1 out of 9 radiators not working properly

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  #1  
Old 11-09-18, 07:07 AM
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1 out of 9 radiators not working properly

Good day, I have a 1998 weil mcclain steam boiler with nine radiators and is a vacuum system. ( no vents). I noticed yesterday that the dining room radiator was not working. Disconnected the valve from radiator and made sure the valve was open, which it was stuck closed. I fixed it and immediately had steam to the valve, but the radiator only heats up a 1/3-1/2. I'm thinking a plugged return pipe? If so, what is the best way to unclog it?
 
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Old 11-09-18, 10:16 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

I am not the pro in this forum.... just checking in and reading your post.

I'm a little hazy here...... you have a steam system with two pipes and no air vents at the top of the radiator ? That sounds more like a hot water system.

The pro members will stop by and help me out here.
 
  #3  
Old 11-09-18, 11:32 AM
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It's a steam system with vacuum return.
 
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Old 11-09-18, 11:51 AM
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jc,
This video might be easier than trying to explain it. Somewhere around 14 minutes I believe is your problem, possibly the trap on your return might be bad.

Hope this helps a little. Very informative for steam users.

https://youtu.be/frbT1TDy8Bo
 

Last edited by spott; 11-09-18 at 02:23 PM.
  #5  
Old 11-09-18, 01:40 PM
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Excellent video ! Thanks for posting that link spott.
 
  #6  
Old 11-10-18, 04:51 AM
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I am not convinced that your system is a vacuum system or that it even has a vacuum return . To be either of these the system would have to be very old. A picture of the condensate return tank , the connected pumps, and near piping would be necessary to make that determination. Has the radiator you are having trouble with been serviced or worked on lately, such as the replacement of the inlet valve or the replacement or rebuilding of the steam trap? Has any system piping been replaced? You said that the radiators do not have any vents. That only means that it is not or should not be a 1 pipe system and is probably a 2 pipe system.
 
  #7  
Old 11-12-18, 04:57 AM
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This house is 172 years old and has the original piping from the first time a boiler was put in. I had to replace two sections of 2" pipe supply because someone had put too much water in the system and they rusted out. No valve replacement and was thinking of the steam trap, which I believe is a round part with a nipple at bottom and built in spring to open and close. I had taken that out to see if that was the problem, but wasn't. It is a 2 pipe system, supply and return.
 
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Old 11-12-18, 05:27 AM
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Spott,

Nice video.

Thank you.
 
  #9  
Old 11-12-18, 01:47 PM
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Where was the 2" pipe that you had to replace? Was it's location above the boiler's water line or below the boiler's water line? As far as the radiator not heating, if you have a 2 pipe steam system I would have to assume that the steam trap on the radiator is worn out and needs to be replaced. A picture of the radiator showing the inlet and outlet piping, would be very helpful. I wish you lived near me so I could trouble shoot your system in person. I love the very old systems. You did mention too much water in the system, please explain what you meant and if you can how much water was in the system.
 
  #10  
Old 11-13-18, 06:03 AM
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The 2" pipe is the main return line in the basement. My nephew lived in the house for 2 yrs. and thought the autofill wasn't working so he manually filled the system. Overfilled about 5 gallons. The pipe broke so we replaced it and drained it so the water was at proper level. I noticed he had the valve turned off above the sight glass. Would that had caused it not to auto fill? The low water level would kick on and shut down boiler. I've been here since September and the only issue is the one radiator. I attached 2 pictures of the radiator.
 
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Old 11-13-18, 06:13 AM
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Here is a picture of the steam trap.
 
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Old 11-13-18, 07:27 AM
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Anytime you replace a return line pipe please use schedule 80, sometimes called x heavy pipe since the return water is usually corrosive and the standard pipe will not last very long. Steam systems that were installed before about 1950 the piping was usually wrought iron and very hard and resisted the corrosion. That type pipe is not available today. As for the trap, I would replace it. If the boiler is controlled properly, it should auto fill and shut off if the water level falls below the safe level.
 
