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Another Steam System Bites the Dust

PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
This time right on my street. Has become standard operating procedure now on any house around me needing any significant updating. Home built 1915. Tear out down to studs, scrap the steam piping and rads, ducts and plastic water lines back in. Two furnaces/air conditioners - one in the basement and one in an attic eave with the pretty tin pipe out the asphalt roof. Cover everything up with drywall and you are good to go. Lots of plastic/vinyl. Doors so light they are hardly there at all. Asking $650K. It will probably go for close to that because everything is "new" and they tell buyers how they are way ahead of the game without that costly steam system. Never mind that nothing in the place will last even 15 years - no one will be figuring to be there anywhere near that long anyway.

Technology has improved the quality of life so much. Now we all get to be surrounded by junk.




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Comments

  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,354Member
    Ignorance is bliss... If its on HGTV then it has to be the best....
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    kcopp said:

    Ignorance is bliss...

    So how come these people are so unhappy?

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Phil53Phil53 Posts: 67Member
    Steamhead said:

    kcopp said:

    Ignorance is bliss...

    So how come these people are so unhappy?

    Because our media has convinced them that they must consume, have the biggest homes, the latest gadgets and anything old must go and make way for new disposable stuff so the cycle can repeat. Anything that is simple and durable is vilified as outdated and unsophisticated. Materialistic consumerism is what the media and pop culture tell us will make us happy, so we continue to consume no matter that we remain unhappy - maybe having the next newest thing will finally lead to happiness which it never does and no one seems to figure this out.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 6,029Member
    Brainwashing by TV and media
  • SlamDunkSlamDunk Posts: 600Member
    edited July 2018
    Steamhead said:

    kcopp said:

    Ignorance is bliss...

    So how come these people are so unhappy?

    @Steamhead, you gave me a fifty year old flashback with this.

    When I was envious of my friends who had more things, mother said we may not have a lot of money, but we are rich in love.

    It wasnt much of a sales pitch.

    My response was that I wished we were rich with money so I could have everything I wanted and she laughed. Mother said that there were lots of people who were so wealthy they can buy anything, and do but they are the saddest people of all. “Better to work hard to earn what you need to make it in this world and a little of what you want. You’ll be happier. “

    Well, that may be true, but sometimes, I still get envious.
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 553Member
    "Ever seen an unhappy person on a jet ski?", was always my comeback to the all you need is love answer. It always got the appropriate eye roll from my mom :p
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • SlamDunkSlamDunk Posts: 600Member
    edited July 2018
    Nope! Never have!
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,691Member
    @PMJ Well did you go pick the radiators out of the dumpster?
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC, and Controls
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member

    @PMJ Well did you go pick the radiators out of the dumpster?

    Nope, I already have a full set.
  • jumperjumper Posts: 1,359Member
    RichardCory. So was insulation installed when home was stripped? Love the asphalt roof detail. In 1915 it would have been coal tar. Some things really do get worse.
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    jumper said:

    RichardCory. So was insulation installed when home was stripped? Love the asphalt roof detail. In 1915 it would have been coal tar. Some things really do get worse.

    Never got to go inside until finished. All I know is that in my neck of the woods unless current owners have already paid to put in gourmet kitchens(I'm not sure who is learning how to cook anymore or will be home to do so anyway) and fantasy glamour master baths; they are considered start over homes and all the "horribly expensive" items to maintain (those would be steam systems and slate roofs) have to go. This is the cheapest way to have heat and air conditioning and a "new" roof. Everything must be "new" and energy efficient (meaning real time energy transfer only). How many seasons anything will last is not a question that is asked by this market. Replacing all the junk will be the next owner's problem anyway.

    Don't worry contractors - there were so many steam systems installed here it will take years to rip them all out.

    BTW @Jumper, At work our 200,000 sqft building has a coal tar pitch and gravel flat roof - 75% of which is still the original 1947. Some truly amazing stuff. My biggest problem has been that roof drain bowls and piping inside the building rots out at the threads. Vast areas of the roof membrane remains fine after 70 years.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    PMJ said:

    ........ in my neck of the woods..............

