Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: steamup On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:25 pm

EarthWindandFire wrote:The supply ducts in my house were done very well. However, I have a large return trunk but only one side has a vent which is in my living room. The vent for the other side of the trunk was never hooked up or was covered over. But, regardless, I have no return vents from the second floor.

I have considered using the existing supply ducts and use them instead as return ducts when I remove the existing oil furnace and install a stoker furnace.



Many older houses did have central return systems relying on floor grilles and/or stairs without doors to transfer air down to the first floor. It was fine until the bedroom door was shut at night, but the cold was solved by a big, comfy quilt. (stories from the elders about waking up to ice in the wash bowl have been told.)

Converting excess supply ducts to return is a valid concept, just make sure the remaining ducts have sufficient capacity to handle enough air to heat the spce.
steamup
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson AA-130, Keystoker K-6
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: HS Tarm 502 Wood/Coal/Oil
Coal Size/Type: pea, buck, rice

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: SteveZee On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:25 pm

I guess my 225 year old house on the Maine coast would fit that descrition Steamup. It has 3 chimneys one in the middle and one on each end. There are also 2 stair wells. A front stairs and back but both relatively centrally located. I also have 3 louvered floor vents that can be closed or opened. I'm interested to see how my 2 stove setup works this winter. It should be plenty with a little tweeking. The less I use the oil/steam boiler the better. Last year with only the one Glenwood range in the kitchen I used about 250 gls for the whole winter, so that was'nt too bad and was mostly between 2am and 6am on cold nights when the range (with wood) went out. Now that the range is converted to coal and with the addition of the second stove in the middle I'm thinking I'll only use the steamer for backup, like when I'm gone for a spell. It's a brand new boiler too but hooked up to an old single pipe system of cast iron radiators. Had it been a two pipe I would have probably gone to pumping hot water with a stoker furnace.
That said, I'm glad I have the two stoves. It's a social thing I guess but people just congregate in my giant kitchen around that Glenwood in the winter. Many a single malt or what have you has been consumed while debating the latest BS around that stove. I'm sure the addition of the cylinder in the living room will continue the tradition.
SteveZee
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Modern Oak 116 & Glenwood 208 C Range

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Pacowy On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 7:49 pm

We tried heating our big old house with a couple of stoker stoves and a stoker furnace, but the results were much better - in terms of comfort, efficiency, and convenience - when we switched to a stoker boiler, even though we used it to power the old 1-pipe steam system. It's a safe bet that an old steam system originally ran on coal. While you wouldn't install one if you were starting from scratch, they're a pretty effective way to move a lot of btu's in an old house.

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite


Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Rob R. On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:13 pm

Pacowy wrote:We tried heating our big old house with a couple of stoker stoves and a stoker furnace, but the results were much better - in terms of comfort, efficiency, and convenience - when we switched to a stoker boiler, even though we used it to power the old 1-pipe steam system. It's a safe bet that an old steam system originally ran on coal. While you wouldn't install one if you were starting from scratch, they're a pretty effective way to move a lot of btu's in an old house.

Mike


In my limited experience, steam systems often get a bad rap because of problems that are simply a result of age, misinformation, and neglect. You can bet that someone who had a nothing-but-the-best home built in 1900 wouldn't settle for water hammer and radiators that didn't get hot. Single pipe steam can move a ton of btu's very quietly...if everything is working properly.

It usually goes something like this: Over the years things settle, pipes lose the proper pitch, vents stop working, etc. If that wasn't enough, the house probably had a few boilers swapped in by someone who didn't understand steam...so the near-boiler piping gets messed up. By now the neighbors can hear the pipes hammer when the heat runs, and the homeowner has had enough. To really add insult to injury, sometimes someone talks the homeowner into having the evil asbestos pipe insulation removed...and that runs over budget, so the insulation never gets replaced. By now the condensate is slamming into the steam at the first riser, and the system sounds like a freight train going by. Naturally the homeowner gets a bad impression of "steam heat".

I have personally witnessed a steam system like I described above get brought back to fine working order by an "old timer" that understood steam. If you have a steam heating system that is functional, but with some quirks...search out a steam man before you break out the sawzall.
Rob R.
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: EFM DF520
Coal Size/Type: Rice/buck
Other Heating: Dad's 1953 EFM Highboy

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Pacowy On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:29 pm

x2.

We replaced most of the vents and installed a Hartford loop, but otherwise ran the steam distribution system as we inherited it. Our "new" house also has a steam system that runs fine - wouldn't dream of replacing either one.

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: coalnewbie On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:32 pm

Many older houses did have central return systems relying on floor grilles and/or stairs without doors to transfer air down to the first floor. It was fine until the bedroom door was shut at night, but the cold was solved by a big, comfy quilt. (stories from the elders about waking up to ice in the wash bowl have been told.)

Converting excess supply ducts to return is a valid concept, just make sure the remaining ducts have sufficient capacity to handle enough air to heat the spce.


