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New Study on Steam Systems by Urban Green Council

RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
I just finished reading a study called Demystifying Steam published by the Urban Green Council. There are some interesting ideas such as how they recommend sizing a steam boiler, Cold-Start Sizing. I will post the link later.
I have some issues with some of the conclusions. The authors stated the ocupants they interviewed said that steam systems were noisy and hard to control. They would have to open the windows to control the heat. Hello McFly
I am sure if they posted on here, one of the NY experts here could get the system working properly. Another conclusion they made was that the system should be converted to an electric heat pump. I find it difficult to believe that heating and cooling a space 12 months a year could be less expensive than a properly designed heating system that operates 3-4 months a year. Why is it that people think electric is so efficient? According to Bright Hub Engineering, coal fired powerplants are 32-42% efficient, gas powerplants are 32-38% efficient, wind turbines are 30-45% efficient, solar plants are 12-20%. Combine that with the transmission losses of 4-7%. An 82-84% boiler is far more efficient than that. I understand steam systems are thought to be old technology and perhaps I am like the guy selling buggy whips when cars were introduced. Thanks for allowing an old guy to rant.
https://www.urbangreencouncil.org/content/projects/demystifying-steam-report
Ray Wohlfarth
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Comments

  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,727Member
    edited March 14
    They produced a nice-looking report that shows they don't know what they're talking about. Heat pumps? In NYC? Come on- the ones in Baltimore can't handle really cold weather without switching to electric resistance backup. In NYC where it gets colder they'd be on electric resistance backup for longer periods- $$$$$$$.

    I haven't had time to research who the authors are, but they sound to me like just another bunch of heat-pump pushers.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
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  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,143Member
    I think you would want to look at the cost of both fuels you are comparing. On a gas or oil fired system, what is the cost of getting that energy from the ground to the burner, certainly it's not free.
    What % of our military budget helps assure the oil and gas keeps flowing? How many taxpayer $$ subsidize oil and gas?

    I think the push for heat pumps for example is two fold, first the COP efficiency 3-4 times what you put in can be recovered. Also the availability of the fuel. In other countries that depend on un-stable countries for oil, they are looking for other options.

    Sounds like a lot of "electrical" heating devices at the ISH show this year, running the gambit from resistance to HP technology.

    Seeing a Taco branded HP in their booth this year should be another indicator of where the industry is headed?

    Heat pumps, VRF, mini splits are all a movement towards electricity as a heating, cooling and DWH provider. Our industry should be paying attention to any HP technology that still has a place for piping and hydronics. A2W seems to allow us a seat at the table at least, not so much with splits and FA based systems.

    Ray, I doubt in our lifetime fossil fueled devices are going extinct :) and there will always be a place for steam, even if it is generated by the sun, waves, propellers, falling water, nukes, electrons in general or ?? energy technology.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 626Member
    For 60 - 80% of the winter a heat pump is probably the most efficient source there is even on LI with LICO, LIPA, PSE&G. But you still need a back up source of heat for defrosts, downtime, and the few nights its just single cold and windy.
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @Steamhead I agree
    @hot_rod I agree with that and understand their attraction. We even install them for customers because that is what they want. It just seemed like a flawed comparison as they were comparing an improperly installed and maintained steam system with a brand new properly designed heat pump. I know boilers are losing market share to these systems and it reminds me of the famous phrase from Monty Python, "Im not quite dead yet."
    @pecmsg I believe that may be the case I just get frustrated when some "informed politcians" believe that electricity is almost free and has no emissions. Perhaps they do not believe the emission from the generation plant do not count.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
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  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,289Member
    Ground source heat pumps are ok. Air-air in a cold climate forget about it.

    To put ground source in you need real estate for the well.

    NYC, Boston etc. forget that

    Steam is looked on as old technology because they are (in general) not installed anymore.