    Where is this?

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    Steamhead said:

    PMJ said:

    ........ in my neck of the woods..............

    Where is this?

    Shaker Heights, suburb of Cleveland
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    You and @gerry gill need to go on the warpath... >:)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    > @Steamhead said:
    > You and @gerry gill need to go on the warpath... >:)

    Gerry has plenty of work. 100's or more like 1000's of steam heated homes here. I just hate seeing them take the steam and the slate. Replacing both with things that don't last a small fraction as long. Just doesn't feel like progress.
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,691Member
    I'd love to source some used slate. Virtually non-existent up here in the far northeast.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC, and Controls
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    > @Solid_Fuel_Man said:
    > I'd love to source some used slate. Virtually non-existent up here in the far northeast.

    How much do you need? I get my replacement slates from Durable Slate here in Ohio. They have a yard in Columbus where they keep all this reclaimed stuff and will match from a photo of your roof. Ship UPS how ever many slates of your size will go under the weight limit. Of course with good slate you don't need many. I haven't replaced 10 in 25 years.
  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,957Member
    i did get to replace a furnace system with a steam mini tube in University Heights...hey at least it was one job for our side :)
    gwgillplumbingandheating.com

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member

    i did get to replace a furnace system with a steam mini tube in University Heights...hey at least it was one job for our side :)

    So Gerry I am curious,with so many of the homes you service now at or approaching the 100 year mark on their steam systems are you seeing failing piping upstairs in the walls a lot? At some point this will become the biggest issue won't it ... and then what? It can't be replaced in the same way in a finished home. Won't it finally reach a point where abandonment is the only reasonable course? Or can we look forward to the possibility of replacement by snaking smaller lines?

    Isn't steam heating really just passing the first 100 year mark or so on installations in significant volume? If my system is any indication of how they hold up then I suppose conversations about what happens when the piping actually starts failing haven't come up much. But at some point if there is no practical solution then is not what is happening the only option?

    Buyers are now faced with taking on 100 year old piping systems. The argument they hear that they are going to get stuck with problems becomes more and more persuasive with each passing year. A reasonable alternative to keeping these systems going seems necessary here or it would seem tear outs will increase - possibly rapidly.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    Hasn't been an issue in Baltimore......................
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • Phil53Phil53 Posts: 67Member
    At least here in northern IL the issue is a/c. Seems people don't mind and probably even like steam and hw, but can't have central air which most people around here won't live without. My house built in 61 had hwh and no a/c when I purchased it. Its a ranch so I just had a/c put in and kept the hwh. Most people would have scrapped the heating system and got rid of the cibb radiators. If there was a less expensive way to add central air without a lot of demolition, I think many of the steam systems could be saved.
  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Posts: 406Member
    edited August 2018
    Ductless split systems require little or no demolition, provide zoning of a/c and are much more efficient in real life than any ducted or high velocity system. From what I understand there are very few ducted a/c systems going in buildings in the world outside the US..... almost everything is Ductless split. Ducted systems are extremely inefficient for A/C since, on top the the typical ductwork leakage and greatly increased air leakage of the building they cause, you now have a very large motor that is pouring tons of heat into an air stream that is supposed to cool the building. It takes 1/4 ton of cooling just to cool the 3/4 hp motor. Between that, the ductwork losses (especially in attics) and increased building air leakage, you probably need about 30% more cooling with a ducted system versus a ductless system!
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member

    Ductless split systems require little or no demolition, provide zoning of a/c and are much more efficient in real life than any ducted or high velocity system. From what I understand there are very few ducted a/c systems going in buildings in the world outside the US. almost everything is Ductless split. Ducted systems are extremely inefficient for A/C since on top the the typical ductwork leakage and greatly increased air leakage of the building they cause, you now have a very large motor that is pouring tons of heat into an air stream that is supposed to cool the building. It take 1/4 ton of cooling just to cool the 3/4 hp motor. Between that, the ductwork losses (especially in attics) and increased building air leakage, you probably need about 30% more cooling with a ducted system versus a ductless system!

