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Steam Pipe Valve Questions and Leak - NYC Co-op


I just moved into the top floor of a 5 floor pre-war co-op in NYC.  3 of the 5 rooms have no radiator, just the floor to ceiling pipe.  I have never had pipes with steam release valves on them before, but  I guess since it is the top floor, it needs to release somewhere.

The heat is very high in the apartment - so high that both radiators are off and I still need to open the windows sometimes.  In one sense this is fine with me:)  but the pipe release valves are very loud-lots of steam coming out, and two of them drip water.

From what I have read, the two dripping ones need to be replaced, or the nut or Teflon tape checked, which is fine.  Is it possible though that the high output of steam will cause water to drip anyway?  Is it appropriate to try and get a smaller valve for less steam output if these valves are at the top of the pipes and the only output for steam?

Also, in one of the bedrooms, the valve is very close to the ceiling.  It output so much steam, that I was woken up in the middle of the night because the ceiling was dripping.  Water had collected on a large part of the ceiling, and in a puddle on the windowsill.  It had gathered and dripped down the wall closest to the pipe around the window and pooled a little on the floor.  Is this something that would stop with a correctly working and/or smaller valve?  Or do I need to make sure to leave my window and door open!

I am guessing I need to go through the super, since it is the heating system and if I break it I am in trouble, but I want to have an idea of what I am talking about first so I get  the appropriate solution.



  • FJL
    FJL Member Posts: 354
    edited December 2009
    Steam from Valve

    I am a homeowner but I do know that steam coming out of an air vent (what you describe as a steam release valve) means that the air vent is broken.  The air vent allows the air in the steam pipe, called a riser, to empty of air so the steam can take its place.  After the air is gone, the hot steam is supposed to close the valve.  If the valve is continuously leaking steam, it is broken (unable to close).

    I live in a four-story co-op in NYC.  About two years ago we had air vents put on the risers in my building.  My neighbor complains that they are ugly, but they have greatly increased the speed of the steam so that the steam hits all of the radiators around the same time.  This is supposed to ensure even heating of the apartments.  Uneven heating, as you know, is a big problem in apt buildings. 

    I think that is as much as I can contribute.  There are others on the site more knowledgeable than I am.

    You might try posting a picture or two of the air vents that are leaking steam.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,443
    Steam release valves?

    Well now -- that sounds like an interesting term (and excuse) for a vent... which is busted...  I'll have to remember that, next time I run into one.

    On a more serious note, your building has problems with the heating system which extend beyond your flat.  Hard to say what all the problems might be, but I'd guess they would be numerous.  However, it is not likely that they would be all that expensive to fix, if someone knowledgeable started working on it.

    Since it is likely building wide, you should properly go through the building superintendent (I am one, so I'm probably biased...) since he or she will have work to do all over.  However, it may be that he or she needs some education in steam heat; depending on how bristly he or she is, this may take considerable tact.  You might try giving "The Lost Art..." as a Christmas present?!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    leaking main vents on 5th floor risers

    definitely contact the super, as the pressure in the system is getting out of control. these vents are designed to release air not steam, and should not leak steam or water.

    try to find what the experiences of others has been, with any risers going through their apts. i would think that most people would like the system to work properly, and save fuel money as a result.--nbc
This discussion has been closed.