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Need Advice on Boiler Replacement

mistercord
mistercord Member Posts: 19
edited July 2017 in Strictly Steam
Hello there,

I just found your site and signed up immediately. I learned already that automatic water feeders are a mixed bag. Thanks!

Turns out I have other questions, too many to list here.

Since 1981 I have lived in southern Wisconsin in a load-bearing masonry home built in 1925. It has the original low-pressure steam ARCO boiler and radiators with Trane No. 1 controls. The coal/stoker was converted to NG in the 50s. The thing doesn't have a Hartford loop (whatever that is), and the automatic shut-off switch dates from the 50s too. It's a giant tea kettle with a pilot light, burner and blow-off valve, nothing else.

While I have had it inspected occasionally, I never had a service call in 35 years until last New Year's Day when the paper-thin sight glass failed. This I took as a wake-up call so I'm talking to heating contractors about replacement.

I assume this is long overdue, but I only have to add a little water once a year and the thing works like a charm.

Any suggestions?

Thanks again.

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    A new steam boiler could be more efficient than the old girl but it will take a long time for any fuel savings to pay for the replacement. I can understand being concerned with the fact it is VERY old and wanting to be proactive so your not left in the lurch when it eventually bites the bullet.

    The boiler should be thoroughly examined by a good steam man to make sure it is sound and that all safety controls are working properly. If you decide it is time to be replaced make sure the installer sizes the boiler correctly and that near boiler piping is done so it ensures dry steam. Any wet returns should be flushed out and examined to make sure they are solid, the physical abuse they will experience by boiler removal can be tough on old wet return pipes.

    The brand of boiler is not as important as the skill of the installer.

    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
    MilanD
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,032
    I would make sure the low water cutoff works and keep running it. Like BobC says, the ROI isn't really there if its not leaking. Who knows, she may have twenty more years left in her.
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

    RomanGK_26986764589
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Thanks!

    So if the safety stuff is good and a good steam man inspects, it might not be crazy to keep using it? I'm very nervous about having some New Yorker boiler attached to this Flintstone system.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,931

    Thanks!



    So if the safety stuff is good and a good steam man inspects, it might not be crazy to keep using it? I'm very nervous about having some New Yorker boiler attached to this Flintstone system.

    It's not crazy. As the others have said, so long as the boiler itself isn't leaking there is no good reason to replace it; the gains in efficiency (which, I'll grant you, could be significant) would take years to pay off the cost. Save your money and have a good steam man inspect it and check that all the safety systems are running right (and set right, in the case of the pressure controller!) and be happy.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,177
    I agree with all the advice above. I run an old one for all the reasons they give - it may still have more years left than a new one and efficiency gains will no way pay for a new one. Plus, with a bigger steam chest and piping it is easier to run and makes drier steam.

    Taking this road though you have to accept that she may quit on you exactly at the worst time. You also have to accept that you will be buying a new boiler for the next owner. Whether you run it even a season yourself or not is up to you. At next transfer the inspector will say yours is way past its expected life and replacement funds will come from the sale price.

    I accept these things and run my old one.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
    ethicalpaulMaxMercy
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,564
    That boiler will probably outlast you!
    The sight glass leak may have been from a deteriorated gasket.
    It would be wise to check and see if the main (not radiator), venting is adequate to let out all the air quickly as steam is rising, and that the pressure is not getting too high.
    The wet returns are probably more likely to leak if anything does. Old boilers and pipes were very strongly built out of good iron, instead of today's melted down refrigerators. Regular maintenance would be a good idea, if the tech is knowledgeable about steam. You can learn too, from the steam books available here in the store. They are light, easy, and informative reading which will remove much of the mystery of "the Hartford Loop", and other things.
    If you should ever have to replace it, come here first for advice, to prevent some common mistakes.--NBC
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Thanks all.

    80 year old steam man who's "seen it all" and blessed the old girl 11 years ago is coming at 10 am tomorrow. Can't wait!
    ethicalpaulSuperTech
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    The steam man came and impressed me as
    much as when he came 11 years ago. I didn't know he was still in business. Turns out he sold his building to the state for road construction at a good price, laid off his sizeable staff, sold his inventory, and then retired. But he couldn't stand retirement so when his son-in-law said he'd like to learn the trade, he re-upped and they have gone digital -- no Yellow Pages etc, just on the Web. (Sorry to bore you but I love these stories. The guy takes care of himself and looks 65.)

    Bottom line is he said that the system is very tight, but that even if it runs well it is very old and will eventually fail, probably with catastrophic damage to part of our nicely finished basement area. He talked a lot about installation and the tricky parts of marrying an old set of pipes to a modern boiler. He is willing to do the installation at a very reasonable price. Around here lots of outfits specify New Yorker boilers, but my guy says that he no longer installs Burnham stuff because he doesn't think they stand behind their products. He recommends M-W.

    I'm inclined to go with him since I'll be selling this place to downsize. We've been empty-nesters for quite a while.
    SuperTech
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,306
    I think you have made a wise decision. It sounds like your installer is a rare gem. Let him choose the equipment he is comfortable with.

    As mentioned earlier the cost of a new boiler would be subtracted from the selling price in the future so you might as well enjoy some of the benefits yourself.

