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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    14

    Revive radiant heat source?

    Hi,
    We have an opportunity to buy a larger (7000 sf) older (1930s) home with an old natural gas boiler (Burnham K-5010 circa 1977 install). The boiler has not been used in a few if not many years by the previous homeowner as they chose to go with forced air solution. We have never had radiant heat source before but have heard it is much better. The house has fin-tube type radiators all about the main two floors with the steam boiler centrally located in the basement. We had a technician come to fire the boiler to test it but a gas regulator valve and a safety valve were defective and he was unable. He suggested pressurizing the radiator lines/pipes with nitrogen to see if they were leaking anywhere upstairs and if not it would be reasonable to buy the new parts to get the boiler working. If the boiler was not functional we would have to buy a replacement boiler. The house has had no major renovation, still with original windows and insulation. I have several questions that I wanted to put out there for those with experience using/maintaining/installing boilers.
    1. In a large old/inefficient home is radiant heat the best heating system (here natural gas is much cheaper than electricity or oil)
    2. Is a boiler from 1977 at the end of its life so that it is not worth spending a $ on parts to revive it.
    3. If we change to a new boiler it will be approx 6x cost of parts to get old one running, should we keep exact specs and shop for different brands (e.g. buderus, peerless) or replace it with the identical burnham spec unit since we are not renovating windows, insulation, etc.


    Thanks in advance for you time/expertise
    Last edited by beenthere; 03-17-2012 at 12:13 PM. Reason: parts price

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    68,784
    Fin tube. Guessing copper fin baseboard. that isn't radiant heat. Its a convection heat.

    A 35 year old boiler isn't gonna be very efficient.

    Is the system zoned.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    14
    2 honeywell merc switches so i believe 1st and second floor zoned can try to post pic if that would help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    68,784
    Pics of boiler set up would be better.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    1,253
    Copper fin and steam do not mix for long as the copper in those baseboards is paper thin. I would suggest the boiler may be hot water.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    14

    business end sorry for poor quality

    Best view I have of old unit; Has not been used in 10 years I am told
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    68,784
    Can you post pics of you fin baseboard.

    If its cast iron baseboard. its hard to be the comfort of a properly operating steam system.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    1,253
    I am at a loss to understand how the system stayed intact with copper baseboards.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    PA
    Posts
    68,784
    Slantfin makes several types of copper fin that is rated to be used with steam.
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,841
    Okay, so it sounds like you've got two options from which to choose.

    Option A: Revive or replace the existing steam boiler and connect it to an old steam distribution system.

    Option B: Use an existing ducted system to heat the home.

    You didn't say much about Option 'B' except that it's the most recently used heating system. As for efficiency, you can forget making any investment that will improve the overall efficiency of the steam system as steam heat is not available in high efficiency boilers. So while you can replace the boiler, it will be with one of similar thermal efficiency. I'd recommend an intermittent pilot if you do go with the steam.

    Advantages of the steam heat are that it is a very comfortable heat when operating properly. Disadvantages are that it takes a very knowledgeable service tech to get a steam system, particularly one that's been out of service for many years, operating properly. Also, steam in the shoulder seasons can be both wasteful and uncomfortable, where you need to bring everything up to steam temps to get some warmth in the morning but by 10:00 even the residual heat in the radiation is driving you out and it becomes necessary to open windows for relief.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    1,253
    If you do want to keep steam with a new steam boiler, Tekmar makes an outdoor reset control that can help reduce the problems with shoulder periods. You could also look at changing the boiler over to a standard hot water boiler.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    14
    I was not able to get a decent picture of the baseboard units. They are hidden quite well, there is a cutaway at the bottom of the base board and a vent under the window with a round knob to open or close the metal flap. It looks quite old so I would say it went in before the last boiler. The baseboard units appear to be that square slant fin tube type thing but I can't see well enough to tell if its copper. The pipes downstairs appear to be black pipe or galvanized. Didn't know it was possible to convert this type to hot water boiler. The top floor is quite a distance higher than the basement so would large pumps be required and would the pipes have to be modified extensively?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    14
    The forced air units(4), I am told are either nonfunctional or limping along in questionable state so looking at having to replace them, maybe all of them. Don't know the nature of the problem but they were put in in the late 1980's early 1990s and they have recommeded new high eff units.

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