Coal Boiler installation

Coal Boiler installation

PostBy: alexw On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:03 am


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.

I am entertaining the idea of putting the old steam system that was in my house. 90% of the radiators and piping are in place and functioned as of 2 years ago. The main pipe coming directly out of the gas boiler is gone, but I am sure a plumber could hook up a new one easily. As lond as the pipes or other radiators aren't all rusty I should be ok.

Any stories you could share (one pipe steam users would be much appreciated)

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PostBy: Complete Heat On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:12 am

You can buy a book that goes over boiler installations, both hot water units and steam units. I can't remember the publisher, but B&N, or Amazon sells it and it has a yellow cover with black printing. It is a series of books.

Complete Heat
Stove/Furnace Make: Axeman-Anderson
Stove/Furnace Model: AA-130/FHA

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 12:22 pm

Since the only thing missing is the connection you are probably all set, the "science and art" is in the house's plumbing, not at the boiler. If it was working fine before you should have no trouble with it. The rust can be flushed or if its real bad you could run some citric acid through it and clean it right up. It is safe and non-toxic (actually it's edible) and will clean the rust down to bare metal very quickly. You don't have a lot of choices for a solid fuel unit, as it must be rated for steam and the controls are significantly different. That said, the ones that are steam rated are the best in the business. A used non-steam unit can be converted as the only difference between a steam boiler and a hot water boiler is the water level. A hot water boiler is always full so there is no space to produce steam. A steam boiler maintains a headspace and requires a reliable water level control. It is a worthy project and I'm sure it will be gratifying.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

PostBy: alexw On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 1:03 pm

YAY another project LOL. I have been trying to save a buck heating my old uninsulated not a keeper, but not a too short term place either for about 2 years now! I do believe that this may be the route I need to take. I always manage to find a good, gratifying proect.

I'll need to look into models and costs now I suppose.

PostBy: jpen1 On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:11 pm

My oil boiler is a one pipe steam system and my thoughts are this. My steam boiler is 170,000 BTU input . My neighbor has a mirror image house and converted his radiators to hot water and his boiler is 90,000 BTU input. From what literature I have and from reading Keystokers data sheet a steam boiler must be about 40% to 50% larger than a comparable hot water system. Personally I would never install a steam system they are terribly inefficient. The boiler will have to run at high burn for 20 minuts to build up enough pressure to even make the radiators slightly warm. I don't think you could ever justify using steam. You are better off putting in a hot water boiler and running new lines to the radiators pulling the plug out of the other side and running return lines or installing base board units. My oil steam boiler cost nearly 2 times as much as the nessecarry oil hot water boiler and I surmise coal boiler will follow suit. Also you must realize that steam boilers are much more labor intensive to take care off. You will need to blow off the boiler weekly during the heating season the prevent sediment from depositing on the low water cut off. You will also need to check the water level frequently or install an auto fill valve which are about $250 at the bare minimum. I have already made up my mind that when the boiler goes I am going to put in electric ceramic heaters for a backup to the coal stove.
Stoker Coal Boiler: LL110
Coal Size/Type: Rice/ Buck
Stove/Furnace Make: Leisure Line
Stove/Furnace Model: 110 Boiler

PostBy: MINO On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:36 pm

I agree with converting over to a hot water system also> If you want to plumb it up I would use pex tubing to replumb the radiators(if you can fish wire you can fish pex)it is good up to 200 degreese now-a-days and it comes in all sizes copper does and it is cheap!!!! unless you like ripping walls out and floor boards to put all copper tubing in.

And from an efficiency stand point hot water system over steam is a no brainer.

PostBy: Berlin On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:38 pm

keystoker makes an excellent boiler for steam, with a large water capacity which is superior to smaller boilers for steam. I personally like one pipe steam systems, super simple and I don't see huge efficiency advantages over other systems. however steam heat will cause house temps to fluctuate more than other systems; this is a result of long boiler run times to get the steam where it needs to be, and then continues to overshoot and produce heat for a while afterwards, the system doesn't cooldown right away. if I were building a new house tomorrow, I would put in a one pipe steam system; it's an ideal setup for coal.
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Will-Burt Combustioneer 77B
Coal Size/Type: Ohio BITUMINOUS pea stoker coal

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:56 pm

No pumps or valves to fail. Steam is not inefficient, systems can be.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

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PostBy: gaw On: Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:52 pm

Alexw, I would not convert an existing steam system to hot water. This would be a major task when you consider all that would need to be done.

