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Joined on July 25, 2011

Last Post on August 20, 2014

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@ August 20, 2014 11:33 AM in New House Heating

For me the answer would depend on the details. Do you have natural gas service? Is the house designed in such a way that you can put a radiator in each room, preferably under the window, if there is one? Are appropriately sized radiators for each room readily available?

If there are one or two rooms that are problematic, it's possible to run a hot water zone from the boiler, with or without a heat exchanger, to supply hot water to radiant coils or convectors. You wouldn't be able to do this in addition to heating potable water, but I would prefer to use a separate water heater anyway.

I can't recommend it.

@ August 8, 2014 10:00 PM in Radiator re-finishing

Rust Oleum hammered finish paints aren't intended for temperatures in excess of 200°, so they're not for steam radiators. They do make a hammered engine paint, available in black and silver, that's good to 500°, and a line of high heat paints, available in black, silver, white, green and almond, and ultra high heat in black, silver and copper.

If you're painting indoors, even with fume extraction, you should use an NIOSH approved organic vapor respirator. Read the MSDS for safety and disposal information.


@ August 3, 2014 11:21 AM in New Boiler Options

What pressure is your system running at?

Are there portions of the wet return that are buried or otherwise inaccessible?

You say that you don't see water on the floor near the boiler when you overfill it, but does the water level decrease if you leave it for a day or two?

The reason I'm asking is that you might just have a leaky return. It's very common. Depending on where the leak is, you might not notice any water loss unless the system is running, because the leak could be above the normal water line and water loss would only occur when water backs up in the return, or it might be small enough that it only leaks while the system is under pressure.

Some of the guys here have use air compressors to leak test systems by plugging up all the vents and pressurizing the system to about 5 psi and seeing how well it holds. I would give this a try before tearing down the boiler.

Header Design

@ August 3, 2014 11:10 AM in Drop Header???

Since you have a lot of headroom to work with, I'd recommend making the boiler risers as tall as possible and as large as the tappings on the boiler. A long, vertical riser prevents carryover from reaching the header, so the header can separate smaller entrained water droplets.

The header itself should have at least as much cross-sectional area as the boiler risers combined, this will keep the velocity as low as or lower than it was in the risers.

Allow at least one pipe diameter between each riser connection, and at least two pipe diameters between the last boiler riser and the first system riser. The system risers should exit at right angles to the header, and the equalizer should come off the end using an elbow the same size as the header. The diameter of the equalizer should remain at least half of the diameter of the header until it reaches with water line.

These are just the rules of thumb I've picked up here and there, so if the pros tell you anything different, they know better.

Undersize Boiler

@ July 26, 2014 10:39 AM in Webster - Two pipe vapor with return trap: New Boiler

If your boiler is undersize you're more likely to have uneven heating because, no matter how well the system was designed, it's tough to get the same amount of steam to every radiator in the house when there isn't enough steam to go around. When the boiler is sized correctly, each radiator gets enough steam to start radiating at its full capacity even though it may not happen at the same time, but when there's not enough steam available, the first radiators to receive steam start condensing it, making less available for the ones that are still trying to fill.

Nice job!

@ July 26, 2014 10:23 AM in new home owner from philadelphia

Everything looks great, but I especially like the header. You are a genius when it comes to designing effective headers in cramped spaces.

I wouldn't powder-coat it.

@ July 21, 2014 7:53 PM in Radiator re-finishing

Powder coating tends to flake off if flexed, and it tends to fail along sharp edges too. I don't have anything specific to recommend, but look for something that covers well with a thin coat. The thicker the paint, the more likely it will crack. And make sure the surface is immaculately clean and prepped according to the instructions. Since this surface isn't in direct contact with the steam, it probably doesn't need to be a high heat paint.

A little inspiration

@ July 16, 2014 8:12 PM in radiator cover box design question

Some of these are better than others, but they all look fairly easy to build.

I'd lean towards the bronze valves, but it really depends on the alloy.

@ June 29, 2014 12:59 PM in Radiator Valves

I'm not a pro, but I've replaced a few valves.

The terms brass and bronze are used almost interchangeably, and they don't tell you much about the composition of a particular alloy. Unfortunately, they usually don't get more specific than that, so you kind of have to hope they used a good, corrosion-resistant alloy. There is a big trade-off between corrosion-resistance and machinability, which makes manufacturing corrosion-resistant valves more expensive, so you'd expect them to cost more, but pricing reflects factors other than cost, so caveat emptor.

