When your boiler is cast, and again when it is installed using threaded pipe, oils are introduced inside the boiler. Being lighter than water, these oils will eventually rise to the surface and float on top of the boiler water. Once the water begins to boil, these oils become big trouble. As the water begins to boil it forms bubbles, but the oils prevent the bubbles from bursting and result in what is referred to as foaming. Foaming is death to a steam heating system. It causes water to be thrown up with the steam into the system, killing efficiency, and it also doesn’t smell very nice when it exits your radiator vents! So we need to get those oils out of the boiler after installation. The boiler manufacturer installs a skim tapping for this purpose, on which the installer is supposed to install a skim port, which allows the oils to be skimmed away. You’d be amazed how many guys never complete this critical step. Naturally we do, and because you’ll be helping in the skimming process, we install a very user-friendly skim port (complete with an extra port for boiler additives should you be so inclined). That’s just the way we roll.


Skim Port

Our only other major worry is boiler corrosion. A topic a little bit too complicated for our purposes here, but let’s just say that for corrosion to occur, oxygen must be present. And because a steam system is open to the atmosphere, a little corrosion is always going to happen, and that’s normal and okay. But a lot of corrosion isn’t. For a lot of corrosion to occur we need a lot of oxygen. And that oxygen, if present in excessive quantities, is in the fresh water that is being regularly added to the boiler to replace the water lost to escaping steam or piping leaks. Got that? Fresh water is bad for your steam boiler. The old water that has already steamed is fine, as the boiling removed the oxygen. But the fresh stuff is bad news. So we need to keep track of it. And for that reason we offer a Hydrolevel VXT automatic water feeder with every job. I bet you thought we offered it so you wouldn’t have to manually add water to the boiler, didn’t you? Sorry, no, -an ancillary benefit perhaps. The reason is that the VXT has a nifty digital read-out that counts the gallons of water it has fed to your boiler. And by reading the control, we will always know if we have a problem or not. Better safe than sorry, right?


Are you sensing a theme here? Gunk. Steam systems don’t have many maintenance problems, which is what is so nice about them. But we must be ever vigilant about gunk. The other place gunk shows up and causes problems is in the little 1/4″ pipe connecting the Pressuretrol. Remember that the pressuretrol is a safety device, and if it senses that the pressure is too high, it dutifully shuts down the boiler. If gunk gets in that little pipe, as it is want to do, it will fool the Pressuretrol into thinking the pressure is too high and shut down the boiler. Usually in the middle of February when it’s -20º outside. Now in theory you might think it pretty simple to just unscrew the pressuretrol and stick a pipe cleaner in there and get back to heating again. Except that you can’t. Before you can unscrew the Pressuretrol you have to unwire everything first. Things just went from simple to complicated. To avoid this, we offer custom “trees”on all our Pressuretrols and Vaporstats installations as an option. No unwiring required to clean out the piping. We also increase the pipe diameter so a clog is less likely in the first place. See? We are always thinking about you.

Pressuretrol Trees

Not only do we have to flush out those wet returns, but we also need to flush out the boiler annually. It’ll have just as much gunk in it, and it’s no good leaving it there. But this typically isn’t done either because, once again, there’s no way to do it. Just filling and draining the boiler with the normal water fill hasn’t the pressure needed to entice the gunk to leave. And that’s why we install King Valves on all of the steam supplies and returns. Now, come maintenance time, we can close all the valves, fire the boiler, and build up some real pressure. Then we hook up a hose to a drain, open the drain, and viola! -that gunk is moving like you-know-what through a goose. Of course, if you wait 10 years to have us out to do the maintenance, this might not work so well. But if you call us every year, it works like a charm. So call already. That’s why we put the valves there!


King Valves

If you’ve ever had to blow down your steam boiler (and I am sure you have), you know how nasty that boiler water can get. That’s what happens to water in an iron system that is open to the atmosphere. So just imagine all of the gunk that accumulates over the years in all of your returns that are below the waterline. Eventually, they will fill up with sediment and prevent the condensate from returning to the boiler and now we have a big problem. The simple solution is to flush out those wet returns annually and all will be well. Except that in most cases you can’t. Because boiler drains were never installed on the elbows to allow the flushing to take place. Rest assured, we install drains at every 90 degree elbow we install below the waterline. That’s premium workmanship

Wet Return Drains

The condensate returns connect to the boiler via the Hartford Loop. This is an important piping safety arrangement to make sure that if a leak develops in any of the system’s wet returns, it could not drain the boiler and cause it to fire dry (which makes for a very big boom). How this connection is made is critical. It must be kept very short to avoid banging and water hammer. Most manuals call for a close nipple to be used to make the connection. At NES we always go one better and use a wye connection. It’s a bit more money and a bit harder to source, but it’s the right way to do it.

Hartford Loop Wye

When it comes to your family’s safety we are, predictably, second to none. Every installation comes with fusible link switches and valves to shut off the boiler should high temperatures occur (fire), high pressure limit switches, safety relief valves, and probe-type low water cut-offs that no longer require weekly blow-downs (but they do require an annual maintenance check up from Yours Truly). In addition, we supply every installation with a combination carbon monoxide and smoke detector at no charge. Because your family’s safety is always on our minds.


Combination CO & Smoke Detector

Knowledge, as they say, is power. And very low steam pressure is the goal. So it stands to reason that we need a way to see how we are doing. Your steam boiler is designed to function at up to 15 lbs of pressure. Above that, very bad things happen. But in reality, we never want to get anywhere near 15 lbs. Unfortunately, at some point in history a nameless bureaucrat decreed that steam boilers shall come standard with a pressure gauge that reads from 0-30lbs. And so they do. And considering that we want to be running on ounces of pressure, -they are utterly useless. So with every installation an additional 0-3 lb steam gauge is offered as an option, complete with a snubber to dampen the dial movement. You see, we even focus on the tiny things to make sure every job is perfect.

Low Pressure Gauge

Steam pressure in a properly installed and balanced system, while very important, shouldn’t be much of a big deal. But now-a-days, with all the alterations most steam systems have suffered through, it can be a very big deal. Which is why we offer a Vaporstat with every boiler. Your boiler comes standard with a Pressuretrol, a safety device used to limit the system pressure, and the Vaporstat is just a more finely tuned version of that. It lets us keep the pressure where we want it, as well as adding redundancy to a very important safety device. I know it doesn’t sound intuitive, but the lower the steam pressure, the faster the steam moves, and the more efficient it operates (within limits, of course). Thus, our normal goal is for very low pressure. The Vaporstat is can be a big help in achieving that goal.



The old steam men would never have dreamed of leaving their steam piping uninsulated. Why, that would have been just plain foolish! Why spend good money to make steam, only to have it condense and die in the basement piping? It didn’t make sense then, and it certainly doesn’t make sense today. It is a most definite fact that steam pipes need to be insulated to achieve their highest efficiency potential, In fact, many steam systems won’t even run effectively without it. It’s that important. Rest assured, we include an estimate for insulation work with every steam boiler we quote. We don’t just install boilers, we take a holistic approach to your entire system.


Steam Pipe Insulation