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I thought I was doing everything right

So, I spent thousands replacing all my traps, vents, and finally the boiler (two pipe Trane vapor system). I couldn't wait for my energy bill. To my frustration, I used 20% MORE fuel compared to the same time last month! We aren't cooking more, or using more hot water. We used our gas fireplace quite a bit for a week when the steam system was out of commission for the boiler job. But....the steam system was not running so that should've been a wash.

What gives?


  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,323
    Were there any parts of the system

    that did not heat  properly before, but are now?

    What pressure is the new boiler running at?
    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.
  • Same weather?

    I would begin with . Find out how many degree days you went through in the two previous months. If those numbers are not similar, the bills will not be the same either.

    PS: I have a friend who says his fireplace can spend a whole tank of propane in a single night... You need to make sure you can compare apples to apples.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 6,653
    Right on

    MrD -- the degree days may have made a significant difference -- but those gas fireplaces can use astonishing amounts of gas in no time at all.

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    I mis-spoke

    I meant to say, last year, not last month. In any case, I'll see if I can get weather data from last year to compare.

    My old boiler was a 490000 BTU monster that short cycled to beat the band. And, the pressurtrol had been cranked way up. Now we have a vaporstat. The thermostat has been set to around 65-67 degrees. The boiler fires about 5 times daily. From what I can tell the thermostat is turning the boiler off before the vaporstat. The house has been nice and comfy. All the radiators are toasty. All in all, it seems like I have major improvements in the operation, but I was convinced my fuel bills would've gone DOWN. I am astounded they went up.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    Gas Supplier

    Another place you could check, is with your local gas company website.  Here in Ann Arbor we are with DTE.  After setting up an online account you can view the gas usage of your address for many years, and compare that to now.
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    Yes, we have DTE

    Thanks Crash. I compared our units with the same time last year; in fact it's on the bill. I don't think this fall/winter has been colder than last year. And, I still can't get over going UP in usage! I'm comparing an inefficient, oversized system with bad traps to what is really a brand new system. I think I need to call DTE. This doesn't make sense.
  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    Don't Panic

    Was last years reading estimated and this years an actual reading. Was the same period last year warmer. Your new boiler burns about 2.5 therms of gas every hour of runtime. How long does it run to satisfy your thermostat? Do you know how to read the gas meter?

    If you don't it is easy to learn how. Read the meter at the same time every day for a week, learn what your daily usage is. Look at the bills from over the summer, figure out what daily usage is cooking, cloths drying, and hot water. Subtract that from your reading and you'll know how much gas you are using for heating. When it gets cold it is quite possible for your boiler to run 5 to 7 hours a day.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484

     is probably right, he usually is.  He has years, maybe decades experience.  You are likely heating parts of the building that have not been heated for years.  How is the pressure?  Pressure uses more fuel.
  • Joe VJoe V Member Posts: 233
    sounds like

    you DID do everything right...I have an similar story to yours but my usage went down by 30%. is your burner dialed in correctly. did you clock the meter?
  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Member Posts: 1,936
    edited December 2011
    It's the fireplace

  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Member Posts: 1,936
    It's the fireplace usage


    "gas fireplaces can use astonishing amounts of gas in no time at all."

  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    Now we're getting somewhere

    Ok, thanks for the replies. Yes, we are likely heating more radiant surfaces than before (hence the house being more comfy than last year). Not sure that explains or overcomes the BTU difference but worth considering. Now, I don't have an ounce gauge yet, so I don't know what the pressure is. But, it's below 10oz because that's what the Vaporstat is set to cut out. Last year I was firing a boiler cutting out at 4lbs and short cycling to boot.

    I like the burner idea; maybe it's way overfired? The boiler runs for about an hour per cycle, and like I said, about 5 cycles per 24 hours.....which sounds like it's doing what it should. We make steam about 10 minutes after the burner starts.

    Keep the theories coming, and I'll get with the installer.
  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    Run Times

    It runs an hour to heat your house. I'm not familiar with a Trane Vapor system, but an hour seems excessive. My boiler run 20 to 25 minutes to heat my house when the tstat calls for heat. It would seem your system is slow.
  • Joe VJoe V Member Posts: 233
    edited December 2011
    yeah, i have a trane

    vapor system on an In 5 that heats the house in less than thirty minutes. are your main vents working? sounds like they are not closing. (Im assuming you used the gas fireplace last year too)
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 6,535
    edited December 2011
    proper instrumentation

    if you do not have a good low-pressure gauge, then how can you really know what your system pressure is? do a search for "why do honeywell vaporstats really suck"

    clock your gas meter to make sure your burner is not racing out of control.

    when you compare your new consumption, then get the usage history for the whole winter, with degree-days, and compare to the previous winter/degree-days, only using the periods of time where the meter has been read, and not estimated.--nbc
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    Yup, we used the fireplace

    That's why I'm thinking it's the burner. This too much of an anomaly.

    I overestimated how long the burner runs; it's probably more like 30-40 minutes.

    I hope my vaporstat is ok; knowing there've been complaints about these units so I asked for a recommendation on this wall which is how I ended up with the one I got......
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,660
    Back to the subject of the Burner...

    Does your boiler have a power burner?  If so, was it properly set up and adjusted with combustion analysis instruments?  If someone adjusted it by eye, getting a nice blue flame, it is possible that there is to much air.  To much excess air will cause a cooling effect on the flame and will greatly reduce the overall efficiency of the boiler operation.
    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.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    You are doing everything right

    You just havn't finished the job yet. 

    Have you had a combustion analysis done yet?  If not, and you need some help to find someone to do it click here just punch in your zip.  as I understand it, NCI is a training institute, led by Jim Davis.  Some of the pro's here, that provide steam and combustion service combined, have attended courses provided by NCI.
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    Ok, some more info

    Thanks for the replies!

