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Joined on October 17, 2013

Last Post on April 2, 2014

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Nest for the UK

@ April 2, 2014 8:08 PM in Nest for the UK

Nest comes up quite a bit here and seems to be generally disliked for steam. They announced a new model today though that is specifically for the UK and I wonder if it would be any better. Supposedly, it's targeted for radiant heat instead of forced hot air, but I don't know if that means hot water or steam.

Does anyone know anything about UK heating systems? Are they mostly steam or mostly hot water? Why don't most UK systems have thermostats? The thermostat in my house is ancient, so it's not like the concept is new. It seems strange that there would be so little adoption of even dumb thermostats in the UK.


@ January 27, 2014 7:50 PM in Please confirm rad types

Would you accept the services of a totally unqualified knucklehead who just wants an excuse to get back to Crested Butte before he gets too old to handle the Headwall? If so, let me know!


@ January 23, 2014 8:43 PM in Insulations Questions

Thanks, Jamie. I'm glad I don't need to prep the pipes because I really wasn't looking forward to sanding and painting. I'll wrap them up and forget about them.


@ January 23, 2014 6:53 PM in Thermostats (Honeywell and EcoBee)

I'm pretty sure that ecobee's optional ZigBee module is using the ZigBee chip made by my company. If that's true, there's a chance that some software I wrote is running on the thing. And if that's true, I definitely recommend you buy it!

I started experimenting with building my own thermostat using an Arduino. My house is L-shaped with the boiler near the end of one leg and a bedroom at the end of the other leg. The thermostat is in a room with no radiator and sits almost directly above the boiler. The heat coming off the boiler and the uninsulated mains is enough to artificially keep the thermostat happy on mild days, leaving the other rooms a little cold. On really cold days, the lack of a radiator keeps the thermostat artificially unhappy. I'd like to add temperature sensors in the bedrooms and living spaces and intelligently figure out when to fire the boiler based on time and temperature. For example, during the day, I care about the living areas, but I care about the bedrooms at night. I also had the idea that knowing the temperature of the boiler water would help you know when to fire too. If the water is cold, you'll need to fire for awhile before you start making steam, so the thermostat could be smart and turn on a little earlier than normal. ChrisJ suggested adding outside sensors for temperature and wind speed would give you a lot of useful information for deciding when to fire too. There are a lot of variables. It's definitely an interesting problem.

Insulation Questions

@ January 21, 2014 11:32 PM in Insulations Questions

Hi. I'm the proud owner of a new Weil McLain PEG-50 boiler that was lovingly installed by Charles Garrity ("Charlie from wmass"). He spent two weeks banging around my basement, including a couple-day stint in my miserable crawlspace running a gas line to my kitchen. I figure I owe it to him to insulate my pipes so that the boiler runs as well as it possibly can for years to come. So, I bought a bunch of 1" thick sections from a local supplier and have already wrapped up all the easy sections. Before I keep going, I have a couple questions.

On the sections I've wrapped so far, I can still feel heat coming off the pipe. When I put my hand on the insulation, it feels pretty warm. It's obviously not burning hot like an exposed pipe, but it's definitely warm. Is that normal for 1" thick insulation? I just wanted to check before I put up the rest of it.

I thought I read somewhere that you can buy pre-insulated hangers, but the plumbing supply house near me had never heard of them. Am I crazy or do they actually exist? What are they called? I only need five or so, so I can order online if necessary.

Finally, do I need to prep the pipes at all before I wrap them up? Most of my pipes are probably a hundred years old, so they're covered in rust. I was wondering if I should sand them down and paint them before I tucked them in. (Charles, I know I asked you this question when you were here, but I forget what your answer was.)



@ November 22, 2013 10:11 AM in How Does this Install Look?

Thanks for the feedback. The guy was very neat and professional. He actually had seven guys on site for the install. My father said there were so many people and so much material flying around that he thought the install would be a disaster, but he was pleasantly surprised when the dust settled.

I know a little about steam, but nothing about hot water systems, so I'm not sure what pumping away means or what primary-secondary piping is. I'll try to read up on this stuff. In the mean time, can I turn the question around and ask what problems might pop up that my dad should watch out for?

I appreciate the help.

How Does this Install Look?

@ November 19, 2013 4:09 PM in How Does this Install Look?

