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Common Household Remedies Request

Gaah.... Not so much a request for technical help, but for good thoughts. The boiler has been especially cranky this year, and I have a terrible feeling its on its last legs, or feet, or appendages, or fundament, or whatever boilers have.

I'm not giving up steam for the forseeable future, so please send good karma to my boiler. All I require is to get it through one more winter!

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jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

Good Vibes on the way to Mr. Boiler;)

Splashoil's picture
Submitted by Splashoil on

Conversion to hot water would be easier if your radiators have the top push nipples to circulate water like the bottom. The air vent is then moved to the top. The other issue is do you have one pipe steam or two pipe (separate pipe for the condensate.)
There are many good service blogs covering these issues which I have relied on. I just spent a week working on cleaning an old cast iron boiler which I installed in the 70's! There are many different thoughts today on how to extract the most heat while cutting gas consumption.
The new designs use secondary exchangers to pull all the heat from the fire and exhaust. I put the old boiler back together for this season after cleaning a ton of acid crystals from all the flue passages in the cast iron sections with long stainless brushes. It is a wonder any heat was delivered and that any of the nasty gas combustion byproducts were vented.
Good heating technicians are hard to find, even harder when the severe weather starts. Good luck!

Submitted by lambert on

I'm so impressed "you put an old boiler back together." If there's a business in retrofitting old boilers it is surely to be had in Maine, since we have (a) the oldest housing stock in the nation and (b) the greatest dependence on oil in the nation. And the house exhibits both qualities!

I have one-pipe steam. I love the simplicity. In a perfect world, the price of heat pumps would radically drop, and I'd put them in the bedrooms. Then I would use steam only for the public radiators.

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

Last time my oil company came to do seasonal maintenance, they sent two young guys who scrubbed this tube and replaced that filter. As usual, they told me it was old and that they'd be happy to replace it. Come 2 am that night it was clattering rhythmically like a sledgehammer beating on the iron castings. Sure enough, it was leaking. They sent one clueless young guy out after another, but it was irreparably ruined. Their solution: sell me a new one.

That boiler was inefficient, and it was old, but it worked, and to have the repairmen who ruined it suggest that they sell me a new one was galling.

I went with a local guy instead. The new gas fired boiler has a 30 year warranty, gets 90+% efficiency, and costs a fraction of what the old oil boiler did to heat the house and water. Just about cast kittens trying to figure out how to pay for it.

Submitted by lambert on

Not as old as "the dead guys" who designed the steam systems to begin with, but plenty of them.

So, they know what they're doing and I know what they're doing because I studied up....

What was the brand of boiler you got? The new boiler is coming up on the charts, but putting in new insulation gives a much bigger bang for the buck (and makes tenants happier, because a draft is a draft regardless of where else in the room there's a heat source). Also, I like that 30 year warranty.... Much better than 10, which is an eyeblink.

Jay's picture
Submitted by Jay on

Though not yet an "old guy" I appreciate their experience in many endeavors beyond hvac repair, and think it much undervalued.

The new boiler is a Burnham by U.S. Boiler, castings made in Zanesville, Ohio. I could be wrong but think they only make hydronic (not steam) units. They also installed a fan in the basement, which gives fresh air for combustion, while also cutting down on drafts throughout the rest of the house. The old boiler pulled air from throughout the house from every door and window crack. It also has a valve on the exhaust vent to prevent heat from going up the flue when it isn't in the heating cycle.

We were also looking at smaller, super efficient 95+% efficiency units, but the warranties were 10 or 15 years. I don't have sufficient data or statistical math capability to prove it, but I suspected that a boiler with a 30 year warranty would be virtually indestructible, so to do it well, and only once in my lifetime, would be more economical and environmentally friendly versus replacing it two or three times over the same period, additional efficiency notwithstanding.

The savings from conversion to natural gas will pay for the boiler over a period of 2-3 years. We were paying about $4k for heating oil per year. Now we pay about $200/month tops for the coldest month of the year and about $40-$60/month the rest of the year.

There is the very real possibility that North America will have natural gas shortages at some time over the next thirty years though, so maybe I will be admiring my Zanesville, Ohio - manufactured cast iron boiler at a time when everyone is clad in animal furs and beating each other about the head with stone clubs as they fight for firewood.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

If you have gas in the house already, you might be able to put a gas conversion on the existing steam boiler. As you know, I had one pipe steam for over 15 years until we moved. The higher heat is slightly less efficient than hot water radiator systems (of the old school kind), but not needing a pump of any kind makes it more of a wash.

I would search for the type of boiler you want and they will generally have a list of qualified reseller/contractors.