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Old Steam system, replace with Heat Pump in New England ?

I posted about replacing my old 40 year old Burnham Boiler in strictly steam,but my wife suggested I also look into a Heat pump as well.
I love steam, grew up with it in fact, nothing like that hissing radiator sound when the blizzard is blowing outside. But I no longer can get thermopile boilers I am told, so there goes heat when the power goes out, unless I look into Generators.
I also am not as young as I used to be so hauling heavy air conditioners around, up and down stairs isn't much fun either.
We have a condo in Florida in Tampa and I think it uses a Heat pump (big round unit outside with a fan).Its nice and provides both heat and air conditioning, but other than that know very little about it.
I know it won't have the lasting heat of a radiator, but I want to look into all my options.
BTW its a very small house (called a one and a half) only about 800 square feet and a unheated cellar with a small unheated porch on the side. Very small house built in the 1800's.
So If I was to move away from steam and still have good heat with the addition of air conditioning, what are my options ?

Comments

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,550
    brucem said:

    I posted about replacing my old 40 year old Burnham Boiler in strictly steam,but my wife suggested I also look into a Heat pump as well.
    I love steam, grew up with it in fact, nothing like that hissing radiator sound when the blizzard is blowing outside. But I no longer can get thermopile boilers I am told, so there goes heat when the power goes out, unless I look into Generators.
    I also am not as young as I used to be so hauling heavy air conditioners around, up and down stairs isn't much fun either.
    We have a condo in Florida in Tampa and I think it uses a Heat pump (big round unit outside with a fan).Its nice and provides both heat and air conditioning, but other than that know very little about it.
    I know it won't have the lasting heat of a radiator, but I want to look into all my options.
    BTW its a very small house (called a one and a half) only about 800 square feet and a unheated cellar with a small unheated porch on the side. Very small house built in the 1800's.
    So If I was to move away from steam and still have good heat with the addition of air conditioning, what are my options ?

    Theres a big difference between heat in fla and N E!

    Heat pumps have there place and can do the job most of the time. Here on the eastern end of the isl of long I'll keep my radiators and HW for you said nothing like that hissing radiator sound when the blizzard is blowing outside. Cant take that snow suit, gloves and boots and drape them over a heat pump!

    Go Hybrid or Dual Fuel. A/C and heat pump for 80 -90% of the time, Steam for the Blizzard times and when that heat pump is waiting on parts!
  • brucem
    brucem Member Posts: 44
    I realize FLA and MA are quite different, but I'm trying to look at all my options.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,447
    I'd say unequivocally to keep the steam. Where are you located? New England is a pretty big place, and there are locations along the south coast where it is possible that a really good (read: lots of cash) heat pump can keep up on the coldest nights. But only along the south coast. Even the best heat pumps pooh out at about zero, and most of them struggle with outside temps below about 5 -- and even if they can keep up, their efficiency drops to the point where they are more expensive to run than fuel fired boilers.

    Further, as you ably point out, nothing beats a nice warm radiator for comfort. People who have neat pumps usually find that they run the house 5 to 10 degrees warmer (with corresponding increased energy use) to feel as comfortable.

    So. Keep the steam. Find someone -- or work on it yourself -- to make sure it is working as well as it can, and also find someone to clean and tune the boiler for best efficiency. Install a heat pump if you want; they are good for the shoulder seasons and, of course, air conditioning, but don't expect it to be the real heat source in colder weather.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 809
    edited October 2022
    If you have gas available, you can get a heat pump with gas backup. That's what I had installed when I had my house built in the late 80s in Saratoga County, NY, near Albany. At the time the heat pump was only good to around 40F (if I remember correctly). We usually shifted over to the "emergency heat" when the temperature got in the below 50ish at night range and ran it that way all winter without any problems.

    I haven't checked out any cost comparisons lately, but since my system has worked with very little repairs over the 34 years, my inclination would be to find a heat pump that can go lower.

    Some number of years ago I found stuff on the internet that someone in VT was trying to develop a low temperature heat pump (not a mini-split). I haven't pushed on that rope for years.

