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.

DIg? Bigger Header|? Both?

Jonah
Jonah Member Posts: 18
Hello. This forum seems give access to the true authorities on steam heating, which is why I'm here. My wife and I bought a nice(cheap) old house with a dead boiler. We can't stand the idea of paying oil fuel prices and so have decided on coal instead. Our heating system is one-pipe steam. There are few coal boiler manufacturers that have a steam option, and of those one is far cheaper (yet reputable and well reviewed) than the others.



But we have a problem, I think... The boiler size we need, which was determined through edr calculations, is tall with a high nwl (50"). The lowest dry return is 62" from floor and the lowest steam main is 72 1/2" . I figured a dropped header would be necessary, but I understand the header should be 24" above nwl? There is not even 24" from the top of the boiler to the lowest(or highest) steam main!



What can be done? Do I need to dig a hole in my basement? Can I just drop the header close to the top of the boiler and make sure it is really big to allow space for both steam and all the condensate?



I have ordered "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" by Mr. Holohan, but until it arrives I am at the mercy of people I can ask a million questions.

Comments

  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 3,997
    you should really....

    post this over in the steam forum. Coal eh? No idea they still had them in steam... very cool. The Lost art will help.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Coal Boiler

    Hi- It's not the height of the header that matters the most, it's the height of the risers coming out of the boiler to the header. While with side connected tees it would mean the header was the same height as the risers with a top entry drop header you can make the risers taller and lower the dropheader itself. How high the risers need to go is generally specified by the boiler manufacturer. Dan suggests that you take this measurement from the top of the boiler cabinet rather that from the boiler's water line as this gives you a bit of "insurance". Here's a good video on boiler piping:

     http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/107/Steam-Heating/118/Steam-boiler-near-boiler-piping



    "A" Dimension -  The "A" Dimension is the distance from the boiler water line to the lowest steam bearing pipe. The "A" Dimension must be at least 28 inches for the system to function properly.  You mentioned you have a one pipe steam system. Is this a parallel or a counterflow system?  If a parallel system this would be the measurement from the boiler's water level to the end of the dry return just before it drops down to become the wet return. If a counterflow system this would be at the boiler end of the steam main.  As you can see you do have some height problems you will need to address. A this is covered extensively in "The Lost Art...."



    Coal- I would really reconsider the use of coal. It's dirty and you have to constantly be shoveling coal and sweeping up coal dust all over the basement.(especially after the coal is delivered) You will also have to remove the clinkers and I'm not sure how these are treated now. You may want to check with your local garbage /city as to how they have to be disposed. In some places they don't want them in the landfills.  I speak from experience as we had a coal fired boiler when I was growing up. It was hopper fed with a worm drive and the hopper needed to be filled morning and evening. You also had to remove red hot clinkers in the morning and evening . These were removed with large tongs and were placed in metal garbage cans net to the boiler so they could cool. After they had cooled you took them outside and dumped them in the garbage cans. Clinkers are heavy!  I had to put on a boiler suit and change shoes every time I charged the hopper or removed the clinkers otherwise I ruined my clothes and tracked dust upstairs into the house.

    When we finally switched to oil I thought I had died and  gone to heaven! My mother was much happier as the house remained a lot cleaner and we were able to build a room where the coal hold used to be and I didn't have to constantly sweep up or deal with the constant filth of coal.  Keep in mind there must have been a very good reasons why the use of coal for heating died out and was replaced by oil or gas. Most of which I have noted  above.

    Sorry to sound so negative on coal but there is a lot more to it than initially meets the eye.  Also it would make your house very hard to sell if you decided to move.

    - Rod
  • Jonah
    Jonah Member Posts: 18
    hmm...

    Rod,

        By "lowest bearing pipe" do you mean steam mains AND OR dry return? I spaced it and said the lowest "wet return" was 62". Of course I meant "Dry return". Even if you don't count the return, my "A dimension" is only 22 1/2". And that dimension is to a single pipe branch with no return ( by which I mean the condensate runs back through the main).

          As for the nastiness of coal... these new somewhat fancy coal boilers only burn rice or pea ANTHRACITE coal, which I believe was not at all the norm back in the day. Supposedly a lot cleaner and easier to deal with. Plus for a bit more $  you can get the coal in bags. The boiler dealer I've spoken with, and that's not his main gig, has two or three in his various apartment buildings. We got to see one in action. And the hopper holds 315 lbs of coal! Not that coal is light, but still.

        I believe ours is a parallel/counterflow system.  One branch has all condensate pitched toward a "parallel" return line. One branch, as I mentioned, has the condensate flowing back against the direction of the steam. So...    Is it unheard of to dig  a pit for boilers that leave systems with a bad "A dimension". Is it possible to shorten the minimum of 28" by ordering some super-sized nipples for the header. Also, doesn't dropping the header dry the steam a good deal as well?
  • Jonah
    Jonah Member Posts: 18
    hmm...

    Rod,

        By "lowest bearing pipe" do you mean steam mains AND OR dry return? I spaced it and said the lowest "wet return" was 62". Of course I meant "Dry return". Even if you don't count the return, my "A dimension" is only 22 1/2". And that dimension is to a single pipe branch with no return ( by which I mean the condensate runs back through the main).

          As for the nastiness of coal... these new somewhat fancy coal boilers only burn rice or pea ANTHRACITE coal, which I believe was not at all the norm back in the day. Supposedly a lot cleaner and easier to deal with. Plus for a bit more $  you can get the coal in bags. The boiler dealer I've spoken with, and that's not his main gig, has two or three in his various apartment buildings. We got to see one in action. And the hopper holds 315 lbs of coal! Not that coal is light, but still.

        I believe ours is a parallel/counterflow system.  One branch has all condensate pitched toward a "parallel" return line. One branch, as I mentioned, has the condensate flowing back against the direction of the steam. So...    Is it unheard of to dig  a pit for boilers that leave systems with a bad "A dimension". Is it possible to shorten the minimum of 28" by ordering some super-sized nipples for the header. Also, doesn't dropping the header dry the steam a good deal as well?
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Coal Boiler

    Hi- The 28 inch "A" dimension refers to the lowest steam bearing pipe in this case the dry return on a parallel steam system.  This dimension is critical and can't be shortened. Steam is actually very simple to understand though you have to know "the rules" and not break them.

    There are ways to get around the 28 inch measurerment, like with a condensate pump, but you don't want to go there as it complicates the system, uses more energy and makes it more susceptible to breakdown.

    "The pit" could be your answer though the practicality of this would depend on other things like water table and the threat of possible flooding.  Probably the best thing is to just wait till you get your copy of "The Lost Art..." as it has all the explanations and we can just refer you to a certain page which will answer your questions much better than we can.

    Take some pictures of your present system and post them on the Wall as that gives us a better idea of what you have. Take the picture from back a way as then we can trace out the piping. We can blow up the pictures if we need detail.



    Let's switch this conversation over to the steam board as more people will get involved,

    - Rod
  • Jonah
    Jonah Member Posts: 18
    Thanks,

    I'll just get rid of my post here on the main wall. If I can figure out how. 
This discussion has been closed.