    Please post pictures of the new boiler install, we love boiler porn.

    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
    HVACNUTRomanGK_26986764589ethicalpaulSuperTech
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Mistercord here again. I have some questions after having replaced the old girl in 2017. I’m posting here to see if my old messages can be revived. If so I’ll hold forth. Otherwise a new post. Thanks.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,931
    So you didn't sell? What's up? No harm to continuing the old thread.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,996
    Yes, let's see some pics of the new (3 year old) install
    ethicalpaulSuperTech
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Hi there,
    I typed the following when I wasn’t signed in, and couldn’t post it. So I took three screen shots which follow. I’ll try to add the pix again. 
    Sorry for the screw-up and redundancies. 
    Thanks again. 

  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Here are the pix. 
    The boiler pic is before insulation so you can see the copper piping. I didn’t know that copper is bad. Let me know If you see other shameworthy elements. 
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,201
    The copper has to go and you need a complete near boiler Repipe.
    The gas, electric and water make up need serious attention ASAP. 
    You have a 2 pipe system which typically operate on 8oz or less of pressure which your missing a Vaporstat. 
    If I was the utility company or one of the inspectors in the your town I would red flag that installation turn the gas off and lock the meter. Then start handing out fines to the contractors for the hack work.
    STEAM DOCTORSuperTech
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    Well that sure made my day. 

    I live in a cold climate so shutting off gas and meter could be a hardship. And my city and utility have little interest in inspection (because I inquired this afternoon).

     I will find a different contractor. Meanwhile, any other commentators?
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,792
    That gas line....I can imagine having to climb over that flex pipe to work on the boiler. Thats a horrific installation.  
    I understand that its cold right now and you want your heat to work.  That copper steam piping could destroy the boiler and your warranty would be void due to incorrect installation. I would correct this as soon as possible, you don't want that boiler to start leaking from the sections. 
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081
    I would speculate the valves are leaking because the pressure is too high. That is 2 pipe steam which needs very low pressure.

    Steam pressure is a function of boiler size and in part venting capacity.

    How did they size the boiler? That isn't an EG-30, looks like at least a 40 maybe bigger, a picture of the sticker on the side will confirm. Steam boilers must be sized to the radiation, if they didn't measure all the radiators and size from that you may have an oversized boiler, which is a common mistake. We could walk you through that process to verify what you have as it is a fairly critical part, second would be the piping. While it's copper the basic arrangement is ok. What doesn't look right is the pipe size, appears to be 2" at most and if it is that's undersized and not to manufacturers spec for that boiler.

    If the boiler is oversized you are going to need a vaporstat to keep the pressure as low as possible to help with the issues you are having. I can't promise it will fix your problem, but it would be my best guess with the presented information. Along with the vaporstat I would install a good low pressure gauge, some say 0-3 PSI, for me a 0-15 ounce would be a better choice. The gauge will help tune the vaporstat for correct pressure. To be very clear a vaporstat is essentially a band aid for an oversized boiler, the boiler and venting should always be sized correctly, but in the absence of that a vaporstat can help control the beast.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaulNew England SteamWorks
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,739
    Given the flexibility of copper and the fact that it’s a single tapping, I wouldn’t worry about damaging the boiler, but the copper is bad (it may flex itself to a leak). I’d aim for summer or when you can afford it to repipe.

    I’m with KC, managing the pressure and main venting should get things reasonable. Measure your radiation, that’s free and can be done now and will let you know if you have size challenges 
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • Research B Dimension. That’s what’s killing the BFP. Pressure is too high, backing up the returns and the feed. Also your returns are tied together above the waterline. It’s a mess. See Find A Contractor. 
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,485
    Doesn't backflow belong on other side of the feed valve? Where pressure doesn't fluctuate. 
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,887

    Doesn't backflow belong on other side of the feed valve? Where pressure doesn't fluctuate. 

    Who uses Black Iron for feed water and Copper for steam? :'(
    STEAM DOCTOR
  • mistercord
    mistercord Member Posts: 19
    I’m placing myself on suicide watch. 

    Meanwhile I’m going to find a certified boiler inspector (with no help from the local government) because I don’t want another incompetent contractor to redo everything wrong. 

    FWIW, the low water problem is much improved. 

    Thanks (I guess).
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 11,996
    Yeah, black pipe on city water that ought to be good!!!

    Sad, because the cost to do it right isn't much more than what you paid
  • SteamCoffee
    SteamCoffee Member Posts: 100
    Annnnnnd? What’s going on? As previously pointed out, lower pressure should get you to Summer.....V*A*P*O*R*S*T*A*T.......
    motoguy128
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 308
    pecmsg said:

    Doesn't backflow belong on other side of the feed valve? Where pressure doesn't fluctuate. 

    Who uses Black Iron for feed water and Copper for steam? :'(
    Probably the same person who used black iron for the PRV horizontal and copper for the PRV vertical.

    That would have been fine if reversed (horizontal runs rust up, an open vertical would not).
  • danitheplumber
    danitheplumber Member Posts: 84
    Sorry for your loss. There's a few guys here with really nice pics of steam boiler install that you can see for yourself as example of real professional and long lasting systems so you know what to look for and ask when you have the next guy make offer and suggestions to rebuild header electric gas etc