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Boiler story from a Franciscan Friar

BroMariano Member Posts: 24
I had posted my first question to the wall here:

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A very generous (yet anonymous) heating expert responded and came to our building to have a look. Several months later, we undertook the biggest job I have ever attempted. He suggested I share our story on The Wall. (I'll keep it short).

I am a Franciscan Friar, a religious in a community dedicated to serving the materially poor and homeless in the South Bronx and other neighborhoods around the world.

We were given an old 4-story school building in the Bronx, where we run a homeless shelter, a medical clinic, a youth center, and several other outreaches for the poor. It used to have a massive coal fired boiler that provided heat via zone-valves to the school, the church, and the convent next door. Later, it was converted to an oil-fired boiler, which quit on us a few years ago, and only provided heat to the school.

Our former maintenance man hired a plumbing contractor who installed a Smith 19A 8 section boiler. One month and a huge bill later, we were left with lots of water hammer, little heat, and high gas bills. When I moved back to the Bronx, one of the other friars asked me to take a look with him. After posting to "The Wall", we were able to get a modest amount of heat for our visiting guests, but we sure were paying for it.

So two men from the area who had read the post came to the rescue, and began to teach me everything from the near-boiler piping, through the system, and back to the boiler, and showed me just how bad of a job we got.

Being in a pit, wet returns were now dry. The header was undersized, there were reducing couplings trapping water, and the boiler feed was in the wrong place and set too high! The advice... take it apart and start all over. Having a background in construction, I did just that, with LOTs of help!

A week before I was set to begin the boiler room, the shelter walls began to leak water. After opening a section, I found the most rusted pipe I have ever seen. We had no choice but to open 100 feet of wall and replace the whole return on that half of the building. A big job just got bigger.

It turned out to be a HUGE blessing, because we began to see more problems in the ceiling, and decided to just hit them all. (Next year, we will begin the other half of the building).

One of the responders came day after day, week after week, and helped me do the work, just for fun.

Our friend the heating expert also found a relatively simple way to turn the whole building into a two-pipe system in the future, so we added 1" drips, capped just above the drop ceiling, and extra Tees in the return line to go back later and improve things once again.

2 months later, we have the most heat we have ever experienced (LOTS OF HEAT!) with no water hammer, and a lo-hi-lo controlled burner. Here are a few before and after pictures to give an idea. The rest are in a photo album (with captions) at the following link:

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Thanks to Dan for this great site and his awesome books, to all who responded to our original question, and especially to those two experts who have spent COUNTLESS hours visiting our boilers and telling me how bad our systems are, and walking me through the job step by step...

... and they even bought us hats to make it official.


  • c.t.kay
    c.t.kay Member Posts: 85
    Working with a goal in mind

    Nice pipe work, Lots of good energy in there.Spiffy hats.
  • jpf321
    jpf321 Member Posts: 1,566
    edited May 2010
    a job well done...

    I was fortunate to assist Bro M. for several weeks on this job. When I got there for my first day of work, they had already done most of the demo and had the header roughly piped.

    Brother M understood every detail of the system and was able to manage day-to-day of the entire job and his crew with grace and finesse. We made friends with the local supply house and made countless trips for various pieces.

    We did our best to reuse just about everything we could in order to save money for the friary and to eliminate the waste. We got to be very good at removing old rusted pipe from a perfectly good fitting.

    We utilized lamp wick and megaloc throughout the job and proudly, not a single fitting dripped. Even when we flooded the system to above the mains. Sure a union or two needed some cranking and a flange needed some tightening, but we were happily surprised that we didn't need to be dealing with numerous leaks.

    We also became proficient pipe measurers and threaders. They purchased a brand new Rigid 300 for the job and that certainly got a good workout. For the pipes over 2" we had gracious access to another threading machine owned by our volunteer consultant/expert/pro.

    Places in the building that hadn't gotten steam in years were finally

    hot again and there wasn't even a twang in the pipes where once there

    was sounds of jackhammers in the pipes.

    The 3-4weeks that I spent daily with them was an invaluable experience for me but the happiness and glee experienced by Bro M and others in their community on our initial post-re-fire walk through was PRICELESS.

    Thanks BroM for your enthusiasm, attention to detail and methodical process. I'm glad to have been a part of it!

    Oh Yeah .. and I love my hat!

    1-pipe Homeowner - Queens, NYC

    NEW: SlantFin Intrepid TR-30 + Tankless + Riello 40-F5 @ 0.85gph | OLD: Fitzgibbons 402 boiler + Beckett "SR" Oil Gun @ 1.75gph

    installed: 0-20oz/si gauge | vaporstat | hour-meter | gortons on all rads | 1pc G#2 + 1pc G#1 on each of 2 mains

    Connected EDR load: 371 sf venting load: 2.95cfm vent capacity: 4.62cfm
    my NEW system pics | my OLD system pics
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,267

    An absolutely great story!
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Wayne_16
    Wayne_16 Member Posts: 130
    I second Robert's comments

    Very good story.  I see the story showing up in one of Dan's books someday.

    Minnesota Wayne
  • Wayne_16
    Wayne_16 Member Posts: 130
    I second Robert's comments

    Very good story.  I see the story showing up in one of Dan's books someday.

    Minnesota Wayne
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,319
    Looking great!

    We'd love to know how much fuel you save. Proper piping and lo-hi-lo firing should make it pretty significant.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • BroMariano
    BroMariano Member Posts: 24
    Tracking the Fuel

    I got the account number for the utility company from the brothers who do the accounting, and we are going to begin charting the savings. I am hoping to roll that over into other conservation projects for the building.

    Hopefully I can post an update after the next heating season.
  • BroMariano
    BroMariano Member Posts: 24
    Public Thanks!

    I asked the anonymous pro if I could thank him here, and he reluctantly agreed.

    So to Chris Kay and JP Freeley, a giant Thank You, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

    Chris taught me what I was looking at and what to look for, and how to think like a maintenance guy to figure out "What were those guys thinking?". He was an invaluable resource when I was in over my head. (Daily!)

    JP's research and documentions kept us in the right direction every step of the way. He was the guy I bounced ideas off of, and the voice that constantly said "did you consider doing it this other way?", and saved me a lot of time, not to mention his labor skills.

    And most off all... Thank You to both of you for your generosity and friendship.

    If you need a knowledgeable, experienced heating and plumbing contractor in the Brooklyn area, call Chris. Due to forum guidelines his company isn't listed here, but you can find him in the posts.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,194
    That's what I call . . .

    a heavenly story! Thanks so much for sharing it. Well done all around!
    Retired and loving it.
  • Pat K
    Pat K Member Posts: 87

    Have you hugged your Boiler today?
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