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Joined on May 5, 2011

Last Post on April 15, 2014

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Skimmer valve failed!?

@ April 15, 2014 10:22 PM in Skimmer valve failed!?

I just found my skimmer valve was leaking when I removed the loosely fitted plug I had in the end of it and found it filled with water.
The valve I used was a Hydrovalve1 1/2" ball valve and from what I can tell the boiler side of the ball is scratched and rusted badly.  I can't tell if this is from debris, steam, or both?

Either way I need to do something as all I have now is a steel cap on the end of the nipple that is in the boiler.  I don't feel safe with this only because I remove it from time to time and don't want to find it rusted on there.

I can't see a gate valve being a better solution as it's just going to get junk stuck in the area the gate seats in.   What do other guys do?  I'm thinking of trying to find a brass cap or a brass coupler and just do away with the valve.


@ April 15, 2014 9:37 AM in Am I venting my mains too fast?

The shorter main may always get hot faster. A few had recommended I completely remove and plug the main vent on my short main. I originally had a Hoffman 4A on it and three Gorton #1s on my long main. Over time I learned I could use a single Gorton 1 on the short main with five #1s on the long main.

If your short main comes off of the header before the long one, as mine does, you will find it difficult to slow the steam up.

As I said previously in my opinion Hoffman 40s are slow, especially if on a 2nd or 3rd floor.

Have a look at my venting map, it may give you some ideas. This was all done to get steam to my radiators equally and as fast as possible with as little pressure as possible. I currently have my system setup to shut down at 3 ounces so I never see more than that. Typically I see 1 ounce or less during normal operation.


@ April 15, 2014 6:21 AM in Am I venting my mains too fast?

A better question would be what exactly is the op timing?

From the start of the burner until getting steam to the radiators?
From start of producing steam until completely filling the radiators?

Something tells me we are misunderstanding what exactly happens in 5 minutes on the short main.


@ April 14, 2014 8:30 PM in Am I venting my mains too fast?

You'll get many opinions on this but my opinion is the Hoffman 40 is too slow for most uses. I have two Gorton #4s which I think are comparable. The rest are #5s, #6s and even two #Cs.

I would increase your radiator venting greatly especially with an oversized boiler. Keep the 40s on the short main and beef up venting on the other radiators. An easy experiment is remove one of the vents on a hard to heat radiator and see how fast it heats.


@ April 14, 2014 4:42 PM in How long to boil the oxygen off?

The issue is you need to make sure it boils all of the water you added. If your setup is like mine then it also adds water to the return line which means you need to wait for all of that to get fed into the boiler. Mine feeds a few inches from the boiler on the boiler side of the hartford loop so it shouldn't take terribly long but I still give it a good 5-10 minutes of boiling.

I usually start feeding water right after the burner lights at the beginning of a heat cycle.

Vents and size

@ April 14, 2014 9:52 AM in Am I venting my mains too fast?

What radiator vents are you using and how does your boiler size compare to the connected radiation?

My guess right now would be to slow up the main venting and radiator venting on the short main. It sounds like those are stealing your steam. One thing to keep in mind, the radiators on that short main no matter what will always have less resistance than the others. The further you are from the boiler the more pressure drop you have at the radiator. This means the vents on the radiators of the short main will always need slower vents to bring them into balance.

I have the same problem with my system.


@ April 14, 2014 8:36 AM in Help with Sizing a Boiler

Hi Charlie,

I've thought about it many times and because we heat our piping which is insulated first and then once all of that is hot we proceed to heat the radiation which is typically oversized for the room I feel a pickup factor is unnecessary. TRVs are not required to keep an undersized boiler inline, very slow radiator vents are. If you vent the radiators slow they will all heat together without any of them becoming a hog, in theory. Even with my current setup if I vent certain radiators really fast I will loose heat in rooms.

As I've said many times I'm a homeowner not a pro and have only worked on a few steam systems. This is simply what I've observed and believe to be correct, however I do believe Dave Brunell agrees with me at least for the most part.

Only a homeowner.

