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American Radiator Co No. 1 Ideal Redflash Boiler | Update or Replace? [Photos]

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Globalksp
Globalksp Member Posts: 31
TLDR: Old, intact, operative boiler system. Update or replace considering I want to keep the hot water radiators?

Photos: https://imgur.com/a/6Xabo6S

Recently purchased and moved into a c. 1915 home with dual zone, central AC as well as a gas fired, American Radiator Co No. 1 Ideal Redflash Boiler.

We haven't yet spent a winter in this home mind you. Had little contact with the sellers prior to purchase and so have little info about the boiler system aside from the home inspector saying it was in good shape and that he was told they had it maintained every year. Tried calling a bunch of HVAC companies to see if they had their account, but no luck. Few HVAC contractors and companies in the area deal with boilers (I've asked). Because of this, I'm wanting to educate myself as best I can before committing to a contractor who may be inexperienced and/or less than enthusiastic to come out and give me an honest assessment. So here we are.

Here's what I know:
  • Boiler info as stated above.
  • Connected to Lennox digital communicated HVAC system; boiler is switched on/off via the Lennox tablet controllers.
  • Hot water radiator system kept at or below 12PSI (see photo with pressure gauge marking)
  • Pilot has been kept on all summer. Pilot was ripping.
  • With no one in the home, we used 47 THM's of natural gas. Hot water heater and this pilot were the only things burning.
  • I've reduced the flow to the pilot so it burns less, but is still able to ignite quickly should the heat accidentally be turned on. This is the flame you see in the photo.
  • Sellers lived in the home for 23 years and used this as their only source of heat, so I assume it works.
Here's what I'd like to know:
  • Pilot
  • Why is/should it be left on during the summer? If it can be shut off, how do I also shut off the flow to the burner to avoid gassing my family? The shutoff valve to burner gas line won't turn.
  • First use
  • Is it as simple as turning the heat on and letting it rip and see what happens?
  • Or, is it wiser to call a contractor to inspect / maintain the system.
  • What should be checked, what maintenance would need to be performed?
  • Updating
  • I've lived with both steam heat and hot water radiator heat in the past and am glad we have this. I'd like to keep this system in place.
  • What could be done to update this boiler to make it as efficient as possible considering its age? What about the system as a whole?
  • I've read elsewhere that since this was originally coal fired, the flueways are probably larger than needed for gas and thus less efficient
  • In the photos you can see some gaps in insulation, joints, etc.
  • Would it be wiser to update this boiler or scrap this one and update to a newer unit?
  • I like old things. I like efficiency. Not sure if I can choose between the two, but safety and a substantial savings on gas $ could sway me.
  • I assume we'll live in this house for at least 5 years, but probably not 10.
Thank you all and sorry for the crap HTML
«1

Comments

  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    Photos here as to not clog up the main post:





















  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,117
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    WOW that is an old one. Probably uses more fuel than necessary because of the efficiency of that burner.

    You may want to put a new boiler in your budget for the next few years. Get an estimate today but know that you don't need it right away.

    Plumbers who advertise Plumbing and Heating will do more boiler work than HVAC contractors.

    That was installed 80 to 100 years ago as a hand fired coal boiler. Some of those controls that are not connected to anything ware to operate the dampers to control the rate for coal burning by opening and closing dampers based on water temperature. Some time in the late 1940's to 1950's that gas burner was added so the customer did not need to tend the boiler daily banking the fire over night and shoveling coal several times during the day.

    I would not b e surprised if that burner is very economical or if it a gas guzzler. If the heating bill is affordable this winter then you can take your time getting the replacement. If it seems too high this winter then you can get it sooner.

    Hope this helps

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    Globalksp
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,894
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    Why is that gas shut off valve partially closed?
    Globalksp
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,633
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    If it was mine and I wasn't going to stay in the house long term I would rip the gas burner out and install a modern Carlin EZ gas burner and update the controls. That is probably a 1930-40s boiler do you know how old the house is
    Globalkspjamplumb
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,904
    edited September 2022
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    There are two other issues:

    1- There does not seem to be any means of controlling the draft, i.e. draft hood or barometric draft regulator. Excessive draft will pull the hot flue gases out of the boiler too quickly, and the heat will just go up the chimney.

    2- The flue passages in this type of boiler are rather large, which was necessary for coal burning but not for oil or gas. On conversion jobs, the Dead Men used to install baffles in these boilers so the hot flue gases would have better contact with the cast-iron, instead of barrelling down the center of the flue passages into the chimney. If you open the upper door on the front of the boiler, you can see if there are baffles or not.

    Both of these issues would reduce efficiency quite a bit.

    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Globalksp
  • ch4man
    ch4man Member Posts: 296
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    I love it and I hate it. Steamhead is right, that beautiful thing was not converted correctly. it needs a barometric or a draft diverter. too much draft is bad but not enough draft can be deadly. IF you can find someone who can properly test the bimetal pilot safety, even if it shuts off the main gas there's no guarantee it will reset. on a cold winter night you just one breakdown form a full replacement.
    good luck
    Globalksp
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,346
    edited September 2022
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    @Globalksp, my heating system is very similar to yours. 1916 house, 1948 Weil McLain boiler, 1965 Midco gas burner, and air over water expansion tank. My gas bills are reasonable. Your Redflash boiler is just one part of your hydronic heating system.
    1. Redflash boiler
    2. 1915 radiators and pipes
    3. Air over water expansion tank
    4. Sonner gas burner (not original to boiler)
    5. Flue/chimney/with concerns
    6. Electric circulator (to circulate water through system)
    7. Controls
    The boiler by itself is simple, and could last many more years. It only needs to be replaced if it leaks. If it were mine, I would keep the Redflash and try to find a pro to replace 4,5 and maybe some of 7.
    Efficiency is only one of many things to consider. Maybe you have relatively cheap natural gas, so payback on a new boiler would be longer or never. Your personal requirements and expectations for your home may differ from other homeowners. How long can you tolerate being without heat?
    • Are you home every night, or do you travel frequently?
    • If you were facing an extended heat outage in January could you winterize your home?
    • Do you have an alternate place to stay?
    • Do you have a competent boiler contractor in your area?
    • Does the contractor know how to use a flu gas analyzer?
    • Does the contractor know how to install and tune a Carlin gas burner?
    The decision to either maintain the existing Redflash boiler or buy new depends on all the above. First steps for you are to buy multiple CO detectors, drain the expansion tank, and fire it up. Suggest you check the Find a Contractor tool on this site.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    I DIY.
    MikeAmannjamplumb
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,346
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    Found some history for the Sonner Burner Company on the Gordon Piatt website.
    "Kern and Bill, being engineers, began thinking about designing gas burners for this expanding market. They became aware of the Sonner Burner Company in Winfield, Kansas, which had been established in 1926 to manufacture upshot atmospheric burners for homes and small commercial buildings.
    These burners required a boiler, most often producing low pressure steam, and a chimney 10 to 20 feet tall to provide the draft to pull the flame and flue gas through the boiler. Tall chimneys were quite common in the early days of burners and combustion, the larger the capacity, the taller the chimney.
    Gordon and Piatt decided to move to Winfield in 1949 to form the Gordon and Piatt Company, which was started in Gordon’s garage. They shortly moved to an old parachute building at Strother Field, an Army Air Corps installation built during the war. During this time, they designed an upshot atmospheric burner which used an all cast iron venturi and slotted head, eliminating the refractory block used by Sonner Burner. They took this burner design to Kewanee Boiler Company, and after many discussions agreed to package the burner into a heavy combustion enclosure to fit under and support the Kewanee “R” series firebox boiler."
    https://www.gordonpiatt.com/the-history-of-gordon-piatt/
    I DIY.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,346
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    more Sonner Burner history:
    "May Cranston Sonner, 83, of 1011 E. 7th died June 29 in William Newton Memorial Hospital. She was born July 27, 1902 in Vici, Okla., to Bert O. and Ethel Vance Barnes.She married, first Frank Cranston Jan. 28, 1921. He died April 4, 1949. She married, second P.J. Sonner Sept. 16, 1951. He died in 1956.
    She moved from Vici to Winfield in 1918. In 1970, she retired as owner and president of Sonner Burner Co"
    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/57138682/may-sonner
    I DIY.
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    edited September 2022
    Options
    WOW that is an old one. Probably uses more fuel than necessary because of the efficiency of that burner. You may want to put a new boiler in your budget for the next few years. Get an estimate today but know that you don't need it right away. Plumbers who advertise Plumbing and Heating will do more boiler work than HVAC contractors. That was installed 80 to 100 years ago as a hand fired coal boiler. Some of those controls that are not connected to anything ware to operate the dampers to control the rate for coal burning by opening and closing dampers based on water temperature. Some time in the late 1940's to 1950's that gas burner was added so the customer did not need to tend the boiler daily banking the fire over night and shoveling coal several times during the day. I would not b e surprised if that burner is very economical or if it a gas guzzler. If the heating bill is affordable this winter then you can take your time getting the replacement. If it seems too high this winter then you can get it sooner. Hope this helps
    Thanks for the reply. 
    Noted on HVAC vs Plumber for finding a professional. 
    EdTheHeaterMan just noticed your signature…fellow South Jersey (Glassboro) transplant here! 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    pecmsg said:
    Why is that gas shut off valve partially closed?
    That line feeds the pilot. When it’s fully open, the pilot flame is very large. I assume the previous owners had it turned down to save gas? 
    The burner still lights with the pilot turned down. I am aware that a large rush of gas could blow the pilot out so I’m a little bit nervous about it as is if we’re being honest. 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    If it was mine and I wasn't going to stay in the house long term I would rip the gas burner out and install a modern Carlin EZ gas burner and update the controls. That is probably a 1930-40s boiler do you know how old the house is
    The home was built in 1915. Noted on the Carlin. Thanks. 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    Steamhead said:
    There are two other issues: 1- There does not seem to be any means of controlling the draft, i.e. draft hood or barometric draft regulator. Excessive draft will pull the hot flue gases out of the boiler too quickly, and the heat will just go up the chimney. 2- The flue passages in this type of boiler are rather large, which was necessary for coal burning but not for oil or gas. On conversion jobs, the Dead Men used to install baffles in these boilers so the hot flue gases would have better contact with the cast-iron, instead of barrelling down the center of the flue passages into the chimney. If you open the upper door on the front of the boiler, you can see if there are baffles or not. Both of these issues would reduce efficiency quite a bit. Where are you located?
    Thanks for the reply.
    Located in Springfield, Missouri.
    Will do my homework on barometric draft regulators. 
    Will also attach a picture of the upper chamber of the boiler to determine if baffles are installed. 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    ch4man said:
    I love it and I hate it. Steamhead is right, that beautiful thing was not converted correctly. it needs a barometric or a draft diverter. too much draft is bad but not enough draft can be deadly. IF you can find someone who can properly test the bimetal pilot safety, even if it shuts off the main gas there's no guarantee it will reset. on a cold winter night you just one breakdown form a full replacement. good luck
    I’m with you on the love hate relationship. 
    As we’re learning with this house, not much was done correctly. It amazes me the incompetency / corner cutting that some folks are ok with. 

    Finding someone is my biggest issue. There aren’t many homes this age in this area anymore and most folks here seem to have converted to forced air. 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,750
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    Is there a pilot safety on that burner? I hope it isn't from the era of "the pilot flame is so big it can't blow out"
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    edited September 2022
    Options
    WMno57 said:
    @Globalksp, my heating system is very similar to yours. 1916 house, 1948 Weil McLain boiler, 1965 Midco gas burner, and air over water expansion tank. My gas bills are reasonable. Your Redflash boiler is just one part of your hydronic heating system.
    1. Redflash boiler
    2. 1915 radiators and pipes
    3. Air over water expansion tank
    4. Sonner gas burner (not original to boiler)
    5. Flue/chimney/with concerns
    6. Electric circulator (to circulate water through system)
    7. Controls
    The boiler by itself is simple, and could last many more years. It only needs to be replaced if it leaks. If it were mine, I would keep the Redflash and try to find a pro to replace 4,5 and maybe some of 7. Efficiency is only one of many things to consider. Maybe you have relatively cheap natural gas, so payback on a new boiler would be longer or never. Your personal requirements and expectations for your home may differ from other homeowners. How long can you tolerate being without heat?
    • Are you home every night, or do you travel frequently?
    • If you were facing an extended heat outage in January could you winterize your home?
    • Do you have an alternate place to stay?
    • Do you have a competent boiler contractor in your area?
    • Does the contractor know how to use a flu gas analyzer?
    • Does the contractor know how to install and tune a Carlin gas burner?
    The decision to either maintain the existing Redflash boiler or buy new depends on all the above. First steps for you are to buy multiple CO detectors, drain the expansion tank, and fire it up. Suggest you check the Find a Contractor tool on this site. https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    Thank you for this and your following replies. All very helpful and informative. 
    Finding a contractor is proving difficult. I’m almost ready to call a distant cousin who spent his life installing and maintaining boilers across the world for US infrastructure (embassies, bases, etc…). 

