Wednesday, January 19, 2011

‘Twas the night after Christmas..

One night after all of the Christmas celebrations were completed, I awoke to hear a dreadful noise from the basement. The furnace/boiler had started to act up that night. After fixing the issue I thought of this poem. Below you will find a modified version of Clement Clarke Moore’s, “ ’Twas the night before Christmas” Poem.  I just happen to change it around to include the recent furnace/boiler frustration that I had encountered that night. Please enjoy.

‘Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse… The stocking were empty by the radiator, the dishes filled in the sink In hopes that the Cleaning Fairy would soon appear.

I was nicely snug in my bed, so warm and sweet, with visions of warm beaches danced in my head. I had just settled my brain for a long winter’s nap.

When out of the basement arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter… Away to the thermostat, I flew like a flash, Pressed on the button with no response

The thermostat light gave way to brightness of mid-day objects. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But icicles from the radiator vent.

With a little old puff, so small and quick, I knew in a moment it must be sick. It didn’t whistle or clang, and or called no names… And then, in a twinkling, I heard from the basement The prancing and banging of each pipe.

 As I walked down to the basement, and through the door Down the pipes came the pressure with a bounce. The pipes were covered with rust and dust, from top to bottom.

The furnace/boiler all blue with ashes and soot. A bundle of pipes that were hung from the back It looked like a B1 Bomber, but hummed like an engine with a cough. The flame how it twinkled! The fire was merry. The warmth was welcoming, the color was red and orange

The furnace/boiler was small and square, It shook when it stopped, like a freight train racing through the air.

It was loud and old, a sad little elf, And I cried when I saw it, in spite of myself! A bang of the pipe and a thump from the water, Soon gave me to know, I was in trouble.

It spoke not a word, but went straight to a cough and filled all of the pipes with heat, and then banged with a jerk

And giving a puff and poof, up the chimney the heat rose!

I sprang to my feet, to a whistle from the vent, And away I flew to the radiator vent for repair, But I heard the furnace/boiler exclaim, ‘ere the noise died down, “I’ll keep you up all night, and to all a night of no sleep”

With that said, my furnace/boiler was recently repaired to remove the locomotive noise that had been haunting me for sometime (All Engines are a go). But recently, the noise has returned. This time I believe I may have found the smoking gun. The icicle air vent…

George D Hoffman invented the first thermostatic steam air vent in 1912. Hoffman design incorporated a float that sat in a alcohol/water mixture. When the alcohol/water mixture reached temperature, the float would claps and shut the vent to create a seal that would prohibit steam from escaping. Today’s designs are similar to the original Hoffman’s concept but I’m told with a diaphragm.

The maximum operating pressure for a shut off valve is 10 psi, which is the highest pressure that can be utilized without it breaking. Furnace/Boilers are equipped with a high pressure limit switch that turns off the burner when pressure exceeds a preset level usually 5 – 7 psi. A residential steam heating systems are always designed to operate at a very low pressure, about .5 psi. My system has been operation at a level higher than required (of course). If the system is too high in pressure, the air vents might stay closed.



The differential was set at 4. So if the cut-out pressure was at 5 psi, the system could possibly see about 9 psi. This is pretty close to the maximum operational pressure for the vent.  As you can see from the photo above, I adjusted the differential to about 1.5.

The demand of heat to fill the room may have caused the furnace/boiler to work overtime. Thus causing the valve to stay closed due to the large amounts of pressure that had continued to build up within the piping system.

Thus with the vent shut at 2 in the morning, I guess I should not be surprised to find the radiator and vent to be ice cold. The closed valve is located in the same room as the thermostat, the living room. The thermostat had never reaching its required temperature thus calling for a demand of heat to fill the room.


The new vent is now in place with the pressure limiter adjusted to the appropriate settings. I guess we’ll have to see what happens next. Well until next time, happy building… 


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