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Single pipe steam radiators in apartment
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I know you guys are mostly into digital technology but anyway for anyone who knows plumbing pretty well, particularly steam radiators, I've got 4 in this apartment I'm in on the 3rd floor. It's a single return system meaning the radiators fill with steam and ideally have a shutoff valve which is steam/heat activated and shuts off after letting air out, then I believe after the radiator cools they open so that air can re-enter to let the condensed water (from the steam) return back down the pipe

Problem is two of my 4 radiators in here have this cap, rather than a valve. Ive made sure the two with valves (vents I should say) are functioning right, but the one in my bedroom in particular I have been just leaving the cap (again not a vent for some reason) open... because it was being really noisy. And up until today that was bad, as far as noise but suddenly for some reason it entirely filled with steam for the first time and started shooting out the side of the radiator. I put a rubber glove on and put the cap on it...

Should I for now, until I can get the landlord to put vents on these, or do it myself with new vents and teflon tape, be opening the cap to allow air inside so the condensate can drain between cycles? What a pain, but I'll do it even if it means more disrupted sleep for now.

Otherwise in theory, based on what you guys know about physics would happen if

1) I leave the cap firmly on as it is now, just as a cycle has finished.


2) Open the cap in a few minutes, let the condensate drain and then re-cap it. I believe the clanking is happening in part from a capped radiator which is stupid, since it's got NO controllable shutoff valve , only ONE does...
because basically trapped water is hitting the steam every time it does a cycle.


3) Is it safe to just let the steam comeout for now even though is pretty heavy and so forth? I'm *assuming* the landlord was smart enough to have a machine which adds water to the boiler but really don't know.
OP here..
I just realized that the "cap" is like a primitive sort of vent. Basically it's like a bolt, picture , with a top piece on it that screws into it as well, and presses this sort of rubber (or some old shit, it's all dirty cant tell) thing more or less against this hole which is in the main part of the bolt like piece. Sooo, that hole was actually blocked with paint, and the inside was dirty. So I got it to the point where I could blow into the hole on the inside end of the bolt, and get air through. just enough, then screwed it back on with the main part pretty firmly in, and the top adjustable piece a little bit out. This should let just enough steam out that it wont matter, but it wont let air come gushing out at 60mph like it was before in bursts....
Which tells me that that particular verical pipe isn't venting right.
Basically it's 4 floors and me and my 4th floor neighbor (3rd here) are the only ones occupying this "C" section of the apartment.

Anyhow, this should minimize but allow air exchange, just slow the rate down. Hope there is still a virtually complete loss of the noise, though...pray.
Pics? The knocking comes from the original pipes below the radiator, as the how's ages, the supply pipe moves and gets out of its optimum angle. Why would you take off the cap? Your system will not explode, those caps are there for a reason. You have 2 vents that vent the system for your apartment out...
I've worked with boiler over the last 7 years.
But I need pics.

Generally on steam rad not getting a heat call, we just pop on a new Hoffman vent. It's like $7.00 and teflon tape is fine to use being sure to use a little piece and not block the orifice.

Sometimes there's a Gland in the valve that's worn out. But checking that is probably beyond a DIY experience since you could accidentally break the valve and those a not cheap.

Don't jerry-rig a steam rad, it won't explode, but the steam can hurt you, cause a sulfur smell in a room, cause mildew, or the boiler could run low on water and frag itself if run dry.

Just like the steam valve on your rads, the automatic water feeder valve and low water cut-off on the boiler can fail. So don't "Assume" that the boiler is in good working order.

Best advice? Don't do anything that could leave you holding a bill for a new boiler.

