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Joined on September 15, 2010

Last Post on April 16, 2014

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@ November 4, 2010 12:37 PM in How long should it take to heat up?

How big is the threaded hole for the main vent? In the past someone my have decided to use small radiator vents on the main. radiators use 1/8" (about 3/8" OD) instead of the normal 1/2 or 3/4 main vent thread. If they did use the radiator vent the hole is just too small to allow the large pipe to vent properly no matter how many vents you try to add to that hole.

How long are the mains and what is the diameter of the pipe? What vents are on there now and are they in the right place? They should be near the end of the main - about 15" back from where it drops down but after all radiator take offs. Are the mains pitched so the condensing steam can make it's way back to the boiler?

Again pictures of the boiler, the near boiler piping, the mains, and the main vents would make it easier to decipher your problem.

What is your boiler rated for in square feet of steam and what is the connected load (the square footage of all of your radiators)? JPF321's post about determining the EDR is right on the money. You need to identify what style of radiator, how many columns, how many sections on that radiator to know what it's EDR is. You then have to figure out how many feet of what size pipe feed each radiator. The combination of the radiators volume and it's pipe volume will tell you how much venting you need on that radiator.

Ideally the boiler should put out about 20-30% more sq feet of steam than your radiators can use to take into account the piping losses (called pickup factor). All of this is dependent on how well insulated the house is and if you have drafty rooms.



@ November 4, 2010 12:00 PM in steam vents

There was a post a while back with a very similar problem. If I recall correctly they found a small section of pipe that was level or slightly off pitch and when the corrected that it quieted down.Go over the whole pipe that feeds that radiator and make sure their isn't a similar problem in your system.

i would try jacking up the vent end of that radiator with a 1/4" piece of plywood to be sure it's not a drainage issue. You will have to use a 2X4 to lever it up because the damn thing probably weighs a ton. The input valve could be at fauly, sometimes things get loose inside and the valve isn't fully open even though it seems it is.

The rule is that you size vents by the amount of air you have to vent (volume of the radiator plus the whole length of pipe). Many hold tom the rule of venting the mains quickly but vent the radiators slowly; that indicates you can vent radiators too quickly. You have to temper that with an eye to efficiency, especially if your boiler is oversized. Like most things you have to find a balance between the two.

If the varivalve is working correctly it has a minimum vent rate of 0.065 cfm does setting it at the low end quiet things down?

How deep is your setback? Most people on this board favor small setbacks or even no setback, I have a 4 degree setback myself.



@ November 4, 2010 9:55 AM in Bryant 235BAW cleaning procedure?

Good to see your staying busy!

You will probably have to flush and drain the system many times to get all the accumulated crud out, it's best done through a mud leg so you get the stuff at the base of the boiler. If the boiler is under SLIGHT steam pressure it will help move the crap along - be careful so you don't get burned. The down side is you can't go spraying cold water into a hot boiler but a rubber hose from the water heater feeding 140 to 160F water should be fine (vinyl hoses WILL burst, use rubber). Just make sure you bring the boiler up to steam after flushing and refilling so you drive off the oxygen in the water. You don't want fresh water to sit in the boiler for hours without driving off the oxygen.

You mentioned surging in the sight glass, how much - a half inch or so at pressure is usually ok. Do you have an auxiliary low pressure gauge so you know exactly where you are with pressure? Pressuretrols are not very precise and 0-30PSI gauges don't indicate accurately at 1-2PSI. Just make sure there's a siphon loop between the steam and a low pressure gauge, you can T it off the one feeding the presuretrol - just keep the gauge verical.

The Hoffman 75 will vent 0.5cfm at 1oz, Maid-O-mist #1 vents 0.33cfm at 1oz, a Gorton #2 will vent 1.1cfm at 1oz. You want to vent the main fast, one or two minutes. No sense in burning fuel to just compress air. Have you figured out the volume of the main to be sure you select the right vent? They are to expensive to just guess, you can order vents online at

keep the faith,

Bob C


@ November 4, 2010 8:42 AM in Steam system cycles constantly

If you don't have the manual for the Honeywell you have now you can probably download one -

If you find the model number of your thermostat and click on the details button you should be able to download the manual.



@ November 3, 2010 7:15 PM in Gurgling Radiator

Is the radiator and the piping that feeds it pitched correctly? Check it all with a level to be sure, especially the stem end of that valve. Any other radiators with that same configuration on the input valve?

This panting might be caused by condensate piling up at a low point.

