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Just recieved a $1,400 gas bill

brucewo1b
brucewo1b Member Posts: 638
Hve you tried calling Ed Wallace
http://www.heatinghelp.com/getListed.cfm.cfm?id=354&Step=30
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Comments

  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    I just received a $1,400 gas bill

    And yes, I did cry... I have a one pipe steam system with a vintage 60s boiler and gas conversion burner. I've insulated the mains and vented them with Gortons as per specific advice on this board and have vented all rads with Gortons based on advice directly from the company. The pressure is set as low as it can go but I get extremely long cycles (up to an hour) followed by even longer downtimes (usually 2+ hours). I assume this an inefficient way to run and it is the cost culprit. The boiler never seems to shut down on pressure, only on the Tstat. How do I get it to cycle more often/efficiently?
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 6,717
    AN undersized or underfired boiler will do that.................

    run run run, barely heat the space. Can be worse than oversized equip. Time for a combustion PRo in there. Try Find A Professional. Mad Dog

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  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Actually


    the more it cycles, the less efficient it is.

    Figure MPG ratings for vehicles. Better MPG on the highway than in the city. Highway is purring along in cruise control, while city driving is start,stop,start,stop...

    All that said, you should consider getting an insulating contractor in there and see if there is a way to lower the amount of BTU's you are losing. It doesn't sound like the system is failing at keeping the house warm, you're just losing $1400 worth of heat. Lower the heat loss and your fuel bills will drop.

    Mark H

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  • soot_seeker_2
    soot_seeker_2 Member Posts: 228
    Those Gas Conversions

    ... are beasts. Back in the '70, Long island's LILCO gave away thousands of these stupid atmospheric gas burners free when you converted to gas. They weren't much more than an open pipe with a thermocouple.

    I replaced one on a rental property that was burning 250,000 BTU. I replaced it with a 60,000 BTU boiler.

    If that's an ancient burner, see if you can't upgrade at least the burner, if not the boiler. I think it will be worth the cost. But don't forget to size the new boiler properly by measuring the radiators and pipe the thing correctly.

    More than half of our steam work is repiping other people's mistakes -- and often we can half their heating bills by doing that.

    Long Beach Ed
  • scott75
    scott75 Member Posts: 101


    How long have you been in the house? What are your gas bills normally? Have you checked for a gas leak anywhere after your meter? What does the steam pressure read on the guage? Clean out the pig tail before the pressurtrol. If it is clogged the pressurtrol will not operate properly. Insulate all steam mains.
  • Geo_5
    Geo_5 Member Posts: 69
    Gas leaks

    Gas leaks???, you could smell 25 cents worth of gas for 10 city blocks!!!!
  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    Underfired?

    Mad Dog - I'm in the process of trying to find a "pro" but so far the few I have had in here have been true "knuckleheads". In the meantime, 2 questions:
    1 - Is there a way I can determine if the boiler is underfired on my own? I'm pretty sure it's not undersized.
    2 - I have a programmable Tstat that I can install to force shorter cycles. Wouldnt that be more efficient than one long (hour long) cycle every three or four hours?
    Thanks for any advice!
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    Tough love

    For starters, you'll need to seriously consider a new heating system. A home equity loan might be your best route, but you'll want pro advice from a financial perspective.

    Second, old ancient steam boilers with internal passageways large enough to pass a football through will never be efficient to operate. I suspect that's why you're seeing long run times and long spells between as the oversized water jacket and ton of cast iron continue to give off vapor steam.

    Third, check your previous month's bill and look to see if it was an "estimated reading". If so, it will be out of kilter due to being based on last year's usage, which is how estimated readings are calculated locally. When the actual reading gets done, the bills sent out often trigger reactions just like yours.

    The heating system replacement offers you your first best opportunity to conserve energy and lower your ongoing energy consumption. Following that, insulation upgrades (attic mostly), windows, leaking ducts (if you have central A/C), removal of window-shakers during the winter months, doors and weatherstriping and any can lights in ceilings should be considered. Might be worth-while to consider switching from incandescent to mini-flourescent bulbs too.





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  • scott inM.E.
    scott inM.E. Member Posts: 68
    vintage only works in the auto world.....

    David I hate to say it but I have been in your shoes, only with oil. I had an old 50's boiler in my home that was a one pipe steam. I was lucky enough to afford a new heating system that following spring. I am now using 1/3 of the oil I had annualy used.

