I'm from New Zealand, where, steam has never been used for house heating, at least as far as I can tell from the web . I stumbled upon this site looking for solutions for heating an old house I am about to move into and became an instant convert to the idea of steam! I find it hard to see why anyone would go for anything else. Of course, as a new and zealous, but mostly ignorant convert, I know nothing of the practicalities and possible limitations, even though I have since spent some time reading around the subject. Clearly, there is no-one local around to ask, by some thousands of miles possibly. So I'd be very grateful if anyone finds my dumb questions of enough interest to spend some time straightening me out.
My house, like many older New Zealand homes is poorly insulated and drafty. These problems can only be reduced, not eliminated, unless I virtually rebuild the house. Heating the air inside this house is just an indirect way of heating the air outside. I am leaning toward radiant heating of just the the seating areas of lounge and dining, so I am just heating people not air. Ceiling radiators seem ideal for this. Has anyone ever seen this done for steam? In theory, it seems to me that if I got large area, lightweight flat plate radiators made up and suspended them at a slight angle, they should work. Any comments?
At first glance, hot water has the advantage that heat can be stored in a tank. This would be a major advantage to me. Natural gas is very expensive but, since I actually enjoy getting it, wood is free. Natural gas firing can be modulated but wood is best burned flat out for clean burning, so in a suburban area it absolutely needs storage. How about this for an idea? I would have the boiler supplying directly to the base of the storage tank only. There would be a vacuum steam generator in the top of the tank to supply the house. 25 inches of mercury vacuum, as is possible in the Vari Vac system, would allow me to extract heat down to 60C(140F). 26.5 inches would allow down to 50C(122F), which is still plenty hot enough for radiant panels. That would make the usable heat storage per gallon about 2/3 as much as for a hot water system, which should be acceptable for my light loading.
Is there any experience of vacuum systems running in small-medium house environments. The only one I have seen mentioned, the Vari Vac seems intended for apartment blocks. Any chance of still getting components?
Finally, would there be any chance of getting something like this to work using the mini-tube system that Gerry Gill has revived?
To the Administrator: I had to tell a white lie and pretend to be an Australian when I joined up. NZ is not on the dropdown list. Hope we are not all black-listed. My other details are correct though. However, the form doesn't like international prefixes, like +64 for NZ, so I had to omit that.