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Am I hiring the right guy?

trivetman
trivetman Member Posts: 104
Hi all -

Homeowner and longtime (since I bought a giant size house with a giant size steam boiler) lurker of this forum here. I'm looking to get my Steam boiler replaced as it's showing signs of corrosion/leakage on the bottom and it's close to 40 years old. it's also piped completely wrong so it'll be nice to hopefully get a quieter system in without all the water hammer.

There's not many people in my area who claim steam expertise (and none on the 'find a contractor' link). I do have someone working on a quote who I am pretty sure knows what he's doing and I've had him do minor piping repair over the past few years with all good results.

Despite my best efforts to educate myself, it's really hard to know what to ask to make sure this is going to go well. My guy does have a website with a gallery of his work. As far as I can tell, the steam systems look like they're piped right. I'm posting a few pics here. Does everything look good? Any warning signs?




Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 4,913
    I'm guessing that these pictures are not YOUR heating system. These are from the contractor's website? They look like they are correctly piped. You might want to ask the contractor is they believe that a drop header might help reduce the noisy operation you are experiencing.
    Edward Young Retired HVAC Contractor & HYDRONICIAN Services first oil burner at age 16 P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
    Intplm.Long Beach Ed
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 663
    Ask him if your new system would benefit from larger 2.5" to 4" pipe. Ask him how he would cut and thread that size pipe.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    edited October 2022
    Correct.  Those are pics from the contractors website.  And I'm very happy to hear there's no warning signs there.  I was pretty sure this guy knows what he's doing and your feedback just reinforces the thought.

    Here's a couple pics of the monstrosity I'll be replacing.  Do you love the 2" header piping?  It's been noisy as anything but it has kept the house warm since well before I've been here.

    Oh...and before you guys ask.  All the asbestos underneath that duct tape on the piping has already been safely removed.  These pictures are old.


     .
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    I would make sure he plans on bringing the mains into the header individually instead of using the tee you have now.

    Also verify they are going to size it properly. If you want help with that we could help you do the simple calculations as a double check. Even on properly installed boilers we see on here sizing can still be an issue, and it's not something you want to get wrong.

    Your current boiler is huge, but that doesn't mean you need one that big. We've seen some grossly oversized boilers around here, and it drives me nuts because it's not that hard to get it right.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    edited October 2022
    Thanks KC.  Cutting out that tee was already mentioned by the contractors assistant who I talked to.


    The house is also huge (4500 sqft - 3 floors) so the boiler may not be as oversized as it seems.  I did some calculations a couple years ago and came up with around 590 EDR.  Hopefully I measured right.  With the service factor that translates into around 185K btu of output.  Taking into account boiler efficiency,  that means the required btu input would be somewhere between maybe 240k-325k?  Am I anywhere close on my calculations?

    My expiring boiler is 400k btu.  So maybe oversized but is it grossly oversize?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    If your EDR is 590 and it appears your installer favors Weil Mclain, you should be getting at most an EG-65, which has an input of 238,000 BTU, gross output of 198,000 BTU and rated for 621 sq ft steam.

    590*1.33 for pickup =785
    785*240 (btu/EDR)=188,400 BTU needed total

    That said, the EDR number you get can be compared directly to the manufacturers chart that lists the EDR value for a given boiler. The EG-65 is rated up to 621, next size down is rated to 521 so technically too small for your house by current sizing standards.

    Not sure where you are getting up to 240-325 based on 590 EDR.

    https://www.weil-mclain.com/products/eg-series-6-gas-boiler
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    Oh and yes I would consider the current boiler grossly oversized. You are talking somewhere around 130% pick up factor, or 30% pickup factor and then 100% oversized beyond that. It's honestly insane if you are at 590 EDR.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 711
    The first boiler. The riser does not come out of the boiler high enough before he installs the 90. The riser should have been 24" above the expected water line before installing the 90. Don't like copper on the equalizer. And it looks like he put it all together with precut nipples. That explains the somewhat 45 degree angle. Also might indicate no pipe threader and no vision to layout it out and have the supplier cut his nipples.

    Not trying to nitpick and be mean. Just what i see.

    Long Beach Ed
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 2,827
    Both of those job pics are nothing special ,a real pro would have gotten rid of the extra elbows and used both tappings . But he did at least do it in steel . If your home is large then your contractor should use both tappings on the boiler and a over sized header ,dryer the steam the better performance you will get . Be sure that your main venting is upgraded and that the boiler is skimmed and clean of all oils . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    JohnNY
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Not sure where you are getting up to 240-325 based on 590 EDR.
    I had thought that the ~190btu you came up with was boiler output btu. But that needed to be upped to account for boiler efficiency.  If a boiler is losing 40% of its btu heat up the chimney, 190/0.6=315btu input and thats whats on the faceplate.

    am i handling the efficiency calculation wrong?
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    trivetman said:


    Not sure where you are getting up to 240-325 based on 590 EDR.

