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New Steam Boiler Options

Hello Everyone!

This forum has been very helpful to me in the past.

I am going to need advice on a few things. I am looking to replace my 1 pipe 30 year old Hydro Therm Steam Boiler. I scheduled a cleaning and I found that there is about a baseball size rot on the top of the block. The boiler thank goodness is running fine. I know that it could go anytime soon and am looking to have my back up plan ready in case it goes. I hope it could last me this winter but with the record cold we been having here in NJ I know that it is putting a strain on my oil boiler.I know there are many out there and I am leaning towards a Burnham MegaSteam.

Is Burnham MegaSteam a good unit or are there other out there better for my setup.

What should I be looking for in a Oil Boiler?

What questions should I ask the contractor prior to install?

Is my current setup okay and should my new install be similar to what I currently have?

Will my chimney have to be lined inside with a new boiler?

What else will I need to have my new boiler operate to its fullest.

Can anyone recommend any local steam heating/plumbers in Northern NJ

I will send pictures this evening of my current setup.

Thank You and I appreciate the input.


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    steam survey

    is this 1-pipe or 2-pipe? have you tried the "find a pro" button on this site? the zip code feature sometimes has a problem, so type in your location name, and use a wide area selection to get the most listings.

    first select the experienced steam pro who will do the installation. let him give you some boiler choices which he has good experiences with. one from a local stocking distributor would be beneficial, in case you need parts sometime.

    ask him to total up the output of all the radiators in your house, so the proper size boiler can be chosen.

    make sure you have extremely good main venting. i would also suggest that you install a vaporstat right of the bat, along with a good low pressure gauge [gaugestore.com 0-15 ounces] to keep the pressure much lower than with the standard pressuretrol. the 0-30 psi will have to be retained for code purposes, but it is useless for steam diagnostics, and can only tell you if there is a very high pressure problem [ie. when to turn it off, and leave the house].

    try to keep the system as gravity return, and if you have an auto-fill, use one with a meter, so you know how much makeup water is used.--nbc
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,470
    Boiler sizing

    Pictures will help a lot.

    Do you know how many sq ft of radiation you have connected to that boiler? you want to know that before you solicit bids because it will give you an idea of the caliber of people your dealing with. If someone shows up and looks at the boiler and says "yep that's a 5 section boiler and we will replace it with the same size" nod pilitely and show him the door. Anybody bidding on a new boiler should look at the entire system and that includes all the piping and the radiators. They should also ask if there are any existing problems that should be addressed.

    Make sure you stipulate that the boiler has to be piped in threaded steel per the manufacturers installation manual.

    For efficient and quiet operation the boiler has to be sized to fit your load (with a little extra for the piping). This worksheet will let you figure out your radiator EDR (sq ft of radiation). http://www.usboiler.burnham.com/contractors/tool-box-sizing

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Smoke14
    Smoke14 Member Posts: 5
    New Steam Boiler Options

    My system is a 1 pipe system with a total of 5 radiators. I do not know how much output the radiators put out but this is something I will figure out when I go home tonight. I purchased this home 3 years ago and have really neglected to look at the system till now. I have always had a yearly cleaning but that is all. If you can take a look at my setup and let me know what improvements need to be done to this system and what I should need to do when I am ready to purchase the new boiler. Thanks NBC and Bob for responding.

    Does anyone know if I will need to add a chimney liner when I do the install?
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,470
    Couple of things to check

    Picture #3 shows the main air vents on the returns, they look a bit small. If those two mains (actually a split main) aren't more than 20 ft long I'd replace them with 2 Gorton #1's so the mains vent nice and quickly.

    Make sure the mains and radiator leaders all have the correct slope. All of the radiator vents should probably be replaced unless they are new. Other than that just make sure the installer follows the installation piping diagram and that he agrees to skim the boiler until the water i clean (usually a couple of days after the install).

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,784
    A few more issues

    In addition to BobC and nbc's comments, I would recommend the following.

    When connecting to the new boiler, do NOT use copper.  Remove the present bullhead tee that is joining the two mains together.  They should each be separatedly connected to the new header.  Also, the dry returns, which are actually extensions of the steam mains should remain separate until below the water line, otherwise they will be prone to cross flow, which can interfere with proper venting of whichever main is the longest.

    When selecting vents, make sure your main vents are large enough, and be careful that you don't get radiator vents that are TOO large.  "Vent your mains fast and your radiators slow."  

    Do a steam system survey and make sure your new boiler is carefully matched to your system.

    And as always, make sure the nearly boiler piping is EXACTLY they way the manufacturer recommends.

    And, when you're all done, make sure you take the time to come back to this site and tell us how the project turned out, and please post pictures of your new "child", I mean boiler!
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • Steve_175
    Steve_175 Member Posts: 238
    Other considerations

    Dave says you should have the near boiler piping done to the manufactures specs. I would say that is a minimum. But as I have just found out upgrading to a drop header would be even better.


    Here is some more info on the importance of main venting.

  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    EDR Worksheet

    Hi - Attached is a labeled copy of one of your photos which may help you with the comments others have made. I have also attached a worksheet which will help you figure out the attached EDR of your radiators. Figuring out the attached EDR is the first step in replacing a boiler as it helps determine what size boiler your system will need.

    Here is also a good write up on what you need to know when replacing a steam boiler.


    The Megasteam is a very good boiler (especially if you live near Boston) as it deals with chlorides much better than other models.

    - Rod
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,710
    What they said

    and, the MegaSteam is the boiler to have. It's the most efficient on the residential market and has the best warranty. 
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Smoke14
    Smoke14 Member Posts: 5
    Replaced Main Vents

    Just came back from Plumbing Supply and replaced my Main vents with Gorton #1's. I have been reading all the info that has been supplied and am really starting to learn how a steam boiler system works. Thanks to all who have helped me and  the info provided has been invaluable. I will update what I do as I go along. For the moment I have a lot of reading to do.
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