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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on August 19, 2014

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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.


Silicone rubber sheets

@ February 19, 2011 2:51 PM in HELP! Cracked hot water housing

McMaster Carr does sell silicone rubber sheets, this is for a 12X12 3/32" sheet - just choose the hardness you want.


It ain't kosher but it might just work

@ February 19, 2011 12:17 PM in HELP! Cracked hot water housing

Necessity is the mother of invention.

i assume there are many bolts that held the old one on. As long as you can get all the bolts in I would just make one out of heavy steel and use the high temp RTV as a gasket. Leave a little room on the holes because the expansion rate will be a little different and you don't want to damage the boiler casting.

Make sure the boiler operates at no more than 2 PSI and send all the women to the inlaws.

good luck,


Clean / replace gauge glass

@ February 18, 2011 3:00 PM in New steam heat owner -- question about LWCO maint

Here are some notes from earlier posts on how to get the gauge glass out - hopefully without breaking it.


clean / replace gauge glass
@ December 28, 2010 12:35 PM in How to Clean Out Glass Gauge
To clean out the gauge glass you have to remove it and before doing that you want to have a pair of Gauge Glass Washers on hand and probably a new Gauge glass as well. the process of removing the glass will destroy the gauge glass washers and you may damage the glass while taking it out.

Once you have the washers and a spare gauge glass you can take the old one out but first shut the boiler down and let it cool a bit..

First close the valve above and below the glass to isolate it. Next loosen the hex bonnet nuts that hold the glass in place and slide them towards the middle of the glass. Now you should be able to lift the glass out, it is longer than the open space you have so you have to slide it down into the lower valve so you can tilt the top clear of the top valve. You will see remnants of the old washers on the glass and stuck inside the bonnet nuts. It usually takes a knife or screwdriver to scare the residue out of the bonnet nuts. Clean the glass with some soap and a bottle brush, or just use a new one and clean up the old one as a spare.

To put things back you have to slide a washer onto one end of the glass and then slide both bonnet nuts on; the slide the washer onto the other end of the glass. now you have to put the bottom of this assembly into the lower valve and then tilt the top of the glass to get it into the top valve. Now hold the glass so it is centered in between the two valves and tighten one of the nuts so it engages a couple of valve threads. then tighten the other nut to engage the other valve. Tighten both nuts hand tight and then use a wrench to tighten them another turn or so.

Now open the valves above and below the glass and fire up the boiler. As it comes up to steam you may see some weeping from one of the valve/glass ends, just tighten up that nut enough to shop the weeping. Over the next few days you may have to tighten the bonnet nuts a bit more.


Where to buy
@ December 28, 2010 3:34 PM in How to Clean Out Glass Gauge
You can get both at a local supply house, in the old days the local hardware store carried them but those days are gone. You have to know the diameter and the length you need.

Because the glass fits into both valves the measured length between the nuts is not right, you have to round it up; the measured distance between my tightened bonnet nuts is just under 5" so I needed a 6" gauge glass.

The rubber washers are about 5/16" high, as you tighten the bonnet nuts they compress and seal against the glass.

The gauge glass washers can be had at McMaster Carr -  They sell gauge glass as well - from 8" long on up. If you need a 6" length you have to buy a longer length and then cut it to size.

8" and 12" seem to be common lengths, my Burnham boiler uses a 6" X 5/8" gauge glass and i bought a cut piece from a guy on Ebay (because i didn't want to buy a gauge glass cutter that I would use every 5-10 years).

good enough

@ February 17, 2011 3:39 PM in Steam radiator rating

This is how I figure out the EDR of a radiator when i don't have tables available, it's not 100% accurate but good enough.

Wrap a piece of string around that end tube so you can measure the outside diameter of the tube and then figure out how long all those tubes are. Multiply the total length of the tube by the diameter and that will give you the area of the radiant surface, divide that number by 144 and that will give you the EDR in sq feet.


Have new washers on hand

@ February 15, 2011 4:39 PM in rust blocked automatic feeder?

When you remove a sight glass you stand a good chance of compromising the rubber washers that seal the glass to valve connection. Make sure you have spare washers and a spare glass gauge just in case.

I agree with nbc that it would be easier if you saw it done once before trying to do it yourself during the heating season.


Dole is probably too small

@ February 14, 2011 10:37 AM in main vent

Most systems work best when the main is vented very fast and the radiators relatively slowly. One sign of inadequate main venting is uneven heat. Working at a higher pressure will cost you more in fuel.

How long is the main steam main? the Dole #5 is not a large vent, you would probably be better off with a Gorton #1 or #2depending on the length and diameter of that main.


Not cheap

@ February 13, 2011 5:49 PM in Steam Boiler Keeps Filling Up...

I don't have a hot water coil on my boiler so i can't say what they cost but it ain't gonna be cheap.

Also this board has a rule about not discussing pricing where labor is involved.

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