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Thread: Safely shut off steam radiators? Only using front of old building

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member rybolt5's Avatar
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    Default Safely shut off steam radiators? Only using front of old building

    Hi all - I have a storefront in the upstairs front 1/3 of an old building. There is a single thermostat that controls the whole building. Can I safely shut-off steam radiators in a one-pipe system? My section has 2-pipe with thermostatic valves, but the rest of the building seems to be on one-pipe. There are 2 boilers and it seems one feeds the other. Anyway, I thought if I could safely shut-off one-pipe radiators then I'd just do that and my issues would be solved. Heating costs for January really hurt.

    Thanks,
    Rusty

  2. #2
    In the Trades mtcummins's Avatar
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    Yes, you can shut off individual radiators in both 1 pipe and 2 pipe systems. 2 pipe systems you can also "throttle" the valves, meaning partially close them to try to get a little less heat out of that particular radiator. 1 pipe, you must have valve either fully open or fully closed.

    How much of the building are you thinking of shutting down? How cold will it get in there? Is there plumbing lines, etc that could freeze up and burst if allowed to get too cold? Plaster will generally start cracking if temp goes below about 50 degrees consistently, if that's a concern. There's a lot of factors, more info about your situation would help.

    If you can get the load that you're supplying down significantly, you may be able to shut down one of your boilers. Again, more info would be needed to determine that, but that could really help.

    Then its just a matter of making your system efficient - insulate steam mains, run at low pressure, vent system well, etc. Combining all these things on an old system that has been messed with by a bunch of guys who don't know what they're doing on steam can often save 1/4 to 1/3 of operating costs w/o reducing heat output at all. Reducing load on system (by shutting down areas) can reduce that even further.

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    DIY Junior Member rybolt5's Avatar
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    Good stuff - thank you for your reply. And good news, too. I'm hoping to be here for the long haul, so I'll get in a professional to have a look. Any suggestions on how to find good steam professionals? It sounds like a good solution can be had if I get the right fella in. Running a new thermostat to my area would also be key, but I imagine could be tricky considering all the radiators in my area have TRVs.

  4. #4
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You do NOT feed one steam boiler from the other one, and it would also be rare to run two boilers from a single thermostat. IF either of these is really the case, then you do need a steam expert to correct the system before you do anything else.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  6. #6
    In the Trades mtcummins's Avatar
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    Yeah, the boilers don't feed each other. They either work together and join their steam into a common header that feeds the system, or one only comes on in certain conditions while other one runs at all calls for heat, or one is simply a backup to the other and shouldn't be running at all. You have to do load calculations etc to be able to know all of that stuff.

    Depending on the thermostat, you often do run 2 boilers off one thermostat. But it won't be your standard thermostat like you run a furnace with, unless both boilers run together all the time, then you can wire it that way in theory.

    Definitely go to heatinghelp.com. I post over there frequently (as MTC in that forum). Those guys are the best when it comes to steam heat especially. There's a find a contractor link, most/all of those guys are real pros, not knuckleheads who screw up the system and create work for the real pros for later

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    Master Hot Water Mpls,MN BadgerBoilerMN's Avatar
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    The best efficiency in steam boilers comes from regular maintenance, with proper water quality control, clean heat exchangers and tuned burners. You might also consider converting the two pipe steam to hot water, with a new condensing boiler and cut your fuel bill in half.

    Shutting down radiators doesn't always turn out the way you planned.

    We hold Master Steam and Hot water for Minneapolis and St.Paul and could look at your system.

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