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Hello! I’ve been reading old discussions here trying to figure out why I am getting terrible headaches and dizziness from my heating system.

We moved into this old (1927) house two years ago and we were told the steam heat system is great. “They don’t make them like this anymore.” The plumber talks about it like a classic car. Lol.

Well, before we moved in, we had all the cast iron radiators removed, blasted and repainted. The were reinstalled with all new valves and vents. From the time they turned on, they have smelled horrific. My family no longer notices and I may have a sensitive sinuses, but it’s definitely not gone. When I lean directly over them, the smell does not get stronger. In fact i barely smell it. But walking around the house, it’s noticeable. Almost a gasoline smell. Or oil or paint. 

I don’t see how it could be the paint on the rads since it’s had to years to bake off. I regularly flush the boiler because it’s old and the plumber said it was good maintenance. It’s always brown and rusty before I drain it. 

The pipe sealant (dope?) Is visible on some of the fittings, so is the white plumbers tape. Could either of those things be reheating and letting off gasses? Could it be a pipe leak? Why would that smell like noxious gas?



  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,808
    is the boiler oil or gas ?
    do you have a CO detector(s)?
    with a digital readout, and a "Peak" level button to push and display <trigger levels?

    smells only when the heat is, heating?
    can you smell it (paint) at the radiator when the system is cold ?
    or when the system is running, and first started, can you smell it right at the vents(varivalves) ?

    at the boiler, what does the water look like in the sightglass? yellow/green/red? dirty?
    does the sightglass level bounce much? more than an inch?

    yes, there have been issues with some tapes, but if I remember correctly, they were blue.
    known to beat dead horses
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,654
    What type of paint did you use?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,377
    HVACNUT said:

    What type of paint did you use?

    That's the key question. My bet would be on the paint, particularly if it was one of the high temperature epoxy or oil paints used on engines and the like.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,313
    I would suggest an industrial hygenist to test the air while it is heating. It could be unrelated to the paint but it probably is the paint.

    How long ago were they painted
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,207
    It's not the thread sealer.

    I'd expect it to take a long time for the paint to fully "cure". 

    Id expect the bulk of the smell to be gone after a month.  All of the smell after a season or two.

    I'd get rid of the vents you have though and use Gorton's but that's not going to change the smell.

    They look beautiful, I want to do all of mine in black.  I've been planning flat black.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment