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Convert from oil to gas for steam radiators?

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fourfrogs
fourfrogs Member Posts: 2
Hello there! Our family has just bought an old farmhouse. The house currently has steam heat radiators, which my husband and I were really excited about. The boiler runs off of oil but we have the opportunity to switch to natural gas (the gas company will pay for all of it). Our problem is that even though we have had four companies come out to help us figure this out, they all have different opinions! One says that oil is the best to use with steam heat, one suggests to go to hot water and get rid of the steam and another says to go to natural gas! So we are super confused as to what to do! Any advice would be extremely appreciated!

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  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,790
    edited April 2016
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    Get someone out there that knows about steam heat.

    The guy telling you to convert to hot water obviously doesn't know how to work on steam heat. This is a very poor recommendation and will cost you a ton of money for absolutely no reason.

    The guy saying oil is best for steam must have stocks in oil because steam doesn't care what you use for fuel.

    There's a good chance you can have a guy come out and install a gas gun in your current boiler to convert it over to NG.

    Can you post some pictures of the boiler and the piping around and above it?

    Also, where are you located?
    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
    fourfrogs1Matthias
  • JeffM
    JeffM Member Posts: 182
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    Definitely go for the conversion to gas. ChrisJ's comment above was spot on. I converted my steam radiator system from oil to gas a few years ago, and have been very happy and saved a lot of money too. I paid for the conversion, so if your gas company will help with cost you're doing well financially. I just switched the burner in my boiler from oil to gas, so none of the piping changed which is important. If you are replacing the boiler as part of the switch, definitely make sure to find someone who is a steam expert to do that work as the details matter with steam piping and not everyone working these days knows those things.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    Do the conversion. Anyone who tells you to convert to Hot water or that oil is better than Gas for steam heat either doesn't know what they are talking about or wants to line their pockets with your money. As has been said, steam, or for that matter hot water or forced air systems don't care what the fuel type is, they just have to be properly installed and tuned to perform properly. Natural gas will likely save you a lot of money on your annual fuel costs. Check out the "Find a Contractor" on this site and see if there is a contractor in your area. We can vouch for the quality of work most of them do and many have displayed their work on this site.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
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    I find if a contractor tells you they cannot make the steam system run well they are usually telling you the truth. That does not mean that steam systems do not run well they just don't know how to do it. Hiring a professional with a reasonable idea of how steam systems function is the most cost-effective way to a comfortable efficient system. Steam radiators do not care what type of fuel is burned to boil the water. Many contractors prefer oil boilers because they can cover up their mistakes easier and sizing the boiler by adjusting the fire rate of the boiler.
    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
    SWEI
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,289
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    ChrisJ said:

    Get someone out there that knows about steam heat.


    There's a good chance you can have a guy come out and install a gas gun in your current boiler to convert it over to NG.

    There's guys who can and guys who can't. Latter often say it can't be done.
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 2,012
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    Ditto. Switch to gas. Keep the steam. Keeping the current boiler with a new gas burner vs. replacing the old boiler is a different question. Lots depends on the condition of the current boiler.
    alexhMA
  • fourfrogs
    fourfrogs Member Posts: 2
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    Thank you all, I will take pictures of our boiler and post later today. We are in the Princeton, NJ area.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,790
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    fourfrogs said:

    Thank you all, I will take pictures of our boiler and post later today. We are in the Princeton, NJ area.

    I believe both @Dave0176 and @EzzyT service your area.
    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: 16,904
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    ChrisJ said:

    fourfrogs said:

    Thank you all, I will take pictures of our boiler and post later today. We are in the Princeton, NJ area.

    I believe both @Dave0176 and @EzzyT service your area.
    Two good choices.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Dave0176
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,296
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    @fourfrogs send me a private message
    E-Travis Mechanical LLC
    Etravismechanical@gmail.com
    201-887-8856
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,177
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    Cool I did a steam replacement in Princeton this winter.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • nicodudc
    nicodudc Member Posts: 2
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    Hello and thank you for this interesting (albeit old) thread.

