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Resizing an Ideal boiler

AdamSwapp
AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
The ancestral manse has a 100-year-old gas-fired, coal conversion Ideal boiler driving a Mouat vapor system. The boiler was originally sized to provide heat for the detached garage. That was about 15% of the load, but heating the garage is no longer a factor. As such, it would seem that the boiler is oversized for its current load.

The boilers are constructed like a loaf of bread: front and back panels, with the number of segments in between dependent on the desired capacity. The whole thing is held together by strategically placed bolts which clamp it top and bottom.

So... If I want a smaller boiler, can I remove one of the segments and reassemble what remains?

I'm not asking if this is the best way to get a smaller boiler. Rather, this is a conceptual question. I realize that there's a chance the pieces won't separate cleanly. I realize that there's a chance that the remaining pieces won't go back together without leaking like a sieve. I realize that this could be a fool's errand.

However, I don't want to give up before I've started. Does anyone here have any experience disassembling or dismantling one of these boilers beyond the basic 20 lb. hammer who might have some insight? Do they come apart after this long? Will they go back together? Etc., etc.

Thanks.

Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,345
    Don't. Even. Think. About. It.

    The push-nipples that form the boiler section joints are no longer available. I'm certain they would leak.

    Are you located in the Cleveland area?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    kcoppethicalpaul
  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 335
    Won’t work. The sections are modular, but the flue collector box, flue and burner box/base is specific to 1 or 2 different capacities. Those two sizes are obtained by changing orifice sizes.

    Plus your have to somehow pull it apart remove a center section and put it back together without it leaking. I guarantee it would leak. You have to pull all sections apart, clean the faces really well and they reseal it with new gaskets.... if it uses gaskets. If it’s push nipples, your are SOL.


    No way in hell it’s worht all that effort since you pretty much have to remove and reinstall it anyway. Might as well just replace it. The near boiler piping is probably wrong anyway.
    ethicalpaul
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    I figured you guys would say something like that. ;) I was thinking that I might have to make new push nipples (there's a lathe about 15' from the boiler), but at some point the effort exceeds the benefit.

    I'm not opposed to replacing the boiler (for a couple of reasons). Thing is, that's easier said than done, as no one in the area (~50 miles south of Cleveland) will touch it and I'm not that keen on turning this into a one-man DIY project. Therefore, you start looking for other solutions.

    Maybe the thing to do is buy a bunch of beer and con some of my idiot friends into helping me wrestle the old and new boilers up and down the basement steps. If I need to deal with large pipe for the risers or thread something in place, I could probably get someone local to do that part.

    And yeah, the near boiler piping needs replaced anyway. Based on previously replaced segments, all 50' or so below the water line (it winds around the basement before going vertical) is likely partially plugged and/or severely corroded. That's on the schedule irrespective of what happens with the boiler.

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,192
    You could post a picture album of boiler and piping around it.
    Plenty of advice is available......free.
  • ted_p
    ted_p Member Posts: 64
    Steamhead said:

    .........
    Are you located in the Cleveland area?

    AdamSwapp said:

    .......
    I'm not opposed to replacing the boiler (for a couple of reasons). Thing is, that's easier said than done, as no one in the area (~50 miles south of Cleveland) will touch it....

    Gerry Gill (@gerry gill) at G.W. Gill Plumbing and Heating is not that far from you. If you haven't talked to him, you've just been talking to the wrong folks.

    I think that's what @Steamhead was going to suggest, but you missed his question.


  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,812
    Hammer and chisel to remove the old, 3 or 4 people and an electric hand truck for the new.
    Can you still get knock down with a residential boiler?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,602
    If the sections are too big to get out easily skip the sledge hammer it will ware you out.

    Cut the sections with an angle grinder with a cutting disk and 1 slap with a sledge hammer to brake it get the weight down to where you can handle it
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,171
    HVACNUT said:

    Hammer and chisel to remove the old, 3 or 4 people and an electric hand truck for the new.

    Can you still get knock down with a residential boiler?

    As far as I know Weil-McLain may be the only one. I exclusively get the EG knockdowns because I disassemble them anyway most of the time.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,171

    If the sections are too big to get out easily skip the sledge hammer it will ware you out.

    Cut the sections with an angle grinder with a cutting disk and 1 slap with a sledge hammer to brake it get the weight down to where you can handle it

    That’s why I use an Escalara Stair Cat. It walks the old sections up out and the new block down.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 630
    Why not just down fire the boiler? If done by someone who knows what they are doing, you'll probably end up with more efficient heat transfer and less stress on the boiler. We have several old Pacific steel boilers from the 20 and 30's that we've down fired and are running about 85% combustion efficiency ( 320F stack temp).
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,345
    ted_p said:


    Steamhead said:

    .........
    Are you located in the Cleveland area?

    AdamSwapp said:

    .......
    I'm not opposed to replacing the boiler (for a couple of reasons). Thing is, that's easier said than done, as no one in the area (~50 miles south of Cleveland) will touch it....

