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New Steam Boiler - High Gas Bills, Uneven Heat

brettj
brettj Member Posts: 4
edited April 19 in Strictly Steam
Hi ,

I had a new Utica Steam Boiler installed in January of 2019. Since boilers are more efficient today I assumed that my fuel bill would go down after installing a new boiler. My house is 1720 sq ft. My gas bills have been averaging about $375 during Dec, Jan and February. I also have a gas fired hot water tank. Do those figures seem about right given the size of my house? I have a programable thermostat which I set a 67 during the day and 62 at night.

I also notice that it feels warmer on the second floor and it does on the first floor. I do have a bay window and front and rear door ways on that floor which I assume lots of heats escapes from but how can I even out the heat between floors?

Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,395
    edited April 18
    Look at these instructions above.
    Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
    We usually don't post pricing.so I believe your gas consumption should be described in Therms or Cubic feet.

    As far as lowering the cost of operation, if the boiler is oversized or undersized, and the near boiler piping is not proper, You could actually experience an increase in operating cost.

    Post some pictures of the boiler from far enough away to see the piping and how it is connected to the existing main pipes. from several sides too, and a close up of the pressure control so we can see the settings


    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,123
    Assuming that the near boiler piping was done correctly... and that you have adequate main venting... you can at least even out the heat. If this is two pipe steam, then you can simply partly close the inlet valves on radiators in spaces which are getting too warm. If it is one pipe steam, you can usually do pretty well by putting slower vents on the same radiators.

    Also check the cutout pressure -- it should be less than 2 psi.

    Now if the boiler was not properly sized for the radiation, you may have a problem with it short cycling, which does reduce the efficiency. Your setback is right on the maximum limit for efficiency. Does the boiler cycle on and off on pressure towards the end of when it's trying to warm the house up?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,852
    @brettj , post some pics of the boiler and its associated piping, as well as the model number. Uticas are especially dependent on proper piping to work properly and efficiently. Also, where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ethicalpaul
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,137
    And to quickly address something you said, no, a new boiler is probably no more efficient than the one it replaced. You would have to change technology to meaningfully change the efficiency, and that can have negatives and most folks here would not advise it (plus you just bought a new boiler anyway)

    Don't worry about the rules...stating the amount you spend on gas is not against the rules here, to my understanding. Those rules are to prevent posting contractor job amounts. So don't tell us how much you paid for the boiler install. It's irrelevant to your question anyway.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
    Canucker
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 756
    The cost of fuel although important does not represent how much you should pay.
    To do a proper comparison you need to see how much fuel you are using.
    Gas as a fuel is billed in therms.
    call the gas company and find out how much fuel you used in the respective months before 2019 and compare the therm usage to the months you are paying the high rate of gas.

    In most homes the domestic hot water usage can be high. This based on how many people shower and bathe.
    How many wash loads are done in a day.

    How many times in a week you use the dishwasher.
    To save some money on fuel install a water savings shower head, shorten the shower time and use less water in the tub.

    As far as balancing the heat, if you have a one pipe steam system install slower venting vent valves, this will shorten the steam supply to the upper floors and allow more steam per hour to heat lower floor.

    Additionally, tighten up the spaces where outside air is entering the building.

    Jake
    ethicalpaul
  • brettj
    brettj Member Posts: 4
    Hi,

    Thanks for all of the replies. To answer some of the questions in regard to my heating situation, I had a gas hot water heater which I figured was adding to my gas bills. I had that tank removed this week and installed a hybrid electric unit instead. I use the dishwasher every day. Again this will not be a gas usage issue anymore as I've gone hybrid electric.

    I live in Massachusetts. The boiler model number is PEGI 12C. According to my receipt from my last boiler cleaning the gas pressure was 5.8 wc out 3.7 wc, combustion test Co2 8%, o2 6%, co 1 ppm.

    I've attached some photos for the boiler piping. I think the piping looks correct except I've read that the pig tail on the pressuretrol is wrong. The pressuretrol looks like its set at 2.

