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Improve Steam Heat Efficiency

In Jan 2014, I moved into a house with single pipe steam heating. I read the "We Got Steam Heat" book and really enjoyed it, and even recommended to my Dad who doesn't even have steam heat. There are many things that are wrong that I would like to resolve this Fall. I have limited time to do myself and would like a trusted contractor who can do a full assessment of the system. My concerns are:

- the 3 vents in the basement by the boiler aren't venting properly or venting steam
- the dining room radiator vent constantly blows steam
- the prior home owner left a radiator cover which I know isn't ideal, yet helps with safety of a 6 month old baby
- in the winter, I would have to refill the boiler every 2-3 days
- gas costs seemed high ($200/mo)

I have attached pictures of my heating system.

What suggestions do you have to resolve these issues? I have reviewed the contractor list and the closest is 45 minutes from my home in Norwood (Bergen County). Any suggestions for contractor that would be a thorough complete system assessment?


  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,401
    What pressure does the system run at? Anything above 1.5PSI usually wastes fuel. Your main vents are old low capacity vents, they should be replaced with higher capacity vents once you have the pressure down where it should be. How long is each steam main and what size pipe are they? Replacing the vents is not hard and would be a good place to start.

    While your down in the pit look around and make sure all the piping is sloped so water can find it's way back to the boiler. Also see if you see any sign of leaking. Fresh water kills boilers, you should only have to add water to a steam boiler occasionally.

    You have a pretty good mix of radiator vents and some look like they have seen better days. It's usually best to vent steam mains fast and radiators slowly. make a list of the radiators, there size (height, number of columns across, and number of columns deep) and what kind of vent is on each one.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    edited October 2014
    I'd be happy to help. We've been known to travel quite a distance for steam. We've worked everywhere from Vineland NJ to Scranton PA. We do a lot of work in Bergen County as well. If your town has steam, we've probably been there.
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,149
    If I may be so bold, your vents are crap, your boiler is from the time around the birth of Jesus, and whoever is maintaining it has the pressure set too high by about 200%.
    Start over. Let JStar put in a new boiler and vents and start saving money on fuel while raising comfort and meeting the efficacy of your system.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Plumbing in NYC or in NJ.
    Take his class.
  • wjthomas42
    wjthomas42 Member Posts: 2
    Thanks for your advice. Bob & John, I agree with that the vents are terrible.

    JStar - what is the name of your company?
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752

    Thanks for your advice. Bob & John, I agree with that the vents are terrible.

    JStar - what is the name of your company?


    Thatcher Heating & Air Conditioning
    My contact information is below in my signature.
  • lorenzomcKinney
    lorenzomcKinney Member Posts: 1
    The advice given above was nice. I am tinking of building a granny flat and one of my friend suggested me to consult granny flats sydney as they are expert in work.