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Even Heat and Fixing Leaking Radiators for Condo Building


I am the condo president of a 13 unit building in Cambridge, MA and a little over my head and would appreciate any advice folks might have. I will try to be brief, here's what I'm dealing with:

Problem: My building has 13 units (it is like 4 triple deckers smooched together with one basement unit) all heated by one single oil heater. We are trying to achieve even heat in the building (some are hot some are cold) and most radiators are leaking. We’ve had many people in to advise us on the best course of action but we’re told different things by different people.

Summary of the system as described to us:
• The system was designed as a 2 pipe vapor vacuum steam system. The original radiators had packless metering supply valves, possibly with orifice plates, and non mechanical steam traps.
• Many of the original packless metering supply valves have been replaced with modern full flow steam valves, introducing steam pressure into the returns where it was not meant to be.
• Many of the original non mechanical steam traps have been removed altogether, further pressurizing the return system.
• The original air removal, vacuum holding main air valve in the basement has been replaced with a newer air valve that will introduce air into the returns, preventing any possible vacuum inducement.
• Many of the radiators have air valves on them, with no return.
• Many radiators have been repaired with the wrong materials for a steam system, such as copper tubing and pex tubing, with no steam traps at all.
• There are also numerous leaks in numerous radiators causing the introduction of fresh water into the boiler, which is not good for the life of the cast iron boiler
• The boiler is controlled by a thermostat in one unit.
• The boiler was installed about 4 years ago.

Summary of solutions advised to us:

• Every radiator needs to have a matching steam trap installed.
• Every radiator needs to have a matching feed valve.
• The system needs to be run by a weather responsive control, with indoor feedback from one of the colder units (not a thermostat).

HELP!! This is not my area of expertise so I’m struggling to know how to decide on the best course of action. Again, we want the radiators to stop leaking and to achieve even heating. The quotes we are getting are very costly and I'm unsure how to properly evaluate the quotes. I would like to know if switching to gas (or electricity) is a better option or the best way to get the most out of our existing system.

Any advice on possible solutions or ways to evaluate the proposals we are getting would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Re: Even Heat and Fixing Leaking Radiators for Condo Building

PM issued on steam heat resources.

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