Just my 2 cents.


Boiler rating

@ November 3, 2010 3:42 PM in Which Peerless boiler

I heat by steam but I might be able to save you some money.

My 1947 Delco boiler went belly up in 1996, nothing lasts any more! I had someone come in and he took one look at it, never looked at the radiators to figure out the true load, and installed a 5 section Burnham V75 steam boiler (good for FHW as well). I've lived with that boiler for 14-1/2 years and it has been as reliable as the day is long.

The problem is it is rated at three times my connected load. I get steam up in no time and I'm sure I could heat the house at -40 without a problem (it never gets much below zero in Boston). the result is I'm burning more fuel than I should and over the years it adds up. It's not worth replacing it just for the fuel savings but I wished I knew enough back then to make the installer do a heat loss calculation. I'm sure I've bought enough extra oil to buy a new one by now but I can't bring myself to replace a good working boiler.

Do a heat loss calculation or get someone to do it for you.


Replacing Ptrol

@ November 3, 2010 2:44 PM in Boiler Question

If a new pressure relief valve has popped then you have a real safety issue. Seems the pressuretrol is bad or it's not seeing the boiler pressure, either way you have a problem that should be addressed before operating the boiler again.

I would install a new siphon pigtail (brass) at the same time as the pressuretrol. Don't worry about the auxiliary gauge until you address the safety issue. make sure the tee, elbow and pipe pipple are clear before putting everything back together.

The time for quibbling over costs is over unless your willing to live without heat for 4-7 days while you wait for a part to be shipped in..

New Ptrol

@ November 3, 2010 12:37 PM in Boiler Question

I bought mine from Amazon a few years back nd it looks like they still have it.

This is the PA404 1033 which I believe is the replacement for the older 1009. It breaks the circuit on pressure rise.

If I'm wrong somebody will jump in and correct me. I think the 1023 switch makes on pressure rise which will not work in your application.

Slow radiator

@ November 3, 2010 12:25 PM in Air valve on dry return

In a single pipe system it's vital that the main vent be large enough to vent the mains in a couple of minutes so steam will be available to all the radiator feeds quickly; the radiator vents should be able to vent the radiators and their leaders a bit slower but the venting should be adjusted so they all get steam at about the same time. This problem radiator might need a higher capacity vent on it if the steam pipe is much longer than the other radiators. Is there any banging on this radiator or supply pipe?

Make sure the pressure cutout is set to1-1/2 to 2 PSI if not lower, sometimes it's hard to tell on those 30 PSI gauges.

What kind of main vent do you have and is there more than one main? Each main should have an air vent near it's end, ideally 15" back from where the return heads down to become a wet return.

Make sure the radiator return is sloped back towards the boiler so the condensate can find it's way back. Also make sure that radiator is sloped back towards the input valve, use a level in both cases to be sure.

Do you have dry returns coming from each radiator or do most of them just let the condensate flow back through the steam supply leader?

If all the other radiators work ok then this far radiator is telling you that more venting is necessary so the steam can get out there. That assumes everything is sloped correctly. Dry returns don't clog unless something happened to fill them with water which might float any crud down the pipe; steam does a pretty good job of keeping things clean.



@ November 3, 2010 9:03 AM in Steaming main vents

It appears you may have a bad pressuretrol and you definitely have a bad 0-30PSI gauge. How long does it take your boiler to get steam up after it starts up? My boiler gets steam into the header in about 6-1/2 minutes and into the radiators five minutes later, about 6 minutes later the pressuretrol shuts the boiler down on high pressure. If I could run the boiler for a solid hour on a fall day, the boiler would probably end up in the bay. Once pressure gets above a half pound it builds very quickly.

Now all systems are different and take different amounts of time to get steam up. I would be very leery of operating a steam boiler for a solid hour without knowing what the pressure is. Replace that 0-30 PSI Gauge TODAY.

If the gauge shows that the pressuretrol is not shutting the system down on cutout then the pressuretrol has to be replaced also. If you have to replace the pressuretrol you might want to consider adding an auxiliary 0-3PSI gauge so you can see exactly what's going on. It only costs a few dollars to buy the nipples, tee's and elbows. i posted a picture above that shows how it's done, just try to do it all in brass. i would also put in a new siphon loop and then clean out the old and keep it as a spare.

If your not comfortable doing any of this find a pro that knows and understands steam systems. The guy who replaced your pressure relief valve does not know what he is doing. The service contract you have isn't worth the paper it's written on if the guy doesn't know what he is doing.