Go to your local plumbing supply house (NOT A BIG BOX!!!) and see about some new Hoffman steam vents.
$20 bucks and your fixed.
Ah are you saying that even though there is a vertical supply pipe running up all 4 floors (btw this is about a 100 year old building) next to each radiator in each room , making 4 pipes, that they all vent the same air? I figured out that the "cap" is like basically... picture a nut, right? LIke a big screw, but it's got a hole in the center of the part you screw in, and it has a secondary part that screws over it like a "top" with a slot in it for screwdriver which has whats either a deteriorating washer/pad of some kind or its just crud that accumulated. either way

There's a tiny hole on the part you'd turn with your hand of the "screw" part.. which was blocked with paint from probably the landlord I'm assuming.

I unblocked it and blew into it until just like half the max air flow could move. Basically before I adjusted anything that radiator wasnt coming on at all. This is the one in my bedroom I'm taking about btw I will get pics after my appointment tonight in Newtown, got to go soon.

So anyway another weird thing about this particular radiator... it was literally leaned up against the wall, like the top 1/5th of it or so touching the wall (maybe a bit less)... so I wedged this small book behind it... and now its almost vertical standing, and its already clearly pitched.

Anyway the knocking seems to be almost gne now, just a little at the start and end of a cyccle.

The other strange thing that maybe youve seen:
Theres only one with a working or existing even shutoff supply valve. It's the largest one which is in the living room. I've found that the air venting of that in the lvgroom + bedroom seem to work together. So now the new vent which is not the right kind for a steam radiator (should be a hoffman type 1A or similar that's much larger and is heat activated) is on the bedroom one, and the living room one just ahs the cap out. So is there a best way to cap off the living room one or a reason why that'd be done?
I like your advice too thanks, assuming youre another person. If youre still around to read this - yeah I figure since I don't want the landlord coming in here bestbet is to get two hoffman type 1A vents, narrow teflon tape and do what you said. For now though until I can get to the supply store should I "cap" off the one which actually vents out steam? It does have a shutoff valve on it but I don't know how well it works and seems to cause some to a lot of banging when turned off. Like is it best to at the very end of a cooldown between cycles shut that valve, then put the cap back on? Also that cap leaks anyway since I removed the top of it - so Ill want to probably tape it up... but yea i think the way it is right now would be enough to prevent more steam coming out during heavy cycles. Eeither way I dont think I could get billed for this unless they came in and found i ahd taken off the "cap" (until I maybe find out its really another small really cheap screw valve).
One last thing, they had the vents (hoffman types) on thebathroom and kitchen ones turned upside down... any reason why they'd do that? Does that just make them partially fill so it uses less steam? Since I got rid of the clanking now like 95 percent Id so much rather not shut off the living room one (bedroom was clanking) in fear I might make the other clank again. So Ill take whatever advice right now would bea quick fix so that one gets bypassed. Or the best way to have it run temporarily. Perhaps cap off the bathroom one and move that vent to the living room.
7 years experience Boiler guy here again.

>I figured out that the "cap" is like basically... picture a nut, right? LIke a big screw, but it's got a hole in the center of the part you screw in, and it has a secondary part that screws over it like a "top" with a slot in it for screwdriver which has whats either a deteriorating washer/pad of some kind or its just crud that accumulated. either way

There's a tiny hole on the part you'd turn with your hand of the "screw" part.. which

I think you've described a standard hot water air vent. Those most certainly NEVER belong on a steam system.

Do all the steam lines in a building vent the same air?
Yes. More or less.

Radiator leaning?
Not necessarily a problem. But where the pipe enters the radiator, that needs to be the LOWEST point in the rad so condensed water can drain back to the boiler, so the far-point of the rad needs to be higher than the pipe point.

USA building Code says all hot water and steam rads must have working shut-off or control valves.
Without pics, I'm guessing that there's no reason to mess with the living room rad if it's working. Try appropriate steam vents first and see how things work.

Whoa, I just price checked and the internet is charging a LOT more for steam vents than what I get them for at the local supply house.

>Like is it best to at the very end of a cooldown between cycles shut that valve, then put the cap back on?
It really does not matter, the vent doesn't care if it goes on a hot rad or a cool rad.

