Frequently Asked Questions
I am sold! How do I schedule an appoinment?
The most efficient method is to start by filling out our
Contact Us page. Phone calls can be hit or miss, as we usually have our hands in a boiler and notes can get misplaced, and sometimes people fall through the cracks this way. The Contact page guarantees you won't go missing. It automatically logs you in and places you on the Needs To Be Scheduled list.
In order to help as many steam-folk as possible we cover a relatively large geographical area. We also strive to keep our rates and fees as low as possible. The most efficient way for us to accomplish both goals is to group schedule by geography. Phase one is the Needs To Be Scheduled list. Once there you will wait until a geographical neighbor or two of yours calls in and enough work is assembled to fill up a work day. Of course, you could get lucky and your neighbors have already called in and they are just waiting for you!
Once we have a geographical work day filled up emails will go out to you and your neighbors. Initially we just focus on agreeing on a day. Once we have the agreed day, then we work on the times. Sounds a little complicated, but generally it is pretty straight forward.
We do offer the option of not waiting for your neighbors. For such instances we have a schedule of travel fees dependent on how many miles distant you are. We would be happy to quote you your travel fee at any time if you would like to pursue that option.
Do you do anything besides steam?
Yes, as a matter of fact we do, though steam keeps us pretty busy. We very much enjoy installing higher-end/higher-efficiency hot water heating systems, and during the summer months we also install oil tanks and hot water heaters.
We're skeptical. Can you really make our steam system efficient, quiet, and comfortable?
Yes we can! We do it every day. And it doesn't cost much to find out what's involved either. Or, find out for free! Your boiler needs annual maintenance. Just schedule us to perform that, and while there we'll evaluate your system at no additional cost. We'll tell you what it needs, what it will cost, and what you can expect in return. Easy. Just the way we like it.
We're in the process of accepting bids for a new steam boiler. Quotes are all over the map. What do we need to know?
1. The most import thing that needs to happen is that the new boiler needs to be sized correctly. Too small and you'll obviously be cold. This never happens. Too big and your boiler will be endlessly short-cycling on pressure, which is a real efficiency killer. And that happens all the time. Proper steam boiler sizing is absoluetly critical to future performance. Get this one wrong and you'll be paying until it's finally replaced. To get it right all your radiaors must be measured. And then a little math is in order and a pick-up factor must be utilized. Some guys will do the first, but get lost in the math on the second.
2. Next up is the near-boiler piping. Just as critical to get right for efficiency's sake as the sizing, but with a little room for error. Get this one wrong and it can be re-done, albeit at a price. The purpose of the near boiler piping is to ring the mositure out of the steam. Wet steam is no good for heating. It is very inefficient, and it also leads to excess condensate, noise, and spitting radiator vents. Manufacturers specify in their manuals how their near boiler piping is to be done. Well over 50% of the time it is never followed, and the results are disasterous. Why does this happen? Because most guys install water boilers, which aren't very picky about how you pipe them, and when the occassional steam boiler comes along, they figure it's the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth. The manufacturers know this too. So over the years they have simplified their piping requirments. Efficiency suffers as a result, but who's to know? If they make their required near-boiler piping too arduous, contractors will simply choose to install a boiler from the competition. At NES we build the finest near-boiler headers around. Super efficient and worth every penny.
Lastly, be wary of what we derugatorily refer to as the Cut & Pasters. These guys come in, cut the old boiler out, and paste the new one in with straight copper pipe right to the steam mains. They're in and out in a day, and probably cheap. But you'll be paying long after they are gone. Insist at a minimum that the manufacturer's near boiler piping requirements be followed exactly, and done in black pipe. Even better, insist on dual risers and a dropped header.
3. Make sure they address the main venting in their quotation, and not with tiny $25 Vent Rites either. Barnes & Jones Big Mouths (preferred) or Gorton #2s are the only acceptable vents, and neither are available off-the-shelf. The system venting must also be timed to assure the proper number of vents are installed. Some systems will require multiples.
4. Make sure they plan to install a skim port. It's right in the manual, but is frequently ignored, like much else. During casting at the foundry, and later during installation, oils and impurities will be introduced into the boiler water. These must be removed for the boiler to perform properly, and a skim port is the only way to do so.
5. Would you like to add an automatic water feeder? It's a nice convenience, but the only type to consider is the Hydrolevel VXT. This feeder has a digital counter that lets us know what it is doing. Remember, fresh water kills. There's nothing worse than a blind feeder, happily adding water while everyone remains oblivious. VXTs are an option on all our boiler installs.
6. Then there's the extras, which come standard at NES. You can learn more about those
How often should we have our steam boiler serviced?
Every year if you want to play it safe. Because steam boilers are open to the atmosphere the boiler water quickly becomes "gunky". Gunk is trouble, and can lead to no-heat calls when you least desire it. If you have us come out once a year we'll hook a pump up to your boiler and give it quite a few flushings until the water runs clear. We'll also flush out the wet returns, low water cutoff(s) and pressuretrol pigtail(s). This will keep you out of trouble until the next year. We also combustion test and tune your burner to make sure you're running as efficiently as possible. And naturally we do all the standard nozzle and filter changes. But it doesn't end there. A full list can be found on our Annual Maintenance page.
We'll perform your first cleaning most anytime because you probably need it! But thereafter we like to schedule your future cleanings in the Spring & Summer during our slower period. Each Spring we'll send you a reminder to get on the schedule. Easy. And comforting.
What's the big deal about pipe insulation?
Well, it's actually a really big deal. Steam is a gas that desperately wants to become a liquid. Only the gas (steam) can heat your home. Once it becomes liquid (condensate) it's 100% useless. It's not at all like hot water piping. If you don't insulate your hot water piping you will lose heat, but a percentage of heat will remain and still perform work. Not so with steam. It's either 212 degrees and steam, -or it's nothing and a complete waste of fuel and money. So if your pipes aren't insulated, or the original insulation is in poor shape, you'll be making a lot of condensate instead of steam. Which makes no sense.
As an extra benefit, your system will not only be more efficient, -but a lot quieter without all that excess condesate in the piping sloshing around.
Give is a call and we'll provide you with an estimate to get you all wrapped up.
Our radiators are ugly, can you help?
Yes, we can. A refurbished radiator after professional sandblasting and powder coating is a sight to behold. And naturally we'd be happy to help. Summers only though. Just say the word and we'll come and collect all your radiators and have them sandblasted and refinished in the color(s) of your choice. Then we'll come back and install them. We can also replace all the radiator valves and vents in the process.
Some of our radiators don't heat all the way across. What's Up?
Probably nothing unless the room is too cold. Steam radiators aren't neccessary supposed to heat all the way across. When the thermostat calls for the boiler to come on, the boiler will run and make steam until the thermostat is satisfied and tells the boiler to stop. The steam will make it's way to each of your radiators and gradually begin to heat each section, one after the other. But once the thermostat is satisfied that process will stop, and the steam will go no further in your radiator. At least until the next cycle. On a warmer day it might take only a section or two to bring the house up to temperature. Conversely, on a bitter cold day, it's likely all the sections will be hot.
Now, you could have a venting and/or balancing problem that prevents some radiators from heating properly, leaving you with a room that is too cold. But that is another topic.