This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
"Wm. H. B." asks some questions upon this subject in a recent Monthly. I have just built a greenhouse 108 x 26 feet and put in steam. My experience in the use of steam previously was that I had heated my house ten years without a cent of repairs on the boiler; sectional cast iron; perfect satisfaction. Previous to putting in steam in my greenhouse, I visited a number so heated and I think I have got the best plan I have seen. The essential difference is that the four pipes one above the other have a better chance to expand without injuring the one next or below.
Ordinarily the four pipes are put in 100 feet long and at each end of the house in a "header," thus:
Now in practice, some of these pipes will be very hot and others cold, when no pressure is carried. The consequence is that some will scew out of the hooks, or gradually pull out of the " header".
In my house I do not put the header in the corner of the house but turn with an elbow and the header is six feet from the corner on the end. This gives each pipe an opportunity to expand independent of the other.
My house is so piped that I can heat half very warm and the other end little or none. "W. H.B " is under a mistake to think water must boil to make steam. I keep up a nice, gentle heat in cold weather, with no pressure, and water not boiling.
At night I so set my damper that no further attention is needed until morning. In relation to heating a dwelling house by the greenhouse fire, I would not do it. A dwelling house many times wants heat when none is wanted in the greenhouse. A dismantled threshing machine boiler would not be as safe and would require great attention.
This cut shows a manner of turning the corners. I have seen no house piped like mine. In very cold weather I set the damper at night, so as to have a small pressure of steam all night, say five pounds, but seldom need any pressure.
I am glad to see that at last we are beginning to awaken the astute minds of the florists to the fact that steam is the best heat for them, and I trust your modesty will not cause you to blush when I ascribe to your kindly offices much of the benefit which in the future will accrue to those who have taken the hint and struck out in the new direction. Truly there seems to be fire all along the line - Pittsburg, Detroit, Boston. But where are our New York friends ? They are not wont to be so conservative. I think friend Taber has made a little mistake, or, possibly, your printers have made one for him. He quotes from my former letter, " Regarding the larger pipes, their cost is nearly double that of the smaller, and if the latter can be made as effective, this is surely a saving." Now that is all correct, and what I said I meant; nor do I yet see any reason to change my mind. Then he says : " While I do not see any advantage of large pipes over small, except in cheapness, Mr. Fowler must know that more heat is obtained from one two-inch pipe than from two one-inch pipes".
The impression I intended to convey in the letter from which he quotes, was, that two-inch pipe was more costly than one-inch. My authority being the general price-list of pipe, which reads that the price per foot of two-inch pipe is forty-six cents, while one-inch is nineteen cents per foot.
Now, by referring to Dennett's table of surfaces of pipe, I find that two feet of one-inch pipe more than equals one foot of two-inch. So, since the surface exposed is what we desire for heating, we see that the two feet of one-inch pipe not only costs eight cents less, but also presents more surface than one foot of two-inch. Of course, this is a small matter, and I notice it not for the sake of discussion, but merely from the desire to correct any wrong impression which may have been given. I believe I had the honor of being Mr. Taber's correspondent at the establishment of R. G. Parker & Co. So we have met very pleasantly before, as I trust we may do again.
This promises to be the greatest blessing to floriculture ever introduced. There are thousands of people who would gladly have small conservatories attached to their dwelling houses if only the heating troubles could be gotten over. When a dwelling house is steam-heated, it is the easiest possible thing to extend a few steam pipes to the conservatory.
"William H. B.," Independence, Kansas, says: "The talks on steam-heating are becoming very interesting to me. I use flues, and am away from the line of trade between great propagators. I wish a little information. First, I observe that water must boil to create steam. Now, for night heat, must some one attend to the fires to keep the water boiling, or do we start into the night with a pressure, or supply of steam, to last through ? Again, can the steam-pipes be carried in any direction, and raised or lowered at pleasure, without affecting the result; or, is it like hot water, hottest at the highest point? Could one heat their dwelling from same boiler? Could I use a dismantled threshing machine boiler? Is it best to place the boiler inside the house with only the front in the shed, as we do other apparatus ; if so, would it not be too hot for anything directly over the boiler ? How high a pressure is carried, and how far can steam be carried under cover, and how far under ground between disconnected houses ?"