    Gerry Gill (@gerry gill) at G.W. Gill Plumbing and Heating is not that far from you. If you haven't talked to him, you've just been talking to the wrong folks.

    I think that's what @Steamhead was going to suggest, but you missed his question.


    Correct. @gerry gill is also our resident Mouat system expert. He's just south of Cleveland.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    ted_p said:


    Steamhead said:

    .........
    Are you located in the Cleveland area?

    AdamSwapp said:

    .......
    I'm not opposed to replacing the boiler (for a couple of reasons). Thing is, that's easier said than done, as no one in the area (~50 miles south of Cleveland) will touch it....

    Gerry Gill (@gerry gill) at G.W. Gill Plumbing and Heating is not that far from you. If you haven't talked to him, you've just been talking to the wrong folks.

    I think that's what @Steamhead was going to suggest, but you missed his question.
    The parenthetical mention of being near Cleveland was my indirect way of answering his question. ;)

    I've been trying to get in touch with Gerry, but we haven't been able to connect. He's seen this boiler before; he installed a skim port a few years ago.

    Cut the sections with an angle grinder with a cutting disk and 1 slap with a sledge hammer to brake it get the weight down to where you can handle it

    I'm getting old; those are gonna be some small pieces. :smile:

    Here's the boiler... Three risers: two large which feed a loop around the basement which feeds everything, and a third, smaller one for the unused garage radiators. Water level is 51.5"; near boiler piping is maybe a foot above the floor. It's got a 320,000(!) BTU burner that dates from the 30s conversion from coal; keeps the basement nice and warm. The house has 480 sq ft of radiators. Any replacement would be a fraction of the size and (likely) a relative pittance to operate.

  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 630
    If you cannot do new, just downfiring with a new burner and installing proper baffles in the flueways would probably get you quite an efficient boiler.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    Please realize that this boiler is not only heating the basement but likely keeping the 1st floor warm as well. You will actually need to add radiators in the basement if you replace it - if you want a warm basement (my basement is now fairly cool - uncomfortably so because I put a modern boiler in it without adding heat to the basement).

    I'd suggest just downgrading the burner - and redoing the piping (or at least unclogging it). I actually don't think your going to gain much efficiency with a new boiler. You will get a boiler that will not likely last a long time and most likely will need replacement in 15-30 years again. Is that worth the money? It's 100 years old and likely very solid. Take good care of it and it will likely last another 50+

    Perry
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    Unfortunately, it's not "very solid". It has a sizable leak which has been effectively patched (it made it through last winter), but not permanently repaired (if you get the difference). IOW, there's justifiable concern as to the long term viability in its current condition. By an amazing coincidence, that's the section I would've pulled. ;)
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,602
    @AdamSwapp
    If you have a leaker now forget changing sections and down firing.

    That"s nor going upstairs on a stair climber, Cut it up and take it out
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,693
    You could hire movers to move the heavy stuff in and out.
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    Does anyone know the thickness of the casting in the sections on this boiler? Are the sides the same as the top?

    Thanks.
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    Looks like you are into a replacement boiler. Remember to add radiators in the basement to replace the original boiler radiator that heated the basement and kept the 1st floor warm.

    As for getting the boiler sections out. I used to help the heating contractor when I was a young lad in the early 1970's repair and replace coal furnaces and boilers. Many of them used fairly brittle cast iron, and you could just break them into smaller pieces with a sledge hammer. However, some of the them used a more ductile iron that would not break up. They had to be man-handled out section by section.

    Why not try the sledge hammer approach and see if it works. Do you have a teenager amount your relatives or friends who could help?

    I wish you well with this,

    Perry
    luketheplumber
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,192
    For the couple of small CI boilers I had to haul out, I split apart with firewood splitting wedges and large chisels.
    Old tires were laid down to preserve the floor as they popped apart.
  • luketheplumber
    luketheplumber Member Posts: 124
    edited July 2020
    I am only an apprentice but why not consider putting the new boiler next to the old one. If I bought a house with a boiler like that which was a leaker, I would preserve the original boiler, as it is something cool that you do not find in every house.
    Of coarse that is just my uneducated opinion and that thing takes a massive amount of space.
    Learning about Steam and Hot Water Heating Systems. Will Soon be looking for an apprenticeship in Steam Heating as soon as I Graduate.
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    I could probably fit a new boiler inside the firebox of the old one. ;)

    If this boiler must go (and things are certainly leaning that way), I would save the front panel, the water column pressure gauge, the period autofill, and all of the old vapor-powered damping mechanism from its coal-fired days (which is still complete and intact). No idea what I'd ever do with that stuff, but it's too cool to scrap.

    Basement radiators present an interesting challenge, though. How do you install floor mounted steam radiators when the water line of the boiler is only a couple of inches below the top of the radiator?

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,693
    AdamSwapp said:


    Basement radiators present an interesting challenge, though. How do you install floor mounted steam radiators when the water line of the boiler is only a couple of inches below the top of the radiator?

