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Pipe And Baseboard Convector Life

GordoG Member Posts: 15
I am trying to determine the life expectancy of my hot water pipes and baseboard convectors.

My house was built in 1923. It had a coal boiler and floor standing radiators. In 1952 it was converted to an oil boiler and baseboard convectors. Sometime in the mid 1980’s it was converted to a gas boiler and retained the baseboard convectors. I do not know if the supply and return pipes are from 1923 or 1952.

The first floor zone hot water leaves the boiler and splits into two loops with each smaller loop heating half the first floor. They meet and combine into one pipe just before returning to the boiler. I am only concerned with the first floor as the basement and second floor zones are newer copper.

The baseboard convectors were made by the C A Dunham Company of Chicago. I have copies of their catalogs from 1948 and 1953. The technical information is the same. These convectors are made from 1¼” steel pipe with steel fins pressed onto the pipe. There is not any copper or aluminum in these convectors. I base that on catalog data and the fact that a magnet sticks to the pipe and fins.

With the above information, would anyone care to estimate the remaining life of these 68 year old convectors or the risk of leaks? I don’t want water spraying all over hardwood floors or carpet. Also, the foot print is larger than modern convectors. If the convectors need to be replaced, I would like to replace them before I replace any carpet.

Again, at this time I am only trying to assess the risk in not replacing the convectors.



  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,467
    Tough to know, I think it would be related to the life it has led over the years. Sealed, tight hydronic systems can and do last for decades. Any air, or O2 that has entered over the years can lead to rust and corrosion.

    A thin protective coating is desired on pipes and tubes, too much corrosion can lead to problems. A sample of the current system fluid high give you some direction. Most all the boiler chemical companies offer water analysis specific to hydronics, not drinking water :)

    In some cases a working system that old is best left alone. When you start adding cleaners and chemicals you could cause more problems that you solve.

    I suppose one could have a company do testing via X ray or other techniques that they use on oil and gas pipeline to assure metal thickness and condition. Might be wise to have a plan b in place should you start to see leaking?

    The book Rust the Endless War, by Jonathan Waldman details how they "pig" the Alaskan pipe line regularly to assures the condition of the pipe, valve and fittings.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream