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Expected Heating cost for attached Northeast 3 family home

branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
Hi I have a 3 family attached 20x60 home in Brooklyn NY. Building is 100 years old and is poorly insulated. Windows are drafty and there's no insulation front or back.

This is my first winter in the building.

I just got a new gas boiler. Burnham IN7. I have a steam one pipe radiator system.

I know I am cannot quote prices on this forum but I'm assuming energy costs are ok to post. If not I will reword the post accordingly. I apologize in advance if I've faux pas'd.

My bill for Nov 15 - Dec 15 was $621!!!! I was shocked. My prior bills were closer to $65 - some nominal service charge plus ~$50 to run the water heater. So the jump was $556. Is that even in the ball park?

I had the thermostat set to 70 for that time period. Now I have it running at 68/65. Day vs night.

I set a handheld thermostat in the 2nd floor hallway yesterday and it was a 72 degrees when the temp should be 68. There's a radiator on the first floor hallway.

Right now the 3rd floor is under construction so the radiators are turned off. The steam pipe suffices for heat. I live on the 2nd floor and there are only 2 radiators plus steam pipes. Thermostat is on the 2nd floor. I have a tenant on the first floor. He has 5 plus steam pipes. I recall him saying it was too hot at night when I first got the heat on. And he said he closed all the radiator valves. I also see him in shorts and a t-shirt the couple times I had to knock on his door.

I pay all heating costs.

Does that mean the thermostat calls for 68 and heats up to 68 near the thermostat and all the excess heat gets blown out the blow off valve at the top of the steam pipe on the 3rd floor? I'm up there working and sometimes I hear the steam pipe blowing off steam.

I'm going to clean off my tenants air vents today and open his radiator valves.

Any advice on how I can get my bill down?

Thanks!!
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Comments

  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,324Member
    I would bring in a heating contractor who really understands steam to evaluate your system.... Check the "find a contractor" section at the top of the page.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,825Member
    edited January 3
    If you hear “steam blowing off”, there is probably some overpressure, or lack of main venting.
    I would advise against costly setbacks, and select a constant lower temperature, after you have ironed out the problems.
    When you get the system balanced, you can always insulate any risers to prevent overheating.—NBC
  • VoyagerVoyager Posts: 197Member
    I am not familiar with NYC construction and energy costs so I can’t comment on the reasonableness of your costs. The best way to assess that is to compare to a few neighbors who have homes of similar size and construction type and, if possible, heating systems. Since you all see the same environment pretty much and have the same energy costs, that would give you an idea if you are grossly out of whack.

    You need to find someone experienced in steam heat to assess your system to see if it was installed correctly and is operating correctly.
  • VoyagerVoyager Posts: 197Member


    ...
    I would advise against costly setbacks, and select a constant lower temperature, after you have ironed out the problems.
    ...

    I am not familiar with steam heat to any degree. Why are setbacks costly with steam? Do they harm the boiler? Do they cause the boiler to operate in a very inefficient regime?

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,825Member
    Unless you are going on vacation for more than a few days, a temperature setback will cause the boiler to race to catch up at the end, using up the fuel saved during the lower temperature period. More comfort will be obtained by a lower constant temperature, as I said.
    If properly balanced, your building should have an even temperature throughout. Tightening up the envelope would help as well. Storm windows are just as effective as new cheap plastic windows, and less expensive and disruptive to install..—NBC
  • VoyagerVoyager Posts: 197Member

    Unless you are going on vacation for more than a few days, a temperature setback will cause the boiler to race to catch up at the end, using up the fuel saved during the lower temperature period. More comfort will be obtained by a lower constant temperature, as I said.
    If properly balanced, your building should have an even temperature throughout. Tightening up the envelope would help as well. Storm windows are just as effective as new cheap plastic windows, and less expensive and disruptive to install..—NBC

    The won’t be the case unless the boiler is somehow operating in a very inefficient regime during the “race to catch up” phase. It is a common myth that the energy used to reheat the house to the normal temp is more than was saved during the setback period. That is simply not the case unless there is some extenuating circumstance with the heating unit.
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 530Member
    How long does it take to get the structure back up to the temp it was before the set back? When I had forced air it got the air temperature to the set point quickly but it sure wasn't comfortable until a few hours later when the walls and everything warmed up. I find with my rads a short boost in the morning is nice and a lower temperature all the time is more comfortable than deep setbacks. I honestly didn't see much difference in my gas usage either way
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,066Member
    Branimal, how many therms of gas did you use? How much of that was for heating? The IN-7 uses 2.1 therms of gas for every hour it runs.
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Posts: 4,108Member
    branimal said:

    Hi I have a 3 family attached 20x60 home in Brooklyn NY. Building is 100 years old and is poorly insulated. Windows are drafty and there's no insulation front or back.

