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Oil to Gas Conversion - Gas Gun or New Boiler?

ryannels21
ryannels21 Member Posts: 6
edited March 31 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi everyone, I have a 6 year old oil fired New Yorker steam boiler and am looking to hear opinions on replacing the boiler vs a gas gun installation. Is it worth replacing the boiler entirely or will we still have the efficiencies/savings of going with a gas gun?

On top of this, the house is heated with an old 1 pipe steam system with cast iron radiators. During this conversion is it worth repiping to HW/baseboard throughout the house? In the case if we are using a gas gun, the boiler would have to be repiped as well.

Let me know your thoughts, thank you.

Comments

  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,120
    If the existing boiler is the right size and matches the equivalent direct radiation then I’d stick with the existing boiler, convert to gas along with repiping the near boiler piping.

    Creative Solutions Plumbing & Heating LLC
    Lic #12683
    Co-Owners: Fred Drescher, Jr & Eliezer "Ezzy" Travis
    201.499.0223
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 178
    edited March 30
    Unless there is something very wrong with the existing boiler, if it is only six years old there is no reason to replace it. A gas gun conversion should work fine if properly installed and set up, and should be at least as efficient as a new boiler designed for gas.


    Bburd
    ryannels21
  • ryannels21
    ryannels21 Member Posts: 6
    Thanks! Boiler is in good shape as far as I know, never had any problems. In regards to the steam to hot water conversion? Is that worth it? I just have concerns as the steam piping is 80 years old and have to replace a couple of radiators so at that point does it make sense?
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 178
    The steam piping should last a good deal longer than that. If your wet return piping has not been replaced, that is probably coming up soon; but replacing that and a couple of radiators should cost a lot less than changing the whole system to hot water.

    Used radiators can be a good option, if they are pressure tested before installation.

    Bburd
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,263
    Your 1 pipe radiators may not be adaptable for hot water use.
    Also your 80 year old piping now has to only handle maybe 2 PSI of pressure, if you try to use it for hot water it needs to be able to handle 30 PSI.

    Pictures of a typical radiator and your boiler piping, from floor to ceiling, will get you more input here.
  • ryannels21
    ryannels21 Member Posts: 6
    edited March 30
    Hi Jughne, We would repipe with copper/pex and use baseboard if we were to go the HW route, removing radiators completely.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,423
    @ryannels21 , we do not discuss pricing on this forum. You need to edit your post and take the prices out. See https://heatinghelp.com/forum-user-manual
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ryannels21Erin Holohan Haskell
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,083
    Seems like fewer techs work on guns, be aware. 
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,742

    Thanks! Boiler is in good shape as far as I know, never had any problems. In regards to the steam to hot water conversion? Is that worth it? I just have concerns as the steam piping is 80 years old and have to replace a couple of radiators so at that point does it make sense?

    The short answer is... no. Even if the radiators are usable -- which they may not be -- since you have one pipe steam you will, as you note, have to repipe everything and modify the radiators to work on hot water. On top of converting to a whole new boiler. After which you would have gained exactly nothing in terms of savings on fuel or comfort... for spending much money.

    Don't do it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,925
    What’s wrong with sticking with oil?
    steve
    SuperTechHVACNUTEBEBRATT-Ed
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,091
    Steam heat, if it is working properly and relatively noise-free, I would keep it. Replacing a wet return may be in order along with replacing a radiator or two will be much less cost than repiping from scratch. There are some that think those old radiators are in the way. There are others who love the warmth, comfort, and charm of those old cast-Iron monuments. Don't do something you may regret.

    If the 5-year-old boiler is working well with oil... then keep oil or put the conversion burner in it. If you are set on the Baseboard radiators, then replace the boiler with a new Modulating boiler to get the best efficiency possible. That existing boiler, with a gas gun, will not be as efficient as a Modulating Boiler. So I say "All or Nothing" if you are converting to Water. And oversize the radiation in order to use lower temperature water. Design for 150° high limit water temperature.

    If you are staying with the steam, then the gun will work fine.

    That is my opinion and I'm going to stand by it.

    Mr.Ed

    PS If you convert to baseboards, Don't scrap those radiators. Someone here could probably use them.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
    ryannels21
  • ryannels21
    ryannels21 Member Posts: 6
    edited March 31
    Thank you Ed! That was extremely helpful.

