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Tenant needs heat

Rtc Member Posts: 11
We have a steam heating system in a two family home with radiators.

Thermostat on first floor. Our apt on first floor warm. Second floor apt must


70 or above from 6 am to 11 pm and 65 or above from 11 pm to 6 am.

One radiator not getting heat. They are complaining its cold

They just moved here from an overly heated apt building.

Would wrapping the pipes in basement help get heat to them faster.

We have turned off 3 radiators in our apt.

Also could we add a thermostat to their apt?

Separating the heating system is too costly. We

may not be here for the long term but have to get this

issue resolved. HELP!'!!


  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,395
    Need to look....

    at the venting. Are all the Radiator valves open fully? Then you need to look at the radiator vents... Gorton #6 are pretty big/ fast and or a Varivalve radiator valves. Also check your main vents on the lines in the basement. They are the big ones at the end on the steam lines or on the returns. You my need to add a 2nd vent to the radiator.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    Where are you located? We may know a local steam guy who can help,

    Wrapping the pipes will only help a little bit. Do the radiators have air vents? They could go bad.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    Tenant needs heat

    Yes all valves are good. Everything turned on. Last year radiators needed

    to be tilted slightly in one room. That could be causing the one radiator not

    to get hot.

    The real issue is that the first floor stays warm and therefore the thermostat

    won't call for heat. Then it's too cold upstairs if no heat goes on.

    We are going to imslate the pipes because after a cycle the upstairs radiators

    are not hot from end to end.

    We live in jersey city nj.
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    I'm in NJ, too. I'd be happy to help with anything you need.

    I definitely think you need to assess the venting on all of the radiators, and possibly the whole system. It sounds like a total balance issue.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    We would like to help you

     get some heat for those tenants of yours, but we need to know what kind of steam system do you have.  How many pipes are hooked up to your radiators 1 or 2 ?  Could we see a picture of one of them?  Also are all the steam pipes in the basement totally uncovered?  If so, it would be a great idea to insulate them.  Back in the olden days they would have been insulated with asbestos or something similar.  These days we use glass fiber, something that won't melt.  Insulating the pipes will help get the steam moving around your home better, and is a great place to start.  Take a few pictures before you get started.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    Tenant needs heat

    I am getting insulation this week. There are remnants of old asbestos so we will wrap to meet the old.

    There is one pipe for each radiator on the first floor and one riser pipe running to the second floor radiators.

    We have several issues one being that a radiator is not getting heat but the pipe to that radiator is hot. The second problem is that we have to provide heat of at least 70 from 6 am until. 11 pm and 65 from 11 pm to 6 am. We are currently monitoring with a sensor we installed but we can't stay home 24/7 to watch the thermometer. And we can't put a thermostat on the tenants floor. What options do we have.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Unbalanced system

    As well as correcting your questionable venting, also check that your thermostat is not causing a short-cycle situation.--NBC
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    I wouldn't

     spend any money on monitoring the temperature.  If you are getting steam to the radiator on the second floor, thats half the battle won.  Get Jstar over there to figure out why the steam is not getting through.  Either that or buy the renters some sweaters.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469

    One riser.....feeding how many radiators?
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11

    A riser for each of the 6 radiators on the second floor. The first floor has 5 radiators and a riser in eac of those rooms along with one riser in the front hall which goes to the radiator in the second floor hall.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11

    A riser for each of the 6 radiators on the second floor. The first floor has 5 radiators and a riser in eac of those rooms along with one riser in the front hall which goes to the radiator in the second floor hall.
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484
    edited October 2012
    So there are several problems then

     The first problem is limited access to a rented apartment.  The renters have no idea how to fix it, they just want it fixed.  The renters are no help.  They don't know enough about the problem to give you the information you need to make a decision.  Then to top it off, If you don't fix the heat, they will not pay the rent, or they might do something stupid like use the oven, or electric heaters.  One way or the other it's going to cost you either in money or safety.  That's why I suggested you get a pro in there.  Give the renter whatever notice you have to (24-48 hours?)  Tell them the steam guy is coming to fix the heat.  And your done with it. 

    The second problem is that the steam goes up the pipe to the second floor, but does not enter the radiator.  Did the renter tell you this? or did you feel the pipe yourself?  Are all 6 radiators doing the same thing?

    The third problem, I might have a solution for you.  Originally I didn't want to suggest it because it costs money that would be better spent on fixing the problem rather than watching it get worse.  There is this electronic device called a data logger.  The logger has a battery in it and can run for a long time.  What it does is records the temperature, of wherever it is, every 5 seconds.  Then a day, week, or even a year later, you take it from where it was recording and plug it in to your computer.  After you plug it in to your computer it gives you a report like the one in the following picture.  The one that I have is called a Lascar EL-USB-TC  Here is a link to find out more about it.   http://www.lascarelectronics.com/temperaturedatalogger.php?datalogger=394 

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    data logger

    crash's data loggers are state of the art as far as recording. there is another low-tech solution: a couple of indoor-outdoor thermometers, with a memory for the maximum, and minimum temperatures. put the outdoor sensing unit in the apartment, and the main unit downstairs where you can see it. you can then compare the relative max/min temperatures up and down.

    you will still need either--

    a steam pro [jstar] to return your system to working condition, as it was long ago, or

    an electrician to install electric heat, or

    a good lawyer to rewrite the lease taking out the heating proisions, or

    a family of eskimos who prefer sub zero temperatures!--nbc
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11

    I am living in the same house my whole life.  I grew up on the 1st floor (where I am living now) and lived for 26 years on the second floor. live with my husband on the first floor (moved down here after my dad passed away) and we decided to rent the 2nd floor out - as of 9/1.

