changing a steam heat boiler

Old 03-03-03, 12:06 PM
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Talking changing a steam heat boiler

My parents bought a two-family house a few years ago. The real estate agent told them that the previous owner convert the oil heating sys to now natural gas. And the house was heated by steam. What they didn't say is the boiler made loud noises everytime it pumping the heat into the house. The sound like when a boat or airplane starts its engine, that we can even hear from second floor. We plan to change the boiler. A contractor estimated it about $3000 including installation. He also found out that the previous owner didn't change old boiler when she converted the heating unit from oil instead she just modified it by adding a fan to draft the air from outside into the boiler. The fan is what the noise comes from. Since the house now is already using gas, there will involve no legal problem to replace a new one, not like from oil to gas. Is his opinion right? If we change it, what type or model should we buy? It's a two family house, should we need a bigger boiler? Should we hire a licensed contractor? The one we found has no license but experienced.

Another question is recently every morning around 7am, the boiler ran and a lot of heat came out (we can hear it at this time, it usually dont). This condition just like th first day we start the heat in October. The radiators are extremely hot. Is it normal? Would pipes be broken in this extremely hot situation? Why it usually in the morning or a few time at evening?

Last question is the tenants live on the first floor complain that they feel cold especially no heat in bathroom. After they live downstair for about a year they find out that sometimes the boiler runs a lot more in the afternoon than in the night. So sometimes they either feel too cold or too hot. At most of time, they feel cold. The second floor where we live feel very warm, two bedrooms even too hot sometimes. The only one thermostat in the house was located on second floor. The contractor came by just simply replaced the vents for them. It didn't really help. Why the temperature for these two floor so imbalance?

Thanks for your time and help. I really appreciate.
Old 03-03-03, 03:28 PM
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In NYC, you may have to pull a permit and have the new boiler install inspected, since it is a mulitple dwelling.
I would have a licensed plumber do the install.
With the t'stat on the 2nd floor, the 1st floor will always be colder.
Did you have the primary air vents at the boiler replaced all so?
When was the last time it was flushed?
Is the sight glass water level between half and two-thirds full when unit is cold?
The only way you could get a bigger boiler is by adding more radiators...and steam heat radiators get hot enough for some bad burns. Remember: water changes to steam at 212df.
Old 03-04-03, 07:21 AM
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The downstairs being too cold and the upstairs being too hot is probably a combination of two factors: (1) heat flowing from downstairs to upstairs; and (2) not enough radiators downstairs and too many radiators upstairs.

I have friends who lived in a two-family house in the upstairs apartment. The person living on the first floor kept their heat up very high. My friends hardly even had to use their own heat, because of the heat flow from the first floor up to the second.

If the house is to remain a two-family, it may be worthwhile to replace the exisiting single boiler with two boilers. That would give the tenants downstairs the ability to control their own heat, and pay for it themselves, too. An additional benefit to your parents upstairs would be that any heat that "leaked" to the upstairs from the downstairs would be "free" to your parents.

Such a set-up, although initially more expensive to install than a single unit, would likely pay for itself over a few years.

I agree with fjrachel. Plumbing, and steam heat plumbing in particular, MUST be done by someone with a license (and experience). Steam heat is a dying art, and can be VERY dangerous if not done correctly.

Good luck.

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