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a new steam system for my new house

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operate with no AC power? This would offer an advantage also.

Comments

  • randy_29
    randy_29 Member Posts: 6
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    new steam system

    I'm selling my new house we just built and will probably be building another. I installed a geothermal system in this one, but am intrigued by Mr. Hollahan's writings on steam heat. I am a former plumbing and heating contractor with experience in plumbing, hot water and forced air heat, and am currently working for a company doing refrigeration. Can someone tell me whether I can install a one or two pipe steam system (materials only) for an affordable or comparable (to forced air or hot water) amount of money? I would be interested in learning more about steam heat if that were the case. I hope this isn't a redundant question (I'm fairly new to this site). Thanks in advance...

    -Randy
  • Charlie Taylor_2
    Charlie Taylor_2 Member Posts: 34
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    Randy:

    If you're going to build a new house, consider installing radiant heat. Steam is great if you already have it, with the effort being to restore the systems to perfect function. But building from scratch, the radiators alone cost a fortune.

    Unless, of course, you just want the fun and challenge of installing a steam system and have the cash.

    Steve
  • Steamhead (in transit)
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    Sure you can!

    it will be more labor-intensive than pulling PEX or sweating copper for hot-water- you'll be cutting and threading black steel pipe- but it will work great if done right.

    And you'll be a member of a rather exclusive group of Steam Heat System Installers, consisting of Mad Dog, Dan Foley, Gerry Gill, Noel Murdough, Jim & Jamie Pompetti and some guy called Steamhead, and any others I forgot to mention- see "Throw-Backs" in Hot Tech Topics under Resources above.

    It is possible to build a small "Tudor" steam system with only four moving parts, other than the burner- two main vents, a Vaporstat and a low-water-cutoff. This is the fewest moving parts of any system.

    Start with a full heat-loss calculation. Size your radiation from this, size and lay out the piping from the radiation, and break out your tri-stand and threaders!

    Where are you located?

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  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
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    i think its a great idea!

    i can only imagine how great it would heat in a properly insulated house..considering how well they heat houses that have no insulation..

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  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 958
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    properly sized at last!

    You now have a chance to size a steam system properly, for a modern heat load. You'd be surprised how much smaller a radiator needs to be for steam to heat a well insulated house.

    Somewhere on this site is information on what has gotten to be called a Tudor System of vapor steam heating. There's also a few threads on these systems on the Wall. Its an ultra low pressure two-pipe steam system with loop seals (just a pipe loop between supply and return at each riser), no steam traps (just union elbows) and either proportioning valves or inlet orifices at the top-of-radiator steam inlets. One return piping vent, with return piping above the water line until reaching the hartford connection at the boiler. So never any clogged returns. Ultra simple, efficient and absolutely nothing to break or wear out. A vaporstat pressure control is mandatory.

    I strongly recommend a boiler that can be operated in either high or low fire. Look at what Steamhead and others have done with the lo-high-lo firing technique. It really saves. The idea with this is to lower the fire after the radiators are receiving steam. By doing this, the boiler is properly sized for both the pick-up requirements of the heating system (where you need high fire) and the "running load" (where low fire is all you need to keep the steam moving). Apparently conversion of standard boilers to this type of operation is saving 30%+ on fuel usage per degree day.

    -Terry

    P.S. Here's a thread from awhile back that I set aside just for occasions like this. Its a traditional single pipe system, but built and sized for today's housing construction:
    terry
  • randy_29
    randy_29 Member Posts: 6
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    Mr. Steamhead (heavy on the mister) and others-

    I'm located in western South Dakota- think Mt. Rushmore- although it's looking like Alaska isn't totally out of the question. If we we were to move to the land of the midnight sun, I think radiator type radiant heat would be perfect, as a hot day there is 85 degrees, so a/c isn't necessary. Even here in SD it would be neat if a duct system were put in also to gain cooling. With the type of system that has been reommended here, how big would the pipes be at their largest? I have a threading machine, but it can only go so large. Also, is the price of a steam boiler comparable to a hot water boiler? As to my reasoning behind checking the steam heat thing out, as you can tell by the brief resume I put in the original post, I'm not so different than my teenagers in that I get easily bored. After I learn something I tend to move on and find something new to learn about.
  • randy_29
    randy_29 Member Posts: 6
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    ttekushan-
    I can't seem to get ahold of that thread. I'm sure I must be doing something wrong, but can't figure out what.
  • mtfallsmikey
    mtfallsmikey Member Posts: 765
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    That would be awesome!

