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savings with converting steam to hot water

Thomas_4 Member Posts: 1
I own a three story building with a newer ( 5 years old ) gas steam boiler. the system does not work very well and it cost me a fortune to operate it plus I need to be able to control heat from each unit ( floor ). It was recommended to me to convert the steam system top hot water. I was told that savings could easly reach 25 % . The intention is to replace old steam radiators with baseboard. Are savings of this range normal ?


  • Christian Egli_2
    Christian Egli_2 Member Posts: 812
    25%? Demand for some skin in the game, something that hurts

    Consider you're currently using a system that is experiencing a few problems due to omitted details, steam systems are easy to fix and the rewards from doing so are enormous at the cost of only the omitted maintenace. Meanwhile, this system even though it was not working well has been provinding you with heat - which is always the first goal of surviving the winter. It may have been expensive but it was heat. Steam is great that way, it doesn't just stop giving heat all once of a sudden.

    Your system deserves a decent repair - search a few topics on conversion here and you'll see the easy and amazing results you can get. Plus, if your building is old and draughty, steam heat is the most effective and efficient way to go. All forms of zoning per room / apartment are available also.

    It really seems you might only have a few little things to repair to be back on a roll, your boiler sounds like it should still be new. Such a set up would be a huge cost to simply scrap - I bet you're not considering bulldozing your entire building either... and that's what a conversion to something else involves. Conversions are very very expensive and yield no rewards you can't get by simply fixing the original design (this is true for any conversion).

    My town has had its share of such jobs. All have been disasters. Either the catastrophic leaks, the promises that never ever came true and in all cases the massive disfiguration to the building that are so hard to repair the building becomes a rapid candidate for the total gutting... and guess what, the next conversion is to forced air, so the hot water converison must not have been all that great in the first place. And this last state makes everyone regret the hot steam: the whole building was cheaper to heat with central steam than now the combination of all the individual units added up.

    I've never seen the opposite happen, those who brag the utility costs have decreased do so disingeniuously beacuse they stopped heating the whole place to focus on, say, only the small office area. So. they're using half the fuel to heat a tenth of the space - this is not at all an efficiency savings. (all that converison cost, and partial steam heat is just as doable as anything else)

    Steam is an easy fix. Conversions are too hard to do, too expensive and way too dangerous and yield exactly nothing you can't get with the esay steam fix in the first place.

    Look real hard for more opinions and better advice on your steam. Where are you located?

    Best of luck.
  • Uni R_2
    Uni R_2 Member Posts: 589
    For all out efficiency...

    Oversized panel rads with TRVs all homerunned in pex-al-pex back to a conservatively sized modulating condensing boiler that also serves an indirect or any radiant areas - maybe kitchen and baths? The old cast iron rads may work too if they were originally designed for hot water and are still in optimum working order. They would also be homerunned if used.

    The tough with this is trying to estimate even a simple payback. You'll know the cost up front for sure but the savings is a guess. Any system will probably have major savings just by being newer than what you have now but compared to even the best steam system, my guess is that it save another 20-35% more (and no it's not based on anything other than a guess).

    In my opinion that would be tops for savings and comfort, but you'll pay a hefty fee to switch. Staying there forever?
  • Keith_8
    Keith_8 Member Posts: 399

    Have you had a steam expert look at your system? I mean someone who understands these systems like they know their own kids.

    My guess is that a true expert would be able to offer some cost effective solutions. Solutions that would make you the landlord happy with lower utility bills and the tenants happy with a balanced, comfortable heating system.

    Your savings may not reach 25% but I'm sure they would be considerable without a major overhaul of your building or the checkbook.


  • Dave Yates (GrandPAH)_2
    possible but

    you need to proceed with caution. The very first step if converting to water will be an accurate room-by-room heat loss. The second step will be to measure each radiator to determine its EDR using water temps for a design day to see if the existing rads are suitable. The rads themselves need a look to ensure they're OK for use as HW rads. I would not recomment BB as it limits your ability to fully utilize the energy saving benefits a modcon boiler can achieve. Not all steam systems lend themselves to conversion. Here again, a professional needs to determine if converting is warranted. As noted, the steam system might simply need a tune-up to enhance its performance. It will always cost more to boil water than gently warm it. Properly sized circulator(s) cost very little to run and fossil-fuel energy savings will breeze past the cost to run the circ(s).
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,752
    Steam update

    I would suspect that a good assesment and tuneup of system is in order. Also maybe add thermostatic valves etc. Get a steam expert to help get it resolve. I would highly question the viability of changing to water. Good luck, Tim
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