  #13  
Old 11-13-18, 08:56 AM
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Having the valve shut off above the gauge glass would have no effect on the auto fill. The auto fill responds to the LWCO through wiring. The valve is there to isolate the gauge glass in case of maintenance.
 
  #14  
Old 03-07-19, 09:21 AM
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Help!!! I'm confused!!! I replaced the steam trap at radiator. (I don't think it is the right one). Must not of had the cap tight enough and it was leaking, ( not sure exactly how long) but a lot of water!! Took cap off and water poured out like it was a faucet!! Shut supply valve off and no more water. So I used a shop vac and sucked the water out with the valve open and It drew the steam through the radiator. I also disconnected the return line in the basement at a union. Only dripped out. I even blew air from the vacuum in the trap to see if it would push it through the line. I even went as far as draining the Boiler, opening all valves to try make sure system was drained of all water. This morning I opened the trap to see how it was and it was the same!!! The radiator will get hot to about half way. And I did replace valve also. I don't understand how so much water can accumulate in the system. Please help! I cannot afford a contractor at this time!!!
 
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Old 03-07-19, 09:58 AM
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jc,
There shouldn't be any accumulation of water in the radiator except the condensate from the steam when it cools. The trap should open and allow the condensate to flow back into the return line.

If your rad is filling up with water from built up condensate then your trap is not working or you have a blockage in your return line preventing the condensate from returning to the boiler.

Did you try opening the union on the return line of that rad to see if the water drains back when the trap opens or if the trap even opens. By doing this your rad should heat all the way across and when the steam cools the trap should open and water should come out of the open union in the basement.

If water doesn't return out of the union then your trap isn't working and the build up of condensate will back up into the rad.

Is your return pipe from the trap to the floor pitched away from the trap or pitching back towards the trap.
 
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Old 03-07-19, 10:06 AM
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I will try to explain how a steam system works and where the level of water in the system should be. When you look at the sight glass that is on the side of the boiler and the water line is say 1/2 way up the glass, all piping in the system below that water line is totally flooded with water, unless you have a condensate pump. ( need pictures of the boiler and piping around the boiler). As long as the water level can be seen within the sight glass there is normally not too much water in the system. Every thing above that water line is filled with air or steam and everything below that water line is flooded with water. Now for the radiator; If the system is shut off (cold with zero steam pressure) all the water in the radiator should drain. If you take the trap apart, no water should be present and water should not flow out. If you have water in a cold radiator or it flows out when the trap is taken apart or disconnected the trap may be bad or the piping between the trap and the main return line is plugged. You said that the radiator heats only about 1/2 way which usually indicates that the condensate (water) is not flowing into the return line. You said that you replaced the steam trap, just what did you replace and how did you do it. Please be specific. I am guessing that the return line is plugged between the trap and the main return line.That return line is plugged somewhere. Hope this helps.
 
  #17  
Old 03-09-19, 05:26 AM
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Spott,

I did disconnect the union on the return line in basement and only dripped. But I did this after I sucked most of water out. Radiator did heat all the way after I sucked the water out. I did not put the element back in trap, I think I have the wrong one. It's open and the next day still had water build up. I will disconnect Union first and then open trap cover to see what happens. Thank you for the info.
 
  #18  
Old 03-09-19, 06:25 AM
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Steamboy,
I disconnected union, opened trap and no water. Just dripping at union. I'm sure the 1/2 in. return pipe from radiator to main return is built up some from many years!!! Here are some pictures....Won't let me attach photos. Says files are too big and I made them as small as I can!
 
  #19  
Old 03-09-19, 06:40 AM
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Steamboy,

I replaced the element of the trap with a newer version, but I think it too long. I replaced it with a Barnes & Jones cage unit 6168.
 
  #20  
Old 03-09-19, 08:35 AM
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There are different brands of traps and the elements are not interchangeable. If you cannot find the element for your trap then you must replace the whole trap.

What brand trap do you have.

