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The Dreaded Smelly Radiator

4Barrel Member Posts: 125
I recently installed a radiator (water-type - four tube - moderate size) that had been out of service for some time (at least 3 years, but probably longer). I thoroughly washed it and did my own low rent pressure test by plugging the vent tap and filling it with water via my garden hose. No evident leaks. Upon draining, a bunch of rust came out at first, but then ran pretty clean.

So now it's installed at producing heat fine, but it has a more than faint smell of, well, like dirty boiler steam. Not so bad that it's intolerable, but not totally pleasant either. The vent appears to be sealed pretty good, and i don't have a leak at the valve.

Is the scent an indication of a leak in one of the sections? Or does this rad just need to work it's way back into service?


  • Smell

    New paint?  You might try heating it up on a warm day with the windows open and hopefully what ever it is will burn itself out . Also look for anything that might have spilled on the outside and is stuck in the cracks.

    - Rod
  • 4Barrel
    4Barrel Member Posts: 125
    old paint

    it could probably use a new coat - maybe that would help... suggestions on paint?
  • Painting Radiators

    Paints are still changing and everything is going waterbased. I'd go to a commercial paint store and ask them for advice.   What you use sort of depends a lot on the type of paint you have on the radiator now. The last time I painted a radiator I used Rustoleum and they came out looking really good. Latex is fine though you have to use a good oil based primer, using two coats of primer isn't a bad idea followed by a satin latex. Use a good grade paint like Benjamin Moore.

    You're probably going to get some outgassing for the first few times you heat the radiators so do that on a day you can have the windows wide open.

    The hot dog rollers work well for painting radiators. You can get brushes angled  like a ice hockey stick for painting radiators. You can also make you own "hockey stick" brush by using an artist's brush and bending the metal ferrule. 

    Like painting anything, it's the prep work which is the most labor intensive and what really makes a good paint job.

    - Rod
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,660
    The vent location

    is wrong. It should be lower down the side of the radiator. You will find a little boss that shows you where. Use a 1/8" NPT tap and the appropriate drill size, and plug the opening where the vent is now.

    This way the radiator will heat completely.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
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