old (1900) boiler/radiator heating system


  #1  
Old 11-08-01, 12:33 PM
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I have an old boiler/radiator heat system in my home. The boiler has been converted to use natural gas. The heat coming out of the boiler is good and the basement pipes are smokin' hot. The first floor radiators are also very hot - no complaints. The second floor radiators are cold. I ran my hand along the pipe in the basement that feeds all the 1st floor rads. It is quite hot. The return pipe is not hot, but is warmer than the air. I assume that this is what should be happening. The pipe that feeds all the rads on the second floor is warm while it travels horizontal in the basement but then cools off rapidly just as the pipe turns vertical and starts its long ascent to the second floor. It passes uninterrupted through the 1st floor wall, all the way to the rads on the second floor. I have gained access to the pipe (by tearing down a plaster wall on the 1st floor) and found that the feed pipe to the second floor is cold (room temp) after approx 2 feet of vertical travel. Some suggestions to fix this problem so far have been:
1.Install a boost pump to get the heat up to the second floor
2.Clean out the blockage that is preventing the heat from rising
3.Remove the "airlock" from the pipe
The problem is that I don't know how to do any of these things. If anyone can suggest where to start, I would appreciate it.
Furthermore, in addition to solving this problem, I would be interested in learning more about this heating system. If anyone has written a book or can suggest a good book that explains this system in detail from top to bottom, i would buy it.
How to service it, How to make it operate at its optimum, Troubleshooting, etc.
 
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Old 11-08-01, 01:45 PM
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In 1900 there were only three types of systems you could have. They are a Steam 1-pipe or 2-pipe system and a how water gravity system. If you have a pump on the system, then your system was converted from either a steam 2-pipe system or a hot water gravity system to a forced hot water system. If you have to drain water from the system cause the water gets dirty and have to add water each time, you have a steam system. The little red house icon at the bottom of this message, click it and read topic "Steam Systems". It tells you how to determine which kind of system you have by the type of radiator and let me know which one.
 
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Old 11-13-01, 03:26 AM
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so, it appears that my system has many characteristics of the 2-pipe steam system, but i am still somewhat confused. it also characteristics of what you call a 1-pipe system. as i learn more, i have more questions. so here goes...
every rad (5 on each floor) has two pipes - one in and one out. the inlet (always hotter to the touch)pipe on each one has a "shut off" valve. i say "shut off" because i looked at the inner workings of one and found that it more resembles a carburetor butterfly in that it doesnt actually close off the flow 100%. i have closed this valve on rads that are in less frequently used rooms and the rad still puts out some heat. can these shut off valves be repaired/upgraded/replaced to achieve 100% shut off ?? the inlet and outlet pipes on every rad are both at the bottom of the rad (this doesnt match either system !!). in most cases the rad is slightly tilted toward the outlet, which i understand is good. on a couple of them, the inlet and outlet are on the same side of the rad, but again, at the bottom. there is an air bleed valve on every rad. in every case, the air bleed valve is at the top.
the boiler does resemble a still, but looking inside, i see no water, just a big natural gas flame. i assume the boiler has a double wall and the steam/condensed water is in this wall. i have never drained any water (3 years of ownership)so i imagine there is a lot of this residue that you talk about. if i do drain it, how do i fill it up again ?? how do i know when to stop ?? i cant see how full the boiler is. you recommend 1/2 to 3/4 full of water to maintain the steam dome.
FYI, the boiler has two pipes coming into it - one on each side at the bottom. they are cool to touch, so they must be the condensed water returning. it also has two pipes leaving it - one on each side at the top. they are hot to touch, so they must be the hot steam going to the rads.
my pipes in the basement are not insulated, and are quite warm, while the basement is quite cool, so i am losing a lot of heat into the basement, which is basically uninhabited. i intend to insulate these pipes asap.
anyway, this is a summary of my system and i eagerly await advice on the next step to acquiring heat in my cold winnipeg bedroom.
solo
 
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Old 11-13-01, 05:08 AM
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You are confused and it appears to be my fault. The type of system you have is not a steam system but a HOT WATER GRAVITY SYSTEM. But look at it this way, you got an education on the different types of steam systems and the concerns with them. If a friend has a steam system, you'll sound like an expert. The problem associated with uninsulated steam pipes is not as severe with hot water pipes. Insulating hot water pipes will save you some money but not nearly as much if they were steam pipes. The shut off valve that you are referring to, works well even if it only restricts the water flow.

The way your system works is that the boiler heats the water and since hot water is lighter than cooler water, the hot water rises to your radiators. The water in your radiators, since it gave off heat to heat the room is cooler than the water that is coming up. So the cooler water in your radiator drops back down to your boiler to be heated.

The most common problem with your system is air. When air gets into your radiators, it creates resistence. Since water will seek the path of least resistence, the hot water coming up from your boiler bypasses that radiator and goes onto the other radiators that have less resistence or no air in them. This accounts for the uneven heat you are experiencing. Therefore the solution to your problem is the bleed the radiators of air, thereby eliminating the resistence created by the air.

There are instances where you might not be able to get the air out of the system and/or radiators. This is referred to as being air bound. You will have to call a contractor, they have methods they use to get stubborn pockets of air out of your system and/or radiators. Try first to bleed them yourself and then call them if necessary.

Hot water gravity system are very difficult to control. In 1900 they controlled the system by opening and closing of windows. The reason for this is that once the hot water started coming up, it's impossible to stop it. Many systems like your's install a pump to control the heat in the home better. There are concerns with doing that with a paralell piping system.
 
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Old 11-13-01, 06:36 AM
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okay, now i am getting somewhere. i am enjoying learning about this stuff. thanks for your patience. i have bled the rads - to no avail. i can leave the bleed valve open forever and no water comes out. for clarification, this is the second floor i am talking about. the first floor rads bleed water the instant i open them.
you say that my system will have a circulating pump in it ? i cant find one. where would it be ? is it internal (out of sight) to the pipe ? since no rads on the second floor are heating, could the pump be shot ? could it be very weak ? do i need to put one in specifically for the second floor ? is it possible that my system is low on actual water volume ? i had a rad off in the spring for some painting behind it and i dumped a lot of water out of it. is it normal for a lot of water to be sitting in the rad when it is not in service ? should i have replaced the water that i drained ? being a closed loop (or is it?) it makes sense that i would need to replace that water. how would i do it ? i notice a water line coming into the boiler, but does it constantly keep topping up the level as required ? can i just open a valve ? can i overfill it ?
like i asked before, do you know of any books that would explain all this stuff to me ?
thirsting for knowledge,
solo
 
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Old 11-13-01, 02:16 PM
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You need to take your time when reading my posts. The solution to your problem is in the third and fourth paragraph of my previous reply.

You do not have a pump on your system.

Some people with your type of system try to control this system by installing a pump. Again, at present you do not have a pump on your system.

Your system should have a pressure regulator that automatically feeds water to the system. You should not have to add water to your system. This pressure regulator is usually shaped like a bell on the cold water pipe that feeds the water to the boiler. There is usually a shut off valve just before it on the pipe and that should be open.

I know you're a little excited about resolving your problem, you too must be patient. I'll get excited with you once the problem is solved.
 
 

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