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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    4

    Replacing Gas Steam Boiler in NJ - tips, suggestions?

    My 40+ year old Hydrotherm gas steam boiler in NJ ran dry and ended up cracking.

    I've been getting quotes the past couple days, but need to make a decision ASAP, as I've been without heat aside from electric space heaters.

    What brand boilers should I ask contractors for? Is there much of a difference?
    What should I be asking contractors?
    What are good warranty lengths?
    Anything I should keep in mind?
    Does pricing depend on the boiler I go with, or will it mostly be labor?
    (I've been offered lennox, kenmore, peerless so far)

    Are there any government/state rebates I can take advantage of?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    4
    One more question - is there an alternative to replacing it with another gas steam boiler? Are heat pumps something I should look into? How about a conversion to water boiler?

    Thanks so much in advance!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    363

    Replacing Steam boiler

    In my opinion the installation is going to be what makes the difference not necessarly the brand. Here is what I would look at.

    1. Make sure the contractor is going to use black iron pipe!! NOT COPPER

    2. Make sure the contractor skims the boiler when done with the installation
    and schedules a return trip two weeks after the installation to skim the
    boiler again.

    3. Make certain that the near boiler piping is done as per the manufactures
    installation manual. There will be specs for things like pipe sizes
    Hartford loop location etc. This step is very important.

    4. How is the replacement boiler being sized?? Are they just going to put in
    whats currently there without sizing to the radiation. If so you better
    find a different installer.

    5. How is the venting of you mains and or rads?? This is often overlooked.



    Lastly, go over to Heatinghelp.com. There are several good books I would highly recommend getting. You can also find a good steam mechanic at that site along with posting questions about your situation.

    Stick with the Steam!!!
    Last edited by steelersfan1; 02-03-2010 at 01:54 PM. Reason: added content

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    34,319
    Hey Steelersfan, remember our steamer you took out on Forest Lane? It ended up installed in some guy's house in Illinois!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    4,426
    Did you not ask this questions to the contractors who visited you? Did you not have serviced your boiler that you don't have a contractor you trust and go shopping?
    1. you need to choose your contractor
    2. you need to listen to him, he visited your house and will know best.
    3. it's not about brands of equipment, it's about how your custom heating system is installed to work as designed.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    363
    Quote Originally Posted by BaldLoonie View Post
    Hey Steelersfan, remember our steamer you took out on Forest Lane? It ended up installed in some guy's house in Illinois!
    No kiding, how did you find that out? I guess that guy in Illinois probably got a good deal on a really nice boiler!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Harrisburg, PA
    Posts
    24
    It is all about the boiler being sized to the radiation and not the existing boiler. The near boiler piping is critical. NO cutting corners here. As stated before you need a contractor that knows steam.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    4

    skim boiler

    Thanks for the input so far guys, it helps a lot.

    Just so I know what I'm talking about when I ask the contractor, what's skimming the boiler mean/entail?

    thanks again.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    363
    Quote Originally Posted by sultorn View Post
    Thanks for the input so far guys, it helps a lot.

    Just so I know what I'm talking about when I ask the contractor, what's skimming the boiler mean/entail?

    thanks again.
    Basically without going into to much detail it is the method that is used to flush the oil out of the boiler. More than half the steamers I see around here don't have any kind of skim tap plumbed in at all. If the oil is allowed to stay in the system it can and will cause issues.

    This can be fairly time consuming and a lot of people skip coming back a couple weeks after putting in the boiler but it usually makes a pretty big difference.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    4
    Quote Originally Posted by steelersfan1 View Post
    Basically without going into to much detail it is the method that is used to flush the oil out of the boiler. More than half the steamers I see around here don't have any kind of skim tap plumbed in at all. If the oil is allowed to stay in the system it can and will cause issues.

    This can be fairly time consuming and a lot of people skip coming back a couple weeks after putting in the boiler but it usually makes a pretty big difference.
    Does this need to be done even for gas boilers?

    One contractor just came and insisted that copper is better than black iron, but couldn't tell me why aside from copper being more expensive. I should insist on black iron right? Why's it better?

    Thanks again, you guys have been a great help!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,837
    Copper has an entirely different co-efficient of expansion from the steel and cast iron. It is not recommended for steam applications.

    1. The boiler must be sized according to the radiators it is feeding (connected load)
    2. The main riser(s) should be a minimum of 18-inches above the top of the boiler (not the jacket, the boiler)
    3. If there are 2-supply outlets on top of the boiler, they should both be used and not have one plugged.
    4. If there are 2-supply outlets they should be piped together in series with the main outlet on one end or the other of the connecting pipe. There should NOT be a tee in between the 2 outlets.
    5. There should be a Hartford Loop installed on the return.
    6. There should be an equalizer pipe installed between the main header and the return
    7. There should be a skim valve located near the water line of the boiler.
    8. The boiler should be started but NOT allowed to steam until it has been thoroughly skimmed.
    9. You should plan on replacing the main vents and as many of the radiator vents as you can afford, all if possible but they do have a certain expense involved.
    10. Select the installing contractor carefully. A knowledgable installer can rattle off the items on this list without stopping to breathe.

    Finally, all of the above pertains to a single pipe, gravity steam system. For 2-pipe, pressure steam and/or vacuum/vapor, you'll need additional classes and disregard the list per se. Some applies, some doesn't to other than single pipe steam.
    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!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    363
    Quote Originally Posted by sultorn View Post
    Does this need to be done even for gas boilers?

    One contractor just came and insisted that copper is better than black iron, but couldn't tell me why aside from copper being more expensive. I should insist on black iron right? Why's it better?

    Thanks again, you guys have been a great help!
    From my experience copper does not hold up to the expansion and contraction that occurs on the steam supply pipes.

    Any contractor that wants to use copper I would stay away from unless you like dealing with leaks and other problems. Just so you know it is easier and quicker (for some installers) to hack in some copper pipe instead of cutting and threading black iron.

    The previous post by Skip is 100% true. I would print that off and make sure any contractor you decide to work with follows that with no exceptions

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Posts
    7,326
    if you can, i would look at the possibility of converting to hot water with a modcon gas fired boiler. you could possibly get it in now using existing piping, and change to smaller, more correctly sized piping once weather breaks. this would give you better comfort, better energy use, and possibly a tax break depending upon model selected. t will cost more, but if you are not planning on moving can be worth it. it can aslso help resale value if you do plan on moving.

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