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Southern Steam

Can anyone recommend a steam-heat contractor in metro-Atlanta? I have not been able to find one and after reading (and re-reading) several of Dan's books I'm beginning to convince myself that I can do this myself.



I have a 111 year old house with one-pipe steam. The original coal boiler is gone and currently there is an oversized and decommissioned 525,000 btuh natural gas boiler. The near boiler piping looks almost correct. The main flaw that I can identify is the main take off is 'between' the two risers. I'll never know how the system worked though because 15 of the 20 original radiators (American Standard 3 column peerless) were removed by the previous owners.



The main has two branches (one east and one west) that loop in the basement/crawl space with risers going to the first and second floor. I believe the only vents are the main vents at the end of the two dry returns near the boiler. The original asbestos insulation was in terrible disrepair and was removed a year ago.



I calculated the heat load of the house using the Mills 2-20-200 rule to be 1022 EDR. The original design delivered 860 and my proposed reinstall (based on the radiators I have been able to source) will be 810.



I will limit my first post to two questions:



First, when calculating the cold wall area - - do you include the glass in the windows and doors? I did. I simply took the entire wall's length times height and didn't subtract out any windows. Also, when I measured the 'glass' - I measured the entire window including the casing. Is this correct or does it overstate the demand?



Second, 80% of the original piping is still here. The missing piping is most often the second half of the risers to the second floor. Can I couple new piping to these risers? Or will I have to replace the entire riser?



Thanks,



Cracker

Comments

  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,777
    edited September 2013
    Interesting Project

    I'm going to jump to your question on risers. Do you mean to say that the original risers for the second floor come up through the floor of the first floor, but do not extend on up to the second, and that they just stop half way up? If that is the case, there is no reason that you can't thread onto those and proceed, the same way the originals were. That is unless the pipe has been damaged by freezing or something.
    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,500
    Ideally

    when one calculates the cold wall areas one calculates the glass separately.  However... to my way of thinking that's overkill.  Also, it's just the glass -- in theory, the casing should be almost as good an insulator as the wall itself.  But that's overkill, too.  Heat loss calculations just aren't that accurate, however much we might like to think so.  Your approximations probably overstate the heat load slightly, but not enough to worry about.  That's my opinion, anyway, and how I would do it.



    Dave's right on the risers -- shouldn't be a problem.  It would be even easier if they were simply unscrewed -- but even if they were sawzalled, it's not that hard (although you will probably have to square off the cuts, if that's what was done -- and do remove all the burrs).  Quite adequate threaders can be had for reasonable prices.



    I would suggest, though, that you consider spending a little extra and instead of using couplings, use unions.  Yes, they cost more.  They're easier to cope with, though, particularly if this is to be a do it yourself project and you're not a reasonably experienced pipe fitter.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Cracker
    Cracker Member Posts: 6
    edited September 2013
    Thanks

    Thank you both. I will bring more questions later, but to answer the question about risers ...your understanding is exactly correct.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    New radiators on a 2 pipe system?

    Hi- This is a bit off subject so I apologize for going off on a tangent. From what I understand from your post is that a lot of the radiators (15 of 20) have been removed and trashed though you have now have replacements for the discarded  radiators.  I’m  assuming that a lot of the piping and radiator valves have also been discarded with the old radiators?



    What struck me is that you might want to consider piping the new radiators as a 2 pipe system. While I have a 1 pipe system, I have several radiators piped as "2 pipe". You can mix the systems. 2 pipe steam as you have probably read in Dan’s books has a lot of advantages. The valves and piping are smaller (less cost) You can use a “in line” TRV to control the heating in each room. If you don’t use TRVs, unlike 1 pipe steam, two pipe system radiator valves can be throttled. You would have to install a return line from each radiator and if you used radiator orifices, you might not need traps on each radiator. It would also need separate return main for the two pipe radiators. You could use copper pipe on the return lines and return main and join them with Viega “Pro Press” fittings. They are really quick to install plus you don’t have the danger of fire as the use of a torch is very minimal. Viego now has fitting approved for low pressure steam. http://www.viega.net/xchg/en-us/hs.xsl/6975.htm

    However I would probably still use black pipe on the inlet piping to the radiators



    Please keep in mind that I’m just  a homeowner and having a one pipe system, am not that familiar with 2 pipe steam. The above was a “wild thought off the top of my head” so it hasn’t been all that well thought out, however, I think it might have a lot of potential. “Dave in QCA” has a two pipe system and I would be interested in his thoughts on this.



