Church heating question
June 9, 2005 8:52 AM   Subscribe

BTUFilter II: I'm looking for any input on replacing a steam boiler, which is cracked, with a hot water unit.

The building is an old church, with a large sanctuary and a large parish house with offices, Sunday school, etc. I'm in charge of dealing with this cracked boiler. The steam boiler serviced just the sanctuary. There are two hot water units that service the rest of the building. They all use gas. We could just replace the steam boiler, but my assumption is this just replaces a relatively inefficient setup with another inefficient setup.

My thought is: replace the steam unit with a third hot water unit, convert the steam radiators in the sanctuary to forced hot water, and install a good control system that senses outdoor temps and cycles the three units so they wear evenly, and runs all three units in only the coldest weather.

Am I on the right track, and what kind of efficiency improvements are possible here?
posted by beagle to Technology (3 answers total)
This sounds like a question for the experts in the Heating Help forum. Boiler systems are like old violins to me...they require some careful tuning. Wish I could be of more help!
posted by jeanmari at 9:36 AM on June 9, 2005

What kind of radiators do you have? If they are the one pipe type the conversion process is not trivial and it may be cheaper to install a new hot water system including new piping and hot water radiators. If you have a two pipe system the conversion process isn't too bad. The steam components are replaced with hot water components (valving), the radiators are checked for leaks, the system is checked for leaks and then balanced. Many older radiators will need to be taken apart and reassembled to seal them. Hot water is much more efficient than steam so you will eventually recover the cost of the conversion. You should talk to a heating contractor familiar with such conversions (finding one is no easy task) to find out about cost and efficiencies of a conversion versus a new steam boiler. If it will take more than five years or so to pay back the costs it may not be worth it to convert to water.
posted by caddis at 10:44 AM on June 9, 2005

Beagle, if you want more input email me. I was an engineer on a project many years ago where we retrofitted a couple of dozen commercial buildings from steam to hot water. I don't check the email in my profile that often but I will get back to you.
posted by caddis at 6:13 PM on June 9, 2005

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