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Joined on October 17, 2013

Last Post on April 2, 2014

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@ October 27, 2013 1:06 PM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

That's not the impression I was trying to give. My complaints about the contractors was that some of them didn't know about different options from the various major manufacturers. Two of them told me something wasn't possible when I knew that actually is. They seemed to only know one line of products from one manufacturer. That was my complaint. I would have been happy to hear they say WHY something wasn't a good idea or why a particular manufacturer is best or should be avoided, and that's what I've been trying to ask here. I obviously am just an amateur and I know enough to realize that I'm not getting the full story from the contractors available to me, so I'm trying to do thte best I can to fill in the gaps so I can be confident that I'm getting the right products for my short- and long-term needs. I need to be able to double check the contractor's work not because I think I'm smarter but because there just don't seem to be real steam pros in my area and I don't want to end up with another all copper setup with a broken Hartford Loop and messed up equalizer like I have now. I didn't mean to disparage the experts and I apologize if that's how it came across. I'm also not looking for the cheapest option. The cheap way out would be to convert my oil burner to gas and just worrying about it. money is obviously a factor though, so I can't just buy the perfect system that'll cover me for the next 20 years. I want the best for me right now with the options to upgrade as my needs change. That's why I want a little extra capacity so I can add new radiators and I ant to be able to go from tankless to tank or indirect as the kids start using more hot water. If tankless is definitely bad for whatever reason, I'd go anothher route. That's what I'm trying to learn.

No Water Heater

@ October 27, 2013 11:09 AM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

My current water heater is a tankless coil in my Utica Starfire 3 oil-fired boiler. When I switch to gas, I either need to get a Weil-McLain EG with a tankless insert (the only manufacturer that offers it in gas with the required efficiency) or an indirect or a separate tankless or a separate tank. The Smith G-8 with the gas gun and a tankless insert is an option too, assuming I can get official AFUE numbers.


@ October 27, 2013 10:50 AM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

It looks like G-8 with the EZ Gas is a standard option:

I don't see AFUE rating though. Anyone have them handy? The Mass Save program has to approve the equipment prior to install, so a combustion analyzer doesn't help, unfortunately.


@ October 27, 2013 10:13 AM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

I just assumed it was more cost effective to run a smallish water heater compared to a largeish boiler in the summer. Is that not true? What do you think the best hot water option is for a residential application with modest hot water use? I'm thinking of two hot showers in the morning (not at the same time), a bath for the little kids every couple of days, a load of dishes every other day, and maybe a load of laundry per day.


@ October 27, 2013 10:05 AM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

Who certifies the AFUE of an oil-fired boiler that has a third-party gas gun in it? Is AFUE determined by the boiler, by the burner, or a combination of the two? If I buy an 84% oil boiler and put a gas gun in it, is it still 84%?

Different Fuel, Different Efficiency?

@ October 26, 2013 10:24 PM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

Does changing the fuel change the efficiency? The Smith Series 8 has an AFUE of 84.7% for oil. Does it change with a gas burner installed? I don't know if the state would allow me to get an oil boiler with a gas gun in this program. I can try to find out.

Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

@ October 26, 2013 8:54 PM in Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

I'm switching from oil to gas and trying to compile a list of gas-fired steam boiler manufacturers. So far I've found Crown, Dunkirk, Lennox, New Yorker, Peerless, Slant/Fin, Smith, U.S. Boiler, and Weil-McLain. Am I missing any?

I need an AFUE greater than or equal to 82% to satisfy the requirements for a heating program in Massachusetts. That knocks out Lennox, New Yorker, and Slant/Fin in the sizes I'm looking at.

I'm leaning toward a tankless insert for hot water, so I think that knocks out everyone except Slant/Fin and Weil-McLain. Slant/Fin was knocked out because of AFUE, so only Weil-McLain is left. Having only one choice makes things easier, I guess.

Is a tankless insert really that bad? It's only an interim solution, mostly just to keep costs lower right now. Would I be that much better off with an indirect? I'd still be firing the boiler in the summer, which is wasteful. Is a tank the best option? I think it was consumer reports that said standalone tankless heaters weren't worth it because they won't pay for themselves within their expected lifetimes.

Of the manufacturers I listed, are there any to stay away from? Is there really any leader or are they all truly the same in the hands of a competent installer?


