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steam systems and people's health

GW
GW Member Posts: 3,991
Does anyone have any experience with people not getting along with a new steam install? I have a lady (maybe in her 60s just guessing) that is having a hard time, we've skimmed the system 4 times. The husband doesn't have any problems at all.

So, two-folded question, any ideas on what may be happening (if you have experienced this type of issue), and second, does anyone have a polite way to add into your terms and conditions that this is in fact an open-to-the-atmosphere steel and cast iron heating system, that there's 80 years of goop in the system that may not smell wonderful?
Gary Wilson
Wilson Services, Inc
Northampton, MA
[email protected]

Comments

  • Gary Smith
    Gary Smith Member Posts: 361
    Try searching on this site for "odor in steam systems" or "smell" in steam systems, there are/were a few threads in the past 6 months to a year on theses subjects.

    But, remember that there are a few small percentage of people that are super-smellers or super-tasters that have exceptionally keen senses of smells and tastes (they often can discern individual ingredients in food) and you could be dealing with such a person. I don't have a clue about how to deal with this though.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,338
    I'd try flushing the system out from top to bottom. Assuming this is a one-pipe system, you could rig up a hose connection and hook it up to the radiator air vent tapping. Then flush out the return lines using the same technique on the main vent tappings.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 978
    edited January 2018
    This is true... I added baseboards with vents and I was nauseous until all the dope and oils wore off. At someones suggestion on this board, I installed additional vents on end of main in basement and smaller, slower vents on baseboards. the combination of both helped.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991
    thanks for the replies

    It's a one pipe

    Steamhead, You have hooked up a hose to the air vent tapping???? Like, all of the rads? was that an all day affair?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,175
    A previous thread about this might have concluded the culprit was pipe dope or Teflon tape. It got pretty involved.

    You didn't drop the head of your screwdriver into the boiler did you >:) .....sorry I couldn't resist.
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991
    haha! all of my tools and tool appendages were accounted for but i will ask my guys and the electrician.

    We use the typical #5 yellow on the dry and usually a tape and dope on the wet.

    I never understood why some guys like to tape the piping above the boiler.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991
    I think it's the customer and her heightened sense of smell. When i was skimming one day she intercepted me as i was running buckets out the back basement door and she made an effort to smell the bucket of boiler water. She said, 'no that's not what i am smelling', even though there was clearly an slight odor to the water.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,540
    @jughne, I remember that thread. Was that ever resolved? As I recall they blamed the "blue monster" tape? Is that correct?
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,425
    This smelly problem could be another reason not to do all the system venting through the radiator vents, as advised by the Gorton website, but instead follow the advice of the ancients: “vent the mains generously, and the radiators slowly”.
    I’m sure that GW (an experienced, and highly regarded pro here) has taken pains in that regard, but others have not.—NBC
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,338
    GW said:

    thanks for the replies

    It's a one pipe

    Steamhead, You have hooked up a hose to the air vent tapping???? Like, all of the rads? was that an all day affair?

    Yup. And it did take a while, but there was no other way to do it without disconnecting the radiators. Basically, you make up a reduction from hose thread to 1/8" pipe thread on one end and from hose to 1/2" on the other, then hook it up to the shower head.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,425
    Hooking to the kitchen sink is easier as there are adaptors for that purpose, and you have full water pressure.
    Generally steam pipes are as clean as a whistle, as they are constantly washed in pure H2O. However, it does look good to the owner that you are going the extra mile.
    If the main venting is very good, along with the boiler piping, then there will not have been a lot of debris, and bad water blown up into the rads.
    Speaking of bad water, could the previous boiler been treated with “Stop Leak”, which is full of smelly chemicals?—NBC
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,171
    The majority time I get complaints from a rotten egg oily smell from the radiators. Unfortunately it is cutting oils, I usually skim good immediately after the install but let the HO run boiler a good two weeks then I’ll return and wash the boiler out, this usually takes care of the problems.
    DL Mechanical LLC Heating, Cooling and Plumbing 732-266-5386
    NJ Master HVACR Lic# 4630
    Specializing in Steam Heating, Serving the residents of New Jersey
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/dl-mechanical-llc

    https://m.facebook.com/DL-Mechanical-LLC-315309995326627/?ref=content_filter

    I cannot force people to spend money, I can only suggest how to spend it wisely.......
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991

    This smelly problem could be another reason not to do all the system venting through the radiator vents, as advised by the Gorton website, but instead follow the advice of the ancients: “vent the mains generously, and the radiators slowly”.
    I’m sure that GW (an experienced, and highly regarded pro here) has taken pains in that regard, but others have not.—NBC

    are you trying to flatter me? hahaha. I admit steam isn't my greatest of skills
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991
    Steamhead, you have been very helpful. I'm at least as keen on the business side as i am putting these systems in; so do you just throw in that labor or do you have some general communication as to varying levels of flushing and cleaning?
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • DZoro
    DZoro Member Posts: 1,047
    I had a secretary that was super sensitive/allergic. We tore the walls in our office apart for her. She thought mold. There was none.....Some people are very keen on scents and allergic to many, many things yes food allergies are very common to them.
    Definitely explain that what you are attempting to do for her is not the normal scope of a install. Let her know how much to do it, but make sure she understands that you still may not be able to resolve what she can smell/react to. There are many variables involve in this situation. It's good that the husband doesn't have any issue. Can you or your guys sense anything out of the ordinary? PS I do stay away from the Blue dope and tape. Yellow and white Teflon paste is our go to. The yellow does have a bit of chemical oil smell to it.
    GW
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 3,991
    Thanks Dennis. I'll make up some polite verbiage to add into my other pieces of terms and conditions.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
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