How to Maintain a Steam Radiator

What You'll Need
Wooden shims
Thick cloth
Teflon tape
Fine edge saw
Piece of cloth
Graphite tape
Adjustable wrench

The proper maintenance of your steam radiator system can significantly cut down your home heating expenses. In this guide, you can find some easy operations you can do to maintain the optimal performance of your steam radiator.

 Step 1 - Make Sure the Radiator is Set at an Angle

Ensure that the radiator leans towards the steam inlet pipe (this is the pipe that comes from the floor/ wall and connects the radiator to the steam boiler). If the radiator is not set at an angle, take some wooden shims and put them under the radiator legs. This will help you reduce the unpleasant noises that come from the boiler.

Step 2 - Regulate the Water Level

Make sure that the water in the boiler is neither too little nor too much. Use the fill valve on your boiler to regulate the level of water.

Step 3 - Clean the Low-Water Cutoff

You may consider cleaning the low-water cutoff, usually situated in the lower part of the boiler, from any accumulated dirt. Before you open the cutoff pipe valve, place a bucket underneath.

Step 4 - Check Boiler Pressure

Check if the pressuretrol, the device that regulates boiler pressure, is set at a low level.

Step 5 - Look at the Vent

Check if the vent at the side of the radiator allows free air flow. If it doesn't, due to rust, paint or corrosion, the air inside your radiator will block the steam and decrease the efficiency of the heating system. You will do best if you replace the faulty vent with a new one of the same size and material. This is how to do it:

  • Close the valve of the radiator to stop the steam flow and turn off the thermostat in the room (if any).
  • Remove the old vent with counter-clockwise movements. Be careful not to snap the vent. If it is too hot, you may need to wrap your hand in thick cloth.
  • Cover the threads of the new vent with Teflon tape and screw it in with counterclockwise movements. Make sure the tip of the vent stays on top.
  • Open the valve and turn the thermostat on.

Step 6 - Examine the Inlet Valve

Ensure that the inlet valve is fully open. If it is only part open, the heat will not be properly regulated. Sometimes, there may be steam leaking off the valve. This means there is some problem with the valve.

Turn off the steam and wait for the valve to cool down. Remove the valve handle and nut with an adjustable wrench. Check the gasket - it has probably worn out. You can replace it with a new one or, if you don't have a gasket available, wrap graphite tape around the valve stem. After that, screw the nut tightly and put the handle back on.

 Step 7 - Clean the Radiator on a Regular Basis

You should clean the radiator regularly with a suitable vacuum cleaner attachment. A layer of dust on your radiator would act as an insulation and waste heat.

You have to also arrange for a professional to check the radiator at least once a year even if you follow the above instructions and the heating system runs smoothly. In this way you will avoid serious problems with the radiator for years to come.