If you remove the element and replace the cap and open the union the rad should heat up and condensate should drip from the opening in the union. If this happens then try it again with the element in. The rad may heat once or twice but eventually without the trap releasing the water it will back up into the rad and prevent it from heating all the way.

If this happens change the trap or get the proper replacement element. As far as the clog it is only condensate so I wouldn't think it would completely clog especially if everything is pitched the right way, there is nothing in there to clog.

Is that pipe under the rad pitched correctly toward the floor.
 
  #21  
Old 03-10-19, 04:13 AM
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Try this; call Barnes and Jones directly or a rep. and give them the name and number from the top of the cap and any other numbers or letters that are anywhere on the trap body. From those numbers they may be able to sell you the correct cage unit assembly. Changing the whole trap including the union nipple that is in the radiator can be a problem unless you have the know- how and the correct tools. Once you break off that short union piece in the radiator outlet getting it out is another problem. Every radiator in your house probably has a trap that may need rebuilt occasionally so take all the numbers and buy a few spare rebuild kits. (Barnes and Jones 781-963-8000) A search may yield other phone numbers
 
  #22  
Old 03-12-19, 07:10 AM
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I did call them with the numbers off the cap and they told me what I needed. I put the element in again and it plugged up again.
 
  #23  
Old 03-12-19, 08:27 AM
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I can only think of 2 things to try at this point. 1) take the cover off the trap and pour water into the trap body to see if the return line is plugged from the trap to the main return and to check from the trap inlet into the radiator. Disconnect the trap and shine a light into the radiator. You are looking for a partially plugged line. 2) Did you install the new trap repair kit correctly. the plunger goes down and sometimes you have to remove the trap's original seat. Can't think of anything else at this time.
 
  #24  
Old 03-12-19, 11:22 AM
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You mentioned Barnes and Jones. The sight below shows replacement elements for that brand and they look nothing like the pic you showed.

That being said I don't think the element matters much at this point since you said you ran with the element removed and you had the same problem so if my opinion you either have a blockage somewhere or you have a return line pitched the wrong way.

I have mentioned the return line under the rad and the way it is pitched and never received a response if it was checked so this is the last time it will be mentioned. The pic, to me looks like the pipe is pitched the wrong way not allowing the condensate to flow properly into the return.

If you loosen the union on the rad at the trap to see how much condensate comes out and how the rad heats might shed some light on this. When you loosen the nut, lift up the pipe under the rad and see if it's full of water. It should be empty if it's working and pitched the right way.
 
  #25  
Old 03-18-19, 04:18 AM
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By the way, did you get the radiator to heat yet? If not could you post a couple pictures showing other radiators in your home and how they are piped. I woke up this morning with 1 more idea. It is a remote possibility and have only seen this once in 40+ years of working with steam.
 
  #26  
Old 03-25-19, 07:58 AM
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Spott,

I finally did check that pipe under the radiator and yes it wasn't pitched right. I put a spacer under radiator legs to get it better. Not perfect but much better. You mentioned site below? No link!
 
  #27  
Old 03-25-19, 08:02 AM
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Steamboy,

This is the only radiator piped like this. All others are straight down from the trap. Into the floor that is.
 
  #28  
Old 03-25-19, 09:08 AM
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If the discharge piping is not plugged and you are sure it is not, try this; turn up the thermostat to see if this rad will heat all the way across if the boiler runs an excessive amount of time. If it heats due to an extended boiler run time, I have seen cases where the trap could not move enough condensate out of the rad in a normal cycle. This was caused because someone replaced the old rad with a much larger rad and the normal run time was not enough to get the whole rad hot. I will bet in your case that the rad you are having trouble with has been replaced with a larger rad and that is why it is piped the way it is. To solve this problem, you may need to pipe in 2 traps or a much larger trap to handle the extra condensate. If this is the case, I have only seen this twice in 40+ years of service. IT may not be your problem but it is possible. No more ideas at this time .
 
