Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Convert Burnham V78 to NG?

We're looking at the possibility of reinstalling the two-pipe steam system that was removed last year from our new-to-us historic house. The Burnham V-78-T kerosene boiler is still in the basement. It was installed in 1981 and was used to heat the house and provide hot water until April 2017. There's now a natural gas line to the house. Could anyone tell us the pros and cons of converting it to NG (if this is possible) vs installing a new steam boiler?



  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,725
    Yes, it can be done. The firing rate of 2.1 GPH converts to a gas input rating of 294,000 BTU per hour.

    We use a lot of Carlin gas burners and they work well. The EZ-Gas has a maximum rating of 275,000 BTU per hour, just below your boiler's rating. If the boiler is oversized, you could probably get away with this. If not, you're looking at the 201Gas.

    Burnham has a hissy fit when anyone discusses using gas burners in their oil-fired units, but given the model series we know it's way out of warranty.

    The age of this boiler, however, is a factor: It has to be at least 25 years old. Given that, it might be best to go with a completely new unit.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    GrallertDave0176New England SteamWorksHVACNUT
  • spacecow
    spacecow Member Posts: 14
    Thank you for your thoughts @Steamhead. I was hoping it would make sense to convert it to gas to make rebuilding the steam system less financially challenging. Sadly I think you're right about the age being a significant limiting factor.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    Local AHJ's require following I&O manual. Since Burnham specifically disallows conversion burners, they aren't permitted here.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • That boiler doesn't have a very god reputation for longevity, so I would be disinclined to throw more money at it.
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    now if they would only allow the megasteam with a conversion burner..you'd be rocking....
  • spacecow
    spacecow Member Posts: 14
    @New England SteamWorks - that seems like another nail in the coffin for the Burnham:-/. @Robert O'Brien I really appreciate the info, its looking like there won't be a conversion. The group wisdom has steered me away:) @ichmb I was reading about the megasteam! Yes, sad there's not a NG option. Is there something similar in NG I could consider?

    I posted a question in the "Radiant Heating" category about whether it makes more sense to reinstall steam or consider installing hot water instead. I was hoping the Burnham would be reusable which would tip the scales towards steam.

    So far most of the comments lean towards hot water but it seems to be based on a lack of qualified installers. I'd really like to understand enough about steam vs hot water to make the decision based on the merits for our location. I have a bias towards steam since that is what was here (and the pipes can't freeze with steam:)
  • Most of the reasons for not converting a steam system to hot water are:
    Lower heat output of radiators, steam vs. hot water.
    Higher operating system pressures will find leaks in the system.
    Many early radiators were made for steam only.
    As you said, susceptibility to freezing.
    Maybe there would be a boiler which could use the gas burner you put on the Burnham. When the B dies, the new boiler could have the burner installed, in the changeout.—NBC
  • spacecow
    spacecow Member Posts: 14
    @nicholas bonham-carter The possibility of being able to reuse the gas burner is worth thinking on. If the rest of the system wasn't already disassembled it could definitely make sense to get us through for a while. Unfortunately we're looking at having to extensively rebuild the system:-/ .

    Sadly it was replaced with forced air so we don't have to rush into a fix. We're doing lots of research and planning now so we can salvage anything possible and make a longer term plan for radiators!