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Name that heating system

Jim Katen

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I see few hydronic heating systems and even fewer steam systems so my knowledge is quite thin in those areas.

In this condo (2nd floor of a 5-story high rise) I only had access to the interior of the unit. I couldn't see the boiler or any of the piping except for the two pipes in each corner of the room next to these radiators.

What am I looking at? My first guess was a two-pipe steam system.

The unit interior was unbearably hot. At the larger radiator, the valve was turned all the way in the clockwise direction, which I take to be the closed position, but the radiator was still too hot to touch. When I turned the valve counter clockwise, I heard what sounded like water rushing into the radiator.

What kind of heating system is this?

Is the valve malfunctioning or are you supposed to control the temperature in this unit by opening the windows in winter?

Any other useful observations?


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Thats a 2 pipe system,supply and return line .

Normally closing that valve should isolate it from system unless valve doesnt close all the way.

Could it have been converted to hot water?

If steam, is it normal to get a rushing water sound when the valve is opened? Heck, would that be normal if it were a hot water system?

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Oh yes, one other observation: the heating system was making clanking and banging sounds throughout the lobby, the hallways and in the unit. The sounds were so typical of other steam systems that I've seen, that I just assumed that it was a steam system until I heard the rushing water sound in the radiator.

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It's no doubt a 2-pipe steam system. Your photos show steam traps at the bottom left of each radiator. These traps would have had to have been removed to operate as a circulating hot water system.

Central heat in old apartment buildings was typically sized to allow for many tenants' windows to be open. So yes - that is how temperature is individually controlled at the units.

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