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Inefficient steam and water heat + oil tank

TBourque
TBourque Member Posts: 1
Hello,
I inherited a mess in my new house. An oil tank, an inefficient steam boiler, huge steam radiators, 2 areas of the house with water vs steam radiators AND- a gas moratorium indefinitely. I also have window ac units (which doesn’t bother me, it’s the heat I’m having issue with).

I don’t know if I should switch to a water boiler, and switch steam radiators to water vs steam powered by my oil tank?

Get a more efficient steam boiler and get some steam runtals to get rid of some of the bulky radiators and hold us down till one year we can get gas?

I don’t have unlimited funds and one day in my dreams I’d switch to gas. Please help!!

Comments

  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,283
    Resurrecting your steam system is something that can be done.
    Post some pictures of your system. Boiler, pictures both near and far, and your oil tank too.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 2,756
    What is your indication that the steam boiler is inefficient?
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Canuckermattmia2
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,326
    Also, where are you located? We probably know someone who can help.
    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    OK -- step one. Set about learning how steam systems work -- there are two good books on this site -- and then seeing what needs to be done. Steam is every bit as efficient as all but the most sophisticated (read: expensive and maintenance intensive) hot water systems, and they would require complete replacement of all your radiators anyway.

    Step two. There's nothing wrong with oil fired heat. There are very fine oil fired boilers, and very fine gas boilers. You'd gain nothing by switching away from oil. So keep that.

    So -- keep the steam. Learn how it is supposed to work, and don't be afraid to come here and ask questions and seek guidance. Also, as has been said, we may know a good steam expert in your area who can help you out in person.
    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
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    I am in Scarsdale. My oil costs 600 a month apparently, and my boiler’s piping is not right somehow. 
    I’ll take pictures tomorrow when in the house.
    I just want to know should I get a new efficient steam boiler? And some runtal steam radiators? Does it matter that 2 of my radiators are water and all the rest are steam?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    On your questions, @TBourque , ;the question of whether you should get a new boiler depends really mostly on two things: is it leaking, and is it older than about 1970? If either of those things is true, then yes, probably. If it's leaking, you need to anyway -- but if it's younger than 1970, probably not, as the greater efficiency of a new boiler would not be enough to pay for itself. Instead, get the old one cleaned out and properly tuned up.

    Whether you need to do something about the 2 "water" radiators depends on whether they are being heated by water -- or steam. If they are being heated by steam, there's nothing wrong with leaving them be. Can you post a picture of them?

    And do you need to get some new radiators? Only if the old ones are too small to heat the space -- or are seriously in the way for some reason. Radiators just don't wear out, although occasionally they do leak and that's another story.

    There are several very good steam people who work in your area. Check the "find a contractor" tab.
    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
    TBourque
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,652
    You could have some radiators or other emitters that are set up as hot water that use the water in the boiler below the water line for hot water heating, that is a common way to heat areas where the physics don't work out to get steam to. If the controls for that aren't set up properly, that could be a source of inefficiency. In all but the most extreme cases, getting your steam or hybrid system running properly will be the least expensive option.
    TBourque
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    @Jamie Hall @mattmia2 thanks. The radiators are massive and there are 2 per room since it’s a long/wide house. I just want some low key space savers. One HVAC person is telling me some radiators using water not steam (newer ones in house) are not a good mix with the many old steam ones. He is suggesting I move all to water but his bill is astronomical. I’ll check on what year my boiler is from. If younger than 1970 and not leaking, I’ll ask for them to just fix it up so it’s properly done (but apparently it’s not that efficient because oil bills are so high). And then I can basically get some lower profile steam radiators maybe.
    I’ll post images tomorrow of oil tank and boiler when I’m in the house.
    Thanks!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    You really need to get someone over there who actually knows what they are doing. I'm not sure the person you have does. It is not completely uncommon for there to be a hot water loop running off of a steam boiler. If it's done right it can work very well indeed, although there can be balance problems if they all are controlled by one thermostat (which they don't need to be -- the hot water can be controlled separately)

    Moving to all water would be very, very bad move.

    As I say, there are several people we know who work in your area.
    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
    mattmia2
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,622
    On the emitters.  Steam rads can be smaller because steam operates at a higher temperature therefore higher output.  Now IF and it’s a big IF the rads are sized appropriately and run on steam then you will have to go bigger to switch to hot water.

    You suggest switching to Runtal radiators and keeping steam, what are you hoping to gain with those?

    Now, the only way to know this is to complete a room by room heat loss (Manual J) on the house to find out what your requirements are.  Then and only then can you know if emitters could be downsized.

    I wouldn’t recommend switching, you are talking about a massive expense that will most likely never pay for itself.
    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
    mattmia2
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    Can someone please recommend someone in Scarsdale who knows what they are doing? Here are pictures. I am hoping to gain space with steam runtals because mine are huge. My boiler has corrosion and apparently is weirdly set up. I have two radiators on hot water test are steam (after all your advice want to keep steam). I cannot get a gas boiler due to the indefinite moratorium. I likely can’t even get a wall hung gas boiler even though I have enough gas because con Ed doesn’t want anyone using “more” gas even if their meter allows. I need more efficiency and a lot of help. 
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 1,803
    Your boiler is a newer (Post 1970's) system. It may be as little as 10 years old.

    You have a circulator pump that is feeding at least one radiator with hot water. and you have a steam boiler for the rest of the radiators. That reduced pipe size on the riser can't be helping the system at all.

