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The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

Joined on May 25, 2008

Last Post on July 23, 2014

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why not fix the steam

@ July 23, 2014 7:13 PM in Cemetery chapel improvements

and put in some ductless splits.  For 90 people you shouldn't need more than 5 or 6 tons, if you precool the space before service and the building is only heavily occupied for about an hour at a time.

You could force thier hand.....

@ July 21, 2014 9:30 AM in Lovely Lane Methodist Church- A Steam Heating Museum

Hook up the gas and install a pressure booster to suck the gas out of the mains. Not nice to the neighbors, but it would force them to upgrade.   Or at least install a small gas lead boiler that could handle most of the typical loads, and leave the big pick up loads on oil.


@ July 10, 2014 4:47 AM in Looking at Split systems

With the currently low attendance, the vast space, short occupancy time and high air leakage rates, ventilation is unlikely a problem at this time.  When attendance begins to increase, ERVS will probably need to be looked at.

Looking at Split systems

@ July 9, 2014 10:34 AM in Looking at Split systems

I am looking at ductless split systems for use in my church and have been talking to my cooling tech.  What we are looking for is a simple, high capacity, high EER non-invertor type unit, that may also provide heating.  We will be using wall mount indoor units.   It seems the EER ratings on most new equipment are pretty dismal, typically below 10, which is worse than a decent window unit.  We want the high EER, not SEER, because the unit will essentially be running at full capacity or off (since it will be technically very undersized), so the EER rating really matters for energy cost.  In addition the building has very limited electrical capacity.  We will be working to upgrade the lighting efficiency to free up power for the air conditioning and to cut the cooling load. Non-invertor units also should be easier and cheaper to maintain due to the simplicity.  Something with wall mount units capable of a minimum of 3 tons and are quiet are needed.
If we do go to an invertor type unit it looks like the Mitsu City Multi is the best bet, with EER ratings around 15, allowing use to run 6 tons on only 12.2 amps(230v), with COP's near 4 for heating.

Your suggestions would be appreciated

coolintg calcs....

@ June 28, 2014 5:57 PM in Cooling load, heating load, sizing equipment

You don't need to provide cooling for that 800 people when they are only there for an hour or so, particularly in the morning.  The mass of the structure will absorb heat and your solar gain has not built up for the day.   When you run a full ASME cooling calc that takes into account length of occupancy, mass of structure, time of day, and the activity level of the occupants   the cooling loads drop enormously for a typical church setting.    The last church I ran the calcs on ( about 6 pages of numbers) had about 120 on a Sunday morning for a single 1 hour service in a high mass building and only needed about 6 tons of cooling.  It's been in use for ten years and works just fine.

I'm in Chicago

@ June 23, 2014 6:09 PM in Need help rating these radiators.

A full geothermal system for heat really does not make financial sense.  You will end up putting in a system probably three times bigger than if you left the steam heating in and used the geothermal in more moderate weather which occurs for 90% of the heating season. Or in other words, you will end up putting  in a system 3 times larger so it can heat the building for an additional 5 to 10 days a year.  In addition, churches usually set temperatures back deeply and need large amounts of heat to recover, making it very difficult for a geothermal system to be cost effective.
The other problem I usually find is grossly oversized cooling equipment.  If you are looking to keep a typical high mass building sanctuary at reasonable comfort you only need about 3 to 4 tons per 100 people.  If you want full cooling, maybe double that.
Also, if you are using the geothermal for forced air, you will have about a 20 to 30% higher heating need than if you used an efficient system such as steam or hot water ( just check out the DOE testing)  There is a reason why most of the world does not used forced air for heating and what little is left outside the US for cooling is disappearing from use as more efficient systems are installed.
If you have an existing steam system, and spend some money getting it working properly, you will have about the most efficient heating system available, especially for two pipe steam.  
If you are interested, I am currently scheduling some seminars in the Beverly and Rogers Park or Edgewater areas  ( and maybe in the Bronzeville areas )particularly addressing churches with steam heating on how to upgrade, restore and maintain these incredible systems.  
I already have a standard seminar scheduled at the Rebuilding Exchanger and will be teaching at the Chicago Center for Green Technology again this fall.

