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Old 07-27-2008, 05:05 PM   #1
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Converting Steam Radiators To Hot Water


I am changing my oil fired hot water & steam boiler to electric boiler. I would like to have hot water only and eliminate the steam. Half of my radiators are hot water and half are one pipe steam. From what I have read on converting the the steam radiators, I would have to install air vents by drilling & tapping at the top of each column and supply new supply and return piping for the hot water. I can do all of this but am asking for input & suggestions that may simplify the process. Would it be easier to remove the steam radiators and replace with hot water baseboard, and would the HW baseboard be compatable with the remaining cast iron radiators? Any recommended books on this?

The price of heating oil is insane and probably will not be getting any less expensive. Even if running the electric boiler isn't a great money saver at least I will not be burning any imported oil, our electric comes from a coal fired generator. All help is greatly appreciated!

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Old 07-28-2008, 06:45 PM   #2
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Converting Steam Radiators To Hot Water


I have nothing good to say about electric boilers. Cast iron radiators were almost always made to be used with either steam or hot water. Somewhere on the end of your radiators at the top their should be a plug. You remove the plug and install a vent. It's usually a flat head screw. They're also usually hidden under a hundred years of paint. The plugs can be difficult to remove and sometimes do require drilling and tapping.
You do have to supply new feed and return lines which may require new spuds in the bottoms of the radiators and new valves unless you can tap into the old supply and return lines coming out of them. You also have to decide between a mono flow or two pipe system.
Consider new windows, doors, adding insulation to any un-insulated areas, and a new high efficiency oil or gas boiler to reduce energy costs.

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Old 07-30-2008, 07:51 AM   #3
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Converting Steam Radiators To Hot Water


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Originally Posted by Marlin View Post
I have nothing good to say about electric boilers. Cast iron radiators were almost always made to be used with either steam or hot water. Somewhere on the end of your radiators at the top their should be a plug. You remove the plug and install a vent. It's usually a flat head screw. They're also usually hidden under a hundred years of paint. The plugs can be difficult to remove and sometimes do require drilling and tapping.
You do have to supply new feed and return lines which may require new spuds in the bottoms of the radiators and new valves unless you can tap into the old supply and return lines coming out of them. You also have to decide between a mono flow or two pipe system.
Consider new windows, doors, adding insulation to any un-insulated areas, and a new high efficiency oil or gas boiler to reduce energy costs.

What is it about electric boilers that you don't like? I would greatly appreciate any info you can supply so I can make the best decision. Natural gas is my first choice but is not available in my area so my options are oil, LP or electric boiler. I have already done all insulation, storm windows, ect. and still spend over $2,500 a season in oil (last years cost). The thermostat setting never goes above 62 degrees and all unused rooms are closed off. My home was built in 1849 (brick) and I am trying to retain as much of the original architecture as possible. Thanks for your info!
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Old 07-30-2008, 08:54 AM   #4
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Converting Steam Radiators To Hot Water


While I'm renovation my house I had a new NG HW boiler installed to replace an oil fired steam boiler. For temporary heat I tried to convert 1 pipe steam to 2 pipe hw. After about 4 hours on one radiator, I abandoned and installed baseboard instead. it's a lot of work. If the math works for the electric boiler, I'd say go for it. But remember energy prices move in unison.
You may know this already but here's some numbers to use for your analysis:

Efficiency:
Electric: ~100%
Oil: 80-85%

BTUs:
Electric
3400/BTUs/KwHr
139,000/Gallon

Wtih that said, electric is usually the most expensive, despite the efficiency.

Edit: the inefficiency of electric produciton is upstream at the plant and it's built into the price of electricity.
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Old 07-30-2008, 03:34 PM   #5
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Converting Steam Radiators To Hot Water


I'd stick with oil in your situation. LP is going to be expensive and you need to install gas lines, a slab, buy tanks, sleeve your chimney, etc. I don't know that much about about electric but they are typically more expensive to run then gas or oil. New oil boilers are cleaner burning and more efficient than those made 20 years ago. They aren't so efficient that a new boiler will cut your heating bill in half unless your old one was
How old is the oil boiler you are replacing? Has it been cleaned? Having the wrong jets in the boiler can also waste a lot of oil.
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