Joined on September 15, 2010
Last Post on March 7, 2014
@ October 25, 2010 9:12 PM in URGENT: Flooded my boilerI'm a homeowner who has lived with steam for well over 60 years and i do most of my own work on the maintenance side but I don't mess around with the oil side outside of some really basic stuff. I'm not conversant with gas boilers.
As long as all the controls are dry and there is no evidence of water getting into any motors I'd just fire it up and stand back. If it's a gas system make sure the pilot is lit or that the igniter is dry and free of debris. If anything untoward happens shut it down and call a pro.
@ October 25, 2010 8:53 PM in URGENT: Flooded my boilerI flooded mine about 8 tears back by not closing the manual feed valve fully. I found out about it when the system came on and made a horrendous sound. When I went downstairs I found the sight glass full, I filled up a couple of buckets with hot water.
My boilers water never got out of the rads on the first floor because the racket stirred me to action. After draining the boiler I sat next to it and fired it up while enjoying a beer, 15 minutes layer the header was full of steam and everybody was happy.
Make sure nothing electrical is wet and fire it up, but keep an eye on it till the thermostat is satisfied. I think the only side effect will be more crud gets washed down into your returns but otherwise you should be ok.
@ October 25, 2010 5:57 PM in pigtail siphonMcMaster-Carr has them -
@ October 25, 2010 4:42 PM in need help with Beckett burnerI already have a direct replacement for whats there so I'll put that in and hope it lasts another 14 years. I also noted the gasketing is missing from the existing transformer. I assume that was lost during one of the dozen cleanings the old stinkpot has seen over the years.
I'll be replacing it with gas in the next few years because of the difference in fuel costs. I haven't been too anxious to do that because I only use about 400 gallons of oil a year so it will take a while to amortize the cost of a new rig. My aging oil tank will be the straw that breaks the camels back.
thanks again for the help.
At heart I'm just a cheap old yankee. Fix, reuse and re-purpose.
@ October 25, 2010 2:52 PM in need help with Beckett burnerThanks for the reply JD.
My tank is about 8 feet away on the same floor as the oil gun so I don't think that's an issue here.
The boiler (with the Burnham oil burner) is 14 years old and has been reliable to date. It never has a problem during a burn cycle except at the start of it. I have a new ignition transformer so I'll probably put that in because it seems once it starts to burn everything is fine till the start of the next cycle or the one after that. I'd say I get the delay about 1/3 of the time, sometimes a couple of seconds sometimes more.
@ October 25, 2010 11:19 AM in need help with Beckett burnerI have a Becket AFGon a Burnham V75. towards the end of last heating season I noticed occasional delayed ignition when the boiler started up from either the thermostat or the vaporstat closing as steam pressure decreased. It never happened during a burn only at the start.
I had the system cleaned about a month ago and told the tech about the problem. He replaced the nozzle, filter and strainer and set the thing up. It seemed to run fine for him, but now that it's getting cooler in Boston I turned on the heat. Initially all was fine but I started to notice some delayed ignition (2-5 seconds) only at the start of a burn.
It seems to me this is probably a spark issue rather than a fuel supply issue but I don't know for sure.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
@ October 25, 2010 10:34 AM in This can be a really dumb question... apologiesThat cast iron radiator will retain it's heat a lot better than the fin tube did but you have to get the steam into it fast so it can do the heating. How soon does that problem rooms radiator get hot compared to the room with the thermostat? What kind of vent do you have on the bedroom radiator, if it is adjustable try adjusting it higher - ie go from 3 to 5. The higher the number the faster it will vent and the sooner you will get heat up there.
Also if you decrease the venting in the room with the thermostat the boiler will run longer and that cool room should get more steam and heat up better. Maybe you could move the thermostat into a room that doesn't heat up so fast. The problem there is that large radiator will likely overheat it's room unless you can turn it's venting down.
Of course this may not do much if the room is very drafty and has no insulation in the ceiling. Adding a radiant shield behind the radiator will put more heat into the room and less into the wall.
