Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Is one Steam boiler better than the rest

BobbyC Member Posts: 96

I'm a new user and very intrigued with what I have seen so far.   I am in the midst of replacing a gas fired Smith steam boiler that cracked on me above the water line last year.  I was able to put some JB Weld and it got me through the winter and still works but my gas bill is extraordinary. 

I have decided to replace it before this season and was wondering if or what boiler Mfg has the best reputation for steam boilers?

I am leaning to a Weil Mclain EG50 but depending on who you talk to how much of an issue or benefit are those Elastometric seals?

Appreciate any advice


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,575
    best boiler

    you may be able to get replacement sections for your smith. if you decide to replace the boiler completely, make sure to size it to the radiator total, Dan's book,"the lost art of steam heating" goes into how that is done. make sure you have a stocking distributor for any new boiler you buy, and since you will probably have it professionally installed, your installer may have good reasons for preferring one over another.

    i have elastomeric seals on my peerless and no trouble yet.

    better get a vaporstat, and a low pressure gauge right off the bat, instead of waiting until the winter is half over. and don't forget the mainline vents, and a skimming port!--nbc
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96

    Thanks NBC.  I ruled out repairing the replacement sections and moving forward with the WM EG50.  I did size it to my radiator total and needed about 450-460 SQft of steam piping loss included in that number. 

    Got some estimates and decided on a guy who was recommended as a steam expert.  He reference's Dan's book "the lost art" and the dead men and seem to have deep knowledge of steam systems.

    Install is happening this weekend.  I'll check with him on the vaporstat...  he is going to change the mainline vents and also put a skimming valve on the back.  he said he will come back to skim the boiler of oil and any debris coming down from the system.

    One thing that concerned me on the WM EG 50 is the mfg only recommends one 2 1/2 inch riser coming off the top of the boiler to a 2 1/2 inch header.  I was considering a UTICA PG187 and Crown and both of those boilers the mfg recommened two 2" inch risers. 

    My contractor is adamant about following Mfg recommendations for near boiler piping which I like but will that one 2 1/2 " riser be enough for that size of a boiler?

    A few guys were talking about just using 2" risers and I walked them out the door....
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,575
    riser size

    there is quite a bit of difference in the square area of pipe,  in that extra 1/2 in, but give w-m tech support a call to discuss it.--nbc
  • in the back?!?

    Skimming port in the back? Im a Weil McLain boiler installer in this part of country, the skimming opening is on the side of boiler ( 1.5 inch )... EG50 can make steam pretty fast and that's why I take advantage of the FULL size 3" opening on boiler and sure hope you'll get a drop header system on the replacment install!
  • Shane_2
    Shane_2 Member Posts: 187

    It sounds as if your installer is on the right track if he read Dan's books. Just so you know, the 2 1/2" riser is the minimum recommended riser. The EG-50 has taps for two 3" risers.
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Was told by WM that one 2.5 inch riser was plenty for the EG 50

    Called WM tech support and was told that one 2.5 inch riser was plenty for the EG50 even though it has 2 taps for 3" risers...

  • Multiple Boiler Risers

    You have to keep in mind that the boiler manufacturers are specifying the minimum that you need to have for the system to functionally operate. They do this so that their system is financially competitive with other manufacturer's boilers as the major quest driving most home owners is the lowest bid.

    While you need to comply with the minimums (especially on minimum height measurements) you also can optimize certain areas and large multiple boiler risers do this. Your boiler is designed to make a specified volume of steam.  The benefit of multiple boiler ports is that it slows down the exit velocity of the steam. Two risers cut the exit velocity in half and this results in dryer steam, (Page 49 - The Lost Art ...") as with less exit velocity, less water is dragged along with the steam.

    As rjb mentioned, I'd use a full drop header!  It only is a couple of elbows more and the cost of the elbows is made up by a saving in labor as it is much easier to install as the risers adjust to any piping length abnormalities. A big benefit to the dropheader is being fully universal. It doesn't  put a strain on the boiler when the piping  expands and contracts.

    More importantly a dropheader also produces dryer steam.

    - Rod
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Stuck between a rock and a hard place

    Ok, so my contractor didn't take to well sharing your posts and inquiring using 3" risers instead of 2.5".  He wrote me a Quit letter last night bailing from the Job.  I think I offended him and feel bad but my main concern was getting the best install possible and that was it. 

    I spoke to him this morning and smoothed it over and moving forwrad for the install Wed morning with the oringal 2.5" riser and 2.5" header.  Weil Mclain recommend that and for the sake of having this guy walk out with a boiler sitting in my basement and a good chunk of money in his pocket that's what it's gonna be. 

