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Steam versus Hot Air

Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
To my dismay, my church is considering replacing our existing steam radiator with forced hot air. I'm familiar with many of the fundamental arguments against doing this, but I'm intrigued by something I read here on the Wall in regards to churches in particular.

I read here (http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/79128/Heat-loss-for-churches) that in such cases, steam systems were often greatly undersized compared to heatloss. The thought was that the radiators could keep things at ground level (like pews and such) nice and warm without necessarily heating the very top of the church. From my own crude estimates of heatloss, this seems to be the case- the connected load (about 1000 sq ft EDR) is substantially lower than heatloss. This is a high ceilinged (75'?) stone church with essentially no roof insulation. The original tongue and groove roof decking is visible from inside the church.

Being that a hot air system could not help but heat the entire envelop, am I correct to assume that in a case like this hot air could be significantly more expensive to operate? Could heating up the air against our uninsulated (cold!) roof/ceiling have deleterious effects as well (condensation? rot?)?

Any thoughts on this subject would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Patrick
·

Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    Your fears are well grounded

    it would definitely cost more to run, for the reasons you mentioned as well as the lower comfort level making people want to turn up the thermostat. Not sure about the condensation issue but I would think all the humidity from all those people has to go somewhere. Also, if you have a pipe organ, check with whoever maintains it to see how forced-air would affect it. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • PolycarpPolycarp Posts: 129Member
    radiant

    Is AC part of their reasoning?  If it isn't then forced air is an idiotic choice for a space like a church, especially a stone church.  The costs will be higher and the comfort will be lower.



    However, if AC is one of their reasons, it is more difficult.  A better answer would be ductless heat pumps installed at strategic locations in addition to the heat.  Honestly, if they really need a new system and if possible, an even better answer would be be a radiant slab for both heating and cooling.  It would be a more consistent radiant heat than the radiators for greater comfort.  Depending on your climate, you might need to deal with humidity and condensation in the summer.  But that is a doable thing.
    ·
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 4,018Member ✭✭✭
    Pipe organ

    Steamhead's remark on the pipe organ -- if you have one -- are right on the money (besides the sundry other things I get involved in, I'm the assistant Minister of Music for my local church, and a lifelong organist).  Pipe organs are incredibly fussy about both temperature and humidity changes.  They don't mind (too much) temperature changes, if they are slow.  They go out of tune dismayingly fast if the temperature changes are quick.  What they really don't like, though, is dry air, particularly warm dry air when the instrument is cool or cold.  They can actually become unplayable, if the condition is severe.



    So think about that one.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    And there's nothing worse to hear

    than an organ that's out of tune!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    What I expected

    Thanks all for the supporting views- it's just as I thought. I suppose that means you're "preaching to the choir?" I think AC may be part of the draw, though it seems unrealistic to me.

    It's a classic situation- a long neglected one pipe steam system with high gas bills. At this point, installing hot air might actually result in gas savings, but de-kniuckleheading the system and adding a new boiler would be far better!

    Anyone out there with more evidence, anecdotal or otherwise that the switch to hot air would not be a good one?

    I'll keep you posted.

    Thanks all,

    Patrick
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2011
    Found some more

    check these out:



    http://oikos.com/esb/44/forcedair.html



    http://oikos.com/esb/28/duct_losses.html



    Don't hesitate to get in touch if you need a consultant.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Posts: 2,471Member ✭✭✭
    Fussy pipe organs...

    If they have electropneumatic action (usual in most organs in USA), they hate dust as well. Each valve under the pipes is like a SPST relay, where what is being switched is air. The moving element is a thin disk of magnetic metal crimped around a soft bit of cardboard or similar material. In the organ-building business, these are called magnets. Devised by Robert Hope-Jones. The disk is quite small. But if dust gets in there, it will not close and so pipes will sound when that is not desired.



    But just as steam systems should not be replace by forced air or even hot water, so genuine pipe organs should be restored, if necessary, not replaced by electronic ones.
    ·
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 5,578Member ✭✭✭
    the noise factor

    why not arrange a demonstration of the difference in noise between the 2 systems: at some meeting where the deciding parties are, plug in first an electric hair dryer, and then an en electric kettle. ask them which would be more objectionable.

    the new mini-split a/c's are quite quiet.--nbc
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    Awesome!

    These are terrific, thanks!

    Patrick
    ·
  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    Here's what happened

    at a church where they did just what you describe due to getting air conditioning and the heat package was "almost free" in the scheme of the total budget. [I found out about it since they had 55 radiators for sale] As you surmised, lacking a radiant heat component at floor level, the choir level would rise to 85 degrees to keep the floor level at 65 degrees. In desperation, they installed tiny ceiling fans waaaay up at the ceiling which, of course, were of psychological effect only.



    The full effect was not known until it was too late. The next season, they had to install electric baseboard heating throughout the offices and restrooms, and other utility areas because they were inadequately heated with the new system. In talking to an old timer there who kept up the steam heating system, it became clear that the comfort level dropped substantially and that the increase in electricity consumption more than offset any savings in natural gas.



