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Installed My Own Boiler

Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
I've been posting here off and on for the last couple of years, complaining about issues stemming from my oversized boiler.  Over the summer, I got a great deal on a new Burnham IN-5.  Being pretty handy, I decided to install it myself  I also added a water feeder that I didn't have before.  The assembly and wiring  were pretty straightforward.  One of the maintenance guys at work showed me how to use a pipe threader, and that worked out OK too.  I wanted to save as much of the existing piping as I could, so I opted for a drop header.  The system has an overhead dry return, and I used the original connection without a Hartford loop. (I've had this discussion before, and it serves no real purpose on a dry return other than to collect sediment.)  I just made sure that the return connected well below the water line.  I washed all the oil out/off of every piece of pipe I put in and used Teflon tape instead of pipe dope, so I hope I don't need to do a lot of skimming.  I also added a capped stub out of the second (optional) steam outlet for using a hose to flush the boiler and for adding chemicals (Squick) if necessary.  I re-used the old mercury style pressuretrol from my old boiler, since those seem more reliable than the micro-switch unit that came with the boiler.  I fired it up this morning, tested the LWCO and feeder . . . and all seems good.  Whoooeee!  Can't wait for cold weather!


  • ChrisJChrisJ Member Posts: 8,594
    edited August 2012
    Lookin Good!

    I just glanced at the pictures and it looks good!  The only dislikes I have and I'm splitting hairs here, are you only used one riser rather than two and no union on the pressure saftey valve.  I went with copper on the relief valve and installed a union so I could easily change the valve if need be.   

    The IN5 is a great boiler in my opinion and the ONLY reason I didn't go with one was I was afraid of the water line hight.  That and I probably would have had to go with an IN6 as my connected load is 392sqft.

    Do you have pictures of the rest of the system?  Vents, radiators and so on?  How close were you able to match the boiler to the load?

    Remember, that auto feeder is for EMERGANCY use only!  Maintain the NWL on your own and keep track of water loss.
    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

    Steam system pictures
    Central air project pictures
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,328
    Not bad for a first try

    two things I see right off the bat: First, the float-type low-water cutoff is not the state of the art for maintenance and reliability. There's a plug right behind it, I'd remove it and put a probe-type LWCO there.

    Second, what happens to the steam pipe coming up from the header to the steam mains? Is there just the one steam main, or more?
    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.
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited August 2012

    Thanks for the comments.  Let me try to address them.

    I'd rather have a probe LWCO, but the float type came packaged with the boiler.  I'm not one to throw a brand new unit away.  I also saved the identical one from my old boiler as a spare.  I had replaced that LWCO late in 2010, so it's practically new.  I flush and test it weekly and have never had an issue with it.

    Two risers would have been better, but Burnham lists the second one as optional for the In-5 and IN-6.  The existing riser to the main is right in the middle of the boiler and I didn't want to tear into it, asbestos and all.  The also first branch line to a radiator comes off the main about 18" from where the boiler riser connects, further complicating the situation.  There is one main that loops around the perimeter of the basement.  Nearest the boiler, it's 2 1/2".   It's old, but seems to work well, no banging or other issues.  I'd rather leave it alone.  I have multiple Hoffman main vents on an antler and have sized my radiator vents (mostly Maid-O-Mist) to balance the heat pretty well.

    To size the boiler, I used a Burnham chart and  measured and added up the sizes of all of the radiators in the house, added the pick up factor, etc.  I am friends with a really good steam guy, and had him double check my calculations. I'd like to add one more radiator in one unheated room someday.  The IN-4 would be marginal with my existing radiators. The IN-5 has a little capacity left for another radiator.

    I didn't see the need for a union on the relief valve. I can spin this one off without a lot of disassembly.
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,918
    I am sure you will be happy with it come January.

    It looks better then many of the ones I tear out by the so called pro's. The one item that would not pass in my area is the discharge for relief valves need to be non-ferrous, as in copper or brass.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,349
    Nice Job

    I'd replace the drain valve with a full-port ball valve if you plan on using it.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • HenryHenry Member Posts: 703
    Well done

    Nicely done but, did you do a wash before putting it into service? Not doing a wash will upset the water level in the boiler. We wash every boiler for 8 hours before puttin it into service.
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited August 2012
    Arrrgh! Leak.

    1) No wash.  I may have to skim. We'll see.  

    2) I have a piece of 3/4" copper left over from re-piping the house that I could use for the relief valve pipe.

    3) On my old boiler, the tapping for the drain was a full 2".  On this one, it's 3/4".  That's too bad, because on my old one, I could insert a hose into the mud leg and flush it out well.  The drain valve came with the boiler.  It is a ball valve, albeit not full ported.  At least thee boiler now does have drain valves on both ends, so that's a plus.

     The bigger problem is that this morning there was a small puddle next to the boiler.  The good news is that it's just a rusted nipple, and not one that I put in.  The bad news is that I will have to disconnect the boiler and pull it out of the way to get access to fix it.  Nothing is ever easy.
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,660
    Good Job!

    It looks pretty good from here!  Looks like you have done a very good job and you're going to like the performance of the boiler!

