Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.

Steam heat dangerous in baseboards?

I just purchased a home with a steam boiler (Peerless). Most of the house has old fashion radiators but an additional has several baseboard heaters. The heating company came out to do a cleaning and warned that the baseboards were intended for hot water heating and not steam and is encouraging us to change them. We were left with two impressions.

First, these baseboards are for hot water so cannot safely have the pressure of steam.

Two, they are not as efficient as the cast iron radiators we have in the rest of the house so we are not getting the benefit of why steam is so good.

Are we in danger using these water baseboards with a steam system? That would make me do this change more quickly. If not and it is simply about the efficiency, we would wait a season to see how it feels.
Thanks for your advice.

Comments

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    It is possible the baseboards are indeed Hot Water but supplied by the steam boiler.

    Time to find a Steam Contractor.

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/
    mattmia2
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 4,820
    Post some pictures of the baseboard so we can see what style they are, we can then comment more intelligently about your questions.

    Steam runs at significantly lower pressure than hot water, so that is absolutely not an issue.

    Baseboard, in general, is tricky on steam due to the pipe size, and drainage. If they are installed, they should always be installed like 2 pipe system to allow the condensate to drain more freely. Most of the people that come on here with steam baseboard complain about poor performance, banging, or spitting water. All those things are why the baseboard is tricky on steam and generally not recommended.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,105
    I have installed several baseboards on my steam system. If you have two pipe stem, it is pretty easy. One pipe steam and base boards are a little tricky but not impossible. No danger as long an the Genie stays inside the system. And even if he escapes, your pressure should be low (<2psi) and there should be a valve to stop the steam.
  • Bustario
    Bustario Member Posts: 6
    Wow. You guys are fast and good. Here are a couple of pics from the listing. I am not there to get close ups of the ends but I know they have small steam valves (at least I think they are) that look like what is on the cast iron radiators in the house. The system is a single pipe system that comes out of the boiler and heads all around the unfinished cellar. Do these pics help?


  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 489
    edited November 15
    Baseboard radiation can and is used for both steam and hot water mediums. Cast iron baseboard is not usually recommended for use with a one pipe steam system but I have seen it installed that way with very poor performance and is usually very noisy. It is recommended to be used on a two (2) pipe steam system or with a hot water system. Finned tube baseboard radiation using either steel piping or copper tubing for the medium supply can be used with a two (2) pipe steam steam, a hot water system, and in some cases a one(1) pipe steam steam system. On a one pipe steam system you must follow the guide lines and instructions to the letter to get good results. The warnings expressed by the HVAC company that did the service on your boiler were not necessary and were in my mind "stupid". As others have said, "it is time to call someone else". As far as your comfort is concerned, cast iron radiation either baseboard or standing cast iron radiators will work better than finned tube radiation since the cast iron radiation will yield radiant heating, think of the sun's warmth, in addition to the convection heat that you get from either one. One last thing, if you are going to mix finned tube radiation and cast iron radiation each area should be zoned since each has it's own way to heat.
    SlamDunkmattmia2wlgann
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,105
    Not the baseboards I had in mind but everything @retiredguy said applies. If it were my system, and heating was insufficient, I would investigate putting a recirc pump and circulate boiler water through your baseboards on a separate thermostat.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,049
    Those should be OK. The real criteria are first, does it heat and second, is it reasonably quiet? If it's OK on those two, you're fine just as you are. If it's a little noisy -- gurgles, clanks -- there are ways to fix that. Ditto if it doesn't heat.

    Let us know!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 10,268
    Baseboards are completely safe for a steam system. If you get satisfactory heat from them then you are fine. Leave them alone

    Bu they wouldn't be my first choice for steam. Try it and see. It depends who and how they are installed
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Member Posts: 8
    The original poster wrote "The system is a single pipe system that comes out of the boiler and heads all around the unfinished cellar". This sounds like a hot water loop run off a steam boiler. It not only works well, but I am being kept warm by that sort of system as I write . The convectors in my basement look the same too.

    Find a real steam contractor.
  • Bustario
    Bustario Member Posts: 6
    Many thanks for your help here. I think I have enough to go on for now. I am going to see how it works for this coming winter. If changes are needed, they will happen after we try this system out.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    Please
    get a Steam contractor in to go through the entire “System”. It could be perfectly safe. We need eyes on the job. 
    Where is this house located?
    dennis53
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,461
    post a picture or 3 of the boiler, floor to ceiling, and of any pumps down there,
    (I'm surprised no one else asked)
  • Bustario
    Bustario Member Posts: 6
    The house is in Dutchess County NY and I will take some pics when I am next there. We are not yet able to live in it.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    Every Plumber, Heating contractor I've dealt with Does NOT know or like Steam. You really need a contractor that KNOWS what there working on.
    mattmia2
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 818
    @Bustario I don't see any pictures of the near boiler piping which might reveal whether boiler water is pumped from the boiler through check valve to service that baseboard and/or the steam mains with the take offs (and return if any) to/from the baseboard. While this may be a one pipe system, there are ways to create a two pipe approach for the baseboard vs. a closed end with an air valve which would be more similar in approach to a radiator. one simple hint regarding the hyrdronic/steam hybrid possibility is whether there is an separate thermostat in the addition. if so, it's quite likely to be a hybrid.

    How long ago was the addition added. you can inquire of seller re their experience of operation, i.e. noise, comfort, etc.

    aside from proper venting and condensate drainage the other point made by folks is that the key difference is thermal mass so the areas that have cast iron radiators will still be receiving heat from the radiator for a longer time after the heating cycle than the baseboard – although sometimes recent additions are better insulated and constructed to more modern standards for limiting drafts in numerous critical areas so there can be a balance in that regard.

    ps, see @neilc asked similarly.

  • Bustario
    Bustario Member Posts: 6

    OK, Guys. Here are the pictures you asked for. I am including the baseboard pics with a close up of the end caps. Also, numerous pics of the actual boiler. Let me know your thoughts.









  • Bustario
    Bustario Member Posts: 6
    And here are the radiators.

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    Bad near boiler piping
    Probably oversized
    heating contractor did the work, not a steam contractor. 

    Find a steam contractor 
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,461
    can we see one more of this picture, from the top of the boiler to the ceiling, showing that diagonal pipe and above

    what pressure do you see on the gage when she's running
    how dirty is that water in the sightglass, picture
    Bustario said:




  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 1,461
    and what's leaking there at the sightglass?
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 489
    edited November 21
    As I said in an earlier post, you can almost never use finned tube baseboard with cast iron radiators and get satisfactory results due to the way each one heats it's space. The only way you will get satisfactory results with even heating in all spaces is to zone each type separately. Your best outcome would be to zone each separately or to replace the finned tube with cast iron radiators. One last item, it looks as if the finned tube baseboard is for hot water or two pipe steam only and not for one pipe steam, since the delivery tubing is too small. For baseboard radiation to work on a one pipe steam system, the steam delivery tube should be 2" steel or copper tubing or 1&1/2" for a short piece of baseboard. As the other guys have wrote, the "near boiler piping" is not correct and should be replaced. You need a service company that is well versed in steam heating. Look for a company that has a few older guts since most of the young guys are only versed in hot water heating.