    I had thought that the ~190btu you came up with was boiler output btu. But that needed to be upped to account for boiler efficiency.  If a boiler is losing 40% of its btu heat up the chimney, 190/0.6=315btu input and thats whats on the faceplate.

    am i handling the efficiency calculation wrong?

    A new Weil Mclain is rated for 82% efficiency, where are you getting 60% efficiency from? Don't assume old means inefficient. I'm not sure I've ever heard of a boiler being that poor (60%) of any age.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    60% was the bottom end of what I thought was reasonable for judging whether my old boiler was way oversized.  Maybe its not a reasonable efficiency figure.

    Regardless if the newer boilers publish both btu input and btu output, I only need to be clear which metric I am looking at.

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    From the link above you don't really need to do BTU at all. You compare EDR directly to the boiler rating.

    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    trivetmandabrakeman
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Thanks all for your comments.  I am looking back and realizing how much guesswork on my part was involved in coming up with that 590 EDR calculation.  

    What information would you need from me to do the EDR calculation?  I really should verify that I am even close!
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    If you want to calculate the EDR there are simple worksheets that usually get you there, Weil Mclain has one that shows different radiator types and sizes. Review that and if the few they have listed match your radiation you can use it to calculate the total. If you can't find a reasonable match, post pics of what you have with height, width and number of sections and someone might be able to help. The picture should be front and end if you post. Here is a link to the Weil Mclain worksheet, start on page 9.

    https://www.weil-mclain.com/sites/default/files/field-file/Weil-McLain_BoilerReplacementGuide_WM2012-web_0.pdf
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 682
    edited October 2022
    DO you have any of Dan Holohans books talking about steam heat??? You should buy several of them from the heating help bookstore to learn more about steam heat.
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 298
    edited October 2022
    @trivetman Non-pro homeowner here. If you're unsure about your EDR calculations, I don't mind looking up radiator ratings in old trade catalogs. It's a little hobby. If you want us to check your math, here's what to do: Please take 2 pictures of each of your radiators, 1 of the front and 1 of the side. Measure the height (yellow) of each radiator and the distance from the center of one section to the center of the next (green), as shown below in the first picture. Look for embossed/engraved writing or symbols on all of your radiators, particularly in the green circled areas as shown in the second picture, and if you find any, take a picture of that as well, even if it's not legible. I (or others on here) may still be able to determine the name of the manufacturer and knowing this is useful. All this information is necessary to accurately calculate the EDR of your radiators, which as others have mentioned is necessary to size your boiler correctly. A few mistakes here and there can add up to the point where you can go down a size or more on your boiler model, which results in lower steam pressures, less short-cycling, potentially higher efficiency, and quieter operation. The pictures below are of tube-type radiators, but the same would apply to the larger column-type radiators. If you have convectors, remove the enclosure cover and take a picture of what's inside, measure the length of the convector, its depth, and the internal height of the enclosure. Save each picture with a name or number. Attach all of the pictures as filesin a single post if possible so everything is organized. List all of the measurements indicating which picture they correspond to. You have a large house with presumably many radiators, so I don't want to make any mistakes.






  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,143
    The 30% pickup factor is probably significantly more than the loss in your piping as well. Being slightly smaller is better than bigger.

    That 3rd boiler looks a little questionable with a huge boiler feeding in to a tiny main. It is important to look at your whole system, especially if you have problems. One very common problem is for things out in the system that need to be below the water line to become above the water line when an older boiler is replaced with a modern boiler with a lower water line which allows steam to get places it isn't supposed to be.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    edited October 2022
    Duplicate post

  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Sure do appreciate everybody's help here. Sure enough, the boiler quote came back with all options at or larger than the one I am replacing. It would be good to get a handle on the right EDR calculation for the house to make sure I know what I am talking about.

    Getting detailed pictures of everything will be a lot as most of them are covered. But they're all similar styles so if I can get confirmation around a couple, it will go a long time. I did look them up in the Weil McClain book, but some approximation was needed. Here's a couple of samples. What do you guys peg the EDR at for these two?

    Radiator 1:
    Length: 55"
    Height (from floor): 25"
    3" column width (center to center)
    18 columns

    Radiator 2:
    Length: 34"
    Height: 25"
    3" column width (center to center)
    11 columns

    No engravings or markings seen







  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    I'd say rad 1 is 48 and rad 2 is 30

    Seeing you have 2 pipe the sizing will be important.