Burnham has a PDF file on their web site that has a lot of info on radiators and how to figure square feet and BTU output of radiators at various temperatures. This information could assist you in figuring how large to size a boiler. I would post it here but it is copyrighted by Burnham and don’t want to run afoul of any rules. If you can’t find it and want a copy pm me an e-mail address and I’ll send you the file.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Keystoker KA-6
Coal Size/Type: Rice from Schuylkill County

PostBy: alexw On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:52 am

Those are certainly 2 schools of thought to draw from. 1 hand I have all of the steam piping and most of (2-3 radiators are missing I have extras in an apartment I own) the radiators intact. I would need to install the boiler, pressuretrol etc and make that loop where the boiler connects to the mains and returns and all that jazz. The steam set-up in this house was never efficient in terms of how much GAS it used, but at the current price per ton I would run it wide open all the time if I had to.

I will be making minor changed to house - more insulation in attic, finishing off the replacement windows and new doors, but thats about it. This brings me to the HotH20 Side.

On this hand I have to run pex to all rooms, which could probably be done by a combination of fishing and small hole drilling / patching. I would only need three zones cellar (heat dump) 1st and second flr. The first floor could easily be run - the 2nd flr loop is where it gets a little hairy. I can get up and down, but don't know how to go from room to room. Going into the unheated attic won't work. There doesn't seem to be an easy place to go up around and come back down but I suppose thats where mr drywall master will come into play. Than there is the cost and model options associated with each system.

Steam I need a boiler, some big pipes, and a radiator or 2, new valve or two and those vents.

H20 I have to buy boiler, 60+ feet or baseboard (@10' per room est) pex,
make and patch holes.

Then the million dollar question with all that aside - which system will burn more coal? which one will keep more even confortable temps on those -10 degree days? Lots of questions

PostBy: coaledsweat On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:03 am

I would find out if the original system heated the house well (warm, not efficient) to begin with. If it did, I would not touch it. A coal boiler w/natural draft would provide continuous reliable heat the entire winter with no other cost than the coal. It will do it without any electric power and no pump, valve, motor or wiring will fail because it doesn't have any. The money spent converting the system would be put to better use on insulation, windows etc. Never mind the time you need to invest to perform all the work to accomplish the changeover.
Me, I would go with the steam, be done in a week, save a mountain of cash and sit back and wait for the whistle from the radiators when they go off. :) OH YEAH! By the way, when I was a kid we had a house heated with a one pipe steam system. It was an old coal boiler converted to oil (I remember a coal room full of coal too). The house was warm as toast but don't sit on the radiator to long!
The real reason these systems disappeared isn't efficiency, it's because the companies that supply systems found a way to sell you a lot of crap that you don't need and will have to replace pieces of periodicaly. Just Google it, there is a ton of stuff on single pipe steam, get the real story.
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 260M
Coal Size/Type: Pea

PostBy: LsFarm On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:40 am

I have to disagree. I would never go with steam unless the boiler was undersized for the house: And you had other supplimental heat to make up for the shortfall. Here's why:

With steam you get ZERO heat until you raise the water to a boil, no steam, no circulation, not a single BTU into the rooms of the house.

So lets say it is evening, 45* outdoors, Has been a sunny 60* day and the heat hasn't been on all day. Now the house has cooled to the thermostat set point of say 65*. The boiler fires up, gas, oil, propane or coal, doesn't matter, The water is cool or only warm, nowhere near hot. The fire has to run for 30minutes to an hour before there is appreciable steam in the pipes, has warmed all the iron pipes, radiators and warmed the still cooling house.

Think about the amount of heat going up the chimney for 30-60 minutes before there is ANY appreciable heat in the house.
Personally I call that inefficient.

You will burn a huge amount of fuel to warm the house up a few degrees, Then the thermostat will be satisfied, and the boiler shuts down. Then a few hours later, the cycle starts again, 30-60 minutes of fuel burning to add 5* to the house temp.

Now with hot water, the same weather scenario, the thermostat calls for heat, the circulator pump starts, the fire starts or revs up [coal], as soon as the water reaches 130-140*, the house is getting some heat into the rooms through the radiators and baseboard units. The water may never reach the set point of the boiler, which is usually 160-180*. The house thermostat will probably be satisfied much sooner.

As the house sits through the evening, the water in the raditators adds thermal mass to the units, prolonging the heating effect into the room, and the water in the boiler cools just like the steam boiler would, but it will have a much lower temp difference to effect the cooling rate, say 170* water/70* boiler room temp compared to 212* water/not steam vs 70* boiler room temp.

The only way steam is better is if the boiler is small for the house, and runs almost continously, constantly making steam. Then the steam is as good as water, but still not better, except for automatic house humidifying, background sounds [hissing, banging etc].

One pluss I forgot is entertainment, I saw a cat sleeping on a steam radiator when the system started up, when the system did one of it's infamous 'BANGs'right in that radiator. That cat must have leaped 2' in the air, looked like a cartoon cat, hair all fluffed out legs askew, yowling. I laughed for ten minutes.

