Book Review: We Got Steam Heat by Dan Holohan

We Got Steam Heat: A Homeowner’s Guide to Peaceful Coexistence by Dan Holohan is a guide to steam systems that are still commonly used for heating and will help you understand your boiler heating equipment.

Contents 23/25

Ease of Understanding/Practicality 24/25

Pictures/Illustrations 18/25

Additional Features 20/25

Total 85/100

We Got Steam Heat: A homeowners Guide to Peaceful Coexistence by Dan Holohan is an in depth look at steam heating systems without all the technical jargon so homeowners can understand their steam heating system. The book helps average home owners with how their heating system works and as the title states how to deal with problems and even upgrades.

You don’t have to want to do the work yourself but any homeowner should know the basics of how their heating system works and when to call in the professionals. You also should know what is going on with your heating system so when you do call for help you can know what they are talking about and if they are trying to rip you off.

I don’t have steam heat but I do have a boiler that is a hot water heater system, much like steam heat but without all that steam. My hot water system heats water and then pumps this hot water to radiators around my home to keep me toasty warm in the cold Minnesota winters.

Steam heating is also a hydronic system, hydronic means using water to transfer heat or cooling, but the use of hot water to heat your home is different from steam heat. In a steam system the steam moves through pipes to heat the radiators and forces air from the pipes when the steam rushes through an open system.

A hot water boiler system simply pushes hot water through a closed plumbing system to heat radiators much like a steam system with a few major differences. The main difference between steam and hot water systems is the air in the pipes that is released by a vent in a steam system when the steam is created.

A hot water system simply has water in the pipes and the hot water coming from the boiler forces upward as heat rises in both air and water. This major difference means some of the devices and plumbing will be different but the major things like a boiler, Hartford loop and when to call a contractor are about the same.

Of course I am simplifying this but to give you an idea of the basics I wanted to simply state that you can use this book for both hot water and the intended steam systems. My hot water system started out as a forty plus year old boiler when I was looking for this book and then it got an upgraded to a new high efficiency boiler.

I recently had a big project thanks to President Obama where my state received millions of dollars in economic stimulus which the state gave to its weatherization program. I receive a little help with my heating bills in the winter due to my low income so the state put me on a list to get help with weatherization.

The weatherization program helps people weatherize their homes as well as train inspectors for the program and to get money into the hands of local contractors who do the work. They usually insulate the home and seal up windows and doors to help people save money on their heating bills in the winter.

The main part of weatherization for me was adding insulation and getting a new boiler; mine was over forty years old and looked like it was on its last legs. I received a new energy efficient one that has really cut my heating bills and will last for many years keeping my family toasty warm.

I wanted to learn more about my heating system for several reasons; I wanted to find out what that boiler and all its pipes do and I wanted to know how to take care of it. I searched the internet and found several professionals and do it yourself responders on forums advising people to get the book We Got Steam Heat.

I looked on the internet and found so many references to Dan Holohan and his book We Got Steam Heat that I wanted to get this instead of a book specifically about hot water heating systems. If you have a hot water heating system you may want to get this book as a primer to hydronic systems and a little history behind them as well as the sections that apply to both such as the Hartford loop.

Now I understand the differences between steam and hot water systems and after much reading both in Dan’s book and on the internet the differences are not that great. Dan does not discuss hot water heating systems except for converting a steam heat system to hot water at the end of the book.

Just looking at diagrams in We Got Steam Heat and my basement with both the old system and the shiny new boiler and all its piping the steam heat and hot water systems are very close to each other. I did learn a lot about steam systems from Dan’s book and getting another book about hot water systems would be advised if you have a hot water system but this book is also a must in my opinion.

It not only gives the history of some of this type of heating but offers explanations about why they came up with parts of your heating system that both types of systems use. We Got Steam Heat explains a lot of common problems along with solutions and even whether you should tackle the problems yourself or when you should call in a professional.

In the area of calling in for expert help Dan gives advice of when to believe and pay for the expertise of a heating professional or when you should quickly and calmly show the fraud to the door. Steam heat does have its own idiosyncrasies and Dan covers many of these in detail even going back to the history of such things.

Dan refers to those old timers of the steam professionals as the Dead Men or the individual as the Dead Man which is funny in two ways. Often people who worked on those old time systems found themselves injured or worse because of all the problems with high pressure and the lack of safety devices.

Dan has a great sense of humor and uses this to help you understand what is going on between your boiler and all those room radiators and the various parts and components of each. Dan’s book We Got Steam Heat will help you understand how and why steam heating systems work to give you peace of mind both if you work on it or if you simply call in the experts.

This type of book is a must to home owners to ensure they are getting the best experts to work on their system and to ensure they are not getting ripped off when that contractor just says crank up the pressure. This is the time to quickly show that supposed expert to the door and thank him for his opinion as he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Cranking up the pressure is where all those Dead Men got their nickname and Dan explains the dangers of things like cranking up the pressure with more about accidents from the past that resulted in today’s practices. We Got Steam Heat is really a fantastic book and well worth the cost of about $25 to help remove the mystery of all those pipes and devices sitting all around your home and hopefully keeping you warm in the winter.

Dan’s Website

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *