Oil to gas conversion post from 2015

Below is one of our posts from 2015 which is very relevant now that the gas moratoriums are starting.

Do I need an oil to gas conversion to be more efficient

June 16, 2015

The idea is that an oil to gas conversion will save you money in the operation of your system. This is true as gas is about 30% less than oil per BTU of heat. Therefore you can lower your bills just by changing the source of fuel. However, you can save even more just by looking at your existing system. By optimizing, upgrading, and updating your heating system with modern techniques and technologies you can save over 50% without converting to gas. These techniques should also be implemented if you choose to convert to gas anyway to see a savings of over 70%.

The boiler is just one part of a very intricate system. All parts need to be addressed to get the most out of the system. 

Balancing steam and hot water systems, installation of outdoor and/or indoor reset controllers, variable frequency drive pumps, insulating of all piping, correcting sequence of operation, are just a few measures to name, making huge impact on efficiency and comfort of the heating systems. 

The Williams pipeline and potential moratorium on oil to gas conversions in NYC

Below is a summary from Politico regarding the Williams pipeline and the utility company’s options if the pipeline is not approved. While it is still unclear if a moratorium on new gas lines will be implemented, it is still a possibility.

With this new information, what are the options to the homeowner in these areas who is currently on oil?

Well, you don’t have to wait for electric or the moratorium to be over to make your system more efficient and save money. While in the past, oil was more expensive than gas and a conversion was the biggest way to save, current upgrades in the heating industry have provided products that can save you money and provide great comfort without having to go through a big conversion.

You can upgrade your heating system while keeping the same boiler. A few simple modifications and some attention to your existing boiler can extend the lifespan of your current oil boiler. We will be posting these various options in a separate blog post over the next few days.



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Measuring indoor temperature

One of our biggest and easiest recommendations for building owners and managers is to arm their supers with a thermometer. It is such a small investment that yields such savings and rewards. Everyone has a different comfort level in terms of heat. Some people want to have 80F and some want 68F. When a tenant complains they usually say “I’m cold, the heat must be off”,”The radiator is cold, the heat must be off” but this doesn’t give any information to the owner, technician, or super. NYC mandates that building’s provide 68F. Many no heat calls can be solved without a technician.

The super can test the temperature and determine one of the following - is the heat sufficient, is it completely off (sometimes the building heat can be on but the apartment’s radiator is off or has a broken air vent), is the heat level sufficient but not comfortable for the tenant, etc.

In our company we use the Testo thermometer and recommend every building provides one to a super, shareholder, or tenant.

Testo Thermometer

Below are pictures from a recent “radiators aren’t working” call.

Hydronic heating - series to parallel corrections

A very common problem in new constructions is the installation of radiators in series. This means that the return of one radiator is the supply of the next and the next after that one. This means that the first radiator receives all the hot water, the second one a little bit less, and the 3rd/4th/5th receives very little. We see this along single apartments or through several apartments. The problem is that the first room will be over heated while the next rooms won't have enough heat. We also see TRVs installed on the first radiator. In this case the occupant of the first room will turn the TRV down since they are getting all the heat, which will turn the heat off for the following rooms.

The solution is to convert these radiators from series to parallel. Below is an explanation from Danfoss on how this is done as well as some pictures of our conversions from series to parallel. 

Work in Progress - Steam Installation in Manhattan

Installation of a new slant/fin 100,000 BTU steam boiler for a 3 unit + commercial space in Manhattan. We installed master vents and TRVs along with the new boiler to increase comfort, efficiency, and properly size the boiler. The old boiler was 280,000 BTUs and to our surprise the installed EDR was only 55,000 BTUs for the whole building. The commercial space has so many people and equipment that it typically doesn't even require heat. Luckily for them, the installed TRVs will control the first floor so they no longer over heat. 

The old boiler was so oversized that it had severely corroded. It's unlikely it would have survived another winter. 

Before pictures:

During and After Pictures:

DHW Cross Connections - Y Connection

Here is a picture of a Y connection in a building that caused a wild goose chase to figure out why one apartment line had continuing hot water issues. Someone had install these Y connections for their own use, not knowing that this is actually cross connection between cold and hot water lines. Cold water enters hot water line and stops the hot water from going to the apartments. 


The importance of performing maintenance on your heating system.

Maintenance of a heating system is extremely important. This is not just blowing off the dust and making sure the boiler sits pretty. It involves intense cleaning of all important components of your heating system as well as introduction of chemical treatments that increase the longevity of your system.

Boiler components are exposed to the elements and harsh conditions while your system is operating year round. Without proper maintenance these parts can break when they don't have to. Many times a replacement will be recommended for a part that just needs to be cleaned. 

