1926 Coal Conversion Steam Boiler

Old 12-20-04, 11:54 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
1926 Coal Conversion Steam Boiler

Well, I hope someone can help me out on this one. We just moved into this 1926 home last year and the boiler was working fine. It's an American Boiler Company ("Ideal"?) boiler that originally ran on coal but now runs on gas. It's a steam system. It has 6 radiators (3 on the bottom floor, 3 upstairs). About a month ago we had a gas fireplace installed into our master bedroom (as this was an addition and there was no radiator in this room--i.e. no heat), and since that day we've had issues ever since.
Weather was still somewhat warm at that point so we weren't running the boiler that often. After the fireplace was put in, we realized the thermostat was "broken". I put in a new thermostat (Honeywell) which seemed to be working fine. However, the night I installed it, the boiler system turned on as I neeed, but then about 45 minutes later, we noticed water dripping down from the second floor!! Only one of the second floor radiators was spurting out a great deal of water. I then proceeded to shut off the thermostat which in turn shut off the boiler...and the water festival stopped. I then went and checked out the boiler and it looked as though it had run dry (I looked in the glass tube and it looked empty). Unfortuantely I turned the fill knob to try and fill it up, and then heard my wife screaming as even more water sprayed out of the second floor radiator and of course drained down through the floor. I stopped this immediately, and realized the pressure was up to around 15 or so psi. I let some water out, and the water spray stopped. At this point we called a tech, who was very unhelpful. and suggested that maybe I should try and fill it again. I sent him on his way, and then talked with my father in law who took a look at it over Thanksgiving We then realize that we saw water totally filled in the sight tube, and figured that perhaps it was overfilled. I then proceeded to drain off about 45-50 gallons of water. The level on the site tube came down to about 1/2 way, and the pressure finally came back down to 0. We then ran it and things seemed to work fine. We also changed the "release valve" on that second floor radiator just in case that was malfunctioning.
Now about 2-3 weeks later, things seem to be working ok, but the radiators are making horrible noises. One of the radiators (1st floor) makes a constant hiss when the boiler is on, and then stops when the boiler shuts off. The other problem is that another (a different one) radiator on the 2nd floor is now starting to leak---not as bad a the the first incident---but enough to need a bucket. It only seems to happend when the boiler has been on for an extended period of time (my wife sets the temp to 72). That also seems to make a great deal of noise. We are hearing sounds like water in the radiators (is that possible in a steam system). My father in law said something about bleeding all the radiators when the system was overfilled, but I read something on this site that you don't typicall bleed steam systems. My pressure lately is now reading about 5 psi when on, and 0 when off. The onset or intake value is about .45(or 4.5)lbs...and the diff is around 2. Are these settings correct. again, I haven't changed anything since last winter, and it seemed to work fine last winter, and was a lot quieter. These noises are waking us up in the middle of the night.
I guess my questions are: What ever caused the boiler to overfill in the first place. Are the pressures too high or too low.
When I look at the site tube last night, it was 1/4 full, so I filled it up to half way, and this afternoon it was 3/4 filled...why?
Why is the 2nd floor radiator spurting water from the steam release valve, and how do I get it to stop?
Is there water trapped in my radiators? (all the gurgling noises), and how do I get it out?
Why does the 1st floor radiator make a constant hissing noise over the last couple of days, when it didn't before this?
Why aren't all my radiators effected?
Any other input/help you have for me would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much

Old 12-20-04, 05:35 PM
KField's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Easton, PA
Posts: 3,015
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
If you have only one pipe to each radiator, first make sure that the valve on that pipe is all the way open. Then it would be a good idea to remove each one of the vents on the radiators (one by one) and put it up to your mouth and blow through it gently and suck on it to be sure air moves through it both ways. Then turn it upside down and be sure you can NOT blow through it. That should verify everything but how it reacts to steam. It will also give each radiator time to drain back to the boiler if the supply valve was not open or if the vent was blocked. The pressure control is set too high in my opinion. A cut-in of 1.5 to 2 psi and a cut-out 1psi higher is a good start. I can't say the system flooded but it probably stirred up some dirt in the syste, when it filled or you drained and that could acount for some of the noise you hear lately. It should clear up on its own. The hissing vent is probably defective. You should check any main vents you can find on the ends of the steam mains in the basement. The blow test will work on them too but you will have to get it off the main first. It is best if your system will work without an automtic feed. It is a nice feature but can mask other problems. Perhaps you could turn it off during the process of solving this problem.


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: