Leaks in Main steam pipe and one valve: see pix!


  #1  
Old 01-26-07, 08:38 AM
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Leaks in Main steam pipe and one valve: see pix!

The power to my town went out for a few hours today, then came back on, this the coldest day of the year.

I find two leaks in the steam heat system of my 1920 built house ! I checked because I figured the system would be stressed with coming back up to a heated house from being cold

1) One leak in my main steam pipe in the basement, a drip a second. The boiler is sending steam from the left and leaking out this joint. Might be asbestos 5 feet away from the joint on the left.

2) One radiator is leaking and sputtering here.

Can I fix these or should call in a professional? If I have to call a professional, how big are these jobs?

http://www.humanemontclair.org/a/pipes.htm
 
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Old 01-26-07, 11:22 AM
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The leak at the radiator valve might be an easy fix if you can unscrew the nut where the valve stem comes out of. You need to have the boiler off and no steam on the system when you do this. Under the nut (it's called a packing nut) will likely be a tapered plug (called the follower) and you will need to remove this also. It may require some work to get it loose, you can use whatever works as long as you don't break it or jimmy it up too much as you will need to put it back and also put the nut back.

Anyway, under the follower will be a space that has a string-like substance (called packing) and this is most likely dried out and hard. Ideally you should dig out this packing but in most cases you can just add a couple of turns of new packing. Your corner hardware store will have string packing and it is probably only a buck or two for more than enough to do the job.

I hope "they' will allow this video from a competing site. Repacking the valve is at the end of the video.

http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/heatingcooling/article/0,26206,1191164,00.html


As for the leak in the pipe in the basement...that looks like a Dresser coupling end. Can you remove the foil and fiberglass insulation and take another picture? It may stop leaking by itself if you just wait for a while.
 
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Old 01-26-07, 01:44 PM
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leaking steam pipe

Thank you for the repacking information, can do that for sure...!

About the steam pipe, it leaked in a more minor way for the last two years, it got a bunch worse today. Here is the latest picture...

http://www.humanemontclair.org/a/pipes.htm
 
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Old 01-26-07, 05:20 PM
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Yep, that's a Dresser coupling. Probably the worst thing that could be in a steam line.

Obviously there was a leak in this pipe some time in the past and the leaking portion was cut out and the Dresser installed. This coupling is intended for water lines operating at lower temperatures than steam. It has rubber washers in each end that are compressed against the pipe by tightening the hexagon portion of the coupling. The rubber cannot take the temperature of the steam and fails.

You won't like this but the "proper" fix is to remove the coupling and the short piece of pipe on the right that is threaded into the fitting. Then the piece on the left needs to be threaded in place and a union fitting applied. Finally the space between the union and the right-hand fitting will need to be "made up" with a custom cut and threaded pipe nipple. Unless you have access to the proper tools and know how to use them, this is a job for a professional. Either a plumber or a steam heating installer should be able to do it in about an hour or two.

You could try to tighten the coupling a bit more but that may make it leak even worse. You could also simply replace it with a new Dresser but it would fail again in a short period of time.
 
 

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