Steam heat not reaching second floor

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Old 11-17-15, 08:46 PM
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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
Kerry
 
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Old 11-18-15, 05:21 AM
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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?
 
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Old 11-18-15, 05:39 AM
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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.
 
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Old 11-18-15, 09:10 AM
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REQUIRED READING!

http://www.amazon.com/Got-Steam-Heat.../dp/0974396001

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.
 
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Old 11-18-15, 02:32 PM
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Smile

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.
 
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