converting from steam to hot water heating system

Old 07-06-08, 06:54 AM
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converting from steam to hot water heating system

We have a large old house (>4500 SF; 1923) with a steam heating system. This system requires a lot of maintenance and repair work, and additionally is not a comfortable way of heating the house. Our previous house had a hot water system, which we found to be much more comfortable. Since the boiler in our present house is leaking badly and needs to be replaced, we are wondering whether (a) it is possible to change to a hot water system; (b) how difficult would it be; (c) what problems we will encounter doing so; (d) how do we go about finding a contractor who can do this?

The contractor we use for servicing the steam boiler is reluctant to convert, but I cannot tell whether this is because he doesn't have the experience, or is wedded to steam systems, or foresees other problems (he has not mentioned any). I have not been able to find much info about such conversions, but hope somebody on this forum can help.
Old 07-06-08, 12:31 PM
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Steam to hot water

There can be lots of problems when trying to convert a steam system to hot water including but not limited to:

If it is a one pipe steam system you would have to run new pipes for the return.

Can the radiators be converted or are they dedicated for steam?

You will more than likely have to add radiation.

The old rads may or may not take the higher pressure.
Old 07-06-08, 05:49 PM
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How many floors of heat are you talking about?
Are you trying to keep the old radiators or install new baseboard?

Anything CAN be done. It is just how much time, money and patience you have.

Unfortunately it is very hard to tell which heating contractor will take into effect the age of the home and the aesthetics.

Sometimes you will get someone that can put in a system but has no common sense or pride in his/her work.

I would screen a few different heating or plumbing contractors and ask them the hard questions:

Is in-floor radiant heat a possibility?
Can you hide all the pipes?
Do you clean up after yourself?
What is your warranty?
How many systems "of this type" have you installed?
Are you insured?
Make sure they do a heat loss factor.
Ask them how the system works.

If they cannot answer these questions, move on to the next contractor.
Old 07-07-08, 07:52 AM
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A steam system can be converted as stated but also as stated it could create problems. As has mentioned it may take more radiation. I ususally find this abnormal. Most older homes have way too much radiation. When heating with steam you get more heat from the radiation than from a hot water system. As plumbingods states get a heat loss done and see if you have enough radiation for hot water heating.
If a two pipe system check size of returns and verify they are large enough.
Run the system pressure up to about 10 psi and check for leaks EVERYWHERE!
Or better yet have someone get your steam system efficient and install a new steam boiler. Steam systems can heat evenly, quiet and fairly efficient. Most steam prblems are in the venting, near boiler piping and pipe insulation.

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