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OT: any steam heat wizards here?

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  • wmgeorge
    replied
    Actually I did a ACCA Manual J on my house after replacing the insulation in the sidewalls, and installing new windows.

    Something they should have done on your 4,000 SF plus frame townhouse, built 70 years ago!

    So when I replaced my furnace with a new 2 stage gas Trane with the ECM motor all rated at 96% and my calculated load for heating was 68,000 Btu's and that what I installed and it works fine.

    When the poster can not or is unable provide very basic information you need to guess, now my guess is instead of a 130,000 Btu boiler its much larger. Since it is a variable rate burner it could be on low fire and not making it up to high fire to make steam?
    Same way I guessed about your LWCO and Make up water feeder... your unable to post the facts... preferring to have people guess so you can insult. Do you act the same way on the other boards you post on?
    If your not smart enough to find the rated BTU's on your boiler or burner, how can you clock the burner rate and say all is fine???

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  • Sparky_NY
    replied
    Originally posted by J Tiers View Post

    So I got home and looked at it. The idiot had replaced a low impedance thermocouple with a high impedance one, so naturally it would not work. I put the old one back in, and lit it no issues.

    .
    Never heard of low impedance vs high impedance thermocouples for residential furnaces/boilers. Are you talking about a thermocouple vs a thermopile? Furnace thermocouples normally generate 30mv and thermopiles are more like 750mv. I would be interested to see a link to low impedance and high impedance spec'd ones. Just because I never seen it or heard of it does not mean it does not exist, always willing to learn something new.

    Here is a link to honeywell, probably the most widely used brand. https://customer.honeywell.com/en-US...tpath=1.3.3.15
    Last edited by Sparky_NY; 01-19-2022, 03:38 PM.

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  • J Tiers
    replied
    Combustion certainly is a suspect, although I am not an expert in it, and do not know how much of a suspect it is. But I am aware that poor combustion goes with CO generation, and sooting up the gas passages. As well as lower than intended btu output.

    The "frame house" does suggest another thought.

    I assume the flame has been looked at, but do not recall the result. A feathery yellow flame in my gas furnace, which is NOT a fan assisted burner like yours, would indicate poor combustion. I normally get a blue flame from each of the many openings on the burner units, of which there are IIRC 4.

    I HAVE had a burner such as yours, but never had occasion to check the flame. It was some time ago and the technicians were not idiots then, as too many are now. *

    The "frame house" issue:

    Having lived many years in a frame house in a cold climate (present house is brick, and the area is not as cold), I know they tend to be drafty. Older ones tend to have poor insulation, the 1914 one I lived in had very little and it wasn't good insulation.

    Pipes should run up inside walls, as they did in that 1914 house. But, the spaces in the floors where pipes run to radiators (commonly put under windows), can be relatively open to air that gets into the exterior walls. The 1914 house is "balloon" construction, which runs to that issue.

    So, if the boiler is too closely sized to the heating surface, any hiccup in the system may lead to issues with steam getting to radiators. If air leaks are getting to the steam pipes somehow, there could be a load you are not aware of on the system, with some pipes essentially heating the outdoors. The "dead men" probably were well aware of this, and oversized to compensate.

    I have NO idea of this is in any way your issue. But it popped a flag when I read "frame" and also that it is 3 or 4 stories. (A true "connected" row house would have fewer outside walls, but one with space between buildings of course does not).

    I assume you have looked for any such thing. It would sure explain where the btus are going.

    * I had the system here maintained by others, some years ago. One year the tech came to clean and start it up. I got a call from my wife that the guy wanted to replace the gas controller for mucho buckeroonies. It turns out that he had replaced the thermocouple, and then could not get the furnace lit., even trying for most of an hour. Well, I had replaced that thermocouple the year before, and I was mighty suspicious.

    I told my wife to throw him out, and to make certain she got hold of the "old" thermocouple. She did both.

    So I got home and looked at it. The idiot had replaced a low impedance thermocouple with a high impedance one, so naturally it would not work. I put the old one back in, and lit it no issues.

    Yes, I got a substantial refund on that service call....... The supervisor was not happy with his employee.
    Last edited by J Tiers; 01-19-2022, 03:00 PM.

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  • gellfex
    replied
    Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
    You see, what is being described is a first class conundrum. Since you have described conditions that virtually cannot all exist, one of them at least must not actually be present. (Boiler running flat out, boiler correctly filled with water, sight gage operating correctly, pressure gauge OK, steam not making it to radiators correctly, radiating capacity below the boiler capacity, no leaks, no pressure at the boiler, no banging pipes, no evident place the heat can be going, fire properly adjusted and burning clean, no water buildup in pipes that you know of).

    Your task (or that of the tech) is to find the one(s) that are not actually true, or find the problem that is not covered by the list.