@ October 26, 2013 8:20 PM in Sizing New Radiators

Thanks, guys. I'll take a stab at calculating the heat load (heat load or heat loss?) just to double check that what I got from measuring the old feet marks on the floor isn't too far off. I mostly just want an estimate so I can size my new boiler correctly. I only need 343 square feet now, but I want enough headroom to add those two radiators at some point. I'm also uninsulated at this point, so the extra capacity of the new boiler will cover me until I wrap the pipes.

Sizing New Radiators

@ October 25, 2013 4:54 PM in Sizing New Radiators

I know how to measure my existing radiators, but how do I figure out what size I need for a new one? Two radiators were removed from my house at some point.

Based on the impressions in the floor and the other radiators in the house, I'm guessing one was a Thatcher Gothic five tube with either 17 or 18 sections and 20 inches tall. That would put it at between 45 1/3 to 48 square feet. I'm assuming there was once a window above where it sat, but there's now a doorway to an addition in that spot, so it would have to be moved to another wall. The new location has two windows instead of one. With 17 or 18 sections, the new radiator would overlap each window by a couple inches. Nothing has changed for probably 100 years as far as insulation, floors, or ceiling in that room. I doubt the existing window bays are new, although the windows themselves are new. The only change would be the blown-in insulation in the attic above on the second floor.second floor.

The other missing radiator is from the room right above the first missing radiator. They must have removed this one to eliminate the riser near the new door. This was probably another Gothic with 10 to 12 sections, so 26 2/3 to 32 square feet. It sat under a window on the second floor that is still there. If we reinstall it, it'll go right back in the same spot. Again, the only change is the blown-in insulation in the attic. The second floor is a 1/2 story, so really only the flat part is insulated and the roofline isn't well insulated at all.

Is it safe to assume the old sizes are still appropriate for the rooms? If not, how do I go from room square footage to radiator square footage?

Warming Up a Floor

@ October 24, 2013 1:47 PM in Warming Up a Floor

I have about 340 square feet of floor in my house that's above a crawl space. This room has the biggest radiator in the house (one pipe steam) so the air is pretty comfortable, but the floor itself is always very cold in the winter. Previous owners added fiberglass batts up in the joists above the crawlspace, but the floor is still cold and drafty. I've never been in the crawlspace, so I'm not sure what's there is sufficient to insulate the floor or if it was done properly. I have a insulation contractor coming today to check it out. I have a feeling though there's not much I can do with insulation by itself.

We're currently sizing up a new steam boiler for a switch from oil to gas. I believe you can run a radiant zone off a steam boiler using the tappings below the water line. I'm wondering if a radiant zone like this is a viable way to warm a floor above a crawlspace. We'd keep the original radiator (61.33 square feet), so I'm not talking about heating the whole space. I just want to bring up the floor temperature a bit so you can stand in the room without wearing snow boots.

Will this work? What calculations do I need to make? The boiler will have between 125 to 150 MBH output. Of that 30 to 50 MBH is for the pipe pickup factor, which I believe becomes available again once the pipes are heated. Is that enough to warm a floor?


@ October 24, 2013 10:14 AM in Extra Tank on a Weil-McLain?

Ah, okay, that makes sense. It looks like the Peerless manual doesn't mention a reservoir pipe at all while the Weil-McLain has specific instructions. Should I read anything into that? Is the level in Peerless such that water level truly isn't an issue? Am I likely to see a problem with the Weil-McLain or are they just being upfront about a rare problem?

Old Houses

@ October 24, 2013 10:01 AM in Extra Tank on a Weil-McLain?

My house actually had two entrances at one point, but one was bricked up when someone added a porch. Someone told me that they would sometimes take cattle into the basement of these old houses to heat the house above, which might explain the size of that closed up entrance. Believe it or not, I can speak from experience and say that water hammer is a lot less annoying that a bunch of cows mooing under you all night.

I saw an old thread from you about low water AFTER the thermostat was satisfied. Did you resolve that?


@ October 24, 2013 8:11 AM in stetbacks with steam

If I walked into a 63 degree bathroom first thing in the morning, "warm" isn't the word I'd use!

Reservoir Pipe

@ October 24, 2013 8:09 AM in Extra Tank on a Weil-McLain?

