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Unfamiliar Object in Boiler Room


Jim Katen
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There are typically steam traps present when there is a condensate return pump present:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_trap

Steam traps that are blowing by (not shutting down and allowing steam to pass) make a steam system very inefficient and costly to operate. You can check traps with IR, Ultrasonic or there use to be a type of crayon that you would use on the condensate leaving side of the trap - mark the leaving pipe from the trap & if it melted that trap was blowing by.

Checking traps is certainly outside the scope but informing the clients about these would be beneficial.

I worked for the Cleveland School System back in the 70's and every school building I was stationed at had a steam system. Cleaning out the breaching of a coal fired boiler was always fun [:-yuck]

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Hi Jim,

It's a condensate pump.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condensate_pump

Must be a large house. They're usually used to return hot water to the boiler from a distant location in a large building or ship.

Tom Corrigan

I thought it might be, but I can't figure out why it's needed. After all, the return is right there. Why not just let the condensate return directly into the boiler?

- Jim in Oregon

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There are typically steam traps present when there is a condensate return pump present:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_trap

Steam traps that are blowing by (not shutting down and allowing steam to pass) make a steam system very inefficient and costly to operate. You can check traps with IR, Ultrasonic or there use to be a type of crayon that you would use on the condensate leaving side of the trap - mark the leaving pipe from the trap & if it melted that trap was blowing by.

Checking traps is certainly outside the scope but informing the clients about these would be beneficial.

I worked for the Cleveland School System back in the 70's and every school building I was stationed at had a steam system. Cleaning out the breaching of a coal fired boiler was always fun [:-yuck]

Why would the presence of steam traps be tied to the presence of a condensate pump? In the other steam systems I've seen, the condensate just flows back into the boiler directly.

- Jim in Oregon

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Yes to the above, a condensate pump. Interesting that your steam boiler is set up with a storage tank setup. Coil in the boiler and electric for storage. The newer electric in the corner is the summer part of the summer/winter setup.

That's precisely how it was set up, except that the storage tank had no power at all. It was purely a storage tank and fed into the summer tank, which, of course, did have power.

There was a schematic showing how to adjust the valves to change from summer to winter. Why would this be necessary? Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to just feed the summer tank from the storage tank during the summer? If you bypassed it, would not the water in the storage tank and the coil get nasty from remaining stagnant for half the year?

- Jim in Oregon

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There are typically steam traps present when there is a condensate return pump present:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_trap

Steam traps that are blowing by (not shutting down and allowing steam to pass) make a steam system very inefficient and costly to operate. You can check traps with IR, Ultrasonic or there use to be a type of crayon that you would use on the condensate leaving side of the trap - mark the leaving pipe from the trap & if it melted that trap was blowing by.

Checking traps is certainly outside the scope but informing the clients about these would be beneficial.

I worked for the Cleveland School System back in the 70's and every school building I was stationed at had a steam system. Cleaning out the breaching of a coal fired boiler was always fun [:-yuck]

Why would the presence of steam traps be tied to the presence of a condensate pump? In the other steam systems I've seen, the condensate just flows back into the boiler directly.

- Jim in Oregon

On a single pipe system, the old style system present in older homes, the steam and condensate share the same line with gravity assisting the condensate return.

In a two pipe system, as you have there, there is a condensate pump that pulls the condensate back from the system via the condensate return line. Without traps present you'd be blowing live steam back to the pump - which happens quite often as traps fail.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydronics# ... pipe_steam

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That's precisely how it was set up, except that the storage tank had no power at all. It was purely a storage tank and fed into the summer tank, which, of course, did have power.

There was a schematic showing how to adjust the valves to change from summer to winter. Why would this be necessary? Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to just feed the summer tank from the storage tank during the summer? If you bypassed it, would not the water in the storage tank and the coil get nasty from remaining stagnant for half the year?

- Jim in Oregon

The storage tank is probably used to supplement a large demand for hot water. The steam coil may not have been able to meet demand. There is no reason to use the storage tank in the summer. Seems like a waste of energy. Just shut it and the boiler down and use the electric heater.

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. . . The storage tank is probably used to supplement a large demand for hot water. The steam coil may not have been able to meet demand. There is no reason to use the storage tank in the summer. Seems like a waste of energy. Just shut it and the boiler down and use the electric heater.

Is there a good reason why you couldn't shut down the boiler and continue to run the incoming domestic water through the cold coil? The fresh water would just cycle through the cold coil and the cold storage tank before arriving at the electric tank. That wouldn't waste any energy.

If they do as you describe, doesn't the water get funky from sitting in the coil and the storage tank for 6 months?

- Jim in Oregon

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. . . The storage tank is probably used to supplement a large demand for hot water. The steam coil may not have been able to meet demand. There is no reason to use the storage tank in the summer. Seems like a waste of energy. Just shut it and the boiler down and use the electric heater.

Is there a good reason why you couldn't shut down the boiler and continue to run the incoming domestic water through the cold coil? The fresh water would just cycle through the cold coil and the cold storage tank before arriving at the electric tank. That wouldn't waste any energy.

If they do as you describe, doesn't the water get funky from sitting in the coil and the storage tank for 6 months?

- Jim in Oregon

Not sure if it would cause some condensation in the boiler, but there is no reason not to do it that way if it did not cause condensation.

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