Joined on July 25, 2011
Last Post on August 29, 2014
@ November 18, 2013 9:42 PM in Newbie to vents and mains insulationJust wanted to clear up a little terminology for you.
The number of columns (or tubes, in a tube radiator, like the one in your kitchen) is the number of units from the wall out. Most of your column-type radiators look like they're three-column radiators. The tube radiator in the kitchen could be either three or four-tube. It's hard to tell from that angle.
The number of sections is the number of units from end to end. Your kitchen radiator has 22 sections. They're called sections because these are the units that are actually cast separately and then assembled. Your kitchen radiator was built from 22 separate castings, identical except for the two ends sections, which are usually identical to each other but different from the other sections in that they have legs and an extra boss or two to receive the vent tappings, all joined together by tapered push-nipples at the top and bottom and held together by two or four threaded draw rods. The construction of the column-type radiators is similar, but they usually have threaded nipples, lack draw rods, and in the case of those intended strictly for steam systems, they are only connected at the bottom.
Your column radiators look very familiar. I'll try to find the time to look them up if somebody doesn't beat me to it. These pros can usually ID them on sight--and tell you where they were made, when the company went out of business, what else they made and so on. If I'm lucky I can recognize them when I find them in Dan's EDR book (Every Damn Radiator).
@ November 18, 2013 9:14 PM in Newbie to vents and mains insulationYou can get the gauge off, but you'll need to take most of the trim off first. Otherwise you'll end up breaking something. It takes a little bit more than enough torque to rock the boiler, but, amazingly, the bronze casting won't break. Well, probably not. That's another reason to wait for summer. You don't want to be drilling out a broken off gauge stem with the prospect of freezing to death on your mind.
You'll probably find the actual blockage inside the tapping the gauge came out of. You can just poke it in with your finger then put the gauge back in with some PTFE tape on it. (No, it's not Teflon! DuPont told me so.) Originally they used pipe joint compound, which is why they're such a pain to get out. It's also why your WD-40 absolutely, positively will not get anywhere near those threads. (I bet they use the same kind of compound on the pipelines in the plants where they make WD-40.)
@ November 18, 2013 8:45 PM in Newbie to vents and mains insulationSteam systems make more noise coming back from a setback than at any other time. Either reduce it to a couple of degrees or get rid of your alarm clock and set the thermostat to call for heat about 10 minutes before you need to get up and wake to the Anvil Chorus every morning. ;)
You're probably going to be preoccupied until you get the noise issues resolved, but above you asked about insulating the returns. As far as heat loss, it's not such a big deal, but here's something to consider. Most guys will recommend leaving the water in the system over the summer, which is fine--the water becomes so saturated with iron and so devoid of oxygen that it can't attack the boiler and pipes like fresh water can--but this overlooks what happens to the outside of the pipes. Every time the temperature in your basement rises, the humidity shoots up, and the water in the returns is colder than the air, so fresh, oxygenated water will be condensing all over the outside of the pipe and eating into it like acid. As scale forms, it expands and forms loose leafy flakes that trap and hold moisture like a sponge. In about ten years those pipes will have much more severe damage on the outside than the inside. Insulating the pipes can prevent this by keeping that damp, basement air from coming in contact with your cold pipes.
@ November 18, 2013 8:11 PM in Steam Boiler Water Level ProblemIt increases surface tension and forms a barrier that makes it difficult for steam bubbles to escape until they expand and coalesce to become big enough to break out, and when they do it's a much more violent, energetic event that sprays massive amounts of water into the escaping steam exiting the boiler. All this water is going out into the system, pooling in pipes and radiators, then gradually returning after the boiler shuts down. The delay in condensate return is probably what's causing the low water condition.
Wet steam doesn't carry as much heat as dry steam, and it damages vents and shortens the life of the piping and radiators. Meanwhile, the fluctuating water level is shortening the life of the boiler, so you have a system that operates inefficiently, makes noise, wastes money, and wears out before its time.
