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Steam Boiler Question...


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I guess this is a three part question.

1) How available are residential steam boilers (i live in the philadelphia area).

2) If the home has a one pipe radiator setup, can you still convert to a normal boiler without installing all new pipes and radiators?

3) What do you tell clients that have an OLD steam boiler with a one pipe system?

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1) Very. They're essentially the same as a conventional cast iron boiler, only with different operating controls. You can pick up a Weil-Mclain for a few grand. Controls are extra on top of that.

You want McDonnell manual controls; not the digital stuff. There's reasons why.

2) Nope. One pipe steam is one pipe steam forevermore.

3) Lots of stuff, depending on the situation.

There's the vents and valves discussion and how the valve isn't a temperature control and the vent is the "regulator", the balancing of the vents tango, the packed valve vs. new valve imbroglio, the powerflame head and energy management system options, the "tinging" pipes experience, the 7-10 day envelope on draining down the low water cutoff, the clean the sight glass requirements, how to check the water makeup system, the "keep the radiators tilted back toward the supply pipe" requirement, the almost always presence of asbestos in the walls, the periodic flushing of the sill cock, ..............

Did I miss anything else out there, all you other steam guys?

Big week of inspections and I'm kinda tired, or else I'd extemporize on all those things I just listed.......I can fill in the spaces when I'm refreshed.........

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Good job Kurt...

If the steam supply pipes were uninsulated, you'd tell them to re-insulate them.

If there was no Hartford return, you'd point that out.. (I found two in the past 5 days that did not have the return...both were from the 1990's... )

I use a 'this is a teakettle' talk and emphasize the importance of taking care of the LWCO (flushable type) and the checking of the probe type.

I take a photo of the boiler (standing back) and mark the gauge glass optimal water level area, the manual fill valve, the LWCO, etc..

We deal with steam boilers very regularly in the Boston area.

We also deal with some cool 'indirect' steam systems in the City. (Steam generated at central 'plants' sent to indirect systems that heat hydronic systems or 'coil units' in tall buildings).

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Yes, the return. Forgot that one.

Also, vacuum pumps and reservoirs on the return pipes, usually somewhat distant from the boiler in some other portion of the mechanical room or building.

I've never liked the probe type LWCO's. If you read the teeny little label, it says to dismantle them and clean the probe every year. Yeah......right. That's why I like the McDonnell controls. You mash a button, you can see and hear it work.

I don't know much about the indirect stuff; that's when I call my steam guy to take over.

Saw an air control thermostat setup over at Northwestern last fall; it was arranged like those giant old building systems, only it was on a single family residence being converted for the new university prez.

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