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Residential Steam Heat Code?

ajvd Member Posts: 3
Is there some sort of national code covering standards for residential steam heat installations?  Any widely accepted best practice documents or such?

I'm working with an insurance company to replace a broken 90 year old boiler.  They have a contractor they really want to use, and I'm wondering if there's any standard code to hold the work up to.  Something that might say for instance, always use iron for near boiler pipe above the water line.

Or to put it another way how could I tell the insurance company what the accepted best practice is, regardless of price?  Or does such a thing not exist?

Thanks for the info.


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,840
    edited November 2009
    First thing to do

    is get Dan's book "The Lost Art of Steam Heating". It's available by clicking Shop above. This book covers pretty much all the ways to do things right, as well as warning you about most of the ways to do it wrong, including the improper use of copper on steam piping. Insurance companies really like low-bid corner-cutting contractors, so WATCH OUT!

    Then check out the installation and operation (I&O) manual for the boiler they want to use. Most manufacturers have posted their I&O manuals online, if not call the manufacturer and get it.

    I'm curious as to why the old boiler failed. Bad low-water cutoff? Did it crack, or rot out?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Bill_110
    Bill_110 Member Posts: 52
    Standard To Hold Contractors To

    The Lost Art Of Steam Heating would be a good book to get. You will learn a lot, and there will be an authority you can cite for the way you think the job should be done. From a legal point of view the manufacturers installation manual is important, at least in NY state and probably everywhere. If the installers follow it they are on pretty firm ground, if they short cut everything and make all the mistakes listed in the common mistakes section of the installation manual, they would have a hard time defending their work.  I wouldn't pay until the job is done satisfactorily, or at the very least I would only pay half or less upfront. If you pay by credit card just tell the credit card company not too pay if you get a knucklehead job, doing that is the ultimate hard time. 

    If I had to  do it again I would get a contractor who would put in writing the improvements he would make on the installers instructions - like using a 3  1/2" inch header  instead of 2 and 1/2", Equalizer 1" greater diameter than the suggested minimum, and all the other improvements The Lost Art suggests. It's worth trying to get everything right off the bat. A crappy job will haunt you forever through the long winter nights. 

    I'm not a lawyer but if you get a reasonable understanding of the basic concepts spell  out everything in the contract , especially what goes above and beyond the manufacturers recommendation,  but be careful.  From a legal point of view the maker of the contract is considered the master of it. If the installer makes the contract vagueness in it should really be interpreted against him, because it could be and more than likely is an attempt at deceit. For example we talk about the installation and I mention wanting iron, it doesn't really appear in the contract. Later he installs copper.  I make the case that whatever he used he should have specified it in the contract. All he had to do was write it in, undoubtedly his costs are based on what materials he uses and how they are installed. If he left the material unspecified and I say he verbally told me iron, I don't think he really has any defense. He could have and should have specified it in the contract to protect me the consumer and himself as well. His vagueness was more than likely an attempt to deceive.  Yeah I guess I've had a lot of time to think about this stuff.
  • ajvd
    ajvd Member Posts: 3
    Thans for the Info.

    Thanks, we've been happy with our steam system.  It's a 2 pipe system from the 20's that's really been better than any house we've had before.  The old boiler sprung a large leak in the reservoir, maybe a foot below the minimum operating level and just dumped a load of water into the basement.  Lucky it didn't have an automatic feeder I guess.  I'm not too sad to see it go though, if we can lower the heating bills with a more efficient system.

    I had read Dan's book, 'The Lost Art of Steam Heat' when we bought the house.  Though I'm a total HVAC amateur it seemed pretty clear in general, and really drove home the point that I had better understand my steam system because my contractor might not.

    I'll bring up Dan's book and be sure to read the boiler manufactures specs myself.  It'll be a good place to start.

    Thanks again.
  • Fuel?

    Two pipe systems can be quite economical if tuned properly and boilers have come a long way economically too! Do you use oil or gas for fuel?
  • ajvd
    ajvd Member Posts: 3
    Fuel Source

    It's currently natural gas, before that oil, and before that coal.

    What sort of tuning is possible for a two pipe steam system?  I know I want to run it at a low pressure, under 1 psi as I understand it.

    Is there anything else I should be doing?
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    new boiler replacement specs

    try to have a completely gravity return system. if you have an auto fill, make sure it has a meter, and a way of turning it off electrically, and waterwise.--nbc
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