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Riser relief valve confusion

First, apologies for the silly question. I've read many of the resources on this site and don't think my question has been addressed. On the upside, I have video!
I'm a tenant in a 3rd floor NYC apartment with several painted vertical tubes going from floor to ceiling (presumably risers) throughout the apartment. It has just recently gotten cold enough where the apartment must meet a certain ambient temperature to comply with the city housing code, so I've had some time to observe how they work. There are no radiator in the entire apartment, it is only these 4 tubes that do not connect to anything (at least on the 3rd floor). The tubes get extremely hot, but some of them weren't working so the super installed what look to be silver relief valves at the very top towards the ceiling.

Here's the video!

Note the hissing as well, you might have to click the speaker to play the audio.

For the most part the hot tubes produce enough heat to warm the apartment, which I found surprising. There really isn't any of the dreaded banging, either. But the problem is that every 10 minutes(ish) the relief valve will audibly click and hiss for about 5 minutes and then shut off. Why? Are there radiators on a higher level? Some of the pipes were not heating at all awhile ago and his solution was to install this. Are these necessary, is there an alternative and if not is there anything I can do to reduce the noise?

Thanks so much!


  • I would say that the system pressure is too high, and the main venting is inadequate. Best advice would be to direct him here, for further advice on how to resolve this whole system problem.
    Of course, you can lead a super to the fountain of knowledge, but you cannot make him drink.--NBC
  • sammarcus
    sammarcus Member Posts: 3
    Thanks for the help. Unfortunately the relationship is a bit strained and I am forced to do the homework myself and bring answers directly to management, bypassing the super. If this was set up correctly would these even be necessary in the first place? He mumbled something about the top floor tenant never opening their turn valve so nothing was traveling up, which maybe makes sense? Is that even a realistic explanation, that the top floor could be the dictator to the whole building?

    Any other insight you provide would be enormously helpful as I'm not able to ask my super directly :(
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 21,512
    One does see wacky setups...

    It is quite possible that your super is right, sort of. If the top floor tenant's radiators are served by those risers, and those risers are your only heat, and the top floor tenant has those radiators turned off... yeah, the risers could stay cold, and so would you. And the vents he installed would allow steam to at least travel up to your floor and help.

    Now... is that the proper way to set up the system? No... there really should be radiators in your flat. Would vents located at the actual top of the risers work better? Well, they'd help the top floor tenant get heat, but maybe they don't want that. Is the system pressure too high? Undoubtedly.

    But, short of overhauling the whole thing...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • gcp13
    gcp13 Member Posts: 122
    When the new air vent gets hot from steam they shut off. That's the clicking noise. If the pressures too high the vent may not open back up until the boiler shuts off.
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    Can you talk to the upper tenant to find out if the radiators are turned off?
  • sammarcus
    sammarcus Member Posts: 3
    Everyone -- thank you so much for the helpful insight. Super interesting and really enlightening to finally understand how this works. I will ask the top floor if they have their valves/radiator closed. If they do, and they prefer to keep them off, is there any other solve for this? Do you think there is a level of pressure that will still provide steam to my third floor while not listening to the vents click every 5 min going from cool to hot to cool back to getting hot and clicking to close?

    Thank you!!
  • The vents will always make some noise as they let out the air; however, that noise is amplified by the apparent overly high pressure in the system. This over pressure is burning more fuel than would be needed, (maybe 15%) if the system were properly maintained.next time you get a notice of rent increase, tell them to turn the pressure down!--NBC