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Convert from steam to more modern ??????

Jo Ann
Jo Ann Member Posts: 12
It may be time to replace the aging boiler which is circa mid 1960's. Is this the time to upgrade the heating system? Why?
* Fewer competent steam maintainers in my area.
* I plan to stay on this house until they carry me out. If I just replace the boiler and keep the steam now I don't want to deal with a new boiler install in my late 80's when the new one dies because there will be even fewer steam heads around who know what they are doing then.
* Save heating costs.

What do I need to know?
What questions to ask to inform this decision?
What type of contractor would do conversion work? It seems like in addition to HVAC expert I would need carpenters, electricians, and masons to make this work on my over 100 year old house.
And, very importantly, where do I find an expert who doesn't talk down to me, listens to my concerns, answers my questions with straight talk, treats my home like it was his mother's, and knows old houses?

Sounds like a tall order based on recent experiences. Going on to my third contractor on Monday as today's was a real bust.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,391
    This is not the time to upgrade. In fact, with a functioning -- if elderly -- steam system, it's never a good time to upgrade -- since no other heating system is superior.

    OK. Having said that. On your third comment: no, it would not save heating costs much, if any, and certainly not enough to repay the capital investment required to convert -- which, as you note, would be considerable.

    On your comment about work in later years when you are 80 -- a good steam boiler will last as long as any modern hot water heating boiler, and longer than some, and at least as long as a hot air furnace, never mind a heat pump. So there's no difference there, or if there is it's in favour of keeping the steam.

    Yes, there may be fewer competent steam people around -- though looking at some of the older work, I wonder. However, they are around in most areas. Where are you located? We may be able to guide you to one or two who are excellent.

    To go back to my second paragraph, and your query about what contractors (plural) you would need for any conversion: you would need a really competent heating contractor, well versed in whatever you changed to. You would need a really good carpenter. You would need an electrician. You would need a mason. You probably would need a plasterer.

    You would also need money. Probably two to three times what a properly sized and installed steam boiler would cost...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Larry WeingartenJo AnnLS123
  • Jo Ann
    Jo Ann Member Posts: 12
    Many thanks, Jamie. My plan is to keep asking questions until I get a concensus from several experts who I am comfortable with. I am in Eastern CT.
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 1,559
    Hi @Jo Ann,
    You may find this article by Dan Holohan helpful during your search - https://heatinghelp.com/blog/how-to-find-a-good-steam-heating-contractor/
    President
    HeatingHelp.com
    Jo Ann
  • Snowmelt
    Snowmelt Member Posts: 1,267
    1st things first, where do you live
  • Jo Ann
    Jo Ann Member Posts: 12
    Eastern CT
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,391
    @Jo Ann -- please, please do yourself a real favour and get in touch with @Charlie from wmass -- 413.841.6726, He is rather busy, but(it goes together) one of the best in the business. He works our of Springfield, MA, but I know he gets into eastern ET too.

    Getting a consensus from more or less local contractors may be rather difficult. The sad fact of the matter is that there aren't all that many good ones to begin with, and they are with few exceptions all up and down the eastern seaboard with a scattering in the midwest and a couple farther west. Reading various responses to your questions here on the Wall is probably your best bet on that (although we don't always all agree with each other, either!). Secondly, many contractors will be wedded to a particular type of heating system, or even a particular brand. A little like going into a Chevy dealer and asking what kind of car is best for you -- they're not going to suggest a Ford!

    Charles is none of the above. His objective is to give you the best heat and the best value. Give him a call.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Jo Ann
  • Jo Ann
    Jo Ann Member Posts: 12
    Thanks again, Jamie!
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,673
    It might make sense to keep your current boiler until it leaks. Properly tuned, your current boiler won't be much less efficient than a new boiler.

    When you do replace it, have the things done that will make the new boiler last as long as possible. Have someone go over the whole system and make sure it isn't leaking anywhere, make sure the vents are all working properly or maybe even proactively replace them. This will keep new water from being added to the system which will bring oxygen with it which will increase the rate at which the boiler corrodes and eventually fails. Add the valves and access points to be able to flush the returns and the boiler annually so the boiler stays clean and doesn't develop hot spots that will shorten its life. By having someone who is an excellent steam person regularly service the boiler, it will both prolong its life and they will likely give you a lead on a new service person when they retire.
    Jo Ann
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,341

    @Jo Ann -- please, please do yourself a real favour and get in touch with @Charlie from wmass -- 413.841.6726, He is rather busy, but(it goes together) one of the best in the business. He works our of Springfield, MA, but I know he gets into eastern ET too.

    Getting a consensus from more or less local contractors may be rather difficult. The sad fact of the matter is that there aren't all that many good ones to begin with, and they are with few exceptions all up and down the eastern seaboard with a scattering in the midwest and a couple farther west. Reading various responses to your questions here on the Wall is probably your best bet on that (although we don't always all agree with each other, either!). Secondly, many contractors will be wedded to a particular type of heating system, or even a particular brand. A little like going into a Chevy dealer and asking what kind of car is best for you -- they're not going to suggest a Ford!

    Charles is none of the above. His objective is to give you the best heat and the best value. Give him a call.

    This.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jo Ann
    Jo Ann Member Posts: 12
    I am going to close this post out now. I did find two competent steamers in my area so I will fire my old company, the ones who told me I needed a new boiler, and go with one of them. Both looked it over independently and don't think it is leaking. The first one cleaned the pig tail, fixed the low water float, and scooped a bunch of junk out of the firebox. I will need a new firebox soon but that's a lot cheaper than a new boiler. The guy I am going to use is young and loves steam! Thank you all for your help!
    mattmia2
This discussion has been closed.

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