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

Discussion in 'Boiler Forum' started by rybolt5, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. rybolt5

    rybolt5 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Faribault, MN
    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. mtcummins

    mtcummins In the Trades

    Messages:
    380
    Location:
    Pittsburgh PA
    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.
  3. rybolt5

    rybolt5 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Faribault, MN
    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. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,172
    Location:
    Maine
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,623
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    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.
  6. mtcummins

    mtcummins In the Trades

    Messages:
    380
    Location:
    Pittsburgh PA
    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 :)
  7. BadgerBoilerMN

    BadgerBoilerMN Master Hot Water Mpls,MN

    Messages:
    303
    Location:
    Minneapolis
    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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