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Joined on August 14, 2012

Last Post on March 24, 2014

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leave it for the bank

@ March 24, 2014 10:44 AM in i got to get rid of this steam heat system, i got questions

Go for the pellet if you want but leave other system in place. Most banks will not loan on pellet only heating systems so when it comes time to sell you will really hurt your pool of buyers. Most efficient method would be to supplement pellet stove with tuned steam system or vice versa.

follow manual

@ March 6, 2014 4:29 PM in Boiler replacement?

The piping should be installed as per the specific boiler manual guidelines which often means not reuse existing piping layout from boiler to main run(s). Way too many nightmare installs on here that tried reusing existing piping. A good installer generally redoes the header, hartford loop, equalizer, I would also recommend a clean out before the hartford loop as this is a low point where crud often collects. Finally make sure you also put a skim port on the boiler, you will want it post install.

pb blast, then breaker bar

@ March 6, 2014 4:11 PM in Replacing stuck Main Vents on the dry returns

Use a 2-3' pipe or similar extended breaker bar over a large adjustable wrench and they should move. I would have to check my gorton 2 but thought I had to use a 3/4 to 1/2 reducer to fit them to returns.

tough call

@ March 5, 2014 12:30 PM in Carlin Gas Conversion or new oil tank?

Assume that copper header has been there since install? If so that boiler may not have much life left due to years of stressing via expansion/contraction on the block--headers should always be threaded black pipe. So if you throw a conversion on there but do not redo the header a buyer or inspector in the know about cooper header may balk. So the best ROI may be new gas boiler correctly installed. You tend to get a better deal buying a whole new unit vs just the burner. NG home is easier to sell without a doubt and not necessarily totally on price vs oil. Oil tanks are major liability even when new.

Having said all that I was in similar situation 3 years ago with ticking time bomb 50+ yo oil tank in basement and 15 year oil burner. Had the 15 yo (then) boiler converted with riello burner, removed oil tank and input piping, installed ss liner as proactive preventative (ng burn vapor is acidic and will eat chimney mortar = major bill down the road). But I was fortunate enough that original boiler installed correctly as per manual so it was in good shape overall for its age.

propane now more than heating oil

@ February 18, 2014 12:58 PM in is it worth converting from oil to propane ?

in price per btu, at least in NE region, so not worth converting. Suspect conversion on both NG and propane will probably fall way off this next season in my area due to massive spike in prices. 50% increase in NG prices in my area last year vs 20% on henry hub. Dont use propance but believe it has been even greater spike. Other parts of country it probably still makes sense but carefully look at several years of prices in your area before deciding.

In the end US energy policy is not about self sufficiency and low prices vs simply an excuse to continue selling/exporting our natural resources abroad at highest possible price. Commodities Futures Modernization Act in 2000 mirrors the huge spike in all commodities esp energy.


@ January 31, 2014 5:28 PM in High Chloride Water and Hydronic Heating

From my simple understanding metals like aluminum, zinc, copper that get corroded quickly in distilled water. I believe black pipe corrodes slower but most literature focuses on other metals.

distilled = corrosive

@ January 31, 2014 5:03 PM in High Chloride Water and Hydronic Heating

Chrisj, I recently spent one whole night researching this issue prior to DIY coolant change on car due to so much debate and decided that basically, yes, distilled is more corrosive to metal in pure form vs "natural" water be it hard or soft. In coolant/antifreeze mixes distilled is still recommended b/c coolant itself is corrosive and has additives to slow the process. These additive slow the entire corrosion process across the mix and so therefore most car experts recommend a 50/50 mix of distilled and coolant vs 50/50 of tap/well that may or may not have high mineral loads (scale kills car radiators too).

So while I was not looking specifically about steam and hydronic heating systems, I did see numerous mentions by various heating contractors to avoid pure distilled water in hydronic or steam applications b/c of corrosion issues. But others claim it is fine and that mineral deposits/scale are what really rot boiler fast. There have been a fair amount of threads here over the years and no real consensus that I noted. I would be inclined to not worry about it, especially since it sounds like you add a fair bit of water over the season, I assume this is via pipe supply and not distilled?


@ January 28, 2014 3:31 PM in The results are not conclusive

Every system will vary slightly. I was curious about this last season and did a very informal test one weekend when weather was similar 2 days straight.  I ran the boiler, once with no swing (static temp call) vs programmed swing of 3 degree setback over same timeframe. (Note the setback had to be forced via programming or override as smartpro offers no swing). The swing setting ran around 5+-% less total time burn.

