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Retrofit of steam heating systems: looking for vacuum heating Demo site.

Since 1850th steam heating system was system of choice in US. In 1920th hot water circulator introduction into market shifted preferences towards hot water heating thanks to drastic reduction of installation cost. In 1960th forced air systems became popular for the same reason.
Today millions of steam heating systems still deliver heat in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. After decades of poor or no maintenance and reckless “improvements”, it's not surprise that efficiency and comfort of these systems deteriorated. Knowledgeable maintenance would make wonders to the old steam system in many cases; unfortunately, expertise in “The lost art of steam heating” is very limited.
Modern trend is steam heating systems conversion into hot water heating (HWH), which is considered an advanced energy efficiency technology. Conversion of two-pipe steam system into HWH require steam boiler replacement/upgrade and fixing old pipes (often buried in walls) in order to run water at 30 – 100 psi instead of steam at 2 psi. Worn out pipes tend to fail, though, and usually do in a worst possible moment; flooding of down-floor apartments is costly consequence. So today’s solution is complete replacement of piping (and radiators). Conversion of single pipe steam systems is even more challenging because new return line have to be added and old radiators replaced.
After a long history of such conversions, there are yet many gaps and barriers; 2011 DOE Expert Meeting on multifamily houses conversion indicated uncertainty in very basic questions:
• the cost of converting
• the difference in performance between a well-balanced, tuned up steam system and a hydronic system serving a similar dwelling
Probably, the same questions should be asked for conversion into HWH in building of any type/size.
Meanwhile, since 1900th simple and reasonably inexpensive conversion into vacuum heating boosted steam systems performance and on average saved 35% of fuel. Additionally, even heat distribution, broad interval of operating temperatures, better comfort and reduced corrosion were achieved. Some of those vacuum systems are still in operation, mostly in big/high-rise buildings. The old vacuum heating technology disadvantage was usage of steam traps on return line from each radiator; failure of only one steam trap out of a hundred(s) deteriorates the system performance. Requirement of steam traps routine inspections and high maintenance cost established strong biases against vacuum heating technology.
NextGen Vacuum Heating operates without steam traps, condensate is returned by gravity and small capacity vacuum pump employed for only 1-2 hours/day. Basic information on new system can be found in an article for IDEA 2014 magazine.
NGRID 2013-14 pilot study, - Figure 7 - demonstrated 26 and 35% fuel savings when distribution system was retrofitted into vacuum heating and connected to an old and new boiler, correspondingly. 50% fuel savings was achieved on new boiler connected to new vacuum distribution system. These are graphs of the last 5 years monthly HDD (heating degree days) and heating bills before and after retrofit.
Compared to HWH system, significant installation and maintenance cost savings can be achieved. Additional benefits are as follows:
• Health and comfort (radiant heating against convection)
• Safety (vacuum versus 30 -100 psig)
• Reliability, low maintenance (the only moving part is a vacuum pump, employed for 1-1.5 hours/day))
• Minimal electricity dependence
• No frozen pipe problems
• No damage from leaks
• Reduced corrosion
• Broad interval of operating temperatures
• No pressure regulating valves and mechanical floors for high-rise buildings.
I'm looking for another bigger scale Demo project of steam (boiler/district) heating systems retrofit into vacuum heating.
The simplest/least expensive/minimal changes project would be a retrofit of an obsolete old vacuum heating system, - the more system is leak tight the better. System would be considered reasonably tight if vacuum drops from 20 to 10”Hg in time interval longer than 1 hour (optionally, - pressure drop from 20 to 10 psig). As an example, after fixing major leaks that is achieved on 100 years old single pipe steam system connected to new boiler.
Conversion of two pipe steam system into vacuum heating would require adding vacuum pump and more piping changes; for single pipe system conversion is feasible as well but more plumbing work is necessary for vacuum lines. Still, these conversions do not require decent shape steam boiler replacement by hydronic one, new circulators, pressure regulating valves, radiators, expansion tanks, etc. Again, leaks in a system would deteriorate performance but no water flooding down floors will happen.
For new installations Aquatherm piping can be utilized for quick, easy and leak tight plumbing. Common in Europe cast aluminum radiators is another opportunity to reduce cost, saves space and improve appearance.
Financing is available through an efficiency services agreement (ESA), efficiency lease agreement (ELA), power purchase agreement (PPA) or a property-assessed clean energy (PACE) agreement; 100% of the assessment, design, equipment, and installation costs, and ongoing maintenance is funded. In turn, you pay via the savings achieved in energy and operating costs over the duration of the contract.
There is a great support from HeatingHelp.com forum already, best of a crop HVAC experts would be interested to work on project in NYC, MA, MD, IL.
Please, let me know if you are interested to give it a try.

Comments

  • vaporvacvaporvac Posts: 1,512Member
    With all the steam systems needing help, please somebody take advantage of this offer!
    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
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,116Member
    Hmmm.
    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
  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Posts: 1,947Member
    /me foresees @ChrisJ adding a vacuum pump to his system..
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,116Member
    edited October 2015

    /me foresees @ChrisJ adding a vacuum pump to his system..

    The thought has crossed my mind a few times, per month...
    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
  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Posts: 1,947Member
    ChrisJ said:

    /me foresees @ChrisJ adding a vacuum pump to his system..

