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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on April 16, 2014

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Build one

@ February 2, 2011 4:28 PM in Cause of dry firing considered

It would not be rocket science to set up a temperature sensing chip on the surface of the boiler and use some circuitry to alert you to a potential problem. It would probably take about $20 worth of parts and some solder. You could use the output to trigger an alarm or trip a robocaller.

35 years ago i noticed a "hot smell" in the back hall of the apartment I was living in at that time. I went downstairs and found the landlords boiler with a cherry red spot on the side. I killed the power and cut the tank safety line to stop any more fuel from feeding into it just in case. That cost him a boiler but at least we saved the house from burning down.


ice dams

@ February 2, 2011 12:02 PM in Weather report from Ann Arbor, Michigan

My NE colonial (any house that fits no other description) has some good sized ice dams front and back and the rain is just pouring off the roof right now. This old house (1918) has 1X6" roof rafters supporting the 8/12 pitched roof;  I'll just pray that most of the snow gets flushed away before the weight becomes a serious problem.


what a mess

@ February 2, 2011 11:14 AM in Weather report from Ann Arbor, Michigan

It is pouring rain south of Boston right now. i just finished shoveling the drive and walk of 3-4" of slushy snow, my neighbor was trying to use his snow blower but it just continually plugged up so he put it away and got out his shovel. It's not easy lifting up that crap to sit on 5 foot banks of snow, I guess that's my stress test for this week!



@ February 2, 2011 11:09 AM in plugged riser?

I'll bet there is a short horizontal run that is pitched wrong bestowing you with a water trap. the fact you can get it to work fine for a while indicates removing the water lets the steam flow.

An old building like that may have settled over the last 80-90 years. Maybe a 1/2 - 3/4" shim under all the radiators (both valve and vent sides) on that run will help, just check the pitch on each radiator as you go to see if you have to add a bit more under the air vent end. Be careful so you don't crack anything.

good luck,



@ February 2, 2011 9:28 AM in uneven heating

Radiators are usually vented according to the size (in sq ft), if your radiators vary from 3-10 sections you will probably need more venting on the large ones because there is almost a 3:1 difference in size. Upper floors may need more venting also because the piping starts to get a little more significant. Always remember best operation is usually achieved when you vent the mains fast and the the radiators slowly but completely.

Once you get the basement mains venting straightened out (at least 2 Gorton #2's on the long main and maybe a Gorton#1 on the short one) you might want to try some adjustable vents (Hoffman 1A's or Ventrite #1's) so you can dial in the venting. just leave the Hoffman 40's on the small radiators and use the asjustable vents on thae large radiators that don't heat up fast enough. That way you should be able to get them all to heat up at about the same time.



@ February 2, 2011 9:06 AM in Cause of dry firing considered

Can you post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it? Take
the pictures from a few different angles so we can see how it's piped.
It would be nice to catch any serious piping errors before they can
cause more problems. Also what make and model is the boiler and what is
it rated at in sq ft of steam?

Does the boiler have an automatic water feeder on it? If not, do we know
if the homeowner ever added water to the system and how often?

That second LWCO should insure fail safe operation as long as the boiler gets blown down on a regular schedule.



@ February 2, 2011 8:41 AM in water hammer in low return

I'm just a homeowner with a single pipe steam system but I was wondering what pressure is the boiler running at? If it's too high it will find it's way into all kinds of places it shouldn't. Be careful, that 30PSI gauge might be lying to you.

Are those vents large enough for that size and length of pipe/


0-4 lb for most systems

@ February 1, 2011 2:48 PM in found two vaporstats which to buy?

FWIW I picked up a NOS 0-4lb mercury bulb vaporstat on ebay a couple of years ago and it's worked fine ever since i installed it. Right now my cutout is 12 oz and my cutin is 4oz. The operating pressure is off from what I have it set for but it is very consistent in operation and that's all I care about.

If you had a vapor system the 16oz version would be the way to go but for a normal steam system the 4 lb version seems the way to go in my opinion.


Never skimmed?

@ January 31, 2011 1:15 PM in Cause of dry firing considered

For a 3 month old burner to have enough crap in in it to foul the LWCO I would think the system was never skimmed after the install. After installing a new boiler it has to be skimmed a few days after the install to remove any sediment caused by the installation and some times it has to be skimmed several times. I would ask the installer some very pointed questions.

This reinforces my habit of inspecting the boiler no less then every other day. The owner should contact the boiler manufacterer and scream bloody murder.


Not a lot left on that table.

@ January 31, 2011 8:35 AM in Uneven Main Venting

Your running at about 96.4% of the rated firing rate, when they come to service the boiler ask them to see if they can crank up the gas pressure a bit; just don't expect a significant change.

Rather than replace the original gauge just add another one on the pigtail. Go to to see the generic low pressure gauge a lot of us use. Pipe it like the picture but add a 1/4" union between the pigtail and the T if you can, it will make dis-assembly for cleaning a lot easier.


More venting

@ January 30, 2011 5:28 PM in main venting -- 2 mains that are uneven lengths -- and producing uneven heat

The 2-1/4" OD is 2" pipe.

I would assume you need about 1 Gorton #2 for each 40 ft so it looks like you need one Gorton #2 where the Dole 4A is and one more Gorton #2 added to the existing Gorton (total of 2 for that main).

You want to get the air out of the mains very fast and then vent the radiators relatively slowly. The radiators want to be vented by their size in general,m faster venting for larger radiators. Hoffman !A's and Ventrite #1's are nice because they are adjustable over at least a 4:1 range at 2oz of pressure.


The right contractor is most important

@ January 30, 2011 3:59 PM in Boiler size advice for confused homeowner

Always consider that the quality of your installer trumps the choice of boiler. A well installed boiler will be efficient, quiet, and long lasting.


