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Author: BeenFooled Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 128088  
Subject: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 1:14 PM
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I am considering moving to a new home (new to me - it was built in 1908), where the heating is supplied by radiators, through which hot water is piped from a boiler, in a loop through every radiator, and back to the boiler for reheating. The boiler is "vintage" (maybe 30 years old) but a home inspector felt it was in good shape and there would be no reason to expect it would not easily last another 20 years. It was originally oil fired, but it has since been converted to city gas (and oil decommissioned).

I have some questions about such a system.

In general, if anyone has experience with these, can you comment on pros and cons? The piping and radiators themselves appear to be very quiet indeed, no noise from pipe expansion etc. What regular maintenance is required? Do you put additives in the recirculating water to avoid having the pipes corrode away over time (I would think this process would be faster in a closed system cf. regular drinking water pipes?) etc. etc.

Now for the specific question - should I expect the boiler in such a system to be noisy, say noisier than a gas fired furnace/forced hot air system of similar BTU's? The reason I ask is because when the boiler is on (seems like for about 15 minutes every couple of hours), it can pretty much be heard throughout the house, a low groaning sound like a ships' diesel engine maybe. is this typical, I am assuming from the pumps (?) or may be indicative of some problems? Which brings me back to the next thought - apart from SeattlePioneer (who I might have to hire down to Portland FROM Seattle!) these systems seem pretty antiquated, and I am wondering if servicing them might not be a lost art. Anyone know if it might not be possible to replace the boiler with something more modern (and perhaps quieter), or whether these things are just not made anymore?

Thanks very much in advance for any wisdom.
BF
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Author: ogrecat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45697 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 1:47 PM
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Now for the specific question - should I expect the boiler in such a system to be noisy, say noisier than a gas fired furnace/forced hot air system of similar BTU's? The reason I ask is because when the boiler is on (seems like for about 15 minutes every couple of hours), it can pretty much be heard throughout the house, a low groaning sound like a ships' diesel engine maybe. is this typical, I am assuming from the pumps (?) or may be indicative of some problems? Which brings me back to the next thought - apart from SeattlePioneer (who I might have to hire down to Portland FROM Seattle!) these systems seem pretty antiquated, and I am wondering if servicing them might not be a lost art. Anyone know if it might not be possible to replace the boiler with something more modern (and perhaps quieter), or whether these things are just not made anymore?

Mine does not make anywhere near that much noise.

I'm in Ohio, and there are local companies that service them.

You can buy a new more efficient boiler. Depending on condition, you might want to replace the pipes and radiators too.

If you want to get fancy, there are zoned manifold systems that use tubing instead of pipes. Some systems also supply hot water (instead of separate water heater).

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Author: BeenFooled Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45699 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 2:06 PM
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ogrecat:
"Mine does not make anywhere near that much noise."

That's good to hear (if you'll excuse the pun) - I am kind of hoping a good service technician wuld get rid of the noise with $200-300, rather than buying a new system (at least right away) for $2000-3000.... ;-)

"Depending on condition, you might want to replace the pipes and radiators too."

That sounds like a major enterprise, tearing into walls and floors, or is it easier than it looks?
Would it be possible to run PEX tubing instead for this kind of application? (in which case it might be easier to 'fish' them through existing pipes?)

BF

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Author: ogrecat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45703 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 2:21 PM
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"Depending on condition, you might want to replace the pipes and radiators too."

That sounds like a major enterprise, tearing into walls and floors, or is it easier than it looks?
Would it be possible to run PEX tubing instead for this kind of application? (in which case it might be easier to 'fish' them through existing pipes?)


The PEX tubing is small diameter, and rather easy to 'thread' through walls; I have not heard of it being run through pipes.

Replacing radiators (or putting in baseboard instead) shouldn't involve too much destruction. But old radiators are very heavy.

The way my house is constructed, the pipes are mainly in the rafters of the basement and garage; so not much tearing into.



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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45707 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 3:11 PM
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<<In general, if anyone has experience with these, can you comment on pros and cons? The piping and radiators themselves appear to be very quiet indeed, no noise from pipe expansion etc. What regular maintenance is required? Do you put additives in the recirculating water to avoid having the pipes corrode away over time (I would think this process would be faster in a closed system cf. regular drinking water pipes?) etc. etc.
>>


In general, no additive are usually used in home boiler systems.