Below are pictures of a LWCO of a system that's been operating for only one year. We see this on many boilers. 

I'm hot / I'm cold and false alarms


Prior to calling out your tech for any adjustments to the boiler you should check the following:

  • What is the temperature in the room vs what temperature you would like? While the temperature in the room is scientific, the comfort level is subjective. It is important to know the actual temperature in the room to see if there is an issue with the system or you just want it to be warmer. 
  • Are your radiators open? Very often people shut off their radiators due to some over heating that may have happened a few days ago and completely forget. Then a service tech is called out to check on the system, they don't understand what is going on, the boiler is working, the building has heat, but the apartment is cold. 
  • Is your window open? Very strange to ask this question but oddly enough, we come out to a lot of service calls where the window was opened and then forgotten. New York apartments very often have poor windows that no longer lock which allows the top of the window to creep open without anyone noticing. This 1 inch gap can be the difference between a comfortable New York winter evening and a miserable one. 
  • What is the temperature outside? Most heating systems are designed to turn off when the temperature outside goes above 55-56F. 

Steam Air Vents

We often see air vents installed incorrectly on a steam radiator. These radiators can be installed for both steam and hydronic systems and therefore have two available ports. The top one is for a hydronic system bleeder and the bottom one is for a steam system. However, many people don't know this and use the top port for the air vent installation.

This blocks half the radiator from warming up because steam is lighter than air, it travels right up to the air vent and closes it leaving half the radiator without steam.

Below is the heat distribution on a steam radiator with the air vent incorrectly installed on top of the radiator (upper left here). 

Update - West 88th Street - Project Completed

Completed conversion from electric to hydronic heating system with the installation of a new Viessmann boiler, storage tank, and radiators. The radiators were a combination of Baxi, Runtal, and Governale radiators depending on the style of the room. All radiators were installed with TRVS. Supply and return lines were installed in copper with propress fittings. Below are the pictures from the project. 

Tekmar 279 adjustment instructions:

Below are instructions on how to adjust the Tekmar 279 control to address the building's heating characteristics and complaints. 

Condition/complaint: If it is always hot inside building when it is cold or warm outside lower room temperature

Menu-> adjust-> room arrow up or down

Menu-> adjust-> room arrow up or down

Condition/complaint: If at warm weather people are comfortable but at cold weather they are not you need to change the BOILER DESIGN PERCENTAGE. 

Menu-> adjust-> scroll. More percentage equals more heat when it is cold. Change increments of 5%. Wait 1 day for result. 

Menu-> adjust-> scroll. More percentage equals more heat when it is cold. Change increments of 5%. Wait 1 day for result. 

Condition/complaint: When people are uncomfortable at warm weather outside but comfortable when it is cold then change indoor design temperature. 

Less DESIGN TEMPERATURE  is less heat, higher temperature is more heat at warm weather. CHANGE 5F at the time. Wait for 1 day for results. 

Less DESIGN TEMPERATURE  is less heat, higher temperature is more heat at warm weather. CHANGE 5F at the time. Wait for 1 day for results. 

Important NYC Heating Regulation changes


Beginning October 1, 2017, pursuant to Local Law 86 of 2017 , the regulations regarding the provision of heat during the nighttime hours have changed. During the Heat Season (October 1 – May 31), property owners must maintain an indoor temperature of 62 degrees. THERE IS NO LONGER A NIGHTTIME OUTDOOR TRIGGER TEMPERATURE. This means that heat needs to be provided as needed to maintain an indoor temperature of 62 degrees. If the inside temperature falls below 62 degrees, tenants may file a complaint about inadequate heat with 311. Please take necessary action to ensure that your heating system will be provide heat according to the law beginning October 1st. Daytime heat must still be provided at a minimum of 68 degrees once it is below 55 degrees outside and hot water must be maintained at 120 degrees.

Jobs in Progress - West 88th Street - Update - more pictures to come

We are continuing our conversion from an electric heating system to a gas hydronic heating system in a brownstone on West 88th Street. To see the boiler portion of this project please check out our blog post - http://www.absolutemechanicalcoinc.com/blog/2016/8/3/jobs-in-progress-west-88th-street. 

We installed the boiler while we waited for the utility to bring gas into the building. Once we had gas and a meter we began the installation of the heating system throughout the house. We are removing the existing electric baseboards and installing cast iron radiators. We were able to do this in the winter by making the boiler go live before the heating system installation began. As each radiator was installed, it was turned on. Construction was performed while the apartment was occupied. Below are pictures of the protection of the property which was removed every evening and replaced every morning. 

Some of the pipes are capped because we are waiting for the next phase to begin. The next phase is bringing the pipes to the top floor.

We will be updating this post with pictures as the installation progresses.