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Is this thing gonna freaking explode??

Razface Member Posts: 1
I live in a very old (100+ years) apartment building. We are very displeased with the steam heating system because we haven't found any way to turn it off. The landlord says that she is required by law to have the boiler running for 12 hours a day, so we are forced to endure additional steam heat in this 80 degree summer.

She told me that to turn off the heating in our unit, all you have to do is close the valve while the radiator is off and cold to the touch. Well I did that, and not only did it fail to turn off the heat, there is now water pooling around the base of the two radiators in the unit. And, more alarmingly, there is a very ominous rumbling underneath our floorboards (enough to cause vibration) that leads me to believe this thing is gonna freaking explode. So what should I do? It's too late in the evening to call the landlord. Should I go to the basement, break the lock off the boiler room (she installed a lock because we would sneak down and turn the damn thing off when the weather became 80 degrees) and turn it off? Is this an emergency?


  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited August 2010
    Shutting off the radiator

    Hi-  I think you're probably okay and it's not likely to explode. Steam systems run at low pressure and are very safe.

     Generally you can't use the old valves to turn off the radiators as steam will still leak through the valve into the radiator.What happens then is the steam in the radiator condenses back into water but can't get back out of the radiator as the valve is closed so then it builds up and causes leaks. The noise you are hearing is most probably from what is called water hammer and it can be quite loud! This is also caused by the valve being closed.  Opening the valve should stop this.

    I'm assuming that your system is what is called a one pipe steam system. That means that you should have only one pipe going to each radiator. (Let us know if you have more than one pipe to each radiator as these are another type of steam system and need a different approach)  If  your system is one pipe steam, there should be a vent on the opposite end of the radiator.  Radiator vents look something like a big silver bullet pointing straight up. (Radiator vents can be other shapes but this is the most common)

    One way you can turn off the steam to the radiator is to turn the vent counterclockwise so it points straight down. This closes the valve in the air vent and doesn't allow air to escape from the radiator and since now the radiator is full of air, that doesn't allow steam to enter the radiator and the radiator stays cool.  Be sure to do this when the radiator is cold! 

    Your landlord should be rather concerned as she is wasting a tremendous amount of money heating apartments when it is an 80 degree summer. She may have to by law keep the heat on but there are several ways to comply with this and also keep the tenants cool and happy and also save a LOT of fuel.  She really needs to get a good steampro to take a look at her system. Where are you located? There are a lot of good steampros on this site and maybe we can find one to help her out.

    Let us know how turning the vent upside down works. There are other things that you can do to regulate the temperature of your apartment but let's try the "turn the vent upside down"  first.

    - Rod
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,893
    You didn't say where you are

    but there are plenty of steam pros out there. When that system is straightened out your landlady will benefit from reduced fuel consumption. Try the Find a Professional page of this site.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
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