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possible hot water conversion

and yes, I think you just volunteered. Dan would probably let you quote him, but it would be well to ask him just to be sure. Let me know if I can help.

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  • Scott M_3
    Scott M_3 Member Posts: 32
    possible hot water conversion

    My steam boiler needs to be replaced but will last the season. Im thinking about changing to forced hot water. I have had to pros over to look at the house (two levels, about 1400sq feet, with unfinished basement and attic). We would like to keep someoff the radiators, we were told by both pros that they can be used for hot water. The problem is one pro says that we have to stick with an all radiator system or use all baseboard, the other one says we can use a combo of both with no problems. The pro says we should keep the first floor on one zone and the second floor on a seperate one for the bedrooms. The second floor would be all baseboard except for the bathroom which has a very small radiator. The first floor would use all radiators except for one room which would have baseboard along an outside wall. Using baseboard on the second floor allows us to run the feed and return through first floor closets so we dont have to tear open walls. Does this setup seem ok or will we have problems down the road. Thank for the help.
  • ALH_4
    ALH_4 Member Posts: 1,790

    There are potential problems with conversion. The radiators can leak, as they have not held water pressure in the past and have been breathing air and water for decades. Also the re-piping can be quite involved. Radiation can also be inadequate with the reduced temperature of a hot water system.

    As far as mixing radiators and baseboard, I would recommend not mixing them on the same zone. If they are on separate zones, it is ok. However, I would recommend looking at panel radiators instead as a better match for your existing radiators. You might even look for some salvaged radiators on craigslist or elsewhere.

    Steam can function quite well if set up properly, possibly with thermostatic radiator valves. The efficiency will never match that of a hot water system, but it can be close, and the cost of conversion can be high. As usual, labor is the killer.

    It would be a good idea to invest in Dan's Steamy Deal at the bookstore. After reading those books, you can make a very informed decision.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    I agree- keep the steam

    for an in-depth discussion of the pitfalls of converting, go here:


    We've had good results fixing steam systems- some of our customers have experienced over 30% reductions on their fuel consumption.

    Our company does not recommend converting steam systems to hot water, does not perform such conversions, and does not work on systems that someone else has converted. Too many things can go wrong, and we don't want to be "the last ones that worked on it".


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  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 958
    Steamhead, has this question comes up

    frequently enough to consider assembling a pdf of a few of the salient responses given over the last year or so and putting it either in the Library or Steam Problems?

    If yes, does this mean I just volunteered?

    It sure seems that those who have asked the question have been given good advice on keeping the steam and how best to optimize its performance. Especially from you (and I certainly don't mean to diminish the advice from anyone else. But really, with a name like Steamhead and the fact that this question has NEVER been asked without your responding..).

    And those who have listened (which I think is just about everyone who's asked) have never been disappointed in the results of giving their steam heat a good "tune-up" or demanding that a new boiler be properly sized and properly piped.

    Its just a thought.


    Edited addition, or whatever: Dan's article is a very good one, but the Wall's responses get into areas that address the fact that home or building owners can't judge the potential comfort or efficiency of steam heating based on the performance of their BROKEN system.
  • DD_3
    DD_3 Member Posts: 10
    rad plugs

    good luck getting them plugs out with out snapping the casting
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 958
    Hi Frank, I've

    started on it, and have a LOT of material so far. I want to organize the salient points of the issue for the sake of clarity in my own mind as this question continues to arise.

    I'll bounce the idea off Dan to see if its an appropriate contribution for the Library.


    I find it odd that no studies of any statistical validity exist on this issue, especially in light of the fact that steam district heating systems all over the world are being expanded in the name of efficiency. Steam's low mass, high heat capacity, and low reticulation costs overcome many of the shortcomings that occur in the boiler room.

    And boiler room / flue losses are not a technical problem by any means. Its all cost/benefit as with everything else. If you look at expected in-service fuel savings against life-cycle costs that take into account both expected service life and "embodied energy," the stated benefit of replacing serviceable equipment becomes quite questionable. Additions of economizers or recuperators to existing equipment might make more sense in the final analysis. Everything from replacing heating systems to windows should be subject to such scrutiny.


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