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Unusually high steam bills

whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
edited January 6 in Radiant Heating
Asking for a neighbor....she has had her steam system (only heat) looked at by the PUC and two plumbers to try to address her high utility bills. They have changed the meter and a couple bad traps and nothing significantly changed the bill. House is a 950 square foot house with an unfinished basement and two bedrooms. Heat is set at 60. Using over 20 units of steam a month where I have a house of six on steam hot water and heat and use 11-13. Doesn’t seem right.


  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,664
    Where is this located?
    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.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,032
    Is that on district steam?
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    Located in Minnesota. It’s on a City PUC steam system.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,624
    Never been near district steam, only read about it.

    However, there must be a steam to hot water heat exchanger, (aka steam converter IIRC), for domestic hot water.
    Could there be a pinhole water leak on the domestic water supply side inside the exchanger. This would add to the condensate leaving the exchanger and passing thru the cond meter.
    Isolating the steam from the exchanger and seeing if cond water continues to come out of the steam side might tell you. Even cooler cond temp while operating??
    Just a WAG.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,719
    District steam they usually dump the condensate
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 222
    Steam usage is based on the difference between the indoor and out door temperatures.

    Other variables are insulation and Tightness of windows.

    Need to know what is a steam unit? Steam is sold at 1000 lbs. of steam per hour.

    1000lbs of steam equals 970,000 btus.

    Need some other information to assist.

    Type of steam system, pictures of the piping system and rate for 1000 pounds of steam.

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,624
    But do they meter the condensate first? And the billing is based on the gallons of condensate passing thru the meter before being dumped?
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,334
    JUGHNE said:

    But do they meter the condensate first? And the billing is based on the gallons of condensate passing thru the meter before being dumped?

    One of the more common ways of doing it. A leak sounds like a good possibility...
    Br. Jamie, osb

    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
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,624
    The OP did state "heat only", so maybe no DWH exchanger for that.
    But do they do a steam to hot water heat exchanger for these houses that might use hot water rad systems also?
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    It’s a direct steam line from the City into the house. If hot water, there is a hot water coil. The meter is in the house. Not getting into too much on the insulation or steam unit. I was just curious all things equal we have the same system, her house is half the size of mine with half the amount of people and her bill is double what mine is. Looking for a couple top ideas. Don’t need a concrete answer.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,624
    Could you get us some pictures, if not of the neighbor's, perhaps of your's. Major components including the meter.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,032
    Bad steam traps and steam going out the sewer or roof vents?
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    It’s a direct steam system...not a Steam fired hot water system.
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    Stumped? Me too.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 6,624
    So, the steam comes into your house from the utility.
    It passes thru one or more pressure regulators, then does steam go directly to your radiators for house heat?
    Then for faucet hot water at the sink does that come from what looks like a steam to water heat exchanger. Or is that device also supply hot water to the heating radiators?

    How about pictures of your radiators showing both ends?

    Just curious what does your 11to 13 units cost you per month?

    And another possibility is that YOUR meter is not registering everything that passes through lt. >:)
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 6,719
    That's some meter. Looks like it was installed in 1850

    That is something that wouldn't inspire my confidence in the steam being used
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    I agree. They fill with water and break all the time.
  • acwagneracwagner Member Posts: 413
    edited January 15
    The heat loss of the structure governs how often the heat runs. Building envelope, insulation amounts, home orientation regarding the sun and solar gain (shaded vs not), wind exposure, ranch vs 2 story, number of windows/doors, etc. Lots of factors come into play here besides the heating system, so directly comparing two dissimilar structures that are used differently is a crude measuring stick at best.

    Your neighbor should look at the long term energy use year by year. Has it always been high or is it a recent phenomenon? If it's a recent development, all things being equal, then yes the heating system might be the culprit. But, it sounds like the usual suspects on the steam system were checked.

    If it's always been high, then your neighbor should look at the building envelope improvements to reduce the heat loss.
    Burnham IN5PVNI Boiler, Single Pipe with 290 EDR
    18 Ounce per Square Inch Gauge
    Time Delay Relay in Series with Thermostat
    Operating Pressure 0.3-0.5 Ounce per Square Inch

  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,032
    I can't tell where that meter is in all that piping. Is it a small diameter steam pipe and it is measuring steam volume or is it measuring condensate? If it is measuring steam volume the pressure of the steam at the meter will make a huge difference in what volume it measures for a given mass of steam passing through it? It also seems if it is measuring steam volume flow rate and condensation in the meter at low rates will cause a lot of issues with accurate measurement.
  • whi7723whi7723 Member Posts: 22
    Steam volume....spins a wheel
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 1,032
    That means it very likely will measure a lot less if you can keep your usage to a slow steady stream vs a number of on/off high flow rate uses.
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