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Radiator help for a newbie homeowner

pweedithpweedith Member Posts: 3
Hey all,

I'm going into my second winter at my house and have learned a good amount about my steam radiators through the first winter. A little background, it's a 2 family home and I live on the second and third floors in one unit. I have a few questions I would like insight on:

1. My third floor is a converted attic that is now a master suite with half bath. There is no direct heat source and it is typically 5-10 degrees colder than whatever I keep my second floor heat set to. It is not the best insulated so the colder it is outside the larger the difference is between the two floors. I was wondering if there is a way to split off one of the radiator valves from the second floor so that it can continue to fill that radiator but also give me the opportunity to extend a pipe into the third floor to provide heating there, without having to run a pipe all the way from the basement.  (The other options I've considered are a mini split or running gas up and using a wall furnace. For reference it is about 425 sq ft and not the best insulated)

2. I noticed that all my radiators get hot on the top half but stay cold below. My research has shown me this is likely sludge build up. I was told elsewhere that this isn't the case with steam radiators so now I'm curious what could be causing them to only half heat. If I can get them all to fully heat I'm sure I could cut a good sized chunk off my gas bill in winter. 

3. What kind of maintenance can/should I be doing for my boilers and radiators to keep them running as efficiently as possible?

Thanks for any insight that can be provided!

Comments

  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,412
    Whether you can extend a steam line up to the third floor or not depends on the size of the line coming to the second floor and the size of the radiator(s) there and the size of what you want to put in. If the pipe is big enough -- no problem. But there is a definite limit to how much radiator a given pipe can supply. Radiators are sized by "EDR" -- that is the surface area of the radiator. There are tables available for that; a few pictures might help.

    A steam radiator typically does not get hot all the way down, unless it is very cold out and the boiler is running for a long time. I don't know where you have been researching steam radiators -- but what you have found -- a sludge buildup -- is pure unadulterated baloney. Whatever else you have found from that source or sources I would disregard completely.

    All that getting the radiators to heat fully would accomplish would be to make the room warmer. Or hotter. It wouldn't do a thing to the amount of fuel you burn to maintain the same temperature in the space.

    You would do well to purchase the book "We Got Steam Heat" from the store on this website and read it!
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
    ethicalpaul
  • dopey27177dopey27177 Member Posts: 401
    You stated your problem is lack of insulation in the attic rooms.

    The best way to save fuel without doing anything to the heating system is to insulate the attic area. Not only will it save you fuel in the winter it will save you electric in the summer when you run the a/c.

    Jake

    ethicalpaul
  • pweedithpweedith Member Posts: 3
    You stated your problem is lack of insulation in the attic rooms. The best way to save fuel without doing anything to the heating system is to insulate the attic area. Not only will it save you fuel in the winter it will save you electric in the summer when you run the a/c. Jake
    So that may have been misstated. There is insulation. It's just not perfect. I had an energy assessment done and was told that when they insulated they didn't use the thickest insulation that they should have but in order to replace it with better insulation would be a huge undertaking.

    I've also run into confusion with sealing off the attic completely from outside. The problem I keep reading about is that without some sort of way for air to filter then moisture can build and I can end up with mold issues.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 13,412
    The problem with moisture in an attic depends a lot on where the insulation is. You will not have a moisture problem if the air temperature in the attic is above the dewpoint of the air and there is a vapour barrier on the warm side of the insulation. From your description, I'm thinking that the insulation is in the roof, not the attic floor, as you are using the attic as a living space. In that situation, what needs to happen is that air has to be able to move from the soffits up the roof between the insulation and the roof, and then out a ridge vent -- all with a vapour barrier on the inside. Alternatively, you can have spray foam tight against the roof structure, though that has to be done carefully and the roof has to be in good shape and kept that way.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 5,128
    How fast are you venting the radiators? If you vent radiators very fast (Heatimer vents) you can vent so fast that steam just shoots across the radiator without filling it with steam.

    If this just happens sometimes it's probably just the thermostat getting satisfied before the radiators fill with steam.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
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