    If you haven’t done so already take a look at Gerry Gill’s website. Gerry is a highly qualified  Cleveland steam pro and is doing some very cutting edge things with steam heating. Here’s a link to his website:

    http://www.gwgillplumbingandheating.com/

    There is a lot of great information on his site. Be sure to take a look at his “Mini Tube” system and the following video.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6BHXov_BW0



    Just my 2 cents worth! :)

    - Rod



    Just looked at the pictures you posted. What size pipe is that and is it copper?



                                                    
  • Cracker
    Cracker Member Posts: 6
    Response w picture

    The riser pipes are heavy gauge steel - not copper. The riser next to the lamp is 1" pipe. The lamp is sitting on top of a radiator cover that is one of the 38" tall ones left with the house. The other riser is 1 1/2" pipe that was cut just a few inches below the 12' ceiling (!). Also, I rotated/fixed the pictures in my earlier post.



    Yes, most of the valves are gone too. I'm not opposed to innovation, but my goal for this project is to have heat this winter (unlike last) and end up with a system that is as close to original as makes sense. I expect I will want to tinker with other ideas years down the road... but not right out of the gate.



    Now, to quickly contradict myself. I've been staring at the connections off the east main loop ... and they are at dumping directly down (not at 45 degrees) exactly how it seems like they should not be. Now, this is the original piping configuration... so my inclination is to let it be. Does it make sense to leave well-enough-alone and see how it performs. Then (obviously) address problems only when they arrive. Or is that just being stubborn?



    The picture below shows the right take off point for a second floor riser. The second is for a radiator just the other side of the floor. Steam will be flowing from right to left.
  • Cracker
    Cracker Member Posts: 6
    Big 'un Piped "Wrong"

    Here is the over-sized beast in the basement. Textbook "wrong" connection between the risers.



    We've learned that one of the previous owners worked for the public school system. I expect this monster had a life in a public building before it found its way into our basement.



    It is a two story, tall ceilings, 4000 sqft old house ... but there is no way this was ever the correct size (right?). Even with the roof off...



    Are there any 'productive' options for this boiler?



    Cracker
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,205
    Hold on There

    That's the boiler I have or maybe one size up from mine. My house is about the same size and my Bryant boiler is a 50+ year old beauty. Header is piped the same way except at the tee it elbows 90 up to the main loop. No issues - just plenty dry steam at super low pressures. I'd pause before saying that one is junk.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • Cracker
    Cracker Member Posts: 6
    Quick

    I'm quick to hold on to any reason to not throw out the old - Thank You.



    If the heat demand for the house is ~1000 EDR ... how does a 420,000 but/hr input make sense? It seems more than twice to much. But remember, I'm just a homeowner that has read enough to be dangerous.



    My educated guess on the history is that the people who installed this boiler and the couple who lived here after them were very thoughtful and diligent owners. I expect the maintenance was maintained up until 1992. The people we bought the house from did not seem particularly sensitive to old things and maintenance in general. It would not surprise me if the boiler was not touched or even looked at from 1992-2001 when a central HVAC system was installed. / insert rant about people who buy really old houses who should be living in a really modern house here /



    Back to the boiler - My guess is that it ran for 9 years without maintenance and then started fussing. That - or it never fussed and just was collateral damage when central AC was installed. The water pipes and the equalizer piping were 'disconnected' ... but I do not know what inspired the attention.



    How can I assess the condition of this boiler. Remember - I live in Atlanta. I called Estes and they "do not work on steam anymore." I've called around and been amazed at the lack of expertise. Before I go the route of convincing a commercial outfit to take on my house - I would like to do as much myself as possible.



    Attached are close up pictures of the controls. I'll follow up with some pictures of the disconnected piping. I hope my description and the upcoming piping pictures will be clues to the experts of what may have been going wrong with the boiler that might have been part of its demise.... and hopefully it is not oversized and can be revived.



