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Joined on April 15, 2006

Last Post on November 18, 2013

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Nest on steam

@ November 18, 2013 5:44 PM in WIFI STATS ?

I've had a Nest on my MST513 since they first came out, and there are no complaints. You can easily set the "away" temperature to anything you like (mine is at 62, and the house never seems to cool off enough to ever get to that point before somebody comes along and triggers the switch back to normal operations. The setting only needs to be made one time (when you install it) and can be changed any time you like.

Release 1.0 of the software did a horrible job of anticipating all things steam (time to first heat, time to temp, and overshoot after shutdown) but the current software handles it all very nicely.

Note: it really needs 3 wires to operate correctly. You can drop it into a 2-wire system (replacing an old style Honeywell round mercury t-stat) and it will work, but there will be times when it complains about not having power. If in doubt, get help from somebody who knows how to wire things properly.

I'll take some pics

@ December 17, 2012 1:12 PM in Taco X-pump block for sale

Okay, pictures will come soon.

I'll throw in an asking price too.


Taco X-pump block for sale

@ December 11, 2012 2:08 PM in Taco X-pump block for sale

Hi all,

I am selling a gently used (about 3 seasons) Taco X-pump block XPB1. Comes with Tekmar 510 thermostat, outdoor temp sensor, two temp sensors (for the nearby pipe), 0-100 PSI gauge, expansion tank, Spirovent, Watts 374a, and nearby connected copper (valves, etc.). It was used to run a radiant loop in a bathroom, and was all working perfectly, but has been replaced by a magnificent system designed by the folks at NRT as part of a larger renovation project.

If there is no interest here, I'll put it all on eBay in a week or so. Located in central MA, but I can box it up and ship just about anywhere. More details and photos can be provided.



@ March 5, 2012 9:32 PM in best boiler between two

Yeah, I think I saw you mention the B&G and a Taco 110 on another thread somewhere.

How important is the bronze option (I know it like doubles the price)? What about electricity, do those "big" circs use a lot more than the 007, or are they pretty comparable?

Thanks again!



@ March 5, 2012 9:23 PM in best boiler between two

Hey Steamhead,

Have you ever run an indirect DHW off one of these? I've got an MST513 in my basement, with a 53 gal superstor sitting next to it. The folks who did the install (about 4 years ago) initially used a 007 to feed it, but I've been going through them rather quickly (I think I'm on the fourth at this point).

I know that they didn't install the circ close to the floor initially, and when I asked them to do that they then wound up connecting things with the flow reversed: pulling from the bottom of the hartford loop and returning to the port that is labelled as the indirect feed.

I recently repiped it myself to flow in the right direction and to draw from the the upper port like the I&O manual shows, and so far things are holding together, but I thought I'd ask for input around here.

Love the boiler, though...



Should read more carefully before I post...

@ January 4, 2012 9:32 AM in Spitting radiators, loud banging

Since you have The Lost Art of Steam Heating, you have the resources to resolve the problem. It covers everything you need to know to fix this...

Horizontal run outs need to be one or two sizes larger in order to allow condensate and steam to pass without inducing hammer. Vertical risers can be smaller. There is a table in his book which details pipe sizes based upon the EDR of the attached radiators. I think your #5 radiator needs larger pipe for the 12 ft. horizontal run in the cold space, and may need a larger riser depending upon the EDR (1" pipe doesn't handle much at all... I've got one radiator with only 8 sq. ft. of radiation and it's still connected with 1 1/4" pipe). My approach would be to run 1 1/2" pipe in the horizontal and 1 1/4" for the riser to address the problems with #5.

As stated elsewhere you definitely should relocate the return line to the end of the main to avoid the puddles that are certainly in there. A reducing elbow to the return size (pointed straight down) would be typical. You can also reduce the size later, but keep the main full-sized before making the drop.

IMO the vent location is okay, and based upon your analysis it seems to be sized adequately. I definitely would not put a T at the end with the vent at that location (vents need to be away from sharp turns to avoid having water slam into them and damage them.

Good luck!

my 2¢

@ January 3, 2012 8:59 PM in Spitting radiators, loud banging

I'm not a plumber either, but I have spent a few years lurking here and working with my 1-pipe steam system.

