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need help in deciding which boiler

peteboy
peteboy Member Posts: 18
I was not sure how to post this question online, hopefully you can give me some advice please. I currently have an old Thatcher oil fired steam boiler that's about 40+yrs old. I have a 275 gallon tank in my basement. I had the tank filled in May and now discovered my old boiler is starting to leak. I need to replace the boiler and could use some help in making a decision regarding converting to a new high efficient gas fired steam boiler. Do I need to line my chimney ?? A contractor gave me a quote for a Union Steam gas boiler # GSA-150 PSPW. He said its the same as a Weil Mclaim. He also said gas fired boilers for steam radiators do not get above 80-82% efficiency. I live in Cranford NJ. Can you make any suggestions for me as to what type of unit purchase.

Thank you very much.

Peter Schulz

<a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,422
    replacing a steam boiler

    it is wise to do a survey of the connected radiation in your building before selecting a replacement boiler. the previous boiler may not have been sized right. make sure the new boiler is piped as the manufacturer instructs,  no matter how the old  one was piped .

    the efficiency of the boiler can be a lot less if incorrectly installed, especially if the main venting and pressure are incorrect.--nbc
  • JProbber
    JProbber Member Posts: 25
    Proceed with caution

    Peter --



    I'm doing a boiler replacement too. I've gotten four quotes, which I'm in the process of sorting out. I can tell you the following:



    *Immediately reject any dealer which doesn't do a survey of your radiation (to determine the EDR and properly size the boiler).



    *Don't obsess about boiler brands. You're buying a lot of cast iron, essentially -- a vesel in which to boil water and create steam. All of the controls, the burner etc. are fairly generic, and if installed properly will do fine.



    *Instead, focus like a laser on the boiler installation -- near-boiler piping -- and insist that it follow manufacturer's specs to the letter. Write that into the quote. I'm discovering things about my current installation which are curling my hair, or would, if I had any.



    *Educate yourself. I would be wandering in the woods if I hadn't read Holohan's books.



    Good luck!
  • peteboy
    peteboy Member Posts: 18
    proceed w/caution

    JP thank you for the advice. I have a lot of things to learn. a lot of questions to ask my heating contractor. I just want the job done correctly for a fair price. It's a shame that I just got my tank filled the month prior. Seems like a big waste of $$$ to get it the oil pumped out. thanks

    peter
  • peteboy
    peteboy Member Posts: 18
    proceed w/caution

    JP thank you for the advice. I have a lot of things to learn. a lot of questions to ask my heating contractor. I just want the job done correctly for a fair price. It's a shame that I just got my tank filled the month prior. Seems like a big waste of $$$ to get it the oil pumped out. thanks

    peter
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Replacement

    Hi Peter- Today most steam boilers are fairly equal in performance though the steam pros on this site consider that for maximum efficiency, the Burnham Megasteam for oil  and the Slantfin Intrepid or the Smith G-8 (both wet based oil boilers but which can be had with a power gas burner) for gas, lead the pack.  The biggest consideration for getting the most efficiency out of your system is getting an installer that really understands steam heating. While steam heating is quite simple there are certain items which need to be sized and/or configured properly in order to get really comfortable / efficient steam system. It’s a lot more than just dropping in a new boiler and hooking up the piping any old way.  The biggest problem the homeowner faces is how to qualify whether the installer you are considering really understands steam heating and to do this the homeowner needs to learn a little bit about steam heating themselves and in doing so will save a lot of money in the long run. As mentioned in other posts one of the first things a perspective installer needs to do a survey of the existing EDR which tells you how much steam capacity your system needs and determines the size of the boiler. If the perspective installer doesn’t do this show them the door as it is an indicator that they don’t have a clue as to what they are doing.

    In fact I would do your own EDR calculation first so as to be able to double check the installer's figures. (I’ve attached a sheet below which instructs you how to find the EDR of your radiators)

    If you are switching over to gas you'll also want to look into getting a chimney liner. Use the "Search the Wall Button" on this page as there are a lot of good discussions available on this subject



    I would also suggest you get Dan’s very good  books on steam heating.

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/products/Super-Deals/14/129/A-Steamy-Deal

    Start first with “We Got Steam Heat” as it is a very good introduction and explains terminology etc.  These books are humorous, easy reading and are written for the homeowner new to steam. My copies have easily paid for themselves a hundred times over.



    Below are some links to articles of Dan’s on subjects that relate to boiler replacement.

    You also might want to take a look at Gerry Gill’s website as it has a lot of useful information on steam.  http://www.gwgillplumbingandheating.com/   Gerry is a steam pro in the Cleveland area and an expert on steam heating.

    Let us know what other questions you have and we’ll do our best to answer them.