    I have CO detectors on every floor of the home including the basement. 

    When you say drain the expansion tank and fire it up… expansion tank is the literal tank that’s strapped above and away from the boiler? Drain it and discard the water? Or drain and refill? 
    With these questions alone you should be able to tell that I am approaching this system as a total novice. I enjoy knowing how things work and being able to maintain them myself, however, until I’m proficient at doing so, I understand the risk to both me and my family that my tinkering could cause. 

    • Are you home every night, or do you travel frequently? Home, yes. 
    • If you were facing an extended heat outage in January could you winterize your home? Winterize? Perhaps but would most likely spend time at a relative’s home. 
    • Do you have an alternate place to stay? See above. 
    • Do you have a competent boiler contractor in your area? Not that I have found. This is causing consternation. 
    • Does the contractor know how to use a flu gas analyzer? I now know to ask! 
    • Does the contractor know how to install and tune a Carlin gas burner? Again, they will be asked! 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    mattmia2 said:
    Is there a pilot safety on that burner? I hope it isn't from the era of "the pilot flame is so big it can't blow out"
    Not sure how to go about checking. From my tinkering I’m afraid it may be from that era of “too big to blow out”. 
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,750
    Options
    btw that material sealing up the gap around where the conversion burner is intertied in the ash pit door/draft damper is asbestos furnace cement, there may be a corrugated asbestos paper between the jacket and heat exchanger and the various materials making up the combustion chamber, especially the vermiculite poured in the base of the boiler may contain asbestos. Also various gaskets and door seals.
    Globalksp
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Options
    2- The flue passages in this type of boiler are rather large, which was necessary for coal burning but not for oil or gas. On conversion jobs, the Dead Men used to install baffles in these boilers so the hot flue gases would have better contact with the cast-iron, instead of barrelling down the center of the flue passages into the chimney. If you open the upper door on the front of the boiler, you can see if there are baffles or not.
    I've seen bricks in the fire box to slow things down and have more heat transfer.

    The red Grundfos pump: The shaft is mounted vertically when it should be horizontal.



    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
    Globalkspjamplumb
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,387
    Options
    If you decide to keep it.

    This may be a pilot safety interlock switch.



    If so and it does not work or you do not want to trust it there are options like this.
    SPST Manual Reset Pilot Switch w/ 100% Shutoff & Universal Mounting Plate
    https://www.supplyhouse.com/Baso-Gas-Products-L62GB-3C-SPST-Manual-Reset-Pilot-Switch-w-100-Shutoff-Universal-Mounting-Plate



    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    jamplumb
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    edited September 2022
    Options
    mattmia2 said:

    btw that material sealing up the gap around where the conversion burner is intertied in the ash pit door/draft damper is asbestos furnace cement, there may be a corrugated asbestos paper between the jacket and heat exchanger and the various materials making up the combustion chamber, especially the vermiculite poured in the base of the boiler may contain asbestos. Also various gaskets and door seals.

    Hey thank you for this, @mattmia2. It never crossed my mind that the insulation could have been asbestos, but makes sense as two of the "hot water" pipes coming from the boiler were wrapped in asbestos insulation.
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    edited September 2022
    Options
    109A_5 said:

    If you decide to keep it.

    This may be a pilot safety interlock switch.