Maybe a second steam boiler in parallel that can fire up when the weather is really cold to make up the difference?? Don't know, but I certainly wouldn't go back to a one pipe steam setup.

Alexw, have you hooked up a cold air return to the distribution blower of your Poconno stove yet? For about $30 you can fix your heat problem. I would never consider buying another heating appliance till you have tried to fix the problems with the current instalation.

I was able to heat my shop with a LeisureLine Hyfire I, running at about 60%, around 80-85K. My shop has four rollup doors, [not well sealed] only 80% of the walls have R-8 foam insulation, and the ceiling has R-14 foam. The floor heat was off, and cold. I was able to get 60* air temp with the HYfire, the shop is 40'x60'x15' ceilings. just a big drafty box, and it warmed-up fairly well. In a house with any insulation, even just drywall or plaster/ airspace/ outside wall would be better than my shop. My four windows are single pane windows.

Anyway, my take on steam is live with it if you have it, but I'd never reinstall a steam boiler unless it was free and the labor was free,

Greg L

BTW, I just had friends buy a steam heated older home in an upscale neighborhood, and the heat is eating them up. It is a nice, insulated house, with good windows, but the long burn time, cool down cycle that I describe above is causing huge gas bills, more than their previous house that was 2.5 times as big with forced air heat. I went and visited and watched their steam boiler cycle, and measured the chimney temps. Glad it's not my gas$ bill!! Wish it wasn't my friend's either.


Last edited by LsFarm on Wed Mar 14, 2007 4:17 pm, edited 2 times 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: europachris On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:58 am

I recall living in a 1920's vintage house on Long Island back in the late 80's. It had a one pipe steam system over 3 floors. Total house size couldn't have been more than 2000 sq.ft. I don't know what sort of insulation the place had, and the windows weren't the greatest. Nice little house, tho.

Anyway, it had the original coal boiler that was converted to oil and had a fairly recent Beckett burner. It operated exactly as Greg describes. It would run and run and run to get up a head of steam to actually start heating the house. Once it was going, it worked great. In cold weather, it would cycle enough so that it didn't have to work real hard to build up steam, but the mild weather definitely was wasteful. I recall the oil man filling the tank at least once a month with 175 to 200 gallons.

It was cool, though, as after the oil burner shut off, you could stand next to the boiler and just hear it cooking away like a giant pot of pasta, a giant pot covered in asbestos..... I also miss the warmth of those big radiators and the gentle hissing and steaming. Much nicer than the pop and creak of baseboards heating up.

Stove/Furnace Make: EFM 350/Iron Fireman
Stove/Furnace Model: Custom bituminous burner

PostBy: Berlin On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:17 pm

if the steam boiler is running for long periods before heat is supplied you may actually be able to save money by turning up the minimum temp on the aquastat. I set my sister's at 195 in the winter and 140 in the summer; the 195ºF setting in the winter reduced total boiler run time over a 24 hour period of fairly constant outdoor temps (0ºF) and ended up saving about $200/month vs. previous setting of 150ºF, I also wrapped the boiler w/ r20? fiberglass and did the same to any exposed steam pipes, you must have dry steam. also blow down the boiler once a month and use a product called squick, it's great stuff. doing all those things she heats a 4000sq' house in the adirondacks that's 200 years old for about the same or just above what I could heat my much smaller home in buffalo ny (forced air), around 600/month nat. gas, vs. her 600-700/month fuel oil firing at around 2.??GPH, close to three, but I forgot exact numbers, keystoker boiler. I love steam heat, and as I've said before, wouldn't hesitate to install it in my home.
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Will-Burt Combustioneer 77B
Coal Size/Type: Ohio BITUMINOUS pea stoker coal

PostBy: europachris On: Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:23 pm

Berlin wrote:if the steam boiler is running for long periods before heat is supplied you may actually be able to save money by turning up the minimum temp on the aquastat.

I don't recall our boiler having an aquastat, but that was 20 years ago. We had a separate gas hot water heater, so the boiler wasn't responsible for domestic hot water. It had a PRESSUREstat that would limit the firing if the boiler pressure hit 15psi or so, but it would go stone cold as long as the thermostat didn't call for heat. I think it also had some level controls on the gage glass that would shut it off if the water got too low.

I also recall Squick. I would purchase it down at this scary, crusty old heating supply shop that was near the hobby shop I worked at after school. Pour it in the boiler, and then blow it down after it 'cooked' for a while.

Stove/Furnace Make: EFM 350/Iron Fireman
Stove/Furnace Model: Custom bituminous burner

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