One thing I noticed immediately was that every new valve I looked at, in 1", 1 1/4" and 1 1/2", had a smaller throat size than the valve I was replacing, by about a pipe size. Whenever possible I used the next size larger valve by removing the bushing from the radiator and placing it under the valve. This is only possible if the radiator has a bushing, of course, and where it's possible to either use a shorter pipe nipple or raise the radiator by the distance added by the bushing. Not always easy, if even possible, but worth a shot if the supply pipe size is barely--or not even--adequate for the radiator's EDR.

High-temp paint

@ June 27, 2014 9:26 PM in Radiator re-finishing

Most paints say not to use them on surfaces that are regularly heated to 200°F. That's a steam radiator. Only paints designated "high temp" or "high heat" are intended for applications where the temperature can exceed 200°F. If it doesn't say it, it's not.

Some paints become fluid at 200°F and can stick to anything that comes in contact with them. More often they just give off volatile gases. The concentration of these gases may not be harmful, but it sure smells bad. Over time the loss of these volatile components causes the paint to shrink and become brittle, so it loses its ability to expand and contract with the substrate, and it will begin to crack and flake off.

The trouble with tees

@ June 19, 2014 7:50 PM in Adding a Radiator to an existing one pipe steam system

is that the pipes connected to both ends can't slant down towards the main, so your condensate won't be able to return quickly enough to get out of the way of the steam. Also, you'd be connecting two radiators to supply piping that was only intended for one.

Oh, you wanna use BOTH hands?

@ June 17, 2014 8:41 PM in Main Vent

If you're going to use a sledge, let's make it more interesting. We'll connect a couple sections of pipe, hang it over your head, and see if you can break it without damaging the pipes (or anything else that might be in the area if it were in a typical basement).

I'll watch.

@ June 17, 2014 8:33 PM in Main Vent

I'll buy a new cast iron fitting and let you use my best hammer (Mjölnir), and I'll bet you a sixpack of Sweet Baby Jesus you can't break it.


@ June 17, 2014 8:26 PM in Main Vent

Ward has a credit application on their website. :-D

Have you ever had to?

@ June 17, 2014 8:24 PM in Main Vent

I can't imagine myself shattering a piece of cast iron on purpose. I suppose if I had to I could cut through a malleable fitting with a reciprocating saw, but I'd rather cut the pipe.

If you really had to you could probably make a malleable fitting shatter if you chilled it with liquid nitrogen. You do keep a bottle of that stuff handy, don't you? :-)

Light cutting oil or a gel

@ June 17, 2014 8:00 PM in Main Vent

The thicker and stickier the better. Not only will it not run into the pipe, but it will probably keep most of your chips from falling inside--not that that's a big concern here.

You might see if you can pick up one of those lube sticks they make for bandsaws.

Get with the program, dude!

@ June 17, 2014 7:54 PM in Main Vent

I don't see what you have against malleable. They're much more forgiving of inexperienced weekend warriors like us, and frankly, I don't really get why the pros like them. Maybe they aren't as strong as the cast fittings, but they'll outlast any pipe you screw them onto. They'll probably outlast you and me too.

I'd vote for the Megaloc and tape.

@ June 17, 2014 7:43 PM in Oh look what I found in my closet

That's what a lot of the pros here use, and while I'm pretty happy with my teflon pipe joint compound, they seem to know what they're doing. :-)

I'm sure they make both kinds.

@ June 17, 2014 7:34 PM in Main Vent

I think the rule of thumb is if it has teeth marks from pipe wrenches it's malleable; if it doesn't it hasn't been used yet. :-)

Cast iron might chip, but it's just as likely to take a tooth off the wrench jaw.

Another difference is, if you're screwing a street fitting into a female fitting, you can turn the malleable fittings a little after they get tight to line them up, but cast iron will stop dead. If you force it it'll break.

Also, I think unions are always malleable.

He must've been pulling your leg.

@ June 17, 2014 7:04 PM in Main Vent

Grey cast iron does tend to be brittle, but most of the fittings you see these days are malleable, which is annealed white iron. Both contain a lot of carbon and silicon in large crystals that are very abrasive.

What were you doing in there?

@ June 17, 2014 6:55 PM in Oh look what I found in my closet

I thought you were out of the closet. :-D

Okay, I'm sorry. I've been biting my tongue for almost a week now. I just couldn't take it anymore.

I'd use oil.

@ June 17, 2014 6:30 PM in Main Vent

Especially on a fitting. Cast iron is high in carbon and it's brutal on drill bits. Most of it will come out with the chips, which, if you use the right feed pressure, will be two long spirals. I'd also oil the tap. If you're drilling into pipe to weld on an olet, all the oil's going to burn off anyway.
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