>vents (hoffman types) on thebathroom and kitchen ones turned upside down... any reason why they'd do that?
Someone was a dumbass and didn't know what they were doing.
Sounds like dumbass "handymen" were "fixing" things, like the water rad vent on a steam rad.

Steam systems are beautifully simple and work for decades without major problems.... as long as DUMBASS handymen are kept away.

As I was saying, like 95% of all the problems I've ever seen in hydronic or steam systems are because people "tinkered" with the system.... THEN they complain that the pipes bang or leak or that rads don't work.

So my thing is to go in and try to find what people have messed with and reverse the "modifications" back to how the system was when originally installed.

"Handymen" are the worst.
From the OP described, it seems like handymen tried to be "smart" dumbasses and make "fixes"... but handymen usually only make problems.

So quick overview:
1 pipe steam rads MUST have a downward pitch towards their feed pipe to drain the condensate. Check with a level, the rad SHOULD be OUT OF LEVEL by about 1/2" TOWARDS the feed pipe for positive drain.

Vents! Steam rads need to breathe. The wrong vent means the rad is choked, and a choked rad will not heat and it will BANG!BANG!BANG!

You need to right kind of vent.
I went and check my tool box, I use the Hoffman 40 as my main "go to" replacement vent.
Hoffman sku 401440 it's cheaper, non adjustable, which is most likely the kind of vent the rads were installed with.

Hoffman 40 is $12 bucks on SupplyHouse

Good luck.
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what he said

Going to a steam job tomorrow unlike OP this is 2 pipe system with ollllddd ass return trap and air eliminator. Those old dead dudes were artists with steam.
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I love 2 pipe steam, the heat is so very quick to the rad.
OP here. I believe you're right because I'm familiar with what hot water bleed vents are like but even worse, these are more like or in fact are what they sell as "vented screws".... so basically they were too stupid/cheap to get hoffman etc steam vents for those two radiators, and somewhere along the line they just decided "oh this has a little hole and fits"... oh well so it's getting humidin herebut yeah the living room one isthesame justslightly different design, in fact one is what i'd call a vented screw the other in the bedroom is a hot water type which you open at the start of a season on a hot water system. Thankfully at least all the radiators seem to be steam, not universal or hot water, as they only have connecting rods at thetop, not cross pipe. The only one not pitched is the living room, which is heavy so i cant yet do it but yea months ago now I put cardboard under the far ends of the two that have the proper vents and the bedroom one settled in a way that it's pitched right just by eyeballing I can tell. So yea, despite my father and others saying "get the landlord to fix it".no, I don't trust them to get the right quality or even kinds of valves, and its no wonder it was way too cold in here before I turned the vents upright... duh. I'd not be shocked if they had no pump to feed water into the boiler should it run low, or if they hardly ever/never chemically treat the water... run cleaning cycles of sorts etc... I'm trying to learn on my own. Perhaps I can volunteer to be the steam "handyman" who actually knows limits and can fix some things, like go around offering to pitch people's radiators etc. But yea for now all I have to worry about is the steam coming out of two of them, thus probably increasing the pressure to god knows what. ... and losing water of course/putting bunch of crap in my humid apartment air. But thanks, it could be worse and I'm glad knock on wood I stopped the clanking. Just need 2 valves then :)
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Are they angle valves or straight valves. These work (pic related). The steam should condense in the radiator giving off latent heat condense to water and return to the boiler through the return. The only thing you should put in your boiler is TSP flush it out and skim it. Pressure setting on the pressuretrol should never be set above 2 psi the less pressure the faster the steam reaches the radiators but too fast and you can carry water into the steam header and create water hammer (that clanking noise).
The two here with actual valves are angled, but have the slot to vent on the top.. one is I think a Hoffman sort of 1A type, or 11 maybe..
the other is this weird more cone-shaped one that you can adjust as well on top but has like a screw piece and a second piece under that which also turns at the top. That one (bathroom) tends to constantly vent steam while running but it's not even visible. you can just hear it.

