This month's stump the chump comes from a mystery contributor, a caped crusading building performance specialist from Burlington, Vermont.

During a recent job, the crusader was reminded of a stumper he encountered in the late 1990's.

The homeowners of a 19th century duplex were in trouble; victims of uncomfortable rooms and high energy bills. With their patience wearing thin, they called in the local home performance hero to upgrade the shell of their home. The scope of work included significant infiltration reduction; upgrading thin rockwool attic insulation to R40; dense-packing 2x6 finished slanted ceilings with cellulose; dense-packing 2x4 exterior walls with cellulose; dense-packing the perimeter of the 2nd floor framing system with cellulose; R19 bandjoist insulation; and a few other minor things.

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Tags: BPI, Chump, Stump, the

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What happened to my reply? What I had posted was that this month's stumper was a coincidence in that I am presently working on a similar home. The home I'm working on also has high heating bills, uncomfortable rooms, and a one pipe steam heating system. I'm thinking the solution is to install thermostatic radiator valves in the overheated rooms. Those upstairs rooms feel like a sauna, even though the first floor, where the t-stat is, is only at 72 degrees f. Having the rest of the home at a higher delta T to outside greatly increases heating costs. 

It is still there - it just happens to be under the BPI group where they pasted the exact same question, etc... Eventually they will learn net etiquette, but until then...  

I am also very interested in the comments as I have been living in a 1930's two-story home with a single-pipe steam/natural gas system for over 30 years.  I have also done some extensive air sealing and insulating (but I know more can be done) but we HAVE seen a tremendous decrease in our natural gas usage. Since the clues are that the amount of gas used has not changed even after all the remediation, it seems there is still a large loss of heated air (so that the heating system needs to make that up). My guess (based on an assumed age of the dwelling because of a single-pipe system) is that there is a fireplace flue (or 3) that are mostly/completely open and now (with the remediated air leakage work) are flowing even more air 24/7. If so, I'd recommend inflatable flue blocking devices for all fireplace flues. 

You may very well be right, considering the fact that they usually leave something out in those quiz questions, or deliberately mislead, such as they say they accomplished "significant infiltration reduction". It would not surprise me for them to come out with the answer as "there was significant infiltration increased".

I'm thinking the crusader eliminated one of the two steam boilers (or resized and installed a new, high
efficiency boiler) to handle heating both units in the duplex.  By incorporating zone valves and
separate thermostats, the clients no longer have to run two separate boilers
(both of which may have already been oversized), to efficiently heat the entire
duplex.

Perhaps the 2nd time around the local home performance hero (LHPH) decided to insulate the heating pipes and / or the foundation walls.  I am of course assuming the pipes were probably proximate to an un-insulated / un-air sealed foundation. 

Somebody want to tell me how much the final "simple upgrade" cost? What was the SIR on that upgrade? I would venture to say that this upgrade was very non-cost-effective. BPI should be promoting cost-effective remedies. Replacing a working steam boiler with a hot water boiler, along with an expensive repiping of the radiators is not a cost effective solution. They could have achieved 30% savings just with installing TRV's, and with a simple payback of one or two seasons, as opposed to the likely-to-never-have-a-payback upgrade endorsed in the Stump the chump game. 

Well it just came out & I quote... "He explains that our crusader “upgraded the two single pipe steam boilers to hot water boilers by modifying the distribution piping and adding a pipe to each of the radiators.  This allowed the boiler to heat the space without having to boil the water to make steam, which uses much less energy.  With the above upgrades, and keeping in mind that only hot water boilers can be low mass, which modulates output design, the savings can be quite substantial."

Then it sounds like he kept the existing boiler? I read it wrong then; my bad. 

OK - he kept the boilers, but the labor to extend the returns to every radiator would have been a tremendous labor/material cost (not to mention eyesore). And how did the hot water get to the radiators?  He would have needed to add at least 2 circulation pumps (1 for each system); maybe 2 manifold systems (1 for each system) too if the home owner wanted more than 1 zone. Unless he was relying on thermo siphon action. I really have a hard time believing that any net savings occurred here.

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