My father just had his hot water boiler replaced because of a crack in the block. He had the work done by one of the contractors that I considered for putting in a new steam boiler for me. I was curious what you guys thought of his work. Note that this guy is NOT listed here.

The first two are the old boiler and piping.

Not Accusing

@ November 12, 2013 11:23 PM in Rusty Pipe at Boiler / Converting Boiler from Oil to Gas

I'm not accusing anyone. I said I got nervous because I heard everything from "they're all the same" to "it's not safe." A lot of this happened before I found this site, so I had no idea what to believe. One guy gave me a price for a conversion over the phone without ever seeing my system and without even asking who made the boiler. Another guy, who did actually come out and look at my system, gave me quotes for converting and for installing a new boiler. Two guys said no because the manufacturer said no. One guy (who is listed here) said no because it wasn't safe.

Like I said, I didn't know who was right. They're all licensed professionals and they're all saying different things. After I learned some more, I figured out that my current boiler is oversized and it's piped wrong, which made the idea of keeping it less attractive anyway regardless of whether it was safe. I figured I would be better off paying more to get the right size boiler and to get it piped correctly. I also avoid the question of whether a conversion is safe, so that's nice too.

I'm Selling an Oil-Fired Boiler in Massachusetts

@ November 12, 2013 5:20 PM in Rusty Pipe at Boiler / Converting Boiler from Oil to Gas

Hi, a3inverted. I'm at the southern end of Metro West, converting from oil to gas, and have a Utica oil-fired boiler on Craigslist right now. It's rated for 531 square feet, so it's a bit smaller than you need. The reason I bring this up is because I've gotten mixed answers from contractors about converting it. Some say "no problem" and will stick a gas gun in there for you no questions asked (literally no questions, not even "what model is the boiler?"). Others say they won't do it because Utica says it's not supported. Some said it wasn't safe, others just said they wouldn't go against the manufacturer. After a few guys said they wouldn't do it, I got nervous about whether it was safe and whether the guys who would convert it were reputable, so I'm going with a new gas boiler.

So What's the Answer?

@ November 7, 2013 7:23 AM in Better to Undersize or Oversize

Bob, with all due respect, my question has been up here for three days now and the only responses came from homeowners. We all know that the pros are busy and that this site is free, so we're happy when we get any advice from them at all. I certainly don't get upset or annoyed if I don't get a response from a pro, but, that said, I do still need to get some answers so I can make informed decisions for my home. That's where the other homeowners come in. We're all just trying to do the best we can to learn about these systems and help from homeowners like ChrisJ and Joe V go a long way. Both are them were upfront that they're "just a homeowner," so I'm obviously going to be more cautious with their advice than with a pro's advice (no offense Joe and Chris). I think all of us would be really happy if a pro replied saying, "No, you're wrong because..." or whatever. We'd all learn something, I'd end up with a better system, and we could turn around and give better answers to the next homeowner who asks the same question, so everyone would win.

So all that said, what's the answer? Is it better to oversize or undersize? Why? Is there a rule of thumb or does it depend on each system? Let's get some answers from the pros so we can all be more informed.

Thanks everyone.


@ November 6, 2013 12:12 PM in Steamaster Tablets @ Pex Supply

Thanks as always Chris. I appreciate the help.

Good Advice

@ November 6, 2013 10:55 AM in Steamaster Tablets @ Pex Supply

Good advice, thanks.

Just curious, how'd you figure out you only need one tablet vs. what the bottle recommended?

More Quotes

@ November 6, 2013 10:40 AM in Help Evaluating a Quote

I got two more quotes back.

One guy recommended either the EG-45 with a tankless insert or the New Yorker CGS50A with a tank water heater. The price of either of those options was the same. He came in a few thousand below the first guy. He also included switching my stove from propane to gas and removing my oil tank, so he's actually multiple thousands cheaper. The CGS50A is not efficient enough for Massachusetts incentives, so that's out. He says the EG-45 with tankless has a six-week lead time, so I probably can't do that either. The EG-45 with a tank is a bit more, but not by much. He uses black pipe, but I haven't asked about number or risers, size of pipes, valves, etc. yet.

