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Burner replacement

Maine04103 Member Posts: 7
edited November 2021 in Strictly Steam
Hi. New to this forum. I bought an older house in Portland Maine that has a single pipe steam system. The boiler is a Peerless steam oil boiler (from 1993) that was converted to gas it looks like some time in the 1990's. It has a conversion burner that is rented from the local utility, an economite burner...which apparently is an antique based off what the contractor who serviced my boiler said earlier this year.

The burner has started clicking randomly while running...its heating fine still and running normally during calls for heat. But it has this new random clicking which comes and goes during the cycle. I was going to call the gas company to come take a look at it, since it's their burner...but if the burner is nearing the end of its life, would it be wise to have a heating contractor put in a new conversion burner that would be my own (to get out of the monthly fees)? I'm torn because the boiler is seemingly in decent shape, but is 30 years old, so I'm not sure if I should invest in a new burner now or just keep renting one until its time to replace the boiler, which I anticipate is probably not that far off. If I did buy a new burner, would it be usable with the future new boiler? (I'd imagine a new boiler would probably be one designed for gas and not an oil converted one?)

I probably see myself replacing the boiler in the next few years but am trying to find a good contractor who knows steam and haven't found that person yet. (which is strange as at least half of the houses I looked at last year in Portland had steam systems). If anyone has any recommendations for people who know/like steam in southern Maine, I'd appreciate them!


  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 527
    I would call the gas company and have them fix the burner.

    As for the rest of the steam system, it looks like there are some steam guys in your area.

    tim smith
  • nde
    nde Member Posts: 86
    edited November 2021
    As fellow Mainer your best bet is to read Dans book and tune your own system relative to measuring your EDR, proper main line and rad venting, insulate main pipes, etc. When time for a new boiler put in writing the proper sized boiler based on edr and also specify pipe to manual specifications with threaded black pipe, include skim port. Basically you are the steam expert and need to find a contractor willing to do the work as you specify.

    30 years is a good run so proactively you are correct to at least start thinking about a new boiler. Having said that it could go another 5-10 years if in good shape. In that case I would buy your own conversion burner either riello or carlin ez gas both are proven quality conversion burners. I have used Riello40 gas last 8 or so years and it has never failed or needed repairs.

    When it comes time to replace most gas fed steam systems go with atmospheric since that is all manufacturers make for gas. This type of boiler is called a dry base and is less efficient than a wet base. You cannot run a conversion burner on atmospheric as they just use a series of burner tubes. Wet base has enclosed combustion chamber surrounded by boiler casting and water, in atmospheric the burner tubes sit under the boiler casting which causes extra efficiency loss.

    Having said all that I replaced my oil converted to gas wet based last fall and went with another wet based oil designed boiler fitted with same Riello conversion burner. My contractor services several similar setups and believes for gas steam a wet base running conversion is more reliable and efficient. The downside of conversion wet base setup is noise since they have to run air mixing fan. The noise is similar to oil burner. Atmospheric will be much quieter (so long as not using power venter) but less efficient. One nice thing using oil designed wet base on gas is if say NG goes crazy vs oil on pricing one can swap the burner back to oil.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,517
    what @nde said.

    Don't know if @New England SteamWorks goes that far probably not
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,752
    edited November 2021
    Have them fix their burner or replace. Leases on burners are usually a good deal. Can’t say for Maine although. You probably still will want a independent for the “system”
    Btw, was just in Portland.for a couple days at end of Sept, beautiful place.
  • Maine04103
    Maine04103 Member Posts: 7
    Ended up calling The gas company, took two service calls as the guy they sent wasn't overly interested in figuring it out... But apparently it was a loose wire rubbing against the fan, or at least that's what he claimed. Seems to have stopped making the noise... So I'll take it for now.

    Definitely like how quiet a gas boiler would be as the location of our current boiler is right under the living room and the noise is pretty noticeable. 

    Still hoping to find someone who knows steam. I tried getting one of the people who's been mentioned on here to service the boiler... He claimed Portland doesn't allow steam boilers anymore and said I'd have to convert the hot water... Which isn't the case as my significant other works for the city and knows the codes.... So I'm not sure what that was about. 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    edited November 2021
    He claimed Portland doesn't allow steam boilers anymore and said I'd have to convert the hot water

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832

    He claimed Portland doesn't allow steam boilers anymore and said I'd have to convert the hot water... Which isn't the case as my significant other works for the city and knows the codes.... So I'm not sure what that was about.

    I think it's obvious- they wanted to sell you a whole new system. What a crook.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service