Help; One-Pipe Steam Boiler Replacement

Joined
Jul 31, 2018
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New England, Ct
Hey all you fellow BITOG DIYers, I'm being original here by burning my first post on a request for help.

I've been lurking in the forums for years, BITOG is definitely my go-to for all my lube/solvent/whatever questions- thank you all for making some real solid technical and professional advise for anyone who asks. I know the Askers and also us Lurkers definitely appreciate you sharing your expertise. I recommend BITOG when I can!

I heard a very distinct hammering noise from my steam heat system in my old house. It's still warm here and the boiler has been off for months, so this sound should not be happening in summer. A trip to the basement showed a boiler which decided to cuss itself at the moment I was home and vigilant (quite lucky, oblivious wife was completely untriggered by such a horrific noise), leaking water all over the dirt basement (dirt mop?). It is definitely cracked at the boiler, not hot water coil. It only took a few minutes to leak down the water in the heating system, I'm amazed at the size of the crack given the thing has been dormant for months.

It's a 1980's Peerless JOT-TW heating about 1100 sq-ft one-pipe system and without any pumps or the like. I have tuned the burner myself, installed new firebox insulation kit, and replaced gaskets and other obvious wear items over the last 7 years or so I've owned the house.

How do I go about finding a replacement? I see the tag with the specifications, Outputs, Inputs, SQ-FT Steam, etc. so I know I can match or beat those, however does a boiler vary by system type? Wet steam? DRY steam? Seriously, DRY steam. I get these things are licensed-technician purchase only, rightfully so. HOWEVER I'm stubborn French-Canadian and I like technical and instructions, worst of all I'm cheap. Obviously I'm looking used and similar capacity. I get these things need draft, I can wire things, tap these size pipes, sweat copper, make ingenious ramps to get this heavy cuss in and the derelict out. I'm not going to carbon monoxide myself either.

Thanks for reading all that. Anyone who'd like to help I'd love to hear from you. All you licensed guys, think of me as an apprentice, take pity. ;)
 

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Joined
Nov 2, 2019
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2
Location
Philadelphia PA
im trying to piece together the information here bud. . .

Was it running at all? Hammering sounds could/would be "water hammer" on a steam system but if it was not on/running at all than that would not make sense/be the issue.

How many PSI is it set at?


Where did the water come from?

I mean your asking about replacing the boiler. . . Do we know what caused the leak? Rotted union, bad blowdown valve, broken sight glass, cracked cast iron section, failed safety relief valve ect. . . .

A individual part may be able to be replaced.

Your asking about wet and dry steam. . .

Its a low pressure residential single pipe steam boiler. You don't get any wetter steam than that.

Not trying to sound rude, but you might want to call a pro in. Also, highly probable your State/County has codes (for very good reasons) that only a licensed individual work on/install steam systems.
 
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
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Deep in the heart of Jersey
Hey, I went thru what you are going thru 3 years ago.I had the exact same boiler as you. After 30 years it started leaking and had to go. I installed the furnace 30 years ago, but this time I called in a pro. I also switched to gas. It's still steam. First, when there is banging in the pipes, that's caused by the condensed steam (water)hitting to hot steam traveling in the pipes. The pipe or pipes need to be pitched properly to prevent that from happening. That usually never changes unless the pipes have been replaced or moved. 2nd, do yourself and your wallet a favor and switch it to gas. I've seen used boilers cheap on Craigslist, but there's the chance a used one will start leaking in a year or so. That's alot of work to go thru for that short amount of usage. My oil bill used to run me between $1900- $2400 a year depending how cold the winter was. My last 3 years heating bills with gas were between $700-$775, BIG DIFFERENCE. Hopefully you have gas where you live. If your boiler also makes your hot water, you'll need a free standing water heater. I hope this helps you out some.,,
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
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New Jersey
I too would want to understand what happened. Im a huge fan of hydronic heat, but grew up with steam, and it’s an extremely efficient means of heating too. And has a lot lower mass of water all over your house. Good stuff.

I agree the steam boiler might be repairable, had you not said it has a crack. I’d look at replacements, and if there are methods for upping efficiency (I dont think there can be given the fact that you need to raise steam).

Are you sure something wasn’t haywire? The thing Id suspect is a rapid introduction of cold water into an overheated boiler. Do you routinely watch the sight glass? Might it have gone dry, a pilot light kept some heat in there, and then an auto fill came on?
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2002
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8,237
Location
MI
He said the unit had been turned off for months. Would the reason he heard hammering be from make-up water replacing the leaking water?
I have no idea how his system works.

The challenge will be finding a used unit he trusts to be safe. Too bad he doesn't know a pro to assist via a moonlighting arrangement.
 
