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Noisy Radiators Driving me NUTS!

I'm a very light sleeper and sensitive to noise. I just bought an old house from the 40's that had a string of cheap owners before me that never wanted to switch to hot water/two pipe steam, or fix anything in the house. It goes without saying I have a single pipe steam system.

I've already replaced all 4 of my radiators with hoffman #40's from amazon here - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057XTJOI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But every radiator still whistles, very loudly. Luckily pipes do not knock much. I need complete silence in order to not wake up. Is this even possible with steam radiators? I've done a bit of research and I think either varivalves, or a TRV might solve my issue.

If making a single pipe steam radiator silent impossible, would it be cheaper to swap to hot water or go to two-pipe?
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Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    A whistling vent usually signifies a lack of main venting, and perhaps over pressure.
    Look on your steam pipes for the main vents, and the pressure control, and post some pictures.
    Steam can be as quiet as hot water if the system is properly maintained.—NBC
    William138
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26




  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26


  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26

    A whistling vent usually signifies a lack of main venting, and perhaps over pressure.
    Look on your steam pipes for the main vents, and the pressure control, and post some pictures.
    Steam can be as quiet as hot water if the system is properly maintained.—NBC

    This was taken while the system was running. Not sure what I'm taking photo's of, new to all of this. If you need full sized images let me know I'll throw them on imgur.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,486
    Internal siphon seems to be another way of saying "probably clogged".

    If your vents whistle you're forcing too much through them too fast.

    What main vents do you have?


    That boiler is piped wrong and that's not helping.
    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
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
    I get nervous when I see pipes running trough new partitions, too. I'm certain your noise is fixable.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    If there's little knocking or hammering, you're very lucky -- as @ChrisJ said, the boiler piping is poor -- someone couldn't read the installation manual.

    The whistling vents, however, almost certainly indicate inadequate -- or entirely missing -- main vents. As the boiler makes steam, the air has to go somewhere. It is supposed to go out main vents -- which are much larger than radiator vents and are, as the name implies, on the main steam lines, usually in the basement, very close to the ends (you might take a look around and see if you can find any). So that's a good place to start.

    Your photos are a good start, but there should be a pressuretrol device somewhere on the boiler -- often a blue or gray box with a scale on the front. It would be helpful to have a shot of that...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    1Matthias
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    ChrisJ said:

    Internal siphon seems to be another way of saying "probably clogged".



    If your vents whistle you're forcing too much through them too fast.



    What main vents do you have?





    That boiler is piped wrong and that's not helping.

    I don't know what main vents are. This is all that I have coming out of the boiler.
  • Mike_Sheppard
    Mike_Sheppard Member Posts: 696
    8 psi cut in wow!!! Those generally get set for 0.5 cut in with a 1psi differential (dial on the inside)

    Looks like a missing main vent as well.
    Never stop learning.
    kcopp1Matthias
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26

    8 psi cut in wow!!! Those generally get set for 0.5 cut in with a 1psi differential (dial on the inside)



    Looks like a missing main vent as well.

    So what do I do?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    First shut off the power switch.
    Turn the screw on the top of the grey box (pressuretrol) to lower that indicator from 8 down to the bottom just under two.
    Then take the cover off the grey box, inside is a white wheel and set it to 1.
    Power back on.

    Someone cranked up the pressure to "improve" the heating.
    Lower pressure may quiet things down at the rad vents.
    You will still need main steam pipe air venting in the basement.

    Then get a book called "We Got Steam Heat" by Dan Holohan.
    It was written just for your situation and is a joy to read.
    There are other books by him but this is a good primer.

    You should get some results with lower pressure....
    please let us know.
    kcopp1MatthiasTinman
  • Dave0176
    Dave0176 Member Posts: 1,177

    8 psi cut in wow!!! Those generally get set for 0.5 cut in with a 1psi differential (dial on the inside)



    Looks like a missing main vent as well.

    So what do I do?
    Take a flathead screwdriver and turn that screw on the top counterclockwise until the tab lines up with the .05 mark.

    Also the boiler is piped wrong, that particular boiler (terrible for steam by the way) should have a minimum of a 2-1/2 riser and header, your appears to only be two inch.
    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.......
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Yes, there are many things wrong with the piping at the boiler.
    But there have been worse shown here.

    The lower pressure and adding air venting is the low hanging fruit for the best results.

    Could you post some pictures from farther back so all the piping is seen. Especially the return piping that is connected into the bottom of the boiler, (from farther back also).
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 3,226
    You need a pro in there to get that straightened out. You can fix the control settings and system/venting issues now and replace the piping when it's time to change the boiler...which is probably not very far off anyway.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, NYC Master Plumber, Lic 1784
    Consulting & Troubleshooting
    Heating in NYC or NJ.
    Classes
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    This is as far back as I can get without getting into a wall.



  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    It looks like you have 2 dry return lines which need venting.
    The small one has a plug at the top of the tee where a vent could go.
    The larger one might have a plug farther to the right out of the picture.
    If you get that book you will become more familiar with your system.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    I just got off the phone with the only person I know locally that works with steam and said that I don't need any vents on the main pipe? What do I say?
    SeanBeans1Matthias
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    That is someone who could use a little “learning”, or a lot! I’m sure he will say he has thirty years experience too. The problem is he has one year of experience, thirty times over!
    There must be someone else in your area who understands steam.
    Ask at the local wholesaler for a name-maybe even someone who is semi-retired.—NBC
    1Matthias
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,706

    I just got off the phone with the only person I know locally that works with steam and said that I don't need any vents on the main pipe? What do I say?

    You say nothing, you also don't hire them as they are clueless.

    Where are you located we may know a good steam contractor in your area?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    1Matthias
  • 1Matthias
    1Matthias Member Posts: 148

    I just got off the phone with the only person I know locally that works with steam and said that I don't need any vents on the main pipe? What do I say?

    "Thank you for your time. Please leave now." Someone like that will most likely only make the present issue worse, not better. Where are you?
  • Mike Cascio
    Mike Cascio Member Posts: 143
    Ahhh, its the most cost erfective main vent-the 3/4 pipe plug. Those plugs need to come out and vents installed. Please measure the length of your steam main (the pipe that wraps around the basement from the boiler to where the pipe plug is) and the approximate diameter of the pipe. Someone will tell you what kind of main vents need to be installed. And please turn that pressure down before a vent blows off the side of the radiator!!!
    1Matthias
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26

    Ahhh, its the most cost erfective main vent-the 3/4 pipe plug. Those plugs need to come out and vents installed. Please measure the length of your steam main (the pipe that wraps around the basement from the boiler to where the pipe plug is) and the approximate diameter of the pipe. Someone will tell you what kind of main vents need to be installed. And please turn that pressure down before a vent blows off the side of the radiator!!!

    That vertical pipe is 62 inches long, is that what you need? It is a 2 inch diameter.

    I turned the pressure down to 2, and I'm turning on the system now to see what happens.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    I took a quick video, I didn't manage to record the beginning part of the heat cycle (it gets louder than this) but at this point the radiator isn't warm yet.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRAagkjaZDw

    It keeps making these noises for about 5-10 minutes. Is this normal?
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    edited October 2018
    Aside from that boiler being piped wrong and the fact that it has side tappings, which makes it very sensitive to being properly piped, there are a few things you can check to quiet the radiators down:
    - Turning the Pressuretrol setting down was a good thing to do but if the pigtail (looped pipe ) the Pressuretrol is mounted on hasn't been taken off and cleaned in a few years, it is probably clogged and not allowing the Pressuretrol to measure and control any system pressure. Clean that pigtail out.
    - Turn the Pressuretrol down to .5 or no more than 1PSI and take the cover off of the Pressuretrol and make sure the white wheel, inside is set to "1" as well.
    - Make sure your single pipe radiators have a slight pitch back towards the supply pipe. It sounds like there may be some water(condensate) sitting at the vent end of the radiator. That will make noise. Use a few shims or quarters un der the radiator legs on that end of the radiator so that you get a 1/4" tilt back to the supply pipe.
    - We need to know the length of the horizontal (Main) pipe that the radiators are piped off of. That will determine the size of the Main vents you need and you do need Main vents on the end of each Main, after the last radiator run-out.
    -
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    Fred said:

    Aside from that boiler being piped wrong and the fact that it has side tappings, which makes it very sensitive to being properly piped, there are a few things you can check to quiet the radiators down:
    - Turning the Pressuretrol setting down was a good thing to do but if the pigtail (looped pipe ) the Pressuretrol is mounted on hasn't been taken off and cleaned in a few years, it is probably clogged and not allowing the Pressuretrol to measure and control any system pressure. Clean that pigtail out.
    - Turn the Pressuretrol down to .5 or no more than 1PSI and take the cover off of the Pressuretrol and make sure the white wheel, inside is set to "1" as well.
    - Make sure your single pipe radiators have a slight pitch back towards the supply pipe. It sounds like there may be some water(condensate) sitting at the vent end of the radiator. That will make noise. Use a few shims or quarters un der the radiator legs on that end of the radiator so that you get a 1/4" tilt back to the supply pipe.
    - We need to know the length of the horizontal (Main) pipe that the radiators are piped off of. That will determine the size of the Main vents you need and you do need Main vents on the end of each Main, after the last radiator run-out.
    -

