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help exploding radiator

inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
edited March 2017 in THE MAIN WALL
Has anyone had experience with old household radiators exploding? What could cause it? My sons apt. just had the top corner break explode off and flood apt. Landlord claims it is his fault due to a cracked window above the unit letting cold air in? Is this even possible? When looking at the crack the metal is corroded over 90% of the surface of the break with only a small portion of the crack with shiny metal. To me this would indicate a long term crack in the unit that finally broke. I was hoping for some expert advice on this.



Comments

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,852Member
    FWIW, 100 years ago heating systems were designed with the intent to heat the room with the windows open at night to avoid the, thought to be air borne, 1918 Flue pandemic.
    Did anything else freeze and break? My best guess is that the system may have subject to freezing in the past when the system was off for what ever reason and that is when the crack started. If the system was heating when this happened I really doubt if an open window could freeze this. Maybe the cold draft shocked the existing crack and it gave up. But a solid CI rad with hot water flowing thru it no, unless you are north of the artic circle.
  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    In new Hampshire, so no not north of artic circle. Nothing else was frozen and the video I was shown was water flooding from the upstairs where the radiator was through he ceiling. It was quite a bit of water, so it would seem to me it was not frozen.
    I had hear many times people open windows because the heat would be too hot in one room at times, so I was a little taken back when he claimed that cause the radiator to fail.
    The system was heating when it happened. They did not turn the heat off when they left the apt.
  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    so am I correct in saying the crack looks like it has been there for sometime? The rust and corrosion along the break seems like that has been a ongoing issue?
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,875Member
    No cold air through the window could have caused this. Don't have him fall for the landlord's ridiculous claim.--NBC
  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    It seems off to me as well. I just wanted to check my thoughts on this before I went to fight it. The landlord is trying to hold the boys responsible for his $20,000 deductible on his insurance to fix the property. I think that is crazy and based on what I see with the radiator I just don't see how it is their fault as a tenant.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,819Member
    You need a nastier lawyer than anyone I know. The metal was cracked, and has been for several years - almost impossible to tell how long, with intergranular failure like that. If there was water flooding down, this was a hot water system, and the pressure finally got high enough to burst the remaining -- shiny -- fracture surface, or the surface got small enough so that the pressure burst it.

    Clearly very poor maintenance over a long period of time.

    I would imagine that all the evidence has been changed or removed, but I would also be looking for a failed -- or missing or disabled -- pressure relief valve on the boiler, and a failed expansion tank on the boiler.

    Nothing the tenant did (or didn't do) contributed to the problem.
    Jamie



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



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    Thanks for the info Jamie. We did request that the radiator and it s parts be saved during the renovation to be inspected later. We are also in possession of the top part that broke off along with the pictures of course. I will see if possible to look at the boiler as I will be back on the property Sat. Could you please tell me specifically what I would be looking for as I am a novice to this,
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    I still find it hard to believe this radiator did not leak enough to see water before with the size of that cracked area.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,819Member
    Among other things -- and I imagine, as I say, that the evidence is gone -- you need to find out if the pressure relief valve on the boiler was working properly. To that end, you need the valve which was on there at the time, and you need evidence -- in writing; dates on a tag or something of the sort -- that a competent person had inspected and tested the valve and its outlet at regular (at least yearly) intervals.

    You have the radiator pieces; hang on to them. Someone is going to have to analyse the failure and be willing to discuss how long the crack had been present.

    Note, please, that I am not -- and would not qualify to be -- an expert witness. However, if the claim is as large as you say, you are going to need one. As well as that nasty lawyer I mentioned.
    Jamie



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



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • GrallertGrallert Posts: 330Member
    You or someone representing you will most certainly have to view the boiler in the presents of an expert. any parts installed after the incidence will have to be questioned and old parts inspected. With pictures you would get a lot of expert opinions. For that kind of accident to happen with out some on going warning is suspect. I've spent most of my adult life servicing residential heating plants, mostly boilers and I've never seen a radiator explode.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,852Member
    This brings up the discussion to keep the water supply to auto fill valve on or off.
    If off, in this case, there would have been less damage as once something broke open the pressure would be lost on the system. The pump would have only a system full of water to work with. If the water was pumped out of the opening then the low water cutoff would have to shut the burner down.
    Minimal water damage and maybe burnt up pump only.
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    edited March 2017
    20,000 dollar deductible? He would be hard pressed to get anything more than the deposit. In my opinion that single photo you took, and the piece you possess would show this was an existing issue, that finally failed through lack of maintenance.

