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Rattling Copper Pipes - Arghhhh

Yep, some genius used copper for the two pipe steam system in my new apartment. The pipes rattle almost all the time because the heat is almost always on.  The noise comes mostly from the radiators of course, but I can hear it coming from all over at different times.  The landlord has said that he drained the system, though I don't really believe him.  Can this be fixed at all?  It's not as if I can tear up all the floorboards and start securing the pipes to anything.

Any suggestions most welcome.  Thank you! 


  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 6,535
    can it be fixed?

    yes, but not by draining the system.

    a steam system when properly maintained, is usually very quiet. most likely, the pressure is too high, and the system is burning extra fuel [30%?] as a result. is everyone hearing these sounds? where is your apartment in relation to the boiler?

    why not get him to post a few pictures of the radiators, and boiler here. he can then get some advice on what to do. the payback will be lower fuel costs, and happier tennants.--nbc
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58
    Already turned down the pressure...

    The landlord claims he turned the pressure down from 4PSI down to .5PSI.  Don't figure it should be lower than that?

    I am on the second floor and the boiler is in the basement.  The rattling comes mostly from the rads on the side of the house farthest from the boiler.  The other folks in the house don't care I'm sure, they just let the rads hiss all the time and don't bother fixing them.

    I've posted pictures of the rads before, not sure what they tell you.  What on the boiler should I take a picture of?
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58

    And just as a note, the rattling is rather quiet, compared to water hammer or anything like that, but it is nearly incessant.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 6,659
    OK, I'm puzzled

    You mention vents hissing all the time, and by golly there is one attatched to the radiator in the picture.  But... when I look at the picture, I also see two pipes attached to the radiator -- a big one, presumably a supply, and a little one, presumably the return.

    What have we here?  If this is a one pipe system with vents, fine.  If it is a normal two pipe system, it shouldn't have vents on the radiators.  But... if it is an old style two pipe system, they did have vents on the radiators.

    And they did have valves on both the supply and the return, which I see in the picture (and by the way -- ball valves as radiator valves?  Say what?).

    But I would be a little surprised if it were one of the old two pipe systems... with those radiators...

    So... is this a true two pipe system, which the different pipe sizes would suggest?  If so, what -- if any -- fittings are present on the outlets of the radiators, in the way of traps or the like?

    As for the rattling, you note that it doesn't seem to be water hammer, but more constant.  Like water running in the pipes?  Or a metallic rattle?  Or?  Copper pipe is inevitably much noisier than black iron; it may just be that.

    As Nick, noted "draining" the system isn't going to do a darn thing.  The only time water is present in a steam system, outside of the boiler, is when the boiler is running -- and that's condensate and goes away as soon as the boiler quits.

    The comment that vents are "hissing" suggests one of two things to me -- and probably both; the pressure is still too high (how did your landlord set the pressure to 0.5 pounds?) or you are woefully short on venting on the mains.

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 6,659
    edited March 2013
    OK, I'm puzzled

    oops... sorry... twitchy finger.

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58

    Yep, two pipe system with vents.  And yep, ball valves.  I know.  And the landlord tells me there are no traps.  Obviously this is an ultra-knuckleheaded system.

    The vents did hiss, but I just closed them.  And yes it is a metallic rattle.  You think there is nothing that can be done about it then?

    When  you say "Copper pipe is inevitably much noisier than black iron" - in what way?
  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    What to do

    There isn't really much you can do. You are a renter so can't really rip it out and repipe it properly. I can tell it really bothers you as you have posted about it all winter. I would move when the lease is up.
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58
    edited March 2013

  • Mark NMark N Member Posts: 1,035
    No burden

    It is no burden to me. Be realistic has the landlord made any attempt to repipe the rad? Most likely the floor would need to ripped up to get at the pipes. Is this likely to happen? They used undersized copper pipe on the rad. Are the rads in the other apartments piped like yours. Are the other tenants complaining?
  • moneypitfeedermoneypitfeeder Member Posts: 231
    we all want resolution

    I know you might be frustrated, as a renter and not an owner this issue (heat) can be a tricky situation. The copper itself is not the noise maker, I have several rads that are piped in copper that make no noise. The rattling as the system is coming up to temp is either pipes not supported enough, or leveling issues (of the pipes or the rads). Again your rads are piped way wrong, and without a steam trap (if it is a 2-pipe system) then your rads might be passing steam to the returns, causing all sorts of issues. With a true 2-pipe system, you won't need the air vents at the rads, they are located (usually in the basement, sometimes elsewhere)

