Coal Boiler Installation

PostBy: alexw On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:24 pm

LsFarm - I am simply researching the possibility of hooking my steam system up. I would have to sell the Pocono and buy a coal boiler etc, but it is a possibility.

As far as hooking up a cold air return to my stove's input being a $30.00 fix
that is an awfuly big assumption. In terms of the first floor maybe I can use ducts with bigger fans (8") to push the hot air up to the first floor than hook up a fan and tube to the combustion blower but it won't be $30.00 All of this experimenting costs $ and Home Depot will take back most things, but not cut to size duct work.

I may have a heating contractor come out and tell me where my natrual air currents are and how to capitalize on them, but I am sure that its going to be a 50/50 whether he knows and wants to share the info etc,

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PostBy: coaledsweat On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:38 pm

How big are the pipes that feed the radiators at it and are they (rad) tapped @ both ends? Some of those systems used very big pipe. Just two pipe it, if feasable. Couldn't you just hack the pipe off and run PEX through it to the basment a few fittings your done? Each room could have it's own zone quite easily. I would make it a hot water system using the existing stuff and save a lot of grief all the way around. I would always want a radiant source in the room as opposed to trying to move air. Doors have to be open, fans, etc. I would stick with the boiler idea, the house will be a lot more comfortable and you can pull you domestic water off it too.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

PostBy: LsFarm On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:24 pm

I didn't realize that you didn't have some form of central heat in your house, I thought you were looking for an alternative to your Poconno.

I did do some research, lists 6" insulated flexible ductwork for $25, and 8" for $29.

I think the outside diameter of the distribution blower housing on your Poconno is about 7-8" . So for $29 and a roll of duct tape you can make a makeshift cold air return.

I guess I'm busted on the $30, I forgot the $4 roll of duct tape.

I would just slide the end of the duct over the outside of the fan housing, duct tape it in place, lift the rest of the flex pipe up to the ceiling of the basement and find a location for a floor vent into the upstairs.

Or just fasten the duct to the ceiling, even drawing the warm air off the ceiling instead of the basement floor will be a huge improvement.

I know I'm lecturing, and I appologize, but it is really so simple to try, and if you are carefull if it doesn't work, you could take it back.

I think you could use cheap dryer vent pipe, insulated pipe is not an absolute necessity. That is what Rouxy did here with great success:

Good Air Circulation

4" dryer vent is really cheap. I'm amazed everytime I read the first post in that thread by Tom Rouxzy.

Greg L

Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

Re: Coal Boiler installation

PostBy: Yanche On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:24 pm

alexw wrote:Hi

Those of you who are using coal stoker boilers specifically anyone running them with a 1 pipe steam system. Who sized, spec'd, installed etc. your boiler? Did you do it yourself, have a plumber come in? Can one use the rating fron a gas boiler to size the new coal bolier?

I always thought of steam heat as something of a science, but also an art because the people that install the pipes really have to know their way around.
You can make residential steam heating systems work. But it's a lot of work to get it right. You have to have a good understanding of the principles involved and pay a lot of attention to installation details. Pipe sizing, pitches, condensate returns, etc. It would be almost impossible to find a residential plumber with those skills today. It's a lost art. The labor cost would be high. If you have the motivation, skills and time you can do it. I would suggest you first surf the web site Join the forum and participate in the steam heat discussions. Dan Holohan creator of the site has authored several excellent books on steam heat. BUY THESE BOOKS. They are excellent. The are offered in a package deal at:
**Broken Link(s) Removed**If it were me, I would convert it to hot water, unless you know that the original design worked well for steam. Even then some of the existing steam components, steam vents in particular will likely need to be replaced. Good ones are almost always special order from the local plumbing supply houses and are expensive. Converting to water will also be a lot of work, especially getting two pipes to each radiator but once you have done that there is a high degree of confidence with circulator pumps and balance valves you can make it work correctly. I do not have that confidence with a steam system, especially a one pipe vapor system.

Stoker Coal Boiler: Alternate Heating Systems S-130
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Pea

PostBy: jpen1 On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 8:29 pm

I don't want to lecture either but I agree with greg don't abandon your current stove. You put that hot air jacket on it for $200 or you can try Greg's idea which will probably work. You need to return the cool air from the upstairs as well as push the hot air up. My oil steam boiler cost over $5000.00 where as a hot water boiler was about $3000.00 now this was about 5yrs ago though. Hot water provides more even heat than the steam. Also the steam is just as complex if not more so than hot water. You have to map out the steam run and size the vents according to the room size, distance from the boiler, and the size of the radiator. If your steam setup has been inactive for some time you will need to buy new vents and they are not cheap @ $25-$30 per radiator for a quality vent like a Dole or a Watts. You will also need to check out the condition of the drip leg that return the condensate to the hartford loop they tent to rust out over time and that may aslo need replaced. Also if a vent fails you can end up with a radiator full of water and the boiler could run low on water which can be very dangerous and can cause an explosion. I know many people will say that a low water cut off switch will prevent that scenariio but they fail if not cleaned regularly. I have seen the aftermath of one failing and it is like setting off grenades in the basement. Also eventhough steam boiler are made much heavier and usually out of cast iron their life span is much shorter than that of a hot water system on average. Steam heating is not efficient and is obsolete for home heating use and is only rreally only usefull in commercial applications where there is a constant use of steam plus the fact that commercial setups use a 2 pipe system which also helps with efficiency. I used to work with commercial steam systems and you really need to know what you are doing or the result can be disasterous like I mentioned before. I think you need to try to fix you're air flow problem or go with a hot water setup. I don't want to see you get hurt steam is nothing to mess around with.
Stoker Coal Boiler: LL110
Coal Size/Type: Rice/ Buck
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: 110 Boiler

PostBy: LsFarm On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 10:10 pm

Alexw, from a real-estate resale standpoint, you will be way ahead if you convert to water heat.