  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    Thanks for all the advice and feedback. The one part everybody seems to struggle with is no early indication of a leak. I did not live there, however one of the boys slept on the floor with a mattress (college kids) close by the radiator. If there had been water leaking before this it would have soaked his mattress. Thanks Also to everyone on the education of safety precautions that could have been taken to minimize the damage. I have asked for the yearly maintenance schedule from the landord and he has been reluctant to share them.
    I will be fighting this as it would appear I have a strong case.
  • inneedofhelpinneedofhelp Posts: 11Member
    On a side note the complex did a fire and safety inspection including the heating units about one month prior to incident
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    Interesting.......
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    The only conclusion I can possibly come to if the radiator was functioning is that the system pressure was low, and any water leaking /weeping from the crack evaporated before making it to the floor.

    Obviously the water feed to the boiler was on always. Which may have been because the system kept losing water which would drop the pressure. Otherwise if the water feed was off the only water lost from the system would have been from the highest point in the system. That radiator. Once system pressure was lost, and the water seeked a level below the crack that would have been the end of the water leak.

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,852Member
    IIRC parents homeowner insurance may cover students while at collage......liability, fire, theft etc. You might touch base with your HO agent for an opinion. May be an addition to your team.
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    edited March 2017
    I should note that it is debatable whether the auto feed to the boiler should be always on, or off after system is filled. After initial fill there should be no water lost from the system, and no reason to have the auto feed on. This prevents an event as the land lord has experienced.

    The flip side is saftey. With the auto feed always on IF an unknown leak developed it would help prevent the boiler from dry firings which would be more catastrophic, and lead to a real explosion.

    However there is safety equipment to lock out the boiler in such an event. That is a Low water cut off. Be interesting to know if one was installed.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,022Member
    JUGHNE said:

    IIRC parents homeowner insurance may cover students while at collage......liability, fire, theft etc. You might touch base with your HO agent for an opinion. May be an addition to your team.

    The defective radiator leaked all over his floor and left him without heat. Why should they pay a dime?

    The landlord should be paying him! On top of insulting them and trying to get 20 large out of them.
    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
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,951Member
    Is this hot water or steam??
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    Hot water
  • AbracadabraAbracadabra Posts: 1,948Member
    faulty PRV resulting in pressure that found the weakest point in the system?
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    edited March 2017
    Possibility. Another argument on whether to have the feed water open at all times after initial fill.
  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,852Member
    Chris, I agree they owe the landlord nothing. But if he were to sue the kid and they in effect had liability insurance then wouldn't the claim be against the father's insurance policy.

    I think most companies would not pay, giving some basis that this is BS claim.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 10,022Member
    JUGHNE said:

    Chris, I agree they owe the landlord nothing. But if he were to sue the kid and they in effect had liability insurance then wouldn't the claim be against the father's insurance policy.

    I think most companies would not pay, giving some basis that this is BS claim.

    Ah, so you're saying a worst case scenario type thing.

    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
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    I wouldn't think suing for compensation for a grossly large deductible would hold water in court. The land lord is S.O.L.

    To many safeties that could have prevented this that were not implemented by the owner.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,819Member
    edited March 2017
    It may not hold water in court, @Gordy -- but the landlord's lawyer will take it for the contingency fee plus expenses plus whatever anyway, and make out like a bandit -- and our poor OP will have to defend it. Which is where his insurance comes in...

    Which is why all of our insurance premiums are so high.
    Jamie



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



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    edited March 2017
    The land lord would have to be an idiot to pursue such a claim on two college kids expecting to see money.

    I can tell you right now that the landlord knew the problem was there, and was waiting for the right circumstances to come forth to fix it on someone else's dime. That someone being his own insurance, and an unsuspecting tennant to pick up the balance.


  • FredFred Posts: 7,977Member
    edited March 2017
    Where is this radiator relative to the window in question? I don't think this Landlord has a leg to stand on but @Jamie Hall is right, that means nothing to an attorney. If we could have a picture of the radiator with the window in the background, also if the OP ca check the records and see what the outside temp was on the day this radiator blew (if it was above freezing that would settle the argument) and as far as I'm concerned it's the landlords word against the tenant as to if the window was even open on the day the radiator blew. (not that that window had anything to do with this situation). Tell the landlord to go blow smoke and move those kids to an apartment where the landlord isn't such a shyster. If he sues for broken lease, the boys can certainly argue that the place was not habitable and that they needed a place where they could sleep and study. The fact that the Landlord has a $20K deductable (if it is even true) was his business decision, not the tenant's and the question is was the damage greater that the 20K. Having said that, I would NOT have any discussion with the Landlord regarding the cost of damages. There are implications with entertaining that conversation. At the end of the day, I suspect the repairs will benefit the Landlord and the next tenant will pay a higher rent for an updated apartment. Save all those radiator parts! They speak volumes. JMHO
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    I see no relevant calcium build up marks on the radiator from weeping evaporating water. As rusty as that is there would be lime build up on the side of the radiator, and on the crack itself.

    We know from the damage the fill valve was on. We also know that proper system pressure for a two story building is not enough to throw a 3 pound piece of cast iron across the room.

    Even a stuck PRV would not create an instantaneous jump in pressure. With the little bit of that piece being still intact. I picture the piece slowly opening up with the pressure rise until it broke off. Probably just falling on the floor.

    If the system pressure was just right to not have enough to fully fill the top of the radiator being on the top floor. Then air would escape through the crack, and the prv would be replacing lost pressure. Just enough to keep the water below the crack, and from leaking out. Until the prv fouled from the constant filling, and stuck open.

    I think @Abracadabra is on to part of the circumstances leading up to the failure.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,875Member
    Alternatively, maybe it was only steam in great quantities which filled the room, after the crack opened up. A room full of steam will remove old wallpaper in a few minutes, and the condensation will leak downstairs causing damage.
    As to the radiator fragment flying across the room, there must have been some intervention there,....and not devine!--NBC
  • hvacfreak2hvacfreak2 Posts: 474Member
    Gordy said:



    If the system pressure was just right to not have enough to fully fill the top of the radiator being on the top floor. Then air would escape through the crack, and the prv would be replacing lost pressure. Just enough to keep the water below the crack, and from leaking out. Until the prv fouled from the constant filling, and stuck open.

    I think @Abracadabra is on to part of the circumstances leading up to the failure.

    This was my first thought , my guess is this space is on the top floor of the building and has not been completely filled with fluid until recently. Along with the other causes mentioned I would ask about any recent tenant complaints of high temperature
    ( too warm ). Any recent changes / repair to burner controls should also be noted. Either way , a recent change in system static pressure caused this compromised pos to finally let go , the occupant had absolutely no control over this. *Gavel * Next Case !!!

    hvacfreak

    Mechanical Enthusiast

    Burnham MST 396 , 60 oz gauge , Tigerloop , Firomatic Check Valve , Mcdonnell Miller 67 lwco , Danfoss RA2k TRV's

    Easyio FG20 Controller

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,875Member
    Am I seeing traces of glue residue on those broken edges, from an earlier knucklehead repair?--NBC
  • GordyGordy Posts: 9,264Member
    I don't see any. I see the paint chipped away at the top on the radiator.
  • FredFred Posts: 7,977Member
    I don't see any either. What I do see is a fairly smooth broken edge, especially on that right side that would suggest water has been leaking out for a long time, wearing the rough edge down to a more rounded edge.
  • MilanDMilanD Posts: 1,107Member
    YouTube rabbit hole find: system was frozen and bunch of rads cracked.

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 10,819Member
    Steam radiators don't freeze... :D :D
    Jamie



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



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 840Member
    edited March 2017
    "...When looking at the crack the metal is corroded over 90% of the surface of the break with only a small portion of the crack with shiny metal. ..."

    Need better close up pic of the crack , but from your pic it looks like the crack surface has a lot of rust and pits on it . Which tells me it likely has been cracked for a very long time.

    Sounds like a pre-existing condition, a crack that's been present a long time. Look up fatigue failure you'll see a similar crack surface

    Since it's on the edge of radiator , one possible explanation of how crack occurred is ..... it fell out of installers truck onto the street pavement many years ago and he just installed it, with the crack only partially thru the wall thickness. Now the crack finally propagated fully thru the wall thickness (a leak) as iron of the partial crack rusted and expanded forcing the crack open thru the remaining cast iron.

    Seems clear cut to me kids are not at fault.


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