Dripping sound in walls when heater turns on

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  #1  
Old 01-03-07, 01:24 PM
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Dripping sound in walls when heater turns on

Hi all. I'm new to the forum and searched the board for the answer to this but could not find one. I apologize if it's a duplicate question.

I live in an apartment with natural gas powered water baseboard heating. When the heating kicks on, I hear a dripping sound in the walls -- it sounds like it is outside of the pipes, a splatting sound like water droplets hitting the ground. Is this normal? Is it a problem?

I let my landlord know that there was a dripping sound in the walls, but he didn't respond or seem concerned. The baseboard heating was just installed right before I moved in, so this winter is the first time it has been used. Heat does come from all of the heating units, and the heater itself seems to work well -- there's just the noise in the walls. What I'm wondering is if this is damaging the house, and also if this is costing me extra money -- the building is very old and has virtually no insulation left, part of what has led to a frustratingly expensive heating process. So I'm wondering if this is part of what is causing my high bills, or if it is just a normal aspect of the baseboard heating.

Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated!
 
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  #2  
Old 01-03-07, 02:19 PM
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It depends on the sound you are hearing. You make it sound like a drip, but it doesn't sound like you are very familiar with baseboard hot water systems and their sounds. If its a new system it could be a leak at one of the pipe soldered joints but I doubt it since it isn't that hard to solder a joint and you said dripping sound in "walls" plural. Hard to believe they left the system with multiple leaks. If it is a leak, then yes is going to damage/is damaging the house. But you are renting so you did your part and told him. Write a letter to him and keep a copy so you have proof you told him if he tries to blame you for not telling him after there is damage.

Other than a leak, despite getting heat through all baseboards, you may still be hearing the sound of air in your pipes. They may not have bled all the air out of the system after the installation. Unless your landlord is lazy and doesn't care about water damage that must be what he is thinking. You will hear a waterfall or rushing water sound when the boiler kicks on. If it is air it just means your landlord needs to get a radiator key and bleed air out of the end of each baseboard where there is a air valve hidden under a flap. You bleed it out until you get water coming continuously into the cup you hold under the little nipple at the valve. It takes some time hitting each baseboard. It's usually easiest while the boiler's circulator is running and pushing the water through but that's when the water is also fairly hot. Be careful if you do it yourself. Your landlord or the installation company should do it and I don't know if you want to personally mess with it just to get rid of the noise. There isn't much damage you could cause doing it yourself, particularly with brand new valves, and the key is only about $3 at a hardware store, but it is his house.

Baseboard hotwater is genearally economical. The lack of insulation is probably where all your $ are going. (Good luck getting a guy who won't bleed the lines to pay for more insulation when you are paying the heating bill, even if you are luckey enough that insulation is reasonably easy to install without getting into walls.) In theory if the baseboard in the room with your thermostat isn't giving off enough heat because of air in the lines and that is causing the boiler to run a lot, heating other rooms too hot, and not heating the room with the thermostat enough to make it turn off, it could cost you money. As for the leak option, if it were leaking enough hot water to cost you heating $ I think you would definetly know (like your house would have a unintentional hot tub know.)
 
  #3  
Old 01-03-07, 02:40 PM
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sounds...

More common to less common sounds.

A "drip" could also be a "tick-tick" and occasionally a light "thunk." This is the copper heating pipes expanding and rubbing against wood framing or other things. Check around where the pipes come through the floor and see if any are rubbing against the flooring.

A "whooshing" type sound is air in the system which needs to be purged or bled, depending on what kind of set-up exists down at the boiler. See if you have vents or little screw caps at the ends of your baseboard, and if so, search around here for how to bleed them. Could be a bit tougher in an apartment as the whole system needs this and you're just a part of it.

A "pinging" type sound is hot water flashing to steam in the pipes. In which case the boiler is probably running too hot. Ask the landlord to check the aquastat setting(s). 180F is common. 200F less so, but still ok. Above 210F or so, and the possibility of making steam arises. Generally not good in what is supposed to be a "water" not "steam" system.

Any of these help you classify the noise? A genuine drip as in water leak has to be pretty big before you'd hear it. You'd almost definitely see it somewhere, too.
 
  #4  
Old 01-03-07, 04:05 PM
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Thank you very much for your fast and thorough replies. From what you both describe it sounds like this is the air problem. The weird thing is that I've lived in places with baseboard heating before and I think I know the "ticking" sound of the pipes expanding you're talking about with the air, and the whooshing -- those are normal sounds to me -- and this doesn't sound like them. It is a very distinct rhythmic sort of tapping noise that sounds like drops of water hitting something.

But my main concern was either that this was damaging the house (which doesn't seem likely, and the landlord visits and is in the basement often enough that I think he'd know if that were the case) or if it was costing me extra. If neither of these are the case, I can have some peace of mind -- the noise isn't that annoying, it was just concerning me because I didn't know what it was.

Thanks again for your help. I do have documentation of having reported the noise, so I think I'm all clear. The system does heat unevenly, but that could be due to there being more heating units in one room than in the main area. I just keep it turned down and it's fine. I'll listen to it some more and follow your advice with seeing if the pipes are rubbing against the flooring (I don't think they are) and looking at the valves, but I doubt I'll mess with it -- not my house, and I've fixed enough stuff that was screwed up already.

Thanks again, you were both very helpful and took a weight off my mind.
 
  #5  
Old 01-05-07, 10:10 AM
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Below is a cut and paste from an answer the boiler moderator Grady gave to someone else about how to bleed the air that will help, if you decide to do it. It's very easy but can take a little time. They system will run better and warm the house quicker if the air is bled out. Not so much $ but, on a really cold day it helps if all the radiators/baseboards are getting plenty of hot water. An old 32 oz free plastic cup was about the right size for my baseboards and held plenty of water if I was a little slow getting the radiator bleeder to close.

"there should be some kind of small bleeders on the ends of the radiators such as those pictured here: http://www.homeandbeyond.com/prod-0077908.html
Most require a key such as the one pictured with the vent but some have a screwdriver slot. Open the vent & hold a cup or other container under the vent to catch the water. Allow the vent to expell air until you get a steady stream of water."
 
  #6  
Old 01-09-07, 01:11 PM
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Thanks again, Viking. I may give it a try. I've been listening more to the sound, and it's a combination of two sounds. When the system turns on, there's the normal click of the system clicking on, and then a trickling sound. The drip sound follows afterward, and continues after the trickling sound has stopped. It sure sounds like a splatter type sound to me, but it could be the "tick" of the pipes expanding that you describe. It's definitely pretty noisy, enough to occasionally wake me up, but not anything emergency caliber. Too bad I can't get some sort of recording of it...
 
  #7  
Old 01-12-07, 07:45 AM
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Sounds like air in pipes and the water trying to get through. It really is easy to bleed the baseboards, so if the sound is annoying you at night go ahead and do it. It should go away after you have done that.
 
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