Last night I noticed since putting the second "screw valve" type one back *into* the living room radiator (yeah it's another of the vented screw kind, and it does vent, just too slowly I think for a steam system because its meant for more hot water if anything) that again the bedroom one is clanking just loud enough to be annoying.

So the last thing would be for now until i get these vents (i'm literally poor and depend on family for all support) what would be the purpose of having a screw that goes where the hand-turning shut off valve would go on the tops of the old valves? It seems adjusting that short , about 1 inch or so screw just right quiets the bedroom one. Also should I just open the screw valve on both periodically like every 2 days at least to allow it to breathe more easily, rather than through a pin sized hole?

And yes water hammer I'm somewhat aware of thanks, I believe they must have the pressure set higher than 1psi but I don't want to be nosey and act like I know more than them even though I probably do:\
Have landlord fix it because if YOU break off corroded hardware you are fucked.

Peeps forget old shit is old.
This mostly 99% of steam is don't touch what you don't have to
Would I be able to fit these in to an older system (~1950s)? It seems the old austen has no way to control individual radiators. All heat up and balancing the air is all about having doors to each room in various degrees of opened/closed.

Ps... Even with cheap oil, that system is boofoo'ing me and my wallet.
not that adnon but sounds like you might need more or a bigger radiator. which can mean a bigger circulator, etc. all you need is the radiators, pipes and a drill. also radiator covers do push slightly more heat out instead of up. you can also isolate individual pipes. I'm not sure I understand the question.
7 years boiler guy here

I'd need more info of what you're talking about Steam rads?
1 pipe or 2 pipe steam?
Hot water rads?
There's no control valves on the rads?

New Hoffman steam vents are never a bad idea, but won't do shit for "balancing" a the heat load of a system
IF what you mean is to leave some rads in some rooms "cooler" during normal boiler operation
You need valves for that
Better yet you need TRV (Thermostatic Radiator Valves) which automatically open/close the valve based on your desired room comfort level
Bottom line?
You need valves on the rads to control them, which would be your "balancing"

>bigger radiator
A hydronic heat system is designed with math, each room heat load is calculated and a radiator rated to that heat load is what is installed
Installing a larger radiator is going to overdrive the heat load to that room, make it hotter than it calls for, which in turn is wasted energy which is $$$ lost for no damn good reason.
Radiators are calculated by BTU (British Thermal Units) and by their EDR (Equivalent Direct Radiation.
With hydronic heat SMALLER is generally better in the choosing of radiators and boilers after the heat loss load is calculated, bigger just means wasted fuel.

>bigger circulator
circulators are only found on hot water heat systems, not ever steam
I think this thread is mostly about steam.

>radiator covers
Something that I do agree with
They do help. Not hugely so but they do

But please, don't advise people to go mucking about their hydronic heat systems piping
That's how we get "Handymen" level fobbed up work and then boiler guys have to go in and fix it right when the system stops working

Need help knowing if the rad is the right size for the room?
Goggle Hudson Reed BTU calculator, put in your info, post the results

Post a photo of your EXACT radiator with side and front view and EXACT height measurement from floor
With that I can reference my EDR chart and tell if your rad is right

>bigger radiator

Then you go on to say a bigger radiator will make the room warmer. Which is what adnon is trying to do. Are you saying a smaller radiator will make his room warmer? Because that would blow my mind.

I really appreciate your posts but I don't think my advice was wrong by any stretch. The worst he can do is muck it up and then call a boiler guy.
Will happily provide some pics when I return home on Friday.
The issue is that the total heat output is determined by the boiler where it's made, not by the radiators where it's distributed.

All making one radiator bigger does is change the relative distribution of heat between rooms.

The total heat output through the system will be the same, because the radiators have already been sized to be able to sink between them all the heat the boiler can manage.
got it. that makes sense. I guess this presumes the original system was installed correctly and not modified. but the ones I've seen around me are so old that I have to think not a lot of math went into the design. I've seen some pretty brilliant ideas and some crazy things done.
if it's original it's perfect if it's modified it's fucked.
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