I have read the articles in the recent numbers about steam heating, and I am quite sure it will supersede hot water. I am heating four houses, twenty-two by sixty feet each, with one ten horse-power boiler, costing $200. If I used hot water two boilers would be necessary, besides double the amount of feet of pipe. - and four-inch pipe, where for steam, one inch is large enough, except main pipe running through shed which is two inches. I figured for hot water, boilers and pipes, $1,500. Steam costs, boiler and pipes, $600 for the four houses, $900 difference, besides less time used in firing, less coal, etc, at prices that figured this fall and last August and September.
Having in the last number of the Gardener's Monthly been reading about steam heating in greenhouses, I take the liberty to state the following : The last winter I was engaged in a nursery in Berlin, Germany, where all the houses, eight in all, were heated by steam, though in an entirely different way from that described in your magazine. I feel inclined to call it "steam and hot water apparatus," as it was the steam that warmed the water.
The steam boiler was lying in a little house built for it; from this a pipe, two inches in diameter, went through all the houses at one side, and back at the other. In each house there were below the shelves "reservoirs" or tanks made of thin iron plates, furnished with a lid and holding about twelve big cans of water. From the mentioned pipe went a small one (half an inch in diameter), provided with a tap at the base, down in each reservoir, some inches below the surface of the water.
When the steam was got up in the boiler the tap to the main pipe was opened, and directly after the taps on the small pipes, which operated so that the steam went down in the reservoirs, and in a short time made the water boiling; the steam was now turned off, and owing to the quantity of water, the reservoir kept itself warm for a long time. As a matter of course, it is not necessary to heat all the reservoirs, as it depends on the weather.
The house, which was 32 feet long, 16 feet broad and 13 feet high, was heated by ten reservoirs, and kept at 65° in winter, while a cold house of the same size was heated by five reservoirs.
As I am told the temperature often goes down in Germany to 20° below zero, I suppose that nothing would interfere against the successful use of the same system of heating here. The nurseryman told me it was the most economical, convenient and practical way of heating he ever saw; it required but little attention, as the fire was only kept up one or three hours in the morning and night,'according to the weather. In the propagating house was a long tank, made of bricks, covered with slates, and in this way formed the propagating bed. The steam was led down in this tank by three pipes, as it held a large quantity of water, which gave a splendid and steady bottom heat.
I hope you will understand the construction of this system; I am not able to explain myself more evident in the English language, as I am a native of Denmark.
If agreeable to the readers of the Gardener's Monthly, we accept Mr. Fowler's invitation and give our experience with steam heating, well knowing that if it give others the satisfaction it has given us, the days of hot water heating, as well as those of all other modes are short. In August, 1880, we intended placing in our greenhouses a hot water apparatus, when the articles in this magazine by Mr. Bochmann and Parker Bros, on steam heating, attracted our attention. And after quite a correspondence with these gentlemen, and for whose kindly suggestions we are grateful, we erected what we believe to be the first successful steam apparatus in the West, Our boiler is below the radiating pipes, thereby doing away with the use of a steam trap, which would only be necessary were the boiler placed above the pipes, and which comes to the relief of those who cannot secure drainage, to place their boiler below the ground surface. We carry the steam from the boiler through a two inch pipe to a two inch pipe crossing the ends of all the houses, above the doorways in the shed, with a drop pipe and valve of from one to one-and-a-half inches for each coil, according to the amount of radiating surface in the coil, which connects by a manifold with one inch radiating pipes under the bench, running the entire length of the house, with eight inches fall in one hundred feet, connecting at the further end of the house by manifold pipe and valve with a two inch return pipe to boiler, which crosses the ends of all the houses, receiving the condensed steam from all radiating coils - the return pipe being about one foot under the ground, and having a fall towards the boiler, thus obtaining a complete circulation much the same as in a hot water apparatus.