    - Rod



    Links:



    Steam Heating Primer

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/128/A-Steam-Heating-Primer



    Replacing a Steam Boiler 1

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/186/How-to-replace-an-old-steam-heating-boiler



    Replacing a Steam Boiler 2

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/236/Homeowners/1490/How-to-have-a-boiler-replaced-without-getting-steamed



    Importance of Insulating Steam pipes

     http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/300/Why-you-should-insulate-steam-pipes



    Video on Importance of Near Boiler Piping (This is very important !!)

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/107/Steam-Heating/118/Steam-boiler-near-boiler-piping



    Boiler Ratings Explained

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/143/Boiler-Ratings-Explained



    History of  Boiler Sizing (Why you need to check your system's boiler sizing)

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/11/Hot-Tech-Tips/180/How-that-steam-boiler-got-to-be-so-big
  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,066
    All Options

    Are on the table. Now is the time to look at converting from the steam to hot water using a condensing gas boiler.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,422
    new boiler choices

    you could certainly change over to hot water, however the old system piping may leak when the 25 psi hits pipes and rads that were only used to seeing 1.5 psi! some old steam rads are only for steam, and will not work with hot water. it's safer to replace the piping and radiators while you are at it, if you go down this route. 

    will the new savings justify the extra cost? remember steam systems need no extra electricity for pumping water around, and if properly vented [main line, not radiator], with just ounces of pressure, can deliver comfortable, economical heat.--nbc
  • JProbber
    JProbber Member Posts: 25
    Focus

    Peter -



    You're getting some great advice from pros on this site. Rod is absolutely dead on in everything he says. I wish I could hire him.



    The conversion stuff is interesting. I have a tank full of oil in my basement too. I was wondering about a gas conversion. Was wondering if Con Ed would subsidize a conversion to natural gas. Etc.



    I've had to separate the issues. The bottom line is: I need a new boiler in my basement so my mother doesn't freeze to death. I'm sticking with oil for the time being, because we may not be in the house much longer, and the other stuff complicates my life.



    Look at gas, hot water (which may mean replacing every radiator) etc. Makes sense for a commercial building. But it sounds like you're in the same spot as me. Need a new boiler, no matter how it's fired.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,326
    And

    even if the existing radiators are a type that can use hot-water, they are probably too small since a hot-water radiator can only emit 150 BTU per square foot, whereas a steam rad can emit 240 BTU/square foot.



    And even if they are borderline, they would have to run at such high temperatures that a condensing boiler wouldn't condense much of the time. So in reality, the promised 90%+ efficiency would not exist.



    Unless you have a whole lot of money to burn on a complete, messy, disruptive tear-out and replacement, it's best to keep the steam.
    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.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • peteboy
    peteboy Member Posts: 18
    thanks to all

    I did not realize there was so much to learn about steam boiler replacements. I really got a eyeopener on the subject. Is there any one who can recommend someone in my area northern NJ ? I already have make some calls and have experienced some of what was said on these boards. One contractor did not measure my radiators and went off of the rating on the old boiler. He also stated since I had an "Inside chimney", that i did not have to have it lined. Well... I do not think I will use that guy, he did sound very convincing though. I realize that i am in control, it's not the middle of the winter and I have time to do my homework. I did indeed read some of the links to Dan's articles regarding steam heat and was amazed of how much I did not know. Thanks again to all that replied.

    peter
  • peteboy
    peteboy Member Posts: 18
    thanks to all

    I did not realize there was so much to learn about steam boiler replacements. I really got a eyeopener on the subject. Is there any one who can recommend someone in my area northern NJ ? I already have make some calls and have experienced some of what was said on these boards. One contractor did not measure my radiators and went off of the rating on the old boiler. He also stated since I had an "Inside chimney", that i did not have to have it lined. Well... I do not think I will use that guy, he did sound very convincing though. I realize that i am in control, it's not the middle of the winter and I have time to do my homework. I did indeed read some of the links to Dan's articles regarding steam heat and was amazed of how much I did not know. Thanks again to all that replied.

    peter
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Boiler Option

    Thanks for the complement! Actually I’m a homeowner who several years ago was in the same situation as you find yourselves now as I had a partially functioning steam system which needed a new boiler. I owe all that I have learned about steam to Dan’s books and to the help of pros like Steamhead and others, who have very generously shared their vast knowledge and experience on “the Wall”.

    On thinking over your quandary about whether to switch from oil to gas, the thought occurred to me that maybe you might want to consider possibly going “half way”.  Both the Slant Fin and the Smith G-8 boilers are excellent wet based boilers which normally configured with oil burners but are also factory approved to use a gas power burner.  This would give you the option of just easily swapping out the oil burner for a gas burner at a later time if you choose to do so. We aren’t supposed to discuss pricing on this board but if you look up Carlin EZ Gas on the internet I believe you’ll find that the burners are quite reasonable. Just a thought.

