Joined on January 4, 2012
Last Post on January 4, 2013
@ January 4, 2013 9:59 PM in Quiet radiator tipWe have had that same pop on a few of our radiators, we will give this a try if it persists after the new boiler goes in. Are you talking plastic milk just (like the gallon ones?) or the cardboard ones?
@ January 4, 2013 9:25 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?So it would take me a small novel to write about all the crap I have had to wade through in order to get to a proposal I liked. Long story short, we decided to go with one contractor who, while he was at my house, told me what I wanted to hear and then, when asked for the proposal in writing (after much pressure to "Get going because you're without heat!") provides me with complete crap that is the opposite of what I want.
Its taken about 2 weeks to jump through hoops with this person, lying through his teeth most of the time, but we finally got another contractor in who clearly knew what he was talking about. Very professional and not willing to cut corners for anything. We have a proposal that we love now and even though we are paying double what we would have with the other company, I am feeling confident. Needless to say, we fired the other guy... and the boiler goes in next week!
So I decided, for posterity, to take some pictures of the old system. Its a doozy. I got Dan's books when we moved into this house less than two years ago and have read through them a few times. I have also lurked here. But I am a complete amateur. That said, even I could see some of the glaring problems with this existing boiler and piping. Thought you might like to see.
I think the first two pictures speak for themselves. In the third you can see all the corrosion on the pipe there. The 4th picture shows a 10' long copper pipe carrying steam, connected to the older steel pipe. Running off to the left are two copper pipes hooked to... baseboard radiators (like in a hot water system) in a part of the house that was an addition! I had always wondered what the heck those baseboard rads were for (they of course never worked) but I figured someone had tried to tie them to the wet return or something. Never imagined they'd be hooked into the steam carrying pipe.
In the fifth picture you can see one of the examples of the piping not actually being supported by anything. There is a chain loop there meant to hold pipe up but its not being utilized. Elsewhere it has popped free and is dangling or is not present at all. It has sagged and caused pooling and quite a bit of water hammer.
The final picture is just to show the lack of main venting. That riser is to a radiator that has been eliminated. There is no main venting before it, either.
@ December 23, 2012 10:02 AM in Should we not replace the boiler?he came up with 50k btu then added 30% for 65k btu. however, the smallest boiler this company makes is 75k.
@ December 22, 2012 9:51 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?So I got a proposal today that I like but I wanted to lay out the highlights here to see what everyone thought.
So, this person had given us an estimate a couple days ago based on a cursory glance at our boiler and piping. The proposal didn't have much info, just an end price which I thought was quite high for the job. It was for a 150k BTU boiler (which is what we have installed now).
Today he came so we could talk about the proposal. Immediately I asked him to please explain where their pricing was coming from. He talked about the brand of the boiler (reassuring they are a good company blah blah), labor costs, what they would be doing, etc. He then mentioned a chimney liner. This would explain the much higher cost on the proposal than I was expecting. I stopped him there and said, "Chimney liner? I didn't realize we needed one." He said his tech who had come the night the boiler went out looked in the chimney and did not see a liner. I took him downstairs to look and there is, in fact a liner. We checked in the attic and it goes all the way through.
I asked him next about the boiler. I asked where he came up with the size. He said it was based on the amount of heat our house needed. I said that I figured we wouldn't need one so big, he asked how I got that, and I told him I measured the radiators. He looked a bit taken aback, but pulled his charts out and asked me to show him which radiator styles I used to calculate. I think he was basing his estimate on what techs said again, and also an energy audit his company had done for us that. When I showed him the style we had and said we only had seven radiators he then went around and counted sections. He revised his proposal again to a 75000 unit (Williamson).
Then I asked about piping. He said he will only install steel piping and does not work with copper, explained that this makes their prices higher but its to code. He also had included in his proposal replacing all the copper piping we have there currently (which is a lot). This also explained some of the pricing. He also said he does not like the configuration of the piping currently. I will try and take pics in the morning so you can see as well.
He also pointed out in the piping that there are no main vents (which I knew already). Part of the proposal was the installation of main venting. I liked that. He also said there is no skimmer, no mud leg. All those things will be installed on the new system. They will show us how to use them properly.
So with the chimney liner removed and with a better sized boiler, I now really like the proposal. All threaded steel pipe, replacing all copper. Main venting installed. Flushing the return pipes, checking all venting on radiators and valves. What do you guys think?
@ December 21, 2012 2:15 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?The chart you linked for boiler sizing is the exact one he used here. He showed me while he did it, so that was nice.
So I should definitely insist on steel on the steam carrying pipes? I will inform him as much. We have copper piping there currently, soldered onto the older steel pipes. He said they will be removing all the near boiler piping, but I am not sure how near the boiler that includes.
I haven't had a lot of luck getting any other contractors around here to come take a look. We chose a bad time to lose the boiler as we are leaving town Christmas day. Looks like space heating for the foreseeable future.
Edit: I did a calc myself and came up with 46080 BTU, so seems like we definitely have an over-sized boiler.
Also wanted to ask what the difference is between a hot water boiler and steam boiler. Can one boiler service either a steam system or a hot water system? Or are there boilers specifically for steam and then specifically for hot water?
