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Adding radiators to wet return pipe?

Nick11 Member Posts: 11
Hello all, floating an idea here and want to see how practical it is.

So I have a one pipe steam system. Was in the basement and saw that most of my wet return pipes are above ground.

Looking at them, a thought crossed my mind. The return pipes are relative still warm and filled with water. What if I treat it like water heating system and add a radiator, baseboard heater or fins to it?

Probably won't get the same amount of heat from an actual hot water system, but will it offer any noticeable difference? Feel like baseboards Might gave the best result.


  • jhewings
    jhewings Member Posts: 139
    This is probably not practical because the radiators would have a tendency to silt up with the red mud. This could be bad for your system because the returns would slow down. Then your LWCO cuts out or calls for more water. A hot water loop is a far more common. There is an excellent article here by Dan Holohan about hot water loops. Someone will post the link.
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 917
    This discussion has come up before. The water flow rate and available temperature differential in the condensate return piping are so low that you won’t get a meaningful increase in basement temperature this way. It is not “free” heat either, since the burner must still heat the returning condensate (which will be cooler if it flows through a radiator) to steam temperature.

  • Nick11
    Nick11 Member Posts: 11
    Thanks for the inputs. Basement isn't really cold, just thought maybe it could be a side project I can play with in the spring. Water loop is too much work, adding a radiator is something I can manage myself. Didn't except it to add too much heat. Clogging and reheating of the condensation returns outweighs the added radiator. 
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,702
    edited January 2022
    I always post the link 😅

    It’s easier than you think. Don’t rule out a hot water loop that circulates boiler water with no heat exchanger. That’s what I’m using for two radiant floors. Very straightforward.

    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el