    So the first floor is warm and a tight apt.  Second floor is a little more open as east and west windows are exposed and the north and south sides each have a house next to them.  Also the windows are original (hiuse built in 1890)

    All risers are getting hot - all radiators with the exception of the front room are getting hot.  And unless the furnace runs long - sometimes they don't get hot all the way through.  BUT thats only because the cycle is not runninglong enough (I mean its only been around 40 once or twice).

    Space heaters are not permitted in apt according to lease.  The real problem is that we have to maintain at least 70 up stairs but how can that temperature register with the thermostat which is downstairs  It is so warm here - that we turned off radiators to allow the furnace to keep running,

    I am going to insulate pipes - that will be done by end of week.  and the il company will be contacted as these guys adjusted the radiator last year so that stema got through.

    I truly appreciate all your interest and advice.  I love steam heat - I think its great.  We do heat with oil though and it can be costly.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    To Data Logger

     Hi and thanks for the suggestion and the laughs.  My husband did buy a sensor and installed it upstairs so we are reading the temperature - BUT - we aren't here all the time to manually turn on the heat when their reading falls below 70 and what about in the middle of the night - it must be 65.  Of course I am not going to be that rigid about those settings - I know how cold the apt can get especially if its windy,

    Trouble is they came from a 38 unit apt building where its the norm (stupid for heat to blast day and night while tenants walk aroundin shorts and open the windows or turn the heat valve down (not sure what kind of system they had).

    I need the temp upstairs to be a certain degree and have the furnace perform accordingly.

    As I said we are wrapping the pipes this week.  Which will at least deliver the heat faster rather than heating the basement and the floor below us on the first floor.  Thats why this apt is so toasty - almost too toasty.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    I'll take the Eskimos

    or start crocheting blankets for everyone.  The weird thing is that they have no concept - my neighbor across the street said "tell them to put on a sweater".

    Hey if they call the JC housing code enforcement and I can document that the heat being provided is more than adequate or required - then maybe they need to go back to an energy wasting apt building again.
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    Main Vents - KCopp

    We actually replaced the main vvents last year (although that didn't change anything as the originals were fine).  As I said in a prvious blog - the oil company techs came in last March and adjusted the radiators and heat was coming to all - then we did a little work on the apt before renting and replaced the shim under the legs - maybe its off - the good news is that all risers bringing heat up are working and I am hoping the insulation will move it through faaster to save furnace running time.  Our main challenge I think will be regulating 2 apts with the thermostat.  At least my husband and I can turn on radiators - we currently have 3 shut off and are woring on the kitchen and front room - opposite ends of the house.  The lviing roon (middle) and 2 side rooms have been turned off.  We are fine. And of course its not cold out.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    Oil techs

    Sometimes the oil techs may not be as technical as you would wish. After all, if they cannot solve the problem, what happens-they sell more oil!

    The important thing in your case is to make sure the steam arrives at the upstairs radiators at the same time as the downstairs radiators. It doesn't appear that this is the case, and yet it is only a matter of allowing the air to get out of the way of the steam. There are different types of main vents, so can you take a picture of them, and the boiler, and post them here.

    You should not have to suffer these problems if the system is properly maintained.

    The thermostat must also be adjusted properly so that the steam cycles are long enough.

    If there are air leaks in the upstairs, then fix those too.--NBC
  • crash2009
    crash2009 Member Posts: 1,484

    "The real problem is that we have to maintain at least 70 up stairs but how can that temperature register with the thermostat which is downstairs"

    The easy answer is to move the thermostat up stairs, but guess what will happen.  Set it for 70, and even lock it up so it can't be changed, and all that's going to happen is that upstairs will become 70 all the time and your place will become 90.

    The "REAL" problem that you have is "BALANCE" There is a 5 or 10 degree difference between the 2 floors.  This can be corrected, and it's not done by shutting off radiators.  All the radiators need to be turned on.  The balancing trick is to make the steam go to all the radiators at the same time.  If yours are 2 sections hot, then upstairs should be 2 sections hot.  It shouldn't be 3 or 4 radiators blasting heat and the other 7 stone cold dead.