  #29  
Old 03-25-19, 10:58 AM
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Steamboy and Spott,

I called Barnes and jones and they assured me it was the right cage trap. Steamboy I did this before reading your post. The pipe and valve get extremely hot and the radiator only half way warm. I took trap cover off and cool water is bubbling up from the bottom of trap!! ????? And this the original radiator that I know of since I can remember.
 
  #30  
Old 03-25-19, 11:01 AM
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Now the bubbling stopped. Still in heating cycle. waiting to see what happens! All other radiators are working!!
 
  #31  
Old 03-25-19, 11:20 AM
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Sreamboy,

I believe you are correct that the trap and piping is too small. The supply is 3/4 and the trap is 1/2. What I did is remove the trap cover and watched the water bubble out of radiator,( not coming from bottom as I first thought) and sucking excess with a shop vac and the whole radiator got hot. I think if I regulate the valve to a trickle it will work. Trying that next!
 
  #32  
Old 03-25-19, 12:49 PM
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Sorry about not posting the sight. I will post it below so you can see your options. That return pipe under the rad must be pitched downward toward the floor so water will flow. If you are getting bubbling the water is not draining out.

If you remove that trap from the system and put a pan to catch the water and turn on your heat to see the outcome and check to see if there is any standing water in that pipe under the rad. That pipe should be empty. Any water in that pipe means it is pitched the wrong way. Here is the trap sight.

https://www.supplyhouse.com/sh/contr...es+steam+traps

https://www.supplyhouse.com/sh/contr...or+steam+traps

You need the larger pipe on the supply for the steam and the 1/2" is only condensate. I believe if that pipe is pitched right 1/2" will handle it, after all it handles your potable water at much higher pressure. Remember, it only turns to condensate as the steam cools and dribbles out.
 
  #33  
Old 03-25-19, 03:52 PM
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I saw 1 radiator that was in a church where all the traps were replaced with Barnes and Jones replacement elements. One of the biggest radiators did exactly what your rad is doing. The fix was to remove the Barnes and Jones repair element and install a standard trap.. We reasoned that the Barnes and Jones replacement element did not have the same condensate handling capacity as the original trap due the construction of the new element. Once an original type trap was installed the radiator again worked as it had originally. When we again questioned the rep from Barnes and Jones he stated that the replacement trap did not have the same condensate handling capacity as the original trap. Many hours were spent trying to figure out the problem and fix it. I suspect that the rad is not the original since it"s return is piped differently than the other rads. The swing piping from under the rad is the give away.
 

Last edited by Steamboy; 03-25-19 at 04:28 PM.
  #34  
Old 04-01-19, 05:20 AM
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Spott and Steamboy,

Thank you for all your input!! I believe the the radiator is not original as you suggested. The element probably is not the correct one. The radiator still does not heat fully on it's own, I have to suck out the extra water with a shop vac to get the whole radiator hot. I believe it a pipe issue. Does not work without element also. Will be checking pipes for blockage this week.
 
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Old 04-01-19, 03:47 PM
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Before you just accept the sub par heating of the radiator as the new normal try installing a new thermostatic trap to replace the present trap that has been rebuilt with a Barnes and Jones replacement unit. If it were me, I would install 2 traps in parallel, but that was part of my expertise and job. If you feel that you do not need the extra big radiator you could remove sections to reduce the size and the number of sections or leave it the size it is and do nothing as long as the room is warm enough. As I said in a previous post, make sure that there is no restriction in either the radiator or the pipe leaving the trap. When the boiler is firing and you remove the trap cover, does steam or anything come out of the discharge piping after the trap. There is always a fix for every problem but you may need a knowledgeable guy there to fix it.
 
  #36  
Old 04-01-19, 05:02 PM
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j,
Going back to your post #26 where you said you put washers under the legs to make the pitch in the pipe under the rad better.

By putting washers under the legs of the side the pipe is on now you have pitched the whole rad the opposite way of the trap pitching the rad the wrong way.

This is just a thought that would require a little work that should have been done when that different rad was put in.