    This is my first winter in the building.

    I just got a new gas boiler. Burnham IN7. I have a steam one pipe radiator system.

    I know I am cannot quote prices on this forum but I'm assuming energy costs are ok to post. If not I will reword the post accordingly. I apologize in advance if I've faux pas'd.

    My bill for Nov 15 - Dec 15 was $621!!!! I was shocked. My prior bills were closer to $65 - some nominal service charge plus ~$50 to run the water heater. So the jump was $556. Is that even in the ball park?

    I had the thermostat set to 70 for that time period. Now I have it running at 68/65. Day vs night.

    I set a handheld thermostat in the 2nd floor hallway yesterday and it was a 72 degrees when the temp should be 68. There's a radiator on the first floor hallway.

    Right now the 3rd floor is under construction so the radiators are turned off. The steam pipe suffices for heat. I live on the 2nd floor and there are only 2 radiators plus steam pipes. Thermostat is on the 2nd floor. I have a tenant on the first floor. He has 5 plus steam pipes. I recall him saying it was too hot at night when I first got the heat on. And he said he closed all the radiator valves. I also see him in shorts and a t-shirt the couple times I had to knock on his door.

    I pay all heating costs.

    Does that mean the thermostat calls for 68 and heats up to 68 near the thermostat and all the excess heat gets blown out the blow off valve at the top of the steam pipe on the 3rd floor? I'm up there working and sometimes I hear the steam pipe blowing off steam.

    I'm going to clean off my tenants air vents today and open his radiator valves.

    Any advice on how I can get my bill down?

    Thanks!!

    Did they size and install it properly? You may be looking at the wrong thing. Can you post pictures of the install?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10202744301871904.1073741828.1330391881&type=1&l=c34ad6ee78
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    Thanks for the responses guys.

    I got a reputable steam contractor to do the install in November 2018. Pics below

    Can I use the hard yellow insulation at Homedepot to insulate the pipes above my boiler?

    Total therms used: 457
















  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,673Member
    Voyager said:

    Unless you are going on vacation for more than a few days, a temperature setback will cause the boiler to race to catch up at the end, using up the fuel saved during the lower temperature period. More comfort will be obtained by a lower constant temperature, as I said.
    If properly balanced, your building should have an even temperature throughout. Tightening up the envelope would help as well. Storm windows are just as effective as new cheap plastic windows, and less expensive and disruptive to install..—NBC

    The won’t be the case unless the boiler is somehow operating in a very inefficient regime during the “race to catch up” phase. It is a common myth that the energy used to reheat the house to the normal temp is more than was saved during the setback period. That is simply not the case unless there is some extenuating circumstance with the heating unit.
    Agreed.
    I'm not sure how a single stage system can "race" to catch up.
    Either it's running, or it's not.

    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
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,673Member
    branimal said:

    Thanks for the responses guys.

    I got a reputable steam contractor to do the install in November 2018. Pics below

    Can I use the hard yellow insulation at Homedepot to insulate the pipes above my boiler?

    Total therms used: 457
















    Can you give us a shot of that piping that will show the other side of things?

    I wouldn't use home depot insulation. It's only 1/2" thick and grossly overpriced. www.buyinsulationproducts.com is the way to go but take your time and buy everything you need at once to save on shipping.


    I would recommend having @JohnNY come out and have a look at the system.
    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
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    @ChrisJ thanks for the link.

    I’m replacing a vertical steam pipe - what type of pipe do I ask for at the plumbing supply shop. The pipe is used to heat a bathroom.


    Here are some more pics.
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,066Member
    edited January 4
    According to the data you provided, it looks like you used 14.3 therms of gas/day on average. If you figure 2 therms per day for uses other than heating, you used 12.3 therms/day on average for heating. Your boiler burns 2.1 therms per hour of run time. That comes out to the boiler ran 5.85 hrs/day on average. That doesn't seem overly excessive to me. Insulating your pipes should decrease how long it takes to heat the mains and decrease the run times. I looked over my bill and it looks like my boiler ran on average 4.6/day to maintain 70 degrees.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    edited January 6
    Mark N said:

    Insulating your pipes should decrease how long it takes to heat the mains and decrease the run times.

