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Joined on February 27, 2010

Last Post on April 20, 2014

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@ April 20, 2014 8:51 AM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

The boilers are matched to the orifice plate sizes, but the orifice plates are not sized to the home's heat loss. That is something that I've yet to expriment with. My instinct tells me that this house, that has had no insulation or air sealing upgrades, needs the radiators at the size that they are. Eventually, I will be conducting a heat loss and that will give me a chance to compare the numbers.

I agree that the Low Fire ratings don't bother me. The combustion efficiency is lower, but we're only using something like 20% of the total BTUH's for the majority of a run cycle. That has to equate to reduced fuel consumption. With staged controls, even if fuel use isn't reduced, comfort is always increased.

Interesting idea with the modulating vacuum. Are you controlling the actual pump speeds or run times? Are you essentially modulating the time that it takes steam to reach the radiators?


@ April 19, 2014 4:42 PM in New Jersey hvac license

Same here. I called in and they said that they have an approval meeting once a month. You can imagine just how much, or how little, gets done in only one meeting per month. Thanks, NJ!


@ April 18, 2014 5:22 PM in Three flashes, then okay again.

Well, two things could be happening...the pressure switch could be bad, or the pressure switch could be doing its job. An error code will not tell you which one is correct. Usually, pressure switches are fairly reliable and only cause an error for a legitimate reason, such as a blocked chimney, or faulty inducer motor. It is indeed something that needs to be investigated further.

Did your tech perform a combustion analysis or inspect the chimney?


@ April 18, 2014 5:08 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

The 2-stage t-stat can control two boilers, but it will only stage them based on indoor temperature. If we added the 2-stage t-stat functionality into our system, we might see the Lead boiler running alone for 90% of the season. Sometimes, the indoor temperature can fall behind for a long enough time to notice and become uncomfortable. With both boilers firing on every call for heat, the piping heats up very quickly and the Lag boiler only runs for 5-10% of every cycle. We've had better performance without the 2-stage t-stat so far. Although, it seems to depend entirely on the individual system. Who knows, I might integrate into this system at some point to see how it works.

Haven't done a full heat loss yet, but plan to for the EcoSteam control installation. The house holds its temperature VERY well, and the last few weeks of mild weather has seen no lack of indoor comfort.


@ April 18, 2014 5:02 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

We haven't settled on the next wet-based gas boiler that we like. Our PR war with several manufacturers is still pending.


@ April 18, 2014 8:40 AM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

Staging is controlled by three Vaporstats and one Pressuretrol. The firing sequence is:

Themostat brings both boilers on at 100% capacity.
Lag boiler triggers Low Fire at 4 ounces.
Lag boiler shuts off at 6 ounces.
Lead boiler triggers Low Fire at 8 ounces.
Lead boiler (never) shuts off at 1.5psi.

I didn't go with a 2-stage thermostat this time because it has been kind of unreliable on another twin system we installed. Although, that system was 1-pipe and this is 2-pipe. 2-pipe seems to respond A LOT better to a thermostat controlling some of the initial staging.

Combustion numbers show that Stack Temps are always above 350F. There is way more O2 in low fire, so we lose combustion efficiency, but our heat-transfer and system efficiency go up by an immeasurable amount.

Old boiler

@ April 17, 2014 9:45 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

The old boiler was a 5 section 78 series Weil McLain oil boiler. It was about 30 years old and leaking from every single section.

2-stage GCV

@ April 17, 2014 9:33 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

I'm really liking this valve. It has a pilot valve, so it only works with intermittent pilot, but eliminates the need for a separate pilot control. The small size is 300,000 with 3/4" tappings. And, it's a step open valve. Big advantage.


@ April 17, 2014 9:11 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

Oh, and over the summer, we'll be installing MarkS's EcoSteam control on this system. I figured...why not add ONE more control to confuse the next guy in 30 years.

Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

@ April 17, 2014 9:06 PM in Twin Steam Boilers - 4 Stages of Firing Rates

So, we just wrapped up another twin boiler setup on a Warren/Webster vapor system. Oil to gas conversion. Since the SMITH 8 is no longer in production, we've been installing a lot of PEERLESS 63 series boilers. The only way we feel good about an atmospheric boiler is by installing a 2-stage gas control valve in them. Robertshaw makes a series 700 two-stage valve that comes in two different sizes up to 720,000 BTUH. Super easy to retrofit and install. The High is 100% and Low is 60%. It's the absolute perfect fit for High/Low on a steam system. As soon as the mains are hot, you can drop out your pick-up factor and run on Low fire until the t-stat is satisfied. On this job, we're controlling 4 separate firing rates. I can maintain 4-8 ounces of pressure with just the Low fire of one boiler.