    It's a very logical and relevant engineering approach to look at the energy balance. That may not identify the problem, but it at least can verify whether there really IS one.
    Jerry, you have exactly summarized what I've been trying to say and being challenged on my facts at every turn. Of all those things I suspect combustion the most. On another site with steam guys they're insisting it's the vent balancing, and I reply that balancing requires the heat to exist in the system to begin with. I get a lot of technical jargon about condensing etc, but nothing about where the supposed heat went. If it was created by combustion and transferred to the water it would be in the building SOMEWHERE since this thing can be firing continuously for days on end! So IMO it's either not combusting or not transferring, or both.

    wmgeorge once more has made erroneous assumptions. It's a mostly attached frame rowhouse, 3 1000 ft upper units and a studio plus large boiler/laundry room in the basement. Regarding his house with 1700 Sf and 100,000 Btu, it's well known that 'The Dead Men' (as they're known in the trade) dramatically oversized their boilers. I read that in the early 20th century it was believed that for health reasons windows had to stay open all winter, so the boilers in the midrise urban buildings were all oversized. This is why if a boiler guy bases his replacement BTUs on the plate of the 70 year old boiler you should throw him out of the house, like I did the 1st contractor who priced the system for me. The next guy actually did the EDR math.

    I have not posted the plate because I could not locate a plate with BTUs specified. The system is a hybrid, with a 2012 Carlin variable gas burner on a 2012 oil style boiler. If a pic of the whole boiler helps, here it is. This was before the 1-3 psi gauge was added.

    Click image for larger version

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  • Sparky_NY
    replied
    Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
    Ask 3 questions, get half of one answered. That the rule for internet diagnosis of problems, even when the poster REALLY wants to get his proroblem fixed....



    Well, if he put the info in one sock, instead of half an answer here and parts of two others elsewhere, that would be easier to know. We are at 98 posts, with facts scattered around in them, and still a refusal to answer some basic questions that help define the issue.

    Why BOTHER to ask, and then withhold some info, and put other facts randomly scattered in 98 posts?
    I have read all the posts since the beginning, but still have refrained from posting any replies for the most part. Lot of repetition in this thread, like so many others on here.

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  • J Tiers
    replied
    Ask 3 questions, get half of one answered. That the rule for internet diagnosis of problems, even when the poster REALLY wants to get his problem fixed....

    Originally posted by Sparky_NY View Post
    The OP already stated a couple times that he compared the gas meter consumption to the boiler btu rating and they matched up fine.
    Well, if he put the info in one sock, instead of half an answer here and parts of two others elsewhere, that would be easier to know. We are at 98 posts, with facts scattered around in them, and still a refusal to answer some basic questions that help define the issue.

    Why BOTHER to ask, and then withhold some info, and put other facts randomly scattered in 98 posts?

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  • wmgeorge
    replied
    Originally posted by Sparky_NY View Post
    The OP already stated a couple times that he compared the gas meter consumption to the boiler btu rating and they matched up fine.
    Sparky The OP has been asked several times to post a picture of the boiler (and burner) nameplate and the true size of the building. Neither has been posted? I had assumed since no information was provided it was a larger brick apartment building built back in the 1920-1930 era with 6 units or so? The house I am living in now, just 1700 Sf had a 100,000 Btu heating unit at one time!
    Last edited by wmgeorge; 01-19-2022, 10:14 AM.

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  • Sparky_NY
    replied
    The OP already stated a couple times that he compared the gas meter consumption to the boiler btu rating and they matched up fine.

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  • J Tiers
    replied
    O's kay, that makes sense. You do have to size the boiler to the radiating surface, plus something for pipes (they have area also). Your boiler may be OK that way. It looks like you are at least at 150% of radiator capability, if I recall the btu output.

    Out of pure curiosity, what IS the building? A 2 family, a 3 family vertical, a 4 family side by side, or what?

    How OLD is it? That affects possible pipe condition. I'm guessing 1920s, possibly 1930s, but it would be another data point to know.

    You see, what is being described is a first class conundrum. Since you have described conditions that virtually cannot all exist, one of them at least must not actually be present. (Boiler running flat out, boiler correctly filled with water, sight gage operating correctly, pressure gauge OK, steam not making it to radiators correctly, radiating capacity below the boiler capacity, no leaks, no pressure at the boiler, no banging pipes, no evident place the heat can be going, fire properly adjusted and burning clean, no water buildup in pipes that you know of).

    Your task (or that of the tech) is to find the one(s) that are not actually true, or find the problem that is not covered by the list.

    It's a very logical and relevant engineering approach to look at the energy balance. That may not identify the problem, but it at least can verify whether there really IS one.

    Since you have a known boiler and burner btu output, and if you want to go down that road as a check, look at the gas consumption. That will tell you whether the btu that you think are lost could even have been actually produced.

    If it is not using gas corresponding to capacity, then you have one sort of problem, having to do with the burner not using the gas it should be using. That would certainly cause a problem, since the boiler would not have the effective capacity for the connected heating surface. But you may then not have a problem with the boiler and pipe hardware, it would be in the burner.

    If the fuel BTU input is sufficient, then unless there is unburned gas (look at the flame, if you can), you do have a loss of btu somewhere in the system, as you surrmise there must be.

    You may have done that, I am not going to sort through 95 posts to look for it, after all it's not MY boiler, and you already know the answer.

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  • gellfex
    replied
    Didn't get notifications this was still rolling.

