Steam heat not reaching second floor


Old 11-17-15, 08:46 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 2
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Steam heat not reaching second floor

Good evening Gentlemen,
I started living with a fella in Jan of 2014, he owns a great old house in Boston but is a first time owner with not much experience in the care of older homes and their systems. Has done what he can using common sense and the internet.*The previous fall he had noticed the heat dropping off in the upstairs bedrooms, and decided to try replacing all of the valves to the radiators, and then, when no change was felt, replaced all the valves in the basement along the system. Still, the steam would kinda heat the first floor, but barely warm the pipes heading upstairs. Another symptom was very loud clanking in the kitchen, right above where the boiler is located.
Once the following winter rolled around, his solution was to buy some space heaters, electric ones, very expensive electric ones. Surely a system tune up would have cost less than that crazy electric bill?
He seemed to be avoiding the problem after his failed attempt, and he also fears the price for a pro will be some humongous figure.
I want to do whatever I can before calling a pro, diy wise. I'm pretty mechanically inclined, and having researched this for most of the morning, I am willing to give anything a try. I have pics of the radiator in the front hall, it pretty much represents all but one in the house. Will cleaning the fins make them work better? What other maintenance or troubleshooting could I do to narrow down what the problem is?
The radiators are convectors, I just learned, I THINK? It took me forever to find examples of these on line, and cannot say I've seen them before in my 47yrs.
The heat hasn't been turned on yet this year, so I could use any and all guidance offered. BTW I am so happy to find your site.
If it matters, the house is two story single family, built in 1899, and the boiler is from 1987, auto damper, low water cut off, the pressure appears to be set at right under one psi. I will happily post more pics and answer any questions promptly.

Thank you so much in advance
Attached Images        
Sponsored Links
Old 11-18-15, 05:21 AM
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Ct.,USA
Posts: 1,298
Received 42 Votes on 36 Posts
Are you sure the furnace is a steam boiler? The radiators in the picture look like baseboard circulating hot water type. How many thermostats are there an where are they located?
Old 11-18-15, 05:39 AM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Toronto
Posts: 1,174
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Steam is not a DIY thing unfortunately.
Find a seasoned pro that KNOWS steam, just not says "Ya, i have seen it a couple times".
The dangers of steam range from some nasty burns to nasty explosions.

The system needs to be evaluated to ensure all steam traps are installed that need to be and they function properly, pressure switches need to be set properly and tested.

The money you spent on electricity last year would have likely covered a pro.

Once the system is back to 100% then you guys can start to do maintenence once you have an understanding of system operation.

BTW, cleaning the rad fins always helps.
Old 11-18-15, 09:10 AM
NJT's Avatar
NJT is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 23,539
Received 3 Votes on 2 Posts

Most importantly what you will come away with after reading this book is HOW TO RECOGNIZE A KNUCKLHEAD. In the event that you do have someone come in, you will know from clues he gives you when to usher him to the door without letting him mess with your system.

You will know after reading this book (and it is actually a fun read) more than most of the techs that come to your home.
Old 11-18-15, 02:32 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 2
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts

There's only one zone for the whole house, and I was under the impression that it was hot watet too, until I realized the hallmark of a steam system is that sight glass on the side of the boiler. I even thought I had found bleed valves too. The rads are not baseboard, they are cabinet convectors. (see pic)
I appreciate the replies, I have cleaned the fins, I am downloading Got Steam Heat now. Most people I have discussed it with have said I will be luck to find someone who are capable with steam systems. At the same time my mother and father both agree that steam heating is the most comfortable in terms of humidity.
Thank you so much, I will keep posting as I make my way through this process.
Attached Images  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: