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tacp69
Heating recommendations with current stem boiler
tacp69

I need help. I currently own an 1806 federal with a steam boiler/radiators. It is just not heating the house and the cost to maintain is breaking us. Has anyone gone from a steam boiler to another heating method without tearing up the house and do you think just replacing the old boiler would be enough.

Pelton
Re: Heating recommendations with current stem boiler
Pelton
tacp69 wrote:

I need help. I currently own an 1806 federal with a steam boiler/radiators. It is just not heating the house and the cost to maintain is breaking us. Has anyone gone from a steam boiler to another heating method without tearing up the house and do you think just replacing the old boiler would be enough.

The questions you pose in your post are important and it's good to see you are trying to obtain the best direction to go on modifying or replacing your heating system.

Steam heat was highly popular in 19th and 20th century houses like yours, and small steam boilers are still widely available from U.S. boiler mfgrs, and you will have to weigh the question of perhaps just replacing the boiler, and continue to contend with the daily maintenance required of steam heating systems, along with perhaps an antiquated cast iron pipe distribution system, and the condition of the radiators themselves.

Can you tell us if you have had any heating contractors over the house to look at your system recently, and have they made any suggestions as to complete replacement with a forced hot water or forced hot air systems (or even radiant or electric) and have they quoted any prices for the cost of the replacement???

This is the only way to start to get an accurate picture of the cost of the different mentioned options so that you can make an accurate choice for the least amount of money expended---the cost will be considerable (in the thousands) no matter what choice you make, (even if you do nothing & continue with the existing system); your first step should be to consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors"; fewer & fewer heating contractors now bother servicing steam systems for various reasons, so you may have to concentrate on getting quotes for forced hot air or forced hot water systems; another issue is the fuel used; fuel oil continues to be costly though the price has moderated recently; if natural gas is available on your street I would by all means consider this the priority fuel to have installed; that you are considering this work in June is an ideal time of year, since heat is not now needed, and the heating contractors are likely to be available for quotes/consultations/ and a time-consuming complete conversion if one is required.

Aside from the Yellow Pages, I would suggest going to Google on your computer and entering "Best home heating contractors in (your town/city/state)"; if you subscribe to Angie's list, or similar service, or have a friend who does, by all means use this resource to find the highest rated heating contractors in your area, who have demonstrated their ability to provide quality heating services at reasonable prices; also consider contacting the Better Business Bureau which provides this service free of charge.

Consult with any relatives or friends in your area for the names of reliable heating contractors who have demonstrated their reliability and reasonable service costs.

The problem I can see with staying with steam, even if you have considerable updated work done on the equipment, is that you will still be burdened with the hassle of daily maintenance of blowing down the 1/2 gallon to a gallon or so of dirty boiler water, simply as a required daily chore in order to keep the system adequately functioning----you would not have this "daily maintenance" problem if you converted to a gas-fired or oil-fired modern hot water (hydronic) or forced hot air heating system---such modern heating systems are just about completely maintenance-free throughout the heating season & the savings you will realize from installing a highly efficient heating system that delivers 84%-94% efficiency and higher, will allow you to realize considerable savings on your annual heating bills; most residential steam systems can only return 50%-60% heating efficiency, so 1/2 of your annual heating dollars are flying up the chimney to heat the great outdoors!

If you intend to stay in this house for the forseeable future, be aware that modern conversions to forced hot water or forced hot air have been streamlined due to the new equipment used----a new forced hot water system for example, would be done with hi-temp flexible PEX tubing that greatly speeds up the installation job & avoids the high cost of copper tubing---thus the PEX tubing can be easily fed thru the wall cavities where the removed cast iron radiator supply piping once was & thus the installation job will be greatly expedited, saving time & labor costs.

In short, if it was MY house, I would seriously consider conversion to a different system, and the summertime is a great time to have it done---if you happen to have any plans to sell the house in the near future, then it may be best to maintain the present system until the house is sold.

tacp69
Re: Heating recommendations with current stem boiler
tacp69

I have had several contractors and have different recommendations from each.
One said he could get all the radiators working but I think they were actually worse. At this point three quarters of the house does not function at all.
One said to convert to forced hot water but then said the current radiators could not be converted and switching to new radiators would require tearing up the floor (I am trying to preserve as much as I can)
Another said the same but he could convert the radiators however, putting in the return piping would also require tearing up the floors.

With three different recommendations it makes me nervous to sink the 10-20 thousand into this system and be wrong.
Thank you for your reply

NashuaTech
Re: Heating recommendations with current stem boiler
NashuaTech
tacp69 wrote:

I have had several contractors and have different recommendations from each.
One said he could get all the radiators working but I think they were actually worse. At this point three quarters of the house does not function at all.
One said to convert to forced hot water but then said the current radiators could not be converted and switching to new radiators would require tearing up the floor (I am trying to preserve as much as I can)
Another said the same but he could convert the radiators however, putting in the return piping would also require tearing up the floors.

With three different recommendations it makes me nervous to sink the 10-20 thousand into this system and be wrong.
Thank you for your reply

Tacp69,

It is good that you have had several contractors over----keep doing it---have several more over to the point that you're satisfied that you have a clear idea of which way to go (and NOT to go) on this project.

Could you tell us what general part of the U.S./Canada the house is located, as well as the total sq.footage of the house: (L X W squared of all the rooms, totaled up); are all parts of the house occupied; is there any rental income; are there any vacant rooms/floors that you can shut off during the winter months?

Is this a large house with high ceilings & has it been costly & hard to heat in the winter?
Are the windows double pane storms/single pane & do you know if there is any insulation inside the exterior walls; what is it costing you for the annual heating bill?

Eventually you will have to decide if you can afford the cost of the rehab, or try to get the existing rads working for the coming winter, or perhaps decide it is better to sell.

dodsworth
Re: Heating recommendations with current stem boiler
dodsworth

Try clicking onto the article below, as well as the site devoted to steam heat.

For the second site, click onto heating help.com, then click onto The Wall, then click onto "Strictly Steam".

http://www.oldhousejournal.com/how_to_take_care_of_your_radiators/magazine/1563
http://www.heatinghelp.com

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