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Reason for heating pipes in attic


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The original portion of today's house was built approximately 1850 and the addition was built maybe 100 years ago. A 175,000 BTU boiler was recently installed. The distribution is currently circulated hot water, but judging by the diameter of the pipes, it was originally a gravity hot water or two pipe steam system. The radiators don't look like any that I've seen used with steam, but there is a Hartford Loop of sorts behind the boiler.

There are heating pipes running around the perimeter of the attic (no radiators in the attic. There is a riser with an air vent at the top.

I can't figure out what the purpose of this attic loop is. It's got to be an ice dam maker in the winter.

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Hey Joe,

Where you goin' with that gun in your hand?

(sorry, I couldn't help myself)

I still see remnants of a few old gravity systems with open expansion tanks in the attic each year. I don't recall seeing one run a lap around the attic, but I wonder if that might be what you saw.


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Thanks Bill. As usual you nailed it.

I don't recall ever seeing an overhead system before.

And thanks for the offer of more detail, but I won't need it. I feel kind of stupid, but I had the info available to me all along in my library (courtesy of Dan Holohan). Your diagram jogged my memory. I knew I'd seen it before. He called it a "first class" system.

It seemed to have made the transition to circulated pretty well, judging by the uniformity of radiator temperature. I still wonder about ice damming, given the fact that the soffits are close to 18 inches wide. No signs of it though.

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Approximately 1850 and 1910.

Surprisingly, there were no signs of ice damming.

No worries about the asbestos - it was in excellent condition. [:-crazy]

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I think your mistaken about the trap. It sure looks more like a pitcher trap to me. It must be a lot newer than the rest of the system, because it's made of plastic.

Speaking of traps, lying next to the 'pitcher trap' was a victim of a bear trap. How sad that he spend his lonely days looking forlornly out the floor-level attic window.

It sure was an interesting house.

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