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I desperately need help with my steam heating system!

MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
Hello. I just bought an old stone victorian house last December (2019), which was built in 1893 in Philadelphia, PA. I have never lived in an old house before. The home is 7,800 square feet + a huge unfinished basement. It is much larger than we had originally wanted in house 3 year-long house hunt, but we do love it. Unfortunately, we are getting absolutely clobbered in our monthly heating bills. I really don't know what we are doing and how we can be more effective. There are contradicting articles online and I have now learned that this forum is the number one place to go for real information.

In our first couple of months of living here, our gas bills were $1,350!!! We can't afford to pay that every month. This house needs so many repairs that are already totally consuming...

We have had three different companies come out and inspect our system. One made some small repairs to the steam valves and replaced a couple (forgot two). Each professional had contradicting advice, but all said we had a top of the line boiler but didn't really tell us how the system should be used.

We do not use all the rooms in the house right now. So, my question is, should we be turning on all the radiators in each room? Some said that the boiler has to boil all the water to the point of steam no matter what, so use all the radiators because it makes no difference because the energy has been expended, and others say turn them off to be more efficient. It is confusing.

I have also heard that the individual thermostat knobs are helpful, but I guess I am not sure how one room can call for more heat than another?

My husband basically wants everyone to use space heaters and wear tons of sweaters, never turning the steam heat on again. I want to figure out a better and more effective way to use the heater.

We got more than half our windows replaced this summer, as they were all super leakers and original to the house. They have made a significant difference already. There is no insulation in the house besides the roof, which I also think is very old.

Info:
The boiler is a 55 gallon and the pipes are still covered with asbestos (well intact, but we will replace it as soon as we can).
We added a Nest Thermostat (its been a little funky)
Also, have a pellet stove which we try and run all the time.
Plus, two split units that heat and cool for the kitchen (no radiators here) and the family room (has lots but is an addition and is drafty).

We just need help learning how to use this system and to figure out if everything is working as it should, or if we need to be adding, doing, or fixing something.

Thank you for your time helping some clueless new homeowners.


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Comments

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,853
    edited January 5
    Everyone here will appreciate pictures of the boiler, floor to ceiling from all angles. Pictures of your typical radiators showing both ends of it. Any unusual devices in the basement connected to the steam piping, any pumps near the boiler ,also.

    Also show the name plate on the boiler showing the Btuh's etc.

    Only one t-stat? and it is a Nest?
    mikeapolis Meash
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,342

    Welcome here!
    Everyone starts out with no previous steam experience, before coming here, and later becomes very knowledgeable and confident. Some ladies are now making their own repairs, and advising others!
    There are some very readable, and informative steam books on this site, which could bring you up to speed-“We got steam heat”, and “The lost art of steam heating”.
    Post some pictures here of the boiler, and it’s piping, and the radiators, and we may see some areas for improvement.
    Fixing the windows was a good move, and I think even combination prepainted storm windows can equal the performance of replacement windows at a lower price.—NBC
    Meash
  • MaxMercyMaxMercy Member Posts: 128
    At nearly 8000sq, that house is going to use a significant amount of fuel during the cold months regardless of how you're heating it. If it uses three times the fuel that a house 1/3 the size of yours would, then $450 a month in gas heating a somewhat drafty 2600sq ft house isn't out of the ordinary in the winter.

    While the steam pros come up with a plan for you, you should maintain your efforts to seal the house up. Windows and doors can be huge leakers as can the basement. If the attic is open, consider replacing the insulation and if there's no attic storage, blow in insulation over the batts.
    Meash
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 7,957
    Try "find a contractor" on this site
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,518
    I fear there will be no magic answer. A 7800 sq ft house is huge. And an old one that huge is almost certainly not going to have great insulation. Big old houses cost a lot to heat!

    The advice you got about not turning off radiators is both correct and incorrect--it's not simple.

    If you turn off radiators, you will reduce the amount of steam necessary to supply the remaining ones. This will make your boiler more oversized than it probably already is, which can lead to issues.

    But doing so can definitely reduce the amount of fuel you need to burn to heat the remaining parts of the house--but the now-oversized boiler must be more carefully managed.

