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Confusion over new boiler sizing

Jim_X
Jim_X Member Posts: 10
Hey Everyone,

My Burnham IN4 decided to start leaking steam this winter and a check confirmed its leaking above the water line. I measured the radiators and ended up with 182sqft of radiation. The previous homeowner removed the radiator from the bathroom but based off the other rooms I assume it was probably 16sqft more before.

That being said, the IN4 is rated for 271sqft! That's about 37% oversized before the bathroom radiator was removed and almost 49% oversized for what is in place now.

The single pipe system is wrapped in asbestos in good repair. The venting needs work, and the near boiler piping is crap as well. After our second child we ended up qualifying for heating bill assistance and also assistance replacing the boiler through MassSave and HUD under the HEARTWAP program. I was informed that I can't pick the contractor and they will choose the lowest bidder. They won't even tell me what contractors they use. I will end up paying out of pocket, which is fine, to have a good contractor come in.

I am afraid they will replace with another IN4 or larger, that they will pipe in poorly, and I know they won't care about the venting. My boss argued with me about my steam heat, trying to say I need a boiler twice as large due to heat loss through the walls, even though steam boilers aren't sized that way...and others are in the same boat because none of them have steam or understand it.

That being said, the Weil-Mclain EG/PEG-30 seems to be a perfect fit for my house. It's rated for 196sqft of steam, DOE 62k btu, and NET 47k btu. My system clocks in at 43,680 btu and 58k btu with the 1.33 pickup factor.


Am I on the right track?


Comments

  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 186
    Have you tried the contractor locator tool on this website? I do believe there may be some guys on the wall who are in your area.
    MaxMercyLS123
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    I have, @GGross , but none super close to Haverhill. I did reach out to @New England SteamWorks and he has been pretty honest with me about what MassSave and HUD might do. Hoping to get a quote so I know where I stand if I have to pay out of pocket.
    GGross
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144
    " assistance replacing the boiler through MassSave and HUD under the HEARTWAP program. I was informed that I can't pick the contractor and they will choose the lowest bidder. They won't even tell me what contractors they use. I will end up paying out of pocket, which is fine, to have a good contractor come in."

    At some risk of being labelled cynical, I dare say you will pay more in the long run for the boiler installed by the lowest bidder under MassSave With the lowest bidder, you get exactly what you pay for.

    Haverhill is probably a bit of a stretch for either @New England SteamWorks or @Charlie from wmass , but you will get the best job from one of those two -- at an honest price.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    I agree, @Jamie Hall , but I was told I can't use the regular MassSave program because my daughter dropped us into another category. My wife wants to take the free money and I would rather pay my own way.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144
    Jim_X said:

    I agree, @Jamie Hall , but I was told I can't use the regular MassSave program because my daughter dropped us into another category. My wife wants to take the free money and I would rather pay my own way.

    Um... well, just remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch -- and in heating particularly, you have a choice of paying now or paying later...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    MaxMercyCanucker
  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 291

    You would think the state would be more interested in fuel waste than picking nits on price when it comes to installing a new heating plant..

    109A_5
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,327
    I tried to do work for government paid programs. They were nothing but aggravation. The homeowner was getting something for free. the State did not want to pay for the job for several months and you had to jump thru too many hoops to get it. No up front money for material. It was just not worth it for the low profit margin. I dropped that program after 2 years of utter nonsense. My company was never big enough to be able to handle that type of work. I let my competition do that stuff.

    If one of my good customers really needed to use that program, I would recommend a larger company that I was friendly with. They would let me have the customer back after the 1 year warranty was over. They also sent me some steam jobs they did not want. One hand washes the other.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    MaxMercyPC7060Larry Weingarten
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,139
    @Jim_X

    If your wife "wins" this one be sure to nag her for the next 20 years or however long the boiler lasts :):)
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 155
    Hello @Jim_X,

    You seem to have done more research than the average homeowner. Here is an idea, maybe not a good one for you, but I'm going for it, since I don't know. Put the boiler in yourself. I believe @ethicalpaul did his own, and he did an exceptional job with extras. Do the research, read the manual online for the boiler you like. Maybe @ethicalpaul could advise you a bit as to how he did it and what tools would be needed. You could always sell the tools when done if you don't want to keep them. You probably would save money and get the boiler you want and piped the way you want it. This is the right time of the year, no hurry. Many YouTube videos for additional research also.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    BobCEdTheHeaterMan
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 457
    I'll add to what @109A_5 said. I'm in a similar boat as you though my boiler isn't leaking...it's just old. 40 years old this year and roughly 50% oversized. My near-boiler piping is also a mess. I got a quote from a very reputable steam company for a new properly sized boiler and new near boiler piping. The quote was fairly priced....but I keep wondering if I can do most of the work myself.

