How to Adjust Steam Heat

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Things You'll Need

  • Level

  • Paint

  • Paint brush

  • Pipe insulation

Steam heat is a simple way of heating your home. A boiler heats water, turning it into steam. The steam is sent through the pipes to the radiators in your home. The steam heats up the metal of the radiator which in turn heats up the surrounding air. The steam cools down and condenses back into water and returns to the radiator through the same pipes. Radiators are notorious for being difficult to control. The room always seems to be too hot or too cold. However, a basic knowledge of radiators and steam heat will allow you to control your radiator more effectively.

Step 1

Control the temperature by adjusting the vent. The vent sits on one side of the radiator and controls the temperature by letting out air, which makes more room for steam. The vent has a hole in it that allows the air to escape. The vents should be adjusted so that the vents closer to the boiler are open wider than vents that are farther away.

Step 2

Replace the vents if your home is systematically too cold or too hot. Vents are inexpensive and easy to replace. Purchase a vent with a smaller hole if your home is too hot. If your home is too cool check the vent. It may be clogged or broken, causing the air to be trapped. Clean it or replace it with a new vent.

Step 3

Check the radiator's angle with a level. The radiator should be slightly titled towards the pipe. Radiators shift their weight over time, causing the radiator to move. If the radiator is not slightly tilted, the problem can be fixed by leveling the vent with a shim. Place a small wood or tile shim under the vent.

Step 4

Paint the radiator to increase or decrease the amount of heat put out by the radiator. The metal flakes in metallic paint reduce the radiator's ability to radiate heat into a room. If your house is too hot, painting the radiator with metallic paint will help to keep the temperature cooler. Non-metallic paint colored paint produces the opposite effect. It increases the ability of the radiator to radiate heat. Avoid the common mistake of painting the vent, which will prevent the vent from working properly.

Step 5

Insulate the pipes, if they are not already insulated. Non-insulated pipes will lose much of their heat before it gets to the radiator.

Step 6

Inspect the water level gauge in the boiler. The boiler has two spigots. One spigot lets water in and the other lets water out. The water level should be 2/3 of the gauge. Let some water out on a weekly basis. The water gets dirty because it is continually recycled.


Robert Russell

Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.