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Separating boiler in multifamily

boobird
boobird Member Posts: 36
edited May 2015 in Gas Heating
I am looking at a multifamily in Jersey City, NJ. The building itself is a 2.5 story detached brick structure.

There is currently one central steam hot water gas boiler with single thermostat. I would like to explore the idea of separating the boilers for each of the 3 units. When looking at the 6 pipes coming out of the boiler, I saw that the 6 valves were labeled, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3. What are the chances that these valves refer to the building unit? Is it likely that the pipes to each unit cleanly separated?

In a building such as this, would it be realistic to simply redirect the 6 pipes to 3 new boilers so that each unit's radiators are connected to their own boiler?


Comments

  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    That's a hot water boiler, not steam.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    I service Jersey City and I'd be happy to help with this project. Shoot me an email, phone call, or text any time. My info is below.
    RobG
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    oh, it is? I am new to the world of heating.

    Here is a picture of a radiator. I thought the narrow pipe leading to the radiator indicated steam based heat.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    Can you get closer pictures of the piping to that radiator? The boiler appears to be hot water.
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    edited May 2015
    Sorry, I dont have more pictures. The pipe coming out of the floor to the radiator is about 1 inch diameter
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    edited May 2015
    Thanks, you test makes sense. However, I won't have a chance to visit the property again until inspection time.

    In a 3 unit multifamily (1 unit per floor), was it pretty standard practice to cleanly separate the heat per floor?

    Is there a chance that somehow the pipes are intermingled per floor, i.e pipe "2" for some convoluted reason controls a radiator on floor 1 or 3?

    Why are there seemingly 2 pipes per floor?

    Is this a hot water or steam setup?




  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,471
    Why not look at the general improvement of the system, with a control, only available to you, instead of a separation with more boilers.
    As your system seems to be hot water, you could investigate the adaption of outdoor reset, wherein the water temperature from the boiler is changed according to the outdoor temperature, making the system much more efficient.
    Some pictures of the system, including radiators would help with diagnosis, and advice.--NBC
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,276
    Sounds like you need a small wall hung unit for each apartment, your looking for either a navian or a Utica wall hung unit. Give me a P.M. I can help you out.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    How big are these units? You may well find that the smallest boilers made are still too large for a single unit.
    Rich_49
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    edited May 2015
    The units are 900sq ft each. The current heating bill is about $5800/year for 900 sqft x 3 units. They keep it on 77 degrees.

    I was thinking maybe they separately piped to each floor to control heat per floor. For example, turning off heat to a unit if it was vacant.

    My contractor thought it was a steam setup due to narrow radiator pipes.

    What is it about the furnace that makes it a hot water heater?

    If there are two pipes per floor, would it make sense to have valves for both the supply and return pipes?
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,276
    well i am still available if you want to install Navien or utica systems in your building
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    There's a lot of unknowns here......we really need to see the radiator piping. It could be a steam system that was converted to water. That might account for the huge heating bill. The radiators would have a much higher output with steam as opposed to water. That's just speculation though. You will need a skilled HVAC pro to do a heat loss and sort out any issues, before anything else is done. They definately have to be able to tell the difference between a steam boiler, and a hot water boiler.
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 1,591
    @Snowmelt I think you'd benefit from taking a listing in our Find a Contractor section. Let me know if you need help setting this up.
    President
    HeatingHelp.com
    Rich_49
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    There are also vertical radiators in the kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, as well as 1 baseboard style radiator in the living room.

  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Why on earth are you keeping the space at 77 degrees? You probably have tenants opening windows in winter. Radiant systems are typically run at 65 to 70 degrees. I would put in a mod/con boiler with outdoor reset and zone the system with a thermostat in each unit. If you tightly control the reset curve the thermostats will just serve as a high limit but still leave the tenants thinking they are controlling the system.
    Paul S_3boobirdZman
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,312
    If this house is old enough it may have been originally a gravity flow system with no pump. All of the very few that I have seen did not separate the floors by pipe zones. Rather they stacked the zones vertically. For instance pipe set #1 might have been everything on the West side of the house (all 3 floors). #2 may have been everything on the East & south side (all 3 floors ) and #3 could be everything on the North side (all 3 floors).

    The isolation test mentioned above would show if that were the case. If so then you are stuck with one boiler unless you have drastic remodeling in mind. There are other ways to improve on controlling the overheating.
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    edited May 2015
    Hi Jughne,

    The house was built in 1918. I have attached a picture of the exterior house. The first 2 floors are the same layout, while the 3rd floor is an attic type space with dormers.

    Based on your exp, do you think this falls into the age range of vertical zones ?

    What features makes it look like an old gravity system?
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,276
    This is getting to be funny, how can we tell what kind of heating system it is by the outside of the house. It's impossible to tell.
  • boobird
    boobird Member Posts: 36
    edited May 2015
    Hello Snowmelt,
    I dont know much, but i'm certainly not getting one of those high maintenance Combi things that you're peddling. You should also stop being so cheap and post an ad on this site.
    The trade likes to sell you a Navien because it's a money maker for them--it is cheap, they can mark it up, and they will make even more money with service calls.
    RobG
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Both Triangle Tube and Lochinvar have pulled us through some sticky wickets over the years.
    RobG
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,312
    Your picture of the house is not available any more on the site. It looked like a single residence dwelling when built. (IMHO but I'm a long ways from that part of the country).
    If built in 1918 there probably was no residential pump available for hot water boiler.

    Gravity horizontal pipes would be large (looks like you might have 2"). The vertical risers could be small 3/4 to 1". They could be hidden inside walls (both interior and exterior).
    You would have stacked the "zones" to avoid horizontal mains between floors. (bigger pipe....more bicep work in 1918).
    Sometimes you see pipe slope rising away from the boiler to aid in gravity flow up and down.
    You can learn a lot about this in a book available on this site, "How Come".

    Hatterasguy had the simplest test to figure this out.

    J-Star gave you the best offer.

    You might just need better temp control system as NBC suggested.

    But you need access to the building and/or more inside pictures.
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,276
    well if you don't want a navien what about a Utica ?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,312
    OP Boobird must not have decided to buy the apartment building??
    jonny88
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