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New steam mini tube system installed in my own house. (Iron Fireman style)
The first steam mini tube system of the 21st
century is in and operational. It was a long twisted road that brought me here.
The concept of the steam mini tube system is not new. Back
in the 1950’s a company called Iron Fireman made a steam mini tube system that
employed little steam turbines that were fed steam via 3’8th inch
diameter tubes. The system is incredibly efficient. Once the steam leaves the
header it rockets around the system. My personal feelings were that Iron
Fireman really struck gold with this design except that by the time they came
up with it steam was already out of vogue with the new construction industry.
Anyways, these systems are still in service and perform very
well. The technique never caught on and
was pretty much lost to the scrap heap of history. But Steve and me brought
back the concept and I put in a steam mini tube system in my own house to
replace the forced air unit that my wife and I hate so much.
I had plans on installing hot water heat in my house and had
already piped the second floor for hot water so when I decided to go with a
steam mini tube system I left the second floor hot water and utilize a steam to
water heat exchanger fed by a mini tube to create the water zone. What I did
was to arrange the water side to draw its water from a 40 gallon tank, (I’m
using an electric water heater vessel with the electric hook up not installed).
Every time the first floor (steam) thermostat calls for heat, it also turns on
what I call the shuttle pump to shuttle water from the storage tank to the heat
exchanger where the steam can heat it and then it of course returns to the
The first floor I installed two runs of fin tube radiation,
one in the kitchen and one in the living room, and I installed a standard wall
convector unit in the master bedroom. All these are directly fed steam via mini
tube (3/8th) O.D. tube. The return pipes on a mini tube system are ¼’’
I know that it sounds incredible that a steam system can be
installed that uses such small tube but it can so long as certain things are
considered. This system by the way defies just about every rule of steam ever
made. I tell you this so that you don’t try to take anything away from this
system and apply it to the everyday
systems out there. Remember that the rules for steam date way before the mini
tube system was invented.
Steam mini tube is an all copper system. Yes that flies in
the face of us steam throwbacks. Its copper because anything ferrous would rust
and clog up the little tubes. So there is a cathode and anode trade off that takes place with these
systems. To my knowledge the mini tube system was the only steam system to be
designed from the git go to use copper.
The system works better than I had hoped for. The main is
heated to the end in 50 seconds and the radiators are hot all the way across in
about 3 minutes from the time the steam left the header and entered the
takeoff. Now that’s efficiency. Once all the traps close the system builds up
one and a half pounds of pressure and justs sits there at that pressure. So I set
the pressuretrol at 2 pounds. The steam returns to a condensate tank which is
necessary on mini tube steam and is pumped back overhead so that eliminated the
Hartford loop requirement.
I paid extra special care to anything that that would make
noise. The fin tube doesn’t rest on the brackets but is hung with high tensile strength
stainless wire so that it can move without making any noise, and the steam main’s
hangars are installed on the outside of the insulation to prevent noise. Folks,
the system is the quietest steam system I’ve ever run across.