    All it takes is money/time. Most of the residential/light commercial systems in my area were Tudor design. Very simple, and if installed and sized properly, very low maintenance.
  • randy_29
    randy_29 Member Posts: 6
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    new steam system

    Another question I have is how this type of heat compares to other types with regards to efficiency and cost to heat. If a person were to compare it to a scorched air gas furnace or hot water radiant heat system, how does it stack up?
  • Steamhead (in transit)
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    I've been to western SD

    I have a cousin who married a Lakota lady from Pine Ridge, and they settled there. Never been there in the winter though, I hear it can stay below zero for days. Which brings me to one advantage of steam heat over hot-water: It can't freeze up and burst the way a hot-water system can, unless the system floods for some reason.

    The usual residential steam main is 2-inch, but I've seen some very small ones using 1-1/2-inch. To keep pipe sizes down, several mains can be used that serve different parts of the house.

    For cooling, you don't necessarily need ductwork. A mini-split system should work well. With the lower humidity, SD doesn't feel as hot as Baltimore when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees or so.....

    Steam boilers are fairly comparable price-wise to hot-water ones, though they do need some extra controls. What fuel do you plan to use? If oil, the Burnham Mega-Steam is the best.

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  • Steamhead (in transit)
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    Since the typical duct system

    loses something like 20% of what goes into it, steam beats scorched-air hands down.

    Whether distributing BTUs by steam as opposed to hot-water is more efficient has yet to be determined. I have never seen a head-to-head comparison of the two where both systems were in the same building, both in optimum condition and with similar boilers. All the stuff out there now is fatally flawed, i.e. replacing steam systems that were in bad condition with new hot-water systems. That's not a valid comparison.

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  • Steve Garson_2
    Steve Garson_2 Member Posts: 712
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    Where can we read about high and low firing burners? I don't recall seeing these on this site.
    Steve from Denver, CO
  • Steamhead (in transit)
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    We don't see lo-hi-lo

    in the small residential boilers, only on small commercial sizes of about 500 MBH on up if memory serves. Here's a link to a thread describing savings in a mansion where we hooked the lo-hi-lo up for the first time:

    http://forums.invision.net/Thread.cfm?CFApp=2&Thread_ID=47406&mc=21

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  • randy_29
    randy_29 Member Posts: 6
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    steamhead-
    I went and read the thread started by the lady that bought the house and had the steam system installed. it's a cool story. where can I find information about the tudor sysem everyone keeps talking about? To answer your questions about South Dakota, yes, we have very dry air here, and a ductless mini-split or two probably would work. However, since I can do ductwork, I would probably do a duct system because the cost difference wouldn't be all that much. Actually, it is dry enough here, that if we don't us a humidifier in the winter, we get all dried out, so that would be a good reason to put in ductwork. Pine Ridge, eh? I'm scratching my head trying to figure out why anyone would voluntarily move there. Different strokes... As far as heat source, there isn't a whole lot of oil around here, and I am not trained to work on oil systems, so I would go with either natural gas (if available) or propane.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
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    Tudor system info

    can be found here:

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/pdfs/492.pdf

    It pays to wander off the Wall, says Dan. Thanks to Gerry Gill for locating Mr. Tudor's patents. He patented the Orifice system in 1885!

    In most areas, oil handily beats propane on a cost-per-BTU basis, and I remember some oil-fired units around Rosebud when I was there some years ago. Might not be a bad idea to get into oil burners- fuel supply competition is a good thing!

    Some boilers, notably the Smith 8 series, are offered from the factory with either oil or gas burners. This makes switching fuels a snap for the heating man and much less expensive for the owner. Plus, the wet-base boiler with a powered gas burner is about 6% more efficient than the typical atmospheric boiler. We just installed one, take a look (and ignore the pipe thread sealant ranting):

    http://forums.invision.net/Thread.cfm?CFApp=2&Thread_ID=51063&mc=37

    BTW, if you knew my cousin, you'd understand why he'd choose that area to live in. It works very well for him.

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  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 958
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    If I might pipe up...

    and mention that its in the Library, but under European heating:

    european heating pdf 492

    I'm attracted to it due to its smaller pipe sizes and lack of moving parts. Its inherently a two pipe vapor system giving real world efficiency.

    -Terry

    EDIT: I type too slow!!!
    terry
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