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Thread: Mystery pipes

  1. #1
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    Default Mystery pipes

    Hi Everyone,

    Can anyone identify these iron pipes that I have found in a few homes built around 1912 in the Pacific Northwest area. They appear to be half inch coming out of foundation wall with one going up to ceiling and then converting to 2" on the way down. The other 1/2" pipe goes down but also converts to 2" on the way down. Thanks!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Do the 2" pipes connect together, or just disappear into the basement floor?

    The connection of one high, one low makes me think of a water heater, where water circulates by convection. Maybe this is simply a tempering arrangement to warm the water up a bit before it goes to a water heater?

    Is the water line coming from a well? Could this be some kind of gas supply pipe?

    The Plumbing Forum is about halfway down the page here, but this works.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes


  4. #4

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Could it be a variation of a Chicago Loop?

    Chicago Loop (plumbing) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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  5. #5
    Stephen G's Avatar
    Stephen G Guest

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Petawawa Loop.


  6. #6
    Matt Fletcher's Avatar
    Matt Fletcher Guest

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    If this is a really old house, I suspect it is a drip drain for an ice box. As the ice melted, it dripepd down the tube. Maybe they took out the Tee where the drip line connected, or maybe it was drilled in the top where you couldn't see it. I see similar set-ups here in Detroit. Sometimes I see a mini version of this under island sinks. The call it a "revent" if I remember correctly. Crazy stuff. sometimes you just have to throw up your hands....lol.

    Matt Fletcher
    Detroit Home inspector
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    Last edited by Matt Fletcher; 11-18-2012 at 11:37 AM.

  7. #7
    Leo Wheeler's Avatar
    Leo Wheeler Guest

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    From what is visible, I would say they were once used for a hot water or steam radiator that was removed and the lines looped to maintain the flow of the water of steam to the balance of the system.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Its not real clear from the photos, but since you mention the foundation wall, could they be old steam and condensate pipes from a central steam plant?


  9. #9
    Matt Fletcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Reinmiller View Post
    Its not real clear from the photos, but since you mention the foundation wall, could they be old steam and condensate pipes from a central steam plant?

    Curious indeed. But why would a steam boiler send condensation into a sewer line? It looks like a main stack to me. I would think the steam would be sent back to the boiler. IMHO. Whenever I think I have seen it all I see something like this.....lol

    Matt Fletcher, Detroit Home Inspector
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    I was referring to central steam plants. At one time we had many of them in my area. Steam was piped underground to the house and condensate was returned to the steam piping.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Look like some kind of steam piping to me.

    Rob Bowman
    Bowman Inspections
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Quote Originally Posted by RobertBowman View Post
    Look like some kind of steam piping to me.
    Agreed. Spokane, Washington had central steam.

    Brief History of Steam Plant
    The Origins of Central Steam Plant

    In 1915, twenty-five years after the Seehorn-Lang building's completion, the Merchants Central Heating Company began to build the Central Steam Plant. In 1916, the steam plant was sold to Spokane, Heat, Light and Power Company. Almost immediately, however, the company suffered large operating losses and was placed in receivership within 2 years.
    In April, 1919, Washington Water Power (WWP) purchased the steam plant, from receivership, to produce steam heat and electrical power. Soon thereafter WWP formed Spokane Central Heating Company. Spokane Central Heating Company operated it independently until 1939 when it became part of the WWP Spokane Division. WWP is now recognized as Avista Corp.
    The steam heat produced from the plant served downtown Spokane until 1986. During its operation, fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas and saw dust were used to produce from 150,000 to 370,000 pounds of steam per hour. In 1986, it was determined that the plant was no longer economically viable, for much of the internal piping needed substantial repair or replacement.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Could have been an fill indicator for a cistern. The 1/2" would have been a sight glass and has since been replaced by solid piece due to breakage of the original.

    If it is a cistern, as most likely abandoned some time in the past.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    I am going to have to agree with others who opined that these are the remnants of an old steam pipe system. The radiators were likely removed at some point and they may have just looped the piping back onto it self to seal it all off.

    You could always go down to the local coffee house and find a table of the oldest guys in town. They might have some childhood memories of these pipes being too hot to touch in the winter months.

    The included diagram with this post is of an old two pipe system. I can see some similarities to what is posted above if the steam was being delivered via an underground system as others have suggested.

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  15. #15
    Chuck Adams's Avatar
    Chuck Adams Guest

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Looks to be heating pipes to me?


  16. #16
    Ken Bates's Avatar
    Ken Bates Guest

    Default Re: Mystery pipes

    Might have something to do with either the Morgan or Paul system to vent air thru a mercury pot that created a vacuum. There were many elaborations of steam systems thatwere not widely accepted and vanished into obscurity except for the researches conducted by Dan Holohan.

    Pose a question on Dan's site Heating Help - Heating Systems and he will respond.

    Be sure to describe the scenario such as does the top of the loop extend into an attic or is it at least ten feet higher than what could have been the highest steam radiator.

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