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Gravity hot water boiler

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bb6977
bb6977 Member Posts: 3
1st thing does anybody no what company the markings are rusted off, 1906 house in ohio
2nd hasn’t ran in 15 years but filled the system and no leaks in boiler or radiators and when drained system no rust coming out.
Has a old sphinx oil to gas conversion 300,000 btu burner system
Have had 2 companies come out and look at system say they will give a quote in a few days and SILENCE.

The house is huge 6000 sq ft and conversion to a new boiler will happen next year what can I do to get the system running this year. Thinking new millivolt gas valve with pressure regulator. Or any ideas will be appreciated. I know it won’t be efficient at all but just want to use the system this year and see the good and bad and decide new boiler or just add pumps .






Mad Dog_2GGrossSuperTechAlan (California Radiant) Forbes

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  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,840
    edited October 2023
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    Yor going to have to deal with the asbestos at some point. No low water cutoff. I don't see a high limit control, but there must be one somewhere.

    I guess you could clean the boiler and the burners and hook the gas up and try it. It would need to be combustion tested to make sure it doesn't make Co.

    BUT

    Someone abandoned it for a reason and the gas is disconnected. If this had been left in use then you could see what it needs

    But do you want to take on the risk of running this old beast??

    Why not get it out of there now?

    What did they use for heat without running the boiler??
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    Lol. C'mon dude.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,008
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    @bb6977 , that boiler is about 40% efficient according to some of my old books. Resurrecting it would be quite uneconomical. I'd replace it now if I were you.

    However, if you can find someone in your area who specializes in older gas boilers, they *may* be able to get that old burner running safely. Your gas bills would be quite high though.

    What part of Ohio are you in?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Mad Dog_2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,962
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    oh my
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,962
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    The valve is probably capable of up tp 300,000 btu/hr, the burner is probably firing at significantly less than that. My bet on the reason it was abandoned is in the chimney. Either that or they couldn't buy insurance or sell the house or get a mortgage with that boiler.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,250
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    Old Pancake Boiler aka The Patton Tank. Indestructible.  If you're going to resurrect it, prepare to spend a minimum of one full day making sure its firing and drafting safely.  Chimney is clear AND drafting.  As the guys said, Combustion analyzer and check the CO. Highly Recommended :  a Second Person to man the Kill switch if things go South.  

    Ohio? Near Canton..The NFL Hall of Fame?
    I may be making a pilgrimage there VERY soon.  Mad Dog 🐕 

  • bb6977
    bb6977 Member Posts: 3
    edited October 2023
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    I capped the gas doing a pressure test on system replacing old valve, and the reason they haven’t used it in 15 years is the guy we bought it off of never stayed here during the winter only the summer, while he was working on the house. The chimney is clear and in good shape I inspected that last week. We are located in Ravenna OHIO about half hour from the HOF, I pass by it everyday and it is amazing how busy they are EVERYDAY of the year. Another issue is I won’t gas probably till 11/1 due to gas company cutting supply off at the road in 2009 so it is going to be a new construction line being placed at end of month and it is ohio and getting cold this weekend. And I haven’t found anybody to give price on new system let alone anybody able to work on this system so trying to figure out next step. If new system just tie into the exsistinhg 4” and pump off of that?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    A new system would just tie into the existing piping and be pumped. It does usually take some creative thinking and valving to get what was a gravity system properly balanced when it is being pumped -- but it's done quite commonly, and quite successfully. I'd try very hard to find someone to do that...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    mattmia2
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,008
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    @bb6977 , Ravenna is not that far from Cleveland- see if @gerry gill would be interested:

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/g-w-gill-plumbing-and-heating
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,186
    edited October 2023
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    Hello and good morning bb6977,

    Speaking as a homeowner:

    Your boiler was originally fired with coal and converted to gas. I have seen a number of these coal fired boilers on the coal pail forum.

    The double elbow that is tied into the 4 inch drop pipe to the boiler sump takes the cooler water from both sides of the home to be reheated.

    Please order Mr. Holahans well written book on hot water heating "CLASSIC HYDRONICS" from the Heating Help Bookstore as soon as possible to help you better understand your heating system and I candidly think it will convince you to keep it as a gravity hot water heating system.

    You can order this well written wire bound book through the bookstore with a credit or debit card. I used Mr. Holohan's excellent book to properly design and plumb my coal stoker boiler.

    A gravity hot water system has the benefit of huge amounts of thermal mass in the water, the riser piping to the radiator's and to the drop piping in your homes heating system to provide slow even heat that sheds the heat in the radiators slowly into the living space.

    I candidly think you need a steam licensed plumber to take care of this boiler if you need to heat the house this winter as they understand heating systems with large riser and return piping.
    I would contact the local plumbing inspector to find a plumber that works on gravity hot water or steam heating systems that can help you with this or contact Mad Dog 2 here on the forum for help.

