Insulating steam pipes

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by yellowjacket, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. yellowjacket

    yellowjacket New Member

    Aug 21, 2009
    retired early due to D/A
    I bought a multi-family a few years ago which has steam heat (radiators) for the two apartments on the 1st floor. The previous owner had the asbestos removed from the pipes in the basement and the tenants tell me that the heating bills are through the roof.

    My question is what to use to insulate them. I've seen the insulation pipe wraps with the foil on the outside at home depot. I've estimated that it will cost me $1000 to do the job. I'm not overly worried about cost as I want to keep my tenants happy.

    Any feedback would be appreciated.
  2. Winslow

    Winslow Plumber

    Dec 30, 2005
    If you're not worried about the cost why don't you hire someone to do it, it should be tax deductable.
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  4. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Nov 20, 2008
    Chicago Illinois Licensed Plumber
    Chicago, IL
  5. Eldan

    Eldan New Member

    Aug 28, 2009
    Look for fiberglass pipe insulation with "all-service jacket" ASJ. It's white, not shiny. Also, don't buy it at Home Depot. They only stock 1/2" and that's not thick enough. Assuming you have a 2" mains you want 1" minimum thickness. ASHRAE code is 1-1/2". You can also find PVC fitting covers to insulate the elbows & tees. It's especially important to insulate the near-boiler piping.

    While it's not hard to do this yourself, it is hard to make it neat. Also, this insulation gets cheaper when you buy it by the trailer load. A contractor might be able to do the whole job for about the same as your materials cost.
  6. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Aug 31, 2004
    San Diego, CA
    We had steam heat in the house where I grew up. Over the years, a lot of pipe insulation either fell off, or was removed in the course of repairs/add ons, and not replaced. So there was a lot of bare pipe. The house was always toasty cozy. I just assumed any heat off the pipes came up into the house anyway. Couldn't tell you what the impact on the heating bill was.
  7. Eldan

    Eldan New Member

    Aug 28, 2009
    It's not just the heating bill. Heating uninhabited space is wasteful, but more importantly, steam systems were designed to run with insulated mains. They didn't put asbestos on the old systems to save money. If you run a steam system into cold uninsulated pipes you will create too much condensate too quickly, resulting in hammer, wet steam, and spitting vents.
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