    So, to the average person they are comparing a 100 year old system that has been broken down and knuckleheaded to something brand new.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,027Member
    What I find discouraging about this sort of thing (and I'll admit I'm an old dinosaur...) is two things: first, the completely blinkered approach which is used (to put it another way, this is a great idea which works here, let's make everyone do it) and the equally complete lack of consideration of the built environment.

    I completely agree -- and I've said so a few times -- that heat pumps for new construction and for some retrofit projects are the way to go; ground source heat pumps can be used effectively even in cold climates (though they can be pricey) for many, but not all, applications. Electric resistance heat, in my humble opinion, should be ruled out for all except a very very limited number of applications where its horrendous overall efficiency isn't that much of a problem.

    The real problems come with the built environment -- not just historic structures, which I tend to get hung up on for some reason, but in more general terms. What, for instance, do you do with New York City? The Chicago Loop? Downtown Boston? and the list goes on.

    To me the obvious solution is district steam or steam to hot water or air heating from cogeneration plants (e.g. Big Allis in Long Island City, New York) -- but, of course, if you want your power plant out of sight and out of mind in some rural area, that won't work.

    But convert all the steam heated buildings in those cities to heat pumps? On whose dime? Granted, there are a few industrial heat pumps which generate saturated steam (Fuji makes one), but they are intended for boosting otherwise wasted heat from other sources, not from going from cold groundwater (not available in cities at that scale) and certainly not from cold air. Convert everything from steam to hot water? Oh right... and you still have the heat source problem.

    Never mind what do you do about the built environment in rural areas? Oh yeah.. that's flyover country, and we don't have to take that into account. I forgot. Sorry...

    I have to admit that dreamers who disregard engineering realities infuriate me. Sorry about that, friends...

    End of rant.
    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
  • TAGTAG Posts: 96Member
    Con Ed's steam loop in Manhattan is huge -- I don't see how anything can match a large steam loop in a crowded city.

    As to HP's ..... I have a Carrier 5 speed and a Mitsubishi Hyper doing my current PA property -- have no problems. Even a couple years ago with many single digit days in a row -- also, the air coming out is hot. A step up to the Greenspeed will get you better performance even under zero degrees. Proper sizing -- getting the correct unit for your situation
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @EBEBRATT-Ed Thanks for the input
    @Jamie Hall feels good to vent sometimes LOL
    @tag I agree a properly sized and maintained system will work great. I am installing one in my addition.
    Ray Wohlfarth
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    Click here to take Ray's class.
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  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Posts: 299Member
    Ah, just wait until those big heat pump systems need to be replaced in only 14 years of so. Running a compressor year round is going to cause the equipment to wear out really quickly. So that big dollar investment has to be made over and over when just a single boiler will outlast 2 to 3 replacements of heat pumps. Also, I understand you are not supposed to keep the interior colder than about 60 if you use an air to air heat pump, so for buildings than can use deep set backs, you'll end up using more energy.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,143Member

    Ah, just wait until those big heat pump systems need to be replaced in only 14 years of so. Running a compressor year round is going to cause the equipment to wear out really quickly. So that big dollar investment has to be made over and over when just a single boiler will outlast 2 to 3 replacements of heat pumps. Also, I understand you are not supposed to keep the interior colder than about 60 if you use an air to air heat pump, so for buildings than can use deep set backs, you'll end up using more energy.


    Plenty of mod cons failing in the 5- 10 year span, and even the old reliable cast iron blocks are getting thinner and thinner.

    Parts obsolesce in 10 years is also a concern with over 65 mod cons on the market now

    I think the days of 20 year life expectancy for any device autos, appliances, AC, etc are gone.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,143Member

    @Steamhead I agree
    @hot_rod I agree with that and understand their attraction. We even install them for customers because that is what they want. It just seemed like a flawed comparison as they were comparing an improperly installed and maintained steam system with a brand new properly designed heat pump. I know boilers are losing market share to these systems and it reminds me of the famous phrase from Monty Python, "Im not quite dead yet."
    @pecmsg I believe that may be the case I just get frustrated when some "informed politcians" believe that electricity is almost free and has no emissions. Perhaps they do not believe the emission from the generation plant do not count.

