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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on August 29, 2014

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Always nice to win one

@ November 16, 2010 9:14 AM in One Rad cold

Removing the vent may have dislodged so crap and enabled the vent to work again. The teflon tape is always a good thing both to seal the joint and to make it easier to get things apart a decade down the road.

Those Chinese vent have a history of being problematic but sometimes they are all you find at the big box stores. If you start to calculate the volume of air in each radiator and the pipe that feeds it you will know what size vent you should have. usually the biggest vent goes on the largest radiator. i use the Hoffman 1A's because they are adjustable

Dan's book "Greening Steam" has tables that list the volume of radiators and piping; it also has the capacities of all the common air vents so you can match them up.  To get a good understanding of how steam systems work his "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" is a great resource. Pexsupply is a good online source for vents -

The mains have to be vented fast, the vent you need is dictated by the  main(s) volume; that lets you get steam to all the radiators at about the same time. Usually you vent the radiators slower, adjusting the vent rates so they all come up together.


Details count

@ November 16, 2010 8:31 AM in Improperly Installed Steam Boiler?

When you talk to this guy make sure he agrees to repipe the boiler as per page 6 of the install manual figure 3.2 with specific attention to section C2 (hartford loop) and C5 that specifies the height of the header above the water line (more is better) with swing joints. The steam pipe sizing is table 3-1 has to be followed but making the actual header one size larger would help provide drier steam. It would be worth paying a little extra for that.

That will pretty much insure it gets done correctly this time.

good luck,


Boiler piping has to be changed

@ November 15, 2010 10:50 PM in Improperly Installed Steam Boiler?

Several things i see wrong -

* Both steam takeoffs have to be used.
* I can't see the end of the steam main so i don't know how it is getting to the boiler return.
* the exhaust stack has to be lowered to allow the two steam takeoffs to be utilized
* I can't see where the equalizer ties in with a Hartford loop, I don't even see a Hartford   loop - if that is missing it violates insurance codes.
* All the near boiler piping has to be redone if this system is going to work right.
* This assumes it is a parallel flow system and not a counterflow system.

The manufacturers piping instructions have to be followed, otherwise the boiler will not perform as it should and your boiler warranty could be null and void.Do you know what your connected radiation square footage is? The boilers rated square feet of steam should pretty much match the connected radiation (with some additional thrown in for piping loss). A house built in that time frame is similar to mine. I have three column radiators (38" high) that have multiple sections. each section of three columns has an EDR of 5 square feet. So for my style of radiator you walk around the house and count the number of sections and multiply them by 5 to get your connected radiation (EDR).

All the copper i see is ok because its on the water side; you want threaded steel on the steam side but copper is fine on the water side.

good luck,


Like Jamie said

@ November 15, 2010 5:40 PM in Antler vs. Menorah

Make sure any water can drain from whatever configuration you build.



@ November 15, 2010 3:48 PM in One Rad cold

That is teflon tape, it's used as a sealant and it makes it a lot easier to get things apart in 10 years! One roll will last a long time. Pipe sealant in a can  works just as well but the Teflon tape is a lot neater.


The right way

@ November 15, 2010 3:24 PM in Improperly Installed Steam Boiler?

This picture shows a generic piping layout for a modern steam boiler. Both steam outlets should be used with the pipe size the boiler manufacturer specifies, with the takeoff for the mains coming after both outlets tie into the header (NOT BETWEEN THEM). That steam header should be  28" above the normal water line (24 is the spec but more is always better if you have the room). The header should then go down to the boiler return and tie into the hartford loop that is fed by the retuning steam condensate. The header and harford loop piping are critical to proper boiler operation.

If all that is done you should be ok. It sounds like your installer is not very familiar with steam boiler installation. Tell him it has to be piped according to the Peerless drawing. Also it should be done in threaded steel pipe, copper can damage the boiler because of the different expansion rates of cast iron and copper.

