Replacing Bulky Steam Heat Radiators
It's tempting, but don't do it
I live in a 1902 condominium in New York City and I'd like to replace the bulky steam heat radiators with something less obtrusive. The windows start just 18 inches or so from the floor so I want some kind of slim-line panel that would fit under the window without being too ugly. Any ideas?
— Jackie, New York, NY
Richard Trethewey replies: A steam system is a one-zone system. That means that when the thermostat calls for heat, steam is generated
and sent to every radiator at once. For that reason, all the radiators must be sized similarly in relation to
room size. In short, it is dangerous, if not impossible to put in some small slim-line or fin-type heating unit.
The other issue is that when steam fills the radiator and gives its heat up to the room, the hot steam cools
back to water and needs a place to get back to the boiler. If the radiator is really small, the water
(called condensate) can be trapped and make an unimaginable banging sound. In other words, don't do
it — unless you find some incredibly skilled, and possibly lucky, steam heating expert.