The third guy suggested the EG-55. That's bigger than my current boiler! I told him I thought the boiler I have now is a bit oversized, so I'm not sure what he's thinking. He didn't measure my radiators (red flag), but did ask me how many I had. He says the average radiator is 40 square feet. With nine radiators, that's 360 square feet. I have 343 square feet, so he's not actually far off. I have no idea why he suggested the EG-55. He's the highest price of all of them and a full 50% higher than the second guy. His quote also doesn't include removing the oil tank or changing my stove. I think he's out of the running just for being a knucklehead.

I'm still waiting for one more quote. I also got ahold of "Charlie from wmass" today. He's coming out on Friday to take a look.

How Often

@ November 6, 2013 10:28 AM in Steamaster Tablets @ Pex Supply

Chris, how often do you add a new tablet? Also, and I know this is a stupid question, but how do you get them in the boiler? Through the skim port?


@ November 6, 2013 9:22 AM in Steamaster Tablets @ Pex Supply

Chris and Bob, do you know that mud isn't collecting in the bottom of your boiler? Do the tablets prevent corrosion or just keep the gunk from ending up in suspension in the water? The only contractor I've gotten a quote from so far is reluctant to install the valves necessary for a proper blow down of the boiler. I'm wondering if I can forego the valves and use some of these tablets instead. What are your thoughts?


@ November 5, 2013 2:58 PM in Better to Undersize or Oversize

Thanks, Joe. I appreciate the second opinion.

Help Evaluating a Quote

@ November 5, 2013 2:57 PM in Help Evaluating a Quote

I got a quote back from the contractor. I won't give pricing information, but I will say that it is about what I expected. I liked this contractor a lot and was happy he came in at a reasonable price. However, when I asked him few followup questions, I got a little nervous. Can you guys help me evaluate it? Note that this guy is NOT listed on this site, but he has attended Dan's classes. I found him through the yellow pages.

Before he came out, I measured my radiators at 343 square feet. I used the guides here, counted the sections and tubes, and measured the heights and widths. After I figured it out, I found the old brochures from the manufacturers and verified I got the right numbers. After I got the quote, I asked him what he calculated and he says he came up with 307. This was a bit of red flag for me at first because I was worried he'd pick the wrong boiler. Thinking about it some more though, 36 square feet probably isn't a big deal overall. Right?

He recommended the Weil-McLain PEG-45 which does 392 square feet. My pipes aren't insulated, but I intended to wrap them myself. Also, I'd like to add two radiators that were removed by previous owners. I estimate it will add another 80 square feet of radiation. I probably won't add the radiators this season and may not get the pipes wrapped up right away either. With that in mind, the PEG-45 seems about right. It covers me this season without insulation and should accomodate more radiators in the future. If he's right about the square footage, the PEG-45 is a perfect fit for the short term and the long term. If I'm right, it's a little undersized in the long term. It seems like slightly undersized is better than slightly oversized though, especially I insulate well. So maybe this isn't an issue at all.

His quote said that he would use black pipe according to the manufacturer recommendations. I asked him about the size of the risers, header, and equalizer that he'll install. I also asked about one riser vs. two risers and whether he'll put in a king valve, return valve, and a valve on the mud leg. I told him that I was interested in the valves so that I could blow down the boiler under pressure. He said Weil-McLain only requires one 2 inch riser and that all the other "stuff" is not required and a waste of money. Dan's video about near-boiler piping seemed pretty clear that this "stuff" was important and something a good steam guy will do without the homeowner asking for it. Is this a bad sign? Should I insist and get an updated quote from him?

He quoted the PEG-45 with a tankless insert. After reading a lot of threads here, I decided to ask for an estimate for a tank or indirect. The tank is about twice as much as the tankless insert and the indirect is about twice as much as the tank. The tankless insert or the indirect may the only options I can afford due to my chimney. The house is 180 years old. The chimney supposedly has a 6 inch liner installed sometime in the last seven years. Ripping it out and going bigger to accomodate a boiler and tank may not be financially possible right now.

This may be a Massachusetts thing, but he says I'm actually not required to have a liner with an interior chimney as long as the new boiler is within 5% BTU/hour input of the existing boiler. I thought the big issues were chimney capacity and also that the gas exhaust reacts with the old oil soot to eat away at the mortar. Anyone know the specifics? I have a chimney guy coming next week, so I can double check with him.