    J Tiers To the best of my ability to find, there's no steam venting off anywhere, all the vents are operating properly. Steam of that scale makes itself known! Plus it would show on the LWCO fill valve meter.

    I've said it before but i guess I need to say it again, BOTH the boiler & burner were new in 2012, installed by a pro steam tech. Now, if you really want to nerd out, I measured the cumulative EDR of the radiators at 343. That makes for a total radiance of 82,320 BTU. As I understand it, that's all the system can radiate per hr running flat out no matter the boiler. The installation tech knew this, he measured it, and sized the boiler appropriately.

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  • J Tiers
    replied
    What's the size? My house takes nearly that, in a warmer climate. No clue how big the Apt building is, 2 fam? 4 Fam?

    "Your figure for the size of the burner was fairly small, seemed like it was between 100k and 200k btu ? I looked for that number but did not find the reference. That seems small if that is the right number. Might not take much extra condensation to overcome that. My hot water system here has around 110k btu. Steam heat in a previous residence was similar, for one not very large older brick house"

    Yea, I mentioned the waterlogging, possibly due to rust dams.

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  • wmgeorge
    replied
    Jerry you are correct the OP's statement he clocked the meter and the burner was using by his statement "The mystery is where the BTUs are going, they can't just be vanishing! I clocked the gas meter at 130k BTU/hr". Thats 130,000 BTU/hour which is nothing for a building that size. More than likely its a waterlogged system and its just heating the water in the return loop. As a serviceperson the first thing I check on a no or low heat call is the burner. Remember it was serviced March of 2021 again by his statement and I assume had been heating until just a few weeks ago. IF the burner is not running on low fire or off because of control issues, that equals low heat. Inshot powered gas burners rarely go out of adjustment or soot unless someone has been tinkering, or gas pressure has changed. I can adjust one by "eye" good enough to work, but you do need a gas combustion analyzer to be really efficient.
    Last edited by wmgeorge; 01-18-2022, 08:01 PM.

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  • J Tiers
    replied
    Originally posted by gellfex View Post
    ..............................

    "So why all the discussion about pressure and manometers really means nothing..."

    Does it? I pointed out in the OP that no pressure likely meant low BTU transfer. In response I got a lot of tail chasing about the validity of my gauge & other details of steam systems. But it was obvious to me it was the key clue. I've just had a hard time believe in that that much gas or heat could simply be going up the flue, but that's an experience call, not logic & physics like the rest.
    ...............
    Of course the pressure issue is important. As you pointed out, the radiators need pressure to drive out the air ( the radiator whistling).

    Since the water seems to be boiling, there is no pressure, and you are certain the water level is good, one of just a few things pretty much has to be happening:

    1) There are too many leaks or open vents that do not close. The vent on the main pipe may be involved here if it leaks or plain fails to close.

    2) The steam is produced, but not in enough volume to overcome natural condensation (plugged flues in the heater, plugged water spaces in the heater, less combustion than is thought to be occurring)

    3) a lot of extra condensation is occurring in the pipes, possibly due to trapped water, which is a huge heatsink or, air leaks into the steam pipe space from outdoors. That last one would explain where the BTUs are going, nicely..... Heat that goes outdoors would not be found easily....

    4) For some reason the boiler is shutting off early (but you say it fires continuously)

    Your figure for the size of the burner was fairly small, seemed like it was between 100k and 200k btu ? I looked for that number but did not find the reference. That seems small if that is the right number. Might not take much extra condensation to overcome that. My hot water system here has around 110k btu. Steam heat in a previous residence was similar, for one not very large older brick house.

    Not clear on the boiler, it was converted from oil to gas? If it is one of the old round ones, that was originally fired with coal orr an oil slinger type burner, and now gas, it may be pretty easy to inspect the flue spaces in the heater. The water spaces are another issue.

    More likely it is a larger rectangular type if the building has more than a couple of units. One building that I lived in had 6 units, and the boiler was almost 4 x 8 feet in floor area.
    Last edited by J Tiers; 01-18-2022, 10:53 AM.

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  • Rich Carlstedt
    replied
    [QUOTE=gellfex;n1980841............. Cold radiators abound, a few riser lines get heat. ................[/QUOTE]

    Risers on a boiler get heat through "Conduction" ......even in the summer when the pilot only is burning, risers will be warm ( Note , you didn't say ' Hot" in post #1 )
    So without a thermometer....I have no idea of what your hot or cold is.. I was only trying to help
    Good luck on your quest
    Rich



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  • JRouche
    replied
    Originally posted by JRouche View Post
    OT: any steam heat wizards here?

    Not me but two peeps. Both very busy with the weather. One cusion is looking for y
    techs..

    JR

    Oh. My cusion, From the Bronx. Owns a heating and boiler repar business. He lives in So Cal though , now. New York is stll frozen... I keep sayin. Lets go back?? Im from Jersey.

    Yeah Im from Jersey, my Dad left his life there, thoughts out here, in Jersey..JR

    Well I dont write stories very well..My Dad wrecked his car in 1977 and broke his neck, In New Jersey, JR









    And yes in fact it hurts, Every day,,,

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