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Replacing older radiators with smaller new ones (1-pipe steam NYC co-op)

Hello everyone. I stumbled onto this place while looking for some solutions to my steam heating questions.

I'm currently in the middle of a renovation of my 1 bedroom apartment on the 2nd floor of a 30 unit (6 floors, plus a basement) co-op on the Upper West Side. We use 1-pipe steam heat and I'm looking to install smaller radiators since our building runs extremely hot.

My unit is about 500 square feet with 2 radiators (bedroom and living room) and 1 exposed vertical pipe in the bathroom. There are 3 other vertical pipes in the unit that are not exposed, but give off some heat through the drywall. One is in the kitchen and the other two are located next to the bedroom and living room radiators (and I assume are the feeders for those radiators).

The bedroom radiator had 16 fins and was about 18"-20" high and 4.5" deep. The bedroom is about 10'x12' with two large-ish windows and high, 9.5' ceilings.

The horizontal pipe has been removed, as has the radiator itself so we could paint behind it. I also installed a new valve directly over where the pipe exits the floor. (Sorry for the tiny image.) I plan to get rid of this radiator and replace it with a smaller, 10 fin version.

The living room radiator has 18 fins but otherwise has the same dimensions (18"-20" high and 4.5" deep). The living room / kitchen is about 12'x25' with two large-ish windows, a smaller window, and a large window in the kitchen on the other side of the room.

This radiator has been removed to paint the wall and the valve was also replaced since it was leaking. Originally, I planned to keep this radiator.

If I use these 4.5" deep radiators I'm going to have issues with the new baseboards since there isn't enough clearance based on where the pipe is. The radiators are almost touching the wall at 4.5" deep, which I know is not ideal in terms of efficiency, but I can't find anything thinner than that short of going with the wall-mounted radiators from SteamRadiators.com. I suppose I could raise the radiators a few inches instead? If possible, I'd like to replace both radiators with thinner versions and possibly paint the new radiators to match the walls.

I'm open to any and all suggestions on what to do with these two radiators. My apartment gets extremely warm when the heat is on. Is it possible to install a thermostatic valve? What about something like this or The Cozy?

Thanks so much (in advance!) for your advice and help.

-Paul
1-pipe steam heat in NYC

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,969Member
    This sounds like a system-wide problem. When first installed, the radiators would have been carefully sized to give even temperatures throughout all the rooms of the building.
    When this lack of proper system maintenance is corrected, your new smaller radiators will not then have enough capacity to keep you warm. So keep them for now, with the air vents turned upside down, to keep most of the steam from coming in, or put them in the closet for later re-installation. I see that the rads have their vents in the wrong holes, but that is not the cause.
    So get on the building management, and get them to find out why things are so hot. the most likely causes are:
    1. Over-pressure-above 1.5 PSI.
    2. Faulty or incompatible system control.
    3. The building may reduce fuel consumption by 30% when properly maintained.--NBC
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Ask the super what pressure the boiler is operating on and what/where are the temperature sensors or controls. Pressure should be less than 2 psi cutout and sensor should be in consistently cool section of building away from exterior door and not next to trv radiator.

    Do not install a thermostatic radiator valve on your radiator. Use the air vent style and get a straight vent and either a wall sensor or valve mounted operator.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,969Member
    Try the upside down air vent method first, and see if that reduces the heat, if not, then the Thermostatic Radiator Vent will not work either, with the over-pressure.
    You really need to get to the bottom of this badly maintained system, because it should not be like this. It should be even, silent, and economical, so something, which could be easily correctable is wrong.—NBC
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    edited April 2018
    Hello NBC, thank you so much for looking at this. I really appreciate it. I will respond inline:

    This sounds like a system-wide problem.

    That wouldn't surprise me one bit, especially after doing some reading about it on this site!

    When first installed, the radiators would have been carefully sized to give even temperatures throughout all the rooms of the building.

    That may have been true when the system was first installed, but I know for a fact that the radiators were replaced in my unit (either by the super or the previous owner) relatively recently (within 5-10 years). (Not to mention other haphazard replacements and removals in other units that I've heard about as well.) Given that, the one in the bedroom is entirely too large for the space regardless of how well the system is or isn't operating. Intuitively, there is no way that a 100 square foot bedroom should have 80% of the heating needs as the main living area that is over 2x the size. Unless I'm missing something obvious?

    When this lack of proper system maintenance is corrected, your new smaller radiators will not then have enough capacity to keep you warm. So keep them for now, with the air vents turned upside down, to keep most of the steam from coming in, or put them in the closet for later re-installation.

    I will be sure to keep the old radiators, but my main concern right now is their width. I will only able to keep this size radiator with the current location of the pipe if I somehow shave down the new baseboards. I'm hoping there is another option. Here is a clearer view of the two new valves (blue=bedroom, beige=living room):

    I see that the rads have their vents in the wrong holes, but that is not the cause.

    I don't know what this means. What are "rads"? Radiators? What would be the correct holes?

    So get on the building management, and get them to find out why things are so hot. the most likely causes are:
    1. Over-pressure-above 1.5 PSI.
    2. Faulty or incompatible system control.
    3. The building may reduce fuel consumption by 30% when properly maintained.--NBC

    I'm definitely going to look into all of this. If there is a chance we can save 30% of our heating costs it will be welcome news.
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    Hi Mr. Donut, thanks for the comment.
    the_donut said:

    Ask the super what pressure the boiler is operating on and what/where are the temperature sensors or controls. Pressure should be less than 2 psi cutout and sensor should be in consistently cool section of building away from exterior door and not next to trv radiator.

    I'll ask and see.
    the_donut said:

    Do not install a thermostatic radiator valve on your radiator. Use the air vent style and get a straight vent and either a wall sensor or valve mounted operator.

    I'm confused by this advice. You say I shouldn't install a thermostatic radiator valve and then link more than one thermostatic valve? Is this an inside joke that I'm missing?
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member

    Try the upside down air vent method first, and see if that reduces the heat, if not, then the Thermostatic Radiator Vent will not work either, with the over-pressure.
    You really need to get to the bottom of this badly maintained system, because it should not be like this. It should be even, silent, and economical, so something, which could be easily correctable is wrong.—NBC

    I tried twisting the air vents on my living room radiator, which is currently detached, and I was not able to easily move it. Should I be giving it a lot of torque? Will it break? I haven't been living in the apartment for a few months so I don't really remember if it was particularly loud or not, but I do remember hissing. Regardless, I know our boilers are regularly serviced every fall, though now I'm skeptical that the right work has been happening...

    I appreciate the advice!
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,969Member
    Those vents may not have moved in their tappings, for a long time, however they should yield to firm pressure,
    We have received so many postings from people in your situation with steam problems which should not have been ignored for so long. The new problem is: what will those of your neighbors, who may have removed radiators, ( rads=radiators), do if the system is finally corrected?
    The heating system is a part of the common element of the building, which they have been allowed to illegally modify. As I said, when the system is finally corrected, they will be cold.
    All of you in that building, by virtue of bad management, and maintenance have been forced to pay more for fuel, and have increased the local air pollution.—NBC
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    There are a few types if thermostatic radiator valves. 1 type is attached to the steam supply and controls the amount of steam entering the radiator. This kind is for 2 pipe steam. The type you need inserts itself between the air vent and the radiator. It regulates air venting based on temperature. It also has a vacuum breaker to allow air back into the radiator, and condensate to drain.

    The 2 pipe style TRV closes off and does not allow condensate to drain. When it open again, the steam and condensate will hit each other and can cause steam hammer.

    Both types will not function well if the pressure is too high. Steam will force itself through the valve and potentially break it.

    Air vents. Should be installed around 1/2 way down the radiator, not at the top. Steam is lighter than air. In order to get all the air out on the coldest day of the year, the vent should be closer to the bottom, not at the top. However in your case, more air isn't an issue as you are overheating.
  • Double DDouble D Posts: 331Member
    Another option could be to rotate the valve and feed the radiator with a 90 or a 45 depending on how far you need to come out.

  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member

    Those vents may not have moved in their tappings, for a long time, however they should yield to firm pressure,

    I'll give it a try later today.

    We have received so many postings from people in your situation with steam problems which should not have been ignored for so long.

    I can see how that has happened. I'm going to look into this and see what we can do for the whole building before the next winter.

    The new problem is: what will those of your neighbors, who may have removed radiators, ( rads=radiators), do if the system is finally corrected?

    Before we change and fix anything, clearly we are going to need a thorough review of the full current heating system to see what changes will need to be made everywhere, including in other units.

    The heating system is a part of the common element of the building, which they have been allowed to illegally modify. As I said, when the system is finally corrected, they will be cold.

    What do you mean illegally? I don't think anyone has broken any laws, have they? From what I understand these kinds of changes have generally been done by the super or an outside contractor (Demar Plumbing I think, who is not listed in this site's directory).

    All of you in that building, by virtue of bad management, and maintenance have been forced to pay more for fuel, and have increased the local air pollution.—NBC

    We have natural gas-powered boilers. I'm sure we are flushing money down the drain by over-heating, but I doubt we are having that much of an impact on the air quality. But clearly I don't know much about this... I appreciate the insight!
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    edited April 2018
    the_donut said:

    There are a few types if thermostatic radiator valves. 1 type is attached to the steam supply and controls the amount of steam entering the radiator. This kind is for 2 pipe steam. The type you need inserts itself between the air vent and the radiator. It regulates air venting based on temperature. It also has a vacuum breaker to allow air back into the radiator, and condensate to drain.

    I see. That makes way more sense to me. I'll have to see where I can get those installed (in the right place on the radiator).
    the_donut said:

    The 2 pipe style TRV closes off and does not allow condensate to drain. When it open again, the steam and condensate will hit each other and can cause steam hammer.

    I for sure don't want that. My girlfriend's place in Brooklyn has some terrible banging occasionally. (3rd floor of 6 in an even older building, but similar 1-pipe steam system; condo, not co-op.)
    the_donut said:

    Both types will not function well if the pressure is too high. Steam will force itself through the valve and potentially break it.

    That may be what is happening here and I will do what I can to make sure the system is setup properly before installing a thermostatic vent.
    the_donut said:

    Air vents. Should be installed around 1/2 way down the radiator, not at the top. Steam is lighter than air. In order to get all the air out on the coldest day of the year, the vent should be closer to the bottom, not at the top. However in your case, more air isn't an issue as you are overheating.

    Regardless, I want to make sure that the hardware is installed properly! I took some radiator photos of where I'm staying in Brooklyn and I think those are properly installed and maintained (despite the occasional hammer from the vertical pipe in the bathroom).

    Those look like they are in the right spot, but were they just drilled into the radiator directly? There is no corresponding hole on the "rads" in my apartment.

    The bedroom "rad" (blue wall) is the thickness I'm trying to find for my bedroom too. Is that a mistake? Where can I find 1-pipe radiators that are that thin?!
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    edited April 2018
    Hi Double D, thanks for the suggestion.
    Double D said:

    Another option could be to rotate the valve and feed the radiator with a 90 or a 45 depending on how far you need to come out.

    I would much rather have the radiator be higher in the room than go even further from the wall. I need every inch to comfortably clear the bed that will be next to this radiator!

    This might be a better option for the living room radiator so I can sneak it to the other wall, behind where the couch will go.