When everything is working correctly you should install a minimum of 1" pipe insulation on the near boiler piping and all the basement piping that you can reach. It will cost a 2-300 dollars if you do it yourself but it will save fuel and help the boiler do it's job. You can get the insulation from a supply house or order it over the internet. The stuff Lowe's and HD stocks is only 1/2" and won't do the job correctly.

I hope you can get this guy to see the light, but it has to be done correctly in any case.


Non heating radiator

@ November 15, 2010 2:50 PM in One Rad cold

First of all welcome to the world of steam heat. It's best to educate yourself on how it works because most contractors really don't understand it very well. Browse around the board to see what problems others are having, you may find answers there. Also you might want to consider buying some of the books that Dan offers for sale under the SHOP heading, I've bought a couple of them and they do a great job of explaining how the system should work; they will pay for themselves many times over.

Now to your specific problem. What make of air vent does the radiator have? Can you hear air being expelled from the cold radiator air vent? If you can't hear the air coming out hold a piece of tissue paper above it and see if it's moving.

It's possible some crud is blocking the vent, you could try swapping vents between radiators to see if the problem moves. If that indicates a bad vent you can try boiling the bad vent in vinegar for a half hour or so or pick one up at the hardware store. Try to stick with a name brand like Gorton, Hoffman, or Maid O Mist. Also make sure the radiator supply valve is open fully on all the radiators (full counterclockwise), partially closed supply valves will cause problems.

Also check the basement piping and the radiator to make sure the condensing steam can drain back towards the boiler. If you have a low spot in the supply pipe or the radiator is sloped back towards the air vent it can block the steam. Don't trust your eyes, use a level. While your down there see if the main steam vent is working correctly and note the name and model number of it.

If those suggestions don't pan out, post some pictures of that radiator and it's vent. Also pictures of the boiler, the piping around it, and of the main steam main (and the main steam vent).


Wet steam

@ November 15, 2010 2:28 PM in Improperly Installed Steam Boiler?

Your new boiler is making steam a lot faster than the old one did and that makes it more critical that the near boiler piping be correct to ensure you are producing dry steam. It sounds like you might be getting wet steam which is not efficient and can cause a host of problems.

Make sure the pressure is less that 2 PSI at the end of a heating cycle, more pressure is not good. If your seeing more than 2PSI look at the Pressuretrol and see what it is set for. The pointer on the outside should be set at 0.5 and the inside dial should be set at 1 (this is for the most common type of Pressuretrol.



@ November 15, 2010 1:45 PM in Riser heating, Radiator not.

Does the pipe that feeds these radiators get hot and if so how close to the radiator? As long as the pipe is clear the steam should find it's way to the radiator. 90 degree elbows effectively lengthen the pipe but otherwise should not be an issue. What size is the pipe that feeds the radiator, if it's drastically undersized it could be an issue.

Most important is the piping sloped so condensing steam can can find it's way back to the main? The radiator should be slightly pitched towards the input valve for the same reason. Check everything with a level to make sure you don't have a low spot somewhere.


Botched job

@ November 15, 2010 1:34 PM in Improperly Installed Steam Boiler?

Ask the installer why he did not install the boiler per the manufacturers written recommendation. Most manufactures state the boiler has to be installed correctly in order to perform to spec and be covered by the warranty. It sounds like the second plumber understands the importance of following the Peerless near boiler instructions. If the installer balks at this contact Peerless directly, they may be able to bring some pressure to bear.

It would be best all around to get the installer to see things your way but it's really up to him to admit his mistake and come up with an equitable solution. You are right about most outfits not really understanding how to install a steam boiler correctly. If the piping was suspect they should have waned you and suggested remedial action. it sounds like they are playing at CYA.

Post some pictures so we can see exactly what he did wrong.

good luck,


My 2 cents

@ November 15, 2010 1:19 PM in Brazed copper ok for near piping?

I'm certaintly no expert but the main problem seems to be the differing rates of expansion between cat iron and copper. The copper is going to expand a lot more and if there are two risers coming off a boiler this can put severe stress on the boiler sections. Also the inability of brazed joint to move like a threaded joint is another issue.

