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basement steam pipe insulation, benefits?

LS123 Member Posts: 466
Hello All!
Basement temp doesn't drop below below 55 F, average temp is probably 60 F.
I have one pipe steam system.
(1) Should I insulate all the pipes, including return pipe?
(2) if so what should I be using to insulate the pipes, main pipe is about 2 inches, others are less than in diameter.
(3) by insulating them should I expect much better performance, energy efficiency?
Thank you!
Thank you!


  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,607
    I don’t think you’ll notice less fuel $ used, but there might be some savings.

    you might notice quicker time between thermostat call for heat and steam arrival at radiators (but not during the shoulder seasons).

    it might get a bit cooler in your basement 
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,094
    Biggest benefit of having your pipes insulated is
    That’s the way it was designed to be
    Puts heat where the emitters are not where they ain’t
    No insulation leaves to more condensate forming until the mains are hot enough to allow the steam to travel with out turning back into condensate more condensate in mains leads to pipe grooving . Coupled w improper near boiler piping and uninsulated mains over time will lead to the development of leaks usually on the bottom of the supply pipe and usually at a fitting being the pipe wall is it s thinnest . Personally I get work replacing section of mains that rot its nice work . Aside from those tidbits uninsulated mains also produce more rust and mud then insulated mains and sometimes they will bang from the build up of garbage in the mains making condensate pool . These are things I have ran into in my 30 plus years in the business . Usually I ll give them a price on insulating or return later to replace some more rotted mains . I think a lot of guys never pick upon the whole picture and just don’t care . In some cases uninsulated mains only seem to make the basement the most comfortable place to be and balancing a uninsulated system w long mains can be a challenge even w over venting the mains . I ve insulated systems and basically change the way a home owner feel about there steam systems and that finally they have heat in there home and not a blazing hot basement . As for fuel saving if your getting heat to where it should be instead where you don’t need you will save . I ve had ho w very large 100 year old plus homes w steam systems and completely changed there minds but also lowered there fuel consumption considerably that the complete insulation job was recovered in less then a year . These home burned some fuel and a lot of it and properly insulating of there mains changed the game . Put the heat where it needs to be . Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 466
    Thank you @clammy !! It seems best to insulate them so I dont have to replace the pipes due to corrosion, plus there will be fuel savings over the years etc.... plus insulation dont cost much, I have a very small amount of pipes to insulate. Your feed back is definitely helpful !
    Thank you!
  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 394
    Most of the heat becomes radiant floor heat. As mentioned, faster response time. Slightly less condensate in the main.

    Downside is pickup is reduced. So if the boiler is a little oversized, as many are, it makes it even more oversized and will want to cycle on pressure.

    Best benefit is adding insulation to potentially reduce boiler size when replacing.

    One reason not much energy is saved, is that most homes air leaks in to the basement. SO all your doing is preheating infiltration in the basement before it migrates to the 1st floor. As such, it would same more energy in mild weather and less in cold weather, which seems counterintuitive.
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 466
    thank you @motoguy128
    Thank you!