    Do you have the ability to measure (the mains and pipes to your home?) to make sure thay all pitch the way they should?
    steam newbie
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Where have I seen:

    Where have I seen this photo before? Hasn't this been discussed before?
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,922
    time for reality

    The radiators are piped wrong. This makes me think the knuckle heading goes all the way back to the boiler. You have simply been labeled as a complainer by now by the landlord/super, and the contractors invovled. The idea of moving is a valid idea. The wasted fuel this system is burning is included in your rent, you are paying for this. I am sure you think the suggestion of moving is Mark being negating your problem. Mark does not seem to be saying that. All the posters know what needs to be done to fix this, including yourself. It needs done properly. Your choice now is to move or to get ear plugs. I think your complaint is valid but landing on deaf ears.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • RJRJ Member Posts: 483
    copper lines

    This is that system we saw before.  that steam system that looks like a hydronic system that wants to be a steam system.
  • Dave in QCADave in QCA Member Posts: 1,660
    Answers.... sort of

    You've got a difficult situation.  You're living in an apartment and the heating system is driving you crazy.  You have come to in hopes of finding solutions to the problem.  Several people have spent time and given some pretty good answers.   However, while your systems appears to be an old style 2 pipe vented system, it is impossible to know that based on looking at one radiator.  To truly be able to offer a plan to correct your malfunctioning radiator and noisy pipes, it would be necessary to see much more of the system piping and the boiler piping.

    On the assumption that your radiator is the only one that is goofed up and that the system is otherwise in perfect condition (not likely) it would be necessary to replace all of the copper piping with black iron piping, properly pitches and anchored.  You're on the second floor, so this would probably involve removing ceilings in the apartment below you.   Once the piping is properly installed to your radiator, it will correct the noise problem, but again, ONLY if your radiator is the only thing that is goofed up.  If piping errors such as we can see on your radiator exist in other parts of the system as well, then it would require very substantial re-piping of the heating system.

    I think the advice to start looking for a new apartment comes not from dismissing the magnitude of your problem, but rather from the practical reality of whether your landlord is likely to spend thousands of dollars to re-pipe the system (which obviously has been recently re-piped wrong).  You comments seem to indicate that you think he is trying to assist to a degree, as he did turn the pressure down.  However, reading between the lines, I pick up the attitude that you don't believe all of what he says and it seems as if you are saying that you don't really think he will fix the problem.   If I am answering your original questions as to is there anything that can be done to fix the problem.  I should answer again to clarify.  Yes, the problem can be fixed.  But, as  tenant, is there anything that you can do to your radiator to fix the problem? Sorry, but the answer is no.

    I am not being dismissive or failing to take your problem seriously.  But if I were in your situation I think I would be focusing on one of two things.  Either mentally prepare yourself to serenely accept a continuous annoyance or find a different apartment.  A third option might be to buy the building and then as the landlord, fix the problem correctly.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58
    Thanks All

    Appreciate the honesty.  I'm just not one to give up because of knuckleheading, there's always a way.  I actually just got the landlord's permission to take out the radiator itself, so voilà!  Sure it would be better in the grand scheme to re-pipe the system, but sometimes you just need a way to make a place for yourself.

    If anyone is interested -  I found out that the house is actually mostly done in old black pipe, and only the top floor was converted to copper to install on the Sunrads.  Not sure how you attach a small copper pipe to a large black one, but I thought that was interesting.

    Now I won't bother any of you regulars any more - thanks again though.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 6,535
    protect yourself

    make sure that the landlord understands that the radiator is not working now, and therefore will not work properly when you reconnect it at the end of your lease, and having it in writing would be good if he sells the building before you leave.

    it's too bad he will not try to fix it properly, instead of removing it.

    in fact, by closing the vaves, you have done the same as removing the radiator, so i would not be surprised if the noise continues, after it has been removed.--nbc
  • numberforty1numberforty1 Member Posts: 58

    Yes, from a steam perspective closing valves is the same as removing a rad, but not from an acoustics perspective. The rad was essentially an echo chamber, so removing it eliminated practically all sound from the pipes that were connected to it before. Wish it could have been a more elegant solution, but now I've no noise and more space!
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    I thought so.

    I thought so.
This discussion has been closed.


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