Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Remorse w/ My Decision: Single Pipe Steam Radiators Kept and Home Renovated

Pinec0ne
Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
edited June 2023 in Strictly Steam
This has been bothering me all day and is driving me up the wall.

I recently closed on a 2 family home with a steam boiler for the top unit (bottom unit has new baseboard heating). I’m living in the top unit. 

The steam boiler was 30 years old and I got credits to replace it. I promptly replaced it when I moved in and planned to put mini splits for cooling. The mini splits were super expensive due to the size of the house, so I opted to put in central AC for cooling only with optimized ducts and vent locations instead. 

Now all of the work is done and I have an immense sense of dread. I wished I had just removed the single pipe steam radiators to modernize the house, but didn’t. I paid for all of the work for ducts and an air handler, and could have leveraged this to move to a single system with less maintenance. 

Now hear I am constantly worrying about minor details for the radiators such as covers, cleaning, the space consumed, the pipes running up from the first floor unit. 

Did I make the wrong decision here? I plan to move out in 3 years and rent it out. I feel like my life would have been easier if I just converted everything to forced air, and I would have saved money. 
mattyc
«1

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,893
    Well... the steam will provide more comfortable heat, and enough of it -- if the new boiler (did you really need one?) was installed correctly, and the piping is insulated, and the venting is balanced. The AC will do the job nicely -- as AD. It would NOT have done the job well for heating, unless the ducts were arranged for heating, and it would have cost more to install the heat pumps required.

    I'd say you did fine. You would not have saved money on the forced air, and you would have been less comfortable.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Mad Dog_2EdTheHeaterManNew England SteamWorks
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,228
    Six of one, half a dozen of another.
    As you said, the way you went, your ducts and vents are optimized for cooling. Having warm humid forced air coming through cold attic ducts can have condensation problems. Steam heat gives the best radiant heat. Future idiot tenants on the second floor can't freeze your steam radiators.
    Try it our for a winter and summer, you might decide you like it. If you don't, you might be able to sell or rent to a steam lover here on HeatingHelp.
    I DIY.
    Mad Dog_2
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Thank you both for making me feel better about my decision. I spent a lot of time originally deciding. I wanted cooling that did the job well and a dedicated heat source. I would have ideally wanted baseboard heating but the installation was too intrusive for the unit so I decided to keep the steam boiler, while replacing it because the old one was oversized and 30 years old barely hanging on. 
    Mad Dog_2
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,338
    WoW to live there only three years, I would not have bothered with any of that. I'm quite fond of my 50 ish year old steam boiler. For me Modern is not always better. At work mini splits were a nightmare.
    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    Mad Dog_2
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    I'm just a homeowner, but based on what you said, I think you made a good decision. Why did you replace the boiler at all? The more important question is how the new boiler was installed...If you're concerned, post some pics of the boiler and the piping all around it as well as the main vents, if any. Did you calculate the EDR beforehand to size it correctly? Although this doesn't really matter much now because it's a done deal, it can help to know if your boiler is over or undersized and by how much.
    Mad Dog_2
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    The boiler was oversized and kicked. It was about 30 years old. Would fire on and off very often due to the sizing. Had several professionals tell me it was at the end of life so I just decided to change it when I moved in.

    It was sized based on the size of my unit. I’ll share more details later
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 618
    I would have done the same thing given the choice. As mentioned above...since half of the original steam system was removed the new boiler should be sized according to the existing EDR, not sized to the old boiler.

    An atmospheric boiler and steam system is about as good as it gets in an existing house aside from maybe a condensing boiler and baseboard heating... but those have drawbacks as well.

    Steam is very low maintenance. I am curious though to see if your boiler is piped correctly and sized correctly to the existing EDR.
    Mad Dog_2EdTheHeaterMan
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,580
    edited June 2023
    We'd love to see some pics of the boiler, the piping around it, and heck I'd like to see pics of your mini splits. Steam is a very simple heating method, and as said above, it's very good. If your installer knew what he was doing, it's silent, and it doesn't blow dust around or make drafts.