    Cracker
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,777
    ratings

    If you were to have 1000 sq ft EDR, your boiler is pretty accurately sized. Here is the math.

    1000 sq ft x 240 btu/sq ft x 1.34 BTU output/Btu/sq ft x 1 btu input/ 0.8 BTU output =402,000 BTU input

    I think all of the terms cancel out correctly.... But, our boiler is only slightly over sized and it is possible that the actual firing rate might be running slightly low, and thus you might have a perfect match.



    Also, I'd have to say that some old boilers, even though they may not be piped according to current standards, will produce good dry steam and otherwise perform quite well.
    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
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,205
    Not so Oversized

    I agree with Dave. My EDR is 1000 in a tall ceiling 1926 brick home with no insulation and in Dan's LAOSH he recommends using 1.5 for the pickup factor in older buildings rather than 1.33. Using that puts you even closer to being exactly right.





    I have a Bryant Model S-446 which is 462,000 input and 369,000 output. I think it is perfect and wouldn't want any smaller. I read a lot here big concerns about being oversized with regard to efficiency and generally I don't see the issue. Older homes most likely have large enough mains to move a lot of steam quickly at very low pressure. My boiler will never run more than 50% of the time even at -20F outside. Without getting into the details right now I think I have great efficiency and clearly my boiler is on the big side. Yes, you do pay to heat up a big boiler. But the boiler is inside the house! Mine sits right under the kitchen (clearly no accident) and so the kitchen is always warm. If you have a vent damper that big boiler stays warm a really long time and will make steam quickly.



    Having said all that I do think you need to find a pro. Surely some of the pro's here can help you with that.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,777
    I'd stay with one-pipe

    While there are several distinct advantages of a two pipe system, there are also advantages with a one pipe system. My approach to just about any old thing that was well made, whether it is a steam system, a building that embodies architectural aesthetics, or a great piece of art such as the Mona Lisa, is as follows: "to thine own style be true." If it was done well and done right, who am I to come along and put my own stamp on it. I am just the current and temporary caretaker. My goal is to simply leave it as well as I found it, hopefully better.



    So, in the case of this system, all of the hard stuff is there. The mains, the takeoffs, and at least part of most of the risers. If it were mine, I'd just reconstruct what is missing and my guess is that there are probably holes and marks to provide the clues of exactly what needs to be done.



    When its done, it will be a great system and the owner is going to love his steam heat.
    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
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,777
    1.5 piping and pickup

    Yes, I forgot about that. Many times 1.5 is used as the pickup factor, especially if the main and risers are not insulated. Even if you insulate the mains in the basement, which you should, the risers going up the the rooms will not be insulated. Your boiler is sized pretty about as close as you can get.



    If you were replacing the boiler and wanted to downsize, there are ways that could be done.....as per the steam whisperer, Dave Bunnell, but that is another subject.
    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
  • Cracker
    Cracker Member Posts: 6
    Knucklehead

    I think I met a real live knucklehead this week. Without looking inside the boiler he told me it was not salvageable and that clearly whoever decommissioned it years ago - did it for a good reason. Which might be true... but then he pointed to the equalizer elbow that had been broken and suggested the pipes had frozen. And suggested that all the dried sludge in the bottom of the equalizer piping was indicative of 'problems' ...



    That joint, in that location freezing... before the copper supply lines? Isn't that how professionals disconnect old piping (and don't use malleable steel fittings)? Really?



    Despite this, I was going to allow the older guy in his company (the owner) to come and give me his opinion of what-to-do. But, I was blown off.... days later.... by the receptionist when I called to follow up.



    I've got an appointment next week with another firm that referred generically to the original piping of "those old systems as almost works of art"...



    Fingers Crossed.



    Cracker
  • gcp13
    gcp13 Member Posts: 122
    Same boiler & header

    We Just replaced a Bryant boiler with the same header

    I wonder if the original piping instructions recommended this method

    For the bryant. We had a two pipe warren Webster system

    Here's a picture of the boil without the jacket

    Good luck with the install
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,205
    Bryant header

    My 1957 Bryant has the same header except the tee then elbows up again to the main header loop. No equalizer and no Hartford loop. Wet return about 6 inches above boiler retur connection though. Ultra low pressure and no problems.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
This discussion has been closed.