We installed orifice plates in all of the rads/convectors, as well as upgraded 3 original WW crossover traps. The Air Eliminator check valve is still functional and maintaining a massive vacuum. It takes less than 5 minutes to get 50 feet of main hot.

Each boiler has its own 3" drop header that feeds a 5" system drop header. Dry steam is happy steam!

The picture quality is not great. One day, I'll get some better photos.

Air Eliminator

@ April 16, 2014 5:18 PM in Dunahm Air Eliminator replacement available

Awesome find! For that price, I'll try it on the next job. We would easily spend that much money on a bunch of Gorton #2's anyway. The only drawback is that it would not hold back steam if a few return traps went bad.


@ April 13, 2014 3:10 PM in Slab house/Boiler in kitchen

Nobody will know if it'll be okay until it's installed and properly tested. For me, trial and error is a bad way of installing systems. That boiler is capable of being top-vented. I would make a new hole in the chimney high enough to handle the right size draft control.


@ April 12, 2014 8:47 AM in Help with Sizing a Boiler

I've been using a 15% piping factor for insulated mains with great success. But, not everyone is that daring! I would use an EG-45. Well, I wouldn't use a Weil McLain at all, but that is a different, and heated, topic altogether.

EDIT: Using a smaller boiler size will require the rest of the system to be in perfect operating condition; ie: better-than-recommended piping, massive main venting, correct radiator venting, and low pressures.

Just in case you wanted another opinion with a completely different model/size to muddle your decision...


@ April 5, 2014 6:46 AM in how should I prepare the system for summer?

I like the idea of flooding the boiler. Nearly 75% of the leaking boilers we find are rotted out right at the waterline. I would rather replace a riser pipe than a boiler every 10 years. If you drain it completely, you'll have to add a dessicant inside the boiler or completely hand-dry the inside. Both options are impossible or implausible.

When you flood the boiler, let it run until it starts to make a terrible surging sound. That'll be hot enough to boil the O2 out.


@ April 4, 2014 3:26 PM in steam boiler maintenance

Don't drain the entire boiler, just a cup or two.


@ April 4, 2014 6:09 AM in Spewing air check! What to do?

Can you post pictures of the boiler piping?


@ April 3, 2014 10:51 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

I messaged you privately about this. My BIGGEST pet peeve is a lack of communication and response. I'm guilty of it myself sometimes, but there's no excuse for completely breaking communication like that.


@ April 3, 2014 6:07 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

It's hard to reply to every thread here during the winter, as Steamhead has said. Sometimes, we can go weeks without spending much time here. Since I was in the original thread, I'm assuming that the comment was made about me.

Feel free to call or email me any time. I'm available 24 hours a day for emergencies, and generally open to a phone call at any time of day.

If you really want to rip the steam out, let me come by and take the radiators. They don't belong in a junkyard. We'll donate them to a proper steam system.


@ April 3, 2014 5:55 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

I wonder what they would say if they were talking to somebody else; somebody who didn't install the system. If they've enjoyed your service over the years, they may not want to say anything negative about the work. A lack of complaints is not the same as an approval. Then again, they may be telling the truth. Maybe steam isn't the best system for everyone. It's just that when I hear the same opinion from every single one of my customers, it becomes easier to believe that it is. Especially the ones who want to switch BACK to steam after it was ripped out.


@ April 3, 2014 5:42 AM in steam boiler maintenance

I recommend once a week at first. If the water is clean, go every two weeks, or 3 weeks, or 4. But, never less than once per month. The water should be tea-colored or slightly less than clear but never thick or gritty. You should drain the boiler as often as needed to keep it clean without having to add excessive fresh water.


@ April 2, 2014 8:49 AM in Value of converting oil/steam to modcon gas?

Don't ask us contractors. We have our favorite systems, and our own agendas. Ask the homeowners who have converted from steam to something else. They'll tell you the real story. Higher fuel bills and less comfort. It would be foolish to remove the steam system.


@ March 31, 2014 8:29 PM in McDaniel #16 Steam trap

Ummmm PICTURES PLEASE! We'd all love to see the setup, if it's all original.
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