radiator is filling up with water?

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by GabeS, Oct 8, 2008.

  1. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

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    yes indeed
     
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    You might be lucky and find it is just at an elbow or valve, but don't count on it. It could be in that radiator, too, but since some steam is getting in, there's an opening that should allow some water to drain back out.
     
  3. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    Jim,

    That's exactly what I'm thinking. If it was clogged then no steam would be coming in either. But the radiator get very hot. The steam is definitely coming in. How does anyone explain this?

    Somebody said I can't clean the inside of the pipes without destroying the pipe itself with the chemicals. Is this true?

    Gabe
     
  4. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

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    steam under pressure can make it's way through a very small hole. Water under np pressure can not
     
  5. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    I have the exact sme problem, I think.

    You have to be careful with the internet. Lots of people with good intention but info provided is wrong. Often, because they did not have sufficient info to do the diagnostic.

    Here goes.... all my radiators works fine except one. The system is a SINGLE PIPE STEAM HEAT. If your system is not single pipe steam heat, please ignore the rest.

    The steam goes to the radiator with one pipe and the condensed water goes back the SAME pipe.

    There is suppose to be air in the system

    There is no need to bleed anything.

    There is no traps or pumps.

    I doubt there is any clogs.

    Steam heat in my childhood house, decades of operation, never needed a "cleaning o fthe pipes" or a clog.

    My 100 year old house with steam heat system. I doubt anyone ever cleaned anything. The 20 years that I own the house, I never clean any pipes.

    The ONE radiaor that gets filled with water ... I remove the vent, water spills out. I open the pipe, unattaching the radiator from the pipe, water spills out of the radiator. Clogged pipe? NO! NO! NO! I poured a gallon of water into the open end of the shut off valve, with a funnel, and the water goes down without problem. My son can hear the water made it's way to the boiler.

    Check the pitch of the pipe and the radiator. I did that for my case, did not fix it. One OTHER radiator had the same problem when I first bought the house. Correcting the radiator pitch and tighten the pipe bracket correcting the pipe pitch fixed the problem. I still have to figure out why THIS radiator still have problem.

    I have changed the valve. Easy to do. It can be stuck, by rust, or painted shut at the opening. The valve is open for air to go BOTH ways. It shuts off as soon as it senses steam. As the boiler turns on and produces steam, the steam is pushed to the radiator. The air inside will block the steam if it has nowhere to go. The vent takes care of that.

    Steams cools and turns to water and drains back the same pipe. As it does, if no steam, the vent is open allowing air to come back in the radiator. Cycle repeats.

    So, for you, 3 things to check. Vent, radiator pitch, pipe pitch. It worked for one of my problem radiators. The remaining problem one was altered. It was moved to a new location so the pipes were extended. There may be other issues.

    Good Luck.

    I welcome any advice. Knowledge of steam heat is a lost art.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2008
  6. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    XRoad,

    You basically explained my problem better than I could have myself. It's surprising to hear that you have the same problem. I've been trying to figure out this problem for over a year. It just doesn't make sense. I did all those things already such as checking the pitch, changing the air valve and shutoff valve. I just don't see why the water is not draining back out of the radiator after the steam condenses back to water.

    I do believe that steam is the most complicated system out of all the options for residential heating. It also seems to be the most problematic. I came here because I figured that someone here would be able to pinpoint the problem. I hope this post gets more attention after you stated that you have the same EXACT problem. My system is just like yours. One pipe steam with no traps or pumps.

    Come on someday. Let's hear your ideas. I need to get to the bottom of this.

    Gabe
     
  7. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    A year? I had my house 18 years and I still cannot figure it out. Every few years, I feel the need to take on the challenge again and each time failed.

    I really like the steam heat system. It is so minimalist and simple. Nothing can go wrong with it. It is so reliable. There are so few things that can possibly go wrong. #1, is the thermo coupe/sensor that keeps the pilot lit. It need a change every 4 years ago. I drain it a bit every few weeks, when I remember. I just let out about a gallon or two of water into my sump pit until the water runs clear. Basically, the bottom sediment of the boiler when it has not been fired for a while. That is, once you have everthing all sort out to begin with. Once tuned and balanced, everything works flawlesly, for decades. I saw that my parents house that I grew up in. Just remember to manually fill the water. There are safty low water cutoff, high pressure cutoff, dead pilot cutoff. That is all. Only the pilot cutoff happens when the thermocouple wears out. I have never seen the others failed. Parents old house, current house, and sister's house.

    My problem comes from some one altering the BALANCE of the whole system. In the old days, a skilled heating guy will have a big book of tables and he figures out what the system will be. SIze of boiler, pipes, pressure, etc. Most of that knowledge became loss. When generations of people less knowledge start to fart with the system, no one knows how to get it back in shape. My house was like that when I got it. Radiators where swapped because it got in the way. Some were moved. Pipes were extended. Popularity of bulding an extension to the existing house don't help. Lack of skill heating plumbers, owners and often encouraged to scrap the system to a more modern, complicated, LESS RELIABLE system. I spend a lot more time with my other sister's modern heating system.

    I am still researching. Still hoping someone jumps in and take me over the current "wall". I have build my knowedge over time on this stuff and I have been stuck here with no progress over the last few years. Bummer.
     
  8. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    Gabe,

    BTW, try to drain the water out by opening the pipe, meaning unattach the radiator from the shut off valve. Put two old t-shirt under the union joint when you open it to absorb the water. I did that and the radiator work for ONE or TWO cycle of heating. Then the radiator fills up and no longer heats. Somehow, the water will not drain out.

    I am now experimenting with a single pipe in place of the radiator. Removed the shut off valve, put in a 90* elbow, pipe, end cap. Need to drill and tap a hole for the air vent valve. Have not figure out the type and size of the thread. It is *** NPT. I measured the male thread at the vent. I.D. is 1/4". O.D. is 3/8" tappered thread. Don't know what kind of thread I need at the hole.

    xroad
     
  9. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

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    If it's a single pipe system and the radiator is full of water there are only a few things it can be.

    1 - the automatic air vent on the radiator is bad. They should be changed every few years. It may be letting the steam in but causing a vaccuum and not letting the water out.

    3 - The radiator does not have enough pitch back. Use a level and be sure.

    4 - the pipe going to the radiator is pitched wrong somewhere. (happens when people mess with things or the house settles)

    5 - Your pressure-trol is set too high and you are making too much steam, too fast. for one pipe steam it should not be set over 1lb. a 1/2 lb is usually about right.
     
  10. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    Oct 12, 2008
    Vent checked and changed a few times. Not it.
    Radiator is pitched correctly.
    Pipes to the radiator is pitched right. Someone did mess with it. Extended the pipe and relocated the radiator during the kitchen expansion. Cannot go back unless my wife change her mind about a radiator in the middle of the kitchen. Don't look that bad, I don't know why she complaint.

    Pressure ... This is the one that I don't understand very well. Not know what the hell I was doing when I got the house, I set it very high. Things did not worked well. I lowered it to 3 to 5 psi. All worked perfect, except THIS radiator. I cannot go lower as the spring to the pressure switch actuation arm reach it's limit. Any lower setting, there will be ZERO tension on it. Then, the boiler shuts off at all random low pressures.

    This is the last radiator attached to the main pipe. Naturally, I used the largest vent apperture. Maybe I should try using a smaller or very small apperture to lessen the steam. In effect, lessen the condensate, and allow for the reverse drainage back through the pipe to keep pace with the incoming steam?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2008
  11. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    I read on heating help.com that the main vents on the main header should not be located at the very ends of the header (which is my current setup). He says to located them about 12" in from the ends of the mains and put them up on a 6" or 8" nipple this way the are protected from damage. He says these main vents very important to the system working properly.

    My only question about this is that a couple of inches from the ends of the main I have a couple risers leading to the radiators. Is it okay to put the main vent in more before where the risers go up? Does anybody know?

    Thanks,

    Gabe
     
  12. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    My vent on the main is right at the very end at the connection to the pipe that goes up to the second floor. Funny thing is that I never hear any air coming out of the main vents, either this one or the other branch of main at the other side of the basement.
     
  13. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    Those vents are probably broken. When they are put on the end like that they get damaged by the incoming steam. They need to be installed 12" from the end and on top of a 8" or 12" nipple so that they are out of harms way.

    This is the next thing I'm going to do. Just have not had the money yet to do it. But I think it's guaranteed that the system will work better once I do.

    Gabe
     
  14. xroad

    xroad New Member

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    Unfortuately, I have changed them also. Like I said, I give up and then every few years, I feel the need to take on the challenge, again. Maybe I have to let this go dormant for another few years. Right after I try the single pipe scheme.
     
  15. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    any other thoughts?
     
  16. jar546

    jar546 In the Trades

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    Many areas of the country have rules and regulations concerning the care and maintenance of rental properties. In some of the areas, only licensed professionals are allowed to do any mechanical, electrical, plumbing or any other type of work.

    This is for the health and safety of the tenants who pay a fee to a landlord for habitable space that is required to be in working order and provides shelter, heat and sanitation.

    These laws and ordinances are designed to prohibit landlords from performing substandard work at the expense of the tenant who needs reasonable assurance that the property they are occupying is safe. Many municipalities have recently adopted the International Property Maintenance Code.

    You may want to check with your local code enforcement official to see what requirements you are held to. In my neighboring city, all rental properties are subject to annual inspection requirements. These requirements are the result of years of rental property neglect, a history of fires and other health problems created by landlords who performed substandard work without permits or inspections.

    I would suggest that you hire professionals to perform work on your rental properties for your own liability, but more importantly, for the safety and wellbeing of those who pay you to occupy those spaces.
     
  17. Shelton

    Shelton New Member

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    I read through this thread and I was hoping someone could help me figure out what is going on with the radiators in my apartment building. Here are the details.

    3 flat apartment
    Gas Fired Boiler (I think)
    Steam heat

    I live in the third floor apartment. There are various radiators around the place, but the one one I am concerned about is the one in the middle of the apartment (basically above the boiler). I think the slope of the radiator is sloped away from the inlet valve. This is causing a lot of hammering, but nothing that I can't live with. However, recently I have been having problems where the heat won't come on for hours, and when it does, it stays on for hours. When the heat stays on, the boiler in the middle of the apt will fill up with water and the steam outlet on the side of the radiator will start dripping water out of it. If I turn it upside down, cold water comes streaming out.

    This is what I think is happening:

    the thermostat for the building is in the first floor apartment. I don't know exactly where it is, but I'm guessing it is near the equivalent radiator on the first floor. I think that when the boiler runs for a long time, the radiator on the first floor fills up and thus stops putting out heat, causing the thermostat to read like it is colder and continuing to tell the boiler to run.

    As for the periods of time where it doesn't run at all, I think this is a case of the boiler being too full of water. When I look at the gauge pipe, I can't even see the water level because it is up so high.

    The water inlet to the boiler is always on. From what I have read, it sounds like you don't need to put water into the boiler very often because the water from the radiators is supposed to drain back into it. Is the fact that the water is on causing it fill up too high thus preventing it from turning on when it should? And when it finally does come on, it has to run for too long because of the temperature in the apartment is so low. And when it runs for so long, the radiator fills up with water and becomes cold, tricking the thermostat into thinking it is cold in the apartment. It seems like a vicious cycle.

    I'm not exactly sure what to do. The problem is that the people who live on the first floor are not around for extended periods of time.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can or should do?
     
  18. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

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    I think you just hijacked my thread. That's okay. This thread was pretty much dead anyway.

    Do you know if you have an automatic feeder or does someone do it manually by hand?

    The gauge glass should only be about half full. The valve that lets water in should not always be on or else that whole system will fill up with water.

    When the boiler in the basement is half full with water it boils and that's what produces the steam.

    That's the first thing I would check. If it's manually fed then close the fill valve and drain the boiler until the gauge glass is half full (there should be a mark for the water level). Don't do any work with the water hot. Shut it off and wait a while for the water to cool down.

    When you close the fill that water should stop. If the water is still running then that means the valve is broken.
     
  19. Shelton

    Shelton New Member

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    I believe there is an automatic feeder for the water, but I think that it may not be properly calibrated if the water level in the gauge is showing that it is full. The water is not always running, but the water inlet valve to the boiler is definitely in the on position so that is why I assume there is some sort of automatic feeder.
     
  20. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    While I don't know for sure, an auto-fill valve on a steam boiler would require some fancy controls to prevent it from overfilling the system. It isn't a problem with a hydronic system, since it should always be full; as steam boiler shouldn't.
     
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