My incredibly learned friend you have my situation. This old house was designed to accommodate convection. I enhanced that by my redo. Doors had two inches under and were roughed at 81" instead of 78", the whole house breathes and does not seem to need a cold air return. No 8" beams were hacked but end boots (4) 8" -14x4" in the floor not the through the oak beams (not a single one) gave the output air for the second Anthraking. 14" output into geneso 2x10" into four joval four x 8" and bingo flexible H&C 25' runs (R 6.0) and the air is exactly where I want it. A tip, winter warmer XXX beer makes you smarter. I'm shipping some to DC. Cozy as a bug in a rug. This is the back up system that I hope I don't need but probably will given our c rappy winters. Love that coal - so many ways to skin a cat. It would be boring if we all had the same way of doing things.
coalnewbie
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL AnthraKing 110K, Pocono110K,KStokr 90K, DVC
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93, Jotul 507
Baseburners & Antiques: Red Cross Invader 2
Coal Size/Type: Rice, Chestnut
Other Heating: Heating Oil CH, Toyotomi OM 22

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: Pacowy On: Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:58 pm

It seems like the common thread here is matching the equipment to the way the house was designed to distribute heat. Our old house wasn't set up well for heated air circulation, but its steam system was designed to work effectively, so we got better results with a steam boiler than with stoves and a furnace. "Your results may vary."

Mike
Pacowy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: H.B. Smith 350 Mills boiler/EFM 85R stoker
Coal Size/Type: Buckwheat/anthracite

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: coalnewbie On: Wed Jul 27, 2011 4:21 am

Mike,

There are two common threads running through this household. The first being I just can't afford a fancy hydronic system so this will have to do and I am determined to make it work. The second is I don't care if I have to break up the dining room furniture for heat I refuse to burn any more HO other than in a dire emergency. 7% of the nations homes, mostly our neighbors, are about to learn how to live without this stuff (unless you are super rich). I predict $7 HO is just around the corner and the days of cheap energy are over my friend and we all need to deal with that one. One more really c rappy winter (and I predict many to come) and you will see large population shifts out of the NE unless they learn to heat cheaply. To paraphrase Charles Darwin - adapt or die. Also to quote another great scholar - if you feel like dying - don't, he lives somewhere off of Rt 81 I believe. Another tip, three pints of XXX and I am up in the middle of the night with a headache and the runs (yes, I know, more information than you needed). Gotta love that coal.
coalnewbie
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL AnthraKing 110K, Pocono110K,KStokr 90K, DVC
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93, Jotul 507
Baseburners & Antiques: Red Cross Invader 2
Coal Size/Type: Rice, Chestnut
Other Heating: Heating Oil CH, Toyotomi OM 22

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: steamup On: Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:09 am

There is no correct or common answer to "which heating system should I install?". Steam, Hot water and air all work well if properly applied and designed. Each system has a distinct personality along with advantages and disadvantages. There are many variations and designs to each method.

This is why a spread sheet will be very difficult to design. The most one could hope for is a guide that helps the novice narrow choices.

The common answer here correct application and personal preference.

oh, yea, a couply of pints of xxx certainly makes any situation more tolerable.
steamup
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson AA-130, Keystoker K-6
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: HS Tarm 502 Wood/Coal/Oil
Coal Size/Type: pea, buck, rice

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: SteveZee On: Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:51 am

markviii wrote:
Pacowy wrote:We tried heating our big old house with a couple of stoker stoves and a stoker furnace, but the results were much better - in terms of comfort, efficiency, and convenience - when we switched to a stoker boiler, even though we used it to power the old 1-pipe steam system. It's a safe bet that an old steam system originally ran on coal. While you wouldn't install one if you were starting from scratch, they're a pretty effective way to move a lot of btu's in an old house.

Mike


In my limited experience, steam systems often get a bad rap because of problems that are simply a result of age, misinformation, and neglect. You can bet that someone who had a nothing-but-the-best home built in 1900 wouldn't settle for water hammer and radiators that didn't get hot. Single pipe steam can move a ton of btu's very quietly...if everything is working properly.

It usually goes something like this: Over the years things settle, pipes lose the proper pitch, vents stop working, etc. If that wasn't enough, the house probably had a few boilers swapped in by someone who didn't understand steam...so the near-boiler piping gets messed up. By now the neighbors can hear the pipes hammer when the heat runs, and the homeowner has had enough. To really add insult to injury, sometimes someone talks the homeowner into having the evil asbestos pipe insulation removed...and that runs over budget, so the insulation never gets replaced. By now the condensate is slamming into the steam at the first riser, and the system sounds like a freight train going by. Naturally the homeowner gets a bad impression of "steam heat".

I have personally witnessed a steam system like I described above get brought back to fine working order by an "old timer" that understood steam. If you have a steam heating system that is functional, but with some quirks...search out a steam man before you break out the sawzall.


