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radiators

19Penn19Penn Posts: 3Member
How can I tell if I'm purchasing old cast iron steam radiators or hot water radiators?  I have found postings of radiators for sale but no one specifies whether they are hot water or steam, so I don't know.  What should I look for?
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Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 4,018Member ✭✭✭
    Without a picture or two...

    it can sometimes be a bit difficult to tell.  However, all hot water radiators are connected across the top, have (or had) an outlet at each end, almost always both at the bottom, and have (or had) an air vent at one end at the top.  Most steam radiators are also connected across the top (some old ones aren't).  Steam radiators used on single pipe steam had one outlet (the others had a plug) at one end, usually at the bottom, and a vent about 1/3 to 2/3 of the way up at the other end.  Steam radiators used on two pipe steam had two outlets, one almost always at the top and the other at the bottom -- sometimes on the other end, sometimes on the same end -- and no vent.  (there is an exception: certain very very old two pipe systems had an inlet/outlet at each end at the bottom and a vent)
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Hot Water / Steam Radiator Pictures

    Hi -



    Here are images which will help you see the difference between and radiator manufactured for steam only, and a radiator that was manufactured to function in either a steam or hot water system.



    The first image shows a steam radiator, the second picture is of a water or steam radiator. If you compare the 2 pictures, you can see that the second radiator has a 'pipe' running through the top and bottom of the unit, while the bottom radiator only has a pipe at the bottom with nubs at the top.



    I hope this helps!



    Gwen
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • 19Penn19Penn Posts: 3Member
    how can I tell the difference between steam and water rads

    Gwen,   thanks for the pictures.  I guess I'm more a visual person than a technical one.  How would I know if the radiators I purchase will not leak?  All the radiators (9) in our house leak and our boiler (Weil-Mclain) in the basement is half rusted away although it did work but now the relay won't work.  The plain style radiators are original to the house built in 1916.  It is a water system.  The house was left un-winterized a few years ago and we haven't had heat since then.  Would like to get started somewhere on it , but what to do first?  Thanks  Judy
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  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 4,018Member ✭✭✭
    There's no way to know for sure

    if a radiator will leak or not without testing it.  If you are buying them from someone and they will give a warranty -- even if only money back -- that's not too bad...



    Sounds like you have a bit of a project on your hands, though...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Will this radiator leak?

    Hi Judy,



    When I'm acquiring radiators I do these things to pre-test them.



    1) I do a visual inspection to determine if they are steam only or steam and water radiators. We have a water system.



    2) I visually inspect the radiator for cracks and rust pockets - surface rust is okay, it's the rust that appears to be growing out of the radiator that I avoid (see pictures).



    3) I tap the radiator with a metal thing I have on my key chain (something like a screwdriver would work too). My little saying is: if it clunks, it's junk (it's filled with sediment (or something), if it sings (rings), it sells (it's good). This can be deceiving because some of the older rads. are heavier and ring in lower tones but after a few taps I think you can hear the difference.



    4) I have someone cover the holes I can't reach including any bleeder valves, etc. I cover one hole with a rag (this is the hole I blow into) and ask my helper to release their hand from one hole when I raise my finger (if you don't do this, you will get particulate blowback (which is yucky) then I blow into the radiator with my mouth. If I can get the radiator to hold that much pressure (which can't be much) I'll take it. Most radiators hold air / water just fine and I've only had 1-2 (out of over 100 that have actual leaks I didn't detect through testing). Before I prep. and refit the radiators I do pressure test them to 30psi for 15 to 60 minutes be sure they are good.



    Additional notes:



    It's easier if the radiator came from a system plumbed like the one you are matching. For our system we pull both bottom fittings and one top fitting for the bleeder valve. It is possible to pull fittings that have been in place for many, many, many years, but I prefer not to have to. The nickle plated brass pipes (silver on the outside, brassy underneath) typically come out with just a little encouragement - they often crumble along the way but that's no big deal since we can't reuse them. I am including a picture of the tool I use to remove these pipes which I think cost something like $12 for a set of 4 sizes.



    Since you have a collection of leaky radiators you have 9 good examples of what to look for. It may be that your units froze way open so the leaks are easy to detect but maybe not. I'm sorry to hear you've been without heat for so long and hope you are able to get heat into your space 'easily'.



    Depending on where you are located, your budget, timing needs. etc. you can purchase radiators that have already been pressure tested.



    The pictures: I will post 2 with this message & then 2 more....

    #1 Bad rust (from the inside out) - this one clunked.

    #2 Fine rust (just surface rust) - this one sings.

    #3 The same foot as above but painted - wow!

    #4 The tools I use to pull old fittings. I hammer them in then twist em' out with a wrench.



    Keep us posted on your progress.



    Warmly,

    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    A few more pictures

    Here are the remainder of the pictures I mentioned:
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    A few more pictures

    I will post the pictures one at a time....







    Gwen
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Another picture maybe?

    Rust that does not bother me a bit:
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    The same rusty radiator foot painted - WOW!

    WOW!!!
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Tools

    I've had real success using these hardened tools to remove old fittings:
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 5,578Member ✭✭✭
    What a great resource !

    Thank you Gwen for jumping in with your knowledge, born from your experience of so many radiator restorations!

    You and others make this site so informative!--NBC
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  • 19Penn19Penn Posts: 3Member
    Can leaking radiators be repaired?

    Thanks Gwen for the pictures and the lesson on how to check out radiators, but Gwen...you don't say if the leaks can be repaired?  Can They? 
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Thanks NBC!

    I've learned so much form this site and Dans books. This is an incredible resource and I'm glad to have found it!



    Gwen
    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • Radiator RangerRadiator Ranger Posts: 81Member
    Repair leaking radiators?

    Hi -



    As ME says, it depends.



    I have not successfully repaired leaking radiators but I haven't tried either. In general, it is easier for me to pull and replace a radiator than to pull, repair and replace one.



    I understand that JB Weld has been successfully used to fix small leaks on radiators. I've seen what I think are patches made of the stuff but those are like pinholes rather than fractured fins.



    Also, there is the possibility of welding the cast iron, I haven't tried that either.



    I'm curious to understand how you know your radiators leak. Have you run water through the system and experienced the leaks? Are they on the top, bottom, in the middle, etc. Do you have pictures of your leaking radiators?



    I'm including a picture of a radiator that froze and broke. Theoretically I could pull the broken sections out and reassemble the radiator but at this time that is not a realistic approach in terms of time and energy. I can imagine a time when I/ we will attempt to disassemble and reassemble radiators but that would be to make some of the good, larger, ornate units smaller rather than to repair a broken one.



    It'd probably be worth your time to have the system assessed by a professional. You could use the Find a COntractor tab on this site to find someone in your area.



    I hope this helps!



    Gwen
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    Gwen Healy - Radiator Ranger
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  • JennMarroquinJennMarroquin Posts: 1Member
    What kind of radiator is this and does the front come apart?

    I just moved into this house and have been chipping away at the old paint on the radiators.  Is what I'm chipping at the actual radiator or is it a cover?  It has been painted so many times I can't tell I can see there used to be screws in certain places.  Also there is nasty stuff behind it...could be insulation.  What can I replace it with?  Here is a pic.
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  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 9,208Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2013
    That's a Weil-McLain "Radiant"

    if it's like some others I've seen, the front has water (or steam) in it so it won't come off. But you can blow air thru a vacuum cleaner and clean it out that way. I wouldn't stick anything inside except a soft brush, since there are probably cast-iron elements inside the unit that also have water (or steam) in them, and you don't want to break them.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
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