    A hot water loop off of the hot water in the steam boiler is probably your best bet.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,732
    Heh. This just popped back up earlier today!
    mattmia2
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    Yeah, hot water is what I was thinking. But then, that's a whole nother run of pipe, a whole new batch of radiators, and a whole new calculation for boiler size. IOW, a lot more work than a straight boiler replacement.
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    Doing it right and having a properly heated house will make all the extra work worth it.

    Remember to add that extra pipe on the water loop to prevent water hammer.

    See the following discussion,

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/166811/how-one-missing-pipe-can-make-all-the-difference#latest

    Perry
    ratio
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,693
    or use a hx or the tankless coil
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 2,732
    IIRC the pickup factor BTUs are available for use on a water loop without adding to the size of the boiler.
    Canucker
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,637
    A few years ago I did a ideal replacement which was about 80 years old which is the pic posted on my ad . I wouldn’t even think of trying to change push nipples on that boiler . A new properly sized boiler will save you a fair amount of fuel in comparison to running that old ideal boiler . Make sure you have some one very familiar w replacing original boilers w replacement it more then connecting pipes . If it’s a large home leave a few tee if there is issues w water content and steaming time before shutting down on low water . That boiler has a lot of water volume in comparision to today residential steam boilers and in some cases a resiouver tank required to add water volume . On one important note all steam piping should be steel and I would recommend a oversized header to ensure dry steam and insure that the new boiler is making steam as dry as the old boiler which did not need as much proper near boiler piping also after your new properly installed boiler is up and running do not be surprised by all the crap and dirty rust and mud that a new properly piped boiler will flush out of the existing supply piping . I feel you have existing wet returns do yourself a favor and have they flushed out or just replace they have done there time and contain nothing good except mud and rust just waiting to mud up your new boiler block . Just some food for thought . Nothing last forever and that includes that old beast installed when fuel was pennies not dollars . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,802
    Has anyone asked if the basement even needs to be heated? I know nothing of the specifics here, but after (re)insulating my mains, my basement got quite a bit cooler and I never noticed it upstairs.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • AdamSwapp
    AdamSwapp Member Posts: 18
    The basement needs to be heated because people spend time down there. It's not some dank, dirt-floor hole; it's spacious, dry, and well-lit with numerous double hung windows and full exterior access. It's the coolest place in the summer, and the warmest place in the winter.

    And yes, replacing the wet returns (at least below the current water line) is on the docket. A couple of sections have been replaced already, and I have no reason to believe the rest would be in any better condition. I did flush them out (hooked up a hose bib to a disused return from a relocated radiator) and ran a few hundred gallons of water through them). That might have got the loose stuff, but I have no illusions that they're free and clear and wide open. Or solid.

    I also thought about flushing the radiators. I figure that you make a fitting to attach a hose to the top of the radiator, then blast a bunch of water through. That part sounds doable enough, but I wonder about plugging the returns with whatever gets flushed out. Carrying the radiators outside to do this is not gonna happen. ;)

    As always, thanks for the advice.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,802
    Free advice: don't bother flushing the radiators.

    I'm glad your basement is a nice place! I couldn't tell from the photo :)
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 11,494
    AdamSwapp said:

    The basement needs to be heated because people spend time down there. It's not some dank, dirt-floor hole; it's spacious, dry, and well-lit with numerous double hung windows and full exterior access. It's the coolest place in the summer, and the warmest place in the winter.

    And yes, replacing the wet returns (at least below the current water line) is on the docket. A couple of sections have been replaced already, and I have no reason to believe the rest would be in any better condition. I did flush them out (hooked up a hose bib to a disused return from a relocated radiator) and ran a few hundred gallons of water through them). That might have got the loose stuff, but I have no illusions that they're free and clear and wide open. Or solid.

    I also thought about flushing the radiators. I figure that you make a fitting to attach a hose to the top of the radiator, then blast a bunch of water through. That part sounds doable enough, but I wonder about plugging the returns with whatever gets flushed out. Carrying the radiators outside to do this is not gonna happen. ;)

    As always, thanks for the advice.

    Hey now,
    My dirt floor basement isn't dank.... It is technically a hole in the ground though......

    Let's be honest, the WM EG series, or any modern CI steam boiler for that matter isn't god's gift to insulation. They have a 3/8" or 1/2" worth of cheap fiberglass around most, but not all of the heated parts. I feel a ton of heat coming from it vs almost nothing from my 1" insulated Bradford White 50 gal tank heater. This was a big part of why I didn't want an indirect.

    My EG-40 throws off more than enough heat and keeps even my drafty basement a little too warm for my liking. Although, it is a small basement. I'd add radiation to the basement sparingly.



    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
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,183
    My basement is about 50 in the winter, it was warmer with the old Delco 4 section boiler. It made the domestic hot water so it ran a bit more often. Insulating the steam pipes and replacing that boiler made it pretty chilly down there. Insulating the sill plate area didn't help much
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
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