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New House Heating

I wanted to get another's opinion about a new steam heating system being installed in a home. I have always been fascinated with steam, and would consider myself as having a moderated understanding of proper trapping and condensate return.



My question, is a steam system an economical option vs hot water or forced air in a new house? Square footage would be in the 3,200-3,600 range in Michigan. I'm sure something similar has come up before, but I couldn't find it. I would be using steam for domestic hot water heating and comfort heating.



I'm not asking if it's the cheapest option, just if it is reasonable economical vs hotwater and forced air.



I understand that I would still need to run duct work for the A/C.



Thanks!
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Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 5,578Member ✭✭✭
    Choices of heating system

    It's all about comfort. Think of the most comfortable way to dry your hair: sitting in front of the hot air stream of a hair dryer, or sitting in the sun combing your hair dry.

    Warmth from hot surfaces felt on the skin is much more comfortable than the noisy blast of hot air from the register, drying your skin.

    Either steam or hot water heating with radiators would be my choice. Hot water systems would give the option of under floor radiant heating, coupled with outdoor reset for greater comfort and economy. Mini-split air conditioners could supply relief from hot summer weather.

    As far as comparative cost of operation goes, much depends on the envelope of the house-is it well insulated, and sealed? The comfort of an Hydronic system permits a lower temperature setting; however do not be lured into large night time setbacks to save money, as they will not for periods of less than 24 hours.--NBC
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  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 3,534Member ✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    Steam

    If I was having a house built I would without a doubt install a steam system with cast iron radiators.



    I suppose in ways radiant may be superior, but I like radiators and I like steam. I suspect steam may be superior when it comes to setbacks and recoveries vs radiant when setup properly.



    My opinion differs from NBCs when it comes to setbacks saving money. I use a 3 degree setback for 9 hours a day and do see a savings from it.



    Personally, I would still use a separate water heater for domestic hot water.
    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.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,213Member ✭✭✭✭
    I've done it

    go for 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.
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  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,241Member ✭✭
    Details

    For me the answer would depend on the details. Do you have natural gas service? Is the house designed in such a way that you can put a radiator in each room, preferably under the window, if there is one? Are appropriately sized radiators for each room readily available?



    If there are one or two rooms that are problematic, it's possible to run a hot water zone from the boiler, with or without a heat exchanger, to supply hot water to radiant coils or convectors. You wouldn't be able to do this in addition to heating potable water, but I would prefer to use a separate water heater anyway.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S



    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    · ·
  • jumperjumper Posts: 498Member
    weeny rads?

    Modern house needs much less heating than days of steam.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,213Member ✭✭✭✭
    That's one of steam's advantages

    the radiators don't need to be anywhere near as big as with hot-water.



    When we built the steam system that I had designed years ago, the radiators looked positively tiny- people thought there was no way they could heat the rooms. That is, until heating season came along- now they say they've never been in a more comfortable house.
    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.
    · ·
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 6Member
    The Dead Men are all gone

    As a homeowner with a two pipe system in a 1934 house, I am confident that my steam system was well designed and installed by men who are almost certainly all dead.  Until we bought the house in 1996 every modification made was totally incompetent.  I will spare you the details.



    So some obvious questions:  Who is going to design, install, and maintain your system?  How many installers in your area have ever designed a steam system for a single family home?  Will they be around in ten, twenty, or thirty years?



    It is one thing for a knucklehead to improperly install a boiler, it is quite another to have your house built around a badly designed system.   As anyone who looks at the photos posted on the  Strictly Steam forum should know, there are a lot of installers around who do not know what they are doing.  It would be a different thing if you lived near Steamhead and another of the super-pros on this forum.



     I wonder how many single family homes in your entire state of Michigan have been built with steam systems in the last twenty years.  If it is zero, or close to zero, there must be a reason.  I would go with hot water, with the possibility of some kind of heat pump depending on both how cold it gets in your area and the electric rates.
    · ·
  • Nate1385Nate1385 Posts: 2Member
    Experts at Work

    Greybeard, I am one of a few fortunate souls to be able to work along side, what I'll go out on a limb and say, guys who are in the top 5 steam experts in Michigan. I work inside sales for a PVF supply house and we have a dedicated steam division, Merlo Energy. This is the only reason I would even consider steam as a viable option; otherwise I would have stayed clear away from that "dangerous steam stuff."