Yup, that's it. I had forgotten the term he used. He called it a reservoir tank. I see it now in the manual with a description of how to calculate if one is needed. Seems really straightforward. He did measure my radiators, but didn't run the EDR calculation yet, so it's not an issue of one manufacturer having a closer match than another. It seemed like he just has a preference for whatever reason. I actually have no problem with that. I'm just concerned that his preference is making him not see other options that might be better for me. I'm also concerned that he's just repeating what the Peerless sales reps tell him about Weil-McLain boilers. Other than that, he seemed like a fairly knowledgable steam guy.

I have 343 square feet, but I have no pipe insulation and I'm missing two radiators that we'd like to add back at some point. If I insulate, the EG-45 would cover me now. Without insulation or if I add those two radiators, I'd be up into the EG-50. They have water content of 9.8 or 11.2 gallons, respectively. The Peerless 63-04L and 63-04, which are roughly equivalent in terms of output, both have have 10.8 gallons. Not much difference at all. In fact, in terms of water content, I'd be better off with the EG-50 than the equivalent Peerless!

Does anyone know the capacity of the Utica Starfire 3 SFH-4150S? That's what I have now. It was installed in 2006 by previous owners. I haven't adjusted the cut-in yet. It's currently set to 2 PSI. I'm not sure what the differential is set to. I think that means we making more steam than we should be. I don't believe we have had problems with the low water cutout and I don't think I ever heard it short cycle. I do know it's oversized though (533 square feet vs. 343 square feet), so maybe the water capacity is also larger.

ChrisJ, I've seen pictures of your install. I'm hoping I end up with something as nice looking. Some parts of your house look just like mine. I have the same offset chimney in the attic that you had. My basement looks similar, although mine is much dirtier than yours. Thankfully, I don't have the same stairs as you. I actually have a good sized bulkhead, so they won't have to wrestle the boiler in the house. When was your house built? Mine was somewhere in the 1830s or 1840s.

Extra Tank on a Weil-McLain?

@ October 23, 2013 6:18 PM in Extra Tank on a Weil-McLain?

I had contractor number three out today. Like one of the previous contractors, he told me the same story about not being able to do tankless on a gas-fired steam boiler. He didn't say the capacity might be too low; he said it wasn't an option, I told him Weil-McLain, Slant/Fin, and New Yorker all have it and maybe others. He was a Peerless fan, just like the other guy. What's with these guys who prefer Peerless not knowing what the other manufacturers offer? I get that you can prefer a brand for price, performance, etc., but give me the courtesy of knowing the other stuff, give me options, and give me your honest opinion about what'll be best for me. Right?

Anyway, he also said something strange about the Weil-McLain. He said their boilers can't hold enough water to meet their rated steam output. He says they short cycle because they're always waiting for water from the returns. He said you have to install a separate tank for extra water to make up for the limited capacity. Note that I'm not taking about a hot water tank here. He said I'd need an extra tank to augment the water capacity of the boiler's own tank. Sounds really fishy to me. He says it's right there in the fine print of the Weil manual. Is any of that true?

Other than that, he seemed to know steam at least as well as I do after a week on this site and after reading Dan's book.

Wet Based?

@ October 23, 2013 6:03 PM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

What's a wet based boiler? I haven't heard that term before.

I have a Utica now. I don't have the model number handy, but I believe it's a Starfire. It was installed in 2006. We bought the house in 2011. We discovered a crack in the block a couple months later. Well, we discovered it was losing water and spewing steam up the chimney and a service guy actually found the crack. The warranty was technically no good because it only covered the original owner, but a Utica rep told me not to say anything and I ended up getting a new block for free. I had to pay a grand in labor though. It was a nice introduction to home ownership.

The current boiler is piped totally wrong. The risers and header are narrow copper, there's a radiator pipe directly off the header, the equalizer is goofy, and the Hartford Loop is wrong. The boiler is also a tad oversized, although that may have been the closest fit available at the time.

Anyway, Utica says this model can't be converted, but I know there are third-party burners available that do the job. A couple contractors said they wouldn't switch it because it wasn't supported by Utica. One guy said he'd switch it and even quoted me a number over the phone... even before I told him who made the boiler. He says "they're all the same."

The Line is In

@ October 23, 2013 5:52 PM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

The line is already in. When I applied, I told them it would be for heat, hot water, cooktop, grill, dryer, and swimming pool heater. Everything after the cooktop is fictional. I just wanted the biggest line they have, but I think they give everyone the same size.

If I don't start using gas within 180 days of when they put in the line, I have to pay a $5000 fee. I originally said it was $2500, but I went back and checked the contract and it's actually $5000.

So What's My Best Option?

@ October 21, 2013 7:28 PM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

What's my best option for the short-term?

I have an oil-fired boiler with tankless hot water and a propane cooktop in the kitchen. I went down the path of switching to gas because I didn't like having two fuels to worry about. We use very little propane, so we pay a high price per gallon. Because the tank is leased (the previous owners set this up, not us), so we're tied to the company that owns the tank and can't shop around for better pricing. Also, my road is being repaved, which will put a five-year moratorium on any utility work that involves digging up the road. If I get everything installed by December 31, I qualify for a seven-year 0% loan from the state. With all that in mind, I figured now was a good time to make the switch.

I have until March to hook up to the new gas line otherwise I'll have to pay a $2500 installation fee. I could use oil for the winter, keep doing my research, and switch in the spring. I'd miss out on the 0% loan, but that's not necessarily a deal breaker. My big concern is that winter is coming and I've got a wife, toddler, and newborn to keep warm, so I at least want to have a plan, even if it's just "do nothing right now," so I can get some peace of mind and stop worrying about it.

Let's say I go with the Weil-McLain with the tankless option. I'll be making lots of steam this winter, so hot water should be covered, right? It'll be a little inefficient, and I'll maybe get less volume than I'm used to now, but I'll have something. Is the insert the same for tankless vs. indirect? In other words, once heating season is over, can I buy an indirect heater and just repipe the insert so that the hot water goes to it instead of to my taps? If so, does this sound like a reasonable path forward?

If I had all the time and money, what's the ideal solution? Boiler plus separate water heater? It's an old house, so I don't have a lot of floor space in the basement. It's also just a fairly small center chimney, so I don't know how much exhaust you can push up it. ChrisJ's basement and center chimney actually look a lot like mine:

You Lost Me

@ October 21, 2013 3:40 PM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

Sorry, I got a lost a bit there. Let me see if I understand. With a tankless coil, the heat from the boiler is used to directly heat the water that eventually comes out the tap, right? With indirect, the boiler heats something that in turn heats the water that comes out the tap. Is that true? Aside from what's being heated by the boiler, is the fundamental technology the same. That is, could I get hot water directly from the coil for now and then upgrade to indirect later by just piping it to a separate tank?

The tankless coil in my oil-fired boiler works fine for us now. There are only two adults and two small children in the house, so we rarely if ever have more than one hot tap running. It keeps up with a long, hot shower just fine. I'll admit that it does struggle with the bath tub. We generally can't get a nice hot bath going, but we do get kid-friendly warm water which works for us. Is there any reason to expect worse performance from a tankless coil in a new gas-fired boiled?


@ October 21, 2013 11:21 AM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

The guy who told me you couldn't do tankless with gas is listed on the Find a Contractor page. I just have to keep searching I guess. If anyone knows a real pro in Southeastern Massachusetts, I'd be eternally grateful.

Not a Lot of Confidence

@ October 21, 2013 11:12 AM in Tankless Water Heater in Gas-Fired Steam Boiler

I don't have a lot of confidence in any of the contractors so far. I just read We Got Steam Heat and have been reading and posting on here like a madman, so I know a little bit. Now I just need to find a real steam pro to put in a new boiler and help me sort out the problems in my system. I'm finding a lot of people who "do a lot of steam," but not a lot of people who don't sound like knuckleheads.

Makes Sense

@ October 21, 2013 10:20 AM in Help with Calculating EDR

Thanks, Dave, that makes sense. It's much more clear what's going on when I do it your way.

What would you do if you weren't sure you'd add the missing radiators? How much is too much when it comes to oversizing the boiler? Let's assume I insulate my pipes properly. The Weil-McLain EG-45 does 392 square feet with 150 MBH input and the EG-50 does 454 square feet with 175 MBH input. That's a difference of 25 MBH input. What will that translate to in terms of gas usage? I think a cubic foot of gas has about 1000 BTUs. Does that mean means I'm burning an extra 25 cubic feet of gas every hour if I got the EG-50 instead of the EG-45? That's wasteful, sure, but is it a big waste? How many hours per day does the average boiler run? Are we talking a couple bucks a month or ten, twenty, thirty bucks a month?
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