    Do your radiators have one pipe connected to each one, or two pipes?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    MaxMercy
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
    JUGHNE said:

    Everyone here will appreciate pictures of the boiler, floor to ceiling from all angles. Pictures of your typical radiators showing both ends of it. Any unusual devices in the basement connected to the steam piping, any pumps near the boiler ,also.

    Also show the name plate on the boiler showing the Btuh's etc.

    Only one t-stat? and it is a Nest?

    I will get these images asap! Thank you!

    Yes, just one t-stat in the main entrance.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 14,715
    The number one thing to do to reduce your heating bills is to make sure that you reduce draughts to a minimum (you'll never get rid of all of them).

    With regard to windows. It is almost never cost effective -- nor good restoration practice -- to replace double hung windows. What is done is done, but for the rest of them I strongly recommend finding a craftsman or woman who can adjust and repair the existing windows, then add either interior or exterior storm windows. The result will be windows with far better tightness and insulating capability than the very best top of the line replacements (never mind mid-line!) and which will last much longer. Replacement window folks don't like my saying that, but... it's true.

    You mention that the house is stone. I presume that it has plaster and lathe interior walls? Insulating such a building is almost impossible without doing major -- and irreversible -- damage. However, check very carefully for draughts and visible cracks, and seal them.

    You may be able to add considerable insulation to the roof. This must be done with some caution, as insulation in the wrong place or poorly installed can cause major moisture problems, but it may be worth the try.

    Now to the heating system...

    First comment is the Nest -- or any programmable thermostat. Steam heat (in fact, anything except forced air) does not do well with setbacks. With a stone house, it will do even less well. Therefore -- start poking around in the settings of the Nest and make sure that all the learning features, particularly occupancy, are turned off and that it is set for true radiant -- and then leave it set for a temperature and don't mess with it. The Nest doesn't make defeating it easy -- it's convinced that it's a lot smarter than you are --but it can be done.

    You mention the idea of heating only parts of the house. This is tempting, and there are ways to do it (but it's not always that easy to do). However, if you do decide to figure out a way to keep certain rooms cooler, be very sure that they aren't kept too cool. Humid air from the more used parts of the house will make it's way into the cooler parts, and unless they are kept warm enough to avoid condensation (typically around 50 to 55 if the rest of the house is kept at 70), moisture will condense on the walls and everything else, and may give you problems with mildew and plaster damage, which can be very expensive to repair.

    That said, depending on whether this is a one pipe system (one pipe into each radiator) or a two pipe system (two pipes into each radiator) there are very simple ways to reduce the heat to unused rooms, while keeping them warm enough to avoid moisture problems. A few pictures of some sample radiators would help with that.

    The asbestos insulation. Very common. There are two approaches to that. If you have any thought that you might want to sell down the road sometime, the best approach is to have it professionally removed. However, it can be encapsulated instead. If you do have it removed, replace the insulation with 1 inch fiberglass (not from the big box!). This is not hard to do -- but not doing it will really hurt the heating.

    The boiler. Make sure that a really knowledgeable technician, with the correct instruments and ability to use them, has thoroughly cleaned the fireside of the boiler and tuned up the burners. It is not possible to do this by eye. Such service can make a very substantial difference in performance -- perhaps as much as a 10 to 15 percent improvement in efficiency, even with either a very new -- or very old! -- boiler, if it hasn't been done recently (like within the last two or three years).

    The boiler piping probably isn't bad. One hopes. But a few pictures of that, and at least one clearly showing the controls, would be very helpful. It's quite possible that some of the controls are not adjusted as well as they might be.
    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
    MaxMercyluketheplumber
  • SteamCoffeeSteamCoffee Member Posts: 95
    Jamie’s comments about windows is spot on. The recapture cost is measured in decades. Making sure that what was originally installed is as good as can be, is very important! Let’s see those pics!
    MaxMercyluketheplumber
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9


























    garrettgjpmattmia2
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
    I will say, the house does get super warm when everything is kicking. No issues getting hot.
  • acwagneracwagner Member Posts: 502
    @Meash the members here I'm sure will have some good recommendations to help you out.

