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Installing new steam boiler

Our condo is one of 24 in an old Boston building installed with a "wet return" system. Years ago a boiler feed tank with pumps was added and as a result the return pipe is getting wet, then dry, then wet. We need to replace the boiler and face the choice of 1a) installing a new wet return system and reservoir tank at the water line of the boiler or 1b) replace the boiler and boiler feed unit and install steam traps at each of the 100+ yr old radiators. 1b) is preferable as condo owners can then adjust the heat but being told that the pipes will not enjoy having dry heat only in them. Please advise - is that so? Anything else we should think about.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,286
    As it is set up now, are these two pipe radiators? That is, with a feed at one end and a return at the other? Can you take a picture of one whole radiator, and if there are any vents or valves on it, close ups of those?

    If by a wet return system, you mean some sort of arrangement where each radiator drips into a true wet return, and also has a vent -- that's what you need to keep. It shouldn't really need a boiler feed pump, though...

    If it's a one pipe system, it needs to be kept that way, too -- adding the traps and piping to convert to two pipe would be a major chore.

    So... more description, please?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
    Quite honestly, it’s going to be difficult to find someone willing to take on your job...it’s impossible to keep 24 condo owners in Boston happy...You may want to get a consultant guy in there willing to design the replacement..then bid out the job based on his recommendation...the consult guy ownes the design the installer owns the install...A botched job will cause you great issues, and potentially lawyers involved..I never did one that big, the 12 units were all I could handle....and that was a struggle, as I took it personally when anyone had a complaint..jmo
  • AMservices
    AMservices Member Posts: 610
    What you need is someone that understands how steam works.
    If the building made changes that required the gravity return to be replaced with a pumped return, then your probably not going to want to do what would be necessary putting it back.
    Post some pictures (wide shots) of the near boiler piping, the pump systems, the radiators. I'd like to see, pictures of the radiator valves and steam traps, original one (if any are left from when the system was installed.
    Do you know how many radiators are in the system?
    Are all the condos the same size?
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    If it is a one-pipe system, then with proper low pressure, (ounces), thermostatic relief valves, (TRV’s) could give some heating control to the tenants.
    When installing the boiler, it must be sized precisely along the lines described here, so as not to be too large, and not merely from the capacity of the previous boiler. Does the boiler make the hot water as well?
    Gravity return is best, with no pump to break down.
    Some thought should be given to the control of the boiler, in which case, I like an indoor sensor in the coldest corner room, with the control in the basement. Other people here prefer a combination of indoor, and outdoor sensors, but adjusting them can be complicated. Temperature setbacks are a problem, and sometimes wasteful of fuel, as the system races to catch up with the higher temperature setting in the morning.
    Who will maintain the boiler,and check up on its vital signs at least once a week? Hopefully it will be someone who can understand how the system works, and what has to be done.
    Post some pictures of the present boiler, so we can see what sort of skill the installer had, and if he knew what he was doing.—NBC
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    Contact newenglandsteamworks. He helped fix my building in Brookline.