And your inspector is correct that old boiler systems often have a very long useful life. But they probably are not the highest efficiency system on the block. Not bad, though. I'd keeep using it myself if it were in good condition.

If you are buying the house, I'd have someone familiar with boiler systems and the ggas burner inmspect it for you, and answer any questions you have about operating it, noise, maintenance and such before you buy. Have any needed maintenance work done as well.

While hydronic heating systems are a good deal less common than forced air gas furnaces, you shouldn't have much trouble finding service for the q







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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45708 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 3:12 PM
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<<In general, if anyone has experience with these, can you comment on pros and cons? The piping and radiators themselves appear to be very quiet indeed, no noise from pipe expansion etc. What regular maintenance is required? Do you put additives in the recirculating water to avoid having the pipes corrode away over time (I would think this process would be faster in a closed system cf. regular drinking water pipes?) etc. etc.
>>


In general, no additive are usually used in home boiler systems.

And your inspector is correct that old boiler systems often have a very long useful life. But they probably are not the highest efficiency system on the block. Not bad, though. I'd keeep using it myself if it were in good condition.

If you are buying the house, I'd have someone familiar with boiler systems and the ggas burner inmspect it for you, and answer any questions you have about operating it, noise, maintenance and such before you buy. Have any needed maintenance work done as well.

While hydronic heating systems are a good deal less common than forced air gas furnaces, you shouldn't have much trouble finding service for the equipment. I'd take some extra time to shop around for a good repairman who is familiar with boiler systems, and then cultivate him as a service supplier.


Seattle Pioneer







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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45709 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 3:14 PM
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Oh, yeah. Your library probably has several books written to educate homeowners on boiler systems and how they work. Worth a read if you buy a house with that kind of equipment.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: agg97 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45710 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 3:16 PM
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In general, no additive are usually used in home boiler systems.

And your inspector is correct that old boiler systems often have a very long useful life. But they probably are not the highest efficiency system on the block. Not bad, though. I'd keeep using it myself if it were in good condition.

If you are buying the house, I'd have someone familiar with boiler systems and the ggas burner inmspect it for you, and answer any questions you have about operating it, noise, maintenance and such before you buy. Have any needed maintenance work done as well.

While hydronic heating systems are a good deal less common than forced air gas furnaces, you shouldn't have much trouble finding service for the q


(bold added)

SP! Is your keyboard is sticking or are you shivering because your furnace is out? ;^D

Maybe a gas leak and you're passed out? You kind of left us hanging there...

-Agg97

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Author: SteveNieters Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45711 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 3:45 PM
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we also bought a house with boiler and radiators. Have had no problems at all with it since 1992. The system is from 1923, but the boiler itself is a spa heater that was added in 1987. Noise isn't a problem (it may be quieter than our forced air systems). Compared to the forced air systems in the other part of the house, it takes longer to get rooms up to temperature when it is first started up for the season. (I don't set thermostat back on the boiler for this reason.)

Maintenance basically consists of bleeding air out of the system at each radiator once a year (or less) to ensure that air bubbles don't restrict water flow. This is a very simple job to do.

One advantage that people overlook is the lack of breezes from the HVAC system. Also, the air doesn't get as dry in the radiated rooms.

As others have noted, getting service is not a big problem at all.

Final thought--if the house has AC installed, putting forced air in later, if required, won't be terribly hard.

Steve

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Author: ogrecat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45718 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 5:52 PM
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One advantage that people overlook is the lack of breezes from the HVAC system. Also, the air doesn't get as dry in the radiated rooms.

And this enables you to be comfortable at a lower thermostat setting.

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Author: BeenFooled Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45722 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/4/2004 7:47 PM
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Thanks for all the replies!
Sounds like this system is probably a good one, but I am also getting the impression that the noise it's making should not be there. It figures that just as I had become comfortable with my gas furnace forced air system, a new one should appear on the horizon.