In the end to me it seems mostly a matter of comfort as swing does lead to cooler temp which may bother some. Also we run hot water off boiler coil -- so a 4 setback in AM is very efficient  in providing hot water for shower, kitchen, laundry, etc while also warming the house while we get ready for the day. Except on the coldest days this forced swing programming on static smartpro is better for us.

Also as Jamie noted logically to keep house warm at lower temp = less fuel. I opine that every house may have "base temp" that the house more naturally gravitates toward (e.g. my 90 yo brick house has a lower base temp). The boiler burns much less fuel to keep my house at 65 degrees than 70. 60 seems to be a real sweet spot for boiler as it can keep this base temp with much shorter burns. Of course most people would think keeping your house 60-66 is way too cold but after living outside for several years straight a base of 65 always feels great to me. I can see my wife rolling her eyes " feels warm to me honey"

anti-climatic huh

@ January 27, 2014 12:24 PM in Pressure Gauge Not Moving

I remember feeling a bit disappointed with 0-3 gauge too in action as it barely flickers during normal burn. If you run the boiler long enough it will eventually build some pressure. In my case a sustained 45 minute burn is needed to finally get the gauge to move towards 1.0. By that point most vents are starting to hiss though so it does show that residential steam is designed to run on very low pressure. My vent does need annual readjustment of the needle (+).

One the plus size this means the boiler is likely sized correctly which goes a long way toward efficient system.

short cycling is most ineffecient

@ January 24, 2014 3:37 PM in Steam two pipe pressure concerns?

sorry, the therm allows for a "perm" override that keeps at set fixed temp. This way I can then hit "schedule" button and it reverts back to normal schedule without re-program. I prefer to keep the house cool at night and while at work so generally 2xdaily it runs a 4 temp swing. During cold spells the boiler cannot hit this swing without building some pressure hence the override.

Every system varies but my boiler is pretty big and seems to work best on a 30-40 fire time relative to best efficiency. The swings are around that time frame, otherwise it averages about half that to keep static. Not sure if it matters though as they honeywell therm I use is "smart" in that it basically fudges therm readings to keep illusion of flat temp. But that is another thread!

assume you checked all rads

@ January 24, 2014 3:26 PM in How much water loss through single vent?

They can leak from vents, valves, risers and in some cases the radiator sections themselves. Look for black staining on the floor under and around the rads. Even so you would probably know if a quart of water was dumping on your floors every day. If vent is losing that much water you should see it condensing nearby, either on wood, ceiling, etc. You could even try to trap how much the vent loses by placing a suspended metal pan or something over the top that then condesates/drips into a collector set underneath.

I say it seems high b/c I spent one whole season running my system on too high of pressure before reading Dans books. Every rad vent and many valves hissed like crazy regularly one in particular that never close gushed steam non stop. And even then I was adding 1qt maybe once 10  days.

possibly but seems high

@ January 24, 2014 3:02 PM in How much water loss through single vent?

If the boiler is large and runs many hours a day then possible. If you observe the main vent spitting actual water vs some spittle then very possible but I would check elsewhere for leaks, are the returns accessible or under concrete/floor? If no visible leak at boiler then returns are often suspect.

flush/test the LWCO while boiler firing

@ January 24, 2014 2:48 PM in Weekly Steam System Maintenance

Otherwise you will not know if it actually works correctly. When done this way the boiler should cut off while the auto water feeder kicks in and as soon as the feeder stops the boiler should refire. I tend to blow my down 1x monthly as described vs weekly as I think that is a bit overkill and adds lots of unwanted fresh water. On some older lwco like mine you want to occasionally take them apart and clean out good (during non heat season). The reason is these float can become jammed with crud and I have seen mine actually get stuck with water feeder open, then the boiler, basement, mains, riser, rads, etc all can flood.

Biggest thing I do is monitor the water level almost daily during season, blow down monthly, check rads  weekly for potential leaking rads and cold rads. Water droplets can clog some rad vents where they get cold or start spitting water onto the floor, etc.

set therm flat with no swing on coldest days

@ January 24, 2014 2:40 PM in Steam two pipe pressure concerns?

On the coldest days of the year your boiler must run much longer than normal to get same therm rise. If the therm is running on any swing (e.g. 65 at night and 70 at 7AM) then you will see pressure build on the longer burn time unless your boiler is perfectly sized (rare).