    I am surprised that no one complained about a lack of Hartford Loop.  Although since it appears that you do not have a wet return, it probably is not needed.  Some guidelines will show one anyway with the end of main drip dropping down low and then back up to the Hartford connection, and others will show the piping exactly as you have done it.

    Again, great job!
    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.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,349
    Dry return

    When I replaced my wet return with a dry return I kept the last six feet wet and included a Hartford loop. The intent was to let the muck settle out before it got to the boiler. The boiler has been a lot cleaner, but I haven't noticed a whole lot of sediment when I've flushed the return.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited September 2012
    All Done

    Thanks again for the input!  The leak is fixed and the relief is piped in copper. The scrap guy hauled off the old boiler this morning, 

    I'll insulate the new piping after I run the boiler for a week or two and everything seems good.  It's 82 degrees here today. I may have to wait a while.
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    Long Trial Run

    Well, it was in the 30's ovenight here and the house was cold, so I cranked up the thermostat and let the boiler run.  (Since the pictures were taken, I insulated the near boiler piping and moved the Pressuertrol to a higher tapping.) 

    I let the boiler run about an hour.  The waterline was steady.  The radiator vents were silent.  Alll the radiators got hot all the way across. And . . . the pressure gage didn't visibly move.  I think I finally have a properly installed and balanced system.  Whooooeeee!  I'm going to be warm this winter!
  • BioBio Member Posts: 255

    What size/type radiator's vent did you use to keep the heat balanced?, Just had my boiler installed to meet my radiator's edr and I'm aiming for results like yours
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited September 2012
    A Mix

    I have mostly Maid-O-Mist vents, with a couple of Hoffman #40s.

    The Maid-O-Mist vents have a variety of orifice sizes, with the faster ones upstairs where we probably don't have enough radiators. If you don't know what sizes you need, you can buy all slower ones, like #6, and remove and drill out the orifices a little for the radiators you want to heat more quickly.

    The Maid-O-Mist vents have the advantage that they don't make a pinging noise when they shut like the Hoffman's do.  However, the Maid-O-Mist vents can whistle a bit when the first one opens up under vacuum at the end of a heating cycle.  The Hoffman vent's don't seem to do that.  It must be their pointy shape or something.  My solution was that I found one Maid-O-Mist vent that seemed to always open back up a little later than the other ones.  I put that one in the bedroom where we sleep.
  • BioBio Member Posts: 255

    I will do that and if they start failing is then when I will replace them with gortons at least for the bedrooms to keep them quite, thanks...
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    Might just be me.

    I've actually had better results with Maid-O-Mist than Gorton.  Some people on this board might say otherwise.  Maybe I just got a bad couple of Gortons, but they didn't always seal off that well.  They've been recycled.
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,349
    Vent Designs

    One of our fellow wallies, Rod, posted a really nice, illustrated description of the different types of vents and how they work. Take a look. It might shed some light on why they behave the way you've described them.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Can I do it too...?

    Big Al-

    You have my respect not only for what looks like a great job, but for attempting it yourself in the first place.  I've read Dan's book "We Got Steam Heat" and need to read it several times more.

    I'm converitng from oil to gas. As you can tell from my name I have a counterflow steam system.  I've installed my own gas water heater, threaded and run black pipe, installed a gas range, knocked out part of the wall into the chimney base to add the gas exhaust flue for the water heater and installed new flues for it and for the old oil boiler. I've gotten two complements on my work from the contractors we've invited in to provide bids on the conversion. I was kind of surprised to be honest. Probably just shining me on.

    The most recent contractor (today) after looking over my work asked my wife in all seriousness why I wasn't installing the new boiler myself.  (BTW-He measured the piping and all the radiators and checked the existing gas feed, which we felt was a good sign.)  All the contractors have commented that we'll need an upgrade to our gas meter from ConEd. I'll leave that to them!

    So, do you think I can replace my old oil boiler and put in a new gas boiler too?
  • Counterflow CharlieCounterflow Charlie Member Posts: 4
    edited October 2012
    Just in case...

    My actual question is:

    Based on the skill set I described above, is it reasonable to assume that I would be able to remove my old oil boiler and replace it with a gas boiler myself?
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited October 2012
    Can you afford the time?

    I never installed a boiler before this one.  I’m an office guy (mechanical engineer) but I have a reasonable amount of hands on experience doing industrial maintenance in my youth, and a lot of amateur home and auto repair work since then.  Even though I don't do hands-on stuff for a living, I often deal with industrial heating and plumbing projects, so I get to see how things are done. 

    From what you’ve already done, it sounds like you probably have the skills, or could learn them as you go.  You don’t seem to be intimidated by that kind of thing, and it sounds like you research the proper way to do things.  I find that I can generally do a good job at this kind of work, but because I’m not experienced it takes me longer to get the job done than if I were a pro. I also find that because it’s my own house, I do a very careful and workmanlike job . . . even if I wind up doing something over a few times until I’m satisfied with the result.