Hot pipe

@ January 30, 2011 11:32 AM in Uneven Main Venting

If that capped pipe is hot to the end you may well have a steam leak in that pipe.


Slope and radiator venting

@ January 30, 2011 8:11 AM in Uneven Main Venting


Check the slope of the slow heating main to be sure it all has the correct slope so you don't have any pooling water, The slope rate of both mains should be about the same.

What kind of vents are you using on the radiators? You may be venting the radiators on that first main too fast. Can you slow the venting down on the radiator near the thermostat so the boiler runs longer?

Also the check the slope of the antler you have the gortons on to be sure you have positive slope back to the boiler.

Do you see any signs (drops of water above the water in the gauge glass) of wet steam?

How long does the boiler fire to satisfy the thermostat and how high does the pressure get before it shuts down?


Post some pics on Strictly Steam

@ January 29, 2011 11:59 AM in Upgrade Steam Boiler

i agree with all the points that nbc made and would add that the gas company often gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

Why don't you start a post on the "Strictly Steam" area, with pictures of the system, so the pro's can advise you about what should be done before you install a new boiler. take shots of the boiler that show all the controls as well as the piping that comes and goes from the boiler, include some shots of the steam mains that show the main air vents. Also tell us about any issues the system has now and if the water gauge shows dirty or jumping water.

There may be some things you can do that will trim that fuel bill and they will only help make a new boiler run more efficiently if you decide to replace it. Remember one important fact, the people who install a boiler make the biggest difference, you need to find an installer who knows steam.


Vaporstat and or a low pressure gauge.

@ January 28, 2011 2:51 PM in Adjusting Pressuretrol Options

I assume you have the internal wheel set to one.

Pressuretrols are just not very good and the newest ones appear to be worse than the old style was. A vaporstat gives much better low pressure control but they cost about $80 more. Also trying set either one using the 0-30PSI gauge is usually fruitless, try installing an auxiliary 0-3PSI gauge so you can see whats really going on.


The detritus of a lifetime.

@ January 27, 2011 6:42 PM in Removing a Pressuretrol


I worked as an engineer in the power supply field for 35 years, those are just some of the treasures I've collected over the years. When I croak, it's going to take a LOT of work to unload that cellar.

Finally finished shoveling out, time for some bourbon (for medicinal purposes of course)

have a great night,


Just do it.

@ January 27, 2011 5:15 PM in Removing a Pressuretrol

Why not just unwire the pressuretrol (circuit breaker or fuse OFF), unscrew the pressure gauge, and twist off the pigtail / pressuretrol. Clean out the pigtail and add a 2" brass nipple with a coupler at the boiler and then a brass 1/4" union on top of the pigtail so you will never have to go through this again. Then screw the 0-30 gauge back in.

If you want to know whats really going on add a T so you can mount both the pressuretrol and a low pressure auxiliary gauge. I'll bet that 0-30 on the boiler is not working right at the low end of it's range. I've got a union that I'll add onto my setup when I get around to it, luckily my boiler is old enough that they used longer pigtails so I didn't have to build in an extendo.


Should not normally cause venting issues

@ January 27, 2011 4:11 PM in Uneven heating in two mains - incorrect piping? i posted pics - please help!

A clogged return won't slow venting unless the water backs up enough to block that vent. It's just that if we fix enough problems the cause of a particular problem often becomes clearer.

You seem to have a  parallel flow system so your dry return would run from the end of the main after the last takeoff to the point after the vents where it heads for the boiler return; the wet return is anything below the boiler water line. When they installed the boiler, did they check the existing wet returns to be sure they were clear?

As long as the mains are about the same length the venting on each should be about the same. I think Dave mentioned removing the rear main vent and see how it vents then - just be sure to be ready to kill the boiler when the steam reaches the open vent pipe.

How many sq ft of EDR do you have being fed by that 3 section boiler?


Clogged return

@ January 27, 2011 2:49 PM in Uneven heating in two mains - incorrect piping? i posted pics - please help!


You mentioned the LWCO was shutting the system down but that water was finding it's way back to the boiler after a few minutes and that the water feeder was not feeding water (probably because of a built in delay). Your return pipes maybe partially clogged with crud and might need to be snaked out. You might want to adress that before having the boiler skimmed again.

Post some pictures of that rear main, it's vent, and the return. Also how long is the return back to the boiler?

Dirty boiler water contributes to wet steam, maybe it is effecting the rear main more because of it's length?


how fast

@ January 27, 2011 2:17 PM in Uneven heating in two mains - incorrect piping? i posted pics - please help!

I think Dave is onto something with making sure there is no sag in the back steam main.

Next time you start from just a warm boiler see how the steam progresses down that rear main. If it slows down at a specific section there may be water pooling in that area of the pipe - pooled water will collapse steam.

Check that main and any radiator leaders that come off it with a level to make sure all the piping is sloped correctly. All building sag with age just like we do.

Until that boiler water is clean and the water level stays within about +/- 1/4" it's going to be difficult to balance the venting out. Even still it might be worth throttling back the rapidly heating radiators down to 3 or even 2. The Ventrites will vent between 0.036 and 0.125cfm from a setting of 2 through 8. the vent is off if it is set to 1.


Vent rates

@ January 26, 2011 8:39 PM in Do I need more venting?

The Hoffman 1A's are 0.026cfm at 1oz for setting #1, the Dole 1A's are 0.045cfm at setting #1, The Vent Rite #1 is off at setting 1 and 0.033cfm at 2, the Heat Timer Varivalve is 0.060cfm at low but rapidly goes up to 0.34cfm at mid setting.

Vent the hot radiators at a very slow rate and the cold one at a faster rate. Also is all the piping in the basement insulated?

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