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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 24, 2010
    Location
    Western NY
    Posts
    1,090

    Default Steam Heat 101 please!

    So new house DH and I bought is all steam heat with the big metal radiators, I know next to nothing about this type of heating except that there is a boiler that runs continuously and it creates steam that circulates through the pipes into the radiators and creates warmth in the house.

    Radiators are old/antiques, but boiler is brand spanking new. Trying to figure out how to heat the most efficiently since oil is not exactly cheap and the new house is roughly 3x our current one! It's a historic cobblestone house with all brand new Anderson windows, so it should be fairly well insulated.

    Any guides or tips would be greatly appreciated!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 18, 2001
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    6,852

    Default

    I don't know the actually technical details of steam heat at all, but I live in a very, very old apartment building with radiators and I have to say that they seem to be the most efficient form of heating out of anywhere I've ever lived. Be prepared to have to open windows to get some cool air. The heat lingers for awhile too, so I don't think you'll have to run them as often as you would a traditional system.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2004
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    1,274

    Default

    There is a great web site called heatinghelp.com, they are a wealth of information. The site owner has a book that is the best guide to maintaining a system and understanding how it all works.
    Fullcirclefarmsc.com



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2000
    Location
    Greensboro, NC
    Posts
    1,789

    Default

    I also live in an old apartment building with radiators and boiler. It is an awesome system. We actually did a huge energy study last year on the theory that we could replace the radiators/window AC units with a Mitsubishi Slim or other ductless system, and it turns out that our current system is so efficient it would be MORE expensive to modernize it. I would have to look it up, but I think we averaged $30/month to heat and cool each apartment. We set the boiler to cycle on and off, and I definitely have to keep my windows cracked much of the year to avoid roasting. It is really comforting heat, I always think, maybe because it's what my elementary school had. I put wet clothes on the radiators, and they dry in about 3 minutes. When it's really icky cold outside, there is nothing better than putting on your coat and gloves after they've warmed up on the radiator.

    I will definitely check out the site above as I've not seen it before and I'm sure it has some great advice, but from what we've learned the hard way - find someone to work on the boiler that knows what they are doing. Because there aren't tons of these in use, not everyone is familiar with working on them (or wants to). If you have the bullet shaped valves on the side, I would pick up a few extra to have on hand. It's very rare that they fail, and they're very inexpensive, but when they do fail you generally have hot water spraying out and are waiting on someone to come fix it (which consists of screwing in a new valve). I don't know if this is specific to our system, but we have always been advised to turn each radiator either all the way on or all the way off, not partway. Hope you like it, I wouldn't trade mine for anything!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 18, 2001
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    6,852

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Pookah View Post
    It is really comforting heat, I always think, maybe because it's what my elementary school had. I put wet clothes on the radiators, and they dry in about 3 minutes. When it's really icky cold outside, there is nothing better than putting on your coat and gloves after they've warmed up on the radiator.
    I think there is something comforting about the radiator too. Hearing it hiss and clank puts me to sleep every night. I'm glad to hear that they're efficient too—I figured as much, but luckily, my heating bill is included in my rent.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2000
    Location
    Greensboro, NC
    Posts
    1,789

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tha Ridge View Post
    I think there is something comforting about the radiator too. Hearing it hiss and clank puts me to sleep every night. I'm glad to hear that they're efficient too—I figured as much, but luckily, my heating bill is included in my rent.
    I love that too! Although surprisingly, we get complaints about the noise from them ALL the time!! (maybe don't rent or buy in a 1926 building is usually my first thought :-))



  7. #7
    Join Date
    May. 12, 2000
    Location
    NE TN, USA
    Posts
    6,201

    Default

    Keep an eye on your humidity as it's a very dry heat unless the radiators vent occasionally. We used to set a tea kettle on the radiators in the '30s era house we rented to keep the humidity within reasonable limits.

    With oil heat, the boiler tubes may have to be cleaned occasionally if the burner is not adjusted properly, otherwise efficiency will suffer.

    If natural gas is available, it would be worthwhile at least investigating converting the boiler. It's usually a simple procedure.

    Another advantage is that it takes very little electrical power to keep the system on line during a power failure. A small generator should do it.

    http://www.oldhouseweb.com/how-to-advice/hvac-steam-heating-systems.shtml

    http://www.bornsteinsons.com/article-maintenance-steam/
    “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.”
    John Adams



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug. 30, 2000
    Location
    Greensboro, NC
    Posts
    1,789

    Default

    Ohhhhhhhhhh, yes, I forgot that! Most important thing, I keep small clay bowls of water on all of the radiators as soon as they come on in the winter. It does make the air SO dry.



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