    My new system is of course a Buderus/reillo and 60% of my home is now radiant. Today's heating unit's are far superior to what the dead men installed, mainley in combustion efficiency. A three pass boiler has saved my fuel bill's. If this is the first time you have had a huge bill, It sounds like there may be a leak, hope you can figure out your dilema.
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,078
    i agree with Mark..

    longer cycles are better than short cycles..and if your off for 2 hours, i'd look to insuation and windows to make the on cycle shorter and the off cycle longer..sure of course a new boiler would be more efficiant, sure..

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  • Darin(in Michigan)
    Darin(in Michigan) Member Posts: 90
    Gas Bills

    I've seen water heaters that ran a $150 gas bill in the middle of the summer. They let the basement flood and the burner tube choked itself down to about 1/4 of its necessary capacity to satisfy the load(the water t-stat). To put it into steam terms, it may be the gas conversion is underfired and the burner cant allow enough gas to build pressure and satisfy the pressure stat. Try clocking the meter if your on natural gas and figure out how many BTU's the boiler is consuming(all other appliances need to be off including pilots)

    Cubic FT/HR=(dial sizeX3600)/Sec for 1 revolution
    BTU Input=1000*CF/hr
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    P.S


    Your system will probably be satisfied with ounces of pressure. If you have a standard pressure-trol, it will NEVER cycle on pressure and you will NEVER see the pressure gauge move.

    The boiler was not designed for burning gas, it was designed for oil. An upgrade could save you a few bucks, but you would get more bang for your buck with insulation and air sealing.

    Check out this site. It will help you get a handle on your fuel consumption.

    Mark H

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  • Arthur
    Arthur Member Posts: 216
    Clock the meter,

    Clock the meter over say 5 mins while the burner is running and work out the Cu/ft amount of gas used over an hour and then work out the size of the boiler to give you an idea if the burner is undersized, petty hard to guessamate efficency unless you have proper combustion equipment, but you are probably very lucky to be more than 50-70%.
    With all these figures you should be able to work out if you are underfiring or overfiring the boiler.
    I know from experience converting an old oil boiler/furnaces to gas is a waste of time, Cheap and nasty.Penny wise and pound foolish. Guess you would say cent wise and dollar foolish.
    Gas is a hotter flame and so gives more radiant heat from the flame than does oil so a boiler/furnace designed for oil is not very suitable for Gas as you tend to end up with a higher flue temp.
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    make sure you use

    a sun dial.
  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    New thermostat?

    Mark - Thanks for the info, that makes me feel better about the lack of cycling on pressure. So if the system will only cycle on the thermostat shouldn't I get a thermostat that forces it to cycle more often? Isn't a one hour cycle every 3-4 hours much more inefficient than shorter, more frequent cycles? I have the T87 now with the anticipator down to .5. Any other advice appreciated?
  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    New thermostat?

    Mark - Thanks for the info, that makes me feel better about the lack of cycling on pressure. So if the system will only cycle on the thermostat shouldn't I get a thermostat that forces it to cycle more often? Isn't a one hour cycle every 3-4 hours much more inefficient than shorter, more frequent cycles? I have the T87 now with the anticipator down to .5. Any other advice appreciated?
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    David


    Your heating system serves ONE purpose. To replace that which was lost. Replace lost BTU's and that is it.

    If the thermostat is calling, the burner fires until the thermostat is satisfied.

    But you haven't said that the thermostat never satisfies or that you can't get the house to your desired temp.

    A combustion test will determine whether or not the burner is set up correctly, BUT it is a conversion. That means that it is not what the original manufacturer designed the boiler for. As I said, changing the boiler will gain you a few points, but I suspect your bigger issue is not "heat production" but heat loss. A programmable thermostat will not solve this issue.

    You need to keep the heat in and that can only be achieved with insulation and air sealing.

    My advice: Ignore the heating system UNLESS you plan to replace it. It is old and out-dated. I know there are foks here who wax romantic when they see these older systems, but they aren't paying your heating bills. While I think you are a candidate for a new system, I do not believe that this is your biggest issue.

    You need to put a heavier winter coat on that house. Keep the heat in.

    Mark H



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  • Dale
    Dale Member Posts: 1,317
    test it

    Without any more info as to is your house warm? Is the system working? Are you adding water? I think the first thing to do if you aren't adding water (steam going up the chimney) is to do a combustion test. Power conversion burners can be made quite efficient. Did you change the vent pipe? I see large bills with new vent pipe since the old pipe was reduced in size internally for combustion effeciency. What is your stack temp, should be 350 or so. If it's higher boiler may be really dirty inside or the vent pipe is wide open and the air is going through too fast. A combustion analysis by a person who understands conversions should be a new years resolution.
  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    Have you checked for boiler leaks

    If you have a hole in the casting above the water line (and thats quite possible with a boiler that age) you could be sending alot, even most, of the steam up the chimney. I had one a few years ago that I got called out on when the boiler finally could not keep up with the hole and heating the home.
    They had just had two $1700.00 gas bills back to back. With a new downsized boiler, system upgrades, a drop in gas prices, and insulating the attic the next years gas bill topped out at $350.00.
    I would flood the boiler with water up until it begins to fill the pipes above the boiler and see if any leaks out. If it does, you'll save a bundle with a new boiler, properly installed.

    Boilerpro
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    I agree with Dale

    Let's get some more details about your current setup. What make and model is your boiler? What burner is in it now? The guy who tells you to tear the whole system out of the entire house and put in all new isn't paying the bill to do it.

    This isn't "waxing romantic" it is simply knowing how to get an existing system to run efficiently. For examples follow these links, which will be updated soon.

    http://forums.invision.net/Thread.cfm?CFApp=2&Thread_ID=22035&mc=22

    http://forums.invision.net/Thread.cfm?CFApp=2&Thread_ID=29563&mc=53

    http://forums.invision.net/Thread.cfm?CFApp=2&Thread_ID=31966&mc=18

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  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    David

    You've had replies that run the course of our industry! The US consumer (myself included) has been given a rather rude awakening to the world's view of fuel costs and usage. I mentioned your heating system in my other post and that it offered your first best opportunity for saving energy. Although our customers have benefited greatly from that approach (when the move is warranted), I did not provide you with much detail. I too have a deep affinity for steam heating and am surrounded by huindred year old (plus) systems we continue to nurture and service, but I'm also a realist and recognize the fact that there are times when it's time to consider alternatives. When last we visited ISH, the NAOHSM (National Assn. of Oil Heat service Managers) I was priveledged to travel with, took a trip to Testo and remained overnight at a wonderful hotel nestled in the Black Forest region of southern Germany.

    Our host, Knut Hoyer of Testo, gave us a tour of the factory and detailed what Germany has planned for energy conservation. Here's what I wrote for Contractor Magazine regarding that visit. Please note the various savings Knut indicates regarding energy savings.

    Hydronics article submitted to Contractor Magazine from:
    Dave Yates
    c/o F. W. Behler, Inc.
    473 West Market Street
    York, PA 17404
    Phone: 1-717-843-4920
    Fax: 1-717-843-4111
    Web: www.fwbehler.com
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Approximately 907 words
    Serial print and electronic rights as per contract
    Copyright: Dave Yates

    The Long Hydronics Learning Curve

    During our visit to ISH this year, we had a number of intriguing opportunities to visit with and pick the brains of several manufacturers. Each revealed many facets of life for hydronic trades-folk that were both enlightening and offered much hope for the future of the hydronics industry. For instance: A visit with Testo in their factory revealed that if you enter the hydronics trade in Germany, you’ll be required to serve as an “Apprentice” for three years and attend trade school. Following your three-year stint and successful graduation from trade school, you’ll be elevated to “associate” status. In 2003, we visited the Viessman School of Technology and spent the night in a dorm room. The room was devoid of distractions, such as a telephone or TV, and had a desk, bed and bathroom. There was little doubt that students were expected to spend their evenings studying! The hands-on labs were lavishly furnished with live-fire equipment and classrooms left no doubt that this was no ordinary trade school. As an Associate, you’ll be required to work under the supervision of a “Master” for another five years. Times and standards are changing in Germany too and it has become easier for an Associate to ascend to “Master” status for striking out on one’s own.

    Testo’s speaker, Knut Hoyer, went on to detail Germany’s participation in the Kyoto Global Warming Agreement (the US has opted out) and the agreed upon goal to lower greenhouse emissions by a whopping 21% by the year 2010. When you consider the fact that 40% of all energy usage in Germany is directly attributable to heating and hot water production, you begin to understand the huge impact this will have in the hydronics trade. Knut detailed the energy use per household as follows: 54% heating; 31% cars; 7% hot water; 3% small appliances; 2% cooling; 2% cooking; and 1% lighting. In order to meet their stated goals for reducing greenhouse emissions, Germany is instituting an entirely new inspection system for granting an “energy pass” if a home meets the criteria. This new designation will grant a potential home-buyer the ability to compare one property to another for overall energy efficiency, not unlike the yellow energy-use tags we see on appliances here in the States.

    Studies for energy efficiency upgrades revealed that potential decreases in energy consumption look like this: shell (insulation) - 30%; door and window upgrades - 10%; higher efficiency oil or gas heating equipment – 40%; and regular testing/tune-up of heating equipment – 10%. This from a country already testing and monitoring their heating equipment with strong emphasis on utilizing high efficiency equipment! It’s impossible not to ponder the dramatic fuel savings and pollutant reductions we would see in the US if our own government were to participate in Kyoto. Imagine if our own homes were graded on their per-square-foot energy usage!

    Now you’d think the Germans had done more than required to be responsible users of energy, but they’re taking things one rather large leap forward beyond their stated goals for emissions and energy conservation. They’re planning to institute maximum allowable design temperatures for their hydronic systems! While we debate the merits of saving energy while utilizing lower hydronic system temperatures, they’re instituting rules to limit those upper temperatures because they know that saves energy. The maximum temperature for achieving an “A-rating” will be 132.8 F (56C)!

    Following our presentation, we were given a tour of Testo’s factory and permitted an opportunity to talk with everyone we met along the way. Throughout the tour, Testo’s employees extended many courtesies while allowing us to interrupt their work. Areas outside the windows of the bordering buildings were blanketed in solar panels, which were busy generating electricity for lighting.

    Emphasis here in the States is accelerating dramatically with respect to combustion analysis and testing to ensure performance while maintaining the proper mix of exhaust gases. As part of the NAOHSM (National Association of Oil Heat service Managers) group, we were offered a three-month trial use of Testo’s newest #330 combustion analyzer. One thing that quickly separates this new piece of equipment from our other combustion analyzers (we also have Bacharach and UEI combustion and CO analyzers) is the ability to install new pre-calibrated oxygen or carbon monoxide sensors, which are shipped to suppliers in sealed bags of inert gas. No down time!

    A visit with Buderus revealed the following: condensing oil-fired boilers, some with variable speed input, are fast becoming the accepted norm in Europe with efficiencies well into the 90+%-range. Sulphur content in oil is the major hindrance for this advance in technology, but Europe is preparing to embrace this by mandated reductions from an average of 1,500 PPM (parts per million) to below 500 PPM prior to April first of 2007. In 2003 at ISH, we saw condensing high-efficiency gas-fired boilers being all-the-rage and their introduction, as well as wide-spread acceptance, on our shores shortly thereafter. Now, in 2005, condensing oil-fired high-efficiency boilers were popping up in many of the ISH booths. Lo-sulphur oil is already available (for a few pennies a gallon more) here in the States. Can condensing oil-fired high-efficiency boilers, that are so quiet you really can’t tell if they’re on or off, really be that far behind? I don’t think so and proper combustion analysis goes hand-in-hand with these ultra-high efficiency gas- and oil-fired appliances. From where I sit, our future as energy advisors to our clients looks very bright.


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  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Steamy!


    His issue is not the boiler, it's his insulation package.

    Now stop waxing romantic and face the issue. (De Nile is a river in Egypt)

    I don't want him to change his boiler, I want him to increase the R-value of his house. You can't argue with that can you??

    Best wishes!

    Mark H



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  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Mark, my point

    was that there's no doubt he can increase the efficiency of the process of moving the heat from the flame thru the boiler and steam pipes to the radiators. Of course tightening up the house will help a lot too, but these are not mutually exclusive.

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  • adayton_2
    adayton_2 Member Posts: 130
    anticipator setting (Steamhead ??)

    David, you say in your second post above "I have the T87 now with the anticipator down to .5." Steamhead, I thought from other posts regarding thermostats that for STEAM the anticipator is supposed to be set to 1.2....???

    Alfred
  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    Some details...

    The boiler is HB Smith No 200-201-2000. Does that make sense? The conversion burner is economite 400-02. Do you have any idea how old this equipment is? Is it worth trying to work with it?
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Not familiar with that Smith

    It's not in the Hydronic Rating Handbook so it may not be that old. Maybe posting some pics here would help. The Economite is a decent conversion burner that will run well if properly installed and adjusted. I'd have a pro look that over first.

