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Multi-Family Steam Heat Boiler Fix or Replacement in Denver CO (Pearson 2mil BTU)

Hello, help.

Our multi-family building has a Pearson cast-iron sectional boiler (from the 80s, apparently). Our property management company's preferred HVAC guys say it's leaking too much to turn on, but they'll repair it for almost six figures (sob). Personally I don't want to throw that much money at a near 40 year old boiler (the guy's initial assessment was to replace but changed his mind after he saw lead times for new boilers, I guess?). So I have questions:

-Do you know anybody good in Colorado that could take a look and bid a repair and/or replacement?
-No matter what happens, parts or whole new boiler(s), it's gonna take a minute to get heat going in this building. What do we do in the meantime?

Thanks in advance!

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,095
    In answer to your second question, how much water loss to leakage are we really looking at? And what kind of low water safety cutouts and controls do you have?

    Keep carefully in mind here that there are many boilers out there -- and at one time there were many many boilers indeed -- which didn't recycle any of the water fed them at all. Such as steam railroad engines. And, with conscientious management of the water level, they worked just fine thank you. Granted, the water wasn't lost to leaks -- but the principle is the same: if you can control the water level while the boiler is steaming, while you certainly want to replace it, you might consider using it anyway until a replacement can be done and done properly.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
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  • baj702
    baj702 Member Posts: 36
    Wow, this happened to me a few years ago. About this exact time of year, the property manager told me "oh, by the way, the boiler leaks and you can't use it anymore."

    I bought a lot of space heaters for the tenants.

    Get lots of bids. Sometimes they can pour concrete over the leak to get you through the winter or to buy time. Definitely get someone that knows about steam heat and boilers and not just any HVAC guy. In my area that was hard, there's not too many boilers around anymore and there are only a few guys left who know anything about them.

    I ended up replacing it during a snow storm on Thanksgiving weekend. My nerves were pretty shot back then... It works perfectly now, though. I was just admiring it today!!!
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,953
    Perhaps a case for multiple boilers feeding a common header.
    Smaller boilers might be more available.
    More piping but the ability to stage burners as needed.

    Has a radiator survey been done to show that you need that many btuh's?
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  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,992
    Track down @Mark Eatherton, he is not a steam guy but I am sure he can point you in the right direction.
    https://hydronicshub.com/tag/mark-eatherton
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    mattmia2countdown621
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317
    I agree that smaller boilers may be more available.

    You could always try boiler sealer
  • baj702
    baj702 Member Posts: 36
    I would also like to emphasize a few points that have been made. I went with two smaller boilers rather than 1 huge boiler. This was pre covid, so sourcing wasn't a problem, but I liked the idea of being able to stage the boilers, along with the fact that if one went out it didn't take the whole system down.

    Second, If you do go with a new boiler, make sure whoever does it does a complete EDR survey and sizes it right. I found that everyone wanted to replace my boiler with the same sized boiler. Without adding up the total EDR that's the safe/lazy bet. But I knew that a lot of radiators had been taken out over the years. Who even knew what the original boiler size was - maybe every time the boiler was replaced (over the ~100 years) they sized up just a little bit. I did the survey myself, and found that I could go smaller with no problems.


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  • countdown621
    countdown621 Member Posts: 7

    In answer to your second question, how much water loss to leakage are we really looking at? And what kind of low water safety cutouts and controls do you have?

    Thanks, Jamie - I would LOVE to get the boiler working while we wait for the RIGHT boiler to arrive. The information I have is ''water leaking out as fast as they put it in". Does this pouring concrete thing work on a sectional cast iron boiler? Do you just....pour concrete over the gaskets? (How do I talk to a professional about this without sounding like I am asking for something incredibly dumb?)

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,317
    @countdown621

    At this point you probably can't make the leak worse. I have never herd of the concrete fix though
    I have seen towels jammed into a leak with a screwdriver, boiler sealer put in the boiler etc.

    Epoxy might work for a while but you would have to drain the boiler and dry the area off good and clean out as much rust as possible
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