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Overground steam pipes

I visit various state prisons in New York State for prison ministry. What I've seen at a few prisons is big (12") steam pipes running here and there across the prison. When I ask whether this makes sense, I'm told that yes, it's very efficient. I find this hard to believe. When I bang on them, it sounds like metal, suggesting they are not insulated. The pipes used to be underground but they got sick of fighting underground steam leaks and moved everything outside.
Does this make sense to you guys?


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,728
    Yes. If they are not in accessible tunnels, underground steam pipes are a nuisance at best. I suspect that what you are feeling when you bang on them is metal -- but that it is a metal sheathing over insulation which is, in turn, over the actual steam pipe. You can tell pretty easily -- if it were the actual steam pipe, it would be yeouch hot when in use!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,311
    What he said^^^^. Is this like a galvalume exterior sheating or are you beating on the sch 40 12" piping? Actual 10# steam piping would melt your knuckle skin as you tap on it
  • csigona
    csigona Member Posts: 6
    Thanks, folks. I appreciate your input. I didn't use my knuckle. I used a rock I picked up. And it wasn't winter time. I was easily able to get near the pipe, so it couldn't have been hot. I can't say I remember it that well. It was some years ago. Nowadays the prison guards drive us around in little vans so I can't get close to the pipes to again check them. In any case, if it sounds normal and reasonable to you to have a network of big steam pipes outside, above ground by 12-15', then I guess it's reasonable.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,311
    The only time I've ever seen bare uninsulated piping of that size outside a commercial or industrial building has been cooling tower water piping. I can't believe they'd be running bare LP steam piping outdoors and consider it efficient, but I've been wrong before. Several times. Today.