Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 13 of 14
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7

    Need new boiler on two pipe system: Thinking of converting Oil to Gas, Steam to Water

    I have a 1948 1600 sqft two story double masonry house. The house has a two pipe steam system with copper finned radiators with no adjustments or valves. Contractors think it is a water system from the looks of the radiators. Not sure how old the boiler is but it looks like it went unserviced for about 10 years before I bought the house. When I had it cleaned they told me it was in terrible shape and to put a new one in for next season. The service man said it was the worst one he had EVER worked on.

    Current radiator count-
    First floor- 1 in kitchen, 1 in dining room, 2 in living room.
    Second Floor- 1 in each bedroom (3) 1 in each bathroom (2)

    I have natural gas in the house so I'd like to use that rather then oil. I have a new tankless gas hot water heater so the boiler will not be used for water. There is a small addition that uses electric which I'd like to convert over to run off the boiler. I have the walls open from a kitchen remodel to install the piping for the areas that use electric. The basement is unfinished so plenty of room to work. I understand there is a risk of water leaks from the conversion. Fortunately I am related to a plumber but I do not enjoy have my walls opened.

    Let me know your thoughts and what to look for when I get estimates. I am open to any ideas at this point. I believe that no matter what I do I will see a savings in heating costs since the boiler is in such poor shape. Will all the pipes in the house need to be changed or just the basement?

    Two main goals-

    1. Heat the entire house with the boiler and remove all electric baseboard. This will add 1 radiator on the second floor, 1 or 2 on first floor and one in the basement bathroom.
    2. Use natural gas rather then oil.

    Tkanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Rochester NY
    Posts
    4,728
    Oil to gas - great! Steam to hot water - great! Sounds like an interesting project. Love to hear the process you settle on, as I have been dying to be involved in just such a conversion.

    You don't mention where you are, but many states have programs that not only offer incentives, but a ton of protection that I would want if I were to embark on a project like this. Lots of potential traps.

    One trap is - can you convert the piping to hold water. Some steam systems were tightened by hand and when you put water through them under pressure they leak. So the first thing would be to hire someone to test the system for leaks. Not sure if you simply pressurize with air and see if it holds or what.

    Next trap is measuring your radiation. Need to know how the rooms match up to the radiators and if the rooms can be improved. Over sized radiation can be a good thing, means you can run cooler water. This improves comfort AND efficiency, but then the balance from room to room needs to match as well.

    Check www.bpi.org for accredited contractors in your area. They'll tell you the process and incentives in your state. Try to find one heating AND shell certified as you'll get more comprehensive advice.
    Which makes more sense to you?
    CONSERVATION - turning your thermostat back and being uncomfortable. Maybe saving 5-10%
    ENERGY EFFICIENCY - leaving your thermostat where everyone is comfortable. Saving 30-70%

    DO THE NUMBERS! Step on a HOMESCALE.
    What is comfort? Well, it AIN'T just TEMPERATURE!

    Energy Obese? An audit is the next step - go to BPI.org, or RESNET, and find an auditor near you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7
    I'm near Harrisburg PA. I removed the kitchen radiator during the remodel and it was extremely hard to remove. It didn't look like it was corroded.

    Thanks for the help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Harrisburg, PA
    Posts
    24
    I am from Harrisburg and I want to tell you this is a huge undertaking that may create many problems. All the info you already received is good info. I would like to add if you have wet returns change them to copper. Verify the return pipes are big enough. Do the heat loss to determine boiler size. Don't fall into the trap of sizing boilers to the connected radiation. The amount of radiation has absolutely no bearing on boiler sizing. Most efficient operation is proper boiler sizing and proper flow in the system.
    Here is a link to a lot of tech info and also has pointers on steam to water conversion on the bottom right of the menu.
    http://www.comfort-calc.net/tech_area_index.htm#Steam

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Myrtle Beach, SC
    Posts
    2,919
    Steam puts out more heat from a given size of radiator than hot water. Make sure your radiation is big enough to use hot water to heat the house.
    Remember, Air Conditioning begins with AIR.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7
    If I have to swap radiators I will. I would not miss these big ugly ones I have now.


    Page 44 shows what is in the house now- http://www.comfort-calc.net/Steam%20Information.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin O'Neill View Post
    Steam puts out more heat from a given size of radiator than hot water. Make sure your radiation is big enough to use hot water to heat the house.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Myrtle Beach, SC
    Posts
    2,919
    Those old cast iron radiators are worth real money, and not as scrap. Just try to buy one new!! See is anyone wants the old ones, it would be a sin to scrap them!
    Remember, Air Conditioning begins with AIR.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin O'Neill View Post
    Those old cast iron radiators are worth real money, and not as scrap. Just try to buy one new!! See is anyone wants the old ones, it would be a sin to scrap them!
    Look at the link. I do not have cast iron. They are copper.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Pa.
    Posts
    1,063
    Converting to h2o can save from 15% on up with reset controls. Take a look at the european panel radiators. You can put 90 degree water into them and they will give off all sorts a heat. With two pipe you can make every radiator its own zone with a thermostatic radiator valve.. We generally dont waste alot of time pressure testing steam conversions if theres wet returns we will run new black pipe on them..good luck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Harrisburg, PA
    Posts
    24
    Unless you want to, I would not change the radiation. Do the heat loss and determine the amount of radiation as compared to the heat loss at hot water temperatures to see if the radiation is large enough.
    The radiation could be set up as a homerun system or a series loop.
    Being local I could help with this if you want.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by c-calc View Post
    Being local I could help with this if you want.
    I may take you up on that. What all do you do? I do have a relative that is a plumber but HVAC is not his specialty. He can do pipe work but laying out a system is beyond his skills.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    7
    The outside width of the pipes going onto the radiator are 1" thick. The return is 3/4". Will this cause a problem if the pipes are reused on the second floor? I'd like to avoid opening up walls and I have received conflicting info.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Posts
    7,323
    not sure, but you may jsut chase away good contractors with your statement of using your in law to do piping for you. this oftentimes doesnt work out well, and contractors dont want to get wrapped up in thistype of ugliness in most cases. anyway, moving forward. this is a nice retrofit, and assuming windows have been upgraded since the forties, and insulation may have been added, you really need to do your homework before starting anything. find out what your heat loss really is, and then see if your current rads will meet the needs is good advice. if you are going to convert, some repiping will be needed, and zoning should at least be considered. since you are talking gas, look at a nice mod con type boiler with reset. you will get comfort and energy savings well worth the money. there are good guys hanging around here who are local. since you are asking for help here, why not give them a shot? they are here to be better contractors anyway, so they are probably well worth a talk anyway.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Comfortech Show Promo Image

Related Forums

Plumbing Talks | Contractor Magazine
Forums | Electrical Construction & Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine
Comfortech365 Virtual Event