    If there is a heat pump that will go lower than what I have, I am tempted to see if just the heat pump can be replaced, keeping the original gas setup and end up saving money. Contractors probably would want to have nothing to do with that idea.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,756
    Keep the steam. Put in a heat pump if you want, but keep the steam. I'm sure your wife would not like the drastically reduced comfort from a heat pump.

    I think the low-temp heat pump you referred to was the Acadia, which is long out of production, IIRC due to reliability issues.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,008
    Heat pumps can handle your needs especially in a house that size. It’s also the way to get AC. Keep the steam as backup, won’t cost anything. The cost difference between AC and a HP is minuscule, it’s an easy call. 
  • brucem
    brucem Member Posts: 44
    I think dual fuel was mentioned. Retired and having two systems for a small 800 SQ foot house seems a bit over the top. Location is 20 miles north of Boston on the coast.
    Other problem is people that actually know steam systems. As great as they are no one I know actually diagnose problems they just replace parts until it works. My next door neighbor who installed the whole system over 40 years ago had a stroke and I talked to him today. He said basically the same thing. Its a slowly dying art. Steam is still good I like it myself, but I'm a bit biased too.
    I put two calls into my service guy and not even a call back, service on anything just ain't what it used to be. Neighbor said either Weil-McLain or Peerless would both be good choices.
    I thought geothermal heat Pump would be good too, but there is so much ledge here, I'd have better luck finding gold than putting a Geothermal unit in here.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,008
    I thought geothermal heat Pump would be good too, but there is so much ledge here, I'd have better luck finding gold than putting a Geothermal unit in here.
    Way too expensive for a house that size unless it’s a tent :). How much fuel did you use last year? Gas or oil? 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,447
    In that location, you might be able to get by with a heat pump designed for cold temperatures and sized generously to your heat loss, possibly with resistance backup heat. It's going to cost you to run it, and it won't be as comfortable, but... you might get by.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • brucem
    brucem Member Posts: 44
    Sounds like I should hopefully get a cheap fix on the boiler I have, and then get a heat pump for when I need it and get air conditioning as a bonus. Just need to find that leak. Tomorrow I will fill it up to the top of the glass viewing tube and look for leaks .
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,946
    edited October 2022
    I have retired to South Carolina. My home has a heat pump. I hate it! Even with the low temperatures in the south being much higher than where I'm from, I just can't get comfortable in January. I am thinking of a way to add radiators but I live in a house that is built on a concrete slab. They don't do perimeter insulation here.... Go Figure!

    If you install a HP in NE, You will be spending more time in FL in Jan.
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,086
    brucem said:

    Just need to find that leak. Tomorrow I will fill it up to the top of the glass viewing tube and look for leaks .

    you need to fill higher than the top of the sightglass,
    you want to fill the entire boiler, and up into the risers going to the header,
    avoid flooding the entire mains system,
    time what it takes to fill the inch or 2 to your top of glass, then calculate the time to fill the boiler,
    or usually you can feel the risers cool down as water reaches that desired height,
    let that full boiler sit for an hour or 2 then check under for leaks / wet,
    don't forget to drain back down to 1/2 a sightglass,
    known to beat dead horses
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,550
    Fill the boiler until the header gets cold. 
  • brucem
    brucem Member Posts: 44
    OK got some covers off, heres what I found.






  • rconkling
    rconkling Member Posts: 49
    I installed a Daikin Fit in my 900sq ft house in St Louis. I absolutely love it.

    My only regret is not sizing it big enough to use it in the depths of winter.

    I got a 2T system with a gas furnace for back up heat.

    Would have required a 4T, maybe more, to eliminate the back-up heat source.

    Their efficiency drops the colder it gets outside. But with the proper accessories, its rated to -5*F.
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 299
    Is that water leaking down from there? Are those 4 long metal plates covering the flue gas passageways? I'm just curious.
  • brucem
    brucem Member Posts: 44
    Yep thats water allright. Not sure about the rest. I'm wondering whats that what looks like cement covering the joints?