Help!! Leaking Steam Radiator!!!!!

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Old 11-01-17, 08:31 AM
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Help!! Leaking Steam Radiator!!!!!

Hello! I was hoping for some help! I have a one pipe steam gas fired boiler system. First a little background – I bought the house 3 years ago and it was a foreclosure. It had a 2006 Crown Steam boiler which was never taken care of. Originally once we got it running we had our dining room radiator leak and our bedroom radiator leak. We had the pipes all flushed (2 years ago) and the vents on the problem radiators replaced, and pitched correctly. System worked perfect for a year – no banging to leaks – nothing it was GREAT. Then out of now where the block cracked (I was told since the previous owners didn’t clean the water out or take care of the system at all/the unit was WAY to large for the house). So we couldn’t afford to have it replaced last year so we waited a year. We bit the bullet and had it replaced 2 weeks ago with another Crown (a smaller one) that was measured out for our radiators. We get minimal banging. All seemed well and the mechanics tested it etc (wife was home)…They leave and I put it on 63 when i get home from work…..10-15 minutes I can hear the dining room radiator come on and hiss but nothing from the living room. Another 10 minutes go by and the living room radiator begins to leak water out of the vent. So I checked and it has a new vent – and it was pitched properly ( I even pitched it more for further testing – but nothing). Once the right side of the house heats up the left appears to start. I put my hand by the problem radiators vent -- and i could feel air coming out but it was cool not hot/warm. After more testing last night I am seeing a few things….1) the whole left side of my 2 story house isn’t heating at the same time as the right side – the upstairs 2 bedrooms on the left of the house – get warm at the very end – but don’t leak like the one in the living room also on the left side of the house on the first floor. 2) my boiler in a manner of 30 mins is auto refilling water atleast 3 times or more. 3) when I cut the heat off (due to water on the floor) the water gauge fills ALL the way up (to the top and past im sure) (I do empty it a bit prior to restarting for testing).

My mechanic was all but sure the one radiator had to be re-pitched but that doesn’t appear to have done the trick. He had mentioned 1) putting in some sort of cut off valve by the system – he claimed I didn’t have one and the older steam boilers didn’t heat up as quick so that was my issue…I told him the old boiler wasn’t that old so why did that one work but now this doesn’t? (also shouldnt this have been included in the original install?) 2) he said I must have a clogged pipe and wanted to bring in roto to clear out the issue…. I told him I had them flushed 2 years ago….

In regards to how the existing boiler is "piped" i've had 5 different guys come in to quote the job and all said current piping was good - didnt indicate any issues. Furthermore - the current piping previously worked fine!

MY concerns are why would I all of sudden have piping/radiator issues if the old system worked perfectly? No leaks ever after we got it squared away..now new system is in and we have an issue..and it seems after spending all this $$$$ the new "issue" is $$$ (clogged pipe or blow off valve)

PS- its running at 2psi I believe.

Any input would be great – feeling very frustrated!!

Also I searched the forums and found similar issues and tried using some troubleshooting but nothing worked!
 
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Old 11-01-17, 10:33 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

If you are getting cold water out of a vent then it means there is water trapped there..... either in the radiator or in the plumbing to it. There should be nothing but air until the hot water hits it.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 10:38 AM
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Hey - thanks for the response and for the welcoming! I am looking to learn and hopefully help others in the future! I didnt actually feel the water - just the air coming out of the vent was cool air. I am about to lower the PSI on the system as my next test. I will keep you posted.

Also - what would cause this trap? The system a year ago worked 10000% perfect. Install a new boiler and now an issue?
 
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Old 11-01-17, 10:43 AM
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Cool air is ok. That is the cool air before the steam.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 12:10 PM
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What are your thoughts of just keep cycling the system a few times to see if it clears itself? I had the pipes flushed 2 years ago so I am very suspect of this. It seems like somewhere in the system its holding water since this one radiator isnt getting hot quick enough coupled with the vent spewing water. The unit keeps filling and filling while running so that when it does turn off and all the water finally comes back -- the system needs to be purged so the glass is only half full.