    Many steam boilers are dual use and also work for hot water systems. If you want to replace the current boiler you should seek a boiler that is rated for hot water or steam heating use and has 4 inch tapping's and the 4 inch double elbows left in place to reach the tapping's in the new boiler if it is needed

    A replacement boiler with 4 inch tapping's will need pipe and fittings and at least one low water cut off switch mounted in the boilers steam chest to protect it and prevent it from boiling dry-been there done that.

    You have a gravity system that operates without pumping which is simple to own and operates at low pressure. There are many systems like this that are as old or older than the one you own that still provide slow even heat.

    Is the water feeder line for the system in the attic or in the basement??

    Is there a radiator in the attic to keep the open to air expansion tank warm or has it been wrapped in insulation of some sort?

    A circulator alone for a 4 inch riser is going to be very expensive and will require additional wiring as well as a centrally located thermostat and its wiring.

    Your system is using the simplicity of temperature and gravity by heating water to near 190 degrees Fahrenheit to get the hot water to start rising and the cooler water to drop back to the basement to be heated again.

    If the system has no leaks and you are worried about it, I would contact a steam licensed plumber in your area and ask for an estimate to remove the boiler and asbestos and install a new hot water boiler with 4 inch tapping's as a new pumped system will require that the open to air expansion tank is removed as well as having the plumbing in the attic removed and sealed off and a very large bladder tank or steel compression tank, air scoop or Internal Air Separator installed in the basement to replace the open to air expansion tank in the attic to maintain the point of no pressure change.

    Mr. Holohan's book CLASSIC HYDRONICS explains in detail to the reader how your system works and works well and you should have it in your hands as you examine your system and flip the pages of his wire bound book to read about your system as you look at your boiler.

    I do not want to get in your way, my only wish for you to succeed.

    My thoughts on this as a homeowner.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,962
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    Does it have an open expansion tank in the attic?

    I'd check very carefully for something that froze and broke if it wasn't heated for 15 years. I know you pressure tested it, but if it has an open tank there isn't much pressure near the top.

    It would match a mod con well. It can also use a conventional boiler. The conventional boiler needs return water temp protection. Put a magnetic dirt separator on either. You'd cap the open tank and ad a modern diaphragm tank.
  • bb6977
    bb6977 Member Posts: 3
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    Yes it has the open expansion tank in attic and has 2 radiators in the finished attic to keep everything from freezing. I have his books and watched his videos and understand how the gravity Heating system works, he definitely is the man on heating. Just need to get a burner system that will work. I understand I will need a low water cutoff safety and replace high temp sensors. Just trying to see if want to keep this system or convert to furnaces etc. I really want the hot water heat but time is running short and with gas company playing there games for over a month now( just purchased house end of august)
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,186
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    You should visit the coal pail forum and register-its free to do and ask where you can buy a burner for this boiler as there are burners that would fit in the ash pit door of the boiler as a least one member of the forum has a boiler like yours. You may end up having the gas burner ring removed to do it, but I am not sure about that specifically.


  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,962
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    The hot water heat with a new boiler, done correctly will be far more even than forced air will ever be and cost less than retrofitting.

    Some of that asbestos is in poor condition and should be dealt with immediately.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,962
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    You could put a gas power burner on it but you'd need the same skill set to do that as to get your current conversion burner running properly.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,965
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    That unit had had a good life but it's time to retire it!

    Get the Asbestos completely removed before doing anything!
    EBEBRATT-Ed
  • sopcopotoptop
    sopcopotoptop Member Posts: 18
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    Hello. I am interested in knowing more about your boiler. It looks like a “Novelty Iron Company (NICO) boiler made in Canton, Ohio. Can you read any of the writing on the clean out doors or the load door? Also, what is the diameter at the base? My house was built in 1908 and has a NICO system but the boiler has been gone since the 1950’s. Are the grates and ash pit door still around? Thanks for the info in advance.

  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Alan (California Radiant) Forbes Member Posts: 4,106
    edited May 17
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    There’s a contractor here that likes to keep gravity systems intact and typically uses high mass Peerless boilers as the replacement. Gravity systems are very elegant and a lot of thought and effort was used to install them properly. Admirable to keep them going.

    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
  • sopcopotoptop
    sopcopotoptop Member Posts: 18
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    Further info on your current boiler NICO boiler, I believe it’s a No. 55 Series D with 5 sections. Looks like 4” inlet/outlet size and probably a 10” flue? It’s rated at 900 sq. ft. of radiation which roughly equates to 135,000 BTU’s.

  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,333
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    Good for him. It takes a bit of time & thinking. About what water temperature? So even when boiler is left in place most guys added a circulator when they change burners.

  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
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    170F-180F. Seems to work fine without a circulator.

    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
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,655
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    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,840
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    There is only one reason to convert gravity circulation to a circulator and that is if the piping is clogged with rust. Why disturb a system that works? Putting a circulator on doesn't improve efficiency.

    If it worked on Gravity and it still work why disrupt it? Just put a HW boiler in a leave it be…….if you can find one with decent size tapping and decent water content. I did a couple that way and they worked fine.

    Adding a circulator disrupts the flow and it may not work the same without tweaking it.

    sopcopotoptop