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Old ornate cast iron radiator for hot water? Advice Needed

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grant_andrew
grant_andrew Member Posts: 22
edited November 2019 in THE MAIN WALL
I'm finishing my basement and think (or thought) I found the perfect radiator to match the rest of my house. The size is perfect, but after getting some pictures, it looks like this must have been used for steam, and I have hot water.

I've been doing some research about steam to hot water conversions, and have gotten more confused. Can I just install a fitting in the plugged lower port to convert this to hot water, or are the tops of the columns not connected? I'm no expert, so I can't tell by the pictures.

I know I would have to plug what appears to be a small vent port, but it would be great to know if I could easily convert this to hot water. Thanks!!!

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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    Far as I can tell the tops of the columns are connected across -- and even better there is a fitting for the bleeder already there -- although it may be a class A bear to get it out. Is the old opening for the steam vent tapped (threaded?). Probably -- just get a new plug to go in it (or maybe, just maybe, that bleeder hole plug would fit. That would be nice...)
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • grant_andrew
    grant_andrew Member Posts: 22
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    Thanks for the quick reply! I have confirmed that the existing hole is threaded, so that should be an easy plug. Thanks for the sanity check...so it's safe to assume the top is connected and it should work fine w/ hot water?
  • 136lin
    136lin Member Posts: 30
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    Bigger problem will be removing the plug at the bottom to provide the second opening for the hot water circulation.
    It is not too difficult to do, if you have some experience in doing so. If not, it can be a chore. Just be certain not to crack the cast iron while working on this beauty.

    I would plug the existing openings and pressure test it before starting to work on it. Also consider having it sand blasted to remove all of the paint.
  • grant_andrew
    grant_andrew Member Posts: 22
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    Thanks for the feedback. Any suggestions on removing the old plug on the bottom? I recently removed a bunch of 1 1/4" and 2" cast iron pipes in my basement, while preserving the threads on all fittings, so I'm confident I can pull this off.

    Is it just a matter of a big enough lever/wrench? Or should I add some heat to the plug?

  • grant_andrew
    grant_andrew Member Posts: 22
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    Oh, and are the connections on the bottom just pipe threads that I can thread an elbow/union to, or do I need to install a "spud", or special radiator fitting?
  • 136lin
    136lin Member Posts: 30
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    You can try a wrench but it rarely works, Heat might help might not.
    We usually cut off the hex nut and chop out the remainder or make a careful cut into the threaded portion of the remainder, making certain not to damage the radiator tapping. It is always a good idea to use a pipe tap to "clean up" the threads, after removing the plug. Keep in mind that the plug will probably NOT be coming out in one piece.

    Oh, and are the connections on the bottom just pipe threads that I can thread an elbow/union to, or do I need to install a "spud", or special radiator fitting?

    Yes or no. Depends on the piping arrangement. Once the plug is out, the opening is female pipe thread.

  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    I've had an awful lot of stuff like this come apart much more easily than I could imagine, but that was on closed loop water.

    Steam is an open system and therefore the corrosion can be more. With a cheater pipe and a good pipe wrench, a lot can happen.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 834
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    Use a pipe wrench with long handle or a cheater AND heat. Or a great big socket and an air-powered impact wrench. And lay the radiator down.
  • cutter
    cutter Member Posts: 292
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    If you use heat, don't heat the plug, heat the area around the plug or what ever you are trying to take out. Heat makes the metal expand.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 906
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    I would first try soaking the area many times over a few days with Liquid Wrench, PB Blaster or similar product.Then get a crescent wrench or similar tool with square jaws and not a pipe wrench. A good "Made in America" and not the foreign CRAP 18" or 24" square jaw wrench is worth the cost. A pipe wrench tends to break a pipe plug by it's jaw action. Then, try to tighten the plug just a tad to break the old age seal. *( the torque and hold is in the direction of the original installation). If you can move the plug, that will break the hold of the plug and make removal easier. A worst case scenario is that you can't remove the plug with a wrench and you have to cut out the plug. If you have to cut it out, get someone who knows how to do this so you do not ruin the rads. They are great looking rads.
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 834
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    retiredguy is right about the potential for the pipe wrench "munching up" the cast iron plug. If you can get a positive "bite" however, and the plug rotates...keep going. How about a big monkey wrench with smooth jaws adjusted nice and tight? I have done the "clockwise before counterclockwise" trick and it works. I agree about being cautious on such a nice radiator. SAVE radiators!
  • grant_andrew
    grant_andrew Member Posts: 22
    edited November 2019
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    Anyone in the Boston area that's interested in this radiator, let me know! Or, if you have one in the same size range that would work for hot water...I'm interested!
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 834
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    If that leaking weld is NOT on an end section, and it IS on one of the middle sections, you can remove that section and put the rad back together --being one section shorter and a bit less EDR. I've done it several times and it works great. SAVE radiators!
  • cutter
    cutter Member Posts: 292
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    there is a product called JB weld that might work. Drill a hole at the ends of the crack. Get a rotary file for a drill motor or Die Grinder and grind a concave grove on the crack. Lay a bead of JB Weld on the grove. I have heard a lot of good things about JB weld.
  • 136lin
    136lin Member Posts: 30
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    psb75 said:

    If that leaking weld is NOT on an end section, and it IS on one of the middle sections, !

    Did I miss something? What leaking weld??
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 834
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    I may be confusing this thread with another 'radiator' thread. If so...sorry.