    I think I can re-pipe the boiler and a fix few other spots myself. I have a plumber friend who can install the boiler for me and pull the permits. Not sure if you're interested in going this route but you could probably save 50% on the job by doing it almost by yourself.
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    Oh, I know I can do the work myself. It would take me much, much longer. I don't have the tools, but I have no problem tackling plumbing, electric, or carpentry. I'm a full time upholsterer (and dad) so I also know how many people say they would do it themselves but they're busy or whatever.

     Replaced the motor in the power vent two years back. Replaced the hot water heater. Tore down the kitchen ceiling to replace the leaky bathroom plumbing.... Idk. Just annoyed. I did just catch COVID so I can look more into it. 
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    Also, what are everyone's thoughts on used boilers? I assume most ones people are selling are probably rotted out and they just want them gone. 
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,953
    Jim_X said:

    Also, what are everyone's thoughts on used boilers? I assume most ones people are selling are probably rotted out and they just want them gone. 

    No Way

    That thing is too damn heavy to remove and reinstall. New with warranty!
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    Confirmation
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,066
    edited June 3
    Find your own contractor and get the WM EG-30 installed.
    It'll be far less headache in the end.

    Of course, if you're good with your hands there's always the chance you could do it on your own. Assuming it's legal in your area, I'm not sure where you are or what the rules are.

    You're off to a good start learning about the system and I feel you brought up some good and very real concerns.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 155
    About your boiler sizing numbers. The boiler here is rated at 300 SQ. FT. My EDR survey was 347, a few radiators were estimated since the exact radiator size was not in the chart I used. The house is a bit less than 1500 SQ. FT with 9 radiators. Some insulation and the house envelope could be improved reducing drafts. Even when it is below zero Fahrenheit outside I bet I could make it 80 in here if I wanted to.

    If you change out the boiler yourself, you also get to keep the scrap value of the old boiler and can have fun busting it up for removal. I would not recommend a used boiler, too many unknowns and probably no warranty. I would think the hardest part of a boiler swap is getting the new one into the house (although each situation may be different).

    Also I think I would want to better understand (if possible) why your boiler failed that way? To maybe avoid the new one failing the same way and / or prematurely. Is your present boiler very old, is there too much fresh water being added (some other leak), etc.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    @109A_5 from what I've read these Burnham independence boilers like to rot out. It was 18 years old, only warrantied for 5-10, there were leaks when I moved in. Plus the oversized boiler was causing issues. Once it was leaking a bit I had to keep running it to keep the house warm.. had to keep filling it weekly
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 155
    @Jim_X OK, Burnham independence boilers may have a rot problem, I was under the impression they often failed where the sections are seamed together and rot as you pictured was often caused by Ph problem or an overabundance of fresh water (oxygen) introduced into the system (as far as a Steam systems go).
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,327

    @Jim_X

    If your wife "wins" this one be sure to nag her for the next 20 years or however long the boiler lasts :):)

    @EBEBRATT-Ed has not read that book about how to win friends and influence people. OR he spends a lot of time in the doghouse.
    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    In_New_EnglandLarry Weingartenbucksnort
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 743
    If you do do the job (no pun intended), some boilers have to be assembled on site. One you decide on which make and model you want, you can probably download or at least view the installation manual. Make sure you know what you are getting into. I am very comfortable with pipes and valves and reasonably simple electrical projects, but I would not assemble a boiler on my own.

    Depending on where you live, you may be required to have any one of a number of permits/inspections.

    HH guys near you are better suited to answer those questions.


  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    Well the state hasn't called back yet... surprise, surprise.  Looking forward to the day this piping is done properly! Years of wet steam. Also, a local "steam guy" has been servicing the boiler for years but there's nowhere to skim from.....

    Large main is for single pipe parallel, small main on right is single pipe counter flow to the bathroom. That was capped off behind the wall by the previous owner...water lines go up the same spot so no frozen pipes....
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 155
    You may have been able to skim from that tapping where the pressure relief valve is. Replace the elbow with a tee, a nipple and a ball valve, etc.. May not have been optimum, but it may have gotten the job done. Apparently too late now.

    You certainly have room, you probably could build yourself a nice drop header and maybe reuse some of the old pipe.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • Tim_D
    Tim_D Member Posts: 72
    Never use the DOE rating to select a boiler. Use the Net AHRI rating. An EG 30 produces 196 sqft of steam.
  • DoubleBoiler
    DoubleBoiler Member Posts: 3
    edited June 9
    Definitely reach out to Ryan at @New England SteamWorks I am in North Andover and they gave me a quote to replace 2 boilers in our new 2-Family. So Haverhill is right next door.

    I would just double check with MassSave (or maybe don't bring it to their attention) but I was told that as of the 1st of this year they will no longer provide any rebates or even provide financing for steam boilers. I am not income qualified so maybe that program is a little different and will allow steam boiler replacements. But Ryan was great even though I didn't end up proceeding as without the MassSave help I couldn't justify the cost of the 2 boilers. Hopefully in a couple of years I will have enough saved up to replace the old snowmen and when I do they're who I plan on having do it.
  • johnfaccio
    johnfaccio Member Posts: 9
    The existing boiler. Is piped incorrectly do not pipe new boiler the same way
  • wam525
    wam525 Member Posts: 18
    So i may be a bit naive, but what's the downside of having a slightly oversized boiler? It may cycle on and off more frequently and maybe use a bit more oil, but it's not like being undersized, where it will run continually.
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 457
    @wam525 wear and tear on moving components, potentially higher pressures than a properly sized boiler, fuel use. A properly sized boiler will run in ounces, an oversized one will build pressure until the Pressuretrol shuts it down. That would be at 2psi or higher which may stress out ancient pipes and radiators if something is getting close to leaking.
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 155
    @wam525, My boiler here is rated at 300 SQ. FT. My EDR survey was 347, (probably considered undersized) even when below zero Fahrenheit it does not run continuously. I would say easily less than 50 % duty cycle. Probably pay more attention to it next Winter and / or electronically monitor it more (since I am more curious now).

    Also an oversized boiler costs more initially and costs more to replace.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    ChrisJethicalpaul
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,066
    109A_5 said:

    @wam525, My boiler here is rated at 300 SQ. FT. My EDR survey was 347, (probably considered undersized) even when below zero Fahrenheit it does not run continuously. I would say easily less than 50 % duty cycle. Probably pay more attention to it next Winter and / or electronically monitor it more (since I am more curious now).

    Also an oversized boiler costs more initially and costs more to replace.

    Mine is rated for 325sqft and it's connected to 392sqft.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • wam525
    wam525 Member Posts: 18

    @wam525 wear and tear on moving components, potentially higher pressures than a properly sized boiler, fuel use. A properly sized boiler will run in ounces, an oversized one will build pressure until the Pressuretrol shuts it down. That would be at 2psi or higher which may stress out ancient pipes and radiators if something is getting close to leaking.

    Good points, but can't one just set the vaporstat to cut off as a low pressure?
    I'm not saying it's a good idea, since it clearly costs more, but if one has one too big, i don't see why it can't be set properly. One could drive a Ferrari in the inner city in school zones---not smart, but it still drives fine at low speeds.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,144
    wam525 said:

    @wam525 wear and tear on moving components, potentially higher pressures than a properly sized boiler, fuel use. A properly sized boiler will run in ounces, an oversized one will build pressure until the Pressuretrol shuts it down. That would be at 2psi or higher which may stress out ancient pipes and radiators if something is getting close to leaking.

    Good points, but can't one just set the vaporstat to cut off as a low pressure?
    I'm not saying it's a good idea, since it clearly costs more, but if one has one too big, i don't see why it can't be set properly. One could drive a Ferrari in the inner city in school zones---not smart, but it still drives fine at low speeds.
    Yes, of course you can do that. However, there is a hit on efficiency unless the vapourstat is set so that the off interval is short. A better approach to a truly oversized boiler is to hold it off for a few minutes -- 10 is a number I've heard -- after it reaches pressure. Your comment regarding the Ferrari in a school zone is interesting... unless you use different plugs they will foul in short order. You will need to change the engine oil more often (it never will warm up properly). And so on. Different problems, of course, but still not what one should do to the poor thing.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 206
    Over-sizing a steam boiler comes with all kinds of issues. velocity of the steam leaving the boiler being the biggest and baddest issue. And you really don't want to find out the hard way. remember its a steam system, its not just about the boiler. when designed correctly its works like a charm.

    When the original installers set up the system. It all matches. Piping is sized to handle the correct amount of steam to each and every pipe, fitting, and radiator. Its not just thrown together. when you decide to increase the amount of steam its going to change the dynamics of the system.
  • dmsanborn
    dmsanborn Member Posts: 2
    For the HEARTWAP program DHCD requires that a steam load be done on existing radiators in the home at the time of replacement. All the main and radiator vents should also be changed at the time of install. They have to approve each job prior to awarding it to the contractor and the same for National Grid as they also fund part of the job. As for the equipment they bid according to what manufactures the supply house carries. Most use Granite Group, Webb, or Portland Group in the Haverhill area. The work is always QC'd by the agency and most time by DHCD also.
  • Jim_X
    Jim_X Member Posts: 10
    @Tim_D I have 182ft of radiation. the eg-30 should be perfect

    @johnfaccio I know. the header is wrong in so many ways