    I'm sure the dead men are rolling over in there graves right now.  
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,575
    a rock and a hard place

    it's too bad he took offence. if i were he, i would hope that an informed customer, is easier to deal with, explain things to, etc. as long as he will follow the mfg's instructions as a minimum, [including a permanent skimming port]  i think you will be OK.

    don't forget how advantageous a vaporstat, and good low-pressure gauge would be as well!-nbc
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Vaporstat doesn't belong in the system

    I mentioned a Vaporstat and he said it doesn't belong in the system and they are used for Vapor systems with zero pressure.  We are using a pressuretrol....  He commented on that in his quit letter and said I had no idea what I was talking about.. hahahahahaha

    I give up.  
  • TonyS
    TonyS Member Posts: 849
    EG series all have 3" taps

    Thats because they use the same end castings on all of the boilers in that series. 
  • It'll be OK

    You'll be okay if he just goes with the factory recommendations.  While it would have been nice to go with the optimum, in reality just how much difference in performance  between the two setups there actually is, might be very minimal. As to the vaporstat, you can add one when you feel in the mood and use the pressuretrol as a high pressure safety cutoff which isn't a bad idea for any system.

    After your new system is in operation and running satisfactory and the contractor has gone on his way, the only thing that I would immediately change is to add a good low pressure gauge. For observing your system and adjusting pressure, the 0 -30 PSI gauge that comes with the boiler is next to useless. You must leave the 0-30 PSI gauge on the boiler as it is required by code/insurance but you can add another gauge  They are available at the Gauge Store . I would suggest a #33020 0-3 PSI.  http://www.gaugestore.com/prodinfo.asp?number=33020

    Use a tee and some elbows and tee it off the other gauge. You should use a pigtail between the gauge and the boiler as the pigtail protects the gauge from Live Steam.

    I'd use brass/bronze for the pigtail and the tee/elbows. You pay a bit more for brass /bronze but they don't corrode as much and plug up.

    Be sure to get the manuals etc. from the contractor. I found that a three ring binder (Staples) works very well to keep boiler paperwork. I use clear plastic document sheets in the binder and slip the paperwork inside. It's also a good idea to keep a log of the maintenance and what was done as sometimes this is beneficial if you need to check back on something.

    - Rod
  • sure hope he

    Sure hope he using the drop header piping system...
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,575
    no vaporstat for new boiler?

    at the very least, get a good low pressure gauge from the gaugestore.com-03 PSI, and have him put it on alongside the pressuretrol, and the code-required 0-30 PSI gauge, all on the same copper pigtail.. that way you will know what pressure you have at the moment.

    i would also leave room for the larger housing of the vaporstat when, and if, it is needed later.

    he may be thinking that the new pressuretrols, with non-mercury switches are the same as the old ones. the old ones were at least able to handle pressure down to 1.5 PSI [the very maximum you should go]. the new one i had, allowed me to reduce pressure down, until i hit the "sour spot", then it took off up to 10 PSI!

    or he may be thinking that he will use the gas company to squeeeeeeeze the air out through the tiny little openings in your radiator vents. if you have any doubts, about this, you can remember that you still have a working boiler now [imperfect, but working].--nbc

  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Thanks Rod


    Thanks for the piece of mind.  Granted I'm sure the 3" would be optimal I'm hopeful that the 2.5" will work well and an be upgrade from the 2" copper for the riser and head the existing boiler has.  I know efficiency isn't the trademark of steam systems but I hope to gain some with the new boiler install because my gas bills last year was ridiculous. 

    I have two main air vents on the end of my returns that I can notice and he will be changing those (with what I'm not sure).  Once the install is done I might circle back for advice on both radiator and main venting options.  

    I will also look at the boiler tonight to see what type of gauges are on there now.  I know there is a honeywell grey box that looks like goes down to .5 ish PSI and I thought I saw the gauge you referenced coming off that honeywell box with a pigtail but will check tonight.

    I really appreciate everyones advice and subject matter expertise..

  • No Bullheaded tees!

    One thing you need to check on and ask your contractor how he plans to connect the header to the mains. Ideally you have a separate riser from the header to each steam main. You don't want to have one riser and then the mains teed off this one riser as you want to avoid bullheaded tees.

    - Rod
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96

    Thanks Rod.  The current set up has one riser coming up from the header to one main.  That main eventually splits and goes in two different directions to feed the radiators.   I think there is only one main or at least seams that way.  Maybe I'll post some pics for you guys to see.  
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Vaporstat and Bullheaded Tees

    I took some pictures of my current set up and will post in the morning.  Should of done it a few days ago.

    Got a Honeywell with .5-9 PSI on one side and .1- .6 kg/cm on the other and a round gauge PSI 0-30 off of the same copper pigtail.  I'm guessing neither a vaporstat?

    Looks like the current setup has one riser from the header it does tee off with an elbow to feed one main and continues going up to feed the other main.  Is that a no no?  Dont think it's a bullhead tee but still a tee. 

    I'll post pictures of both.  As always appreciate your insight.
  • BobbyC
    BobbyC Member Posts: 96
    Here are the pics


    Here are the pics of my current set up and the gauges on the new boiler.  Install is happening today and I'll post pics of the new install.
This discussion has been closed.