Here's actually another thing I forgot to mention -- the comment about efficiency reminded me. The basement where the boiler is housed is very warm. Noticeably warmer than the rest of the house - if I had to guess, the basement may be about 75 deg. F, with the rest of the (currently unoccupied house) at 60-62. There is no other reason for that than this massive boiler, that I can see. How could it possibly "leak" so much heat? I am assuming this boiler burns a lot of gas around a long piece of pipe coiled up in a lot of loops... Nothing on the boiler itself is that hot to the touch, nor are there any obvious exhausts of hot gases anywhere (the boiler is vented up a chimney). Is it normal to have this thing heat up its environment to this extent? I wish my current HE 100,000 BTU gas furnace would give up a little of its heat to my basement, but this is a bit more than I like!

BF

(p.s. SeattlePioneer, if you happen to know anyone in Portland that would be able to look at this.... I would be very grateful if you could email me privately! Thanks!)

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Author: Eugeneous Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45736 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 3:13 AM
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I used to have steam heat and my basement was toasty warm. I mis that since I had a forced air system installed. The noise you are hearing may be the burner or the pump running. My boiler had a throaty rumble when the burner was heating. On a cold winter day my wife really liked to lean up to the radiators. Till they totally warmed up that is.

Eugene

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45737 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 4:08 AM
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<< On a cold winter day my wife really liked to lean up to the radiators. Till they totally warmed up that is.
>>


A hundred years ago, central heating was a status symbol, and radiators were a way of displaying how wealthy and up-to-date you were.


They are still an effective way of heating a home. They combine a good source of radiant heat, the kind you get from a fireplace, with an effective source of convection heating to warm the air of a room.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: ogrecat Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45738 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 8:02 AM
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On a cold winter day my wife really liked to lean up to the radiators.

Cats and dogs are fond of radiators.

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Author: numbrel Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45739 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 9:03 AM
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Sounds like this system is probably a good one, but I am also getting the impression that the noise it's making should not be there.

My parent's system is coming up on being 40 years old and has always made noise. The last visit home, I noticed that it has developed some new noises at night that make it sound as if it trying to "gulp" water! But this boiler is a small, gas-fired, boiler that sits in a closet in the utility room (no basement in the house), and heats about 2,500 sq. ft. The radiators are small,long baseboard types and we have always heard the water run through them. I always found it a rather comforting sound myself.

Barbara


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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45744 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 9:52 AM
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In general, if anyone has experience with these, can you comment on pros and cons?

Efficient and warm. Maintains uniform temperature in the house. Takes a long time to get the temp up when first started. You can't add central AC on such a system; chillers don't work real well and you won't have the ductwork for a central unit.

The piping and radiators themselves appear to be very quiet indeed, no noise from pipe expansion etc. What regular maintenance is required?

None. You may periodically have to bleed the system to get air out and you should keep an eye on the pressure gauge to ensure that the water feed is working and the pressure is properly maintained.

Do you put additives in the recirculating water to avoid having the pipes corrode away over time (I would think this process would be faster in a closed system cf. regular drinking water pipes?) etc. etc.

No.

The reason I ask is because when the boiler is on (seems like for about 15 minutes every couple of hours), it can pretty much be heard throughout the house, a low groaning sound like a ships' diesel engine maybe.

Your description makes me think that you have a resonance in your gas feed. The burner manifold is acting like a whistle, basically. You would correct this by slightly changing the geometry of the burner manifold relative to the gas jet. Sometimes there is an adjustment for this purpose. You might also consider reducing the gas pressure just a bit.

Which brings me back to the next thought - apart from SeattlePioneer (who I might have to hire down to Portland FROM Seattle!) these systems seem pretty antiquated, and I am wondering if servicing them might not be a lost art. Anyone know if it might not be possible to replace the boiler with something more modern (and perhaps quieter), or whether these things are just not made anymore?

They remain in common usage, just not in single family residential properties so much. I like them.

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Author: jiml8 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45745 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 9:55 AM
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The noise you are hearing may be the burner or the pump running.

No, the pump runs and circulates water continuously.

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Author: Catleen Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 45748 of 128088
Subject: Re: Hot water boiler for heating Date: 2/5/2004 10:08 AM
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I had it in the last place I lived in. The pipes clanged and made an unbelieveable amount of noise. I did get used to it.

I also live behind a fire house, and got used to that as well, so that proves that a person can get used to just about anything.

I moved out when an ambulance company wanted to move in across the street. Entirely too much noise for me.

Catleen

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