    1 - Will do that this weekend (cleaning it out) i already turned it down).
    2 - Will also pitch the radiators this weekend.
    3 - It is a 5 foot length. Right now it is capped with a half inch cap. Let me know what I need to buy exactly to convert the end of the pipe from the cap into a main vent.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    Also please recommend the best, most quiet parts/vents. I don't really care about the cost at this point.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,706
    One thing to be clear about, a noisy vent is not necessarily a vent problem per se. No main venting, too high pressure and oversized boiler can make those rad vents go crazy and no matter which vent you use it won't make much difference. In your case the main venting is definitely a place to start.

    The gurgling sound, to me, sounds like water which could mean wet steam or improper pitch somewhere in the system. Basically water is being held somewhere it doesn't belong or water is being put somewhere it doesn't belong.

    Where are you located?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    KC_Jones said:

    One thing to be clear about, a noisy vent is not necessarily a vent problem per se. No main venting, too high pressure and oversized boiler can make those rad vents go crazy and no matter which vent you use it won't make much difference. In your case the main venting is definitely a place to start.

    The gurgling sound, to me, sounds like water which could mean wet steam or improper pitch somewhere in the system. Basically water is being held somewhere it doesn't belong or water is being put somewhere it doesn't belong.

    Where are you located?

    Thanks. Sorry, I forgot to post. I'm located in Schenectady NY, zip code 12302.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
    Main vents will make the biggest impact. 5' feet seems very short for a main. Is this measuring from the riser off the boiler to the last vertical riser off that pipe?

    As far as radiator vents, Gorton's are the quietest, you just have to make sure you get the right size. What do you have on the radiators now?

    I used to be a big Hoffman fan but since the folks on here started talking about the clicking I became more aware of it and it started getting on my nerves.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26

    Main vents will make the biggest impact. 5' feet seems very short for a main. Is this measuring from the riser off the boiler to the last vertical riser off that pipe?

    As far as radiator vents, Gorton's are the quietest, you just have to make sure you get the right size. What do you have on the radiators now?

    I used to be a big Hoffman fan but since the folks on here started talking about the clicking I became more aware of it and it started getting on my nerves.

    It's 5 feet from the boiler to the top of the last vertical pipe, if you're talking actual length including the horizontal parts to the top, it's around 8 feet.
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    @William138 , That main looks to be 3 feet before it turns and heads over your water heater and through that wall. Where does it go from there? It looks longer than 5 feet.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    Fred said:

    @William138 , That main looks to be 3 feet before it turns and heads over your water heater and through that wall. Where does it go from there? It looks longer than 5 feet.

    Sorry I'm a little confused on what you need measured here. It's a 3 foot vertical, then it's about another 5-6 feet of piping before it turns horizontal. I need to purchase something today to overnight to get here by tomorrow so someone can come install this.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,706
    edited October 2018


    The pipe I circled in red, you need to measure the entire length of that until it gets to a tee or a return of some kind. We can't see past the wall so we theorize it goes some distance beyond that. There will most likely be a reduction in pipe size when it changes to a return.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    KC_Jones said:



    The pipe I circled in red, you need to measure the entire length of that until it gets to a tee or a return of some kind. We can't see past the wall so we theorize it goes some distance beyond that. There will most likely be a reduction in pipe size when it changes to a return.

    Ok so it goes 22.5 feet until it hits the first radiator in the dining room, measuring from where your circle starts to the end. It snakes underneath my finished basement.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26




  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,706
    Ok getting there. So in the attached picture I drew some lines as talking points, please confirm my comments and answer questions as best you can.


    Red is going towards a radiator correct?
    Blue is going to a radiator correct?
    Black is your main, what happens to the main beyond the blue radiator take off? Trying to determine the end of main to determine the length for venting purposes.

    Also you seem to have one main feed and 2 returns at the boiler. That indicated to me either the main splits at some point or there is some elevation change in the system that required a drip to return condensate.

    For reference, on the basement piping (except radiator takeoffs) the highest point should be at the boiler and everything should be running downhill from that point. The return piping (shown in the below pic with red lines) will be significantly lower which is how the condensate (water) flows back to the boiler.



    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    The larger return pipe at the boiler has been replaced as evidenced by the unions.
    There probably was a vent 90 or tee in that pipe but was not replaced with the change in piping.

    Or if you follow that large return away from the boiler there may be another plug in a tee. For venting it would need to be after the last rad connection.
  • William138
    William138 Member Posts: 26
    Here's a video of what I can get too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdHLwMq15Fo