    The thought has crossed my mind a few times, per month...
    Well, if you ever take the plunge, I'd be interested in knowing what pump you used. I've had an interest in fitting one to an existing single pipe system.
  • HatterasguyHatterasguy Posts: 6,058Member
    edited October 2015

    /me foresees @ChrisJ adding a vacuum pump to his system..

    Nah...........he'll do it without a pump.............it will be that well sealed after all the fittings get welded shut.

    In fact, the vacuum might get so high that the boiler collapses. :)
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,116Member
    You know, @izhadano is posting about something serious that could help many others.
    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
  • vaporvacvaporvac Posts: 1,512Member
    We're just teasing you. :0 I'm just dying to see this installed in someone's house. So many people come here, surely someone can make use of the offer. That's why I bumped it up.
    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
  • HatterasguyHatterasguy Posts: 6,058Member
    vaporvac said:

    We're just teasing you. :0

    He's not good with that............. :)
  • ChicagoCooperatorChicagoCooperator Posts: 198Member
    You're welcome to come restore my building back to a vacuum system (apparently, it was a vacuum system and heavily mangled).
  • vaporvacvaporvac Posts: 1,512Member
    I know CC. We talked about him visiting me here in Cincy, but it's too far. I would think there'd be standing room only for this offer back East.

    I'd love to see your Vacuum system restored, it's such a lovely building judging from your pics.
    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
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,331Member
    I have a couple sites in mind. Gonna see how they do this winter after the work we've done on them, and talk to the owners in the spring.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • izhadanoizhadano Posts: 75Member

    Hello CC:
    how well your system is holding vacuum/pressure today? I'm tinkering with my original single pipe steam system, and pretty sure that find inexpensive way to convert it into vacuum system.
    Again, small capacity vac. pump employed for short time intervals. Wondering about your system, - do you have general schematic diagram?
    Igor

    ChicagoCooperator Posts:
    You're welcome to come restore my building back to a vacuum system (apparently, it was a vacuum system and heavily mangled).
  • SethWSethW Posts: 4Member
    Okay I'll go ahead and let u know I know very little what I had now have and should have . I have a building built in the 1880's think the majority of pipes and registers or radiators are mostly original cause of the look of them and material used not many folks using brass pipes and the main lines before breaking off to the radiators are just guessing 4-5 inches radiators have on one end near floor a valve with round knobs other end at floor brass lines running back thru floor. They have a little brass nipple on end without the round knob. Nipple is at on end at the top looks like can use a square key to turn center. One is a Lil different but basically same layout. I have a eg 40 steam I'm thinking Wien mclain 175,000 but installed 91. My I was told thermocoupler went bad while researching. Lookin for parts blah blah I tried taking the aluminum line for the pilot light off it broke. Called a place to just see about price difference just buying both lines pilot n thermocouple he said I just happen to be taking a McLain with that exact part out of his house and was replacing with hot air saidvwould give me everything for 200$ I later asked if I brought help and pulled it all if I'd get it cheaper I was thinking they also had large ornate cast radiators to but turns out this one is only 6 years old they used the new McLain baseboards which I'd have liked to get those too but whoever installed them and the drywall made a mess and removing the baseboards was more then he or possibly the real home owner wanted to deal with. Its the blue McLain half as wide as mine described as commercial I don't have model n specs now. But I got the pump that cast thing to keep air bubbles out of system the bladder tank and a electric draft blocker. Few other parts n I'm supposed to get the baseboards and a few bigger blue pumps like on mine that he has laying around the house. He said his boss throws them away so know one trys to moonlight on him and sell used ones. I had a feeling he truly knows what moonlighting means but I live far enuf away I think he felt pretty safe as far as his boss hearing about it. I'm not saying a word. I have owned several small engine then also motorcycle shops. My guys got paid if they were worth it. I also had a no contest no moonlight clause they sign when I decide to keep someone. I worked my ass off too. So I could pay my help enuf to keep them kinda honest. I'm in Iowa does this place sound like something your wanting to try? Also should I save that boiler I just got or sell it. I could use the money if its not peanuts. My wife died and between that no work, or motivation and the spine infection has beat me down this year. Im not sure the two boilers would run on the same piping if not I have no need for the newer boiler. Are you looking for jobs like what I got going on? I can send pics if u want them. Thanks Seth
  • SethWSethW Posts: 4Member
    I am thinking my place has a two pipe system thinking the other was a one pipe unit
    Maybe the newer McLain is what u need to try out the idea. BTW I would qualify for heat assistance if gas assistance is available around here. Take it easy seth
  • ChicagoCooperatorChicagoCooperator Posts: 198Member
    Thanks for the responses. For the moment we're not going to do anything drastic due to other projects in the building taking precidence, such as tuckpointing, etc. We'll have to remove all the one pipe radiators first and that is going to be a struggle and then there are the people who installed huge, massive, "The Mother of All Radiator Radiators" in their units because they were cold...
  • jumperjumper Posts: 1,216Member
    Regarding vacuum generating. If system is fairly airtight and fairly high pressure,cold,cheap water is available;then an eductor is inexpensive and dead reliable. Otherwise an air powered ejector will do but you need an air compressor.

    All steam systems need a pressure gradient to deliver. For one pipe radiators you can seal vent and add a way for steam to enter above any condensate in rad or its main connection.

    In Toronto in the seventies,many multi-story buildings were converted from steam to hot water.Those conversions turned out to be expensive and somewhat unsatisfactory.
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