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  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    It depends

    On a steam system that responds quickly to a call for heat, I have had good results with 2 or 3 firing cycles per hour. This way the system doesn't cool down completely between cycles and have to re-heat itself from scratch, which wastes fuel.

    Some say that one cycle per hour is best, especially on systems that are slow to respond. In the latter case I'd be looking at why the system responds slowly and making the needed corrections.

    On a thermostat with an anticipator rated in tenths of an ampere, I'd start by setting it to the rated current of the thermostat circuit. This should be marked on the relay or gas valve that the thermostat operates. If the boiler cycles too frequently, increase the setting until it cycles 2 or 3 times per hour while maintaining temperature during the day.

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  • brucewo1b
    brucewo1b Member Posts: 638


    Steamhead I think that is the serial# and Smith usually has the last four digits as year of Mfgr

    Bruce
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Thanks Bruce

    If that is correct, it's only six years old. Should show decent efficiency with the Economite.

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  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34
    I wish...

    This thing can't be only 6 years old. Here are a few photos. Does this help?
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    Frank


    First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Second, my earlier posts were aimed at getting this homeowners insulation package upgraded. I do not think his heating system should be replaced UNTIL he has tended to his shell issues.

    The "waxing romantic" part was done tongue in cheek as I KNEW someone would get a tad flustered by it. (Wink wink!)

    His burner may be way out of adjustment or grossly over-sized. A simple combustion test will prove either one. (My guess is it is both)

    I would think that a $1400 gas bill would automatically trigger an energy audit at this home. Blower door, combustion test, the works. $1400 worth of fuel went somewhere, either up the flue or out the window. I'd be looking for the escape hatch.

    I still hate conversion burners though!

    Best wishes!

    Mark H

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  • brucewo1b
    brucewo1b Member Posts: 638


    Guess that was before the new date code in the Serial# as that is how they do it now yours is definatly a model #
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    An old Mills!

    one of the best of the older boilers. Now that we can see the label, how many sections does this old beauty have?

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  • David_30
    David_30 Member Posts: 34


    How can I tell that? Thanks
  • scott75
    scott75 Member Posts: 101


    The down side to increasing the anticipator setting is that you are going to have larger temp swings in the house. That is fine for efficiency as long as the customer doesn't mind the decrease in comfort by not maintaining a precise temp.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Open the door and look

    You'll see where the sections come together. The front wall is a section and so is the back one. Identical "intermediate" sections make up the rest of the boiler. If we know the number of sections we can determine if the boiler is fired correctly.

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  • DonS
    DonS Member Posts: 8
    5?

    I think it has 5 sections. I look inside and see what looks like ribs with three protuding ribs in the middle, so that means 5, right? If so, based on my plumber's clocking of the gas meter the burner is firing at 225 BTU, so it looks like it's fired correctly, right?
  • DonS
    DonS Member Posts: 8
    Piping problem

    One problem I noticed before but didn't think it was a big deal is the fact that the boiler has two risers to the header and three takeoffs to mains and each takeoff is between the risers. In Dan's book he says that the takeoffs must be between the last riser and the equalizer. From reading the book it sounds like this can cause water hammer (which fortunately I've never had) but what else can it cause? Can this be causing high gas consumption?
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Nope- it's underfired

    Those BTU ratings on the plate are "Net" ratings, which describe what is available at the radiators after all losses are figured in. The oil burning rate of 3.05 GPH is the equivalent of the Input rating on a gas-designed boiler, and describes the amount of heat the burner produces at maximum firing.

    Since a gallon of #2 oil has 140,000 BTU, multiplying 3.05 by 140,000 equals 427,000 BTU per hour. That's your maximum Input rate. You're at roughly half that now, which explains a lot. I think that Economite is good for about 400,000 BTU per hour. Do not try to adjust it yourself- have your pro handle it, using a digital combustion analyzer.

    Believe it or not, increasing the Input rate will actually make the boiler use less fuel. Think of a pan on the stove with the burner set on "simmer". Eventually you will get some steam, but it takes a long time for the water to boil, and you burn up lots of fuel while you're waiting. But with a good hot flame the water boils quickly.

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  • Underfired yes sized right?....

    I haven't seen any amount of radiation that is in the house of square footage of the home, is it cold in the house, how old is the house, etc.... Does the house NEED that big of a boiler?
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