Now if a boiler had just one riser the expansion difference would be a lot less harsh but the inability of the joints to move would still be a concern. The strength of a brazed copper joint shouldn't be an issue.

it costs more to use threaded steel pipe but it's long history of success in steam systems is compelling.



@ November 14, 2010 2:17 PM in Radiator vent operation

Your understanding of vent operation s correct.

The hoffman #40 has a small vent rate and may not be suitable for all your radiators. The 40 vents at 0.067CFM (at 2 oz) while the 1A ranges from 0.26CFM (at #1) to 0.225CFM (#6) at 2 oz of pressure.

You might want to take a close look at your radiators and piping to figure out what the venting rate should be for them. You want to vent larger radiators at a faster rate than smaller radiators; any unusually long pipe runs might add to the venting requirement. Adjustable vents allow you to balance the system so things all get hat at the same time. All of this requires that you vent the mains quickly and completely. the main wants to be vented faster than the radiators so the radiator vents only have to handle it's portion of the venting.

How long are your mains and what size pipe? What vents are on them?

What kind of radiator is in each room (how many columns and how many sections)? how long is the pipe that feeds each one and what size pipe is it?

When you have that information we can figure out the cubic footage of air that each vent has to handle.

Bob C
In my system I use Hofmann !A's set from 3 to 6 depending on the volume of air in each radiator and the pipe that feeds it.

Replace it?

@ November 13, 2010 5:50 PM in Do Any Steam Boilers Qualify for the Energy Tax Credit?

My oil boiler is 14 years old and reasonably efficient (400 gal / year). Nat Gas is about 28% cheaper in Boston than oil right now (November prices with the 1.4 factor included) but the savings on fuel would still take almost 20 years for payback, especially for a small system like mine. Gas or oil I wouldn't see a meaningful increase in efficiency. Now if it was my iold 1947 Delco it would be a no brainer.

Over time people will change out their heating plants with or without the rebate. The real savings come from insulating and cutting down on air infiltration, especially in a 90 year old house like mine.

When the boiler fails I'll replace it with whatever looks to be the most efficient choice, until then I'll get tuned up yearly to keep it running right..



@ November 12, 2010 8:14 AM in oil to gas conversion

There is a lot to like about a simple and reliable heating system. My steam boiler is not as efficient as the newest gear but in the last 14 years I've only had to call for service once (outside of the yearly cleanouts). If it stops working I can usually figure out why in 15 minutes and parts are very easy to get.

A number of years back a buddy of mine had a new condensing gas boiler installed. It was really a honey but the service guy was over there every week and it was pretty obvious the company was struggling with these boilers.


Raising Pressure

@ November 11, 2010 8:51 PM in What nozzle to minimize fuel use?


If it wasn't a very cold day the system probably able to supply enough heat without raising any noticeable pressure. How long did it take to satisfy the thermostat?

If the system raises enough pressure to trip the pressuretrol it might indicate the firing rate is a bit high. A few ounces is enough to move the steam as long as the venting is adequate. In a perfect world the system would run almost 24 hours a day at 0 degrees F, or whatever your area's design temperature is.

Low pressure is usually the customers friend and the oilman's nemesis.


Pressuretrol test

@ November 11, 2010 4:19 PM in How do you test Pressuretrol

In the picture that shows the inside of the pressuretrol, the brown object is a microswitch. The two brass screws are the contacts of that switch, Normally the contacts of this switch are closed until pressure builds enough to trip it off. With the boiler power switched off at the circuit breaker panel, you should measure zero ohms across those two brass screws. You can force that silver arm up and down (1/16 to 1/8") to mimic the action of the internal bellows, when you do you will hear a small click and the reading should go up to many thousands of ohms. Move it the opposite way and the reading should go back to zero ohms.

All that does is tell you that the switch works it does not tell you if the pressure bellows is good or if the pigtail is clear.

With the power back on you can manipulate the silver lever and should be able to turn the burner off and on, assuming the thermostat is calling for heat. Just be careful so you don't get a shock, those screws are carrying 120v.