    And don't worry about the mini splits, for some reason a lot of people here hate them. I installed 3 head units in my house and they are so nice. Way better than the window shakers that came with this house.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,738
    Spilled milk, just clean it up and move on. I probably would have gone with heat pumps if before replacing the boiler and would have been nice and tidy. But, don't worry, steam heat is great and you have a/c now.
    ethicalpaulEdTheHeaterMan
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,214

    We'd love to see some pics of the boiler, the piping around it, and heck I'd like to see pics of your mini splits. Steam is a very simple heating method, and as said above, it's very good. If your installer knew what he was doing, it's silent, and it doesn't blow dust around or make drafts.

    And don't worry about the mini splits, for some reason a lot of people here hate them. I installed 3 head units in my house and they are so nice. Way better than the window shakers that came with this house.

    To add to the above, the AMA recommends against forced air heating in general due to respiratory health issues and in a fire situation, you wouldn't want it either.
    You probably made the good choice. I only hope the ductwork in not in the attic... it would likely create large leaks and have very large losses since typical 42 Degree north latitudes are recommended to have r-38 in the ceiling and typical ductwork insulation is about r-3 to r-4
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    ethicalpaul
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,696
    Don't beat yourself up. You made the best decision at the time with the information you had. It will get the job done  mad dog 🐕 
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    We'd love to see some pics of the boiler, the piping around it, and heck I'd like to see pics of your mini splits. Steam is a very simple heating method, and as said above, it's very good. If your installer knew what he was doing, it's silent, and it doesn't blow dust around or make drafts. And don't worry about the mini splits, for some reason a lot of people here hate them. I installed 3 head units in my house and they are so nice. Way better than the window shakers that came with this house.
    To add to the above, the AMA recommends against forced air heating in general due to respiratory health issues and in a fire situation, you wouldn't want it either. You probably made the good choice. I only hope the ductwork in not in the attic... it would likely create large leaks and have very large losses since typical 42 Degree north latitudes are recommended to have r-38 in the ceiling and typical ductwork insulation is about r-3 to r-4
    I have the ducts in the ceiling of the 3rd floor(finished attic) witth r-38 insulation, and between the 2nd and 3rd floor. Except there’s a part of my 2nd floor that has a 2floor flat roof. In this portion I have flex ducts, but this part of the roof has no insulation. 
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    As promised here’s a picture of the system in my 1920’s basement. 
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,692
    I’m trying to find something the installer did right, and I can’t find it.

    There is a picture in the manual of how it’s to be done and that’s not it. Looks like colliding header for sure. I can’t make everything out to see specifically what is wrong, but there is a lot of piping that doesn’t make sense. It appears it might be counterflow, which could explain some of the piping.

    That contractor needs to stop working on steam.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    BobCNew England SteamWorks
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    edited July 2023
    @Pinec0ne Please post more pictures of the boiler and piping from multiple angles, the plate on the boiler itself that has the name of the manufacturer and model number, and any main vents you might have. I agree with the above. It was not piped correctly. Steam should not be piped in copper either.
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    I can add more pictures, but what should I do about the installation contractor? Should I contact them. I just had this done in april
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Also most of the piping is legacy, the only changes to the system I inherited in regards to piping is where you see the copper
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,692
    Pinec0ne said:

    Also most of the piping is legacy, the only changes to the system I inherited in regards to piping is where you see the copper

    It really doesn't matter what was there prior. When the boiler is installed the contractor should look at everything and pipe the boiler properly. It appears to be a colliding header which is a strict no no, and should be common knowledge for any contractor installing steam. Peerless has a document they published that shows why. With more pictures we will be able to comment further.

    For me, yes I'd go back on the contractor, but if you've already paid I doubt you will get much out of them, but I've been wrong before.


    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    STEAM DOCTORethicalpaul
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,228
    Pinec0ne said:

    I can add more pictures, but what should I do about the installation contractor? Should I contact them. I just had this done in april

    Not yet. Get all your ducks in a row first. Threaded steel pipe is preferred over copper, because copper has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion. There have been a few instances where the expanding copper piping has actually ripped the sections of the boiler apart. That's rare, and there are copper piped boilers that work OK. There are also other reasons to use steel over copper.
    You likely have other deficiencies in the way this was piped that do not meet the boiler manufacturer's minimum standards. Could cause a safety or warranty issue. It may be loud and bang, because the steam collides with the condensate returning from the radiators. You might not even have a Hartford Loop, which is a pipe routing practice on the condensate return that has been used for over 100 years.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hartford_Steam_Boiler_Inspection_and_Insurance_Company
    We can tell if you have that from a picture of the other side.
    Once you post more pictures, the steam experts here can help you make a list, and your can take that to your contractor.
    Piping a steam boiler in copper is like the contractor plastering a big sticker on the boiler that says three things:
    • I DON'T UNDERSTAND STEAM
    • I DON'T CARE ENOUGH TO DO THE JOB RIGHT
    • I DON'T OWN THE PROPER PIPE THREADING TOOLS
    I DIY.
    New England SteamWorks
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Thanks I’ll add more pictures today 
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    adding adding more pictures here 
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 1,338

    I bet it was not Skimmed either. How could they ? At least the way the manufacture recommends.

    https://uticaboilers.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/240011556-UH16-SERIES-IOM-REV-L.pdf






    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Can someone please help give me a summary of items wrong with the installation  :/
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,927
    1. The installers.  2.The copper. 3. The way that the boiler piping connects to The first Tee.
    Can't quite see how the boiler piping on the right side , connects to the header.  
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,927
    Lack of skimming port. 
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,513
    I'm guessing that the contractor is paid in full. Too bad.

    That is your only leverage. Now you need to depend on the integrity of the contractor.
    You need to contact the installing contractor at once… and ask them
    1. How long is their warranty since it is not going to be operational until October. That is 7 months from the install date.
    2. Does it cover improper piping design by the installer? (because it don't look like the install manual
    3. What do they do about noisy banging piping due to improper piping?
    4. Are they going to skim the boiler as the manufacturer’s directions state after operating for 2 weeks. Will that be completed in October?
    5. Can the contractor tell you how to skim the boiler because there is no place in the near boiler piping for skimming. That is because the near boiler piping is not installed according to the instructions.

    If the contractor is not cooperative, there are ways to induce cooperation if needed.

    Good Luck
    Mr, Ed
    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Thanks. I have a 1 yr warranty. I’ll see what’s going to happen on this one. 
    Mad Dog_2
  • STEAM DOCTOR
    STEAM DOCTOR Member Posts: 1,927
    Try to get the manufacturer/rep involved. Tell them your story. Offer to send pictures.  If they condemn the piping, that will give you leverage. They may not agree to work with a homeowner. Contractor might need to get involved in that case
    CLambMad Dog_2
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,206
    Here's a consolation. When power goes off during a cold snap; a small generator can keep steam heat working. Try that with a heat pump.
    WMno57
  • random12345
    random12345 Member Posts: 469
    @Pinec0ne What is the model number? It is located on the white sticker here. Or just post a pic of that. Agree with all of the above. I'm not a pro, but at minimum all the copper above the waterline needs to be replaced by threaded iron pipe, but preferably all of it is replaced. More pictures from a few other angles would help.

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,513
    My first step would have been to remove old boiler and cut away all the old near boiler piping (legacy piping) to this point.
    The dry return pipes would would be connected at the wet return behind the boiler (Green)
    The new boiler header would be connected to the two risers (Red)

    Then I would place the boiler in the basement and build the near boiler piping as shown in the manufacturers instructions (The diagram is very clear)



    After the near boiler piping is finished and there is a place to take off the risers from the header. (the Blue highlighted section) I would position the boiler so the header with the risers openings are lined up just below the main elbows that are pointing down. (Yellow circle).