Water heat is a current technology, and there are plenty of people able to service a hot water heat system. The people who have knowledge and skill in steam heat are getting to be very rare.

My friends who just bought a steam heated house had the seller provide an additional service contract to cover heating issues for one year. So far the service contract has had to lay out over $10K in repairs. All the vent were bad, several pipes were clogged with rust.

The boiler was full of hardened sediment, from not keeping the sediment washed out.

I think if the system was a water system it would have had very few if any problems.

During the purchase negotiations the potential problems of the heat system came up again and again, The end result was a significant price reduction, about 20%.

I would go the extra mile and add the water lines. I believe you will get every penny and hour of work back in selling price.. Check with a realtor to see if I'm not way off-base.

Greg L.

Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

PostBy: alexw On: Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:29 am

I believe that I may do HOT H20 at some point. However I have a question about which duct likes to be longer or should I say which ones like to be least long - the cold air return or heat output vents?

I'm making a diagram of my floor plan and maybe it will shed some light on my situation re duct running etc.

PostBy: LsFarm On: Thu Mar 15, 2007 11:57 am

Ales, I would say it doesn't matter about length of the ducts. I would put the cold air return vent as far away from the hot air vent as possible. So if you have a hot air vent right now, then locate the cold air floor vent as far from it as possible.

Tom Rouxzy used only 4"!! pipe, that is amazing to me that such a small pipe made such a difference. If you can, use at least 6", but if 4" dryer vent pipe is significantly less expensive, it can't hurt to use it.

If you have a hallway serving distant bedrooms, then locate the floor duct in the hallway, it will draw the hot air from the other end of the house.

I don't think there is any need to be concerned about the duct lengths or airflow resistance in the ducts.

Greg L

Maybe one of our resident HVAC guys can correct me ??

Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

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PostBy: alexw On: Fri Mar 16, 2007 3:05 pm

I am trying to attach my floor plan, but anyway its like this. I have a square house. On side A I have 2 floor registers that were meant to throw hot air. On side B (where the stoker is in cellar) I cut a hole above the stoker in the kitchen and I am thinking about cutting a hole at the bottom of the 2nd floor steps as this is where a LOT of cold air ruches past.

I will connect vent 1 to the left input fan and vent 2 (by steps) to the other input fan (I have 2) This should effectively draw all the cold air from side B of the house - whilst side A's registers push up the hot air.

1) I only have 6" ducts going to the registers on side A currently without fans at the registers - will I see appreciable heat rising without the addition of a 500cfm fan @ each register? Should I get to phase 1 (cold air returns) and report the findings my self?
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PostBy: LsFarm On: Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:59 pm

Hi Alex, that sounds like a good plan to me, I'm sure the returns will make a huge difference in the heat output of the stove.

Let us know how it works out. Are you getting the Ice/Snowstorm tonight and tomorrow??

Greg L

Last edited by LsFarm on Fri Mar 16, 2007 11:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Self-built 'Big Bertha' SS Boiler
Baseburners & Antiques: Keystone 11, Art Garland

PostBy: alexw On: Fri Mar 16, 2007 7:06 pm

My five year old and I just finished shoveling our sidewalks - and drinking our cocoa. Were going to catch up on a little father son time. Once hes in bed I'll be running to the Depot for the duct tubing - so with any luck we'll be enjoying the new found warmth over a pancake breakfast.

PostBy: Townsend On: Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:44 pm


I have a one pipe steam heated home. The house is 150 + years old. Some windows old, some new. Not the most sealed house by any means. It is also a big house, around 3,000 square feet. (At least big for me!) It being a Victorian, has many rooms of different sizes etc. Furthermore, I'm thinking of finishing the attic which would increase size even more.

I spend major cash to keep it warm! I have also spent a good deal in maintaining the steam boiler system. I bought all of Dan Halohan's books. Also, its very difficult finding knowledgeable help.

I am in the same dilemma as you.

I love the large radiators, their look is unique and when they're warm they are great. What I dislike greatly is the extended time to get them hot. My burner runs for 45 minutes to an hour sometimes, only to repeat the cycle later. I cringe as it runs and tell myself I have to change something when I can afford it.

I'm also looking into getting a coal burner for the one-pipe steam in my home or converting to hot water. I've not heard of this "pex" system you speak of but I will try and research it.

Last season I supplemented with a hand fired Harman Mark I. It helped out quite a bit. In fact I've thought about getting a larger hand fired unit for next season.

I know that Greg (LS Farm) has helped me out quite a bit in the past with my particular set up and he mentioned some options for coal stokers for my system. I'll have to look at the old posts to get you some of the names and links he sent me.

My HVAC man is coming by this week to go over my options for either converting to hot water (coal, wood Harman SF -360) or getting a coal stoker for the steam. He is pretty knowledgeable about steam and he is a friend so I trust him for honest advice.

The steam is an art and I would like to be able to master it and have a nice coal fired steam unit. Like you said, with the price of coal I would not mind having the unit fired up 24 -7. Compared to my oil bill it would be small potatoes. But, Greg does have sound advice concerning resale of the home etc for his leanings to hot water.

Let me know how you make out.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260
Coal Size/Type: Pea / Buck

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