Vent spraying water

@ November 11, 2010 11:17 AM in Air vent jetting out water

You have to check the piping and the radiator for the correct slope so the condensing steam can flow back to the boiler. You may have water pooling in a pipe or radiator.

What pressure is the boiler running at? You stated that all the vents are noisy. The pressure should be below 2PSI when the boiler shuts off. Excess pressure just makes everything worse.

Is that new radiator vent adjustable (maybe a Ventrite No. 1?)? Try turning it down to slow the radiators venting.

What kind of main vents do you have and are they working? With steam you want to vent the mains quickly and the radiators more slowly.


Burner cycling

@ November 11, 2010 8:51 AM in Boiler is cycling but no demand for heat

Is this a steam or forced hot water boiler?

How do you get your domestic hot water? If the domestic hot water comes off the boiler, look to see if the temperature was turned up on the aquastat although I would expect it to run somewhat longer if that were the cause.

Are there any lit led's on the controls when this happens? that might lead us to the problem.

Try turning the thermostat up to get some heat and see if it performs normally.

Take some pics of the boiler and it's controls so we can see what your dealing with.


Steam gauge

@ November 10, 2010 8:43 PM in Gauge Store Question

That gauge cannot be used on live steam BUT if you have a siphon between it and the boiler it should be fine. I have a gauge that is in the same series mounted on my Burnham boiler as you can see in the photo below. If you look behind the BX cable you can see the original 30 PSI gauge which has an internal siphon built into it.



@ November 10, 2010 6:46 PM in How to change Pressuretrol settings?

One thing about that gauge, it has to be replaced with a gauge with an internal syphon to protect it against live steam. Otherwise the gauge would need a pigtail siphon like the one below the Pressuretrol to protect it from the steam.


Broken pressure gauge

@ November 10, 2010 5:17 PM in How to change Pressuretrol settings?

Your boiler pressure gauge is broken and should be replaced asap. This gauge has to be operating correctly so you can be sure everything is operating safely. It should read zero when cold, and if the pressure got above 15PSI your safety valve would pop - and that would really get your attention. You can get a new one at a supply house along with some teflon tape for the threads. Unscrew the old one, put some teflon tape on the threads of the new one and screw it back in. MAKE SURE THE BOILER IS COLD (or at least cool) AND OFF BEFORE DOING THIS If your not comfortable doing it yourself, call in a pro. The problem is finding someone who really is a steam pro. You can look under "Find A contractor" and go down to the states section to see if there's anyone near you. If there isn't you'll have to call around to see if you can find one.

Until you understand steam you will have a tough time knowing if you've found the right guy. You might want to consider investing some money in some books so you'll know what they are talking about. That's a good combo deal but you can always get the books one at a time if you would rather.

The bullet shaped main is probably either a Hoffman or a VentRite, while the cruggy one looks like a Maid-O-Mist. Both should vent air till the steam hits them. Do they get hot at about the same time? The main vents should be sized so they vent the air out of the mains quickly - a couple of minutes after the boiler header gets hot. Once the gauge has been fixed we can go through the steps to determine what kind of main vents you should have.

The radiator looks like it has a Heat Timer on it, if you slide that lever over you should be able to slow it's vent rate down. The radiators want to vent slower than the mains.

If you turn the screws on the pressuretrol, the silver tabs will move to show the settings. Setting them both as low as they will go is usually a good place to start.

god luck,


Here's a link that will give you some information on single pipe steam, these are taken from Dan's books.

Pressuretrol adjust

@ November 10, 2010 3:08 PM in How to change Pressuretrol settings?

That pressuretrol is adjusted with the screws on the top of the case. The PDF file below has instructions on page 7.

Ideally you would set the pressuretrol cutout for 1.5PSI and the cut in at 0.5 but that model pressuretrol might not go that low, I believe it it is rated at 2 - 15PSI. If you had a vaporstst you could get below a pound easily.

Does your pressure gauge indicate the pressure, sometimes the 0-30PSI gauges don't respond at pressures below 2PSI but yours is new so it should.

What kind of vents are on your steam main(s)? If those are clogged, it forces a lot more air through the vents on the radiators and burns more oil.

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