I believe it changes

@ June 14, 2014 8:46 AM in Radiators

AT low temps, the output is more radiant since the convective air currents are weak,  As the water temps rise, the convective currents increase, increasing the convective output.  I believe the convective output forms and more u-shaped curve when plotted against water temp because of the increased air speed through the radiator, where the radiant output is essentially linear.  This would parallel the heat loss characteristics of a home.  The heat loss through building materials is essentially linear, but the air leakage rate accelerates more as the outdoor temp drops.

It's orange

@ May 29, 2014 7:01 PM in Need to kno everything about Twintube...

I spoke to the Watts rep and he said it is pre- 1990 and the suits are settled.  Are the spring clamps available  ( 5/16 right?)  The system has a cast iron boiler, CI pumps and a mix of cast iron radiators...all on the same main supply loop.  Make take some work to split the CI rads off and maybe install a heat exchanger.

Need to kno everything about Twintube...

@ May 29, 2014 7:30 AM in Need to kno everything about Twintube...

Just came across a twintube system in need of a boiler replacement. It was obviously a very expensive system to install and was piped incorrectly.  There are leaks at the manifold with screw type clamps.  Oxygen Barrier? , expected life ?

Wow, that was quick....

@ May 27, 2014 8:11 PM in Midco Radiant burner....results of first heating season

I think it was a Power Flame

Midco Radiant burner....results of first heating season

@ May 27, 2014 8:02 PM in Midco Radiant burner....results of first heating season

My Burner Tech, Brad,  installed a Modulating Midco LNB1000 on an old Pacific Steel boiler. While the combustion numbers on high fire were almost the same as the existing modern conventional burner, the fuel usage was dramatically different.   Brad ran the numbers, correcting for degree days, and found over a 30% drop in fuel usage with the new burner.  I suspect about 1/2 this drop is due to the modulation, but the other half is probably due to the better heat transfer of the radiant design.  The installation was on a larger single zone, single pipe steam TRV's.
Looks like I'm going to start selling a lot of these

Look at your Pex size

@ May 26, 2014 10:25 PM in Home Run vs. "Stacked" Home Run for 3 Storey Home

It is unlikely you need 1/2 Inch pex to feed a single radiator.    Most of the time the existing radiators are so oversized, you can size at a 30F to 40F delta tee (at 140 F supply if the home has been insulated). which means very low flow rates and little pipes (easier to install and less costly material), little pumps (higher electrical efficiency) and higher efficiency if you are using a condensing boiler.  3/8 is usually all you need for a typical room.  1/4 gpm will move about 4,000 to 5,000 btu of heat.  Or if you really want small piping, install a mini-tube stem system.....the delta tee is about 140F.  3/8 copper supplies, 1/4 inch copper returns.

Galvanized pipng for gas

@ May 6, 2014 12:16 PM in Galvanized pipng for gas

Hi,  I was taught this is bad news.  Apparently our local gas company, Nicor, is planning on starting to use it.  Any comments?

My vote...

@ May 1, 2014 8:10 AM in Please critique this layout

I'd use 2 -3 inch x12 inch nipple right out of the boiler and then use a reducing coupling.  The 3 inch nipple will cut the exit velocity from the boiler about 70%.  This is a critical place to reduce velocity since there is  so much water surging up at this point.  The 3 inch will kill the velocity and let most of the water drop back into the boiler so it will never even reach the header.  Rule of thumb on spacing between header take offs is minimum  3xthe header diameter between take offs and 2x before the equalizer.  I'd also leave 3x after the elbow before you hit the first take off.

Those American Standard boilers....

