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replacing oil boiler with a gas or go with Unico type system?

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jpatric12
jpatric12 Member Posts: 5
edited October 2022 in THE MAIN WALL
Rennovation 1896 stonehouse Connecticut

Currently have oversized 17 yo oil boiler. Probably has 3-5 yrs left so Im told. Single pipe steam.

The house is plaster and lathe no insulation and no plans to insulate exterior walls. Just not in our budget to do it properly.

3 floors one thermostat on first fl

Plan on e-coated storms and insulating attic as well as door and window gaps

Very difficult finding a proper steam technician in our area to help out.

My options as of now:

New gas boiler installed

Found a reputable company on this site in thats far away but willing to make the trip out and provide this service to the existing system:

Installation of 1 main vent (Gordon #2) and installation of 10 Maid
o Mist radiator vents. Time and materials included.

Repipe the wet returns to dry return. Time and materials
included.

Cleanout 15-16
Annual Boiler Maintenance and Tune Up


Or abandon the old system and go with Unico/hydronic hot water/ductless minisplit for

I'm leaning towards the Unico. Between having difficulty located a steam tech and the cost in monthly fuel savings. From what I'm being told no matter what you do getting the steam more efficient is tough and would be crazy to invest 15k on what is considered an antiquated system.

I'm being seduced by the zoned HVAC and a more energy efficient system, but concerned about upfront costs and what it's going to install it and install properly. Suggested to remove the chimney?, which is a whole new can of worms

Concerned about whether a ductless mini split could keep a house like this warm in the cold months of southern New England, etc....

Anyway just looking to vent ( pun intended) open to experiences and opinions

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,524
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    Well, to begin -- one of the first rules of the site is no pricing, so if you would be so kind as to edit your post to remove prices...

    Second, steam is hardly antiquated, though it is difficult to find people who care enough to work on it. A good steam system, properly maintained, is within a few percentage points of any other system bar heat pumps in most installations. If the boiler is still running properly -- most importantly, no leaks -- there is no sense in replacing it, though there is a good deal of sense in making sure it has been maintained, and taking the trouble (which really isn't hard) to make sure the rest of the system is in good shape. Replacing it with a new gas boiler will cost you with no recovery in any reasonable time frame; if for some reason you desperately want gas, it may be possible to replace the oil burner with a gas burner. That depends on the existing boiler.

    You mention a couple of projects. Adding new vents may be needed, if the heat is slow to some areas. Adjusting or changing radiator vents will help, if some rooms tend to be too cool or too warm.

    Changing the wet returns to dry returns is just silly, unless you need the space in the basement at floor level for something. If the existing wet returns are rotted, very well, replace them -- you don't want leaks. If they are clogged, flush them out.

    The annual boiler maintenance and adjustment simply isn't optional. if it hasn't been done in a few years, expect the first time maintenance to be more expensive.

    Zoned HVAC and an all new state of the art system like the Unico or another ductless minisplit does have an attractive ring to it. Depending on exactly where you are in Connecticut, it may or may not be able to keep you warm on the colder nights. Even if it does, at the electricity rates in Connecticut it will cost more to run than the existing steam boiler does in the more wintry months. They are nice, agreed, in the shoulder seasons -- say the two fall months and the two spring months. Otherwise... not there yet. In short you would spend a good deal of money with no return and less comfort.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    bburdErin Holohan Haskell
  • jpatric12
    jpatric12 Member Posts: 5
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    Thank you Jaime and I've edited my post.
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,524
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    Please please just one thread on a topic. I confuse real easy.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,383
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    jpatric12 said:

    Currently have oversized 17 yo oil boiler. Probably has 3-5 yrs left so Im told.

    My boiler is 75 YO. Works great!
    jpatric12 said:


    Found a reputable company on this site in thats far away but willing to make the trip out and provide this service to the existing system:

    Do this!
    jpatric12 said:

    Concerned about whether a ductless mini split could keep a house like this warm in the cold months of southern New England

    It won't. But get the Unico anyway. You can use it in the Spring and Fall, and your "antiquated steam system" in the Winter. The best reason to have both is redundancy. Your steam system will heat your home in the Spring and Fall when the Unico fails. Your Unico will keep your pipes from freezing in the Winter if your Steam system fails.
    After several years you will realize that Steam is more reliable, and not antiquated. The money you spent on the Unico will not be wasted because unlike a Steam system, Most MODERN HVAC systems are short-lived junk. Your 10 year old Unico will be near or past its expiration date. It's like a gallon of milk, if you don't drink it fast enough, you just dump it and buy another.
    I DIY.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,932
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    WMno57 said:

    jpatric12 said:

    Currently have oversized 17 yo oil boiler. Probably has 3-5 yrs left so Im told.

    My boiler is 75 YO. Works great!
    jpatric12 said:


    Found a reputable company on this site in thats far away but willing to make the trip out and provide this service to the existing system:

    Do this!
    jpatric12 said:

    Concerned about whether a ductless mini split could keep a house like this warm in the cold months of southern New England

    It won't. But get the Unico anyway. You can use it in the Spring and Fall, and your "antiquated steam system" in the Winter. The best reason to have both is redundancy. Your steam system will heat your home in the Spring and Fall when the Unico fails. Your Unico will keep your pipes from freezing in the Winter if your Steam system fails.
    After several years you will realize that Steam is more reliable, and not antiquated. The money you spent on the Unico will not be wasted because unlike a Steam system, Most MODERN HVAC systems are short-lived junk. Your 10 year old Unico will be near or past its expiration date. It's like a gallon of milk, if you don't drink it fast enough, you just dump it and buy another.
    This.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
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    I'm not a pro, but I have an oil boiler and single pipe steam. I would imagine installing the Unico system, which I know nothing about, would be expensive. Are you going to have to rip up the floors and/or ceilings to install all those air ducts? If you go with forced hot water, you'll have to do the same thing right? I wouldn't consider using the existing steam pipes for that...If you can get your boiler to work well, I would ride that thing out until it dies...Too bad that it's oversized.
    jpatric12 said:

    Plan on e-coated storms and insulating attic as well as door and window gaps...Installation of 1 main vent (Gordon #2) and installation of 10 Maid
    o Mist radiator vents...Suggested to remove the chimney?

    I've heard sealing up the foundation sill can have a short payback as well. I'm thinking about asking someone to come by in November with an infrared camera and blower door to help us identify the air leaks we can patch.

    I have Maid O Mist radiator vents. This is a DIY job. No need for a contractor, just a good quality roll of Teflon/PTFE tape. I like this one: https://oatey.com/products/harvey-ptfe-thread-seal-tape--702373140?upc=078864175400. Made in the US, thicker and better quality than the stuff imported from Asia. Get the vents that come with the set of removable orifices. Part number 02205Lhttps://ebay.com/p/1500474452 Makes balancing the system easier. And read this: https://heatinghelp.com/assets/documents/Balancing-Steam-Systems-Using-a-Vent-Capacity-Chart-1.pdf. Replacing the main vent might also be a DIY job. I'm concerned a single Gorton #2 might not be enough though. As for the chimney, it's important to have it inspected and/or swept if you haven't done that already. Is there some kind of metal liner? Does it have terracotta tiles or is it completely unlined?

  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 2,333
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    Please please just one thread on a topic. I confuse real easy.

    I've merged these two posts.

    President
    HeatingHelp.com