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Hudson Valley steam help?

Hi there,

My wife and I just bought a big old (1870) Victorian up in the Beacon/Newburgh NY area, and it has a heating system out of a Dan Holohan anxiety dream. There are one-pipe radiators, two-pipe radiators, "missing link" radiators with two pipes but also an air ven,t and I think one "pseudo-missing-link" radiator that was supposed to be two-pipe but which at some point had an air-vent drilled into it by mistake. All of the radiators hiss alarmingly loudly, and heat at different rates. Some of them also leak and rattle. Water hammer from a riser wakes us every morning. The boiler's in good shape, but it may be too large for the number of radiators we have...though the entire top floor is unfinished and unheated and needs to be brought onto the system. And the main vents, pictured, look too old and rusty to possibly still be working.

We desperately need help from someone who knows their stuff. A local heating guy came round, didn't even look at the radiators, but told me not to worry about the size of the boiler because "it's a big house," or about the main vents because "the vents are on the radiators." He then promised he could solve all my problems with a single dose of hugely expensive "chemicals." I've read enough Holohan to recognize this as the mating call of the knucklehead but I was intimidated and went for it anyway. Now the water in my boiler's green and I'm poorer, but nothing else has changed.

Can anyone recommend a nearby expert? Find a Contractor is only giving me names in New Jersey or New York City, more than an hour away.




  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    For reasons which aren't clear to me, your area is sort of a black hole for steam contractors, and I don't know of any who aren't at least an hour away -- or more.

    However, sometimes wonders can be done with a competent plumber -- and some help from the folks here.

    What would be very helpful would be some pictures of the boiler and the piping around it, so we can comment on that. Also, if you can make a sketch or diagram of what you've got -- what's one pipe, two pipe, hybrid nightmaes, whatever and particularly which pipes are well above the water line and which pipes are not, we may be able to make some intelligent comments.

    That vent may well be one of the -- or possibly the only -- main vent, and it's probably not big enough -- but that we can tell better from the sketch.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,158
    Hi, I'm a service tech out of Dutchess county. Unfortunately I can't help you either. I only service one house a year with steam heat, I can count on one hand the number of steam boilers that I have seen working in every county from Westchester and Rockland to Ulster and Columbia since 2006.Unfortunately the one customer I have been seeing yearly recently decided to stop using the boiler in favour of new ductless heat pumps.
    I'd love to know of a steam expert in the area myself, I know that many old homes in Poughkeepsie, Beacon and Newburgh still utilise steam.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,832
    That's an old Trane main vent- rather small by today's standards.

    Maybe you could sweet-talk one of the NYC guys to come up?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,158
    I'd try to call around to some companies out of Westchester county. Lot of old homes down there, should be easier to find a steam boiler expert.
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
    I’m based in north eastern jersey maybe a hour away , you can contact either by e mail or phone Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    Hey. If @clammy s willing to go up there, do it.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England