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Joined on May 5, 2011

Last Post on April 22, 2014

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@ April 22, 2014 10:08 PM in Skimmer valve failed!?

Here is a picture of the failed ball valve.
I just noticed it's not even a Hydrovalve but an Everflow brand.

Looking at it in the picture it actually looks like the coating came off of the ball.  It does appear the ball is brass rather than rusty steel.  This is the side that was facing the boiler since November of 2011.  It's hard to tell, at first I thought there were scrapes but now it looks more like the coating just came off while rubbing against the plastic seal.

Perhaps it's just a bad valve, or maybe Everflow ball valves can't handle steam.  Or maybe rust or something just worked its way in between the ball and seal. 

Any and all opinions welcome as always. 


@ April 18, 2014 8:48 AM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

Another beautiful install by Thatcher Heating and Air Conditioning.

I am surprised you went with atmospheric boilers this time though.


@ April 17, 2014 8:20 PM in Skimmer valve failed!?

My new "skimming apparatus" is installed.  I went with a plug rather than a cap because I can remove and install it using a 12" adjustable rather than a pipe wrench. 

It's near impossible to tell from the picture but both the coupler and plug are LEE brand brass made in USA.


@ April 17, 2014 10:47 AM in Skimmer valve failed!?

Nope, only thing I use is the steamaster tablets during normal use.

I have a few guesses of why the valve failed. Perhaps rusty water drying on the ball sticks a little better than when its wet and was able to get past or into the plastic seal. I used the skim valve a lot, especially in the beginning so maybe it was just how I was using it. Maybe it was just a defective valve, or perhaps it doesn't like the high temperatures of steam and junk worked its way into the seals when they were hot and soft.

So far it's the only valve I've had fail on the boiler. All drain valves which are also ballvalves are still fine and my king valves that are gate valves rated for steam are also fine.

New skim port

@ April 17, 2014 9:50 AM in Skimmer valve failed!?

So I decided to eliminate the valve and install this instead. Might be hard to see the color but they are both solid brass.

30 minutes with C

@ April 17, 2014 8:52 AM in Am I venting my mains too fast?

Holy smokes, 30 minutes even with a size C?
Did you remove or reduce the main venting on the short main and does the long main start to get hot right away or does it take a long time, seeming like all of the steam is going to the short one?

My boiler isn't oversized but rather is sized perfectly, and 30 minutes after I start producing steam all of my radiators are completely full or close to it. Once steaming it usually takes 2-3 minutes to get steam to all of my radiators meaning the pipe going to every radiator is hot, not the radiator it self yet.

As others have said swooshing sounds are never good, that's your steam dying before it even gets to the war. Killing steam is the same as burning money so you need to fix that as painful as it may be.

Just to keep everyone on the same page, the times I gave are after the boiler starts producing steam. I don't include the time it takes to heat the water up as that's variable and very dependent on when the last time the boiler was on. After being off for a few days it took 20.5 minutes to start steaming from a cold start + the time to get the steam down the pipes. On cold nights it may only take a minute or two to start steaming.


@ April 17, 2014 6:20 AM in Should the water supply flowing into a steam boiler be cold water or hot water?

The only time I've heard of hot water being an issue is if you have an autofeeder.  I believe the seals in autofeeders aren't designed for hot water and may fail.

Made of

@ April 16, 2014 10:01 AM in Skimmer valve failed!?

Not sure but my first guess was chromed steel. I haven't put a magnet to it to see yet. The housing is a yellow brass. I suppose the ball could be chrome plated brass but the "rust" marks look a lot darker than yellow to me that's why I assumed rusty steel.

Here is a link to the same valve.

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.
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