    - Rod
  • JProbber
    JProbber Member Posts: 25
    Well....

    you had me going, there Rod. You certainly have the knowledge required to be a pro. A question for you: if I install an oil-fired boiler (say, a Weil 580) and decide at some point to go gas, is it simply a matter of getting a new burner?
  • JProbber
    JProbber Member Posts: 25
    Well....

    you had me going, there Rod. You certainly have the knowledge required to be a pro. A question for you: if I install an oil-fired boiler (say, a Weil 580) and decide at some point to go gas, is it simply a matter of getting a new burner?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Changing to a Gas Burner

    In answer to your question: " Can an oil-fired boiler (say, a Weil 580) and decided at some point to go gas, is it simply a matter of getting a new burner?" To my knowledge the  best answer is probably : "Yes and No" .

    Yes, it can be done though you will need in both cases to have the burner installed by someone who knows what he is doing and has the right instrumentation to tune the power burner properly.



    No, because you are running into a "gray area" where by not being  "factory approved", it could quite possibly void the manufacturer's warrantee and there could also be problems of denial of insurance coverage if a serious claim did arise. Also different locales have different and possibly more stringent codes and not being "factory approved" could be a problem.now or possibly in the future.  As I mentioned it seems to be a "gray area".

    The advantage of installing a Slant/Fin Intrepid or a Smith G-8 is that they are "factory approved" for several models of power gas burner. This also means the factory  has already worked out what the optimum settings are for the gas burner installed which saves the hassle of experimenting and working out an unknown.

    You might want to read the recent post  "Burnham V8 Gas Gun Conversion" as this subject was discussed a bit there.

    There seems to be a consensus among the pros that using a wet based boiler with a power gas burner, you are probably picking up a minimum  4+ percent efficiency.

    My dream boiler is a Burnham Megasteam with a power gas burner. Hopefully Burnham will get moving and approve such an installation soon. Why they haven't done it already is beyond me as I would think they would double their Megasteam sales over night.

    Just my two cents.

    - Rod
  • moneypitfeeder
    moneypitfeeder Member Posts: 241
    fyi

    I had an old oil tank in my last house that was not servicing anything and was taking up a huge amount of sq ft. I was able to find local guys who wanted the oil to heat apt. building they owned and brought their own truck after hours and removed the oil and tank and paid us some for it, so look around, craigslist, newspaper, etc you might not be out as much as you think! Good Luck!
    steam newbie
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,665
    I had about 400 gallons of #2 fuel oil ...

    ... when I converted to gas. I had to pay to have it taken away. I offered it to some friends who burn oil, but they could not arrange to have it picked up. The local fuel oil supplier would pump the oil out for a fee and dispose of it for a fee, but would not deliver it to someone. Apparently they are not allowed to deliver "waste oil"

     to a residential fuel tank.
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,764
    Yes and No, reprise

    As Rod said, it depends on whether the manufacturer of your boiler has a gas burner(s) approved for the boiler.  The example you gave, a Weil-McLain 580, the answer is yes, because they have numerous gas burners approved for that boiler. 



    Burnham also has both gas and oil burners approved for their v-9 boilers.  As Rod said, they do not have gas burners approved for the V8 and the MS boilers.  Also, I don't think WM has gas burners approved for their smaller oil boilers.
    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.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
  • peteboy
    peteboy Member Posts: 18
    thank you

    i really appreciate all of the advice that I received on this board. I now have some knowledge of boilers and can speak with my contractor in an intelligent manor. I had 4 estimates and did not go for the cheapest one but, one that I felt the most comfortable with. I learned what types of questions to ask and realized that there are some shady characters out there. I was looking for a quality job at a fair price. I chose to switch to a gas fired steam boiler. My contractor will also remove my 275 gallon tank and give me full credit for the oil that remains.Its amazing that the same exact boiler can have so many different labels. Williamson, Union Steam and Thermoflo, Weil Mclain have the exact same boiler, same ratings. I learned that I am buying not only the boiler but the installation as well. The install is even more important than the actual model. So a big thanks to all of the honest advice on this board. The deadman would be proud of you guys.

    Peter
  • Greg Maxwell
    Greg Maxwell Member Posts: 212
    Boiler Swap

    Please be cautious in you choice of gas as a fuel. Do your homework. Is it natural or porpane? If it is propane, you may not be as efficient as you are hoping to be. LP is 93,000btu/gal, natural 100,000 and oil is 140,000. Even though propane is less cost per gallon, you will ultimately spend more than you would with oil. Natural may be a good choice, as it is regulated by the utility, and truly is cost efficient, as it has a slightly higher BTU content, but is substantially lower in the delivered cost. There is a lot of hype surrounding gas boilers these days, and some of it is very misleading. Read the fine point, check efficiencies of the units you are interested in. Is it atmospheric? that may be the reason he is giving you the lower efficiency. Check out boilers that use power gas burners such as the Weil Mclain PSGO series. Power gas tends to be higher efficiency, and Carlin EZ GAS burners are an awesome choice. Yes, you will have to have your chimney checked, and possibly lined. Dont throw out the choice of staying with oil either.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,326
    edited July 2011
    "Natural (gas) may be a good choice, as it is regulated by the utility"

    not any more, in most places! 
    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.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
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