Any thoughts?
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:18 PM
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One of the first things you need to do is buy the book, "We Got Steam Heat" and read it cover-to-cover. It is the bible for people with steam heated homes. https://www.amazon.com/Got-Steam-Hea.../dp/0974396001

Also, post a couple of dozen pictures of your boiler and piping. Disable any automatic water feeding device on the boiler and fill the boiler manually as needed. There are several members here with steam experience that will help you.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:18 PM
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Is it possible to post pics of your boiler and especially the near boiler piping. If your vent is leaking water that means you are getting water into your system or your condensate is not draining back into your boiler. If your auto feeder is going on that much there is no doubt it is over filling the system. The question is why.

You should not be getting any banging from a properly installed system. Most steam problems on new installations are caused by incorrect near boiler piping and incorrectly pitched pipes in the basement.

Since your basement piping was not changed and you said the system worked fine I suspect that the near boiler piping might be the possible culprit.

Pics would be the only way to tell. Believe it or not steam is not like hot water. It must be piped properly. It is very unforgiving if not unlike hot water which can be piped in a number of ways.

Hope this helps a little.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:32 PM
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Thank you Furd! I am ordering the book now! Pictures to follow!
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:44 PM
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Also Ill add often the system keeps filling and filling is because it needs to be skimed. ( oils taken off top layer of water)

This causes fluctuations in the sight glass.

Also the auto fill needs to be set properly for the delay needed so the auto fill doesnt trigger prematurly..

Yes pics are needed to help.

Also sounds like vents are not sized correct in the rads. Its a number system and the main vent needs to work to clear the main pipe first.. They the bigger rads get larger vents and so on to the smaller rads with smaller vents.

A Y strainer should be just before the main vent. The main vent is the most important part of the system IMO.

The pressure is probably too high 1/2 psi is normally good..

And skim that boiler... skim skim skim..........lol.. I have seen so many boilers blowing water out the rads with black dirty nasty stuff all over peoples walls.. Band bang bang bang...
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:44 PM
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spott -- it does - i will post pics in a bit!

I went home at lunch and lowered the PSI from 2 down to about 1. Wife is indicating it is heating and no leaking....yet..... going to test it more later. Would testing it at different temps show anything different?

Also lets say there is an issue with there piping -- would this cause just 1 radiator out of 6 to have an issue? (especially one thats never been a problem before)
 
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Old 11-01-17, 01:48 PM
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lawrosa -- interesting there was some black residue in the water coming out of the radiator but i assumed that had to do with the insides of the radiator/old pipes being dirty. Im going to look into/google skimming this bad boy. (surprised a brand new unit needs this type of work?)

What should the auto fill be set at -- currently it reads 13 (I assume you'll need more boiler info which I will post later)

Lowering the PSI and doing further testing with that after work and will post pics.

The valve on the problem radiator was just replaced by the mechanic (not sure if its the correct size but will check into that tonight as well)
 
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Old 11-01-17, 02:03 PM
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So much that needs to be addressed. Low water cut-offs and water feeders come in a variety of manufacturers and models so without knowing exactly what you have no specific information can be given.

"Skimming" is the term used by residential steam technicians for what is really internal cleaning of the boiler. Yes, this is imperative on a new boiler and should be done as a matter of course with a new boiler installation. It may also be necessary to do it more than once depending on the impurities found in the old piping.

The air vents on the radiators come in two types, adjustable and non-adjustable. The adjustable ones are more expensive but allow far better control of how fast any individual radiator will heat. Using adjustable vents will allow all radiators to heat at about the same time.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 02:09 PM
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Furd - pictures will follow as promised. Should my install guy have skimmed it already? or showed me how to?

Update: Turned the PSI down to about 1 or less....and no water...and piping hot house.. I'm going to still posts pics for feedback!
 