    They should have kept (and optimized) the steam heating system they already owned and kept the forced air for air conditioning only. Best of both worlds.
    terry
    ·
  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    and another thing:

    Tuning up the steam system is just the beginning of the process. Check out the Interfaith Coalition on Energy.



    They have extremely effective advice as to how to properly and efficiently conserve energy in sacred structures. Good stuff there.
    terry
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    I'll second that

    especially since they mention this site on their links page!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • PolycarpPolycarp Posts: 129Member
    ICE

    I'll third them. I worked with them a couple of times when I was in CA.
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    UPDATE... three years later

    Well, this "battle" is over, such as it was. Church council voted to accept a single bid for a new hot air system with AC. Would not entertain requests to obtain quotes for a steam boiler, or even second and third quotes for hot air claiming that there is "no time." It being mid August and all.

    Thank you all for sharing your knowledge on the subject, all the same. As much as I am disgusted by willful ignorance I have been delighted over the years by the eager exchange of rational thought on The Wall.

    Thanks again,

    Patrick
    ·
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 3,556Member ✭✭✭
    Sorry

    I'm sorry to hear that. 
    jpg
    jpg
    aq5qo.jpg
    0B
    Weil-McLain EG-40 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment Typical operating pressure 0.5 - 1.0 inch wc.

    Steam system pictures updated 1/25/15.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#

    Don't push the envelope, eliminate it.
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    Once again-

    you can't fix stupid!



    By any chance, was the sole bidder related to one of the council members?



    Time to throw the bums out!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    Heh, no-

    Nothing sordid, just a rubber stamping scenario. Making physical plant maintenance by committee often seems to go this way. Look at how many schools have ridiculously bad heating systems.

    Patrick
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    You might want to look at

    your church's bylaws. There may be something in there regarding financial matters that they have conveniently overlooked. Also there may be some provision for removal from office in cases of incompetence or malfeasance. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • A bit of advice...

    why not let them install the forced air, but leave the steam in place until next year, so when they find out all the problems, they can put it back into use.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert





    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    $$$

    Alas, the steam system is currently not functioning well, so there will be no happy memories of well-done radiant heat to look back on as the heat pumps blow luke warm air throughout the fall and spring. We have a decrpit pipe organ that I hope will not suffer too much. And we WILL save money with the change, but primarily because the old steam install was such a Rube Goldbergian mess, so I think folks will see the $$ savings and be happy. Regardless- with the kitty now drained there will be no money to radically alter what's now going in.

    Frustrating.

    Thanks,

    Patrick
    ·
  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    That image

    It made me smile despite the frownfest the remainder of the thread is.

    If you don't mind, I'd like to attach that image to my future steam heating rehab proposals.
    terry
    ·
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 3,556Member ✭✭✭
    Image

    Hi Terry,



    Please feel free to use the image anyway you wish.
    Weil-McLain EG-40 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment Typical operating pressure 0.5 - 1.0 inch wc.

    Steam system pictures updated 1/25/15.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#

    Don't push the envelope, eliminate it.
    ·
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 4,018Member ✭✭✭
    Sorry about all that, Patrick

    but I'm sure you  did the best you could.



    As to that organ, speaking as one who (oddly) have been a practising, paid organist for various churches for the past 5 decades or so -- besides other, better paying occupations -- sorry about that.  But I think you can kiss it goodbye if it is already in need of work.  A winter on hot air heat and it will be pretty close to junque -- and unrepairable for any reasonable price.  Professional opinion.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    ·
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Posts: 1,455Member ✭✭✭
    Organ Replacement

    After a few years when the coffers are again restored, the organ will likely be on its last gasp.  With the mentality of your current board, they will likely choose to replace the magnificent pipe organ with a digital replacement.  (shudder)   Such is the nature of those in control of the checking account who make decisions on matters they don't understand.



    Jamie, I'd love to hear you play!  My favorite is Vierne's  First Symphony, Finale.  Took lessons for a few years off and on, it was never even near my limited ability.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
    ·
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 4,018Member ✭✭✭
    That Vierne

    is wonderful.  I've never been really able to say that this piece or that is my favourite favourite, though.  Seems to vary with the phase of the moon, or something.  But there is that.  The Widor Fifth symphony is wonderful, too -- if you have the instrument to play it.  the Alain Litainies.  Perhaps, though the great Ste. Anne triple fugue in E flat major, Bach, if I had to pick just one...



    You'll just have to come and visit, that's all!  I still have access to a nice little late 1800s tracker organ...



    But it always makes me so sad to see a pipe organ neglected...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,215Member ✭✭✭✭
    If you have access to a local orchestra

    Saint-Saens' Third symphony would be my choice. The fourth movement is awesome!
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    ·
  • Patrick_NorthPatrick_North Posts: 249Member ✭✭
    Last nail.

    I can muddle through with the forced air, but if the organ dies I'll be joining Our Lady of the Boxed Spring.

    I remember playing Walton's "Crown Imperial" (as a young percussionist) for orchestra and organ. What a thrill.

    Patrick
    ·
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