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i got to get rid of this steam heat system, i got questions

i'm totally new to oil steam radiator system, coming from california.  so i hate the oil bills.  We have decided to switch to a pellet stove for our heating source.  so i've got radiators on the second floor and first floor that i am going to take out, but two  little problems.  first, does anyone have any experience in just using the pellet stove to heat a 1400 sq. ft. 2 story house, i 'd love to hear your stories.  second, the radiators and pipes in the first floor living room have an inaccessible basement area.  the basement was sealed off with radon barriers, and i don't wish to open it up and check it out.  so can i just cut off the pipes at the floor?  

when i get this stuff out of the house, i guess i'll try to sell it.  i wonder if  there is any market for old radiators, old valve, older boiler and everything else that goes with it. 

thanks in advance for any advice or stories.


  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    You might as well drive the dagger right into our hearts.

    Why don't you like the steam system?
  • New Hampshire DIYer
    New Hampshire DIYer Member Posts: 26
    Not sure this change is wise

    Just a homeowner here, but a pellet stove is not a great candidate for your primary heating system. They require frequent loading and ash removal and the heat they generate is much more difficult to distribute around your house. What happens when you go on vacation for a week?

    Your first step should be to get a comprehensive energy audit and determine what your home's heat load is. No matter what kind of heating fuel you choose, it is cheaper to insulate and seal a house than pay for fuel year after year. What is the location and age of your house?
    Slant/Fin TR-40 w Carlin EZ-Gas burner. 3" riser into 3" drop header. Two 2.5" mains: 43' and 25' serving 11 radiators w/ EDR of 585. 3200 sq ft 1850s Greek Revival house in Concord NH - 7478 avg degree days.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,409
    I can understand

    being upset at the cost of heating oil, especially if you can't get natural gas in your area. A lot of folks had a hard time finding pellets this year and ended up paying a lot more for them when they did because it was a cold winter. Nobody knows what the weather will be like next year - do you feel lucky?

    I think they would make a good supplementary heating source but I don't think you'll be happy with it for a primary source of heat unless you intend on spending a lot of money for a complete heating system. It would cost a lot less to get what you have now working efficiently and then using pellets to heat the main area when you are home. Put some money into insulating the house and fix what you have, it will save you money in the long run. Having a pellet system without a regular heating system will make the house less salable when the time comes - not everybody is enamored about tending a stove all winter long and your home insurance carrier might have something to say about it as well.

    To answer your question you can just cut the pipes to the radiators and remove the radiators and you can sell the radiators and the boiler (if it's recent and in good shape) but you might regret doing so.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,536

    Why take it out?  I agree that it may not have that Kalifornia charm, but it's there, and it works.

    A pellet stove is a fair amount of work, but as a secondary heat source it does have its points -- although saving money isn't one of them.  However, it will not heat your upstairs particularly well.  This may not be a problem if you like cool or cold bedrooms.

    Also, it won't run itself when and if you go away on vacation or something of the sort -- what do you propose to do then?

    Third, it is highly unlikely that ripping the automatic heat source (your steam system) will make your insurance company or local building inspector happy -- and will make your house essentially unsalable in the future.

    So... I would strongly recommend leaving it in place.  You might even consider investigating the system a little, and learning something about it to see if just maybe its efficiency could be improved -- which is very likely.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,541
    I think he's

    He must be punking us!! Who comes on this Wall and talks about ripping out his steam system in favor of a pellet stove? Gotta be rattling our cages, right? LOL
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,785

    Your best bet would be to have a steam pro look at the steam side of the system and an oil pro to look at the combustion side of the system. Most steam systems have been grossly mismanaged. Some proper fixing up could greatly reduce your heating costs. Lets face it. You are not in California anymore. You need a proper heating system that both heats properly and is not cost prohibitive to run.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 14,948
    Pellet stove

    I heated our 1700sqft house using nothing but a pellet stove for a few months while I installed a new boiler.

    Within a few months of the steam heat working I sold the pellet stove on Craig's list and never looked back.

    Sounds to me like you either need to learn about steam heat or hire a steam pro to come in and fix the system otherwise you wouldn't even consider ripping it out.
    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
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,070
    I hope your cold next winter....

    was that mean? .... or is it a sin to come to this forum and spew that nonsense.
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • conversiontime
    conversiontime Member Posts: 87
    leave it for the bank

    Go for the pellet if you want but leave other system in place. Most banks will not loan on pellet only heating systems so when it comes time to sell you will really hurt your pool of buyers. Most efficient method would be to supplement pellet stove with tuned steam system or vice versa.
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13

    great information!  thanks to everyone for your help!  
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13
    and another question

    ok, we're convinced, we won't take out the system.  but the radiators are a hundred years old, give or take a few months.  we want to take them out, clean them and paint them, (without sticking a dagger in anyone's heart.)  :)  any recommendations or stories? 

    the house was built around the turn of the 20th century, lathe and plaster, and just because we're from california, doesn't mean we're rich.  (since so many other people that have moved from california to pennsylvania in the great 'Eastern Migration' were rich, we weren't part of that group, we just happened to be in the small group that didn't have bucks) .:)  jokes, aside, eventually we plan on insulating, and we plan on staying in PA.  we like it here, we are just ignorant about dealing with the winters.  so again, THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH! great information, great stories.  No, you weren't being punked.  i intentionally came to the place where people could teach me about steam. 
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,430
    If you have some time

    Do searches of the wall and you will find a ton of information on this site, and as Dan will tell you wander off the wall from time to time.  Here is a link to an "off the wall" article about refinishing radiators.  What seems to be the best option is sandblasting and powder coating.  Where in PA are you located?  I am going to be having 2 radiators powder coated this year and I got a really good price quote (actual price can't be discussed here).  If they turn out well I am willing to pass on the information to others in my geographic area in private. 