    If so and it does not work or you do not want to trust it there are options like this.
    SPST Manual Reset Pilot Switch w/ 100% Shutoff & Universal Mounting Plate
    https://www.supplyhouse.com/Baso-Gas-Products-L62GB-3C-SPST-Manual-Reset-Pilot-Switch-w-100-Shutoff-Universal-Mounting-Plate

    Thanks, @109A_5 Deciding to keep it, yes so thank you for pointing this out. The current plan is to keep the system and replace the burner with a newer version.

    Any chance that pilot safety interlock switch would be "user serviceable" aka could I (who has a decent understanding and experience with working on electronics, but not gas) swap it out?

  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    More photos showing internals and other things talked about above...









  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,346
    edited September 2022
    Options
    Globalksp said:

    When you say drain the expansion tank and fire it up… expansion tank is the literal tank that’s strapped above and away from the boiler? Drain it and discard the water? Or drain and refill?

    Drain and discard.
    Sorry it took me so long to answer your question. The purpose of the tank is to provide a place for the water to expand when it gets hot. Over time, these tanks can become waterlogged, ie no place for hot water to expand into. You will know this is the case when the pressure relief opens (hopefully) and pukes water onto the basement floor.
    I like to drain mine at the start of each season. YOU ARE NOT DRAINING THE ENTIRE SYSTEM, just the tank. There should be a valve between the tank and the boiler. This is the isolation valve which isolates the tank from the rest of the system.
    1. Close isolation valve
    2. Open drain
    3. Drain tank completely
    4. Close drain
    5. Open isolation valve
    You don't want to drain the entire system because fresh water contains oxygen which will corrode your system. It's lasted this long, it would be a shame to kill it now.
    My procedure is a little more complex than the 5 steps above because I have a water softener (softened water bad for boilers) and I try to do a LITTLE (don't want to introduce too much fresh oxygenated water) flushing of other components.
    Tools Needed:
    • Garden hose
    • Adjustable wrench (Valve stem bonnets)
    • 5 gallon bucket
    • Shorter bucket if needed
    • Cold Oktoberfest Beer
    Starting with a cold boiler
    1. Open and date your new CO detector (buy a new one every year)
    2. Replace batteries in previous years detectors
    3. Bypass water softener
    4. Note system pressure
    5. Close isolation valve on tank
    6. Open water supply valve to boiler
    7. Open boiler drain, let out about a gallon, insure valve closes
    8. Open pressure relief valve, let out a gallon, insure valve seats
    9. Open compression tank drain
    10. Drain Tank completely
    11. Close compression tank drain
    12. Open isolation valve
    13. Observe system pressure
    14. Close boiler supply valve when pressure gauge shows desired pressure (me 2 story, 15 psi)
    15. Crack open first Oktoberfest (lots of stair exercise coming so net calories will be zero)
    16. Fire up boiler and set thermostat as high as it will go
    17. Plan to run system for half hour
    18. Open windows
    19. Observe smoke and water vapor from chimney
    20. Bleed radiators
    21. Consume another Oktoberfest
    22. Observe system pressure
    23. Verify valves and drains closed and not dripping
    24. Hop on The Wall and amuse yourself reading stories of 10 YO boilers early demise
    25. Bleed radiators again
    26. Observe smoke and vapor (hopefully less now)
    27. Return thermostat to AC, check that burner is off.
    28. Un-Bypass water softener
    29. Enjoy another week of Indian Summer
    I DIY.
    Globalksp
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    @WMno57 I too take a while to check these boards so no apologies needed. But all the thanks are due. This is invaluable information and I greatly appreciate it. 🙏🏼
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,750
    Options
    If you replace the burner you would have to replace it with a gas power burner, they don't make that type of burner anymore. you would need someone who knows how to set up the burner and adjust combustion and draft. Adjusting that burner or a power burner isn't like adjusting a modern natural draft burner.
    jamplumb
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    mattmia2 said:
    If you replace the burner you would have to replace it with a gas power burner, they don't make that type of burner anymore. you would need someone who knows how to set up the burner and adjust combustion and draft. Adjusting that burner or a power burner isn't like adjusting a modern natural draft burner.
    Noted. Thank you.  
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    Coming back around with an update:

    The long and short of it is that it works. We had an HVAC tech scheduled to come out (not boiler specific, but they “did their homework” and brought a plumber as well), but a cold
    snap hit Missouri three days before the appointment and so I put my faith in the previous owners maintenance and set the thermostat to heat. 