    The idea was brought up to switch to baseboard as one of the steam pipes running behind the living room wall is starting to make some noise. The pipe is completely vertical rising to the 2nd floor of the home and when the boiler is producing steam, it sounds like water is running back down through the pipe (as the condensate returns back down the same pipe) and it is VERY noisy. After doing some research it can be a pocket of water, creating water hammer, but to me that seems unlikely as the pipe is vertical, right? Can it be a blockage of some sort? This is what started my fear of the system is 80 years old and I want to avoid a major problem when heating season comes back around. Other than that the steam seems to run fine, normal expansion sounds on warm up and vents opening and closing but nothing terrible.

    Our concern with getting over to gas is here on Long Island we have huge swings in oil prices making it very expensive some winters and reasonable others.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,306

    Thank you Ed! That was extremely helpful.

    The idea was brought up to switch to baseboard as one of the steam pipes running behind the living room wall is starting to make some noise. The pipe is completely vertical rising to the 2nd floor of the home and when the boiler is producing steam, it sounds like water is running back down through the pipe and it is quite noisy. After doing some research it can be a pocket of water, creating water hammer, but to me that seems unlikely as the pipe is vertical. Can it be a blockage of some sort? This is what started my fear of the system is 80 years old and I want to avoid a major problem when heating season comes back around. Other than that the steam seems to run fine, normal expansion sounds on warm up and vents opening and closing but nothing terrible.

    Our concern with getting over to gas is here on Long Island we have huge swings in oil prices making it very expensive some winters and reasonable others.

    Beware that most towns on Long Island only allow conversions for boilers whose manufacturers approve such conversions. US Boiler, producer of New Yorker does not.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    Charlie from wmass
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,742
    The waterfall noise is interesting... or distracting... or annoying, depending. However, it is unlikely to be a sign of a real problem. One pipe steam systems very very rarely have actual problems with the pipes, except for the odd wet return (a pipe located entirely below the water level in the basement). Nor do they have problems with the radiators, though occasionally a vent will fail and need replacement.

    All those are simple, easy fixes.

    The waterfall noise, though, would be interesting to track down. What, if anything -- anything -- was changed around about the time you started to notice it? Overlook nothing. A vent on a radiator? The position of a valve on a radiator? A radiator raised or lowered? So many possibilities -- but what you are really looking for is something which is causing more condensate to flow, or -- particularly if the noise occurs in pulses or bursts -- allows condensate to back up a little and then release.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,908
    New Yorker is U.S. Boiler and they might void any warranty on a gas conversion. It's not a concern for many but you might want to check. 
    ryannels21
  • ryannels21
    ryannels21 Member Posts: 6

    The waterfall noise is interesting... or distracting... or annoying, depending. However, it is unlikely to be a sign of a real problem. One pipe steam systems very very rarely have actual problems with the pipes, except for the odd wet return (a pipe located entirely below the water level in the basement). Nor do they have problems with the radiators, though occasionally a vent will fail and need replacement.

    All those are simple, easy fixes.

    The waterfall noise, though, would be interesting to track down. What, if anything -- anything -- was changed around about the time you started to notice it? Overlook nothing. A vent on a radiator? The position of a valve on a radiator? A radiator raised or lowered? So many possibilities -- but what you are really looking for is something which is causing more condensate to flow, or -- particularly if the noise occurs in pulses or bursts -- allows condensate to back up a little and then release.

    Hi Jamie! Now that I think of it, when we moved into the home about a year ago, an air vent was stuck open on radiator upstairs (on the same problem run) so we changed it. I am trying to remember but am not sure if that is when the problem started. However, I know for a fact that I had noticed a crack in the downstairs radiator so I valved it off to save the floor and the problem definitely happened after that. Currently waiting on replacement but you think that can have something to do with it?

    Are there any signs that I should be looking for on the wet return? Half of it is of course buried behind a wall on the finished side of the basement, other half is on the open side of the basement.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,423
    I wouldn't worry about what US Boiler would think. They no longer own the boiler, you do. Just get someone in there who knows what they're doing, and it'll run great. Don't waste your money on a hot-water conversion.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,306
    Steamhead said:

    I wouldn't worry about what US Boiler would think. They no longer own the boiler, you do. Just get someone in there who knows what they're doing, and it'll run great. Don't waste your money on a hot-water conversion.