    I recommend getting a copy of "We got Steam Heat! A Homeowner's Guide to Peaceful Coexistence". It's a great primer to learn about steam heating in general.
    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

    Meash
  • SteamCoffeeSteamCoffee Member Posts: 95
    edited January 5
    All I can say is wow! It looks like you have a mixture of 1 and 2 pipe steam, some beautiful radiators btw. Your boiler piping is is unique as well. That indicates that your system was probably added on over a period of time. If the entire system was installed at once, it would normally mean that a proper heat loss calculation was preformed etc. and more “efficient “. The hodge-pudge nature of the install means you need someone to get you current amalgamation running as good as could be. A steam whisperer who can maximize what’s there. Since your in the Philly area, go to the find a contractor section and get some advice on getting your system efficient, first and foremost. Keep us posted
    Meash
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 14,715
    Oh wonderful! Great pictures! Thank you!

    And... they tell me that you have a very very good mostly two pipe steam system (even the boiler is done well) -- but it's going to need some work to make it work even better.

    The boiler piping and controls setting are very good -- although insulation on the piping wouldn't hurt. I am, though, a little concerned about the reading on the water feeder. How often does that change? And by how much?

    It does, however, have a mix of radiators and piping, which is going to take some detective work to untangle -- and at least some of the radiators are truly two pipe, but some have steam vents added (clearly recently) which show that the traps -- the devices on the outlet with a hex cover) have probably failed and need to be replaced (and the vents removed). At least one of the photos, however, shows what looks like a two pipe air vent piped radiator (hand valves on both the attached pipes and an air vent) which does need the air vent. And there are a few radiators which look like they are piped as one pipe -- and they need the air vent, as well.

    And is that first one really a corner radiator? Wonderful!

    There's nothing wrong with such a mixed system. It does, however, make it... shall we say more interesting? ... for a steam expert to figure out the best approaches to getting it better balanced (or controlling over-enthusiastic radiators).

    What I can see of the walls does look like lathe on plaster. Don't even think about trying to insulate them. It's almost impossible to do properly without damage during the work, or real problems from moisture down the road.

    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
    Meash
  • EdTheHeaterManEdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 1,511
    Pressure may be a little higher than you need. I would start by lowering the pressure to 0.5 on the scale visible on the front of the gray box on the curly pipe just above the pressure gauge. and with a 1 on the differential dial inside the cover.

    If the heat does not reach everywhere at the lower pressure setting then you can increase it.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
    Specialized in Oil Heat and Hydronics where the competition did Gas Warm Air

    If you make an expensive repair and the same problem happens, What will you check next?
    SteamCoffeeMeash
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,853
    This is a great study in many steam points. Would be a great training site for students of steam.

    In the basement with the wooden boxes, those look to be indirect radiators. Sometimes they would draw in outside fresh air and heat it going into the house, the flow would be achieved by the chimney effect of pulling cold air up as it is heated, passing thru a radiator, going into the rooms.
    The fresh air is great but costly to heat up to a comfort level. Chances are that the house already has enough air infiltration to keep you awake.
    If you go outside of the house where these boxes are located you may see some form of air inlet grates. If so the air flow then perhaps could be gotten from somewhere else in the house.
    Some of the wood boxes have wooden shoots dropping to the basement floor and look perhaps covered. This could have been a mix of outside air and basement air inlets.
    Something to analyze.
    mattmia2Meash
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,268
    Are the inlets for those indirect radiators taped off with plastic?

    Are there any 2 radiators the same in that system?
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
    mattmia2 said:

    Are the inlets for those indirect radiators taped off with plastic?

    Are there any 2 radiators the same in that system?

    They are not plastic. They are filters that have been taped on. We were having some issues with dust traveling the house. With the filters taped on it has helped a lot
  • Robert_25Robert_25 Member Posts: 264
    A big horse eats a lot of hay, and that house is a big horse. A house that large and that old will cost a lot maintain and heat, but you can probably make some noticeable improvements for not a lot of money. I live in a ~100 year old house in Northern NY, and have cut the heat load in half by sealing up drafts and replacing a handful of really bad windows.

    Thanks for the pictures, it looks like a beautiful home.
    vinylswingMeash
  • acwagneracwagner Member Posts: 502
    The black device on the boiler labeled "VXT" that has the red digital "058" reading tracks how much makeup water has been added to the system. In theory the number means the number of gallons of water that have been added.