    Certainly any study involving improperly installed equipment or components is DIA. Why bother writing, or reading that type of comparison? Any of the wallies here can see through that type of article :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 447Member
    The thing with us "Wallies" is that we can indeed see right through the (Study/Article) they published. The trouble is we are but a few that read it and know better. Others do not partake in our endeavors, and our experiences. So those that do not, tend to take the word or the council as gospel.
    The Urban Green Council says that they have experts. Who are there "Steam" experts?
    I just read the article on there web sight🙄
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    This was from that same article and I have never heard of this way of sizing a steam boiler. Have you?
    Cold-Start Method:
    This sizing method may be used for steam systems with passive (non-fan-assisted) heaters and no more than two boilers.
    With the system cold (off for at least three hours), adjust the burner to no more than roughly 50 percent fire, then fire the boiler continuously. If the boiler makes 2 lb/in.2 of pressure within 45 minutes, then the firing rate at which the cold-start test was performed should be the maximum firing rate of the new boiler.
    If the boiler does not make 2 lb/in.2 of pressure, then adjust the burner to halfway between low- fire and high-fire and repeat the test with the system cold. Repeat the test as necessary, each time with the system cold. The lowest firing rate at which the existing boiler makes pressure should be the maximum firing rate of the new boiler. If the firing rate falls between readily available boiler sizes, install the next size up.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
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  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro) and @hot_rod I agree it seems like the life expectancy for any hvac system is about 10-15 years.
    @Intplm. I looked at their sources and did see they referenced Dan Holahans Greening Steam but not one mention of the wall
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
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  • Mike_SheppardMike_Sheppard Posts: 391Member
    edited March 14
    I’m scratching my head on that one @RayWohlfarth

    Maybe I’m missing something but that doesn’t make any sense at all...

    That sounds like a good way to match the firing rate to the amount of venting (or lack of) in the system...

    By the time they run that test I’ll have counted the EDR of all the radiators and sized it properly and the boiler will be on the truck headed to the job...
    Never stop learning.
  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 447Member

    @The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro) and @hot_rod I agree it seems like the life expectancy for any hvac system is about 10-15 years.
    @Intplm. I looked at their sources and did see they referenced Dan Holahans Greening Steam but not one mention of the wall

    @RayWohlfarth Yes and they seemed to be moving away from steam as a whole.
    Didn't get the impression that they held steam in a favorable light.
    I have been told and have been reading (not just here on the "Wall") that steam is still quite viable. Especially in some of the applications that they were talking about. Not sure what the "experts" had in mind when they favor electric, and heat pumps. And say "Heck No" when asked if they would recommend using steam in new construction or renovation?
    I get the impression that they didn't take a closer look at steam and I'm not sure why?
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,727Member
    Intplm. said:

    @The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro) and @hot_rod I agree it seems like the life expectancy for any hvac system is about 10-15 years.
    @Intplm. I looked at their sources and did see they referenced Dan Holahans Greening Steam but not one mention of the wall

    @RayWohlfarth Yes and they seemed to be moving away from steam as a whole.
    Didn't get the impression that they held steam in a favorable light.
    I have been told and have been reading (not just here on the "Wall") that steam is still quite viable. Especially in some of the applications that they were talking about. Not sure what the "experts" had in mind when they favor electric, and heat pumps. And say "Heck No" when asked if they would recommend using steam in new construction or renovation?
    I get the impression that they didn't take a closer look at steam and I'm not sure why?
    Who commissioned the study? We might find the answer there.........
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @Mike_Sheppard Me too. Cant figure out how that works. That could be a 2 day affair sizing the boiler
    @Intplm. I get it some people feel steam is old technology
    @Steamhead Probably the VRF folks paid for that
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
    Click here to buy Ray's books.
  • SuperJSuperJ Posts: 465Member
    I'd love to see a 8000-1000 btu A2W heatpump that would be an add-on to modcon systems for shoulder seasons, no more short cycling with a turn down to 1000-1500btu min.
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,406Member
    We have been seeing about a 30% outdoor coil failure rate in the 5year old heat pump market. Daikin, and Fujitsu both (what we install). Talking to other contractors is the same. So how many pounds of 410a are we dumping into the atmosphere? Is that taken into account?
    Master electrician specialising in boiler and burner controls, multiple fuel systems, radiant system controls, building controls, and universal refrigeration tech.
  • TAGTAG Posts: 96Member
    TSWhisperer -- Time will tell on longevity.