    It's nuts that they are suggesting something bigger than you have. I guess they assume you have been freezing the whole time you lived there. If you are anywhere close to the 590 you said those boilers are ridiculously over sized.

    Sizing of boiler is the primary control of system pressure, you want pressure as low as possible on steam systems.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 298
    edited November 2022
    I see a marking. Does it say "Princess"? Post a close-up of what I've circled in red.

    Looks a lot like an H.B. Smith Princess Direct Two Column radiator, but the bushing at the top tapping is slightly different from what I've seen in catalogues. The dimensions are spot-on though.

    Radiator 1: 3 sq. ft./section x 18 sections = 54
    Radiator 2: 3 sq. ft./section x 11 sections = 33

    If you are 100% all the other radiators are identical to those two, then your calculation should be easier, but if they are different...Go ahead and post the rest of them up.

    Are the other dimensions I've indicated in the second picture accurate?

    https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047386849&view=2up&seq=222&skin=2021&size=150

    https://archive.org/details/BoilerAndRadiatorCatalogueNo.1144/page/n79/mode/2up



  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    edited November 2022
    Wow! @random12345 - Looks like you nailed it! HB Smith Princess 2 it is. The other dimensions you indicated are spot on. Most of my rads look like some version of this so I'll have to go through and inventory. Some might be the 3 column version - I'll look for the Princess marking now that I know where to look.

    My initial guesstimates for these two rads were a little low compared to the catalog. I had rad 1 at 45 sq ft. rad 2 at 28. So maybe I was 20% too low. But even so, it's looking like the monster in my basement is just oversized. My HVAC guy did just do his quotes based on the expiring size. He'll do the right sizing. Not great that his first efforts were lazy.

    Unfortunately, none of the steam lovers on this site are anywhere close to me :s







  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    How about this one? Dimensions are 24" vertical, 26" horizontal, 3" deep.


    AirCooledVW
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 298
    edited November 2022
    Nice. That's two down. Let me know about the rest if they're different.

    That's why I do this. Most contractors probably either don't have the time or energy to devote to looking up EDR ratings in old trade catalogues, or they don't understand its importance or don't know where to look. However, it's relatively easy once you know how. I think it's always gratifying to seek out the best available information and pinpoint exactly what radiators you have, and then you can be confident about what size boiler you need. I had to go through this when I replaced my boiler last year. The installer gave me one rated for 396 sq. ft. but after I went through the old catalogues, I discovered I only needed 264. Luckily I was able to downsize to 288, and the whistling air vents on my rads and boiler short-cycling disappeared.

    Anyway, that radiator looks like a Cast Iron Wall Radiator made by The Novelty Iron Co. in Canton, OH. I was only able to find a single trade catalogue. Is the following dimension 12.5" or 13"? It will make a difference. I think it's probably the "Standard Size," so 7 sq. ft. per panel. 2 x 7 = 14 total. If it's the "Special Size," then it's 9 sq. ft. per panel, and would be 18 instead. Do not include the bushings on the ends when you are taking your measurements.

    https://archive.org/details/ourOwnFittersHandBook/page/n67/mode/2up


  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Its 12.5 so standard size.  @random12345 thanks a ton. Between the two catalog references I bet they cover most if not all of the radiators
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 298
    No problem. Let me know if there are any others. One more piece of unsolicited advice: Once you nail down the EDR, do not let your contractor bully you into going up a size. Stick to your guns. Experienced steam pros may talk about the importance of matching boiler size to installed EDR, but when push comes to shove, contractors (experienced with steam and otherwise) sometimes get scared that the boiler you're asking for will be too small. They don't want to get a call from you in the middle of winter saying that your house is not warm enough, so they go up a size because in their minds, there's no downside for them. The problem is, there's a downside for you because you'll have to deal with noise, short-cycling, possibly higher fuel bill, and certain components may wear out faster.

    Another point when choosing boilers is let's say if your calculated EDR is 530 for example, and you were trying to decide between a Weil-Mclain EG-55 or EG-65 (521 vs 621) in this case you probably would be able to go with the EG-55 because the pick-up factor of 1.33 is fairly generous. Just another thing to keep in mind. Good luck to you.
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,082
    Since you have two pipe steam you can adjust the current radiator capacities to the current peak heat load of each room and probably put in a much smaller boiler yet. This is done with supply valve orifices. In addition it looks like you have a vapor system, so the system pressure should never go above about 8 ounces. I would run a heat load calculation off of the current boiler's fuel usage and the weather data for each month to see how much capacity you really need. Radiators installed from around 1910 to 1941 are usually 60% over sized for the heat loads when the building was built. If you have installed insulation and air tightened the home, you could be even more oversized. To give you an example... My dining room went from 96 EDR down to 30 EDR.