    Amen.

    What does this say about contractors who push customers to tear out steam or hot-water systems?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 553Member
    >
    >
    > Amen.
    >
    > What does this say about contractors who push customers to tear out steam or hot-water systems?

    You can't fix stupid?
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    >:) >:) >:)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    > @Steamhead said:
    > Ductless split systems require little or no demolition, provide zoning of a/c and are much more efficient in real life than any ducted or high velocity system. From what I understand there are very few ducted a/c systems going in buildings in the world outside the US. almost everything is Ductless split. Ducted systems are extremely inefficient for A/C since on top the the typical ductwork leakage and greatly increased air leakage of the building they cause, you now have a very large motor that is pouring tons of heat into an air stream that is supposed to cool the building. It take 1/4 ton of cooling just to cool the 3/4 hp motor. Between that, the ductwork losses (especially in attics) and increased building air leakage, you probably need about 30% more cooling with a ducted system versus a ductless system!
    >
    > Amen.
    >
    > What does this say about contractors who push customers to tear out steam or hot-water systems?

    Two things:

    1. Ductless is a tougher sell in some of the high end older homes in places like Shaker Heights on aesthetics. The small visual impact of the little holes of high velocity systems is much more acceptable. With many rooms that one might like to close off at any given time paying more up front for installation of small ducts and losing some efficiency is not so bad a trade off. Mounting a pretty good sized machine up on the wall of my rather formal living or dining room would not be my first choice.

    2. Even if one chooses ductless this issue of how long the steam piping can be expected to last without significant issues will come up more and more frequently at transfer time. Maybe someone wants to step up here and say they think another 100 years on these pipes trouble free is likely but that won't be me. I think a viable plan for dealing with piping failures downstream will be forced into this discussion by reality. Buyers will increasingly need to know there is something to be done reasonably to continue on with steam if pipes begin to rot through. Every year that goes by makes this an even more reasonable question to be asking.
  • The Steam WhispererThe Steam Whisperer Posts: 406Member
    I've cut open plenty of 100 year old steam mains, risers and run outs that show little or no signs of potential failure. The only place with tend to see problems is on systems that have been very abused.... I.e. large mid rise 2 pipe condo buildings for the wealthy( no maintenance)... and then more likely on the returns. 100 year old buried wet returns and wet returns in general are probably the weak link, but when looking at the long term operating cost ( replacing wet returns once every 80 years) and the lower operating costs of steam on a large scale, its a drop in the bucket compared to duct cleaning, higher health care costs, fire risks, etc of ducted systems. On smaller single family or up to 3 story 30 unit building, typical churches etc. there is no reason most systems won't last several hundred more years with only minor repairs.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,270Member
    @PMJ , except in extremely unusual circumstances, we won't see failing steam pipes in walls. As @The Steam Whisperer says, 100 year old pipes we've cut into are fine. We have a piece from the 1911-vintage Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore that looks as good as the day it was installed.

    This issue has been answered more than once. It's not an issue at all. Time to move on.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • 1Matthias1Matthias Posts: 136Member
    edited August 2018
    I've cut into a steam system that was built in 1891 to replace a failed union. Despite being a knuckleheaded boiler install 15 years ago resulting in gallons of carry-over, the pipes showed little to no sign of rusting inside beyond surface rust, and actually looked better on the inside than the outside.
  • Dave0176Dave0176 Posts: 1,073Member
    edited August 2018
    On the wet return side I see failures quite often especially after 100 years of holding water, sludge and mud, but I’ve yet to see a rotted steam carrying line. And keep in mind the majority of installs I’ve seen have either been hacked or waaay oversized, lets just say boiler water no doubt made it into the steam lines.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    Steamhead said:

    @PMJ , except in extremely unusual circumstances, we won't see failing steam pipes in walls. As @The Steam Whisperer says, 100 year old pipes we've cut into are fine. We have a piece from the 1911-vintage Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore that looks as good as the day it was installed.