    With a whoosh of combustion, the thing fired up and we’ve been happy campers ever since. I’m rather blown away at how efficient, how much sheer thermal mass there is in that thing, and how quickly and well it heats our 100+ year old home even considering it’s aged and less-than-tuned up condition. 

    I do have some more questions regarding some specifics of the system (how and what to re-insulate on the boiler, what questions to ask when calling plumbers/heating techs to suss out who to hire, adding/connecting radiant floor heat from a cut and capped pipe set that fed a now removed radiator, how to get more heat to some rooms and less to others, replacing radiator shut off valves, etc…), but I’ll save that for other, new posts but will also include them here. 

    Thanks again for all the guidance. 
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,346
    edited November 2022
    Options
    Thanks for the update. Good luck and be safe. Suggest you familiarize yourself with the gas shutoff at your gas meter. Also suggest you keep adjustable wrenches handy and near the shutoffs. Sometimes those old valves don't want to move, and when they are moved, start leaking.
    The one at the meter. If you turn it off, turn it back on slowly. Years ago I turned mine on too quickly and the pressure regulator started leaking. Keep the Gas company phone number on your fridge and cell phone.
    I DIY.
    Globalksp
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,788
    edited November 2022
    Options
    So,

    Were baffles and a barometric damper added to the boiler or is it still being used as is?
    With proper baffles and a barometric efficiency will increase quite a bit and it's not difficult to do.

    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
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    WMno57 said:
    Thanks for the update. Good luck and be safe. Suggest you familiarize yourself with the gas shutoff at your gas meter. Also suggest you keep adjustable wrenches handy and near the shutoffs. Sometimes those old valves don't want to move, and when they are moved, start leaking. The one at the meter. If you turn it off, turn it back on slowly. Years ago I turned mine on too quickly and the pressure regulator started leaking. Keep the Gas company phone number on your fridge and cell phone.
    Great advice, as always. Thank you! 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    ChrisJ said:
    So, Were baffles and a barometric damper added to the boiler or is it still being used as is? With proper baffles and a barometric efficiency will increase quite a bit and it's not difficult to do.
    Still being used as is. Haven’t yet been able to find a qualified boiler tech to even have that conversation with. 
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,387
    Options
    Hello @Globalksp,
    Globalksp said:

    Thanks, @109A_5 Deciding to keep it, yes so thank you for pointing this out. The current plan is to keep the system and replace the burner with a newer version.

    Any chance that pilot safety interlock switch would be "user serviceable" aka could I (who has a decent understanding and experience with working on electronics, but not gas) swap it out?

    "user serviceable", it is possible, age may not be in your favor. Sometimes old things clean up nicely other times they just kind of disintegrate.

    With replacing the burner, the new one may have a safety interlock of its own or electronic ignition.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    Long Beach Ed
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    Options
    109A_5 said:
    Hello @Globalksp,
    Thanks, @109A_5 Deciding to keep it, yes so thank you for pointing this out. The current plan is to keep the system and replace the burner with a newer version. Any chance that pilot safety interlock switch would be "user serviceable" aka could I (who has a decent understanding and experience with working on electronics, but not gas) swap it out?
    "user serviceable", it is possible, age may not be in your favor. Sometimes old things clean up nicely other times they just kind of disintegrate. With replacing the burner, the new one may have a safety interlock of its own or electronic ignition.
    Noted, thanks! 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
    edited November 2022
    Options
    Doing a little late night, very basic efficiency calculations and… it’s not great. 

    Our utility company has a very detailed, daily updated user portal to track and analyze usage. Natural gas is shared with the burner for the boiler, hot water heater, and range. 

    For the past five days, the overnight lows have been in the teens and daytime highs in the low to mid 40’s (Fahrenheit) with cloud cover. 