    That said, I did my boiler when it was still hot out.  It took me a Saturday and a week of evenings to get it all done. I had access to a pipe threader and had a contractor friend who could get me the 2” black pipe fittings I needed.  (Big box stores don’t seem to carry many black fittings over ¾”.)  I had help carrying the old boiler out and getting the new one into the basement.  They both weighed 500 to 600 pounds.  The new boiler was similar enough to the old one that I could reuse aportion of the near-boiler piping. 


    Your new boiler will probably come needing some assembly and a fair amount of wiring.  Are you comfortable in following a wiring diagram and making the right connections?  Not being in the HVAC or plumbing trades, in the middle of the job you might find that you need to order certain fittings, parts or valves from out-of-town suppliers.  It might take time to get them.  Will you be able to do without heat for a week or two when the boiler arrives? If I had my own house cold for a week, my lovely bride would be unhappy to say the least. She seems to think that I undertake these kinds of projects myself because I'm a tightwad. (She's right , but I also enjoy learning new things and like working with my hands.)  Would your wife tolerate you tying up a lot of your own time and having a cold house until you're done?  Do you have somebody who could help you out if things didn't go well?  Would it be worth the grief?  If so, go for it!
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,918
    one more issue

    Not all areas allow for gas or potable water work to be done by unlicensed people. Yes Big Al did a nice job, but he is also a mechanical engineer. for the one nice job we have here we have literally dozens of not so safe or good looking jobs on the wall that were D.I.Y. jobs. Granted some really bad jobs get done by "pros" too.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited October 2012
    On second thought . . .

    Maybe I spoke out of turn. I may be in  an unusual circumstance.  I’ve always just gone ahead and done things myself.  My father pretty much covered all of the trades during his 86 years on this side of the sod.  I grew up working with him doing everything from general carpentry, painting, plumbing, wiring,masonry, and even some furnace repair.  There was nothing that old guy couldn't build or fix. He got me my first real toolbox in grade school and filled it with real tools that I still use. I took to it right away. I was rebuilding engines before I was old enough to drive. I spent my teens and early twenties working at a local machine shop building and rebuilding all kinds of equipment . . . and then I went off to engineering school.  Mechanical and electrical things are just second nature to me, and what seems simple and straightforward to me seems to baffle a lot of other people.  I also have the advantage that I work with a lot of mechanical and electrical contractors and made a lot of friends in the trades over the years who are willing to give me guidance if I get stuck.  And . . . yes, if a heating appliance is installed wrong, it could be very dangerous.  Maybe it is best left to trained professionals in most cases.

    (Other things in life do frequently baffle me though . . . like understanding women and stuff like that.)
  • Hap_HazzardHap_Hazzard Member Posts: 1,349
    The trouble

    with knowing how to do practically everything is that there's just not enough time. I mean, you can save a lot of money, and frankly I enjoy working with my hands, but I need to earn a living too. You ever get to feeling that you just can't keep ahead of it all?

    I've pretty much got women figured out--I wish I had more time for them too! ;-)
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S
    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,918
    I can build cabinets and I can hang doors

    I have poured concrete and cut out post and beam frames for buildings. I can do all these things well enough, just not well enough to charge a person for me to do it for them. This is why I am a plumber, that I do well enough to charge people for my time.

    As for women, I have 4 sisters, a gaggle of Aunts, a Mother, 2 Grandmothers, Step Mother, ex-wife, and current Girlfriend and I still do not understand them. So Hap write us a book so I can find out the secret!!!!!
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • Big-AlBig-Al Member Posts: 263
    edited October 2012

    Sure Hap. For example, after our kids flew the nest five years ago we moved into a wreck of a huge old house and much of my free time has been spent renovating it.  Sometimes it seems like a burden, but there is also a lot of satisfaction when I get something done.  I work in an OFFICE for goodness' sake!  If I don't accomplish something real once in a while I'd feel pretty useless.

    Sometimes I'll escape though.  I'll gather up the flies I tied and the fly rod I made and go out in the boat I built to catch fish I can cook myself along with the vegetables I grow. 

    OK, . . . I'm extreme . . . it's an affliction . . .
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,530
    As for women, I still do not understand them.

    A druggist was cleaning out his store room and found an old oil lamp. He thought he would clean it up and put it for sale. While rubbing it, a Genii escaped from the lamp and offered to grant him a wish.

    The man said that he and his wife got married, and worked very hard at making the drug store a success, etc., but that they had never had a proper honeymoon. Could the genii get them one in Hawaii? Certainly, said the genii. Here are your airline tickets, your hotel reservations, and my American Express card. Have a good trip.

    The man protested that his wife was afraid to travel by air; could he fix that. Certainly: here are luxury liner tickets for the trip instead. Unfortunately, the man said ships made him sea sick. He said they would have to drive. Forget it! said the genii. That would be a 6000 mile long bridge, over water sometimes over a mile deep. Impossible! Make another wish instead.

    The man said he could not understand women. Sometimes they wanted to be close, sometimes distant. Sometimes they were happy, sometimes sad. Sometimes they wanted commitment, sometimes they just wanted their own space. Could the Genii explain women to him.

    The genii replied, "About that bridge.... Two lanes or four?"
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