Look at the vents on the radiators and tell us what model they are. Take a picture of the radiator in the cool room and the vent on that radiator. Measure the size of the two rooms (L x W x H) and then the size of the radiators - how tall, how wide, and how deep, and if they are two column or three column. Then we can guess the relative capability of that radiator to heat that room. It's not as good as a proper heat loss calculation but it's a start.
In my house the front bedroom has a three column radiator that has 5 sections and is 38" tall, 13" wide and 9" deep. That room is about 12X10 and it's most of it's floor is over an open porch so the room is cooler than the rest of the house - but not freezing.
@ October 23, 2010 9:10 AM in Boiler QuestionA residential steam system operates below 2 PSI by law. Even the empire state building heats all 102 stories on 2-3 PSI. I still don't understand why they never designed a pressuretrol that has better resolution at the low end. You actually can replace the pressuretrol with a vaporstat and then you can run the system in ounces but that is a subject that we don't have to have right now..
The grey box besides the pressure gauge is called a pressuretrol, it shuts the boiler down when it reaches the set point and allows it to restart once the pressure falls to another set point. It looks like the front control (the pointer on the front of the box) is set as low as it can go (0.5) which is good.
If you take the front cover off this pressuretrol (a single screw) you will see a white thumbwheel dial that should be set as low as it can go (1 or less). Make sure the power to the boiler is off (turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse) before adjusting this wheel - better safe than sorry. You cannot adjust it too low so don't worry about that.
If the gauge reds 0 when the boiler is cold and 5-10 PSI when it is steaming then it seems to me you either have a blocked pipe (See JPF's post above) or a bad pressure control. Pressuretrols are not precision instruments, I had two of them go flaky (high pressure) in 13 years. At this point you have to determine if your comfortable doing this yourself or you want a pro to do it for you. If you do it yourself make sure you buy the right part, take the model number off the one you have so you can match it up.
Once you are sure the pipes leading to the pressuretrol and gauge are clear and that the pressuretrol is set up correctly, the chances are you have to replace this control. It's just a matter of disconnecting all power and then removing two wires (make a diagram so you know where they go) and disconnecting the flex cable that connects to the pressuretrol. Then twist the pressuretrol off the pigtail apply some teflon tape to the pigtail and twist the new one back on. Put the flex cable into the new control and hook up the wires. Adjust the two controls, power everything back up and you can run the boiler and see if everything is happy.
@ October 21, 2010 12:41 PM in Question on boiler pressureI'm a homeowner and have been tweaking my system for the past couple of years. Right now, because my boiler is really too big for the job, the system tends to cycle on and off for about 10 cycles before the thermostat is satisfied. I have my vaoporstat set to cut out at 16 oz and back in at 3 oz, it takes i min 17 seconds initially and finally 2 min 5 seconds for my system to fall to the cut in point. That data was recorded last year in February, the data is in the attached pdf file.
I tried going down to 12 oz cut out but felt the system was running as efficiently there so I moved it back up yo 16 oz cut out. I never tried moving the cut out lower than 13 oz.
Are all of your basement pipes insulated?
@ October 21, 2010 9:00 AM in turning off an individual steam radiatorPutting in a 1/8" plug should stop that radiator from heating, if it doesn't then there must be a leak in the radiator.
@ October 20, 2010 10:06 AM in Some basic questionsDave's comments below are all very good and should be followed.
In you original post you said the main with the Hoffman 75 and all of it's radiators heated fine but the one with the Gorton #2 didn't seem to heat up as well. Does the pipe below the Gorton vent get steam hot? If I understand your description this main runs out 16' and then T's off - the 14' side has the wet return and Gorton vent while the 8' side has no venting. Have you checked the slope of this short main to make sure it slopes towards the return? Without a vent on the short side of the main the steam is not going to go there untill everything else is full. If the radiators on this short side of the T are not heating I would find a way to add a vent to this main. If that isn't easily done then those radiators should have larger vents on them because they have to vent the main as well as the radiators. It seems the T shaped main just needs more venting assuming all the piping is sloped correctly.
Also that third floor radiator without a vent in it will steal the steam from everything else on that main. Try to make a chart that shows how long it takes the boiler riser pipe hot and then how long it takes the end of the short main and both ends of the T main to get hot. Then determine which radiators the mains feed and which of those are not heating correctly. This should be done after putting an air vent back in that 3rd floor radiator.