You mention some work being done. How much new pipe was involved, and has the boiler been skimmed since that work was done? Wet steam can cause the problems you mention, and if the system was working okay before (maybe the original system was close to the limits on some parameters) then skimming may help.

Your first point about the 2.5 ft run of main that is still sloping downhill is a problem, and your second picture showing a new drip from the end of that is something that definitely should help.

The sizes of the runouts are determined by the connected load on them. We need to know the sizes of the radiators (3,4,5) in order to know if those pipes are correctly sized. Unless the runout to #5 has gotten significantly longer or you swapped a larger radiator to that line during the renovation it's likely okay at the current size.

It should be relatively simple to just move the drip to the end of the line and see what effect that has. If it does not sufficiently address the problems, then I would look again at the runouts, but I wouldn't rush into changing that stuff until trying the simpler solutions first.

venting risers

@ December 21, 2011 2:14 PM in venting risers

I don't know your exact situation, but I've found that adding a large vent on the valve side of the radiator will do exactly what you are looking for.

The point of quickly venting the mains and the risers is to get steam to all of the radiators at approximately the same time, right?

Adding this second vent to the radiator itself will help to vent the riser quickly, then close once the steam reaches the first section. Then the normal vent at the other end of the radiator can be sized or adjusted as needed to get the proper balance from room-to-room.

I found this to much easier to do than you might expect, and I didn't have to do any additional work on the piping or compromise the way the system worked. If it doesn't work, it's also super-simple to undo...


second vent

@ January 16, 2011 10:44 AM in low pressure

I use the second vent as a proxy for a main vent, not so much as a "radiator" vent.

In my case I have two mains in the basement, but the last take-off from one of the mains has a long run-out (about another 20' of 2" and then another 20' of 1 1/2), and all the radiators on that leg ran cold. Basically the steam got to the radiators that had short take-offs from the mains (2-8' of 1 1/2" or 1 1/4" pipe) first and (especially in the shoulder seasons) heated those rooms nicely and satisfied the thermostat before the outlying rooms got enough (any) heat. If I just put BIG vents on the outlying radiators then that would help in the shoulder seasons, but those rooms would then overheat in the cold weather :-(

With my technique I get fast venting on the long run-out until the steam reaches the radiators (shutting the close-in big vent right away) and then the smaller vents allow the radiator to fill evenly with all the other ones in the house.

I've seen some discussions in the past where people talked about putting a "main" vent near the valve of a radiator (or at the top of a long run, like a second or third floor feed), but it seems like a lot less work to just use the tapping that is already provided and have the ability to tune the venting on a room-by-room basis.

low pressure is good!

@ January 15, 2011 11:10 PM in low pressure

The lower the pressure the better (generally speaking).

As others have said, big vents you your mains are essential. After that, it's important to get the steam to each of the various radiators at reasonably the same time. After that, generally the vents should be sized according to the size of the radiator they're attached to.

A trick that I've adopted (though not seen mentioned much on this site) is to actually put two vents on the radiators that are on long run-outs from the main. You can put a reasonably large vent (like a Gorton #6, or C) on the radiator at the end above the radiator valve, and then either an adjustable or significantly smaller vent at the other (normal) end. In this configuration you get large venting performance to quickly get steam to the radiator, but then the radiator will fill more slowly and allow all the radiators to fill at about the same rate (all of them will be 1/4 full at the same time, 1/2 full at the same time, etc.). At least in my house and with my configuration this works really well. The only down-side to this approach is that you need to get the plugs out of the radiators in order to add the close vents, and that can require drilling if the plugs are not willing...

similar situation here...

@ January 15, 2011 10:55 PM in Short Cycling on Pressure? Downfire? Air Vents?

I also have a MST513 installed in Central MA. The situation is that we had this installed about 3 1/2 years ago, and after lurking here for a long time, buying Dan's books, and learning how to handle things myself (installed fittings in the skim port, added Gorton #2's on the mains, and tuned the radiator venting) the whole thing was purring like a kitten. Never cycled on pressure, never made more than 2-3 oz. of pressure, and the whole house heated evenly and quietly. Everything was pretty much ideal.

Until we decided to renovate part of the house, and took about 1/3 of the radiation off the system this Nov. Then the short cycling on pressure started (understandably), along with noisy radiator vents and noticeably increased water consumption. Cutting to the chase, I managed to convince my service folks to drop us down from a 1.1 nozzle to a 1.0 on the burner. This has completely addressed the "problems" without causing any downside that I've been able to see.

