converting Steam heating system to forced hotwater

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Old 02-04-10, 09:26 AM
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converting Steam heating system to forced hotwater

Hi all,

I've been contemplating converting my gas fired steam boiler to forced hotwater, but I wanted to know if it is going to affect the efficiency of the boiler. If it takes more energy to heat my house then it wouldn't be worth it to me. My main reasons for this is because of the inefficiency of steam and forced hotwater is more comfortable.

My boiler was installed only a few years ago so its not that old. The plumber who put it in said that there was a conversion kit and converting it won't be that hard.

The boiler I have is a: Burnham PIN5PV.
1 living room with 2 steam radiators
1 dining room with 1 steam readiator
3 bedrooms with 1 steam radiator in each room
1 bathroom with 1 steam radiator

All of the radiators will be replaced with baseboard radiators


Burnham Hydronics::Independence Independence PV

If you need anymore info, let me know I will try to get it. Any input given is much appreciated, Thanks in advance.
 
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Old 02-04-10, 03:23 PM
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A couple of things. The INPV boiler is strictly a steam boiler. What is uncomfortable with your steam system. You would be much further ahead repairing the steam system instead of converting. A good steam system is comfortable and fairly efficient. Of course a poor steam system is uncomfortable and can be expensive to operate.
 
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Old 02-04-10, 04:42 PM
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And by all means, do NOT replace those radiators with baseboard! There is nothing more comfortable than a big old hunk of cast iron radiating heat into the room!
 
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Old 02-04-10, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by NJ Trooper View Post
And by all means, do NOT replace those radiators with baseboard! There is nothing more comfortable than a big old hunk of cast iron radiating heat into the room!
I second that. I have cast iron rads in my hot water system and they are fantastic!
 
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Old 02-04-10, 08:08 PM
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Originally Posted by rbeck View Post
A couple of things. The INPV boiler is strictly a steam boiler. What is uncomfortable with your steam system. You would be much further ahead repairing the steam system instead of converting. A good steam system is comfortable and fairly efficient. Of course a poor steam system is uncomfortable and can be expensive to operate.
Thanks for the replys all. It's mostly the disparity in heat between floors (upstairs is always about 3-4 degrees warmer). I've tried to balance out the radiators but the balancing act only forces the boiler to run longer, I think, about 30-45 min per cycle. This is why I'm looking for a more efficient way to heat the house.

So when the plumber mentioned the conversion, is their a generic kit that allows this?

After the conversion, will the boiler run even longer? (running longer = more gas)

Thanks.
 
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Old 02-05-10, 12:31 AM
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Unlike some of the guys here I dislike residential steam systems and I also dislike cast iron radiators. If you have a two-pipe system now then you have a much easier conversion than if you had a one-pipe system.

If you use the Burnham Baseray cast iron baseboards you will gain the advantages the others speak of in favor of the stand up cast iron radiators but with a much better (in my mind) look. You will also be able to install zone valves and thermostats on the various units or floors, something that is difficult with steam. No, there are no "kits" to make the conversion as every heating system is custom-made to the building.

I can't comment on the particular boiler, my experience is with large commercial and industrial steam systems rather than residential systems although I have (many years ago) designed and installed a few residential heating systems. I will state that this will not be an inexpensive project. If you have to install a new boiler it will likely be more than $10 grand and could exceed $20 grand. You will get a better responding system and quite likely one that can be operated with less fuel but I can almost guarantee that the payback will be many decades away so only do the change if comfort is more important than cost.
 
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Old 02-05-10, 08:43 AM
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I don't understand what would make your boiler run so much longer by balancing the system unless you're cutting the heat way down in the room with the t-stat. is. By balancing the system you are just redirecting the heat to where it's needed. They do make non electric zone valves that go right onto the radiator where the vent is so there is no repiping.
 
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Old 02-05-10, 02:26 PM
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You need to pay attention to the system on a steam boiler. There are things you can do to balance the system.
1. Is the main horizontal pipe in the basement insulated?
2. Are the main line vents at the end of the mains?
3. Are any radiator vents venting continuously?
4. Can you hear the vents venting loudly?
5. What are the pressure control settings.
Here is a link for FAQ about steam systems.
Technical Menu
Click on FAQ in the right column
Also in the same column there is a short tutorial on steam to water conversion utilizing the existing radiators.
If you follow through with the water conversion make sure you get a heat loss, and consider the cast iron radiation as over half of it's heat is radiant heat. When you use copper tube baseboard it is 100% convection which means more air currents and anytime you increase air currents you create more heat loss.
 
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Old 02-06-10, 11:46 PM
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Thanks guys, I really appreciate all of the replies.
 
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Old 11-11-12, 06:08 AM
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im also considering a conversion to forced hot water

Hi, I have a really old single pipe oil fired steam boiler that i would like to get rid of and convert the whole system to some sort of forced hot water system. Natural gas isnt available where I am. I think that would be the first chioce for me if it was available. I'm not sure which way to go here, my idea was to run PEX pipe to each radiator. Use two manifolds for return and feed. That would allow me to control each room individually with a wireless thermostat. I would do the first floor first because that would be the easiest to complete, then later adding the second floor rooms as time allows.
I like the idea of the large cast iron radiators, its just a matter of breaking loose the fittings, and cleaning them out internally.
My thoughts were to look into a propane hw tankless system, coupled (eventually) with an outdoor wood boiler. Any direction would be appreciated, Thank you, Neal
 
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Old 11-11-12, 07:49 AM
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Conversion

In balancing the steam system, you can't do it by partialy closing radiater valves. As everyone say make shure that all the rads are slightly tilted towards the steam valve, especially the cooler ones. You can further help yourself out by using the air valves to ballance your system. With the system OFF, remove the air valves, and put them in a pot of water , and a little [1/2 cup] ] vineger, and simmer them for 15-20 min, stirring once or twice. Put them back on the rads, and try the system. If you still have any cool rads, switch the air valves with the hot, and cool ones. Always with the system off. If you still have cool rads, then you may have to buy a couple of new air valves. It's always good to have a spare or two. While you have the old valves in your hand, you can check all the holes etc, and see if any are plugged.
Sid
 
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