@ April 27, 2014 9:53 AM in Three Recent Steamers

seem to last forever.  I see lots of the early 60's models like that one and its bigger brother and most are just starting to fail.  45 to 50 year life is really good.  Stack temps may be high on those boilers, but did you notice that the oxygen levels are quite low...usually between 20% and 30%.  This will drive up the stack temps, but make them more efficient.  They are probably the most efficient older atmospheric out there, right up there with most newer atmospherics.  I usually get a combustion test efficiency of about 78% on the steamers and 80% on the hw models.
Nice work as expected.   I'm in the unenviable position that it is nearly impossible to get small power burner boilers.   Do your Slantfins run just as quiet as others?  Mine are very noisy, but that may just be the Heatwise burners (which can run clean down to 10% oxygen or less)

typical mod burners

@ April 22, 2014 9:42 PM in Is my steam boiler way oversized?

installed on boiler have been at least 3 to 1 downturn, so usually going down to 1/3 input  should be safe.  Check out Burnham's recommended burners and their downturn rate.

go to the Burnham site

@ April 14, 2014 4:03 PM in Is my steam boiler way oversized?

and check out what the factory gas burners are for those boilers. 

Another vote for Vent Rite's

@ April 12, 2014 10:05 AM in Radiator air vent preference?

The adjustable version adjusts in the slow range, allowing you to get really find balance in a system.  Remember, vent mains quickly and radiators slowly.  Gortons vents are well made, but the venting sizes are too large. It would be much better if they offered fived sizes with the largest at 6, not D.   For apartments I recommend the Maid of Mist.....they are like the Gortons except that the orifice can be changed.  Makes it much easier to tweak the system without having to buy and swap all sorts of vents.  After you get them balanced, a little locktite on the orifice and that will keep folks from messing with the orifices.  You can swap in the equivalent Gorton later in you want a better vent.

Low gas pressure

@ April 11, 2014 9:38 PM in Is my steam boiler way oversized?

Chicago is almost all low pressure mains and we have lots of really, really big boilers. Typical courtyard buildings are running 2.5 million to 3 millions input boilers and 500,000 btu input water heaters, all off low gas pressures.  The key is sizing the gas piping correctly. 

Probably a litle more sane approach.....

@ April 10, 2014 8:18 AM in Is my steam boiler way oversized?

would be to first convert to natural gas and simply fire the boiler at the proper rate.  Most gas fired boilers seem to work fine with a 50 to 60% down fire, in fact Burnham probably has this as a factory approved high/low set up for the boiler.    Properly tuned, you'll probably see a 3 to 4% increase in firing efficiency when running at these low fire rates.  In this case, you want to keep the boiler oversized to gain heat exchange efficiency, but cut the firing rate.
Over your current set with oil, you'll probably see at least  60 to 70% drop in fuel costs just making this change due to much cheaper natural gas, and much more efficient boiler and system operation.
Also, now that you have a huge boiler with a small fire, the need for correct piping above the boiler drops dramatically because the water and steam will separate much better inside the boiler and there will be much less reliance on the external piping.
This will buy you some time before rebuilding the header.

Sidewall venting.....

@ April 7, 2014 4:14 PM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

is the problem. The general restrictions include not being closer that 10 feet to the lot line, within 7 feet of any window or other opening, no under porches, no outdoor vent piping other than the couple feet for the termination.  Once you start adding the cost of installing chase ways, which must allow inspection of the vent piping, through other owners units (condos) , the fire stops between units,etc,  The cost starts growing rapidly.  There is also the issue of fire separations between units, so ductwork can't be run in ceilings or down in the basement, unless the space is separated with fireproofing.

Look at your electric bills too.......

@ April 7, 2014 8:18 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

typical gas forced air uses about $30.00 per month for electricity to run that giant blower motor, draft fan and all the electronics.  Steam only needs to open the gas valve and maybe run a small amount of electronics.    I believe, if my numbers are correct, that forced air uses about 80 times more electricity that an typical steam boiler.  There's plenty of research data out there (Department of Energy and other independent testing) that shows the overall system efficiency of a typical new  single family home forced air system is about 55% to 65%.  Steam appears to be more in the 70 to 75% range, probably due to much lower distribution losses and dramatically lower effect on air leakage of the structure when the system is in operation.  There's many reasons forced air is almost non existent on the world wide market and this is one of them.
Modcon gas also uses many times more electricity than steam, but probably use less gas than a typical steam boiler due to lower system losses ( smaller pipes and lower temperatures) and air leakage rates of the structure may be even lower than steam.  However, you have a whole lot more to go wrong, and if you are in a high density area, can be difficult to legally and safely vent the exhaust.  High efficiency appliance are all but illegal for installation in most areas of Chicago.
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