Since you have a new install, definitely don't change anything on the boiler setup until you get the skimming done (yes, add a ball valve to that fitting, with a 90 that you can point into a pail). That will likely dry out your steam significantly and kill the gurgling in the radiators. Adding insulation to the pipes (1" fiberglass is generally a good solution) will also help with the gurgling if that persists, and get your venting setup so that it only takes ~2 minutes to get the mains filled and the main vents closed after first steam in the header. Then, if you're still having problems with noisy radiator vents, you might consider having your service guy drop the burner nozzle by one size. I would not go any more than one size though.

Good luck!

moving indirect?

@ November 5, 2010 6:01 PM in How far can we down fire?

Good point on just turning off the rads in question. I'll make a note to run that experiment and see what happens.

As for the indirect, there are a couple of thoughts. 1) Running this off the steam boiler has been hard on the circulator, I've had it fail twice in the past 3 years (under warrantee, but still it's something I'd rather not worry about), 2) the new boiler should be super efficient, probably condensing (radiant floors using warmboard typically don't need more than 110-120 water) so why not put the DHW on the most efficient appliance we have? 3) with only the steam on the steam boiler, and radiant running half of the house, we might be able to keep the steam system idle for much longer in the shoulder seasons (thus saving more fuel)

Still early in the design/spec phase of the project, so these are great questions that we will need to put some energy into answering.


How far can we down fire?

@ November 5, 2010 12:41 PM in How far can we down fire?

Hi all, long time lurker here with a question.

We have a nicely working single pipe steam system; fall 2007 MegaSteam 513, about 460 sq ft of radiation by my calculations using the charts from TLAOSH, house heats evenly, boiler never makes any real pressure until the radiators are about full (which often means that it never makes any measurable pressure at the boiler itself), vaporstat cuts out at 8 oz. and in at 2 oz. and the system almost never cycles on pressure.

This leaves me thinking that we could be a bit low on the range of firing rate with the boiler, but I like that it works this way: most radiators never get hot all the way across until the depths of winter, and some of the vents never need to close. I've spent a lot of time (and a little money) learning all about steam (at least single pipe), and have spent a fair amount of time tweaking things to get this system working nicely the way it is. Things are super quiet, it doesn't use hardly any water (only need to add maybe two or three times a year) and the system has been basically trouble free. Happy, happy!

So, to the question: We are seriously considering a renovation in part of the house (this is a big old New England farm house and the back Ell is in need of some serious help). The current plans would call for removing about 150 sq ft of radiation (planning to install radiant floors throughout the renovation, probably with a new secondary boiler to handle that load, and maybe relocate the indirect DHW from the steam boiler to the new one), and my question is how badly is this going to hurt the system that we currently have? I know that the existing boiler will be seriously oversized for the new load, and I'm wondering about options to down-fire it (how far can this reasonably go?) or whether we're just going to have problems (lot's of cycling on pressure, spitting vents, perhaps creating hammer problems where there are now none, etc.)

Nothing is definite right now, but we're likely to get started on the renovations over the winter, so this may come into play during this heating season.



@ July 10, 2009 2:15 PM in MA location for sandblast/paint hot water cast iron rad?

I've had great results with Central Mass Powder Coating in Clinton (okay it's more west than north of Boston). They should be able to handle most any job of this nature.

Yeah, those big pipes don't get blocked...

@ February 10, 2009 4:37 PM in blockage in single pipe steam system?

Your new boiler probably has dirty water. It would need to be skimmed in order to really clean it properly. With dirty (that means oily) water you'll get wet steam, and that will leave a lot of excess water in the mains. Water in the mains can and will prevent the flow of steam to your radiator. When my boiler was replaced a couple years ago, there was one distant location which didn't heat (much like you are describing). After draining and refilling the boiler it was better, but it wasn't until I skimmed the boiler that it all worked correctly. Once the water is clean then a getting the venting up to par will make it work like a charm... But as others have said, what is your EDR, how big is the new boiler, and pictures of the boiler and the pipes around it will help eliminate a lot of potential issues.

constricted flow?