Pacowy, As they say hindsight is precious! If I'd done a little more research, I would have probably gone your way and installed the steam stoker. I was a few month behind finding this sight and had already made the error of moving forward with the replacement oil fired steamer. Ah well...It's the last one I'll ever install (ha,ha). Truthfull, I didn't have the money either for the coal fired (actually would have had to go dual fuel due to travel) boiler at the time. Hey I see you're from Dalton, Mass! Small world, I use to live on Ashulot Street/Ave? in Dalton. Grew up in Lenox and still have allot of family in the Berks.



markviii,
Excellent post on the old steam system! You are absolutely correct about the proper maintainance making this system still quite viable. While (like everything) it takes a bit of tweaking and tuning, the single pipe steam system can still work quite well. Mine, for it's age, still does an admirable job. While it's a backup system now, I have confidence that it can heat the old place up in a hurry. While I only used about 250 gals of oil last year as it kicked in during the nights it was still about 200 gal to many! As stated, if I could have a do over, I'd have opted for a dual fuel coal/oil boiler. There were issues though that would have been tough, like the coal bin not being in the basement for an example. Facts are, its a done deal and there's a new Weil Mclean oil burner steam boiler down there. It's cool with me as I'm looking forward to the two stoves and seeing how they do. I'm quite confident as the Glenwood range alone (on wood) was the primary last season. The addition of the Star Herald will add close to the same again (it holds as much coal) and should be more than adequate as this old house was originally designed to run on stoves alone. The registers and two sets of stairs work quite well circulating.
SteveZee
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Modern Oak 116 & Glenwood 208 C Range

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: steamup On: Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:35 am

Steam is a very good, reliable system but much knowledge has been lost to modern hydronics.

For those with steam, read Dan Holohans book - Lost Art of Steam Heating - Time/Money well spent before touching any steam system.
steamup
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman-Anderson AA-130, Keystoker K-6
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: HS Tarm 502 Wood/Coal/Oil
Coal Size/Type: pea, buck, rice

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: SteveZee On: Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:18 pm

steamup wrote:Steam is a very good, reliable system but much knowledge has been lost to modern hydronics.

For those with steam, read Dan Holohans book - Lost Art of Steam Heating - Time/Money well spent before touching any steam system.

Looks like an excellent book Steamup. I just ordered it off amazon. Thanks.
SteveZee
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Modern Oak 116 & Glenwood 208 C Range

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: wsherrick On: Thu Jul 28, 2011 3:22 am

When I lived in Chicago, all of the buildings I lived in had one pipe steam systems. Most all of Chicago was built before 1930 and therefore that is what you get. I would always replace the vent valves in my radiators and wedge up the radiators so the condensate would flow back to the boiler. There never was a hammer problem I couldn't cure with a few simple fixes. Anybody who has a steam system with cast iron radiators would be insane in my opinion to get rid of it. A one pipe system works with the laws of physics to function. No pumps, circulators, ect. The laws of physics never change, fails or breaks down.
wsherrick
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: None
Hand Fed Coal Boiler: None
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: None
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: None
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Base Heater, Crawford Base Heater
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: None
Baseburners & Antiques: Crawford Base Heater, Glenwood, Stanley Argand
Coal Size/Type: Chestnut, Stove Size

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: coalnewbie On: Thu Jul 28, 2011 6:44 am

When I first bought this old house 18 years ago it had a partial steam system that was not working right and was insulated with asbestos. I cut out all the pipes and put in an oil hydronic system and filled an in ground 2000 gall tank with oil at 33 cents a gallon. God, has life changed for us all. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had kept the steam heat that was installed about 100 years ago but the thought (and cost) of reinstalling one - not on my budget. However ,if you have an oldy but goody, good luck to you.
coalnewbie
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: LL AnthraKing 110K, Pocono110K,KStokr 90K, DVC
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Hitzer 50-93, Jotul 507
Baseburners & Antiques: Red Cross Invader 2
Coal Size/Type: Rice, Chestnut
Other Heating: Heating Oil CH, Toyotomi OM 22

Re: Stoves or Central heat? Boilers vs. Furnaces

PostBy: SteveZee On: Thu Jul 28, 2011 8:33 am

wsherrick wrote:When I lived in Chicago, all of the buildings I lived in had one pipe steam systems. Most all of Chicago was built before 1930 and therefore that is what you get. I would always replace the vent valves in my radiators and wedge up the radiators so the condensate would flow back to the boiler. There never was a hammer problem I couldn't cure with a few simple fixes. Anybody who has a steam system with cast iron radiators would be insane in my opinion to get rid of it. A one pipe system works with the laws of physics to function. No pumps, circulators, ect. The laws of physics never change, fails or breaks down.


That is exactly what I did William. Bought a box of new valves first off and changed out all the old ones. Then I "tuned" it up by tweaking the settings on the valves in order to get the heat where I wanted it. Cut a pile of shims to put under any bangers far end feet. I had to change out a couple radiators that were weeping but I had several replacements in the barn that were in good shape. Once you take one out of the loop, you can repair the leaking rads fairly easy if it's not a crack. Usually just loosen them up and reseal again. Gosh I guess I'm feeling good about it now. Instead of being stuck with the arcaic system, I'm actually in good shape for the backup!
SteveZee
 
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Glenwood Modern Oak 116 & Glenwood 208 C Range