    Ok, a couple of things. Not sure how to "clock" the meter, but the burner just fired so I timed the revolution (meter indicates 5 feet per revolution). One revolution takes 50 seconds. There are no other appliances firing right now except the standing pilot on the fireplace.

    Also, I'm now recall observing the fireplace has a bluer flame on start up than it did before, if that tells us anything.

    Ok, and we had a 1" main going into the boiler before, but it's been bushed down.

    No, no combustion analysis done as far as I know.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,660
    Usage at Meter

    Based on your gas meter report, and assuming I got the calc correct, your boiler is firing at 249,999 BTU/HR.  This is assuming that there is not other measurable usage running at the same time.  What is the Input Rating of your 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.
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    It's a New Yorker CGS A80

    and the input rating is 245,000 btu. No other gas appliances firing when I clocked. So, have we confirmed overfiring?
  • 2% difference

    I do not think the measly 2% of difference between 245k and 250k can be authoritatively called a proof of anything, they are more likely a result of minor errors/tolerances etc.
  • Joe VJoe V Member Posts: 233
    If everyone's

     math is correct---including my own, you are overfiring by 2% and I don't know if that is significant,  when comparing to an old, oversized boiler.

     Also, the formula is dependent on the local gas btu content-which may be close enough  to the number used to be insignificant.
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    Maybe my wife

    is operating a spa and catering business while I'm at work.

    Yeah, the 2% difference could be the standing pilot on the fireplace.

    Guess I need to get with the utility company. If another wally got a 30% decrease doing the same things as me (which I was hoping would be the minimum in my case), and I'm 20% HIGHER that last year, that means I'm 50% worse than I should be.
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,660

    Many people who are in your situation came from a point where they cranked up the heat in order to get the house comfortable and get heat into all of the cold spots.  As they do this, other parts of the house are overheated.

    From your description, you have gone from a situation where a number of radiators were not working and parts of the house were cold.  You have gone from a situation of discomfort to one of comfortable temperatures.  If you're previous situation also included overheating, you should definitely be seeing savings.  However, if your previous situation consisted of an uncomfortably cold house and now you are comfortable, it is reasonalbe to assume that it may cost your more than in the past, even with a more efficient boiler plant. If you had not changed out your boiler, but had only repaired your traps and got heat into all parts of the house and were maintaining comfortable temperatures, your costs definitely would be even higher than what you are seeing now.
    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.
  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    edited December 2011
    How much?

    How many therms of gas did you use for heat for the current billing cycle? If the boiler is rated a 245,000btuh input and that is what your burning I don't know what the utility is going to be able to do for you. Maybe your assumption of cutting usage were overly optimistic. I've been tracking my gas usage for 3 years ever since I replaced my old boiler.

    Your boiler is 2.5 times bigger than mine so it wouldn't surprise me if I used 150 therms for the month and you used 375. Don't draw any conclusions from 1 months usage.
  • SteamTraneSteamTrane Member Posts: 11
    I'm interested in your problem

    Hey Mowtown steamer.  I'm replying to your post for several reasons.

    First, after reading some of your other posts, I find I probably live a couple of blocks away form you.

    Second, I also have a Trane two pipe vapor system (1925).  I bought my house 20 years ago.  About 5 years later I replaced the original boiler.  All the contractors who bid the job assured me that my new boiler would save me a lot of money on my monthly heating bills.  The heating costs actually went up significantly.  Recently I was doing some maintenance which renewed my interest in the system.  After buying and reading Lost Art, etc., I thought tweaking my system might save me some money.  Your experience argues otherwise.  I thought I would replace all the original steam traps which after 85 years must have failed open.  With 25 traps at $40 each and a 3-5 year lifespan, it would be nice to see a cost saving.  I was never completely happy with the changes to my system but in the end I did have heat in all rooms.  Let me know what you think. 
  • tim smithtim smith Member Posts: 2,226
    Re: high useage

    Back to the fireplace, what kind of fireplace. Gas logs in old masonry or one built as gas fireplace with fan in it. If gas logs, huge user with little heat effect. If built as gas fireplace, maybe 60 to 70%. If one with fan and sealed combustion maybe 70 to 80%.  Do you know if your gas meters are read via cell communicator like ours are or do you have meter readers that read once a month. If you have the cell type meters, they can give you a hrly, daily or weekly useage report. Quite cool for diagnosing problems with useage. Good luck, Tim
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110

    So, the December gas bill showed 31% LESS usage than the same cycle last year. Today I got the January bill-37% less than last year! So, it looks like my efforts worked. I guess that first bill was skewed because of the fireplace usage.

    Now, this has been a mild winter in Michigan BUT, last year I was using my system very inefficiently. Not knowing how this all worked, and being a little frightened of my fire breathing boiler, I would goose the thermostat on in the morning, off when I left for work, and on again in the afternoon. I did not run steady until February, at which point I set the thermostat at 69. This year, it's been at 65 the whole time. We are warm and comfy. A happy ending.
  • MotownSteamerMotownSteamer Member Posts: 110
    edited February 2012
    Sort of....

    yes, the system heated all the way down the line, but it seemed to do so slowwwwwwwllllyyyy. I also had lot's of noise down in the near boiler piping and the main vent. In fact, the main vent was dribbling water from time to time.
  • crash2009crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited February 2012
    Degree Days .com

    There is a way to figure all that out.  Sorry I won't be able to explain it, I need a refresher course.  It goes something like how much fuel was used and how many degree days were there in dec 2010.  Then you compare the amount of fuel used per degree day in dec 2010 to dec 2011. 

    By the way Pat did my place too. 
This discussion has been closed.


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