the near boiler piping you can reach on the new boiler.


Don't trust 0-30PSI gauge

@ February 28, 2011 2:22 PM in System pressure does not seem to be controled by Pressuretrol

Keep in mind that a 30PSI gauge really isn't very good at the low end of the scale so a reading of 2.5PSi does not mean it's cutting off at 2.5PSI. You might want to ad an auxilliary 3PSI gauge so you can see whet the pressure really is -

A pigtail acts like a trap that prevents the steam from reaching the pressuretrol or a non syphon pressure gauge. the steam pressure pushes on the water trap and that presses on the air colomn between the trap and the control and gauge. If you use a trap instead of a pigtail you might want to fill the trap with a little water because the larger pipes size might mean it takes a long time for water to accumulate in that trap. Make sure that trap really does retain water or you will damage the pressure control and any low pressure gauge.

I've attached a picture to show what my setup looks like using a pigtail as the "trap".


Follow the piping diagram

@ February 26, 2011 2:09 PM in Near Boiler Piping??

i can't see exactly what you have there but make sure they pipe it like the installation manual tells them to. The manual has specific piping instructions on pages 14 through 16, make sure it is piped in threaded steel (NOT COPPER)  and that they use the correct size pipe. To many installers can't handle 2-1/2 or 3" pipe so they like to pipe it all in 2", that will not work right.

If it's done right it should purr like a kitten.


Possiby set wrong?

@ February 26, 2011 10:59 AM in Vaporstat Not Working

Did this vaporstat ever work right on this boiler? It looks like your differential is set higher than the main, that might cause the vaporstat to lock up. Try setting the differential to something less than the main.

Can you actuate the vaporstat by moving the lever that operates the microswitch? It's possible the contacts are welded shut.

Is the vaporstat on a pigtail?

Have you checked that pigtail to be sure it's not plugged?

Check the vaporstat to make sure it's not plugged.


Add pigtails and a low pressure gauge

@ February 22, 2011 4:20 PM in Pressuretrol pigtail issue and upgrading Pressuretrols to Vaporstats

The safety pressuretrol can be left as is because a vaporatat in that position would be a waste of money.

The staging pressure controls should be below 2psi, well below that for the lower two stages, there shouldn't be any reason to go above that pressure. For that you will need vaporstats for these two controllers.

If you keep that piping setup I would put the upper two on pigtails and add a spot for o low pressure gauge (2 or 3 PSI on a pigtail also). I think your right about the upper two controllers not being protected as they are now.


Two more questions

@ February 22, 2011 7:30 AM in wet steam?

After you've answered the other questions, I have a couple more for you. What make and model is that boiler? Another question is what pressure is the boiler running when it's making steam (what is the pressuretrol set to)?

Some boilers require two steam outlets be used for proper operation, but smaller boilers only need one outlet used. Look into the installation manual and see if your model is supposed to use both steam outlets.

Multiple outlets reduce the velocity of the steam leaving the boiler and any water carried up the pipe by that steam. Pressure higher than 1-1/2 to 2PSI makes everything worse.



@ February 20, 2011 8:08 AM in HELP! Cracked hot water housing

I spent decades designing high voltage systems for military use. We used silicone RTV (silastic) to insulate high voltage connections that were not inside the potting material.

The clear RTV will pretty much attach anything to anything else but it out-gasses ascetic acid as it cures so it can be problematic in HV work. It takes a week or more for the stuff to fully out-gas. The white RTV's (Most door and window 100% silicone caulks) does not give off ascetic acid as it cures but it's not as sticky either.

I've never used them as a gasket on steam but I can't think of a reason why they wouldn't both work well, just make sure they are 100% silicone.



@ February 19, 2011 7:37 PM in Just Curious

The swing joint also helps relieve expansion stress to the boiler sections that might result if the two boiler outputs were just piped together.

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