    Check the number every day for a few days and see if it increases. If the number keeps going up it means you're loosing water to leaks somewhere. Water loss will contribute to a higher heating bill.
    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

    MeashIntplm.
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 1,563
    Did I see vents and traps on same radiators?

    First thing to try is to cover radiators with blankets in unoccupied rooms.

    Temperature regulating valves on two pipe rads work well in my experience.

    Meash
  • KC_JonesKC_Jones Member Posts: 4,552
    I’m not sure if a good fix for this, but if those indirect radiators are what I think, they are either pulling in outside air, or basement air, and letting that go throughout your house.  This would be akin to heating the house with open windows.

    If I was looking for a fix to heating costs, I’d be looking there.  You can’t starve them of air (I don’t think), but having them pull air from the conditioned space would be an improvement.  One of them looks like it has a duct going to the outside, or at least to the outside wall of the house, hard to tell exactly what’s going on.

    Someone else who has more experience with those might be able to comment further.

    I will also add, a house that size would have been built and owned by people with deep pockets that probably didn’t care about fuel costs.  This is what you have bought and are obviously concerned with fuel costs.  This is in contradiction to the basic design of that heating system, as mentioned above. While you may be able to improve some, the only way I see you affording that property long term is with relatively deep pockets.

    I’d also like to comment on the space heaters, be very careful of unintended consequences.  Space heaters might seem like a good idea, but your plumbing may not.  Letting areas of the house get too cold could result in frozen pipes and an even bigger expense.  Pellet stoves, depending on size and location can fall into this category as well.
    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
    Meash
  • jhrostjhrost Member Posts: 44
    What a cool place. That is a big heating bill but at least natural gas prices are stable and low (back in the eighties you would have been paying twice as much). In the chilly but not cold times of the year your husbands approach is probably the best. If the boiler doesn't come on much it's going to be heating all that cold or cool water for a good while just to make steam.

    With all this expert advice you are getting here you will have lots of things to work on and will probably have trouble deciding how to prioritize it. It's best to let your own cheapness or maybe I should say desire to conserve capital be your guide. What you can do yourself, what is easy and inexpensive can come first, of course also considering how effective it will be in saving money or increasing comfort.

    How warm is that gigantic basement you have ? If you can walk around comfortably in a T-shirt instead of needing to where a sweater you probably want to insulate any pipes that aren't insulated , or put more insulation on them . As pointed out asbestos in good condition is nothing to be paranoid about . The brochures the govnt used to put out here in NY recommended encapsulation rather than removal efforts that can sometimes just create problems where there were none. Did you have some form of environmental assessment done when you bought the place?

    I second the advice about maintaining some kind of heat to all rooms. Cracking lathe and plaster is no fun. The materials to repair and replace it are not the issues so much as the work involved in patching or replacing it. Dirty , frustrating, and having a tendency to mushroom into something bigger.

    As a person involved in caring for a big house it will not be unusual to have nightmares about leaks in the roof , plumbing, complex looking steam paraphernalia leaking and shooting out steam (ever notice how in horror movies there is always steam shooting out from somewhere). On the upside in an era when crowded living and cramped quarters are putting peoples heath at risk , you have the luxury of a spacious house with plenty of space to move around.
    Meash
  • acwagneracwagner Member Posts: 502
    edited January 6
    I found a reference to "gravity indirect" radiation that looks like the wood ducts:



    @Meash do you have registers on the floors in the rooms, or just on the walls? If yours are built like this shows, then there is a cold air intake which might have a dampener you can close to limit the outside air.
    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

    garrettgjp
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,853
    edited January 6
    Your article warns of "vitiated" air situations....this is from the 1918 Pandemic time. That is when heating systems were sized to heat the house with the windows open overnight. Energy was cheap, especially to someone living in your house.
    Anyway fresh air is good as said above, but you probably have enough in the house.
    Regardless of the height of the wall register you could still have some outside air added to the mix.

    It would behoove you to take a walk around the house outside looking for these fresh air inlet louvers (if any). They could be in the wall above ground or a ground level grate over a window well type inlet.

