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Building Steam Heating Problems

I live in a 4 floor- 8 apartment coop building (two aparments per floor, with a front and rear one-pipe steam heating lines) that is experiencing the following heating problems:

2 ground floor apartments are uncomfortably cold throughout the winter while the upper three floors are fine or too hot. There is one thermostat in the building one the second floor set at 72. If we raise the temperature to heat the lower floor, the upper floors overheat and it raises our heating bill, so we are looking for solution in which we can keep the thermostat set at 72.

separately, to solve their individual overheating problems, both second floor apartments have removed one of their radiators. on the third floor, one of the apartments can get too hot also but only sometimes, so they do not want to do anything permanent like remove a radiator. I have suggested an adjustable radiator valve (such as the vari-valve from heat-timer.com). Any good/bad experiences - shouldn't this work?

I have also suggested smaller size valves for any other apartments that overheating on the upper floors to reduce the amount of heat being released (as opposed to them opening windows or removing a radiator). The ground floor apartments already have largest opening Gorton D size valves. The theory I have applied in making this suggestion, and would like someone with heating expertise to confirm or deny, is that if there is less heat being released on top floors, the boiler will continue to heat the building longer than it did before in order to get to the temperature cut off of 72 (and thus making the ground floor warmer).

Cost is of course a factor, so re-zoning the building is not an unlikely option.

Comments

  • Al Letellier_2
    Al Letellier_2 Member Posts: 15
    stream problems

    Simple solution, Franklin.....TRV's. Installing Thermostatic valves (in your case, vents) and locating the stat in the coldest space will allow even heating thoughout the building. We have had much experience and success with this devices and combined with a steam cycling controller (co-ordinating boiler run time with outdoor temperature) you can see significant savings and almost immediate payback (one heating season). Consult a steam heating pro, you'll be amazed.
  • bb
    bb Member Posts: 99
    check the library

    Franklin:

    Look in the Library under thermostatic radiator valves. Dan has placed several articles Danfoss published regarding 1PS. Intalling these will increase the comfort in your building, less overheating, and help balance the system.

    Then click on the "Find a Pro" link and have a pro look at your system. Check steam pressure, pitch of the pipes, and ensure the boiler room piping is correct.

    Warm Regards,

    bb
  • thfurnitureguy_4
    thfurnitureguy_4 Member Posts: 398


    Franklyn, I'm about through with a simular situation in my building. The trv is a good way to help balance the system room to room but you should not forget the main vents in the basement. It sounds like the bottom floors are at the end of the steam run. If your main vents are too small or inoporative, your boiler will shut off before the last radiators heat fully. If you raise the stat you will over heat the rooms with the the fast radiators ( the ones near to the boiler or at the top, steam rises), and just start heating the slow ones. Ideally you want steam filling the whole length of the big main pipes at the same time. In the real world you should have steam at your big main vent in the basement within a few min. after the boiler starts to make steam. My building had been converted from a coal system to an oil system and then that oil boiler was changed 3 years ago It never in the last 80 years +/- had the propper amount of venting on the mains. It makes a huge diference in fuel consumption and comfort. Check your main vents and time how long it takes to get steam to them. If it is a long time mesure the length of your main from boiler to the main vent and the pipe diameter. Post what you find. Best of luck T.
  • michael_15
    michael_15 Member Posts: 231
    sounds like

    you have your steam going to the attic first, then feeding downward -- but you need bigger/more main vents at the bottom of the supply main after it goes through all of the floors.

    What do you have there now? How big/long is the steam main?

    -Michael

  • Franklin Jeffers
    Franklin Jeffers Member Posts: 5
    Piping layout and vents

    Sorry for being ignorant but I don't know what vents to check in the basement. Where should these be located - on the boiler or on the outsides of the building? Are vents and valves the same thing. (there are no radiators in the basement).

    As far as the steam piping goes its the following situation. one pipe comes from the boiler (located in the front) and heads to the rear of the building. There it splits off into two lines before it heads up into the first floor apartment. The larger first floor (with the Gorton D valve) is in the living room and must also heat up a larger space incl. the kitchen and entrance area as these are all open to each other. The other radiator is for the bedroom only and this room gets too hot sometimes (however, if I leave the door open then I have a cool draft coming in the room and wake up with a runny nose).

    So the coldest apartments (ground floor) are actually hit the steam first.
  • michael_15
    michael_15 Member Posts: 231
    oh

    I guess my initial thought on the piping was wrong. So if I'm understanding you correctly, the first floor radiators get hot first, but don't get hot enough (rather, don't warm up the floor enough) before the upper floors overheat?