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Old 11-01-17, 02:21 PM
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Yes, the installer should have skimmed the boiler.

Lowering the pressure is good. The lower the pressure the better these systems function.
 
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Old 11-01-17, 05:24 PM
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I think that the problem is the new vent that you mentioned. The correct vent depends on the distance from the boiler. The vent that is closest to the boiler is not the same vent that goes on the furthest radiator.
 
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Old 11-02-17, 04:42 AM
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I have read all the post's and replies from everyone offering help. Wow, you have a big problem and it probably started with the boiler replacement. I have about 35 years experience working on 1 pipe steam systems and have been retired for 10+ years. Any time I worked on the replacement of a boiler or the piping in a 1 pipe steam system I took many pictures to compare the before and after to make sure that every thing stayed relatively the same as originally engineered. I may get a little over zealous but here goes: one pipe steam systems were originally designed to work with coal as the heating source, not natural gas or oil. These systems were heated up slowly and ran hot all winter. No burner cycling on/off to maintain the house temperature. The heat was on all the time and not on and off. And, steam boilers are supposed to be sized by the square footage of the radiator surface plus a large amount of pick-up load. Today's heating people forget this or never knew this and size boilers on the heat loss of the building (this is great for hot water heating but not for steam heating). Most of the near boiler piping may not have been changed, however if the pipe diameter from the existing piping to the new boiler connection, or the height of the original systems and boiler water level were changed, this could be a problem. One pipe steam systems are not "very forgiving", so if something is changed, you may have to redesign the whole system . With the advent of the newer efficient boilers, their smaller size and the fact that they hold much less water, changing the boiler from old to new is much more than just replacing the boiler. The new boiler will steam faster and require make-up water sooner than the physically larger boiler that steamed slower so you need to drastically change the system to allow for this happening. Usually the answer is to add a condensate feed tank, with a pump that is controlled by a " pump control " that monitors the boilers water level, since the new boiler does not hold enough water to satisfy the steaming load. The air venting of the system also has to be changed since the air is moved at a greater quantity over a shorter time period than the original system allowed. New main line vents must be installed at the ends of all steam runs to allow for fast escape of the systems air, so all the radiators get the steam at about the same time. I never used adjustable radiator vents and only used Hoffman #40 vents(my first choice). maximum steam pressure is under 3 PSIG.. Any radiator valves must be fully open or fully closed. They are not there to balance the steam flow. In your #11 post you said that the auto feed says 13, what is this and what does it mean? You may need to find some "old guy" like myself to fix your system. I hope this helps
 
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Old 11-05-17, 04:54 AM
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This is an addition to my long writing on 11-02, buy and read the book @Furd recommended. Call every heating company in your neighborhood and ask if the really do have knowledge of and experience working/troubleshooting 1 pipe steam systems. If you find any that can and do then they are the one you want. (most companies have no one that understand these beasts). Do not call Roto, they can't help you. do not flush the lines, they are not blocked. Do you know what the size of the old and new boilers are? How much smaller is the new boiler? How did they determine it's size? You said that the boiler takes on water by the auto feeder and ultimately floods the boiler. This is because the new boiler is physically too small and does not hold enough water (see my original write-up). All radiators should receive steam at approximately the same time ( you need to add main line vents ). In most of the systems I worked on I would remove the valve seats so the valves would not operate; they will just get you into trouble. As I said in my first writing, these 1 pipe systems were not designed for thermostat control, once the coal was lit it burned most of the winter. There are some devices that can be added to help with individual room temperature control. The present service company and most out there probably do not have extensive knowledge of 1 pipe steam systems. Tipping radiators that are working is not a repair. All steam boilers need to be cleaned internally to remove the oils and dirt that are in the new boiler. Read my original post about the possible need for a condensate feed tank. I had to add them on almost every steam boiler replacement to get the system to operate properly. I hope this helps. Please let us know what you do to correct the heating system problems.
 
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