Air valve

@ November 3, 2010 8:37 AM in Air valve on dry return

We need more information. Is this single or two pipe steam? Where are the existing main vents?

Some pics of the boiler piping and the mains would help us see what your dealing with.



@ November 2, 2010 9:11 PM in Boiler Question

That seems high to me. The system should be able to work fine with a cutout of 1.5 to 2PSI and a cut in of 0.5; you could go even lower if you had a vaporstat.

Although pressuretrols are not very accurate at low settings that difference seems a bit much. The other fly in the ointment is the pressure gauge, a 0-30 is not very accurate at these pressures. You really need an auxiliary 2 0r 3 PSI gauge to see what is going on.

You could try adjusting the setting on the front of the vaporstat down to 0.5 and the white knob to 1. Low pressure usually makes everything happier.

I would keep a close eye on it, keep a log of the pressures you observe at cutout and cut in.



@ November 2, 2010 3:56 PM in Should I buy a used Vaporstat

I bought mine the same way and it works like a charm, just make sure he garrantees it to be operational.

BTW I believe that one has the mercury bulbs in it, they are probably more reliable than those damn micro switches. i would not buy a micro switched one used unless it was VERY cheap.

I'd do it again if I needed one.



@ November 2, 2010 3:22 PM in Corrosion on Return Piping

That looks like it has been leaking for a while, probably very slowly. Is that the return line, try to back up so we can see more of the boiler and that piping.

 Do you know how often it feeds fresh water into the boiler? If the automatic water feeder, or
you, are adding water more than a couple times a moth you have a leak. that's one reason I don't like aotumatic water feeders unless they have a counter on them.

When you blow down the boiler (to keep the LWCO clear), what does the
water look like? Also have you drained any water from the mud leg to see
what the water looks like?

Getting that pipe out maybe quite chore and with heating season upon us you might want to have a pro deal with that unless you have the tools to deal with removing a broken stub from the boiler without cracking something - one crack and it's all over.



@ November 2, 2010 2:19 PM in Setback temperature?

i keep my thermostat at 62 during the day and have a 4 degree setback at night. I don't think a large setback agrees with steam systems.

At this time of year the system comes on at about 7AM and that's it for the day unless it's windy out. I can isolate the upstairs by keeping the hall doors on the first floor closed during the day so any heat from cooking tends to stay downstairs.

When it does get cold it usually comes back on around 3PM and maybe again before the setback at 10PM.


High pressure.

@ November 2, 2010 1:28 PM in Steaming main vents

Old 0-30 gauges can get flaky, does your gauge usually read 0 when the system is not making steam? You said it once went from 25-30 on the gauge, that tells me the pressuretrol is unreliable or the gauge is shot. I would replace the gauge, make sure you get one (0-30PSI required by insurance)with an internal siphon so the steam doesn't kill it. If you want to add a low pressure gauge it can be added outboard on a siphon - maybe with the pressuretrol. 0-30PSI gauges really don't tell you whats going on when your operating at 2PSI or so.

The photo's you mentioned that show pressuretrols and gauges mounted on pigtail siphons because the pressuretrols (and vaporstats) do not have internal siphons so they have to protected from steam. Low pressure gauges usually don't have internal siphons so they have to be protected as well.

  • The fact the pressure relief acted is of some concern because that doesn't happen till you get up to 15PSI and a residential boiler should not go over 2PSI. The siphon is supposed to contain some water, that is what protects the pressuretrol from live steam. A closed radiator valve CANNOT cause pressure to spike, it might cause the pressure to build faster because the volume the steam has to expand to is smaller. The pressuretrol should always shut the system down when hits the cutoff - 2PSI in your case. If you have a working gauge and the pressure goes above this then you either have a clogged pigtail on the pressuretrol or a defective pressuretrol (keeping in mind that a 0-30PSI gauge often does not read accurately at very low pressure)- in either case it's not safe and should be corrected. Also be aware that pressuretrols are not precision instruments so the often don't trip at 2 psi if they are set there but it should be within 20-25% (might actually trip at 2.5PSI) at worst.
  • The attached pic shows my setup, notice the original 0-30 PSI gauge on the body of the boiler while the 0-3PSI gauge was added to the vaporstat pigtail siphon. i replaced the presuretrol when the pressuretrol went flaky for the second time in 14 years.

    good luck,


    If the pressure did reach 15PSI your vents might have been damaged, keep an eye on them to make sure they are working and not leaking steam when they should be shut.

