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steam radiator question

judyk Member Posts: 9
Hi--Simple question:  In a single-pipe steam system in a large apartment building, are the radiators linked together somehow?  In other words, if I turn the knob on the steam/water pipe to the closed position, will that affect heat in the adjacent apartments?  Can I close off my radiators without affecting the whole system?  I hope someone can help.  Thank you very much!


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,892
    Yes, no (sort of), yes (sort of)

    Yes, the steam radiators are all hooked together through their risers.  Steam is formed by the boiler, and goes from there through the mains and the risers to the various radiators.

    But, the various radiators are almost independent.  Each radiator in a single pipe steam system has a vent on it, and for the steam to get in, the air has to get out -- and it goes out through that vent.  The reason for the qualified no/yes to the second and third questions is that when you shut off your radiators, the other radiators in the building may get slightly more steam -- which I doubt would be a concern.

    Now.  To properly shut off a single pipe steam radiator, don't use the valve on the inlet pipe!  If you do, the radiator is likely to bang and gurgle and make other noises, which you don't want.  That vent is the key: some vents can actually be shut off.  Others, however, can only be shut off by turning the whole vent upside down (which may be much easier said than done, if the little pipe connecting to the radiator has been there for a while!).

    Good luck!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • closing off radiators

    are you being overheated? are other parts of the building getting too hot as well? are you on an upper or lower floor of how many stories?

    generally, the valve at the inlet to the radiator should never be closed, because some steam will invariably get into the radiator, but the water will not be able to drain out. a better way to interrupt the heat would be to rotate the air vent on the other end so that its outlet on top points down. it is best to turn it clockwise first, and if too tight, then counter-clockwise to prevent the accidental unscrewing of the vent. this prevents air from getting out of the radiator, and thus no steam can enter.

    the system, if properly maintained should never overheat any part of the building. if it does, then direct the management here so we can help them restore the system to original state. this will often include reducing the fuel consumption, as well as increasing the comfort of all the building occupants!--nbc
  • Long Beach Ed
    Long Beach Ed Member Posts: 1,185
    Turn it off

    Turn off the valve.  That's what it's there for. 

    Won't affect anyone else in the practical sense.

    If it's leaky, it will make noise.  If it's leaky and makes noise, fix it or open it again. 
  • judyk
    judyk Member Posts: 9
    thank you to all

    I'm not sure how to reply to individuals, but want to thank all of you for your help.  To answer the specific questions of the third kind person who answered:  my problem is that my neighbors complain of cold, but I am always too warm, so I turned the steam pipe to "closed" and closed the vent.  No steam in, no air out of the radiator.  Then someone who knows nothing about the system told me that my shutting off my radiators would make other people in the building cold.  That's the part I could not understand.  From what you're saying (I understand that the knob is not the best way to go from some perspectives--though banging is not a problem) I gather that if anything, shutting off my radiators would make other apartments warmer not colder.  I hope I've understood you.  Again--I really appreciate your help.  Wish the people who manage my building understood the boiler system; pretty sure they don't. 
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Alternative Approach - TRVs

    Hi - Another way to deal with overheating is to install a TRV (Thermostatic Radiator Valve on the radiator which on a one pipe steam system goes between the radiator and the radiator vent. You can adjust the TRV to the temperature you want the room. It doesn't heat the room, it just prevents it from going higher than the temperature you set on the TRV.

    Here's a link to more info on one pipe TRVs


    They work really well. Maybe you can get the management to install them on your apartment radiators to control your overheating problem.

    - Rod
  • judyk
    judyk Member Posts: 9
    thank you

    Hi Rod, Thank so much. I did see this on a "This Old House" video on line. Unfortunately, I rent this apartment and don't have that much control over the whole situation. I think the overheating was the result of someone who does not understand the system turning up the boiler pressure in response to complaints of cold apartments. The management company is incompetent to say the least. Anyway--I appreciate the suggestion. This is a terrific website! Judy
  • Incompetent landlord

    All of us here were lacking in knowledge when we were born, and it has only been through the school of experience that we have learned all that we know about steam and hot-water heating--your landlord could join us here to learn and save money on fuel! Are they at least interested in saving money, or are they a lost cause? Perhaps it is one person who stands in the way of proper maintenance , and could he be persuaded to do some regular maintenance ?

    I often wonder if the knuckleheaded maintenance man is only trying to ensure his employment by keeping various systems in such a state of disrepair as to require his expertise in making them work! He may feel that the owners will be unable to terminate him for fear of not being able to understand these foibles!--NBC
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