    We did a new boiler for an 1870's 4500sq ft 2 story home in Northern Illinois ( Ottawa), the first floor had 12 ft ceiling and the 2nd 10 ft ceiling, huge single pane windows and no insulation, and, IIRC, only needed a 225,000 input boiler. We also dropped the fuel bills in the peak month from $1400.00 to $350.00 and the second floor finally heated properly.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    random12345
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,143
    Since it doesn't have steam traps or metering type valves it better have orifice plates already.
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Hi all - Assuming that all the standing rads in my house are the HB Smith Princess (I still need to verify this) I have the EDR at 738.  The factors in that Weil McClain worksheet were too low compared to the catalog figures.

    So what Ive got seems oversized but a little less oversized than I had thought.  Ive got some good info to go back to my guy and try to get the right size quoted now.

    Oh - wrt orifice plates - I am hoping I have them too!  When I first moved in the system was way out of balance.  Some rads heating fully and some not at all.  I went through the process of throttling back the inlets with the radiator valves to make sure the return elbows weren’t heating up (at least not quickly) and that helped a lot.  The radiator valves do not seem original to the house and I wonder if that means the orifice plates disappeared when they were changed out.  I haven’t opened any up to check.

    i may well have more questions after getting a revised quote so you’ll hear back from me soon enough!

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,351
    If the contractor quotes Weil Mclain and bases it off your numbers I wouldn’t allow anything bigger than the EG-75 rated for 733

    That said it might be worth digging around in the basement to see if there is any equipment marked with a brand to try and identify the system type.  There is one style (can’t remember the name) that sized the radiation bigger than required and utilized the extra to ensure all the steam condensed before hitting the return.

    If the radiation is oversized for this purpose, then you would size the boiler to something less than the actual radiation to ensure it never fills.  I seem to recall 70% of the calculated EDR.  With calculated 738 of EDR I would guess this is a fairly large house up in the 4000 sq ft or bigger range?

    @Steamhead or @The Steam Whisperer probably know the system name I described, and will correct me on any details I got wrong.

    Without orifice, throttling valves, or traps, there has to be some mechanism to ensure the steam doesn't get into the return.  If it was with a throttling valve and those have been removed, then you may need to add orifices to the current valves to get things tuned in.

    You have 1 chance to get this right and then live with it for the life of the boiler, so for me, it's worth the effort you are putting in here.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    ethicalpaul
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Thanks for all the input.  Yes the house is large old and not that well insulated.  4500- 4800 sq ft, thick stone walls but without any additional wall insulation.  Drafty old wood windows.

    I can’t say if the rads are oversized for the heat loss anymore than was standard for the time.  But they do heat relatively evenly through the house.  Whether thats from orifices in place or maybe I just got the valves throttled to get the steam flowing right I can’t say.  

    Theres no old/original equipment in the basement except for the piping.  No traps anywhere.  The existing boiler was installed in the 80’s.
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,082
    A heat loss calculation for the complete home would be very useful to see how well the system is sized. 738 EDR would be about 40 btu/sq ft.... very high even for an old home unless you have really high ceilings or really cold winters. I'm in Chicago and the north side design low is about 0F and the southside about 4F.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,143
    If the valves were replaced then the original valves probably were either metering type valves with a stop set to keep them from opening more than the amount of steam the radiator could consume or valves with a separate metering device in them and there likely were not originally orifice plates.
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,082
    There may be some type of device on the return elbows to prevent steam from entering the returns..... with the pressure kept real low.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    mattmia2
  • trivetman
    trivetman Member Posts: 104
    Philadelphia area.  Not nearly as brutal as Chicago.  9 foot ceilings.  Higher than the modern standard but not insanely high.

    FWIW - heres a shot of the radiator valves.  I just assume they are not original from the looks of them.  Whether ive got orifice plates or something in the elbow’s,  it stays balanced.  I do have a vaporstat on it and pressure stays under 0.5


  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 312
    edited November 2022
    Legend Valves. .. founded 1988... what's on the outlet ?
    Edit: .. Forgot it...I see they appear to be unmarked elbows 
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,082
    Just making an educated guess that your peak heat load at design conditions (14F) is probably around 110,000 btu/hr. Radiation capacity is around 175,000. If orificed you could probably use a boiler around 140,000 btu/hr input.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,041
    edited November 2022
    Price domestic 2 x 4" cast elbows and tees and let me know if you still want to oversize that header.