    I installed all new vents on each radiator. On the large radiators downstairs, I have the vents set at 8. Upstairs the radiators are smaller so I've set them all at 5.

    The therms I've been using are as follows:

    Jan 2019 212 Jan 2020 232 Jan 2021 261
    Feb 2019 334 Feb 2020 234 Feb 2021 239
    March 2019 243 Mar 2020 189 Mar 2021 222

    Figured I show you the winter months as usage is the greatest during those months.






    Thanks,

    Brett
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,852
    Well, nothing jumps out at me here- piping looks OK.

    Does your system have air vents at the ends of the steam mains? What model are the vents? How long is each steam main, and what pipe size?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,395
    edited April 25
    It appears that the near boiler piping is correct. Both the left and right supply tappings were used and there is the minimum 24" riser and the mains are connected at the proper location or the header. There is a proper Hartford loop and the pressure is set properly. I can't tell the pipe size for the header under that insulation, but it appears to be larger than the risers. All that is a good thing.

    The balancing from room to room may be a steam venting issue. Do you know if the main vent(s) and radiator vents were replaced when the new boiler was installed?

    Did you compare the 2016 - 2018 gas usage to the usage you had from Jan 2019 to the present?
    How much has your electric usage gone up with the new water heater?
    Has the gas usage dropped about the same? More? Less?
    Do you have enough hot water with the new water heater?

    Just like to know if it was a good choice.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • brettj
    brettj Member Posts: 4
    Yes, the main vents were replaced with the rest of the system. The main vents are Gopton vents. The riser pipes are 1 inch except where the Hartford Loop is. Those pipes are 1 and half inch. The header pipes are 2 inches.

    I bought the house in Dec 2018 so I have no usage records prior to Jan 2019. Besides January 2019 is when I put in the new boiler.

    I just had the hybrid water tank put in this Thursday. So time will tell on usage and savings. I can say this, the hybrid tank didn't work well until this morning. The water was luke warm and you could only get about a quarter of a bath tub filled before the water can out. Yesterday I ran it on electric only mode. Same thing would happen but I did get a full tubs worth of warm water. Figuring something didn't set correctly, I turned the tank off and then reset the mode to hybrid. This morning I had plenty of HOT water, filled the bath tub and it didn't run out either. So it seems to be working well now. I do have the water temp set at 135 and its a 50 gal tank.




  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,852
    Those are Gorton #1 vents. They may or may not be properly sized. How long is each steam main, between the boiler and the vent, and what pipe size is each one?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,123
    There's one thing way back in your first post. You said that you assumed that the new boiler would be more efficient than the old one -- but, unless the old boiler was more than about 25 years old and had been badly neglected, that's probably not true. Assuming that both the new one and the old one were equally well maintained and set up properly with the necessary skill and instruments, it's unlikely that the difference in efficiency inherent to the boiler would be more than a few percent -- possibly as much as 5 percent, but likely less than that.

    That difference in efficiency is going to be almost entirely masked by variations in the weather and usage of the house. Sorry about that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • dabrakeman
    dabrakeman Member Posts: 210
    Guess I'm not sure what your baseline is if you bought the house in 12/2018 and installed the new boiler in 1/2019? If your baseline is another house then the house (i.e. size, age, insulation...) may make more difference than the heating system. Winter to winter the average heating degree days vary as well. Those of us that keep records here could throw out average therms of use per month over the winter but all of these factors including what temperature you like in your house are huge in addition to and likely overshadowing the performance of your system. That is why from a steam system standpoint you just need to focus on whether you have your own personal system setup efficiently and running smoothly, i.e. good main venting, avoiding pressure build over a few ounces, insulating pipes, burner maintenance and balancing heat where and when you need it. But for some questions on your main venting and tweaking down your upstairs venting it looks and sounds like your are doing fairly well. I guess it is still unknown whether your boiler is properly sized. Add up the EDR of your radiators and compare to the EDR rating on your boiler is the easiest way to figure that out.