    One of your pictures shows a wall register with a button above, it may have been to operate a damper below the floor.
    Meash
  • dabrakemandabrakeman Member Posts: 176
    A treasure of a house!

    Can you find a tag with model # and other spec information on that boiler?
    It may take a long time and a lot of patience but folks on this site are a big help and you are bound to find improvements. Yes, yours is a big house but I have a 4000sqft 131 year old home with limited insulation and have managed to to find ways to get my gas usage down about 25% over the years. Combination of advise and inputs from the forum and slow, steady (cheap) heat loss management.

    Windows was brought up. I was literally floored when I got a quote on installing wooden double hung modern thermopane windows. With the odd sizes and all the moldings work on the inside it was ridiculous and totally cost prohibitive. Plus, the wavy glass and all is part of the house anyway... I am not a carpenter but have managed over the years to build about a dozen so far of my own wood storm windows. Go to a lumber yard and pull out the straightest 2x2 lengths of cedar lumber you can find and with a measuring tape, a router, a chop saw, some screws, wood glue, paint, corner brackets, window glaze, cut to order glass panel, hanging hooks and plenty of weatherstripping you can have one of the best storm windows for less than $100 each. Summer work:) During the winter here just go around everywhere feeling for drafts and get creative with the weather stripping (or take note of what to address that you can't access until warmer).

    One respectful disagreement I might have with a previous post is regarding setbacks. In the spring I will share actual data I have been collecting over the years but if setbacks can be managed without creating undue steam pressure in the recoveries then they do in fact save money. How you can mange setbacks will depend upon things like your pipe insulation, main venting and overall size of your boiler (EDR) relative to the total radiation EDR you have in all your radiators. with yoru collection of readiator styles totalling that up will be challenging but probably doable. Throttling down (extremely slow venting) some radiators in rooms that are unused I also believe helps me a bit but again it can make the oversized boiler issue (if you have one) worse and make working with setbacks even more difficult. The group can help with that though.

    Do read that We've Got Steam" book though. Easy enjoyable reading that gives you a basic introduction and makes communication with the forum easier.
    Meash
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,342
    Having any thermostat next to an entrance door will cause the boiler to run more than needed, so a relocation, and change of thermostat (designed by heating and cooling experts, such as Honeywell), might be in order. All the remote features of the Nest can be had, along with proper heating control design.—NBC
    MeashIntplm.
  • mattmia2mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,268

    I am not a carpenter but have managed over the years to build about a dozen so far of my own wood storm windows. Go to a lumber yard and pull out the straightest 2x2 lengths of cedar lumber you can find and with a measuring tape, a router, a chop saw, some screws, wood glue, paint, corner brackets, window glaze, cut to order glass panel, hanging hooks and plenty of weatherstripping you can have one of the best storm windows for less than $100 each. Summer work:)

    Real lumber yards have storm window stock you just cut to length and join with the method of your choice.
    Meash
  • MotorapidoMotorapido Member Posts: 203

    The number one thing to do to reduce your heating bills is to make sure that you reduce draughts to a minimum (you'll never get rid of all of them).

    With regard to windows. It is almost never cost effective -- nor good restoration practice -- to replace double hung windows. What is done is done, but for the rest of them I strongly recommend finding a craftsman or woman who can adjust and repair the existing windows, then add either interior or exterior storm windows. The result will be windows with far better tightness and insulating capability than the very best top of the line replacements (never mind mid-line!) and which will last much longer. Replacement window folks don't like my saying that, but... it's true.

    Agreed. DO NOT tear out your beautiful, original windows. Repair them and add interior storms (one of these days I will post a video of my process for building interior storms -- a simple 1x2 frame with a plexiglass sheet screwed to the back and caulked tight, and foam weather stripping around the perimeter, to create a relatively tight, sliding fit so you can easily take them out any time to clean the back of the plexiglass and the interior glass of the window. As I recall, my materials cost to build these is about $30/each for big double-hung windows. Any entry level carpenter could build them for less than the cost of ordering customer. Indow is a reputable manufacturer of interior storms if you don't want to build them yourself or hire a carpenter to build them. Replacement windows get you about a 40-year return on investment. I would guess interior storms would have a return-on-investment of two or three years. From then on, the savings are gravy.

