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Heating pipe is whistling very loud


I live an a fifth floor apartment (top floor) and my roommate and I each have a heating pipe (I think that’s what it would be called) in our rooms.

Simply put it is making a a blowing, whistling sound. Think of a tea pot sound right before it starts to whistle crisply. Then it usually ends with a gargling sound of water.

The land lord said there is nothing that can be done but this seems like there is a problem with the system?

Ideas I’ve heard are:
The system isn’t letting enough air/ steam out
There is too much water in the system

Do any or both of those seem plausible?

Please help it wakes us up every night :(


  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,917
    Your landlord is misinformed. You shouldn't be hearing what you're hearing. A qualified professional will be able to help get rid of what you're experiencing but it will likely require a trip to the boiler room to make some adjustments.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber for Consulting Work
    Or for plumbing in NYC or in NJ.

    Or take his class.
  • victorjricci
    victorjricci Member Posts: 6
    Thanks for the help John.

    Know an issue in particular I might be able to site?
  • JohnNY
    JohnNY Member Posts: 2,917
    Excessive steam pressure for a start. It takes very little pressure in the system to heat even the tallest buildings. That's a hard thing to get across to landlords but it's true. The other thing is lack of venting devices on the system piping. Most of the venting should be done in the basement or cellar. It sounds to me like the small air vent on the riser pipe in your space is being asked to do too much work, which it's not designed to do.
    Contact John "JohnNY" Cataneo, Master Plumber for Consulting Work
    Or for plumbing in NYC or in NJ.

    Or take his class.
  • victorjricci
    victorjricci Member Posts: 6
    Hey John!

    Spoke with my land lord and was told this is normal and there is nothing to do. I even stated what you said about the system.

    He assured me it is normal and that MAYBE we can add some insulation to redirect / muffle the sound.

    Here are two videos of the sound minus the gurgling at the end.

    Video 1
    Video 2

    I will admit it sounds underwhelming in the videos but this is something that wakes me and my roommate up at night / in the morning when it kicks on.

    thanks in advance
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,081
    Your landlord is wrong, they won't admit they are wrong because that would require them to spend money to maintain the system properly.

    I will add they are using your money to not maintain it properly.

    Steam heat should be essentially silent. I hear the burner fire on mine sometimes if I'm listening for it. Other than that nothing.

    Either the pressure is set too high, the boiler is oversized, or there isn't enough venting either mains or radiators, or both.

    Most likely it's a combination of all of the above.

    On a side note the landlord is most likely wasting money on excessive fuel costs that you are also paying for, whether directly or indirectly through the rent. Fix it once, then save on fuel all the time.

    I wish you best of luck, your best bet from what I have seen on this board with landlord complaints, invest in ear plugs.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Jellis
    Jellis Member Posts: 228
    Your landlord probably thinks it is "normal" because "it has always done that and worked fine"

    I agree with the comments above, a whistling sound should not be heard, inform him that you've mentioned it to several heating professionals separately and they all agree it is not normal.

    Remind him that a heating system working abnormally will likely cost much more to heat with and shorten the life of the boiler.
  • CantabHeat
    CantabHeat Member Posts: 33
    edited October 2019
    As others have said it isn’t supposed to sound like that. Pressure sounds way too high for one.

    Maybe try a different angle and point out that they are probably wasting money because the system isn’t setup correctly. Unfortunately your landlord probably doesn’t care that it’s loud and annoying but will likely care that it’s costing them more in heating bills. He should have insulation on the pipe but that’s not what’s causing the noise.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,330
    The device making the sound is an air vent. if the sound occurs when the system is heating, the vent has failed and needs to be replaced. These vents are supposed to close when they get hot.

    A vent that does not close when it should wastes steam, and can shorten the life of the boiler and other system components.

    if the sound occurs when the heating cycle has completed, it is due to vacuum forming as the steam collapses during the condensation process. This doesn't harm the system.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • victorjricci
    victorjricci Member Posts: 6
    Update everyone!

    Thanks for all the help so far.

    Land lord replaced the valve but now it seems to have gotten worse and is making the wall stained as if it is spraying out (see wall in photo attached).


    However if I turn the valve almost 180 degrees it stops making all noise! Photo attached.

    1. Is this safe?
    2. Why does that stop the noise? / are there any other "side effects" to doing this?

    I just need to sleep in peace
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 18,923
    You mean 180 degrees like upside down? That stops the venting completely (there's a float in there which drops down and closes the vent). It won't actually hurt anything but it will alter the way the system heats. Some.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,518
    By turning that vent 180 degrees, you are essentially closing it and it no lo0nger vents the air out of the pipe. That probably means someone above you may not be getting heat because the air is trapped in that pipe. Steam will push the air only until it compresses as much as it can. If there are vents on that pipe, above your apartment, they are working harder to push air out. From the sound of the air and it is spraying water/steam to stain the wall, the system pressure is probably way higher than it should be.
  • victorjricci
    victorjricci Member Posts: 6
    Right, so if I am the top unit, this will potentially only affect the heat for my floor and above correct?

    Not the people below me?

    From what it sounds like this will stop my room from heating as well anyone above me.

    But beyond that there is no harm. Is that correct (even if I oversimplified it a bit)?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,510
    Everything on that pipe below you won't heat or won't heat as much as it should. the only way to fix it is to put a fitting with a much larger tapping on to the pipe and a vent or vents sized to vent that size and length of pipe.
  • victorjricci
    victorjricci Member Posts: 6
    So I will keep it turned downward at night so I can sleep now and then hopefully that will also incentivise my landlord to if it.

    Thanks again!

    Onward to trying to get my landlord to fix the original problem then!
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 9,756
    You are on the top floor, right?
    Do you know if the rooms directly you have a rad connected to that standpipe or is that pipe just the heat for those rooms also?

    If they have rads they will get heat slower than usual without your vent working.
    If they rely upon the pipe only then they will get much less heat without your vent.

    They may complain and the landlord's cheap fix will be to crank the pressure up beyond where it is probably too high already.
    This will compress the air a little more and the steam will travel a little further up the pipe. Then when you open your vent it will be worse.
    Few will believe that low pressure would be better for the entire building and air venting is usually the problem.