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Joined on March 11, 2004

Last Post on September 1, 2014

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This week's big project

@ July 16, 2014 10:14 PM in Lovely Lane Methodist Church- A Steam Heating Museum

was to cure a very bad banging problem in the library/museum hallway. Some shifty-eyed Dead Man wasn't paying attention.

A 3-inch steam main travels from the boiler room thru a zone valve, then down the hallway. There were two drip traps along the way, one at a 3-foot rise and one at the end. But about halfway between them, someone installed a 3x2x2-1/2 tee to connect a branch main, and didn't use an eccentric reduction. This caused a water pocket, and everyone knew when that zone valve opened- BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!!!

Our cunning plan was to drill and tap the tee, then run a cooling leg to a thermostatic trap. There was not enough available pitch for an F&T trap, unless we used an in-line trap which would have added extra weight to the line. In the next post you'll see why we wanted to avoid that.

The third pic shows what happened when we drilled the tee. Fortunately we had a bucket handy, having expected this.

Lovely Lane Methodist Church- A Steam Heating Museum

@ July 16, 2014 9:53 PM in Lovely Lane Methodist Church- A Steam Heating Museum

One of the things we love about this business is all the really cool buildings we get to explore. This was the very first Methodist church in America, first organized just before the Revolution. The first part of the present building was started in 1884, with the last part being built in the 1930s.

The original system was two-pipe air-vent, using what we think are Nason radiators. It housed a sanctuary on the main floor, which is now used as a chapel. The lower level was, I believe, used as offices and Sunday school rooms. It is now a library and a museum of American Methodism. Here is one of the rads in the museum- note how the rad was raised above the original boiler's water level on a hollow base that drew cold air from the floor level.

The second pic shows the overhead steam piping above the same rad. This wall is curved, and the Dead Men bent the pipe to conform to the curve of the wall. Where do we see this kind of craftsmanship today?

The main sanctuary has about a dozen indirect radiators feeding into a false floor. The heat comes up thru small mushroom vents under the seats.

The pastor's quarters, Sunday school rooms and gym were built in the 1930s. At that time, the whole system was "Webster-ized"- converted to Webster Vapor. This newest part of the building is pretty much standard Webster, but the two older portions have an unusual mix of old and new. Look closely at these pics and you'll see a Webster #522 trap on that radiator.

The boilers in this building also heated several buildings next door, which was the original home of Goucher College, named after the Lovely Lane preacher who organized it. At some point, the college installed its own boiler plant- I don't know what's in there now.

Good to hear from you, Dan

@ July 16, 2014 9:31 PM in Steam Change-Out

it's been a while. Nice work, as usual.

Try the Find a Contractor page of this site

@ July 16, 2014 8:36 PM in Long Island Steam specialists

you can search by state or zipcode.

Check out these two links

@ July 16, 2014 6:58 PM in radiator cover box design question

These are in the site's Library.

And according to WikiPedia

@ July 13, 2014 2:46 PM in Anyone else getting unwanted calls from Angie's List?

Angie's List has never been profitable. Gee, I wonder why?:

Anyone else getting unwanted calls from Angie's List?

@ July 12, 2014 1:05 AM in Anyone else getting unwanted calls from Angie's List?

We get them rather frequently no matter how much we tell them we won't pay to advertise on their site, and we don't want them to call anymore.

If this doesn't stop we may have to take some sort of legal action. Anyone else in the same position?

This needless death proves once again

@ July 11, 2014 11:35 PM in CO deaths because someone cut off the exhaust:


I'm glad that contractor is getting both barrels. He deserves it.

It's called "an accident waiting to happen"

@ July 11, 2014 11:30 PM in What is the name of this oil tank filling fitting?

assuming the tank is no longer there- every winter SOMEONE gets a basement full of oil because someone hooked up to the tank at the wrong address. That needs to come out NOW.

Same with the tank, if it's still there but no longer used.

And you say the house "used to" have a steam heat system?

Another thing to check

@ July 9, 2014 9:27 PM in Icesailor are you there?

what type of shut-off valves are on the main, water heater and branch lines?

The usual stop-and-waste type really chokes back the flow. A full-port ball valve does not. 55# should be plenty of pressure to operate this system if the flow capability is good.

Many people confuse flow with pressure. If we have good pressure at the water service where it enters the house, and insufficient pressure when someone uses one of the facilities, there is a flow problem somewhere.

Not that simple

@ July 2, 2014 4:51 PM in New gas boiler sizing

first you need to make sure it's safe to do it that way.

Typical requirements are that the pipe must come out of the building at least a foot above the highest recorded snow accumulation in your area, with clearances as much as four feet from windows, doors, inside wall corners etc.

Also, there is much controversy over using PVC pipe for venting these units. Some manufacturers say it's OK to do this, but in general Codes want any venting material to be listed for that purpose. PVC manufacturers haven't done that, and likely won't. There are listed materials but they cost a lot more.

You might try calling Slant/Fin

@ July 1, 2014 11:55 PM in anyone know of a place where i can get dedietrich products?

they don't market DeDietrich directly, but their Eutectic boilers are based on DeDietrich blocks. They may know where to send you.

Nice boilers, BTW.

If you strike out, from the looks of that control you might find another manufacturer's unit that would work. Tekmar would be my first call.


@ July 1, 2014 11:25 PM in One of the greatest heating tech' has passed away

From our favorite Dragon:
"FYI: For those interested.
There will be a gathering of family and friends on 7/9/14 from 6:00-8:00pm to say good-bye to Chris and share a story or two.
American Legion, 14 Church St., Manchester-by the Sea, MA"
I can't make it- any of you going?

What's probably happening here

@ July 1, 2014 5:06 PM in Converting Oil to Gas

is that Weil-McLain sees the writing on the wall, and doesn't want one of their boilers being replaced with those of another brand. So now they don't stand in the way of conversions.

In the past, the answer pretty much depended on who actually answered the phone. This may still be true.

Yikes- Chris was only 51

@ June 30, 2014 10:32 PM in One of the greatest heating tech' has passed away

younger than me.

A poster on one of the other sites said he had a heart attack, and no one was with him at the time. So far, that's all we know.

First order of business

@ June 29, 2014 3:15 PM in Utica boiler clicking

is to call a pro. Fixing gas equipment is not a DIY job, especially with propane that can pool on the floor and be ignited, causing an explosion. Seriously. People have died this way.

If that boiler has electric ignition, I suspect it's the old White-Rodgers setup due to its age. The successor to the AGB series, the MGB, originally came with this system when ordered with electric ignition. I seem to recall this system is no longer approved for propane (if it ever was), since it will try to light the pilot indefinitely rather than locking out as newer systems do.

If I'm right, you'd need to upgrade the ignition system and main gas valve. Honeywell still makes a kit for this that is approved for use with propane. At any rate, parts for the White-Rodgers system are getting hard to find.

Call a pro. Try the Find a Contractor page of this site.

Call a pro

@ June 28, 2014 9:33 PM in Pilot goes out when trying to turn on..

fixing gas equipment is not a DIY job. The risk is way too great. 

One question that hasn't been asked

@ June 28, 2014 4:33 PM in Heat loss on DC rowhouse?

is your current system a steam or hot-water system?


@ June 25, 2014 7:37 PM in One Pipe Steam - What Is This?

it might be a False Water Line.

More pics are needed.

If you click on my company's name

@ June 23, 2014 10:39 PM in Need help rating these radiators.

at the bottom of this post, it will take you to a discussion of a project where we cut a co-op building's gas consumption by a third- by de-knuckleheading the steam system. Despite what you may have been told, it really is possible.

Two points:

@ June 23, 2014 9:44 PM in Need help rating these radiators.

1- Radiators with blowers- also known as fan-driven convectors- were never standardized like a lot of cast-iron radiators were. We would need to know who made these units and what their dimensions are. Pictures would help.

2- Calculating the heat loss of a building is not, has never been and will never be the way to determine an A/C load. They are two entirely different things.

You've had recommendations to contact Dave Bunnell, "The Steam Whisperer", and I'll add my recommendation. He's one of the best in the business. Why don't you get in touch with him?

I still use a similar boiler

@ June 20, 2014 1:06 AM in Can Anyone Identify this Honeywell Control?

which came with a Sunray FC burner. The problem with that burner was that before I got into the combustion end of the business, techs would try to set it up like a Beckett. You can't do it that way. Sunray burners have their own setup technique, which is more like Carlin's. Once they're set up they run very well.

I actually had a chance to meet the gentleman who designed my Sunray: Dr. Bola Kamath. This man is a combustion genius. I think of him whenever I work on one of his burners.

I've tried the OEM Carlin burner in my boiler, as well as the Beckett AFG and am currently running a Beckett NX. Proper setup is key for any of these units to run well. If a burner doesn't run properly in my boiler I change it- I'm too busy working on other people's boilers to have much time to mess with mine!

Now as to that control- yes, it was original to these boilers. It was designed to make packaged boilers easier to assemble at the factory, by eliminating separate controls and their associated wiring. But I suppose it got so expensive that using separate controls and wiring was cheaper- later versions of these boilers had separate controls.
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