    Thanks for breaking the calculation down for me. Is the calculation agnostic to boiler type (water vs steam) and heat delivery system? Or do you have steam system as well?

    I looked at prior months where I wasn't using the boiler and I was consuming closer to 1 therm per day. Water heater & stove.

    That brings me to 6.3 hours/day on average.

    I really need to insulate the pipes in the basement. It's nice and toasty down there.
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,066Member
    I have steam heat. Get the proper minimum 1" pipe insulation for your steam mains.
  • VoyagerVoyager Posts: 197Member
    Jim_R said:

    > @Voyager said:



    >

    > The won’t be the case unless the boiler is somehow operating in a very inefficient regime during the “race to catch up” phase. It is a common myth that the energy used to reheat the house to the normal temp is more than was saved during the setback period. That is simply not the case unless there is some extenuating circumstance with the heating unit.



    And what high tech wizardarly planet do you visit us from with secrets you haven't shared ? Unless you're talking about putting $xx,xxx into a 1 in 100,000 house to make it work.. There is a reason for the "Exclusive Club".. "common myth " Disagree... IMHO..

    It is simple physics. Here is one of the clearest and simplest explanations I have seen AND it includes at least one scenario where a setback can cost more money, but that is only if you bring in a much more expensive heat source or alternatively cause the existing heat source to run much less efficiently.

    https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/50152/If-You-Think-Thermostat-Setbacks-Don-t-Save-Energy-You-re-Wrong

    One of my other favorite myths I learned from my grandfather who was convinced his entire life that if his car was facing into the wind at night it was less likely to start in the morning due to the wind chill. I love debunking that myth also.
  • VoyagerVoyager Posts: 197Member
    Not sure why you feel the need to get nasty, but I guess some folks are just like that. If you read what I actually wrote, which I repeat here: “That won’t be the case unless the boiler is somehow operating in a very inefficient regime during the “race to catch up” phase. It is a common myth that the energy used to reheat the house to the normal temp is more than was saved during the setback period. That is simply not the case unless there is some extenuating circumstance with the heating unit.”

    You will see that I acknowledged that their might be extenuating circumstances where it might cost more to heat back up from a setback, that isn’t because you are losing more heat due to setback recovery, but only if you are generating the heat less efficiently for some reason during the recovery.

    Did you bother to read the article I referenced? It gave one example where a setback that causes resistance heating to be engaged to assist a heat pump, can cause a setback to cost more money. However, even here it isn’t true that the setback caused more energy to be used, it just caused a more expensive source of energy to be used.

    Setbacks may well cause significant comfort issues with systems that are slow to recover, but setbacks don’t use more energy unless the heating unit is somehow running less efficiently during the recovery phase than it does when running in a steady state “maintenance of temperature” mode. And this would be unusual as almost all heat sources run more efficiently during continuous operation than they do in intermittent operation.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    edited January 7
    I reset the building thermostat set to 67/64 day night a few days ago. NYC's requires heat to be provided at 68/62. It's cold where the thermostat is located b/c there's no radiator nearby.

    I went to check my 1st floor tenant's (only tenant) temperature today. 77 degrees!!! And 5/6 of his radiators are shutoff. It's 67 near my thermostat.

    Outside temperature was 27 degrees at the test time (21 degrees real feel).

    I set the thermostat down 3 degrees across the board. I don't want to piss him off, but I cannot pay for his tropical vacation in my building. He's in shorts and tank top all the time.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,825Member
    If the thermostat is in an area distant from any radiators, it will not feel when enough heat has been provided, and will shut off the boiler later.
    This is especially true when the system is out of balance, due to bad main venting, where one group of radiators get steam earlier than others. If the thermostat is in the slow area, the quicker area will overheat. To add insult to injury, the use of setbacks will amplify this, as there is often a temperature overshoot, when recovering from a setback.—NBC
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    I have a basic steam heat question.

    I'm trying to figure out if my tenant closing 5 out of 6 radiator valves is wasting money.

    The way I understand it, is the boiler is called to run at say 70 by the thermostat on the 2nd floor, it creates steam until my thermostat feels 70 degrees.

