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Is it even worth trying?

RJag
RJag Member Posts: 5
We are buying a home, it was built in 1910, in southeast Idaho.  The house probably was heated originally by coal, I can see a coal chute window in part of the basement. 

The boiler is by Peerless, and was probably an Oil heated boiler originally, there is three doors on the boiler, one large one on the bottom that leads into a poorly maintained brick firebox, and the two upper open into a series of cast iron heat exchange sections.  There is a natural gas burner/blower that is attached to the front and looks like a later addtion.  The combination gauge shows pressure and temp, and it seems like it is very high pressure for what I would expect after reading on your site.

Threre are three different styles of radiator throughout the house.  They are all two pipe radiators. 

The piping is somewhat odd.  There are two steam outlets at the top, one is piped into essentially a 12' x 4' rectangle of 3" pipe.  Two places along it there is a cast iron double tee, (one of them broken) You can see in the picture where one line leads up to the radiator, and the return leads back and meets up draining back down into the main line.  The picture shows where this connection feeds two radiators.  The first pipe off the boiler slopes back toward the boiler and the other two sides slope down toward the final side of the rectangle which drops down about 5' to the condensate return inlet of the boiler.  All of the feed and drain lines slope down toward the main line.

The second outlet on the boiler is fed directly into a reducing Tee, where one 1-1/2 line and two 1-1/4 lines feed to radiators, with the return lines tied into the main pipe that feeds into the return line of the boiler. 

I have a broken double tee, three leaking unions, two or three sections that are leaking where the pipes join, and a very visible leaking packing on a couple of valves.  Our water here is very hard, it is easy to see where the leaks are because of the easily visible mineral crust that forms, one of the valves even had mineral icicles hanging out of the packing.

So in the little I gleaned from the site this morning, and looking over it, I am unsure what I should do with this system, 1) shell out money and try to find the fittings, Bring the boiler up to pressure and see if it is still functional.  OR, 2) Sell off the piping as scrap, and the radiators for cheap to whoever will buy them, then install a forced air gas system. 

I will attach the pictures in the next post.

Thanks

Comments

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,985
    edited August 2011
    I'm not a pro

    but whatever you do PLEASE do not convert a steam system to forced hot air. 

    Those are some beautiful radiators!



    I'm curious if the cracked\blown out pipe is from water hammering?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,766
    Gravity Hot Water

    You have a gravity hot water system.  The guage is a combination temperature and altitude guage.  The outer numbers are temperature.  The next set is pressure in PSI, and next is pressure in feet of water column, or altitude.



    I suspect that it may be time to replace the old boiler, there are some very efficient water boilers available at this time.  The cast iron radiators are a great comfortable heat source and provide a very even and silent mode of heat.



    As far as the leaks at the valve stems, usually a quarter turn on the packing nut will take care of that.  If not, adding a little packing is an easy task.
    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
  • RJag
    RJag Member Posts: 5
    edited August 2011
    Gravity hot water system?

    So... Am I posting in the correct forum section? 

    So issues with steam/condensate flows are not going to be a problem with the second reducing Tee outlet since essentially this system uses the pressure generated in the boiler to push hot water through the system. 

    I just need to fix the leaks, and replace the broken fitting?  The water still runs in a closed loop so all of the exclusion of oxygen stuff to avoid boiler erosion apply.  Which is harder if I have a leaking system.

    If I was looking for another boiler for this system what would I be hunting for exactly? Something more like a mondo water heater rather than a boiler fitted out for steam generation?  I know from the looks of the boiler it is very old, and probably not very efficent. 

    I am kind of glad that it is a water system, it means I don't have to deal with vents on the radiators, as well as the vents on headers ect.. But I need to keep everything watertight because it will use much higher pressures.

    Thanks for the quick replies
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,184
    Well, technically

    you are in the wrong section of the Wall -- but we're all pretty friendly here.  I'd be inclined to go with one of the very veery good high efficiency mod-con hot water boilers out there, for gas -- there are some excellent ones, but I'm not an expert on them.



    Those old gravity hot water systems worked wonderfully well (almost as well as steam!).  You will have some significant repiping to do around the boiler, but so long as the rest of the piping is intact, you shouldn't have too much in the way of problems.  As was noted, leaks around valve stems are usually easily corrected.