    Does the first floor radiator (the big one) heat all the way across by the time the upper floor radiators heat?

    That's wacky, especially if you already have a Gorton D on the first floor radiator.

    From the sound of it, TRVs would surely solve your problem, though they wouldn't solve the underlying issue in that there's something wrong with the venting scheme.

    Tell us a little bit about the timing of the system (time from when boiler starts making steam (you can tell when the closest pipes get hot) to when radiators start getting hot and/or get fully hot). . .

    -Michael
  • John Shea
    John Shea Member Posts: 247
    Are you sure the first floor radiators aren't heating OK?

    Are the first floor radiators heating up to the touch? But the rooms are cold?

    If they are, it sounds like insulation could be an issue. If you've got a lot of heat loss through the roof, the heat of course will follow and draw all the hot air up and out leaving the first floor room temp the coldest.

    TRVs are good in theory, but I've found that tightening the building envelope (via insulation, replacement windows/storms and weatherstrip) gives a lot more bang for your buck.

    You may have to resort to pricy TRVs in the long run, however, you definitely can't lose by insulating properly.
  • thfurnitureguy_4
    thfurnitureguy_4 Member Posts: 398


    Pictures send some pictures of: Boiler, main pipe where it turns into a return (the smaller pipe that goes back to the bottom of the boiler. That is where your main vent lives. should look like a orange juice can sized cylander or a big lolly pop, or a big bullet. Also what work has been done in the last 20 years or so. Did the system ever work? did someone fix somthing and it stopped working? ask the questions and look for new looking piping. anything that has been changed since the building heat was first installed is suspect. This site can solve the problem hang in there.
  • Franklin Jeffers
    Franklin Jeffers Member Posts: 5
    Boiler

    I hope someone is still reading this...i have a newborn who has been very time consuming

    Not sure if the system ever worked properly. The previous owner lived here for 5 or 6 years before we did and another current owner here told us he always complained about the heating. So at least since 1997 - this ground floor apartment has been like this. (Of course, when I was buying he told us the apt heats up great in the winter, never been a problem:) As afar as work done, I was told he put insulation around the steam pipes. Boiler was switched off accidentally during the winter by a contractor; when it was flipped back on we found out the steam pressure was running high (about 5-6) and the cutoff was set too high (11). A plumber adjusted this and flushed the system. Since then we also had a thermostatic coupler replaced after the boiler went down again (this should also be pictured, please confirm)

    I have seen that the steam pipes coming out of the boiler branch off in 6 different places - this is a little strange because I only know of 2 going through the rear apartment and 3 going through the front apartment. As far as vents going, I recently discovered that there is a valve on the main steam branch just before where they (the two branches) branch off and go up to the rear apartments. (first two photos) I haven't see any of these valves on any of the other 4 branches. (subsequent photos)

    The local plumbing people we had come by didn't really check the basement piping for pitch so I was wondering if this is a simple matter for me to do of putting a level to the pipe and seeing if it slopes back toward the boiler and I can do this with the insulation on. I am concerned because the two steam branches feeding the rear apartments seem to slope away from the boiler -- not sure if this would explain why the ground floor gets poor heat but the apartments above have no complaints.

    Also pictured (boiler photos and thermostatic coupler?)
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    The pic displayed with your post

    shows a main vent (the round thing on the small 45-degree elbow)- a Gorton #1. It may be too small for that main- to be sure we'd need the length and diameter of the main.

    The boiler piping is dead wrong, this may be causing wet steam and playing havoc with steam distribution also. The boiler manual has the proper piping diagram in it.

    The downward pitch of the steam mains is just the way it should be. This allows condensate (water) to drain into the vertical pipe at the end of the main, and flow back to the boiler.

    Where are you located? I'm sure there's a good steam man near you... try the Find a Professional page of this site.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • thfurnitureguy_4
    thfurnitureguy_4 Member Posts: 398


    Steamhead< kinda looks like a variation on a drop header. The Gorton is suspect looks like its leaking or could be stuck (boil in Vinagar) What is with the rear pipe being smaller than the front one on the boiler?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,719
    That's one of the problems I saw

    in that view, the boiler riser on the right is smaller than the left one. The small riser is bullheaded into the equalizer pipe. It's not a drop header by any stretch of the imagination.

    Here's one of mine. The basic pattern should be the same, except that the steam outlets on the Weil-McLain are at the top rather than at the side like those on the pictured Columbia.

    There does seem to be some discoloration on the Gorton vent, but that may have been due to a flooded system. Gortons seem to be more forgiving than most other vents, so it may just need to be cleaned.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
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