@ April 13, 2014 10:52 PM in Help with Sizing a Boiler

I agree with Jstar in regards to the smaller pickup factor.  In fact if I had to redo my system over again I might not use any pickup factor.  I'm currently running an EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation and part of me wishes I had an EG-40 instead. 
 Even though my connected radiation is exactly matched to the boiler with a 1.33 pickup factor I can build pressure, though it takes a long time.  This is because the boiler is 33% too big for absolutely no reason in my opinion.  It's also because I have two TRVs that cut off 100sqft of radiation at times, but that's another story.

 If I was you I would insulate all of the piping with 1" or larger pipe insulation, don't wrap fiberglass bats around things.   I would then choose an EG-45 or an EG-50 if you wanted to play it safe but never an EG-55.  The EG-55 is too big and it will matter for as long as you own the boiler.  If your piping is all made perfect and you insulate everything, vent the mains extremely fast and vent the radiators appropriately  I feel the EG-45 will work beautifully.  The EG-50 won't be as picky but the EG-55 will do nothing but waste money and make a lot of noise from building pressure every cycle.

I would recommend asking about the proposed piping on here before any work is done just to be safe and don't forge to skim!  After the new boiler is running it's going to take a lot of time and skimming to get all of the oils out.

Vent sizes

@ April 12, 2014 10:17 AM in Radiator air vent preference?

This is something I read from time to time and I don't understand it.

My system typically runs at less than an ounce and I have perfectly even heat using even Gorton Cs on two radiators. In fact, I need those size vents because of how low the pressure is.

Gerry Gill's videos

@ April 11, 2014 5:23 PM in Radiator air vent preference?

Here is a link to Gerry's videos.'s

I cut open a Hoffman 1A a while back. The float is filled with a liquid that expands at a certain temperature causing the accordion like bottom to pop out which drives the needle into the seat.

Gorton's as you said use a bimetal strip to drive the float and needle assembly up into the seat.


@ April 11, 2014 3:28 PM in New Lead Free ball valves

Icesailor with all due respect, I do not need to wipe my joints to know if I got the joint the right temperature or not. If you take the torch away for even a second and the solder solidifies you weren't hot enough, it should flow for a few seconds or so without heat. You can tell this in real time.

As you said if you overheat it that will also cause problems, though I feel the main one is you burn the flux before the solder flows in. Once the solder flows in I'm not sure if you can overheat a soft solder joint other than obviously damaging the valve or other item you are sweating.

Either way, I still stand by not touching a joint until the solder sets up and cools.

I quote Mr Mark Eatherton. "As for cleaning joints after the fact, I knock any dingle berrys off of the joint with my wire solder while it is still molten, but NEVER attempt to wipe a joint until the joint has completely solidified. Doing so will create micro-fractures within the soldered joint that don't appear to be leaking, but over time those joints will grow a white fur around the face of the joint where the water is evaporating, leaving the solids from the water behind. If its glycol, it will be bluish/green in color. "


@ April 11, 2014 8:55 AM in Radiator air vent preference?

For normal right angle 1/8" radiator vents Hoffman only has 2 options correct?  The ultra slow #40 and the expensive #1 with its joke of an adjustment cap.  Not to mention they click and clack which may upset customers. 

You may recall I had problems with my 1As getting clogged with a droplet of water randomly which I'd have to blow out with a can of air with a straw to get the radiator to heat again.  Happened randomly to all of my radiators and while it wasn't often it was still a nuisance. 

The water droplet clogging problem went away when I switched to Gorton.  The clogging issue may very well not happen on systems running a little higher pressure than me, but the adjustment cap on the 1A is still a joke.

To me, it's a no-brainer, Gorton's are near silent, offer more venting speeds and don't seem to randomly clog.  They also don't have an obvious design defect that no one has bothered to change like the 1A cap.

Vari-valves seem to make ok main vents but like you I don't think they belong on radiators.

That is my non-professional opinion.


@ April 10, 2014 11:33 AM in New Lead Free ball valves

This is the flux I use and love, but keep in mind I'm a homeowner not a pro but I do a lot of soft soldering and some brazing.

I hate the Oatey #5 stuff.

I also prefer this solder.

Cooling hot joint

@ April 10, 2014 11:05 AM in New Lead Free ball valves

Wouldn't spraying a cooling joint with water be in the same category is wiping it with a wet or damp rag?

I seem to recall several reports showing this causes minute fractures that may lead to failure down the road. I always let my joints cool on their own and then wipe them down with a dry rag once the solder sets up.