Skimming is critical. There's no substitute for it. Draining the water removes some of the oil, but most of it lines the inside of the boiler as the water level goes down--remember, there's a lot of surface area in there! The temporary improvement lasts about as long as it takes that oil film to boil off the walls of the sections and float back to the top. To get rid of it, you have to skim. As for cleaning the boiler sections prior to assembly, that's a nice theory, but, well, you don't need us to tell you it didn't work.
One thing that can help to make the skimming process faster and easier is the addition of some washing soda (not baking soda!) to the water. Use about 2 oz. per 100 ft² EDR or whatever your IOM recommends. Washing soda makes the water more polar which repels suspended oil droplets and prevents them from dispersing. You should drain the boiler completely when you're done.
@ November 17, 2013 7:42 PM in Weekly Water Addition by Automatic Water FeederEven if you were letting out a quart every time you blew it down that still leaves 3 1/2 gallons unaccounted for. That's a lot of water to lose in a week. You shouldn't be losing that much in a season.
@ November 17, 2013 12:10 PM in Testing a 15psi pressure safety valve on my steam boilerNo header, bullhead tee… Nice stuff.
Nothing to do with why the PRV isn't working. It's probably piped out the side and the nipple has filled up with sludge.
If you don't test that valve at least once every season, the nipple will fill up with all the crud that either floats to the top or gets churned up and splashed into it. It's usually not too hard to clean out, but it's enough to keep the vent from working even with 15psi behind it.
While you have the valve off you might also want to see what pressure it opens under.
@ November 17, 2013 12:00 PM in Traps for VentingI seem to recall a thread where this was discussed not too long ago, but I'm not sure what the initial topic of the thread was. If I remember correctly, JStar and Steamhead and some other pros contributed, so there was some really good information there. If you can't find it by searching, you might try looking through their previous posts. You'll probably find a lot of other useful stuff while you're at it.
If I find it I'll post an update, but if Rod sees this he'll probably beat me to it--he's absolutely amazing at finding stuff here.
@ November 17, 2013 11:23 AM in Imported FittingsI had to face this same issue when I repiped my header last year. My heart said, "buy American," but my wallet said, "no way!" Reluctantly I went with the imports. The main difference is the weight. All the American made fittings I've seen have big, heavy flanges. They look like you couldn't break them if you tried. Most of the imported fittings are adequate, but sometimes the threads aren't cut at exactly the right angle (i.e. a 45° elbow isn't exactly 45°) or as deep as they should be. Sometimes the casting marks don't quite line up, and sometimes there is flash on the inside that they don't remove. You need a die grinder to get it out.
I should point out that I'm not a pro, and due to my inexperience and uncertainty I ended up buying more fittings than I ended up using (but I'll probably use them eventually), so I'm kind of glad I didn't pay that much for them, by if I really knew what I was doing I'd probably have gone with American parts.
@ November 17, 2013 11:01 AM in Weekly Water Addition by Automatic Water FeederIf you have a float-type LWCO, it should have instructions for blowing it down. There are two reasons for doing a blow-down. Keeping sediment from accumulating under the float and preventing its movement, and testing the unit's operation, so you have let out enough water when the LWCO turns off the burners. They should re-light almost immediately after you close the valve. If the burners don't cut out when you open the valve, the LWCO is faulty.
If your automatic water feeder has been installed correctly there should be a bypass valve. This valve should bypass not only the feeder valve but also the meter, so water added by opening the bypass valve won't register on the meter. This allows you to replace the water lost during a blow-down without affecting the water loss indicated by the meter, so the reading on the meter always reflects water lost from the system during normal operation. If your plumbing doesn't allow this, you need to subtract the blow-down water from the amount shown on the meter.
If you're doing weekly blow-downs and topping up the boiler, the water lost during normal operation should not be enough to cause a low-water condition and activate the water feeder. The only water being lost should be that lost through residual vapor in the air that's vented at the beginning of each heating cycle. That's not a lot of water even in a large system. If you're losing slightly more than this you probably have a situation where water is spitting out of vents (usually cause by high pressure or incorrect pitch or other piping issues) or leaking from valve packings. If you're losing significantly more you may have other issues, like leaking radiators or leaking returns.