In the severe weather of last winter with the thermometer fifteen degrees below zero, five pounds of steam was all that was necessary to maintain a temperature of sixty-five degrees; and we find that steam will circulate in all the pipes when the guage shows not one ounce of pressure. We have visited the establishment of the Messrs. Reneman & Bro. of Pittsburg, whose apparatus was erected we believe by Mr. Boch-man, and noticed that their radiating pipes were two inches, each pipe being supplied by a three-quarter inch pipe, with an outlet of one half inch, their boiler being above the heating pipes; they use an Albany steam trap to return the condensation to the boiler, the use of which I think objectionable, where not necessary. Mr. Fowler says, " Regarding the larger pipes, their cost is nearly double that of the smaller, and if the latter can be made as effective, this is surely a saving." While I do not see any special advantage of large pipes over small except in cheapness, Mr. Fowler must know that more heat is obtained from one two inch pipe, than from two one inch pipes.
Others were so pleased with the working of our apparatus, that to-day there are six greenhouse establishments in this city heated by steam, all erected the past summer; and as far as I know are giving entire satisfaction. Steam has been used to some extent in Chicago, but has never been made a success, and as I intend visiting that town soon, I may be able to tell the readers of the Monthly in a later number, why it is thus.
The articles in the Gardener's Monthly are exciting a widespread interest among florists. At a recent meeting of the New York Horticultural Society many leading florists participated in debate on the subject. There seemed to be no longer any doubt about the advantage of steam over all systems at present known, where large ranges of houses are to be heated. The only question now left seems to be whether it will pay to tear out the immense quantity of pipe and boilers now used in hot water ranges. Kretschmar Bros., of Flatbush, from whom our readers have not heard, gave an interesting account of their experiment, summing up the advantages as follows :
We saved coal to some, and attention to a great extent. A steam-heating apparatus, correctly put up, and furnished with a perfect-working, automatic damper-regulator, can be safely left alone all night in zero-weather.
We can regulate the heat so that each house may be kept at a degree desired.
Closing, we will say, if our apparatus was more perfect than it is now, we would not wish to have anything better than steam-heating.
Our apparatus was put up by a concern that never heard of "greenhouse heating by steam," nor never dreamt that it could be done. They were utterly inexperienced in this line, and therefore the apparatus was put up imperfectly.
I am glad to see the subject of steam as a heater being discussed through the columns of the Monthly, and should it prove as great a boon over hot-water as hot-water has over the old brick flue, it will be a great relief to gardeners and their assistants. But the main question is will it be as economical as regards fuel, and can boilers be made that will keep up steam say from 10 o'clock, P. M , until 6 o'clock A. M., without attention ? If this can be done then we may say good-bye to hot water; if not, then we must understand the management of hot-water boilers better than is now generally understood. The great fault with most makers of boilers is misrepresentation, i. e., they invariably represent a boiler to be capable of heating, say 1,000 feet of four-inch pipe, when under ordinary circumstances it will heat about 700 feet. Another fault, not generally understood, is in not putting enough pipe into greenhouses. Invariably you will find greenhouses, say one hundred feet long by twenty to twenty-five feet wide, with eight rows of piping - that is, four pipes on one side and four on the other. Now, to think that, with that amount of pipe you can maintain a temperature of 65° in zero weather, is entirely out of the question, no matter what kind of a boiler you use.
The fact is, put in four more rows of pipe, and a boiler capable of heating the contents of said pipe, and then you will get satisfaction.
Friend Fowler can rest assured that steam will not "smoulder." It is undoubtedly the coming heater for greenhouses - until superseded in its turn by electricity - and before long is destined to enter into the construction of all new ranges of houses ; if not substituted for other methods in those already built. Around Pittsburg it has been introduced with invariable success, and rose-growers from Summit and Madison have been here taking notes. Where we (John R. & A. Murdoch) grow our roses in the 22nd Ward, we this summer took out a No. 16 and a No. 17 Hitching's corrugated boiler and two thousand feet of four-inch pipe; and after making an extension of 100 feet by 20 feet, put in steam with most satisfactory results, adding a steam-pump, with which we raise water from the brook below to water the houses and supply the boiler. Two-inch pipe was used excepting where the valves were placed; here we used one-inch pipes and smaller valves to reduce the cost of valves.
We consider steam as safe as hot water, and much easier to regulate, aside from the economy of labor resulting in the decreased number of fires necessary. After a winter's experience, we may refer again to this important topic.