    SolidFuel: Are you speaking of mini-splits? I have been lucky .... but, the number of coil leaks is appalling. It's all blamed on higher pressures w/ 410 and thinner tubing needed for better transfer. I have installed Mitsubishi in my last to places as they seems to be less effected ... The guy that did my LG 12 years ago will not sell them today ... and I was surprised how many stopped selling Fujitsu -- did one of those back in 2012.

    Mitsubishi was pushing the floor mini to replace a radiator -- and the city was giving rebates. I don't see how this can be a practical solution.
  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Posts: 299Member
    TAG I visit a conference center in northern Indiana that has had Mitsu heat pumps in use for about 14 years and they are starting to fail. They have 3 or 4 big multi-head units.. repairs costs are running into many thousands of dollars per year. Time has already told. How long do central cooling units last and they probably get only 1/4 the run time as heat pumps?
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  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 626Member
    Average life of a Mini is 7 1/2 - 10 years.

    Personally Mitsubishi is the best but there price shows it. Unfortunately we live in a Walmart society of Cheap, Cheaper and Cheapest.
  • SuperTechSuperTech Posts: 937Member
    Mini splits with Hyper heat and the Greenspeed heat pump have become viable options for heating here in NY, but I wouldn't want it as my only source of heating. I'll only recommend a heat pump if it's used in a dual fuel application or if no other option is possible. I'll never recommend any forced air unit over a boiler, just my personal preference.
  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 447Member

    @Mike_Sheppard Me too. Cant figure out how that works. That could be a 2 day affair sizing the boiler
    @Intplm. I get it some people feel steam is old technology
    @Steamhead Probably the VRF folks paid for that

    @RayWohlfarth . Yes in deed . Old technology. Tried and true technology that has shown great improvements. Especially in large use applications. I'm wondering? Do you know if there is a source out there that can help these folks to better understand steam heating.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,727Member
    Intplm. said:

    Do you know if there is a source out there that can help these folks to better understand steam heating.

    You really think they might actually want to understand steam better?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 447Member
    Steamhead said:

    Intplm. said:

    Do you know if there is a source out there that can help these folks to better understand steam heating.

    You really think they might actually want to understand steam better?
    Ahh well. A boy can dream.〠
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @Intplm. LOL geez where might one find such knowledge?
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
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  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 447Member

    @Intplm. LOL geez where might one find such knowledge?

    I know, I know
    @RayWohlfarth , Years ago I was asked to help develop a heating curriculum at a trade school that wanted to add the subject of heating technology as a choice. They made many objections to steam heat as subject matter to the curriculum. After much debate they added most of the suggestions.
    I've never been a "Knowitall," and never will be. But the one thing that I know and still do to this day is the importance and impact of steam used in our society.
    My reaction to @Steamhead s quote above brought me back to those discussions.
    I think the good folks at the at Urban Green Council would do well to talk with some of the fine folks here on this sight.
  • RayWohlfarthRayWohlfarth Posts: 627Member
    @Intplm. Thats what I was thinking I have been in the industry for over 30 years and learn something everytime I come on here. This place is filled with smart people. I am hoping to learn from their table scraps
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Click here to take Ray's class.
    Click here to buy Ray's books.
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