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1930 ARCO Boiler Conversion

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karmachanic11
karmachanic11 Member Posts: 1

Duplex with two of these and both are in mint condition and still working well. Asbestos pipes still there. We wanna but this house, but are unsure if this heating situation , any advice for a new home owner?

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  • delcrossv
    delcrossv Member Posts: 748
    edited May 9
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    I'm of the "if it ain't broke" persuasion. You'd get higher efficiency with a new system, but the payoff time usually isn't too attractive. Worth running it as is (after cleaning) next winter and see where you're at.

    Trying to squeeze the best out of a Weil-McLain JB-5 running a 1912 1 pipe system.
    Intplm.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    Do the Ben Franklin plus and minus list.

    On the plus side

    • Very simple operation
    • Few moving parts
    • No circulator to fail, the water moves to the radiators by gravity (also called thermosiphoning) where the hot water goes up to the radiators and the cold water from the radiators goes down to the boiler
    • Well designed for the way it is used

    On the minus side

    • Uses more fuel that a new modern boiler
    • At some point the asbestos and boiler may need to be replaced as a greater cost than a more recent boiler system.
    • Old gas burner parts may be hard to find replacements for, you need a real old experienced boiler man to fix it when it fails. The youngsters will just look at it and say "New Boiler"
    • Guys like us are retiring and are harder to find when you need us.

    If you love the home then keep it the way it is. I can see this lasting for years. Also find a good boiler man that is not afraid to work on the old stuff.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    Intplm.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,840
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    That burner also needs to be checked by someone that understands combustion every couple years to make sure it is burning and drafting properly.

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,942
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    @EdTheHeaterMan wrote:

    "On the minus side

    • Uses more fuel that a new modern boiler"

    That's an understatement. These were only about 40% efficient in some cases, according to at least one of my Dead Men's Books. It is possible to add baffles to combat the high stack temperatures we typically see with these boilers, but you really have to know what you're doing.

    If that were mine, I'd budget for new boilers. Make sure the installer does a heat loss calculation for each one.

    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    bburd
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 2,037
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    maybe make contingency plans for when there is no hope for repair. A little fund for when you need to use it.

    That time will come. Until then, leave it be?

    delcrossv
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,746
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    Agree with some of the above posts. Find out what the replacement cost will be and budget for that puls it will cost more as time goes on and then "run what you brung " until it fails. Have it tested combustion wise to make sure it is safe. Search for a good contractor. Post your location someone may have a recommendation

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,840
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    Did someone install that with the ash pit rotated 90 degrees so that the door was on the side 100 years ago?

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    I remember signing a new customer with a 1940 coal conversion with a Quiet May oil burner stuck in the bottom (just like that gas conversion burner) and I Immediately told then how much fuel they were wasting and that a new boiler would cut their fuel bill in half. At minimum a new Beckett burner would save them over 20% or more on their fuel bill. They informed me that the total usage for one year was about 220 gallons. (at the time oil was about 60 cents per gallon). The price for a new boiler at the time was around $2000.00 and the price for a complete oil burner modernization was $1200.00 and just replacing the burner only if the chamber was in good shape would be about $500.00.

    The math worked out that new boiler would save them $100.00 per year and the new burner would save then $40.00 per year. So I know that you are correct with the savings percentage @Steamhead but if the usage is low enough with the antique equipment, then the payback does not justify the expendature. That customer purchased fuel oil for years after that with the old boiler and burner. I tuned it up every summer and they used about 220 gallons every year until they died.

    That is why I recommend keeping the old thing until they experience at least one year of operating cost. Then the choice to replace will be easier or not based on the operating cost.

    DON'T YOU AGREE?

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    bburddelcrossv
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    YEP. Depending on the coal bin location and the basement exit location, that may have been the logical way to do it. Coal comes in from the left and the ash exits to the right. I like the fact that someone actually thought about it and made the decision to rotate the ash pit opening.

    And the neighbor thought he was crazy 100 years ago.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    mattmia2
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,870
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    Compromise and get a boiler with 80's technology.

    delcrossv
  • delcrossv
    delcrossv Member Posts: 748
    edited May 10
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    This. We looked into going with mod-cons for a new private school project I'm involved with and the payoff time for fuel savings was longer than the expected boiler lifespan.

    The op needs a season's data to see if the lower efficiency really matters.

    Trying to squeeze the best out of a Weil-McLain JB-5 running a 1912 1 pipe system.
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 531
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    If you know the historical fuel consumption and can live with it for now, do your best to allow for a future boiler replacement in your purchase price and keep running the old equipment.

    Is the rest of the building as well kept as the boiler room?

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,840
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    There is a point at which changes in safety standards over the past 100 years should also be considered.

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    I agree with this. Back in the day , even Idiots had a certain respect for things that made fire in the home. Today's idiots are much better at doing stupid stuff, than their ancestors.

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    delcrossvbburdLRCCBJ
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,520
    edited May 16
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    Those gas burners would make me nervous. There are no longer parts available for them. If a burner goes down during a particularly cold week you could have quite a time trying to avoid a freeze-up, let alone stay warm.

    On the other hand, you've got the 2nd boiler to potentially keep everything above the freeze-up temp.

    Except for the burners, there really isn't anything else that could catastrophically fail. I wouldn't let it keep you from buying the home, if you otherwise would.

    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
  • Dave Stroman
    Dave Stroman Member Posts: 766
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    These old things are time bombs. It's not a matter of efficiency, it's a matter of safety.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    delcrossvjim s_2
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    What kind of car do you drive? I can no longer drive this one!

    So I gave it to my son! What does that say about me?

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    WMno57delcrossvjim s_2
  • BRader
    BRader Member Posts: 12
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    They're not the most efficient things, but they'll probably be there chugging away long after we're all dead and forgotten. That is unless someone decides that they're no longer acceptable machines for heat generation. The only thing I would be concerned about is maybe the burners depending on their condition. There are other retrofit burners available, though, so really the boilers themselves could last an indefinite amount of time as long as they don't leak.

    EdTheHeaterMandelcrossv