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Just recently noticing small leaks from radiator unions in single pipe steam system

Hi-
I've got a 1921 house with a single pipe steam system (boiler replaced ~7 years ago). We recently had a lot of home renovation done, and the (reputable) contractors painted radiators, but I do not believe that they disconnected any (other than the one that they permanently removed from the upstairs bathroom). Over the past week, I have been noticing some leaks from some of the unions between radiators and steam pipes. There is some very localized warping of the hardwood floor immediately underneath the valves. I have tried tightening the nuts with a pipe wrench, with apparently limited results. Neither my wife nor I noticed the sounds or small areas of water before. The only other change is that I recently adjusted the Pressuretrol (downward, based on settings I've seen recommended on this site).

I need to find a new steam heat expert for this and to take a look at the overall functioning of my system, but I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts about what I'm noticing.

Also, I used the 'find a contractor' function on here and came up with a few names, but am wondering if anyone has any personal recommendation for someone who serves the Metro West Boston area (I'm in Framingham). The guy who installed the boiler seemed very knowledgeable but is not very accessible. I've come to realize that there are a lot of knuckleheads in the area (I learned this when I was looking for a contractor to replace the old boiler... Thanks, Dan!)

Thank you. This site is a great resource. I even watched Dan's General Society on Youtube yesterday (and understood at least some of it).

OS

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    My guess is that when you adjusted the Pressuretrol down, you may have gone too far, which resulted in the disconnection of the linkage, thus raising the pressure.
    There is a procedure somewhere here to restore the normal settings, but I cant find it.
    There is a lot to be said for having a Vaporstat, and a low pressure gauge, graduated in ounces.
    Have you tried the "find a contractor" button. Take the names from that, and then search for their postings to get a measure of the man behind.--NBC
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,952
    The two best bets that I know of in your area, @OccamsShaver , are Ryan at @New England SteamWorks and Charles, @Charlie from wmass . Both are very good indeed -- and, no surprise, both are very busy.

    On the radiators -- are you sure the contractors didn't disconnect and reconnect the radiators to paint them? Or the walls in back of them? Or even perhaps just lean on them hard? Retightening unions isn't all that hard, but it isn't totally obvious, either. I'd suggest that you back off the union nut and separate the union and look at the mating, sealing faces and make sure they are clean and smooth -- don't use an abrasive of any kind on them! Then push them back into contact (some folks like a thin smear of dish soap on the mating faces -- but nothing else). Make sure that the pipes are as perfectly aligned as you can. Then tighten the union nut. You may find that rocking the radiator very slightly from front to back while you do the final tightening helps. You don't have to be a gorilla -- it's either going to seal or it's not, and more force won't help. No pipe dope. No teflon tape.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • OccamsShaver
    OccamsShaver Member Posts: 8
    Thanks for the replies. I am going to call Ryan at New England Steamworks on Monday. I adjusted the Pressuretrol today and I think that this successfully reduced the pressure. But the boiler pressure couldn't really be enough to make those unions leak if they weren't leaking before, could it?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,952

    Thanks for the replies. I am going to call Ryan at New England Steamworks on Monday. I adjusted the Pressuretrol today and I think that this successfully reduced the pressure. But the boiler pressure couldn't really be enough to make those unions leak if they weren't leaking before, could it?

    You'd be surprised...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 984
    I second @Jamie Hall 's recommendation regarding Charlie. I'm near Albany and he wasn't willing to come to my apartments, but gave me great advice over the phone and internet. Give him a try too.