    Scenario one: tenants radiator valves are closed
    The steam travels up the pipes from the boiler in the basement, and bypasses my tenants radiators b/c the valves are shut. It then keeps traveling up to the 2nd floor and heats up my radiators until my thermostat reads 70 degrees. Then it shuts down.

    Scenario two: tenants radiator valves are OPEN
    Now if my tenant opens his radiators, some steam will condense in his radiators and that water will head back to the boiler. So the level of steam has decreased by some margin and the boiler needs to continue to work to get steam to my radiators and satisfy the call for 70 degrees.


    Is it accurate to say I will burn more fuel in scenario 2?

    Separate issue:
    I googled how much a 1 degree increase in temperature will increase the fuel bill by. And the estimate I've seen is 3%. So if I decrease the temperature by 2 degrees, I'll save 6% on a $621. That's roughly $36. I understand the math isn't quite that linear, but am I in the ballpark?
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,066Member
    edited January 9
    Branimal,

    Right now it looks like the radiators on the 1st floor and 3rd floor are turned off and only the radiators on the second floor are on. This will cause your boiler to be very oversized for the load, have you observed what pressure you're operating at? Are you cycling on pressure? The 1st floor is over heating, if the tenant is opening any widows, that is definitely costing you money. How much gas the boiler uses is fixed. If the boiler runs 20 minutes to heat 1 floor or all 3 it will use the same amount of gas. Since your pipes aren't insulated you're spending money to heat the basement and causing the boiler to run longer than it should because the mains are condensing more steam than they should on every call for heat. That's steam that provides no heat to any of the apartments. The system isn't balanced, you won't be able balance it until the mains are insulated and all the radiators valves are open. Then the radiator venting can be used to balance the distribution of the steam.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    edited January 9
    Mark N said:

    Branimal,

    Right now it looks like the radiators on the 1st floor and 3rd floor are turned off and only the radiators on the second floor are on. This will cause your boiler to be very oversized for the load, have you observed what pressure you're operating at? Are you cycling on pressure?

    Looks like 0psig to me but I attached some pics so people can advise.
    Mark N said:


    The 1st floor is over heating, if the tenant is opening any widows, that is definitely costing you money. How much gas the boiler uses is fixed. If the boiler runs 20 minutes to heat 1 floor or all 3 it will use the same amount of gas.

    So you're saying I will consume the same amount of fuel whether my tenant's radiator valves are open or closed? That's the answer I am looking for.

    I don't really understand why it works like that. I am reading Dan Holohan's book to understand steam heating systems better.



    Mark N said:


    Since your pipes aren't insulated you're spending money to heat the basement and causing the boiler to run longer than it should because the mains are condensing more steam than they should on every call for heat. That's steam that provides no heat to any of the apartments. The system isn't balanced, you won't be able balance it until the mains are insulated and all the radiators valves are open. Then the radiator venting can be used to balance the distribution of the steam.

    I took measurement's of all the near boiler piping & fittings today. I'm assuming near boiler piping means pipes close to the boiler.

    Do I need to insulate the remaining 2" piping in my basement? Long horizontal runs that turn upstairs. I guess that depends on how much money I want to save.

    I'll be placing an oder for insulation tonight.

    Thanks for your patience and help.




  • YingYing Posts: 58Member
    edited January 9
    Not sure how you will compare but here is my data. Also in Brooklyn NY, old house with poor insulation. 2 family about 1800-1900 sq ft. One pipe steam heating system, gas cost last month was about $500.

    Regular gas cost when heat is off is about $125, there are a lot of people in the house between my family and the tenant, and the we do a lot of cooking.

    Tstat is set to 71/67 since it is in the hottest room in the house.

    So I will say heating is about $375 - $400 for me. This is again on the higher end as I don't think my system is well insulated or efficient.

    Very interested in what you will be doing and how much will the bill come down as I can probability do the same thing if it works

    BTW, looks like you only used about 25 therms more than me, not sure why the dollar amount is so big.
  • Mark NMark N Posts: 1,066Member
    All the piping in the basement should be insulated, otherwise it acts like a radiator. The insulation keeps the pipes hotter in between heating cycles so less steam is lost bringing the pipes up to steam temperature. I said if the boiler runs the same amount of time you'll use the same amount of gas with either scenario. If the boiler were to run 5 minutes less, then you would save the 5 minutes worth of gas. I have no experience with exposed steam risers in the living space. All of mine are in the walls and insulated. If they're not insulated they'll act like radiators adding heat to the room. If they were originally meant not to be insulated that would have been taken into account and the radiators sized accordingly.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    Ying said:

    Very interested in what you will be doing and how much will the bill come down as I can probability do the same thing if it works

    BTW, looks like you only used about 25 therms more than me, not sure why the dollar amount is so big.

