Houzz Logo Print

Boiler Desperation

7 years ago

It's been 2 years since we got our old cast iron radiators up and running on the ancient boiler that was in the house when we bought it. We originally thought it needed to be replaced, mainly because it's old and rusty and we had no experience at all with boilers. But several locals with experience told us that these old boilers only have one real issue and that's leaking when the nipples between the grates give out. They said if it holds water it's fine.

So we had a plumber hook water back up to it and he filled the system and alleluia NOTHING LEAKED! We were so excited, the boiler works with wood or coal and here in Central PA coal is so cheap we could be looking at the least expensive heating bill in our lives. As of two winters ago the whole system of 15 rads worked perfectly heating the home comfortably.

Then we got transferred not long after and we were living on the other side of the country for 2 years. We paid someone to care for the house in our absence and he instead gutted all of the copper including our brand new wiring job and to get it out of the way he disconnected and in some places torch cut the cast iron system. We are so devastated and are unexpectedly back here just in time for winter. All of our savings have gone to the move and replacing the roof which was long overdo. We do have some rudimentary plumbing knowledge between us but this is so foreign to us and there's almost no info I can find online for how to deal start to finish with such an old boiler.

We've considered upgrading the boiler but honestly at this point it would mainly be for the purpose of having more DIY info available. We've considered doing Pex-Al-Pex with a manifold and just ditching the big cast iron pipes (they're 2 inch throughout) but it seems wasteful when the cast iron worked before, plus we will lose the benefit of the warming factor in the cellar.

I'm posting a bunch of pics at a link below in the hopes that someone will tell me what the heck I'm even looking at. We don't know what goes to where, where we run water into it, which pipe connection on the boiler is for the return from the rads and which is for the supply to them. I believe it was originally a gravity system and each rad has it's own supply and return. Also, there are just parts all over it that I don't know what they do. Finally, I know there is a compression tank to hook up but I think we will replace that. How do I know how big of one I need, and what's the worst that can happen if the pressure is not properly relieved? Are we looking at a flood or an explosion?

This feels way above and beyond the call of forum duty but we are getting desperate. This place was so badly trashed when we returned that our 3 kids are living 5 hours away with my mother until we can get it livable again and I can't even start patching the walls until some heat is running because it's so cold and damp the plaster is going days without drying. The roof is our number one priority and we still don't have a full price on that so we don't want to put out a bunch of money on the heat then not have enough for the roof, so if anyone in the know could be so generous as to describe in layman's terms exactly what is on this boiler and what basic steps are required to reconnect the pipes to it, it would be a godsend.

Boiler and Radiator Photos

Comments (18)