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December 3, 2003

Understanding 1928 Steam Heating

The cold weather and a lot of prodding got me interested in solving a heating disparity in our home. We have steam heated radiators throughout the home, but for the past three winters (since we've lived here) 50% of the radiators get 100% of the steam and thus only 50% of our house is warm.

I've had several theories about the heating problem but wasn't until today's extreme cold that I attempted to test any of the theories.

Each radiator has a small valve/dial on the side opposite the steam entrance, numbered from 1 to 10. My theory was that as steam rose from the furnace each radiator valve would regulate how much/fast the steam came through by allowing air currently in the radiator to escape making room for the steam. Radiators with closed valves would make very little room for steam and not get warm while radiators with open valves would get hot quickly.

The theory seems to be true. Each radiator that was getting no heat either had a closed valve or the valve was clogged. I pulled each valve off and blew air through until it flowed easily through. Within just a few minutes of the valve opening or cleaning the "poor" radiators became hot.

Will continue to monitor over the next week to make sure we've got valves set correctly to heat the house evenly. Going into our third winter here it feels really good to have this solved.

Posted by mike at December 3, 2003 9:43 PM