We do have natural gas here, I keep forgetting to answer that question. Its nat gas fired.
@ December 21, 2012 11:20 AM in Should we not replace the boiler?I contacted the guy you linked, hopefully can get some good info. Also, thanks for the information on the boiler, we will see what we are offered and ask if they work with these.
@ December 21, 2012 10:16 AM in Should we not replace the boiler?Thanks Eric for the recommendation, we will give him a call.
I just had a meeting with one company's installer. There were some good and some not-so-good things but I think it went better all in all than the first person who came to look at the system.
The first quote we got, the person who came looked at our boiler and basically started asking me questions about income and told me about rebates from the state we could utilize. Then he sent me a quote based on the size of the boiler we already have installed, never measured or even looked at any of our radiators.
Today, the person took pictures of all radiators, measured all of them and recorded all this information. Did a quick calc and said we would need a boiler between 50-75 BTU. Currently we have a 150 BTU installed. I asked him if this could be the cause of the short cycling we experienced and he said quite likely.
I asked him about the copper piping we have near the boiler, he said shouldn't be a problem and that they have been doing that for 15 years on residential installs. I asked on both the wet return and the feed side? He said, generally yes, but that if we do not want copper we can just say so and they won't use it. He said they don't use copper on commercial installs but on residential they have never had a problem with it.
He asked us which brands we were thinking about, I said I didn't really know one brand to the next. He also said he would do some calcs, have a specialist check them, then an engineer checks his proposal before it is sent to us. He said he would add 30% to the 50 BTU he calc'ed, so he would be sizing for a 65 BTU system.
He also showed us some quick things we could look into while the system is off to assess the radiators themselves (such as taking the valves out and checking for buildup and rust). So far, a better feeling than the first company.
@ December 20, 2012 3:50 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?Tried the Find a Contractor. No one within 50 miles. We'll see how the appointments go!
@ December 20, 2012 3:31 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?Thanks for the suggestions on Dan's list, I will make sure to have that memorized haha. I did manage to find some other contractors in the area and am in the process of setting up appointments with them to get proposals.
If a contractor is here and does not seem like he is intending to measure the radiators, is that something I should ask him to do? Or should I just let him do what he does and then take his lack of measuring into account when making my choice?
@ December 20, 2012 1:37 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?sorry I forgot about the pricing rule. I was just surprised how off I was in what I was expecting and what the reality is. I'm in the finger lakes. The contractor is coming over on Saturday to discuss the proposal. Any suggestions on what we should make sure to ask?
@ December 20, 2012 1:15 PM in Should we not replace the boiler?I am not really interested in switching to another major type of heating system (ie: Forced Air or Hot water), but was thinking more along the lines of the ductless systems that I have seen in the last few years (many are Japanese companies off the top of my head).
We live in a pretty rural area in upstate NY and don't have a lot of choice on steam heating contractors. We have a maintenance plan with the local big-wig company and they seem to be pretty reliable. They just sent me a quote on an 82% efficient boiler that will cost us over (removed).
There are programs in NYS to mitigate some of the costs, and I think their quote includes fixing the leak we have in one of the feeder pipes. But its just a bit overwhelming. I can see most here are recommending sticking with getting a boiler. I was told by the contractor that 82% is about as efficient as they are made, is this the case?
Thanks for the help!
@ December 20, 2012 10:21 AM in Should we not replace the boiler?Hi everyone! I lurk here a lot, but don't post much.
So the nightmare scenario happened with us. We moved into our house in summer 2011. There is a 1994 boiler here, so we are thinking it should last at LEAST 5 years, right?
Well after we moved in I got the books from here (We Got Steam Heat, Lost Art of Steam Heating) and read them all the way through. I started inspecting the system to see what may be going on with it. The radiators are pretty much all too large for the rooms they're in, there is little insulation on the pipes, and what is there is asbestos. There are no main vents, most of the valve stems are missing the heads to turn them. Some of the vents are clogged or stuck (we replaced some) and some rooms are perpetually cold.
But the most recent and by far the most "interesting" discovery has been that there are copper pipes on all the near boiler piping! You can see where its been soldered onto the original piping, most is on the wet return side but some is on the heat side. Gah!
Well it all came to a head last night, we heard our automatic feeder feeding WAY too much water into the boiler. We went downstairs to check it out, it was gushing water. Turns out the castings have completely rotted through. The piping inside is all copper, too.
So my question that I am pondering... is it worth it to have a new boiler put in? Or should we switch to something more energy efficient, like the zone heating wall-mounted systems I have seen advertised. I am nostalgic about steam heat but at the same time I am trying to be economical and rational. If we are going to spend $5000 Iwant to make sure to consider all possibilities. Opinions?
@ January 4, 2012 4:55 PM in New to Steam HeatHave you tried buying a replacement vent and installing it yourself? I went to a local hardware store and got a vent, as well as some teflon tape to wrap the threads. I installed it on a radiator that had not been heating, and immediately we had 100% improvement. It still doesn't heat as much as I would like, but I think that is another problem that I haven't figured out yet. Installing the vent was cake.