    Meashluketheplumber
  • MotorapidoMotorapido Member Posts: 203
    For the best book on restoring original windows, find a used copy of Working Windows, by Terence Meany. Everything you need to know about making double-hung windows air tight. After you get rid of air leaks from old windows, the efficiency gains from replacing those beautiful old windows with new double or triple pane replacement windows are minuscule with a very long return-on-investment payback. Since you can't easily add insulation to your enormous house, go after your biggest heating enemy -- air leaks. Google spring bronze weather stripping. Buy some and seal up your doors and windows. Ask your utility company if they offer bargains on air leak testing to reveal your worst leaks, and then seal them up. Keep the air you paid a fortune to heat inside, and keep the cold air outside. As you research improvements to your steam heat system efficiency, simultaneously chase down and correct all air leaks. You will likely get a much higher return on investment in your air leak sealing than you will on other improvements.
    luketheplumber
  • MotorapidoMotorapido Member Posts: 203
    Is that a Squatty Potty visible in the two pics that include a toilet? I've been interested in those. Seems like those of us in the west poop all wrong. Who knew? Now that I have taken the conversation into the sewer, I would say that if you enjoy the benefit of the Squatty Potty, add a bidet seat, too. I bought one early in the pandemic, and it's the best thing to happen to me during the pandemic.
    ethicalpaulMeashluketheplumber
  • spgdslspgdsl Member Posts: 2
    Here is a recent link from another person experiencing problems with a Nest thermostat on a steam system: https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/182276/could-my-boiler-be-oversized

    And I second the previous poster's comment about bidet toilet seats - I recommend them to everyone!
    Meashluketheplumber
  • YoungplumberYoungplumber Member Posts: 152
    Third vote on bidet toilet seats. 
    ethicalpaulMeashluketheplumber
  • Joe_DunhamJoe_Dunham Member Posts: 50
    Amazing radiation in that house!! You may want to replace the radiator valves with TRV's (thermostatic radiator valves) They are not electric by the way. They have a dial so you reduce temp in unused space. and may as well rebuild the radiator traps because they can get stuck open or closed causing some problems. Also be aware of where the Nest is located, is it a cold, big, hard to heat room? Because it only knows what's going on in the place it is located, which may overheat rest of house. Put cheap digital stick on thermometers in the other rooms. Also Nest has remote sensors that are wireless you can add and you can tell the Nest which one to react to. That solves the physical location problem of the Nest. Good Luck
    Meash
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
    acwagner said:

    I found a reference to "gravity indirect" radiation that looks like the wood ducts:



    @Meash do you have registers on the floors in the rooms, or just on the walls? If yours are built like this shows, then there is a cold air intake which might have a dampener you can close to limit the outside air.

    I have only one that is on the floor. That one is by the front door. It is really big and often smells like the basement. So, the owners before us had cats that used the basement for their kitty litter box, and when I toured I could smell that from there, then we had a dead squirrel in the basement... also could smell from that vent. Only sharing the horrible smell stories because I think it helps determine where some of the air from that vent is coming from.

    It is the only one. the others are all on the walls. We have them only in 2 bedrooms (all others have their own radiators), and I believe the bedrooms may not work. They are directly on top of each other.
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9
    JUGHNE said:

    Your article warns of "vitiated" air situations....this is from the 1918 Pandemic time. That is when heating systems were sized to heat the house with the windows open overnight. Energy was cheap, especially to someone living in your house.
    Anyway fresh air is good as said above, but you probably have enough in the house.
    Regardless of the height of the wall register you could still have some outside air added to the mix.

    It would behoove you to take a walk around the house outside looking for these fresh air inlet louvers (if any). They could be in the wall above ground or a ground level grate over a window well type inlet.

    One of your pictures shows a wall register with a button above, it may have been to operate a damper below the floor.


    I will go and look around today. I don't remember seeing anything like that, but I will check again and get back to you all.
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9

    A treasure of a house!