    The ~2400sqft, two story house is 107 years old with original windows, unfinished attic with dormers, a kitchen addition that is unheated (WHY previous owners?! WHY?! They removed a radiator and replaced it with 6’ of electric baseboard UNDER a bench… ugh) without insulation below the floor, half basement & half uninsulated crawl space, etc etc… 

    Clearly, the home could use some passive efficiency upgrades but it doesn’t feel at all drafty (aside from the kitchen) and will hopefully get those upgrades soon. 

    The average therm usage over the past 5 days was 11.65 which comes to nearly 350 therms for a cold month. Which… seems rather excessive when compared to the average for warm weather (no boiler usage aside from pilot) of 4.8 therms. 

    All that to say by this time next year, I hope that boiler has had the upgrades you all have suggested. 
  • Globalksp
    Globalksp Member Posts: 31
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    ChrisJ said:

    So,

    Were baffles and a barometric damper added to the boiler or is it still being used as is?
    With proper baffles and a barometric efficiency will increase quite a bit and it's not difficult to do.

    Revisiting your comment after rereading it, learning exactly what a barometric damper is, and then looking at my boiler. The boiler does have a barometric damper in place (see photos below), but there's no telling the last time it was calibrated/adjusted/tested.





  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,750
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    Those dampers were used to regulate the coal fire. They opened and closed with chains on pressure to slow and speed up the fire.

    I guess that may be a barometric damper on the vent on the back of the boiler but normally it mounts on the vent pipe or in the chimney and is just a round flap with a counterweight attached to it.
    Globalksp
  • Labenaqui
    Labenaqui Member Posts: 72
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    Just for example, here is an 1890 twin riser Gravity Hot Water Heating System that we recently encountered. Originally coal-fired and subsequently oil outlasting two burners.
    Still operating perfectly, providing absolutely even heating in a two-story home.
    Let's not even consider fuel efficiency ..... the owner's incentive to upgrade!
    SuperTechGlobalksp
  • Albany Chris
    Albany Chris Member Posts: 38
    edited December 2022
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    Big picture - your old house is an absolute energy pig made worse with ill considered "upgrades" like the electric heat in the kitchen. This is no different than the other millions of houses that old in the country. You likely have no insulation at all in your walls. You also have a very inefficient heating plant. These things need to be considered together. It doesn't make sense for example to replace the boiler with a more efficient one of the same capacity and then significantly improve your home's energy efficiency so that your boiler is oversized and then rarely working in its efficient zone. And make sure the new boiler size is based on actual need instead of "rule of thumb" or guesstimates.

    You need to take a bigger picture approach. Make sure the boiler is safe and you have someone you can call in an emergency. Then live with things for a while and pay 2x the average for heating that pig this winter. Learn where the comfort problems in the house are, learn more about your options, and make a plan for improvement. I think your biggest and easiest gains will be more about air sealing (especially the attic), insulating the attic, and figuring a way to get hydronic heating back in that kitchen. I think you will eventually want to replace that cool old boiler - your energy savings will be significant and you recoup most of the capital cost on resale for a net overall gain (and helping the environment for decades to come). With that in mind you may not want to replace the gas burners unless there is a 2 year payback on that.

    I own 12 110 year old houses and have done most of this work myself. I have upgraded most of the old boilers but I do the work myself which saves quite a bit. I actually saved my two old gravity fed boilers so that in case of an extended electrical outage my tenants have a place of refuge, but thats me :).

    In addition to this amazing website, I suggest you hang out at greenbuilding advisor.com to learn more about the energy efficiency side of things. They are also a great community. Pay attention to the info about really old houses, you can't just insulate walls for example that depended on the flow of warm air in the cavities to dry them out. Lots of stuff for free but you will likely want to pay for the more in depth access.
  • scott w.
    scott w. Member Posts: 209
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    From one home owner to another, I would follow Albany Chris's advice and plan to replace that energy pig in the spring to something way more efficient. In the mean time insulate what places you can before the boiler is replaced. If something fails on that old system in the middle of winter and cannot be replaced you are now in a mad scramble to have a replacement done. Many times the home owner will have regrets with a project done in an emergency. Good luck and hope all goes well for you this winter.
    apexmechjamplumb