    Please don't go to hot air -- it won't work as well, and you wouldn't save money (in fact the installation would cost a bundle) and you wouldn't be as comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,184
    Well, technically

    you are in the wrong section of the Wall -- but we're all pretty friendly here.  I'd be inclined to go with one of the very veery good high efficiency mod-con hot water boilers out there, for gas -- there are some excellent ones, but I'm not an expert on them.



    Those old gravity hot water systems worked wonderfully well (almost as well as steam!).  You will have some significant repiping to do around the boiler, but so long as the rest of the piping is intact, you shouldn't have too much in the way of problems.  As was noted, leaks around valve stems are usually easily corrected.



    Please don't go to hot air -- it won't work as well, and you wouldn't save money (in fact the installation would cost a bundle) and you wouldn't be as comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,184
    Well, technically

    you are in the wrong section of the Wall -- but we're all pretty friendly here.  I'd be inclined to go with one of the very veery good high efficiency mod-con hot water boilers out there, for gas -- there are some excellent ones, but I'm not an expert on them.



    Those old gravity hot water systems worked wonderfully well (almost as well as steam!).  You will have some significant repiping to do around the boiler, but so long as the rest of the piping is intact, you shouldn't have too much in the way of problems.  As was noted, leaks around valve stems are usually easily corrected.



    Please don't go to hot air -- it won't work as well, and you wouldn't save money (in fact the installation would cost a bundle) and you wouldn't be as comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,184
    Well, technically

    you are in the wrong section of the Wall -- but we're all pretty friendly here.  I'd be inclined to go with one of the very veery good high efficiency mod-con hot water boilers out there, for gas -- there are some excellent ones, but I'm not an expert on them.



    Those old gravity hot water systems worked wonderfully well (almost as well as steam!).  You will have some significant repiping to do around the boiler, but so long as the rest of the piping is intact, you shouldn't have too much in the way of problems.  As was noted, leaks around valve stems are usually easily corrected.



    Please don't go to hot air -- it won't work as well, and you wouldn't save money (in fact the installation would cost a bundle) and you wouldn't be as comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,184
    Well, technically

    you are in the wrong section of the Wall -- but we're all pretty friendly here.  I'd be inclined to go with one of the very veery good high efficiency mod-con hot water boilers out there, for gas -- there are some excellent ones, but I'm not an expert on them.



    Those old gravity hot water systems worked wonderfully well (almost as well as steam!).  You will have some significant repiping to do around the boiler, but so long as the rest of the piping is intact, you shouldn't have too much in the way of problems.  As was noted, leaks around valve stems are usually easily corrected.



    Please don't go to hot air -- it won't work as well, and you wouldn't save money (in fact the installation would cost a bundle) and you wouldn't be as comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • RJag
    RJag Member Posts: 5
    Just a few more questions

    Does anyone know what that broken fitting would be called?  3" straight thru with two 1-1/2" lines in the same direction out the top?  Looks like a nightmare to change out too. 

    Since the expansion tank only has one exit, and no openings other than the line in, it is a closed tank system.  I read that it can be difficult to start this kind of system up, and it requires one to vent each radiator starting with the bottom floor.  If there is no sight glass on the tank do I just fill it until with the system cold until with all radiators purged, I can tap the tank and guess around half full?  I guess with time you could tell from the pressure gauge what the ideal pressure range would be.

    Upon replacing a boiler, it seems like the newer ones have much smaller outlets, is it a given that I would have to go with a pumped/forced flow system after replacing the boiler with a more efficent one?

    Is there anything to be gained from insulating the pipes in the basement?  Would you only insulate the feed lines? or insulate both feed and return lines?



    Thanks
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    I will leave most of your questions to the professionals.

    I have a forced hot water system. When it was almost 60 years old, I replaced the existing boiler with a new mod-con boiler; the old one was oil fired and the new one is gas. While I do not have the exact numbers, it seems to run at about half the cost of the old one. I will never know for sure, because before the change, I had an electric hot water heater and could not separate out that part of my electric bill for hot water and that for the rest. Now I have an indirect-fired hot water heater that runs of the gas boiler.  I cannot tell if the cost reductions are due to the lower price/BTU of gas vs. oil, or if it is due to running a mod-con with outdoor reset. I imagine it is some of each.