Unless the system is drained at the end of each season you can often tell where to look for leaks by whether you need to re-fill the system in the fall. Leaky returns keep leaking all year round, but radiator and steam piping leaks will only leak during operation.
@ November 17, 2013 10:28 AM in steam pipes on interior wallsThere can be several reasons for this. Sometimes exposed pipes are part of a retrofit or system expansion, or it could have been as a way to simplify the original construction process or to allow access for maintenance. Sometimes pipes that were run inside non-supporting walls are left exposed when those walls are removed.
It's not likely that an exposed pipe is intended to provide heat because they don't have a lot of surface area, and many of them are insulated. Even those that lack insulation probably had it originally, but if it was asbestos, it would have been removed at some point.
@ November 15, 2013 9:13 PM in vacuum your boiler?The installation and operation manual should contain instructions for accessing the flueways for cleaning. Normally a vacuum cleaner doesn't work terribly well, but there are brushes you can get from your heating supply store. They're like long bottle brushes. When you clean the flueways the dirt just falls on the floor. In gas-fired atmospherics dirt can collect on the tops of the burner tubes, and there a vacuum cleaner might help, but you can also just take them out and brush them off.
@ November 15, 2013 8:59 PM in How to blow down a boilerAre you adding anything to the boiler water when you skim? Some manufacturers recommend using washing soda, aka soda ash or sodium carbonate (not sodium bicarbonate or baking soda).
By the way, your header looks a lot like mine before I put the insulation on, except the drop is bigger. Keep an eye on those riser unions. If those swing-arms are swinging they can loosen up, so make sure they're tight every fall.
@ November 15, 2013 8:47 PM in Steamaster Tablets @ Pex SupplyIt might encourage them to continue selling them if those of you who've used them could post reviews on their site. You can even attach pictures and videos, which would be a real help because they don't have a product image.
@ November 15, 2013 8:34 PM in No mains on one pipe counterflow system - what about a large vent on the radiator?you'll have to turn up the thermostat. If you vent the radiators faster, they'll just shut off the thermostat sooner, leaving the rest of the house cooler. But if you can make the whole house uniformly cool, notching up the thermostat should make the whole house toasty.
@ November 10, 2013 10:44 AM in BURNHAM BASE- RAY & One-Pipe Steam SystemThe piping for 1-pipe steam is basically the same as they show for 1-pipe water. You have to pipe the supply and return separately. You can't get steam in and condensate out through the same 3/4" pipe. It's not the ideal setup, but it works for small sections.
@ November 9, 2013 11:06 PM in BURNHAM BASE- RAY & One-Pipe Steam SystemSee page 4 in the installation manual.
@ November 9, 2013 8:49 PM in Does anyone still....The idea was to fill in the gap between the peaks of the female thread and the roots of the male thread, eliminating one of the two primary leak paths. It's not really clear to me that this ever really did much good because it didn't fill the gap between the peaks of the male threads and the the roots of the female threads, and if thread dope was used anyway, that should have been enough.
@ November 9, 2013 8:39 PM in Only 1/2 of my house seems to get any heat - help?Each main branch should have a vent located somewhere near the end. These vents allow air to escape so the steam can fill the main and then flow out to the radiators.
Also check to make sure the radiator valves are all turned on. They should be turned counter-clockwise as far as they will go.
If you still can't get even heating, post some pictures of your system and we'll take it from there.
@ October 31, 2013 6:01 AM in Could this happen??The low limit was plugged or otherwise failed to cut out, allowing the pressure to climb until the high limit cut out. Are the high and low limits on separate pigtails? If not, they should be. I'd also want at least a 5 psi margin between the high limit and the prv threshold. If one prv opens the whole system is essentially open to the atmosphere.
@ October 30, 2013 8:51 PM in What are these?Those are try-cocks. They're an alternative to a glass gauge. The water is at the correct level when water comes out of the lower valve but not the top valve when you try them.
If the bottom one's clogged you can clean it out, but if the gauge is working, it's not urgent. As long as they're not leaking you're good.