Water hammer

@ November 2, 2010 9:35 AM in Terrible Steam Radiator Clanging

That racket is probably water hammer. It occurs when steam runs into a pool of water and collapses. read through the articles on this page -

The steam system operates around 2 PSI, and NY has very strict rules about safeties on boilers so you are not in any danger. The over heating could be controlled with a thermostatic control valve that goes onto the radiator to controll the steam in that room. Is yours single or two pipe steam?


gauge glass

@ November 2, 2010 9:23 AM in Homeowner

Did you measure the old glass and the new to see if there was a difference in length?

You might want to get another gauge glass and the EDPM washers to keep on hand because you will have to tighten those bonnet nuts up in the coming months. That glass tube can take a bit of pressure just be careful not to overdo it - have a spare on hand just in case. This link is for Mcmaster-Carr's gauge glass page, there is a link to the washers on the left margin of that page. Be careful to select the right diameter.

My glass was 5/8" X 6" which they don't sell so I bought a 13" long piece and used a glass tubing cutter to get 2ea 6" out of it. Hopefully yours is a standard size so you won't need the cutter.


Gauge glass

@ November 1, 2010 9:27 PM in Homeowner

I had to replace my sight glass last year because of the same reason. In my case the sight glass is 6"" and i ordered some washers from McMaster Carr. These washers were EPDM material instead of the normal type. i thought these might be a cut above the normal rubber washers, they were about 3/8" high.

When i removed the old glass and washers, I had to really work at scraping out the old deteriorated remnants of the old washers (14 years old), i had to use a knife to get the crud out of the bonnet nuts. Once i did I was able to get the glass and washers in and all was well.

You have to try and center the glass between the upper and lower valves, there should only be about 1/8" of space when you put the glass all the way up into the upper valve, you then drop it down so it is about centered between the two valves and tighten the bonnet nuts.

If the glass is really too short you will have to either find the exact right size or buy a longer glass and a glass tubing cutter so you can roll your own. If you do have to cut one to size buy a long enough glass yube so you can get at least two out of it - just in case.

In a pinch you can close both gauge valves and run the boiler without the sight glass but that is risky because you won't really know what the water level is once you close the valves.

good luck,


New transformer

@ November 1, 2010 4:49 PM in need help with Beckett burner

I just wanted to update  those who posted suggestions about the delayed ignition problem I was having.

I installed the new ignition transformer on Friday with the gaskets, and the burner has been purring like a kitten ever since. I did check out the porcelain insulators while I had it apart and they looked fine.

My thanks to all.


Radiators not heating

@ November 1, 2010 3:31 PM in how to clear old cast iron rads?

If this is happening on light heating days it may be more a matter of balancing the system venting so steam gets to all the radiators at about the same time. Does the inlet of this radiator get hot around the same time as others that are about as far away from the boiler?

Is this radiator at the end of the main? If the mains venting is too slow that could explain it.

Have you checked the air vent (assuming it's single pipe steam)or the steam traps (two pipe steam). The air has to leave the radiator before the steam can fill it. If it has air vents on the side of the radiators try swapping the vents from a radiator that heats ok and see what happens.

If the radiator really is plugged up it has to be removed and flushed out. That is a lot of work so try to eliminate everything else first.

Look through the articles on this page to see if anything there makes sense.



@ November 1, 2010 11:50 AM in How long should it take to heat up?

You want your main to heat up fast, within a couple of minutes of the header. If it takes a lot longer than that you need more venting on the main - you need a bigger vent. Vents are rated in the amount of air they can vent.

A few examples-
Hoffman 4A    0.133 CFM
Hoffman 75    0.500
Gorton #1      0.333
Gorton #2      1.10

How long are your main(s) and what diameter? Ten feet of 2" ID main contains about 0.22CFM (ten feet of 3" ID main is about 0,49CFM). Ideally you want to vent all that air in about a minute because you also have to vent the air in the boiler as well as the header. So for 10 feet of 2" main I would use a Gorton #1. If I had forty feet of 2" main that would contain about 0.88 cubic feet  so I would want a Gorton #1 or two Hoffman 75's.

All the other posts in this thread are right on the money. If you need new vents get them from a plumbing supply house or  You might want to pick up some of Dans books available under SHOP so you understand how the system should work.

Also the pressure should be set so it cycles between 0.5 and 1.5 PSI to save fuel. Try moving the white dial inside the pressuretrol down to 1.

good luck,

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