    This issue has been answered more than once. It's not an issue at all. Time to move on.

    Plain enough. I apologize for troubling everyone with this.
  • brandonfbrandonf Posts: 173Member
    Love my steam. My house is 1910 and I'm adding a Unico system for A/C. A/c efficiency be damned. I want to be cool in the summer and not have 5 A/C's hanging out of my windows....😎
    Homeowner, Entrepreneur, Mechanic, Electrician,

    "The toes you step on today are connected to the butt you'll have to kiss tomorrow". ---Vincent "Buddy" Cianci
  • PMJPMJ Posts: 856Member
    Just went in another one not a mile from me and talked with the rehab contractor. This is a big home (5500sqft) 1922 and was hot water. Spent much time there as a kid - my best friend lived there.

    They ripped everything out - now 3 individual scorched air units. Contractor said since you must put in the air handler units for the AC anyway just doesn't make $$ sense not to do the heat too. Plus he said, "people are terrified of steam". He called the high velocity AC a "bandaid at best".

    This approach is accelerating. It seems total rehab is the only gig that works around here financially. I know folks who poured money in for 25-30 years and can't sell for what they paid originally. Everything has to be "new". Steam is "old" to young people no matter how you dress it up.
  • mikeg2015mikeg2015 Posts: 967Member
    It’s crazy because in term of overall reliability, on a furnace, you have a lot more parts to fail and they are not cheap. Inducer, Blower, fan control board in was more than a DSI board. Multiply that by 2 with 2 systems.

    People never include blower and inducer power into the total energy use. With a steam boiler, you have one unit that last 30-40 years, vs 2 furnaces that will last 15-25.

    What worse is that at least 1/2 the homes i go in to, the ductwork is undersized, and poorly laid out so it’s noisy and unbalanced. Furnace is oversized to the actual heat loss by at least 30% typically.

  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,691Member
    I cant imagine stuffing ductwork into a previously hudronic home. Most likely that's why we see 2 or more scorched air units? One in the basement and one in the attic....cough....

    Sad, taking all that mass and iron out and running boatloads of flex duct. I'd rather see mini-splits than see registers in the ceiling upstairs, and that is saying something.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC, and Controls
  • FizzFizz Posts: 500Member
    unfortunately way of the world; bandaid fix with hemoraging down the road! Patience and common sense are dinasaurs. Very sad....
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 883Member

    I cant imagine stuffing ductwork into a previously hudronic home. Most likely that's why we see 2 or more scorched air units? One in the basement and one in the attic....cough....



    Sad, taking all that mass and iron out and running boatloads of flex duct. I'd rather see mini-splits than see registers in the ceiling upstairs, and that is saying something.

    Thank you for writing this. Due to intuition or luck or more likely cheapness I never once considered ripping out my steam system when I wanted to have better AC than my 20 year old wall unit in the living room and some window units upstairs.

    I put in a three-head mini split, tossed those window units and despite the wall tumors (that's what they're called, right?), it's been a really good addition to my steam system.
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,995Member
    My minisplit can keep the firdt floor warm down into the mid 40's during the day so it helps trim the gas bill on moderate winter days. In's only a single zone 12k unit but fills it's intended purpose.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,691Member
    I've installed literally hundreds of mini-splits. One thing I will say is that they cool very well for a fraction of the cost. They heat reasonably well above freezing temps.

    I still hate them.... :#
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC, and Controls
  • KoanKoan Posts: 432Member
    I just had to remove a horizontal section of 91 year old return pipe on our 3rd floor. (i'm in @Steamhead s area, and glad they are nearby!) While the inside did not look brand new the wall thickness was substantially the same as new pipe. Still going strong. In addition, until 2 years ago there were no valves to flush the wet returns! Fortunately that has been remedied as well!
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