Finally, he gives one year parts and labor warranty. I asked whether that covered "comfort." I have some weird stuff in my system, so I said I don't expect perfection. However, if I end up with a bad water hammer or some of my radiators aren't heating up, I do want to be able to get him out to fix it. He said he can't gaurantee anything that he doesn't have control over, like the existing radiators and piping. He did say that he wouldn't leave me high and dry though, but that's not exactly a guarantee. Dan stressed asking for comfort when looking for a contractor. What do you pros typically guarantee when putting in a new boiler?

This is really my first dealing with any contractor, so I'd appreciate any help, thoughts, or widsom.


@ November 4, 2013 8:37 PM in Better to Undersize or Oversize

So is it safe to say:

1. Get the boiler that's as close as possible to your radiators.
2. If you're between two sizes, go smaller.
3. Insulate as much as possible.


@ November 4, 2013 11:04 AM in Better to Undersize or Oversize

Just to be clear, the sizes I'm talking about here are hypothetical. I'm hoping to learn some of the theory behind sizing. I'm trying to get a sense for what's too small and what's too big.

I made up the numbers above, but it turns out that I can actually use my real numbers and end up with a similar example. I have 343 square feet. That puts me almost exactly between the Peerless 63-03 at 308 and the 63-04L at 383. Again, assume my pipes are insulated and my house is mostly unchanged. Should I go up the to 63-04L or down to the 63-03?

Better to Undersize or Oversize

@ November 4, 2013 10:24 AM in Better to Undersize or Oversize

Hi. While I'm waiting for quotes to come in from the contractors, I'm wondering whether it's better to undersize or oversize a boiler when your EDR falls between two sizes.

Let's say I have 420 square feet of radiation. That puts me smack in the middle of the Peerless 63-04L and 63-04. For the sake of argument, assume those are my only two boiler options and that tricks like downfiring aren't possible. Also assume that the pipes are insulated, the house is mostly unchanged since the radiators were installed, and that there are no plans to add or remove radiators.

In this case, is it better to go with the 63-04L with 383 square feet or the 63-03 with 458 square feet?

I've read the article about boiler sizing (, but I'm not sure how to apply it.

My naive assumption would be that the larger boiler would be better on the coldest days while the smaller boiler would be better the rest of the time. Therefore, if you expect few "design days," slightly smaller is better than slightly bigger. Conversely, if you expect many design days, slightly bigger is better.

Is there a rule of thumb about how far off you can be from the rated capacity of the boiler? For example, if I had 384 square feet, the 63-04L with 383 would work, right? At what point does it flip and I'd be better off with the bigger 63-04?

I'd appreciate any input from the experts who know what happens in the real world. Thanks.

No Rebates

@ October 27, 2013 6:56 PM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

There are no rebates in Massachusetts for steam boilers unless your current boiler is over 30 years old (mine isn't). The big incentive is a 0% loan for heating and hot water upgrades. To qualify, steam boilers have to have 82% AFUE and the installation has to be preapproved, which is why the Smith with the EZ Gas makes me nervous. I will call Smith tomorrow though. They're based in Massachusetts, I believe, so hopefully they know about the program and can help me out.

Water heaters are eligible for the loan too and some have rebates, but indirect heaters don't have rebates when connected to steam and tankless inserts don't have rebates at all.

I'm in a bit of a dead zone as far as the contractors listed on this site. I haven't gotten any of them out to my house. I've talked to a lot of local guys from the yellow pages and had four out so far. I haven't got any quotes back yet, so I have no idea what I'm in for.


@ October 27, 2013 2:52 PM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

To be clear, the tankless option I'm considering now is a tankless insert, not a standalone tankless heater. My concern is that there's only one option for a tankless insert for gas boilers. One option makes things easy, but it may also mean you're sacrificing something. (Smith may be a second option, but only if the AFUE is above 82% and only if I could find a contractor to install it. So far, no one has suggested it as an option).

Both my showers do 2.5 GPM while my tub does 10 GPM. We only absolutely need one shower at a time, so a tankless insert covers us for now. Running both would be nice, but not necessary in the immediate future. Same with the tub: I'd be nice if we could fill it fast, but the kids only take baths every couple days, so waiting for hot water isn't too annoying.

If I get the tankless insert now, does that limit me in the future? Can I run tankless for five years and then switch to indirect or will I not have the right tappings? If I switch, is there any problem with having an unused insert in the boiler? Do I need to worry about corrosion?
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