    Now, for what it is not worth:), I have 4500sqft and 11ft ceilings in a 130 year old marginally insulated house. Between November through April I average 373 therms. Monthly average HDD for my area is 883 over the same 6 months. I keep the house around 66F when I am in it.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 3,137
    edited April 26
    From a fellow homeowner's perspective: I like what I see of this install. I'd like to see the pressuretrol lowered. You should be able to get it down to .5 psi cut in as displayed on the front gauge. I'd like to see some water treatment in your boiler, such as Rectorseal 8-way, to keep the ph level up to reduce corrosion.

    I'd like to know that there are little to no steam or water leaks in your system and to make sure that you are adding very little make up water per week (like none would be ideal), to make sure your boiler will last as long as it should.

    The uneven heat as was stated above is solved with adjusting the venting on your radiators (assuming one-pipe radiators). Not necessarily by using adjustable vents, mind you, but by changing the venting on some or all radiators to better match how quickly they fill with steam compared to how much heat each area needs.

    I like your hybrid water heater, I have one myself. But you have to manage the usage. It's not like a gas one that will blast hot fire at your water tank and provide much more capacity than the tank can store. 135 is very high in my opinion. You will lose efficiency. Mine is set at 123 and I got it one size larger than I would size a gas water heater. I keep it on "heat pump only" mode because I'd rather wait than use resistive electric heating. My water heating costs are now less than I pay for HBO. But you should separate your water heater discussion into a new thread in that subforum, because talking about it here just confuses your steam issues (of course I say that after writing a long paragraph talking about hybrid water heaters, but do as I say, not as I do haha).

    I'm glad your steam boiler isn't providing your hot water via an indirect or tankless coil. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to heat up a massive steam boiler all through the hot summer in order to suck some heat out of it to do dishes must have worked for an oil company.
    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 179
    edited April 26
    I don't have gas so I don't know how gas compares to oil, but $375 in the coldest months doesn't seem out of the ordinary for a house your size unless it's recently built and efficient.

    How old is the house? Are the walls insulated, double pane windows, attic well insulated?

    Also, if you have a gas dryer, stove, etc then you would deduct that gas from your heating usage.

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,319
    I think you may be a little underfired.
    steve
  • brettj
    brettj Member Posts: 4
    My house was built in 1908. It is 113 years old and doesn't have much insulation in the walls. I just replaced the windows with new thermals. The old ones were so bad that just touching them caused plastic to shatter from the frames. I use the attic but I did add a bunch of insulation around the edges of the attic floor. The square footage is 1720 with 9 foot ceilings. I have a one pipe system. How do I know what vents to use if I need to change out the vents to balance the heat floor to floor?

    I do not notice any water leakage from the steam pipes around the house. I don't think I have any leaks but I do have to add water maybe one a week when the boiler is really heating up during the worst days of the winter.

    PS, The hybrid tank I just installed has issues. Looks like production defects that need to be corrected. My plumber is trying to figure out what's wrong with that new tank. It is set at 135 and still doesn't produce enough hot water.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,123
    On the vents -- there are several good makes which are adjustable, and make life easier when trying to get things balanced. Hoffman has one... on Amazon, even... The idea is to use slower vents on radiators which are getting too warm too soon, rather than try to speed up slower ones.

    You also need to be sure before you even start to balance the radiators that you have adequate main venting!

    You mention that you hear the vents hiss. Be sure and check the cutout pressure for the boiler -- it should be as close to 1.5 psi as you can adjust it.

    You probably won't notice a steam leak -- unless it is huge -- as the steam will disappear as vapour almost instantly. Water leaks would almost almost always in pipes below the water line of the boiler.

    You mention hybrid water heater troubles. I have had mixed success with them -- and have had to abandon and remove at least one which simply didn't provide enough hot water. Keep in mind that there may be a setting which allows it to kick in the resistance elements, which recover much more rapidly, when there is more demand.

    On the structure as a whole -- I take it that the windows which you replaced were not the original ones? Pity, as the original ones coupled with storm windows would have served much batter -- and much longer.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England