    Explore the website and do some searches of the wall there is a ton of fantastic information and fantastic people on this site.  Good luck with your system, if/when you get it running nicely you will come to love the heat you get from it!  Just another steam loving homeowner.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,536
    Glad we convinced you!

    As to painting radiators -- the remove, sandblast, and powdercoat is the best way to go.  Does a nice job.  It is not, however, the only way to go.  You can leave them in place and wire brush them, then paint with a good metal primer such as Rustoleum, and then paint them to match the room or whatever.  You will find that there are two schools of thought on the paint, though; one school says you have to use high temperature paint.  The other school (to which I belong) has had perfectly good results with using the same high quality acrylic (Benjamin Moore in my case) that is used on the walls.

    The other thing to do is to start thinking about the system itself -- and the best place to start with that is to get yourself a copy of the book "We Got Steam Heat" from the shop on the Wall.  "The Lost Art of Steam Heat" is another, but is a little more formidable (although quite readable).  Steam heat isn't really rocket science, but one does need to know a little about how it is supposed to work to make it work properly -- unfortunately, not all that many plumbers have learned.  You may find that there are aspects of your system which aren't quite as they should be.

    You can always ask questions here on the Wall -- we try to be as helpful as we can be!

    You will also want to get a good, reliable oil burner and boiler technician to come in and thoroughly clean the boiler and properly clean and adjust the oil burner.  That alone can make a tremendous difference in fuel usage.

    You  also want to pay attention to the envelope of the house.  Insulation is always a good idea, but not always that simple with older houses, although in most cases there are insulation materials which can be blown in (I'm not keen on foam, as it can damage the plaster as it expands).  Infiltration is the big problem; good storm windows work wonders (replacement windows are not, in my view, a cost-effective option; a good double hung -- maybe with a little adjustment -- plus a good storm window works just as well) and good storm doors help a lot too.

    Pennsylvania winters are just a little tougher than California ones!

    Good luck, and stay with us!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13
    big thanks

    very informative, thanks so much for your help, Jamie 
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13
    we're in easton

    good luck in refinishing your radiators. i'd like to know how they turn out.  cheers, Jay
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13

    for your informative feedback.
  • New Hampshire DIYer
    New Hampshire DIYer Member Posts: 26
    edited March 2014
    Radiators are REALLY heavy !

    I live in an antique home and recently removed an old cast iron radiator from a room that ended up being part of an apartment space that was built over our garage and has its own baseboard forced hot water system. It wasn't a big radiator either and it was amazingly hefty. REALLY heavy. I got a 2-wheeled hand truck (and a strong young man) to help move it but getting it down the stairs was a little scary. It's a LOT of weight to manage safely down a set of stairs. I have many radiators that have been in place since they were installed and look just fine. They have been painted over the years to match the interior paint scheme--latex, oil or whatever we were using. It's a lot simpler (and cheaper) to go that route. Removing radiators and getting them sandblasted and powdercoated is (imho) for people who are doing a full restoration of their homes and have the means to do their renovations to a high standard. I'm thinking maybe you should spend your dough on insulation first....
    Slant/Fin TR-40 w Carlin EZ-Gas burner. 3" riser into 3" drop header. Two 2.5" mains: 43' and 25' serving 11 radiators w/ EDR of 585. 3200 sq ft 1850s Greek Revival house in Concord NH - 7478 avg degree days.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,536
    I totally agree!

    I just didn't want to sound heavy handed or cheap!  The radiators in the museum/house which I care for have just been wirebrushed, primed, and painted with quality acrylic and hold up just fine -- and look fine, too.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,430
    I agreed and then...

    I got a price on powder coating from a local company.  I will wait and see final results before making my final long term decision.  For what they are going to charge me, it honestly isn't even worth dipping my brush in paint.  I live in a fairly industrialized area and the 3 quotes I got were pretty much the same.  Like I said I will see what the results are before decided if it was worth the investment.  Powder coating is becoming so prevalent it seems the prices are coming down dramatically from what they were even a couple years ago.  My wife is just hoping they will be easier to clean!  lol  I do agree these things are heavy and that is the one drawback to taking them out, but I have already moved the biggest  one in my house and it wasn't that bad so personally I am comfortable with it.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Powder coating

    should last at least one lifetime as long as the surface prep is good.  Maintenance will involve a damp cloth every so often to remove dust.
  • outatune13
    outatune13 Member Posts: 13
    heavy radiators

    yeah, i was wondering how i was going to get them down the stairs.  since its just me and my wife, i think we'll end up painting them in the rooms they are in.  thanks for the info.  jay
  • lza
    lza Member Posts: 40
    Refinishing radiators


    Another vote for sandblasting and powdercoating.  That is what I had done to some radiators I picked up at salvage, and they turned out great.

    However, I would pressure test each radiator before you have it powdercoated.  It is not so nice to find out you have a leak after its been beautifully finished.

    Also, I would make sure to ask about the temperature limit for the powder you choose. 
  • VA_Bear
    VA_Bear Member Posts: 50
    edited March 2014
    Welcome to the Right Coast ;-P

    Just kidding with you...

    Seriously though, search the Wall for Painting Radiators and avoid some of the problems others have come across. Your radiators are (not to sound redundant) devices which radiate heat in addition to heating the air by convection, so many of the metallic paints limit the heat radiated by changing the emissivity of the surface and you can lose a portion of your capacity as well as cause the boiler to short cycle.