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Consulting for Heating Systems

JohnNY
JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
I enjoy my consulting work.
Most of my clients tell the same story: I've had (4, 5, 6, plumbers, HVAC guys, contractors, my architect/engineer, etc) look at my heat and I've spent all kinds of money on their recommendations and the problem is still here.
It seems calling my company is the last resort.
I enjoy helping people and I get paid well for it, but sometimes I just want to cry.

How does this happen? A beautiful new gut renovation where the design included taking out all but 2 free-standing cast iron radiators and replacing 12 with Steamview wall hung units. I like Steamview but in this case, using them made the boiler 200% oversized. No EDR calculation or conversion to size the new heat emitters of course. The contractor also installed a beautiful new slate floor over 100 year old partially clogged, buried return pipes. Insert facepalm emoji here.



Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
Consulting & Troubleshooting
Heating in NYC or NJ.
Classes

Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,692
    Is the system not working properly I assume?

    I'm honestly shocked they even kept the steam given that it was a gut job.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
    edited December 2021
    KC_Jones said:

    Is the system not working properly I assume?

    I'm honestly shocked they even kept the steam given that it was a gut job.

    Good point.
    No, the system is spraying water from the radiator vents, bangs like heck...they added branches and eliminated a return line. I didn't get fully into the issues here since I don't want to reveal too much of my client's home but it's a mess. I'm sure it didn't used to be, but now it is.

    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,692
    So, I'm genuinely curious about these situations. Does the homeowner have any recourse back against the original contractor that created the problem, financially speaking that is. Obviously that contractor isn't welcome back to the house anymore, at least I hope not.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    Rich_49
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
    Yes. Most often there is at least some retainage that the customer gets to bargain with, but in other cases it becomes a Contractors' liability insurance or the Engineers' Errors & Omissions policy issue. It's hard to watch. As a consultant I'm sometimes deposed or called to testify for one side or the other.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,690
    In reality it comes down to who can afford the lawyer(s).
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,307
    Unfortunately it will only get worse.

    When all of us old timers are gone steam could well be dead. There won't be anyone left that knows how to work on it.

    :) They will use the old steam lines for conduit to pull pex through LOL
    MikeAmann
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 754
    When I was transferred back to Philadelphia in the later 80's I bought an 1810 federal in center city. The heating system (it's first) had been installed back around 1900. Most of it was was intact -- but, there were bits and pieces/ parts and a couple radiators in the basement. It was hot water and did not work very well .. the previous owner had installed a new boiler and "upgraded" the basement piping about 10 years before. The people who did the boiler said the system was "too old" and needed to be updated ... got about the same from two other attempts. It was only lack of time and money (mostly the latter) that stopped me from ripping it all out and starting over. This was a three story with an addition on the back ... place was big. To make a long story short .... I was visiting a friend from college out on the "Main Line" where I went to school and as luck would have it he was having his heating system serviced. The old guy (I was 20's so everybody was old) working on his house had worked in the city and knew not only my block .. but, my house from 30 odd years before. He came and knew what everything was -- put the old radiators in the basement back and the "parts" and got it going w/ new smaller boiler. When I bought a house in Chestnut Hill he was still alive (in his 80's) ... traded dinner for him and his wife in one of the better places for a consult. If people did not understand these systems 30+ years ago ... it's not a surprise.
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490
    I wish they had called you first, John. 
    Retired and loving it.
    mattmia2
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    Proving once again that you can't fix stupid...............
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    MikeAmannJohnNY
  • MikeAmann
    MikeAmann Member Posts: 983
    Yup, new & improved - right into a hardly functional giant steaming pile of ____.
    But the room looks pretty though..........


  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,208
    My experiences were often that clients want miracle solutions and will not pay for the truth.
    Hired the cheapest or the guy with biggest mouth. Then they find me in yellow pages.
    Apology in advance for breaking no price rule. Request $100 retainer and phone call is abbreviated.
    delcrossvAlan (California Radiant) Forbes
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
    $100? I charge a lot more than that. But I hear you.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 880
    I was always amazed at how little the the educated engineers and even most of the steam system consultants knew about older steam systems. A good working steam system is more than a large boiler with a bunch of pipes and rads that get hot. It was never my choice to visit a completed job and tell all the educated that "it will never work" and that you should have asked an old steam guy about the changes you made before you made the changes. A wise old man once told me that "there is never enough money to do a job right the first time but there is always enough money to do it over and make it right".
    MikeAmann
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
    $100? Aside from a little writing, design/consulting is all I do. I give a tight estimate on the number of hours the project will require, and then require half of that as a down payment. If I’m investing my time in someone, I expect them to invest in me. 
    Steve Minnich
    JohnNY
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    In later years, more than 30% of the service work I performed was fixing defective systems. Many were less than 5 years old and most were in homes that cost well over $1 million to build. The trend to install low cost systems dominated the market and hasn't changed. As the shortage of highly trained mechanics increases, it's sad to see that there is such a gap in skills. Most techs aren't able to use heat loss software or use a combustion analyzer. I hope there's enough "Old-Timers" left to fix the problems others can't.
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,208
    JohnNY said:

    $100? I charge a lot more than that. But I hear you.

    That's to get prospect to phone somebody else. In the seventies hundred bucks was worth driving to site to have a look. But many wanted first meeting for free. Also there's worry that you're being setup to be called as witness. Amazing how desperate some owners are.
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,214
    I don't think the word is desperate..... its cheap! I do a lot of consulting too (and charge for it, people who want "free estimates" can go elsewhere). With one pipe systems most are suffering from the same problems, oversized incorrectly installed boilers, often with no secondary safety controls, inadequate main venting, missing pipe insulation and incorrectly set up thermostats. With two pipe, and here in Chicago nearly all two pipe systems were vapor/ vacuum except those with vacuum pumps, and most have had condensate pumps, boiler feed pumps and "master traps" added by "old timers" that didn't know what they were working on. We stopped keeping the unnecessary used condensate pumps we pulled out years ago... no place to store them all.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.