    While converting, I had them do some additional work to increase comfort and reduce operating costs. One of the changes they insisted on was to replace the old conventional expansion tank with a new diaphragm type tank. This has been a great convenience because with the old tank, I had to drain it about twice a year or the pressure went out of control when the air that should be in it dissolved into the water and the tank then had no air left. True, it was piped incorrectly and this problem could have been reduced.  But now I look at the pressure gauge and need do nothing. These new expansion tanks are great.
  • Greg Maxwell
    Greg Maxwell Member Posts: 212
    Gravity hot water

    We have been involved with a lot of these. There are a lot of gravity systems here in southern Maine. Do yourself a favor, change that boiler. The passages on that are large enough to throw a cat through, (not recommended), which is why there are bricks in there, to increase the combustion efficiency from terrible, to just aweful. Have someone come in that is familiar with gravity systems, and not change an awful lot, but replace only what is necessary. Put in a new 3 pass boiler, with a bypass loop, add circulators, and an outdoor reset. Take your radiators to a body shop, have them sandblasted, painted, then take them back home. You will have an awesome, efficient system that you will be happy with for years.
  • MikeyB
    MikeyB Member Posts: 696
    edited August 2011
    Fitting

    That looks like a Eureka Fitting, not sure where you would be able to get one of those today? Go to the section on this site called Systems on the top of the page then click on Hot Water, then search for Gravity Systems, you'll see the Eureka Fitting
  • moneypitfeeder
    moneypitfeeder Member Posts: 246
    here's a link

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/153/Older-Hot-Water-Systems/1204/Eureka-fitting



    One of the wallies was kind enough to post the patent info. Since it is most likely out of date,"the patent" you could probably get a machine shop to make you one according to the manufacturer's specs. I have a shop nearby that seems good at off the wall stuff, (they fixed my air eliminator) might be worth a call to them. Good luck!



    http://www.hickokmfg.com/index.htm
    steam newbie
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,864
    Broken Fitting

    may mean the house got down to freezing temperature at some point. I bet you find the missing piece of that Eureka all the way on the other side of the room. This is typical of unoccupied houses, even some that have been "winterized" by idiots. Bank-owned houses are the worst.



    You need to bring the whole system up to full temperature and pressure to make sure something else didn't freeze and burst. You might be able to get away with using a couple of properly positioned tees to replace that Eureka: the supply connection coming off the top as it does now, the return coming in the side. If there are a lot of cracks in the basement mains, it may make sense to completely repipe it rather than constantly chase leaks.



    Examine the radiators closely. Often they will split along the rear where you can't see the damage very well. Good used radiators are available, and are a lot more plentiful than they should be.



    Does it make sense to fix this? Sure it does. A water-based system is much more comfortable than an air-based one, especially in such a cold climate. And a duct system will typically pressurize and depressurize different parts of the house, which can pull cold air in and push warmed air out thru cracks, gaps etc. in the house construction. This will of course jack up your fuel consumption.



    If the system is a total loss, I'd still replace it with a new, water-based system.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • RJag
    RJag Member Posts: 5
    Going to try it.

    It looks like we will try and fix this system.  Thanks from everyone who has posted for the information and detail.  I walked down the piping very close and found that that broken Eureka fitting is the only visible broken fitting. The other stuff, replacing a couple leaking unions and repacking a few valves I can do.  As for an option to replace the Eureka I figure we can come up with something similar, even if it means hitting the machine shop.  The main thing is to drop the return line into the bottom of the pipe, while the supply comes out of the top. (correct me if I am wrong).

    It may have to wait until spring for that new boiler, but I am going to replace that old tank with a diaphram tank when I do the inital repairs.  This allows it to be in the basement instead of hanging at the top of the stairwell upstairs, and also reduces the amount of oxygen in the system. 

    Crossing my fingers on the frozen parts possiblity, since the home has only been up for sale for the last three and a half months I am hoping that the fitting failed for some other reason.



    Would you reccomend all of the piping to and from the radiators be insulated?
This discussion has been closed.