@ April 7, 2014 1:46 PM in Inlet valve banging when closed, hissing when open

Agreed pictures will help.

Hissing inlet valve sounds like the packing nut is leaking. This will let air out and steam in and if the pressure is high, which most of the time it is unfortunately, this will allow steam to work its way into the radiator.


@ April 6, 2014 5:55 PM in how should I prepare the system for summer?

Why would flooding the boiler cause more energy usage for a tankless? The exposed surface area of the boiler doesn't change and the increased water only means it would hold heat longer due to the added mass. This means the burner runs longer, but it also stays off longer.

If anything it increases heat transfer to the tankless coil meaning he could theoretically lower his aquastat temperature which would decrease how much heat the boiler is losing to the surrounding area. It should also increase the amount of heat pulled into the water from the burner because water is touching more areas of the block. This is why any boilers that are used for both steam and hot water always have higher AFUE ratings for hot water.

Flooding a boiler with a tankless coil is a win win in my opinion and I think Burnham even recommended it in the book I had for my V83 boiler.

Steam vs modern forced hot air

@ April 6, 2014 11:51 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

I'm a homeowner not a pro but my opinion is the house has more of an effect on fuel usage than the type of system.
I live in a 2 story 1700sqft house built sometime in the 1860s with very little insulation and almost all original windows.  My heating system is a well tuned single pipe steam system with a 82.9% WM atmospheric boiler.
Being I feel the home is very important it would only be fair to compare a similar home with a different system.  Our next door neighbor lives in a house not only built around the same time, but I believe it was built by the same family.  Theirs is slightly smaller and has all newer windows and a recently installed forced hot air system.

Every month consistently I spend less money on natural gas than they do with the same set temperatures.  The first time I learned this was February 2013 when we were talking and I told him I spent $290 on gas for the previous month and he said he spent $10 more.  This continues to happen only the gap is even wider due to tweaking and fine tuning I've been doing.  I use TRVs to pull heat from rooms that don't need it, things are perfectly balanced and my piping is for the most part insulated.

Is forced hot air, or forced hot water more efficient then steam?  Not necessarily and even if it was it's not enough to matter in my book.  If you have money to burn use it tightening your home up, insulating and convert your steam over to natural gas.  That will save you money.

Personally if we ever move, it will have to be to another house with a steam system.  I will never deal with hot water and its pain in the butt of refilling and  bleeding after doing any work to it and forget forced hot air.  I consider my steam system to be a work of art that will compete with any system out there in regards to comfort and efficiency.

Gorton sound

@ April 5, 2014 9:38 PM in Bad new gorton valves?

Gorton's do not click and should not click.
They slowly close during which they may start to hiss some as the valve is getting smaller and smaller.

Mine will start making noise around 2 or 3 ounces which rarely happens.  Another time they make some sound is if the system is running a lot and the piping is hot when the boiler fires up.  The speed the steam shoots down the pipes causes them to make a little noise even with a lot of main venting.
To be honest, even on a perfectly matched system with plenty of main venting and radiators vented fast I've yet to find a "totally silent all of the time" vent.  My vents chirp almost every cycle when it's cold out as they are venting.  It's not loud, it's just there.


@ April 5, 2014 3:11 AM in how should I prepare the system for summer?

I've wanted to flood my boiler for summer shutdown except I could never figure out how to boiler the water after doing so and never found clear instructions on doing this.

The last thing you want to do is leave a ton of fresh water laying in it for months.


@ April 3, 2014 5:19 PM in Nest for the UK

Especially when Danfoss already has programmable digital TRVs out on the market there.

Backflow preventer

@ April 1, 2014 9:38 PM in Thermal Expansion Tank

I believe most areas require a backflow preventer on the water supply to a steam boiler.  In fact, my inspector called me a few hours after he left just to double check that I had one, which I do. 

Just a homeowner

@ March 30, 2014 12:54 PM in mega steam mst396 or mst 513

Don't increase your pickup to 50% just because you do a setback.  The 33% pickup factor already includes this and in my opinion is too much.  I feel a 10-15% increase is enough especially with insulated mains and piping just as long as you calculated your radiation accurately. 
How well is your radiation matched to the heatloss of the building?  if its oversized, which most are this is even more reason to cut down on the pickup factor.  The radiation being oversized is enough on its own to increase temperature after a setback.
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