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Keep steam or convert to hot air

We are trying to decide whether to keep a two pipe steam system in an old school (1891) in Haverhill, MA that we want to re-purpose as an art center. The building is 15000 sq. ft. The boiler is shot. Does anyone in my area work on commercial sized steam systems? We are being told that the old system is too inefficient to use. Is this true? All recommendations seem to be to put in 8 separate residential hot air units with AC capability, but I wonder whether that is because these people don't know or understand a steam system.

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    I'm sure the steam pro's will be stirring soon but it would be a grave mistake to ditch the system till a qualified person examined the system as well as your plans for the building.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    Steve Minnich
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 12,811
    It's because the people you have talked to have no idea what they're talking about.

    Find a steam man and have the current system fixed.

    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
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,329
    Keep the steam. Install thermostatic radiator valves in each unit and cycle the boiler with a Tekmar or Heat-Timer control. If you want to do A/C, use a mini-split in each room.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Charlie from wmass
  • Two-pipe steam systems are capable of superb evenness, economy and quietness, if properly installed.
    The alternative, in forced air will cause the building to be encumbered with many unsightly ducts, and roof penetrations for exhaust flues.
    While you are waiting for JA to have a look, post some pictures of the existing boiler, and it's piping, as well as a few radiators, and you will start to get lots of professional advice.--NBC
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,750
    edited December 2015
    Many of us on this site have one thing in common and that is Dan's book "The Lost ART of Steam Heating". As has been famously said this method of heating is an Art in itself.
    To tear out a steam system and then to blast open the walls for ductwork would be gutting an old building that is probably a piece of art history itself.

    Some members of the 100 year old church wanted to put covers over the cast rads because they looked old. I asked if they would put drapes over the stained glass windows also. No comment.

    Some people want to tear out what they don't understand or refuse to learn about. More quick money is to be made by new install than repair of old. There has to be some steam people close.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,216
    If JA is busy call me.
    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
    RJMCTAFO
  • Robert O'Connor_12
    Robert O'Connor_12 Member Posts: 728
    When a contractor "recommends " replacement of an entire system. it should be noted that it's supposed to be "energy efficient" as defined by the DOE. The DOE suggests it (new system) should pay for itself over ten years.
    There is no way switching out an entire system that size will pay for itself in ten years. Frankly, I don't see it paying for itself in your lifetime.
    Be careful who you get, but get a steam pro fast.
    The system (especially a 2 pipe) is worth saving.

    Robert O'Connor/NJ
    SWEI
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,827
    Contrary to what US DOE says steam is the most economic way to heat. On account of so little wear and maintenance and so little electricity needed to transport the heat.
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,776
    I have experienced the environment in many buildings through the years, some with hot air and others with radiant heat. Radiant systems, whether hot water or cast iron have been more comfortable in almost all cases. The cost of steam is very competitive, and in most cases will be as efficient as so called high efficiency systems. Most forced air systems when installed into a converted school building will be visually obstrusive. Noisy, drafty, and generally inadequate. The main reason steam is no longer being installed is the initial high cost to install.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,329

    The main reason steam is no longer being installed is the initial high cost to install.

    That's where the mini-tube systems come in.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,776
    edited December 2015
    @Steamhead Indeed! And, it would seem the install cost is less than hot water. Cast iron makes it so nice, wish the cost of dads was less. It would also seem that minitube would work well with cast iron baseboard. Perhaps goverale govray installed recessed....
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
    http://grandviewdavenport.com
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Modern hot water heating systems that are properly sized, designed, installed, and commissioned can approach theoretical efficiency limits as long as the space has regular daily occupancy. Igor's modern vacuum system can probably match (and may well exceed) this level of performance.

    For buildings in cold climates that have intermittent occupancy (most especially older, less insulated ones) nothing can touch a good steam system.

  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,827
    Nobody will try but a modern steam system need not be so expensive. Air is free except for furnace if ducts for AC are put in anyhow.
  • cogswell
    cogswell Member Posts: 2
    Thank you all for your input. I will try to get one of your recommended contractors to come out to give me an idea of what I am dealing with.