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Joined
Apr 27, 2012
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11,513
Location
MA
I've had several steam boilers. Some of this doesn't make much sense. If it was off, you wouldn't have any hammering. Maybe that's just from your water pipes not the steam system. Typically the hammering/knocking noise is from water pooling in some points in the system and when the steam hits it, it flashes into steam and cause the knocking. That doesn't sound like it can happen with the system off.

The steam boiler is made of metal and as it heats up and cools down, it will expand and contract. There are bolts on the sections of the boiler that could loosen. Probably have to take the whole case apart to tighten them, but I never did that. There's a thing you can buy call boiler liquid by Hercules that you can add to the boiler. Basically it's a radiator stop leak for boilers. You fire up the boiler and once it cools off, it goes to wherever the leak is and seals it. Works for a few months. Did this for a few years with one boiler til there was a sale on one and then I just replaced the boiler. I think the leak happened because it cooled off. Could also have been cracked by adding cold water to a boiler that was out of water.


In terms of a new boiler, they basically go by btus, you want to figure out the input/output btus and size it accordingly. Steam is actually less efficient than hot water as I think you need to get steam up to 240 degrees and hot water is anywhere from 120-180. Just takes more energy to get it up to the higher temperatures which is why AFUE is around 80-82% whereas some hot water boilers will go up to 93-96%. I replace my older boilers with Burnham now. Also don't know about the steam type, they're all the same here, just one type of boiler for the homes and basically the only option is how many btus you want out of the boiler. They're a little tricky because you need things like the Hartford loop and to make sure your pipes are pitched, steam vent working etc.
 
Joined
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Upstate NY
I don't know a lot about steam I have always had hot water. Had steam and radiators when I was a kid but don't remember much.

Hot water systems are made from a few or many sections bolted together to provide a boiler with the needed BTU output.

So I would certainly look at exactly what is broken. Maybe a section is cracked that can be replaced. Or the bolts holding the sections together broke.

It's now a pretty old boiler. Best to replace. Is there money available to replace the boiler?
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2017
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998
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New Hampshire USA
Several things here, water hammer occurs when hot steam rapidly condenses when it comes in contact with colder water and so a cold boiler cannot cause hammer. As said previously here steam heat is not efficient due to cool down during off cycles. Constant pressure systems can have relatively high efficiency. Steam became popular when coal was in use because of the constant fire that cycled high and low as needed. Steam heat is quite comfortable due to the mass of the radiators. So called vacuum steam systems can be quick in heating up but are difficult to design and install.
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2015
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6,861
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New England
You need a licensed plumber and more over a steam one as incorrectly installed can be a bomb in your basement. They are permitted.

carbon monoxide myself ---- guess what Oil Fired ones don't have this problem unless the exhaust get inhaled back into the intake air and burned again and leaks back out.

The worst thing you can do with one in my experience is shut down over summer. I stopped and problems stopped. I just turn set screw pretty low temp like 110F over summer and let it kick on 1-2 times a day. I have a 1978 Well McCalin Hydronic Boiler.
 
Joined
May 5, 2013
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Peace valley, Missouri
Have to call a distributor to see if a section is available. Each end section are different the center sections are the same. Sections are piped together with slip nipples there 1.5" in lenght and are tappered on each side and sections are pulled together with the bolts that hold sections together. Never have seen a section crack when sitting leaking yes. Oxygen in the water will pit the cast or steel nipples and rot a pin hole leak.
 
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Joined
Apr 27, 2012
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MA
Have to call a distributor to see if a section is available. Each end section are different the center sections are the same. Sections are piped together with slip nipples there 1.5" in lenght and are tappered on each side and sections are pulled together with the bolts that hold sections together. Never have seen a section crack when sitting leaking yes. Oxygen in the water will pit the cast or steel nipples and rot a pin hole leak.

That's great in theory, but it will probably cost almost as much as a new boiler to do it. I tried to put an automatic water feeder on mine once. It had an old mechanical McDonnell Miller float type low water cut off. A series 67. Was going to replace it with a newer electronic one so I could hook it up to the automatic water feeder. However needed to take one of the bolts off on the boiler. It wouldn't budge. You're going to run into the same problem trying to rebuild a section. Won't be able to get the bolts off plus in order to get at the sections, you'll have to remove the entire case so that means disconnecting all the pieces hooked up to it like the low water cut off, the pipes, relief valve, etc. Then you have to hope the bolts come apart after being heated/cooled for 10+ years and don't snap/break on you. Much easier to swap for a new one. As I recall, they were in the $1500-$2000 range for a new boiler. The additional costs was piping to make it fit, the automatic water feeder and other little bits of plumbing.
 
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