    Can you find a tag with model # and other spec information on that boiler?
    It may take a long time and a lot of patience but folks on this site are a big help and you are bound to find improvements. Yes, yours is a big house but I have a 4000sqft 131 year old home with limited insulation and have managed to to find ways to get my gas usage down about 25% over the years. Combination of advise and inputs from the forum and slow, steady (cheap) heat loss management.

    Windows was brought up. I was literally floored when I got a quote on installing wooden double hung modern thermopane windows. With the odd sizes and all the moldings work on the inside it was ridiculous and totally cost prohibitive. Plus, the wavy glass and all is part of the house anyway... I am not a carpenter but have managed over the years to build about a dozen so far of my own wood storm windows. Go to a lumber yard and pull out the straightest 2x2 lengths of cedar lumber you can find and with a measuring tape, a router, a chop saw, some screws, wood glue, paint, corner brackets, window glaze, cut to order glass panel, hanging hooks and plenty of weatherstripping you can have one of the best storm windows for less than $100 each. Summer work:) During the winter here just go around everywhere feeling for drafts and get creative with the weather stripping (or take note of what to address that you can't access until warmer).

    One respectful disagreement I might have with a previous post is regarding setbacks. In the spring I will share actual data I have been collecting over the years but if setbacks can be managed without creating undue steam pressure in the recoveries then they do in fact save money. How you can mange setbacks will depend upon things like your pipe insulation, main venting and overall size of your boiler (EDR) relative to the total radiation EDR you have in all your radiators. with yoru collection of readiator styles totalling that up will be challenging but probably doable. Throttling down (extremely slow venting) some radiators in rooms that are unused I also believe helps me a bit but again it can make the oversized boiler issue (if you have one) worse and make working with setbacks even more difficult. The group can help with that though.

    Do read that We've Got Steam" book though. Easy enjoyable reading that gives you a basic introduction and makes communication with the forum easier.


    WOW! I am totally impressed that you made your own storm windows. That is incredible! I will go and try and find the boiler serial number and post it. Thank you so much for your help. Our houses are the same age :-)
  • MeashMeash Member Posts: 9

    Is that a Squatty Potty visible in the two pics that include a toilet? I've been interested in those. Seems like those of us in the west poop all wrong. Who knew? Now that I have taken the conversation into the sewer, I would say that if you enjoy the benefit of the Squatty Potty, add a bidet seat, too. I bought one early in the pandemic, and it's the best thing to happen to me during the pandemic.


    yes! We have the toto bidet seat and the squatty potty. both amazing. the toto was purchased during the toilet paper shortage of early 2020.
    garrettgjp
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Member Posts: 7,853
    Another item to keep in mind is to take note if you have any pipes under the concrete floor of the basement.
    A pipe dropping from near the ceiling piping going into the floor and coming up in another area, usually near the boiler.
    These were sometimes used to return water to the boiler. Often were leakers and created water loss.
    This question will eventually come up.
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 1,563
    >>Energy was cheap<<

    In the olden days folks had to chop wood & haul coal for heat.
    Now in our post industrial times when machines and pipes supply gas then why is energy not even cheaper?
  • Intplm.Intplm. Member Posts: 1,253
    @Meash
    My compliments on your charming home and the steam heating system that you can surely make improvements on.
    The first thing to do is purchase the book on this site titled "We got steam heat." This book is a very good read that is written in conversational terms. It's not filled with a bunch of technical terms that many folks unfamiliar with steam heat cannot understand. So, go get the book. It's offered on this site.
    Lowering the fuel bills will take an undertaking but is well worth the trouble.
    Finish the window project, and insulate all of the pipes with proper pipe insulation. Let there be no metal pipe showing.
    Look into having insulation blown into your home. This method when properly done can eliminate a lot of draft issues with minimal to no damage to the home exterior walls or, interior walls.
    Make sure the boiler is not leaking water.
    Have all of the steam traps rebuilt?

    Has the entire heating system been measured to be sure it is sized correctly to properly heat your home? ... (EDR) measurements should be done.
    Having each radiator fitted with an inline T-stat can also help both for fuel bills and convenient use.
    The nest thermostat? Not a big fan of nest t-stats used for steam heating.
    Again let me just say you have a jewel of a home. I hope you can find a contractor (maybe one listed on this site) That will help you with your decision making.

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