@ October 19, 2010 7:37 PM in We Got SteamYour description and the pictures give me no reason to suspect the system isn't safe to run. Do you know when it was last serviced? It might be worth having someone look at the system and show you how to keep it in good working order. He can show you where the vents are (or should be) and tell you about any irregularities the system has.
I'm just south of Boston so I haven't a clue about contractors in your area. If you look under the FIND A CONTRACTOR heading you can go down to the states section (the zip code search doesn't work right) and see which ones are in your area. There should be some good men in your area because there's a lot of steam in Detroit. With any luck, one of them will see this thread and give you a heads up.
I bought Dan's "Lost art of Steam Heat" and Greening Steam books last year and i found them just packed with good information. The books are listed under the SHOP heading. In the mean time take a look at this article -
Getting that ceiling radiator back in place will take a few good strong young men, I know I'm way past that stage. The first thing is to try and figure out why some of you radiators don't seem to be getting steam but that's usually a bad vent, bad inlet valve or piping/ radiators that are sloped the wrong way.
@ October 19, 2010 2:30 PM in Boilder is not starting...The pressuretrol will open the circuit when the boiler pressure goes above the set-point (usually 1-1/2 or 2 PSI), when the pressure falls below the differential (usually 1/2 PSI) the switch will close and allow the boiler to start.
On the front of the pressuretrol you will see a screw that will allow you to remove the cover, inside you will see the switch with two wires leading to it. If the boiler has been off long enough for the pressure to drop off the switch will be closed and there will be no voltage across it.
BTW sometimes just a good rap with the plastic handle of screwdriver will cause an intermittent switch to close, when I was a tech at the post office I fixed more than one switch by doing that.
@ October 19, 2010 1:20 PM in Boilder is not starting...If you have the boiler manual and a voltmeter you can go through the wiring diagram and see where the power stops. If the thermostat is good the two safety's that will lock the system off are the LWCO and the pressuretrol.
When pressuretrols get iffy sometimes the switch inside doesn't close and will prevent the system from starting. Go through all the wiring to make sure something isn't just loose or corroded. just be careful so you don't get lit up.
@ October 19, 2010 12:13 PM in We Got SteamIt looks like this system has no real header or equalizer or anything resembling a hartford loop. It's single pipe and probably a parrallel flow system.The question is does it heat the house without any undo banging and clanging?
In the best of worlds you would want to correct the problems in the near boiler piping but with a boiler thats 30+ years old you have to be careful about tearing things apart less you end up looking at an emergency boiler replacement.
I'd look at the mains venting as well as the radiator air vents first, some of them might be defective. A plugged up main vent will cause radiators to heat slowly and partially. A plugged radiator vent can cause a radiator not to heat at all. Also make sure the steam piping slopes towards the boiler return pipe. While the system is steaming check for steam leaks at the supply valve at each radiator and make sure all the radiators slope back towards that supply valve.
If you can't hear the radiator air valve venting air before and while the radiator gets hot use a piece of tissue paper to see if there is any air movement.These are the kinds of things a homeowner can do without getting into too much trouble Once you understand how steam works and are familiar with your system, you can do more involved work. Hopefully the steps above can get you through this winter.
Once you do find a good steam pro, have him asses the system and the pro's and cons of fixing whats there or a replacing the boiler.
@ October 19, 2010 10:22 AM in Radiators only hot halfway through?Does the heating system satisfy the thermostat and does the house heat up? How did the system perform last year during the cold? During weather like this radiators will often not heat all the way across because it is cool but not really cold out.
I agree with what Joe V said about possible issues and that calling a good steam man might be your best bet if your not familiar with the system. If you do call someone in watch what he does and learn. Also if you look under the SHOP heading of this web page you will find some books offered for sale. If you are new to steam you should look at -
That book will give you a good understanding of steam heat. Then you can look at "Greening Steam" and "The lost Art of Steam Heat" if you want a deeper understanding of the system.