    Finally, what pressure is the boiler operating? (none of the photos show the pressure control settings) Can you see any pressure on the gauge when the boiler is operating for at least 30 minutes? If the pressure is set too high, that will waste a lot of fuel.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Mr.Ed
    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?
    TBourque
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    Thanks @EdTheHeaterMan. I’ll check the pressure but I’m only there on weekends for now. Why would they have this reduced pipe size - is it because they added the newer water heaters after the fact? What specifically can I ask to be changed/repaired by a plumber in terms of this pipe? Also- is pressure something I can modify or have set to a certain number? What should. It be at? 
    I also have no reserve water tank. It’s been suggested to me to petition con Ed to use my existing gas to add a new gas fired wall hung boiler and use for domestic water. Thoughts on that? If con Ed won’t let use more of my gas for this , do I just add a reserve tank so we can take hot showers?  I see you’re retired but I’m happy to have you do one more job if you want to head out to Scarsdale :)
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    Try @JohnNY , @Danny Scully , @STEAM DOCTOR . Not sure which of them work in Scarsdale, but they are all good. If you click on their names you will be able to send them a personal message.

    I doubt that there's much wrong with that boiler -- it's fairly new -- that a little TLC won't help.

    On the hot water. An indirect tank off that existing boiler will probably be your best bet.
    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
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 1,803
    @pecmsg and @Jamie Hall both have great advice. I learned a lot from The Lost Art of Steam and was able to sell and install several replacement steam boilers in my heating career. Those customers have better systems than if a "Knucklehead" tried to fumble thru it. So getting thru the learning curve and getting a knowledgable pro to perform the needed maintenance (and occasional repairs) is important.

    Also not sure who services the Scarsdale area... I wasn't even thinking of going on a diet (only a few will get that)

    After you get the heating plant in order, then you can look into weatherizing the building, windows, insulation, and the like. But i would start with getting the boiler to operate as efficiently as you can. My Dad used to say: "if you want to save on fuel ... Start at the fuel burner." ...and i still believe that.

    Yours Truly,
    Mr.Ed
    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?
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 292
    TBourque said:

    I am in Scarsdale. My oil costs 600 a month apparently, and my boiler’s piping is not right somehow. 

    I’ll take pictures tomorrow when in the house.
    I just want to know should I get a new efficient steam boiler? And some runtal steam radiators? Does it matter that 2 of my radiators are water and all the rest are steam?
    It makes sense to have a pro look your system over and make sure it is running as it should - but keep in mind that in many cases it is the house that is the cause of high fuel bills. I am not sure how large your home is, but based on the pictures you posted it looks like it is old enough to take advantage of some weatherization improvements.
    TBourque
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    I am replacing my windows and looking into other things like weatherstripping the door. 
    I have a choice- aquabooster or superstor indirect tank, ... a heat pump water system,... or just get a simple electric tank as a temporary solution until the moratorium ends and I can get gas. Opinions?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    TBourque said:

    I am replacing my windows and looking into other things like weatherstripping the door. 

    I have a choice- aquabooster or superstor indirect tank, ... a heat pump water system,... or just get a simple electric tank as a temporary solution until the moratorium ends and I can get gas. Opinions?
    Be cautious about replacing windows. If the existing windows were installed before 1950 or so, you will get much better results -- for a lot less money -- by repairing them and using either inside or outside storm windows (there are a number of manufacturers for those). Also, unless you replace with absolutely top of the line new windows -- which are, to put it mildly, pricey -- you will have to reckon on doing it again in 10 to 15 years, when the new ones fail. Top of the line windows seem to last better; perhaps 30 years.
    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
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 1,884
    A storm window gives 50 - 75 % of the insulation value as a replacement for 20% of the cost as @Jamie Hall has explained. 
     

  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    These windows are 100 years old and needed to be nailed shut at the top or they fall down. So I think we'll get Andersons or Marvins (good windows). Mine are REALLY old and beat up. Whats your vote for aquabooster vs electric tank if I plan to go to a gas boiler when the moratorium ends?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,519
    @TBourque

    The boiler you have doesn't look half bad and not that old. Keep the boiler and keep the steam. That boiler may be able to be converted to gas with a power gas burner when the time comes.

    The piping on the outlet of the boiler needs fixing they used a bullhead tee which is wrong and it's undersized and that is screwing with your steam supply. The steam mains need to be separated to be connected properly.


    Work on your windows doors and insulation. Winter is coming to an end . Don't rush into anything, finding the right contractor is #! You have all summer to fix the system up.


    An indirect water heater would be the best choice
    TBourque
  • TBourque
    TBourque Member Posts: 1
    @EBEBRATT-Ed thanks!!! If you know one in Scarsdale let me know.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,350
    TBourque said:

    These windows are 100 years old and needed to be nailed shut at the top or they fall down. So I think we'll get Andersons or Marvins (good windows). Mine are REALLY old and beat up. Whats your vote for aquabooster vs electric tank if I plan to go to a gas boiler when the moratorium ends?

    Cheer up. I have about a dozen windows in one of the places I care for which are a bit over 240 years old (the exact date is uncertain). With a bit of TLC plus inner storms they are better at heat retention than some 5 year old Marvins (top end Marvins, too) which some idiot installed in place of some beautiful 120 year old windows in another place I care for (two of which already have failed seals).

    If yours need to be nailed shut, the chances are that either the counterweights and their cords are missing or, if they are slightly older style, the latches on the sides which held them at various heights are missing or damaged. Either problem is easily repaired by a carpenter who actually knows what he or she is doing.

    I don't mean to knock Anderson or Marvin or Pella -- these companies make excellent modern windows in their top of the line units. For replacement in post-World War II construction, or adding a window if you need a new one somewhere, they are ones which I would recommend. They will cost you between 2 and 5 times as much as repairing the original windows plus an inner storm window. They will work as well, though no better, and they won't last as long.
    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
    KC_Jones
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,519
    @TBourque


    Try "Find a contractor" on this site
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