    Here is some good reading on "Balancing"


  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,469

    Is the radiation sufficient on the 2nd floor? Is there plenty of insulation in the attic? Once you balance the system, the 2 floors have to be as close as possible in their exposure to the elements. You have conditioned spaces above and below you. Attic insulation is a homeowner project, unless you have a flat roof.
  • ColdAsHell
    ColdAsHell Member Posts: 1
    No laughing matter

    I happen to be on the other side of this equation and it no laughing matter. I'm on the 2nd floor and was assured that my bedroom was the hottest room in the house only to find out after I moved in that the radiators rarely ever get warm, much less hot! I've been here 23 days and have already had to flee 3x because my teeth were chattering inside. I work at home and everytime I have to leave, it's money not being made. Now I've also gotten a nasty cold. Wonder why. Could it be that I try to warm myself in a hot shower only to step out into 40 degree heat INSIDE my apartment? I pay $1200/mo to freeze my behind off and I'm sick and tired of it. It's only going to get colder. The landlords response to my repeated complaints was to put the house on the market and ignore my calls. The tenets downstairs are roasting trying to keepe from freezing and nothing is working. If my cold turns into pneumonia and I lose more time from my business, I will look to sue for my medical expenses and loss of wages. Why won't I move, you ask? Because it took me 12 months to find an apartment. So, funny haha, now you see the other side of the complaint and as I said before, it's no frickin laughing matter.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    More info

    In your specific case are all the air vents on the radiator working? Are there radiators that just never seem to heat up? Does the heat work better on a really cold day? Check the radiators to be sure they slope properly.

    We need specifics so we can help you do something from your end to make the system work better.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    No Laughing Matter

    I am very sorry you're going through this,  I sympathize with you and it sounds like there are real issues there.  But in this case, tenant expects 80 degrees all the time so they can open the windows, when they are getting 74 all day, 75 in the evening and 72 from 11pm to 6 am. Even if they are running a degree or two less than us down here on the first floor, they are getting heat.

    This house has had many tenants and I lived upstairs for the last 25 years and had to turn a radiator or two off.  My father lived on the first floor, until he passed away in 2010.  He has owned the house since 1952 - never had complaints from anybody ever living upstairs.

    Believe me - every friend or family member always commented on how warm it is.  Sure its drafty when its windy out as the windows are from 1892, no insulation in the walls, and the attic needs another 8 inches of insulation at the least.  BUT, curtains help absorb the heat and block the drafts, they have no curtains, walk around in flipflops etc.

    My husband and I have turned off radiators, changed valves, have a fan in the room with the thermostat blowing the air out, cook and use the oven with a window open so the thermostat is not affected,  They want to pursue legal action because they tell me its not hot enough.

    I think as a landlord I have gone above and beyond.  Where do you live and what would be satisfactory heat for you?  Maybe one day you could live here!!!
  • Rtc
    Rtc Member Posts: 11
    data logger

    Thanks for the suggestions.  My husband did get indoor outdoor thermometers and after 4 weeks both sensors we installed upstairs stopped working,  Now for the 2 months they were working we were able to gauge the temp - believe me I knew before but know for sure now that they are getting plenty of heat,

    Not according to them, and now they are threatening legal action,  SO - I called my lawyer and we will speak to her about my options as a landlord doing everything in good faith for a tenant who will never be satisfied unless they get 80 degrees all day and night - with no break,  They dont even understand how a steam heating system works.

    Won't be renewing the lease.  They temp is set to 74 all day, 75 in the evening as they complained about that, and 72 all night,  It hasnt even been really cold and we used 200 gallons of oil in 5 weeks just to keep them quiet.  My word against theirs.  its always 68 up there which is BS. 

    Lets not forget to mention that i lived in that apt for 26 years so I now it well.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,491
    edited December 2012

    Maybe they already live there.  At least thats the impression I got at first.

    When we first bought this house and moved out of our apartment which we hated we discovered not only did the heat not work, we had close to no hot water as well and it was 100% my problem and we had no money.  I spent a week in my own home taking ice cold showers in a 45F bathroom. Ok, maybe not ice cold, the water was around 60F.   I learned about steam heat, hot water coils and mixing valves real fast.

    Before then I liked my hot showers, now I love them.

    Just remember, however bad you have it, it can always be worse.  Please don't interpret this post as offensive,  I do not mean it that way.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • When the system was new.........

    When first installed, your house would have been evenly and quietly heated, with a constant temperature. The job of the steam pro will be to restore the operation to what it was.

    Obviously, the system is heating unevenly, and that is why you are havering problems with the upstairs. Whether you think all valves are good or not, something is not right here.

    Try setting the thermostat for a constant temperature of 70 degrees, and measure the difference between the upstairs and downstairs with your indoor/outdoor thermometer, with the windows closed. The outdoor part of the setup will have a readout on it, and the tennants can see what the temperature is.

    Insulate those pipes with some fiberglass pipe wrap, and monitor the difference in temperature between upstairs and downstairs. If the difference is constantly more than 5 degrees, then you need a real steam pro (not a plummmmer) to come in and balance the system. You need to deal with specifics here and not generalities, such as " the temperature in the apartment is exactly 70 dregrees". Just saying no one else was cold before is too vague to provide a solution to this problem.

    Storm windows would pay for themselves pretty quickly here. The sooner you start identifying the problem, and finding the solutions, the sooner you can enjoy uninterrupted rental income, and lower fuel bills. This is because the system now seems inefficient, and most likely burns more fuel, while providing less comfort!--NBC
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