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varivalve spews water, single pipe steam qsts...

[I previously posted this on the main wall, but then realized that this forum might be more appropriate. Apologies for the double-posting!]

Hi all. I recently moved to a 2nd floor apartment with single pipe steam heat. The radiators in the front of the apt have not been heating up very fast and are really, really loud (knocking) for about 15 minutes each morning when the system first goes on. I have pitched both radiators towards the pipe and that has helped a bit with the noise but hasn't solved it. In terms of the heat, I got our landlord's permission to install varivalves on the 2 radiators in question. I put them on last night. This morning when the system came on, one of the radiators, which had always dripped a little through the old valve (size C) literally spewed water thru the varivalve. I had to hold a bucket in

front of the valve and filled nearly half the bucket. That radiator did heat up faster, and once it got fully hot, after about 10 min, everything was fine. The other radiator dripped a little through the varivalve but maybe only 1/8 of cup.

What would be causing this? Should I put the old valves back? The landlord said that she had new pipes put in the front part of the house last spring, and that this is the first time she's ever had much radiator noise or other problems. I'm wondering if they might have messed up the system at that time.

I'm guessing she needs to call a good plumber ASAP, but I wanted to get some advice so that I can tell whether her plumber is on the right track, and/or if there's anything else that I can do. Also, do you think all that water ruined the varivalves?

Thanks in advance for your help!!


  • spitting varivalves

    when you get someone knowledgeable on steam in to look at the system, ask them to check the following:

    1.pressure-should be less than 16 ounces!

    2.main line [not rad] venting-make sure there is plenty! varivalves are known to spit, so better use gorton, or hoffmans.

    3.pipe slope on supplies and returns. putting tape on the pipes, with arrows pointing in the direction of downward flow helps. if you have arrows pointing towards each other, then you have a water pocket, through which no air/steam can flow!

    4.check the near boiler piping against the mfg's manual for that boiler [obtainable on-line].

    5.thermostat location, and anticipation-if digital, make sure it is steam-rated!

    most of these things can be done by you, and you will need a good low-pressure gauge [gaugestore.com 0-3 psi].

    early home owners would never have accepted their new house heating system if it were noisy, uneven, banging, clanging, leaky, or uneconomical. the task is to restore the system to its earlier state of maintenance, and you and your landlady will love the difference. a copy of "the lost art of steam heating" [from the "shop" above]  would be a good guide for you both.!!-nbc
  • mchema
    mchema Member Posts: 37
    edited November 2009

    First I"m not a heat expert but  living with steam heat I have made myself one. Varivalves are adjustable air vents. I was looking for quiet vent to replace some up in my bedrooms. Let's just say the varivalves were a bad choice. There is no tongue at the vent's threaded inlet (the part that threads into the rad). That device helps water drain from the air vent back into the rad. Since the varivalves don't have that you get the spitting and it gets worse when you open the vent up of faster heating. I like Hoffman vents myself. They make an adjustable. (1A) or they make one that isn't. (#40) Which is on all of mine but I have proper main venting. I have only used Gortons on my mains and since you live in an apartment I"m guessing looking at your main vents isn't your problem.

    As for the bang... We all deal with it at some point... Floors sag, houses sift, heating systems get neglected (so sad) and being in an apartment this would drive me nuts b/c I would not have access to all rads and all areas needed to find clues as to what the heck is causing the banging. It could be a rad somewhere else. When I moved into our home, I thought this one rad in a bedroom was the reason for all the noise in the house! I did everything under the sun to it and after two months of being woken up once a night I starting looking at my bathroom rad. Sound carries weird in these old pipes. Even though the sound wasn't coming out of the bathroom rad and the bathroom rad was "pitched" correctly it was still the problem. I stuck some quarters under it and I never heard a bang in the bedroom or else where, again ...

    So is the water hammering only in the morning or is it all the time, When ever the system starts up? There could be a ton of reason why this is occurring... And since you have to have a landlord involved it is never the easiest.

    I just read the last part of your post. So she had pipes replaced... Sounds to me who ever installed them did not pitch them right or might not have insulated the pipes. What type of piping did they use? did They insulate pipes in the walls? I agree with her getting Dan's books with she has steam heat. It's very hard to find people who know steam systems.... It's best to educate yourself before you let someone touch your heating systems that's 80+ years old. There is all so find a professional tool here as well that lead me to one of the only local guys in my area that helped me out A lot...
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