    I also have oil-powered steam heating and would like to switch to gas.

    My question is: why do you guys like steam heat so much? I grew up with hot water radiators and like the fact that it's constant, and never get so hot that you (or children!) can burn themselves.

    Charlie from wmass1MatthiasSuperTech
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
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    My 2 year old understands radiation are hot. Also water rads are hot enough to burn people, frequently 180 degrees. I like the heat the building has in it be it steam or hot water. Forced air is fine if installed right, it seldom is.
    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
    ChrisJCanucker1Matthias
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
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    I don't have steam heat but I love the fact that there is a system out there that can heat a building with minimal moving parts and very little electricity use. As for the hot rads, I touched a steam rad as a kid, ONCE! Didn't need to be told not to again. I think I turned out okay.
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    Charlie from wmass
  • 1Matthias
    1Matthias Member Posts: 148
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    Yep. As a kid, I learned real quick that touching the radiators while the boiler was running was a really poor idea. Only did that once.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
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    It is comfortable, reliable, clean, quiet, forgiving, the rads add to the architectural interest of historic/antique homes, the residual heat after the boiler shuts down minimizes the temp swings in living areas. What's not to like?
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
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    > @Fred said:
    > It is comfortable, reliable, clean, quiet, forgiving, the rads add to the architectural interest of historic/antique homes, the residual heat after the boiler shuts down minimizes the temp swings in living areas. What's not to like?

    I'm with @Fred It looks strange to walk into an old house and not see a radiator of some kind. It pains me to see the rads for sale by people who are "upgrading" to forced air but what can you do?
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • Robin_from_NH
    Robin_from_NH Member Posts: 2
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    New here but old problem. We have steam heat and wonderful steam radiators. Our house 1773 in Orford NH. Our 500 gal. Oil tank is not longer “up to code” and no one will fill it. We have switched to getting tractor diesel fuel but we are looking into converting our steam boiler, which is running fine, to propane. We have run into the same problem as the original post of this forum - have to convert the entire system, not a good idea, change the system, etc. This is our backup, for now, but as we mature it would be nice to have a system we can rely on. We have access to group propane pricing so we think this is a good option. I read here that some have done this conversion DYI? We are handy is this hard - we are happy to have someone do this but no one seems to be around. We just had a heating group tell me - sorry we cannot find a steam boiler?? Heck I can find one on Amazon. We are getting 100 gal. Of truck diesel to get us through this season but would really like to get away from the oil. Thoughts??
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,187
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    Conversion is not a DIY project. You need a manometer, digital combustion analyzer and the training on how to use these tools. Elevation affects combustion. What works in NYC won't work the same in Denver without modification.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,634
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    @Robin_from_NH

    Converting to propane is ok but be sure to check the price as oil is usually cheaper. Oil is 140000 btu/hour per gallon of oil. Propane is 90000 btu/hr/gallon
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,904
    edited January 2020
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    @Robin_from_NH Converting to propane is ok but be sure to check the price as oil is usually cheaper. Oil is 140000 btu/hour per gallon of oil. Propane is 90000 btu/hr/gallon

    This. It may actually be less expensive to stay with oil.

    What make and model is your boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,453
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    As far as converting to LP goes -- assuming you price it out and it really is cheaper than a new oil tank would be -- some boilers can be converted, some can't. In any event the worst case would be a new boiler -- there's no need to change any of the rest of your steam system at all.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Robin_from_NH
  • Robin_from_NH
    Robin_from_NH Member Posts: 2
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    EBEBRATT-Ed said:
    @Robin_from_NH Converting to propane is ok but be sure to check the price as oil is usually cheaper. Oil is 140000 btu/hour per gallon of oil. Propane is 90000 btu/hr/gallon
    This. It may actually be less expensive to stay with oil.

    What make and model is your boiler?

    Peerless heater with a Beckett Oil Burner - installed in 2003. 105,000/PTU.