@ October 19, 2010 9:05 AM in Sight Glass / Water Level QuestionWe don't usually discuss cost in this forum but to me, the costs this
person is quoting indicates he really doesn't want the job. If he does
get the job, he padded enough into it to ensure he has covered all the
I suggest you get a qualified steam guy in to look at things and ask him if you can observe so you can learn what to do for normal maintenance.
I had to replace my sight glass and gaskets last year and cost me about the cost of a 12 pack of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale for the parts; I installed the parts myself in about 10 minutes and most of that was spent scraping what was left of the old gasket out of the bonnet nuts. Many years ago the tech replaced the glass and gaskets as part of the annual cleanout and the additional cost was pretty small. I usually tell the guy doing the annual cleanout to let me know if anything additional has to be done because he's already there and it saves the cost of another service call.
@ October 18, 2010 1:47 PM in Spitting Main relief valve would like to coverGetting that old valve out can be a challenge, by all means have your serviceman replace the main air valve if you don't want to do it yourself.
Covering the valve is fine as long as there is space between the output of the valve and the cover. It sounds like you will have more than enough space for the valve to work properly and you can access it for servicing..
@ October 18, 2010 12:30 PM in Spitting Main relief valve would like to coverA Main valve that spits is defective and has to be replaced. If the mains are about the same size you can just replace it with one like the newer one, assuming the system is working well - the heat comes up quickly on the side with the newer vent.
I would not box a vent in, leave an access panel so it can be serviced. Maybe you can plumb the air valve away from the rim joist with a couple of 90 degree's and a short nipple. If you put a box around the NEW vent just make sure the hole is at least 3/4" and goes through any wall into the cellar, so the air can easily escape.
@ October 18, 2010 11:26 AM in Some basic questionsYour boiler is slightly undersized but the fact it heats fine during really cold weather tells me that is not the problem. You might want to dial down the venting in the room with the thermostat to get the boiler to run a bit longer and see if that helps things. You also said the third floor gets too hot, have you dialed down the venting on them yet?
You said the Gorton #2 (which never really gets hot on light heating days) appears to be clear and that all is well on really cold days when the boiler has to run longer. How long is each main and are they the same diameter? How many radiators feed off each main? Also can you tell us which radiators feed off what main and how they heat up in relation to each other?
It seems the steam prefers to go towards the Hoffman main rather than the one with the Gorton on it. The Gorton #2 has about 2-1/2 times the venting capacity of the Hoffman 75 so something is up unless the main with the Gorton is much much longer than the Hoffman's main is. Is all the piping pitched back towards the boiler? Use a level, don't just depend on your eyes, If you have water pooling in the pipe that can't find it's way back to the boiler that can cause problems.
I don't think you mentioned anything about your header and hartford loop, if they are not set up properly, the boiler is not going to work as good as it should. Dan's books have plenty of illustrations that show how they are supposed to be set up. Also some pictures of the boiler, near boiler piping, and the mains (and main vents) would make it easier for us to visualize your system.
@ October 16, 2010 3:01 PM in Steam Rad Not Working?I assume this is a single pipe steam system - only one pipe feeding the radiator. Put a level on the radiator and make sure it is pitched back towards the input valve and make sure that valve is all the way on.
Is this the last radiator on a main? Your main vent may be to small to vent the air out of the main quickly enough and the radiator vent alone just takes too long. What kind of air valve did you replace and what did you replace it with? You may need a vent that is rated at a higher CFM.
Can you take some pictures of the boiler, the piping around the boiler, and the basement piping that leads to this radiator? Make sure you show any vents on the mains. Once you have them post them to this site so we can see what your dealing with. Also can you do a simple sketch that shows how the boiler and piping is laid out, showing any main vents and their relative position is to the problem radiator. Then scan that and post it along with the pics.
To determine the right venting you have to find out what the volume of the pipes and the radiators are. Dan's Greening Steam book has all this information and a lot more in it. If you look under the SHOP menu you can find this and other books that are available. The books are a one time cost that will pay for themselves many times over.
@ October 16, 2010 8:48 AM in New Steam owner looking for wisdomSorry that pasting of the spreadsheet worked out so poorly, hopefully the administrator will delete that post.
Enclosed please find a PDF version of the page