So in my case when the temps drop below 0F I permanently override the boiler to a fixed non swing temp until the spell passes. The boiler runs more frequently this way but you will not see the pressure building on a long swing burn.

seems high

@ January 23, 2014 2:46 PM in Boiler losing water

That basically is average almost 2 gallons a week which seems way beyond normal steam venting loss. During the coldest parts of winter here (-10 to 20F avg range) 1-2 quarts max is added per month and that is with boiler firing at least 6hours/day. It could be leaking into the firebox but one would think at that rate it would be noticeable.

rating the contractor

@ January 23, 2014 2:37 PM in cracked boiler due to pipe leak

Steam is an system that requires a wholistic approach. So a good contractor will examine all aspects of the sytem, not just the boiler. This includes rads/vents, mains,/vents. boiler piping, returns, liner, etc. He or she will size the boiler based on rad/edr calcs and not just look at existing boiler specs. Finally a good steam installer will spend time post install getting the system dialed in (skimming, vent adjustment, etc.). Obviously ideals are rare in reality but anybody who knows steam should reflect the majority of what is listed above.

The contractor that looks at your boiler only and gives you a quote should be avoided as well as any contractor that answers your question "What are headers built of" (answer, black pipe) by saying "copper" should also be avoided. Might not leave much but those two are generally signs of a steam hack. Best of luck.

NG spot pricing this week

@ January 23, 2014 2:21 PM in NG spot pricing this week

Crazy town, mid atlantic to NE averaging 77.00-91.00 vs henry hub of around 4.69. NYC was up to 120.00 at one point yesterday! Heating oil looks stable compared to this action and ng bill shock ahead for consumers in these regions. All about the lack of transmission pipes or so they say.

lot of water to lose on new boiler

@ January 22, 2014 3:39 PM in First time homeowner - need help understanding my steam heating system

In the video it appears water actually pushed out the vent near the end so assume maybe some water is getting pushed up into the mains. The riser does not necessarily need a drop header if piped with swing joint, but that riser  lacks either. Additionally on steam boiler the A dimension is important so the floor to waterline and waterline to header measurements need to match install guidelines. As Joe mentioned copper in steam outside of returns will damage the boiler b/c it does not allow for expansion/contraction (vs black pipe). Therefore every time the boiler fires the expansion stress normally placed on black pipe goes right to the boiler block/sections stressing it and leading to early failure.

Even with that vent and the bad trap, you seem to be losing a lot more water than normal. At the end of the video you show the boiler and there is a repeated stuttering noise. Almost sound like water hitting something and then turning to steam--so as Bob mentioned if you see no leaks on returns then possibly the water is leaking in the boiler. One way to tell is to remove the jacket and overfill the boiler and look for leaks. The white vapor test works best on a warmer day so you do not confuse with standard vapor.

piece of tissue or cut paperboard cap, etc

@ January 21, 2014 2:59 PM in New main vents, but mains seem unbalanced

Place over vent mount hole, the air will flutter it first then steam should arrive shortly thereafter. But basically see if both start reacting around same time.

Re gauges, you can find 0-3 WIKA gauges which is what I use. After only one year the needle is off a bit though so not sure of quality. I believe the needle can be adjusted but have not bothered since it answered my questions after one day (that the boiler pressure is very, very low on normal firing).

remove main vents, fire briefly

@ January 21, 2014 1:09 PM in New main vents, but mains seem unbalanced

To test if steam exit the vent mounts around same time. Be careful not to get burned and shut off boiler once you note steam arrival timing.

That looks like a real workhorse, have you ever had it tested for efficiency? Always impressed how long some old boilers last but assume their efficiency is lower so just curious.

just swap the burner

@ January 17, 2014 1:24 PM in Opinion on conversion from oil to natural gas

That setup looks clean and well done and the boiler from the outside looks good. I would have a good inspection of the boiler and then put a riello or carlin gas burner on. Overall you save a little on the burner by buying a package new boiler deal but you can always swap the gas burner into a new boiler. Many of us have converted oil boiler to gas and had no problems getting final inspections/permits but always check with local inspector and makes sure contractor pulls permits.if needed.

one gorton 2 on each main

@ January 15, 2014 3:59 PM in How much water do you use?

The boiler is hungry one, approx 200btu in, 165btu gross. During the -20 spell she roared like rutting moose.
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