    If I were to do something like this I would need to make sure there is a pitch to the pipe to allow the "rad" to drain, right?
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • Double DDouble D Posts: 331Member
    Whatever fittings you use will follow the radiator. Just make sure the slope is toward the valve.
  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 7,969Member
    By illegal modification, I mean some changes that have adversely effected the whole building's heating system.
    There is a delicate balance between the number of radiators, and their size; and the size of the boiler. Removing radiators thus can have a negative impact on other apartments.
    And of course, if the system is burning more gas than really needed, then that is an additional impact on the atmosphere.
    I would encourage your present heating contractor to spend some time on this site, and gain greater knowledge about steam systems, so they can make your system function as originally installed.--NBC
  • info43info43 Posts: 50Member
    edited April 2018
    If you want to try the thermostatic radiator valve, I think this is what you need for your system. You would need the vent and the valve.

    https://supplyhouse.com/Danfoss-013L8011-1-Pipe-Steam-Air-Vent

    https://www.supplyhouse.com/Danfoss-013G0140-Thermostatic-Rad-Valve-w-Vac-Breaker-1-Pipe-Steam-5551000-p
  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 2,372Member
    PaulUWS, can you talk your building into doing a comprehensive system evaluation? Your radiators were not installed in a professional way and that's often a good indicator that settings in the boiler room, venting throughout the system, and maintenance in general aren't up to snuff. I care for about 50 heating systems in NYC every year and these problems repeat themselves from address to address. Lots of bad habits out there.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is the Boilers and Hydronic Heating Systems Course Instructor at NYC's Mechanics Institute, a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
    John also oversees mechanical installations and maintenance for metro-area clients with his family's company, Gateway Plumbing and Heating along with his brother/business partner.
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    > @JohnNY said:
    > PaulUWS, can you talk your building into doing a comprehensive system evaluation? Your radiators were not installed in a professional way and that's often a good indicator that settings in the boiler room, venting throughout the system, and maintenance in general aren't up to snuff. I care for about 50 heating systems in NYC every year and these problems repeat themselves from address to address. Lots of bad habits out there.

    Hi John,

    I actually sent you an email before posting here. I might be able to work something like that out with the board, but I would need to know a general idea of what it might cost. (Both for the evaluation, a range for what it might take to fix the likely issues, and if at all possible what it could save us in the long run as a way for me to convince them it would be a worthwhile investment.)

    Can you respond to my email with some specifics? (You’ll know the one, I basically copy/pasted most of it in the original post.)

    Thanks so much,
    -Paul
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 2,372Member
    I’m sorry, Paul, but I definitely do not have an email from you. Please check my address and resend.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is the Boilers and Hydronic Heating Systems Course Instructor at NYC's Mechanics Institute, a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
    John also oversees mechanical installations and maintenance for metro-area clients with his family's company, Gateway Plumbing and Heating along with his brother/business partner.
  • PaulUWSPaulUWS Posts: 9Member
    edited April 2018
    > @JohnNY said:
    > I’m sorry, Paul, but I definitely do not have an email from you. Please check my address and resend.

    Re-sent to John at 72fLLC.com around 5:30 yesterday. The subject line is “Fwd: Saw you at heatinghelp.com - 1 Pipe Steam Heat Questions”.

    Sorry for the mix up!
    1-pipe steam heat in NYC
  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 2,372Member
    Got it. Replied. Thank you.
    For installations, troubleshooting, and private consulting services, find John "JohnNY" Cataneo here at :
    "72°F Mechanical, LLC"
    Or email John at [email protected]
    John is the Boilers and Hydronic Heating Systems Course Instructor at NYC's Mechanics Institute, a professional Master Plumber, licensed by The Department of Buildings of The City of New York, and works extensively in NYC while consulting for clients in and out of state.
    John also oversees mechanical installations and maintenance for metro-area clients with his family's company, Gateway Plumbing and Heating along with his brother/business partner.
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Let us know how it goes gentleman. Always love to see system restorations.
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