@ February 5, 2009 6:44 PM in radiant heat and ditra underlayment

200 feet sounds like a long run for 3/8 tubing. I thought the rule of thumb was to keep within 250' with 1/2 and going from 1/2 to 3/8 more than quadruples your head losses, so it may take a pretty big pump to push enough BTU's thought there. What do you have for a pump on this loop? What did the heat loss work out to be? Hopefully somebody else will check my math, but using .19 GPM I get 11.4 Gal per hour through that loop. Figuring about 8 lbs per gallon of water and 15 degrees delta T, I only get 1368 BTUH that you are delivering to the floor. with 80 sq ft of floor being heated that's only 17.1 BTUH/sq-ft. Everything would have to be really well insulated and tight for that to heat on a really cold day.

No need for a gap...

@ February 5, 2009 12:18 PM in antique steam radiators/ dismantling

The nipples are threaded left-hand on one end and right-hand on the other, they are turned from the inside with a long tool/wrench, and pull the cast sections tight together. I don't know whether they are tapered (what a bear that would be), but expect that most of the sealing comes from getting the sections tight together. Threaded nipples need to have much thicker walls as opposed to pressed, and thus seem to be a lot more durable. I have a dozen or so American radiators in my house (Peeless, Roccoco, and National), and I honestly expect them to outlive me. -Phil

I'll vote threaded nipples

@ February 2, 2009 2:32 PM in antique steam radiators/ dismantling

If the rods were only near the top, then they're most likely held together with threaded nipples (each nipple has left hand on one end and right hand on the other). Push nipples have rods both top and bottom. Threaded a lot more durable than push nipples, but I've never heard of anyone successfully getting them to come apart :-( I think you need a special tool to turn the nipples from inside the radiator (perhaps a spud wrench would work), but those threads have been happy in their current state for a long time... -Phil

Let me second that...

@ January 15, 2009 8:13 PM in How much pressure

My system typically runs on 1 - 2 oz. of pressure. Never see any more than that unless all the vents are closed, which never happens under normal circumstances as the tstat is satisfied before some of the radiators are heated even half way across. I think that a lot of boilers are overfired, especially if you're building more than 1-2 pounds of pressure before all the vents are closed. To minimize the replies: Yes I have a 0-32 oz. gauge, yes the envelope has been tightened up significantly, yes the house heats evenly, no my pigtail is not clogged, no there is no hammer, no there are no spitting or hissing vents I'm a happy camper! :-) -Phil

Start with new vents

@ January 12, 2009 2:08 PM in Header too low?

Vents should never release steam. If they are then replace them (or in a real pinch try the boiling them in vinegar trick mentioned in TLAOSH). If you don't own any of Dan's books, buy one. TLAOSH is the one to own if you're only going to buy one. On your main vents, you can post the sizes and lengths of your mains and Steamhead may reply with what you need for vents. Myself, I'd likely start with a Gorton #1 on each (use the #2's if you can afford them, it's almost impossible to over-vent a main), and see what effect that has. Once the mains are venting quickly move on to the radiators and replace the ones in the slow/cold rooms with larger vents. Only change one thing at a time, as the system dynamics are complicated and you won't be able to tell what effect any one change has on the system if you do them in batches. On your piping the header is low, but the real problem is the reducing T where the second main takes off. That's going to trap a puddle in the main which may contribute to wet steam. It's a shame, because there are just two relatively small details (height and reduction in the wrong place) which are compromising an otherwise reasonably well done set of piping.


@ January 6, 2009 4:09 PM in Steam boiler pressure gauge

It is also possible that being a brand new installation the pressuretrol is not wired correctly... It certainly should turn off the boiler when it reaches the set point.

Brand new...

@ January 6, 2009 3:57 PM in Steam boiler pressure gauge

Just because it's brand new does not mean the pigtail cannot be blocked. The installation will leave a lot of oily gunk and other debris in the boiler water, and that can get into a pigtail, gauge or pressurtrol and gum things up. If the boiler is new and hasn't been skimmed then it's quite likely that there is gunk in there. To directly address your question, the pressurtrol (or vaporstat) should be measuring the same pressure that the gauge is measuring. It's the static pressure in the boiler. Dynamic pressures exist all throughout the piping, and while there is lot's of interesting stuff to be observed there we don't typically monitor any of them. -Phil
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