    I'm going to order the insulation as the guys suggested. I'll let you know how much the bill goes down by.

    Are you using National Grid as well? The lion's share of my bill from Nat Grid is the delivery charge.

  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 694Member
    edited January 11
    > So you're saying I will consume the same amount of fuel whether my tenant's radiator valves are open or closed? That's the answer I am looking for

    Not really—he’s saying that while the boiler is firing, it’s using the same fuel per hour regardless of how many radiators are on.

    But your system seems not balanced and your thermostat isn’t getting satisfied making it run more than it should, putting lots of extra unneeded heat where you don’t want it and less heat where you want it, costing you $$$
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    buying the insulation today. Anyone know what this fitting is called?
  • EzzyTEzzyT Posts: 815Member
    That’s called a companion flange.
  • YingYing Posts: 58Member
    edited January 14
    branimal said:

    Ying said:

    Very interested in what you will be doing and how much will the bill come down as I can probability do the same thing if it works

    BTW, looks like you only used about 25 therms more than me, not sure why the dollar amount is so big.

    I'm going to order the insulation as the guys suggested. I'll let you know how much the bill goes down by.

    Are you using National Grid as well? The lion's share of my bill from Nat Grid is the delivery charge.

    Wow, just notice that big difference. Same company, national grid. Your supply charge is only $6 more than mine, but that delivery charge is $130 more.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    Ying said:


    Wow, just notice that big difference. Same company, national grid. Your supply charge is only $6 more than mine, but that delivery charge is $130 more.

    yeah im going to inquire with nat grid on that.
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    I wanted to follow up on my gas bill...

    So for the 31 day period from 12/17/18 - 1/17/19 I used 347 therms and paid $456.

    For the 32 day period bill from 11/15/18 - 12/15/18 I used 457 therms and paid $621.

    This savings of 110 therms was attributed to me adjusting the thermostat lower at night and reducing the water heater temperature. The hot water was 165 at the tap!!! I set it down to 135. Rookie landlord woes.

    Around 1/19/19 I installed most of the insulation for my steam pipes. So the next bill will reflect the thermal usage with pipe insulation. Obviously it's not apples to apples b/c the degree days were lower.

    I'll post a follow up in a few days.

    Thanks guys.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,401Member
    Miscellaneous comment... your pressure setting (the pressuretrol with two active scales) is too high. Set it down to 1.7 psi cutout, 1 psi differential. The whole system will be much happier.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 828Member
    edited February 12
    degree days:
    Looking back over ~ 15 years, I burned from low of 1100 to high of 1400 gal of oil per year. Southern NH
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member

    Miscellaneous comment... your pressure setting (the pressuretrol with two active scales) is too high. Set it down to 1.7 psi cutout, 1 psi differential. The whole system will be much happier.

    Thanks Jamie... I'll search the manual to determine exactly how to do that! I've read that was a necessary change in Holohan's book.



  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member

    Miscellaneous comment... your pressure setting (the pressuretrol with two active scales) is too high. Set it down to 1.7 psi cutout, 1 psi differential. The whole system will be much happier.

    Looks like I have two pressuretrols. The one I assume I need to change is the one currently set at 3 PSI with a differential of 2.

    Why is the other one set at 10 PSI?



  • SuperTechSuperTech Posts: 938Member
    I'm guessing that it's there as a safety device. But it's just a guess.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,401Member
    The other one -- set high -- is a manual reset pressuretrol, and @SuperTech is right -- it's a safety device. Leave it be. The other one is easy to reset -- the right hand scale is the cutout, and there is a screw on top which moves the index up and down. The left hand one is the differential, and also has an adjusting screw on top.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • branimalbranimal Posts: 73Member
    edited February 14
    It set the cutoff to 2 and the differential to 1. Within a few minutes I heard boiler fire up a few times. And the feed indicator light come on.

    Is that normal? Did the tech who installed it set it up at 3/2 respectively for a reason?



  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,652Member
    I would set that control even lower as Jamie suggested.
    Do you have a water meter on your boiler feed line?
    Does the sight glass water line drop severely when boiler fires or jump more than an inch.

    The water feed could have been a coincidence, but should not be happening with every firing.
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