Category: hvac

Well, it’s done.

After three years in the making, the boiler epic finally wrapped today. I have a brand new, Williamson 140,000 BTU steam boiler. Granted, it’s not on the epic scale of Lord of the Rings but I think it took even longer to complete it. This story began in 2011 with this tale of woe. I had big plans about extending the house renovation by gettting rid of steam heating altogether and replumbing the house for hot water heat instead. It made sense to do this for several reasons. First is that hot water heat is cheaper to run. You’re not

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Next life, I want to be a plumber.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article about my failing Weil-McLain steam boiler entitled Got Three Estimates? Get Three More. The article concluded with my finding a plumbing company willing to rebuild my ancient autofeed mechanism for a fair price. Despite most heating contractors swearing that my 42 year-old boiler wouldn’t survive the season, it made it through 2011, 2012 and the brutal, polar vortex winter of 2013 without a burp. Two weeks ago, I relit the pilot light on boiler. The outside temps were in the 60s so I didn’t turn on the boiler. A few days later I

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Got three estimates? Get three more.

A couple of weeks ago, I did my annual pre-heating season ritual of flushing my 42 year-old Weil-McLain steam boiler in preparation for the ceremonial relighting of the pilot light. I learned later from a plumber that you shouldn’t flush a cold boiler because the fresh incoming water will leave chemical deposits. It was academic in this case however because the boiler drained dry. WTF? The low water cutoff (LWCO)/autofeed should have replenished the boiler with fresh water. It didn’t. Granted, the LWCO looks like some sort of World War 2-era device and it had never been serviced since I

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Some DIYer I turned out to be

During the heating season — from late October until April — I run a large humidifier 24/7. It’s something I’ve done since music school. I had a 115 year-old Czech flat-back double bass that didn’t like steam heat. By the time spring arrived I would have spent anywhere from $300 to $1000 at the luthier getting glue joints fixed, new cracks repaired, the sound post reset and so forth. Running a big honkin’ humidifier was a lot cheaper and the bonus was learning that it was healthier for people too. The humidifier, a six gallon Bemis, is located in the

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Steam Radiator Air Valves 101

As I was just opening my eyes this morning I heard a steady hiss coming from downstairs. Anyone who’s got single pipe steam heat knows the sound, especially early in the morning when the boiler is working hard to warm the house from its overnight setback temperature. That’s the sound of pressure from the steam displacing air inside the pipes. It’s normal. That’s what an air valve on a steam radiator is supposed to do. But if it’s loud enough that you can hear it a floor away, you’ve likely got a problem. It often means the valve is stuck

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Bay window trim (almost) done.

Sheesh. Another “almost” cop out. The issue here isn’t woodworking but thermodynamics. The steam radiator that Richie from Sessa Plumbing installed is something called an “element”. An element works on the convection principle: as hot air rises off the element, it expands and exits through a grill at the top. This creates a low pressure area underneath which pulls in cold air from the floor through a grill at the bottom. An element radiator usually comes in a butt-ugly metal cabinet. It’s what that missing panel under the middle window needs to replicate. I’m gonna give you a private snapshot

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    Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

    This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

    My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

    I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

    This is the third iteration of BrooklynRowHouse.com, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.