    Long Island AHJ's don't allow conversions unless the manufacturer approves.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,423

    Steamhead said:

    I wouldn't worry about what US Boiler would think. They no longer own the boiler, you do. Just get someone in there who knows what they're doing, and it'll run great. Don't waste your money on a hot-water conversion.

    Long Island AHJ's don't allow conversions unless the manufacturer approves.
    Wonder if they're on US Boiler's payroll?

    There is no technical or safety reason for not doing this. Just ask @Tim McElwain , who has done thousands of conversions. I also have not found any Code provision preventing this- and neither have inspectors in the Baltimore area.

    US Boiler must have the mistaken idea that they'll get to sell a new boiler when someone converts to gas, not realizing that there are other, more customer-friendly brands. Either that, or they sell a lot of boilers to oil companies who want to use this to keep people from switching. I find that customers react very badly to such strong-arm tactics. I'm sure that's one reason we have several conversions lined up for warm weather.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,306
    Steamhead said:

    Steamhead said:

    I wouldn't worry about what US Boiler would think. They no longer own the boiler, you do. Just get someone in there who knows what they're doing, and it'll run great. Don't waste your money on a hot-water conversion.

    Long Island AHJ's don't allow conversions unless the manufacturer approves.
    Wonder if they're on US Boiler's payroll?

    There is no technical or safety reason for not doing this. Just ask @Tim McElwain , who has done thousands of conversions. I also have not found any Code provision preventing this- and neither have inspectors in the Baltimore area.

    US Boiler must have the mistaken idea that they'll get to sell a new boiler when someone converts to gas, not realizing that there are other, more customer-friendly brands. Either that, or they sell a lot of boilers to oil companies who want to use this to keep people from switching. I find that customers react very badly to such strong-arm tactics. I'm sure that's one reason we have several conversions lined up for warm weather.
    Not agreeing with the policy, just stating it. The AHJ position is it violates the I&O manual and I can't disagree with that either.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,423
    A good anti-trust lawyer would shred that.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • ryannels21
    ryannels21 Member Posts: 6
    edited April 1
    Everyone, thank you for your input it is greatly appreciated.

    From what I gathered from this, it is best to stay with the 1 pipe steam system.

    In regards to the gas conversion, if we are going to do it, best way is gas gun but we have to find out if that is allowed.

    That being said, does anyone have a contractor recommendation in the Long Island Nassau County area?
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,083
    Switching to hot water is big dollars. Baseboard heating has descended a notch or two over the decades. If you have money to spare, European panel radiators are the way to go. But alas, you’re on a steam website here. 
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,853
    I never herd of an AHJ not approving of an oil burner install in any boiler if done properly. If Carlin/Beckett/Midco approve of it, they manufacturer the burner I don't see why the AHJ shoud get their shorts in a knot over a gas burner but apparently they do.

    MA is one of the strictist states their is. We have to go on the State web site and if any product for plumbing/gas is not listed we are not supposed to install it right @GW & @Charlie from wmass ????

    I haven't herd of a gas conversion burner being turned down here..........yet. Probably shouldn't have given them the idea it will be in the next code book

    Every state is different
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,083
    I’ve done a couple dozen gas guns over the years- I’m a lightweight. 

    I’ve never had an issue. If the manufacturer says no then I’d be hesitant. Why should I hold the bag of things take a nap? Not interested. 
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,182
    I never herd of an AHJ not approving of an oil burner install in any boiler if done properly. If Carlin/Beckett/Midco approve of it, they manufacturer the burner I don't see why the AHJ shoud get their shorts in a knot over a gas burner but apparently they do. MA is one of the strictist states their is. We have to go on the State web site and if any product for plumbing/gas is not listed we are not supposed to install it right @GW & @Charlie from wmass ???? I haven't herd of a gas conversion burner being turned down here..........yet. Probably shouldn't have given them the idea it will be in the next code book Every state is different
    In the realm of residential boilers it is very different when it comes to gas conversions. Most of the conversions are either uninspected or poorly inspected. Code actually says even in Massachusetts that the gun has to be approved by the manufacturer of the equipment. The manufacturer has final say. That being said every single U.S. boiler out there with a gas conversion burner on it is against code for their residential boilers. It is one of the reasons why I used to install Smith g8 boilers and why I install Weil McLain SGO boilers. Gas utility conversion burners don't count as they do whatever they feel like. If the original poster is in Long Island I would defer to Robert O'Brien for legalities on the Isle of long with conversion burners.
     
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/charles-garrity-plumbing-and-heating
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