There is little doubt that where there are large ranges of plant houses to be heated, steam is destined to play a much more important part in American gardening than it has yet done. There is no reason why it may not be employed in connection with the electric light and the warming of whole blocks of houses by one steam-heating company in each block, and we pay for the steam we use as we pay for gas. This will be a great boon to the florist who may be near such a public steam company. Only think of the enjoyment of going to bed at nights without worrying over fires ; no coal bills to pay, no dirt, no dust, no smoke, no trouble but to grow flowers or fruit, and turn these to pleasure and profit! Will it not be glorious ?
Mrs. M. P. Green remarks: " None of the writers on steam heating of greenhouses has told us definitely about their radiating surfaces. Do they use two inch, or larger, or smaller pipes as radiating surfaces, the whole length of the benches or houses, or do they use shorter 'coils' at separate distances after the manner of heating dwelling houses. One uses two inch and others use various other sizes of pipe, but we want more definite details about the radiators".
" T. J.," Hartford, writes : "I notice, in your February number, an article on steam heating, by Mr. Taber, in which the author asserts, as a well-known fact, 'that more heat is obtained from one two inch pipe than from two one-inch pipes.' Now, I am using one-inch pipes under the impression that two of them present the same heating surface and therefore give as much heat as one two-inch pipe, besides taking only one-half the quantity of steam and consequently consuming less fuel. Will Mr. Taber please inform me through the columns of your Monthly, whether I am right or not, and if not, why not?"
Mr. Mylius, Florist of Detroit, says: "Mr. Taber, of Detroit, writes an able article about steam, and he states what I know are facts. I think few will use other than steam for heating, in time. Mr. Taber has the same size boiler as mine, but I heat double as much glass with mine as he does with his".
By what authority does Walter M. Taber, of Detroit, Mich., state in the Gardener's Monthly of February, 1882, that steam heating in Chicago has not proved a success ? If he will refer to the Gardener's Monthly of October, 1873, he will find an article on page 303, written by myself, on steam heating, and radiating in the same manner he now thinks such a success ; in fact it is a success. But as I added greenhouses, and enlarged those already built, I found there was a waste of steam in using two-inch pipe, and radiating the way I was doing. Consequently, I take steam from the dome of the boiler in a one-inch pipe, and heat the last-built houses, and have taken out all of the two-inch pipe save about twelve feet, and would have dispensed with that had it not already been in the boiler. From the two-inch pipe I take six one inch pipes for the heating of the other houses.
I grow and use more cut flowers for my business than all the other greenhouses heated by hot water in and about Chicago. My business has frequently taken me to their houses for the past eight years for cut flowers, and I can but seldom find what I want to use in my business. In greenhouses heated by steam, flowers are more abundant.
I think if florists were not so negligent in comparing notes of their experience and results through the Monthly, we would advance more in improvements, with better results.
" Chicago " says: " In your May number there is an article on steam heating, by Mr. W. D. Allen. Having read the articles by different writers, that have appeared in your paper, I have become interested in this mode of heating; but if, as Mr. Allen says, he uses the same system of arranging pipes, etc., that is so highly recommended by others of your correspondents, I hardly think it will pay to investigate the matter further. I am not impressed with the results as they seemed to me the last time I saw them in Mr. A's houses.
"Mr. Allen's statements in regard to cutting flowers are a 'little off.' Among the growers around Chicago, his houses are noted for producing nothing. His roses are the poorest I ever saw; Carnations, not much better; Camellias and Smilax he grows in great abundance and very finely. As for his growing more flowers than all the others put together, there are dozens who leave him far behind. I say this that those who have visited Mr. A.'s place may not have an erroneous opinion of the flower growers around Chicago".
[This is getting to be a personal matter. "Chicago's" note is, however, legitimate, on account of Mr. Allen's remark, and we have admitted it as a matter of fair play. But the question as to who grows the most or the fewest flowers, is not appropriate here. In regard to the question of steam heating, the point has little bearing. The only question involved is, Will steam give out more heat, and with less care and cost than hot water ? If it will not do so on a small scale, will it do so when the houses are on a large scale ? Is it under any circumstances more advantageous than hot water or hot air? and if so, what are these special circumstances? It does not follow that because all these or any of these questions may be answered in favor of steam, one will yet have plenty of flowers. Something else besides a good boiler, and a good attendance on a good boiler, before we can have flowers. - Ed. G. M.}