    I would do the entire job in Black Fittings and Steel Pipe. But there are some cases where the wet returns can be copper. You need black fittings in the exact order of the manufacturer's diagram because you need swing joints in order to prevent stress on the cast iron boiler connections as the different parts expand and contract on start up. Since everything does not get hot evenly on start up, there must be room for some movement. You will be able to feel the steam move from one fitting to another as the steam travels from the boiler, to the header, to the risers, to the main, and down the main to each radiator. Since this is not happening gradually or all at once evenly, there will be stress as one part gets STEAM HOT while the next part is still cold. So you need a little give. (the technical term is Qualified Engineering Adjustment)

    I hope this answers your questions about what is wrong.

    Mr. Ed




    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    New England SteamWorks
  • Pinec0ne
    Pinec0ne Member Posts: 17
    Thank you so much all for the comments. These are invaluable. I will need to go through them all in detail as I’m still a complete novice at this stuff. I’ll come back later and post a picture of the model. For now I’ll share that It is a Utica system as I know that much. 
    CLamb
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,679

    We'd love to see some pics of the boiler, the piping around it, and heck I'd like to see pics of your mini splits. Steam is a very simple heating method, and as said above, it's very good. If your installer knew what he was doing, it's silent, and it doesn't blow dust around or make drafts.

    And don't worry about the mini splits, for some reason a lot of people here hate them. I installed 3 head units in my house and they are so nice. Way better than the window shakers that came with this house.

    To add to the above, the AMA recommends against forced air heating in general due to respiratory health issues and in a fire situation, you wouldn't want it either.
    You probably made the good choice. I only hope the ductwork in not in the attic... it would likely create large leaks and have very large losses since typical 42 Degree north latitudes are recommended to have r-38 in the ceiling and typical ductwork insulation is about r-3 to r-4
    I'd like to see that recommendation!
    CLambEdTheHeaterMan
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,206
    Boilers ought to come with piping kits.
    bburdMad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,696
    Jumper..I think Burnham comes with a Drop Header kit and the Sears (Oh how I miss My Hicksville Sears!) boilers did.. I have a Picture in my archives.  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,679
    Mad Dog_2 said:
    Jumper..I think Burnham comes with a Drop Header kit and the Sears (Oh how I miss My Hicksville Sears!) boilers did.. I have a Picture in my archives.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    That’s was a great store!
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,696
    The Tools...mad Dog 🐕 
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,696
    I still have my Sears Hard Plastic rugged tool boxes and my genuine rubber hose from 30 yrs ago!  Heavy usage ..still goin strong.  Mad Dog 🐕 
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,471
    The first thing Ia guy did after getting his first real job was to buy a Sears Craftsman tool kit - $39.95 for a complete kit (100 pieces including that grey steel toolbox) I still have all the sockets and wrenches from that kit but I did eventually wear out one of the ra6chets which they replaced.

    Piss poor management did them in, they closed their catalog sales just before the internet took off. I still have and use the Fluke 77 meter I bought just before the catalog sales was shuttered
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,692
    BobC said:

    The first thing Ia guy did after getting his first real job was to buy a Sears Craftsman tool kit - $39.95 for a complete kit (100 pieces including that grey steel toolbox) I still have all the sockets and wrenches from that kit but I did eventually wear out one of the ra6chets which they replaced.

    Piss poor management did them in, they closed their catalog sales just before the internet took off. I still have and use the Fluke 77 meter I bought just before the catalog sales was shuttered

    I've said it many times. Sears could have been Amazon. Sears missed the boat, huge.

    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    CLambMad Dog_2PC7060Dave in QCA