    These guys usually deal with commercial and industrial steam process, but have a VERY broad understanding of theory and execution, and would be able to help with a residential setup.



    I agree that there are too many "Dead Men", but not all steam knowledge has passed away.
    · ·
  • GreybeardGreybeard Posts: 6Member
    Kind of made my point

    Nate, you kind of made my point: you're in the business.  
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  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,414Member ✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    i would, but i'm a steam psycho anyways.

    i converted my house to steam from forced air. We are currently converting a house in University Hts. (post ww2) from forced air to steam. The customer has bad allergies and the hot air guys have done everything they can to the forced air and it didn't help her. She grew up with radiators and didn't have the issues. We are installing steam mini tube which came out in the 1950's and is super economical. When i have to let go of the takeoff pipe on my header, i get steam to the end of my mains in 50 seconds. Thats economy.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    · ·
  • jumperjumper Posts: 498Member
    I like steam too but

    New construction is so tight that heating requirements are far less. So it seems simpler to me to go with electric ceiling radiant. Each room is independently controlled. And heating is pure radiant.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,213Member ✭✭✭✭
    And of course

    we'll get lots and lots of pictures, right? 
    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.
    · ·
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,213Member ✭✭✭✭
    Nate, here's more info on the mini-tube system

    along with some pics:



    http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/131555/New-steam-mini-tube-system-installed-in-my-own-house-Iron-Fireman-style



    I've seen this system operate- it's everything Gerry says it is. You would do well to go this route.
    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.
    · ·
  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,414Member ✭✭✭
    yeah,

    i'm taking pictures. Even made a field fabricated riser radiator for the powder room out of 2x4 steel tubing. If they ever lock me away, i better have a steam radiator in my padded room.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    · ·
  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    A vote for Steam Minitube

    I highly recommend the mini tube steam system, developed by Iron Fireman AKA SelecTemp as revived and updated by Gerry Gill.



    And like Steamhead said, you'd be astounded by how small a radiator can be to heat a modern home. As Gerry has noted elsewhere, sometimes the trick is finding a boiler small enough. These systems run extraordinarily economically.



    As far as serviceability, the system can be so simple as to make future service a snap. There will be hardly any active components to deal with.
    terry
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  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    Looking forward to a field trip.

    I really want to see CI run on minitube as you've done.



    BTW, if your padded room has a steam radiator, I'm come visit. That's if they don't lock me up first. I'll probably get the room with the wheezing squealing duct blowing tepid legionella around.
    terry
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  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,414Member ✭✭✭
    edited August 2014
    heres a couple pictures

    of the two mini tube radiators we put in today, those are 3/8th inch brass piping inlet and outlet pipes. You can see the original furnasty duct on the right side of the one rad.
    jpg
    jpg
    20140826_161447.jpg
    0B
    jpg
    jpg
    20140826_140738.jpg
    0B
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

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  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Posts: 1,241Member ✭✭
    That's incredible.

    Those pipes must be cheap to insulate. You can use water pipe wraps. But is that pipe hard to find? Are those new radiators or reconditioned? They look great, especially that ornate one.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S



    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
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  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,414Member ✭✭✭
    pipe is easily aquired

    i have cleveland plumbing supply bring it in for me. The radiators are reconditioned. Sandblasted and powder coated by a local firm, Imperial Metal Solutions.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    · ·
  • ttekushanttekushan Posts: 824Member ✭✭✭
    Holy crap, that's beautiful

    I presume that's 3/8" ID brass. You transition to 3/8" OD tube under the floor ?



    I'd be inclined to polish the brass risers and wipe with tung oil an artists' linseed oil (washed and boiled; the paint store stuff gets too dark and sticky). Of course, I may have effectively volunteered to do it after making this kind of suggestion. I'm prepared to live with the consequences. ;-)
    terry
    · ·
  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,414Member ✭✭✭
    yes, it goes

    to a flare fitting below the floor.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    · ·
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