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Church with sort of an old indirect system????

EBEBRATT-Ed
EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
One of my co-workers looked at a church where they were complaining of lack of heat. The building is fed by steam from a remote boiler room (college campus). The basement was completely renovated some time ago, converted to HW with a steam-water converter. That part is fine.

Up stairs in the main church he told me was still steam with standard CI radiators recessed into the wall with a sheet metal box built around them and an expanded metal grill on the front. This is where they are cold.

My comment was no wonder there freezing, no chimney effect. The air isn't going to travel in and out of the expanded metal grill. I said it sounded like it must have been some type of indirect system.

Today I finally saw the job. The rads are installed as above. I suspect the sheet metal box built around the rads was after the fact but I'm not sure but I think it has to be. The space the rads are built into is a double wall probably 18" wide. I looked in the basement and in the main area nothing shows because it's been renovated.

In a back room in the basement I found a removed wall louver for intake air. An antique motor with a flat pulley (20hp?) with an old adjustable speed control. Probably built in the 1920s or earlier.

The fan is gone. A huge duct plenum that has been blanked off. I suspect this was a fan powered indirect system, outside air through the fan up through the ducts that I suspect fed air into the hollow spaces between the two walls where the rads are located. When the air pressurizes the wall plenum it blows out through the expanded metal grill and it has to cross the radiator to get there.

I suspect at some point they stopped using the fan? Maybe it worked so-so without the fan -gravity?? When they renovated the basement 10-15 years ago?? all bets where off when they removed the fan and blanked off the duct.

Anyone ever see a similar system?

Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,823
    In some way, you'll have to see if there was actually an opening in the bottom of each of those rad enclosures. Some had them and some did not. Is this a 1-pipe or 2-pipe system?

    Since this is a church, the fan might have been there to operate a pipe organ. I've seen a few older ones that had flat belts.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
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  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    Two Pipe. No openings in the rad enclosures but I suspect the enclosures were added after. Also, in every rad enclosure there is 120volt power in a 4" sq. electrical box. The box has a really old transformer mounted on the side of it. No control valves. I suspect it may have operated a damper. The front of the rads are recessed at least 10-12" inside the wall. I see no way of getting any air circulating around this without a fan.
    Also I found the removed intake louver so I think the basement fan was taking outside air.

    Should have taken pictures. Hard to explain without seeing. I will take some when I go back but I have never seen a system like this.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,823
    Still say that might have been a pipe organ fan. These were usually installed in little rooms with grilles mounted in the door.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
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  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Are the radiators in these enclosures getting steam? If so then the problem is to make sure the heat gets into the room.
    If the grill in front is open enough, then surely the heat will move by convection, and radiation out into the room.
    If there is slow steam, then there is probably a slow venting issue, or a bad control, (shutting off the boiler before enough heat has arrived).--NBC
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Are they operating from a deep setback and expecting the system to heat the place up right before services start?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    No. I will take pictures when I go back. This job is going to be converted to hot water with fan coils to be recessed into the wall where the radiation now is.

    There is no way this radiation ever heated this building without a fan or at least gravity air flow which it does not have.

    They say a pic is worth 1000 words so maybe when you see it you will understand what I can't seem to explain.

    I was curious to know if anyone else had ever run across a system like this. I find it hard to believe that this is the only one in existence.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,823
    So they don't want to do any troubleshooting, they're gonna just rip it out.

    Figures.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    Unfortunately when they renovated the basement they ripped out the air intake louver, fan, and some of the ductwork. Only the ancient fan motor, speed control, and some of blanked off ducts are there now. Can't be fixed now without destroying the renovated basement. Last year the HOLY WATER froze. They didn't know what they were ripping out or how the system worked.

    I am pretty sure how it worked and will investigate more. I would have thought someone else would have run into one of these

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    The Fan System
    Concurrent with the development of static steam, hot water, and warm-air systems, another line of thought proceeded, that of using forced hot air.
    All of the early developments in forced-air systems concerned themselves with large buildings and factories. These large combinations of a fan and heater were referred to as “plenum” or “hot blast” systems. They rarely used furnaces directly in the airstream, but instead relied on indirect heaters using steam and, in a few cases, hot water. All of the early systems used 100% outside air. The use of recirculated air was not considered until after the 1890s.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,823
    But those weren't radiators recessed into the walls, they were in the basement ductwork. We found something similar at Lovely Lane Methodist in Baltimore, but that system still works by gravity. Later systems used Vento or similar cast-iron heaters inside the ducts.

    First Church of Christ, Scientist in Baltimore has rads recessed in this manner, but they seem to work fine. The floor below the sanctuary has always been "finished"- it was/is the Sunday school area, and has ordinary rads- but I don't remember seeing any evidence of ductwork feeding up to the sanctuary rads.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,823
    edited April 2015
    Also, don't assume the device that looks like a speed control was actually used that way. In those days, electrical systems could not handle the heavy inrushing current that resulted from applying full voltage to start large motors (known as across-the-line starting), so they used staged voltage controllers to start them. This basic method is still used, but the controls are much more sophisticated.

    The first stage would get the motor turning. When it maxed out on this stage, the operator would advance the controller to the next stage, and so on until the motor reached full speed. This process could take over a minute in some cases, and you had to do it with little or no load on the motor. This would require starting with closed dampers if the motor was used for ventilation.

    You might be able to determine by the arrangement of the controller. If the first position you get to from OFF is the lowest speed, there's a pretty good chance it was used as a starting device. If the first position is the highest speed, as on many portable fans, it probably was a speed control, though it could have been used as a starting device by someone in the know.

    Man, I miss Phrank Phrom Filly- he really knew these older systems forwards and backwards.

    If the motor was made by a company called Woods, it was probably used on an Orgoblo organ blower. Later units used Century motors.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    The motor was made by Lincoln Electric, same company that makes the welding machines. I googled" Church heating indirect blower" or something similar to find the above information. They talked about a fan taking outside air and the air being distributed to radiation or pipes installed in hollow spaces. They specifically mention hollow floors. I haven't found mention of hollow walls like this job yet.

    Too bad they butchered it when they renovated the basement or it would still be working.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
    My own church uses a big old fan like you described above, For the organ.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating