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wasting energy - underutilized boiler?

chumiechumie Member Posts: 13
I live in a 3 story, 3000 sqft house built in the 1930s. We have steam heat, which provides uneven heat amongst the 2nd and 3rd floor bedrooms. We've had numerous steam experts take a look over the years, and short of opening walls to examine the pitch of the pipes, there's not much else we can do to improve the situation.

We are currently doing a renovation of the 3rd floor, and have decided to put a hydronic coil in the air handler (from central air cooling) and heat the attic with forced air. To do this, we would require a 75000 BTU water boiler. We are toying with the idea of converting the entire house to forced air, but are afraid to do so until we live with it in the attic and make sure it's what we want. So - it would not be much more money to invest in a much larger (200000 BTU?) boiler right now - and that would be able to service the entire house should we choose to convert. But, we are worried that it will be a terrible waste of energy to use the larger boiler if we choose to use forced air for the third floor alone. We are hoping that someone here can speak knowledgeably about that concern and help us make a good decision!




  • Attic heat

    You may be able to run a hot water loop off the present steam boiler.

    Before doing that, get your steam system up to scratch, by making the following observations:

    Are all radiators getting steam at the same time on the ground floor?--check the main venting.

    Will the system run uninterrupted until the thermostat is satisfied?-check thermostat setting for steam, and check main venting.

    What pressure will the system attain on a very cold day?-check settings on the pressuretrol, and sizing of the boiler in relation to the total sizing of the radiators.

    Remember that no tech will be able to observe the system behavior as you can.

    A properly functioning system can be silent, even, economical, and comfortable. You just have to return it to it's original state step by step.--NBC
  • chumiechumie Member Posts: 13
    already done...

    Thanks NBC. The prior owners already ran a hot water loop off the steam boiler to heat the kitchen. Not sure why they did it, but we're not messing with that for the time being. So that idea is maxed out. Also, over the last 3 years, we've checked the thermostat, replaced the main venting and had numerous experts look at the pressuretrol and boiler size. It's frustrating because I don't have expertise myself and am relying on others to give me answers. Regardless, I continue to look for answers and that's why we're not about to convert the whole house right now. We will go forward for another winter and try to work out the wrinkles.

    In the meantime, I do want to answer the efficiency question. If it won't kill me in energy costs, I would spend the extra few hundred dollars to put in a larger boiler now, so that I have more options later on down the line.

  • vaporvacvaporvac Member Posts: 1,512
    Current edr?

    Do you know what the current edr of your system is? Without that info you can't really know if the HW loop idea has been maxed out or if it would work with a bigger boiler. That's the number to start with.

    Any chance you could post some pics of the boiler room and near boiler piping. Is this a one-pipe or two-pipe system.?

    Having lived with gas FA, electric FA and HW and Steam, I can say steam if the MOST comfortable and easiest to use, hands down for a large house. I'm also a homeowner of a very big house and with the help of this board have been able to bring even, efficient heat to every part of my house. If you don't know how to measure the edr, folks here can help with that. It's pretty straight forward and is info you should have anyway.

    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    Where are you located?

    You obviously have not found a real steam expert to work on the system. We don't give up so easly! I usually assume that original piping is not wrong and walls and floors won't need to be opened. Yes, you've upgraded the venting, but has it been upgraded enough, or properly?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • chumiechumie Member Posts: 13
    what we've done...

    I did pay for a steam heat consult from someone recommended on this website in 2011 (I imagine that it would not be good form to post the name here). I was told that the system was in good condition and that the technician could not locate the main vents. Someone else subsequently located and replaced them, if memory serves correctly.

    I live in NY on the Queens/Nassau County border, very close to JFK airport. Once this winter kicks in and we take a fresh look at the issues, I'd be happy to have a fresh pair of eyes look everything over.

    Regarding the attic and the hot water loop - a plumber I trust calculated what I have running on it and what I would need for the attic and told me that it couldn't be done. I don't have any reason to mistrust his calculations, but would be happy to recalculate on my own if you direct me to the appropriate spot.
  • chumiechumie Member Posts: 13
    One side of house heats before the other

    I was watching the steam turn on this evening and it was clear that one side of the house heats before the other. So the radiators on the second floor on side 1 were heating before the radiators on the ground floor on side 2. From what I'm gathering here, that should not be happening? What are my next steps?
  • System in good condition-no vents????

    A system with no means of getting the air out, so the steam can come in, is not in good condition!

    You still need to do a survey of the heat radiation of your radiators, (EDR ), and compare that with the boiler rating. Post those results, along with the details of the hot water loop here so we can advise. Start a new thread in the steam section on this. Do a search here for EDR to find the radiator sizing tables.

    A systematic approach to this will yield results, and you will probably find that your boiler is capable of handling the increased attic load.--NBC
  • vaporvacvaporvac Member Posts: 1,512
    Calculating EDR pdf

    I found this pdf online for you to measure edr. It's similar to the one that came with my house so it's a start. If you have weird rads, I'm sure someone here can help you. Btw, you should repost this thread to the Steam section. Report back with your results and the rating of your boiler and we can take it from there. a bit more info about your system would be useful.

    As a fellow homeowner, I feel for you being at the mercy of people you trust, but I got so much misinformation i decided to learn a bit myself. Your 3rd floor should heat as well as your first and second so something's obviously wrong. Perhap the pro you had out misunderstood what your goal was in terms of comfort. Follow-up is key as well. I'm just thinking your solution is a bit drastic and may not give you the results you want. Plus, I'm sure it's pretty spendy. The only quotes I ever got were to rip out my system and replace it, so I'm wondering if that's what's happening here. Unfortunately, the consumer today has to really be proactive. Sounds like you're trying to be.

    Any chance you could post some pics of your rads, boiler and near-boiler piping? Can't remember if you said this was 1 or 2-pipe.

    Two-pipe Trane vaporvacuum system; 1466 edr
    Twinned, staged Slantfin TR50s piped into 4" header with Riello G400 burners; 240K lead, 200K lag Btus. Controlled by Taco Relay and Honeywell RTH6580WF
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    edited November 2013
    Steam info

    The best information is at your fingertips. You need to go to the shop on this website and buy yourself the book "We Got Steam Heat". It's easy and fun reading that you can get through in a couple of nights. You will find yourself more comfortable with your steam heat and end up more knowledgeable than some folks who call themselves Pro's. I'm sure that all the people on this site agree with me.

    The best investment money can buy. Here's the link

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