Remove that 1/2" pipe from it's present location and from where it goes into the return line, relocate that pipe the same way but in the basement and through a new hole, come up right underneath the trap the way the other rads are piped. This way you would have your proper pitch and no water in the rad and replace that trap.

As SB pointed out and I agree, although that rad is original to you it is not to the system. The old rad most likely ended where that elbow in the floor is. Nobody would go through the aggravation of piping a return that way unless it is not accessible from the basement.

Just a thought.
 
  #37  
Old 04-02-19, 02:58 AM
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One thing I just noticed is how the radiator is piped; it is piped for a hot water system and not a steam system. That in itself should not be a problem except that we do not know the condition of the inside of the radiator. It could be compromised with corrosion. Also, you want the radiator sloping slightly to the left, towards the steam trap so the condensate is helped along by gravity and not building up in the bottom of a right-sloped radiator. If any of these things mentioned (slope, traps, corrosion, length and size, piping, etc. from guys that worked on steam systems) do not correct the problem, then there may be something other than this radiator that needs to be addressed. . The rad should heat and heat well. Something that is puzzling me is that when the boiler is firing and you remove the cap from the trap to suck out the condensate from the radiator, condensate then steam should blow violently out of the trap and should not have to be sucked out. I/we would never remove a trap cover from an active steam radiator with the boiler firing and pressure in the system. That would be a disaster and we would suffer from steam/water burns. Please explain how you accomplish this. Does the system ever build up steam pressure of at least 2 psi and maybe up to 5 psi. . 2 pipe steam systems need some pressure to work well due to the size of the piping and the steam traps. 1 pipe steam systems work very well on 1 psi or less. Maybe you are not building up enough steam pressure in the system to allow the system to work properly.
 
  #38  
Old 04-08-19, 05:11 AM
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I did shim the whole radiator to keep it level. As for replacing the return pipe, would be an easy fix unfortunately it is in the crawlspace, therefore not very accessible. I will try cleaning the radiator and return pipe.
 
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Old 04-08-19, 06:49 AM
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On your next post could you comment on my other concerns such as the normal boiler steam pressure when the boiler is firing and how you can remove the steam trap cover and use a shop vac to suck out the water to allow the rad to heat without getting burned by hot water or steam. Sometimes on a 2 pipe steam system the steam pressure is too low to allow proper heating.
 
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Old 04-08-19, 12:25 PM
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j,
I may not be explaining myself correctly so I'll try one more time.

1) You need the rad pitching a tad to the left so the condensate will drain.

Your problem I believe is because of the RETURN PIPE coming up from the floor connected to the trap is not flexible and by lifting up the RIGHT SIDE of the rad you are lowering the LEFT SIDE which lowers the TRAP SIDE of the return pipe, pitching it in the WRONG DIRECTION, back to the rad, which will hamper the flow of condensate back to the boiler and eventually back up into the radiator stopping the flow of steam.

I doubt in your case there is an obstruction in the rad since you said that once the condensate is removed the rad DOES HEAT all the way across. You can check your return by removing the trap which will give you access to the pipe and slowly pour some water into the pipe. If it backs up on you there is either a blockage or the pipe is pitched wrong.

That return is most likely going into a main return going back to the boiler. If the main return had a blockage it would effect all the rads on that line and since this is the only one effected that seems to eliminate that possible cause. That leaves only the return pipe on your rad which can be checked easily after disconnecting the trap by even running some kind of snake through it or an electrical snake if you have one. All you have to do is run it through until you get into the pipe going into the floor unless that was changed too.

To check the pitch with the trap disconnected with a board or something under the pipe, gently raise up the LEFT END of the pipe so it's pitched to the RIGHT SIDE going into the floor. If the water drains I believe you will have found your problem and the only way for that rad to work properly is to change the pitch of that return pipe.

Not to simply this but we're not curing cancer here, we're just trying to get water to flow down hill which is the natural coarse of things. Water will not flow uphill and until that is resolved that rad will not heat properly.

This is just my thought. Hope it helps a little.
 

Last edited by spott; 04-08-19 at 12:47 PM.
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