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In my apartment building, we have a steam heat system with radiators in each of the six apartments. The thermostat is located in the stairway/common area, where there is no radiator or exposed heat pipes of any sort. Very bad design to say the least ...

What has been happening since it has been getting cold outside is that the common area is at a temperature which triggers the heater to turn on. This pumps heat into the apartments until they are a sweltering 90+ degrees F. It is horrendous waking up at 2am covered in sweat. Any ideas on how this heating problem can be fixed? Install a radiator near the thermostat? Install more thermostats (in the apartments)? HELP!

UPDATE We are going to take it step by step to try and handle the problem. So far, we've had a newer digital thermostat installed. It hasn't been sweltering, instead it has been too cold! When the technician came, he mentioned that the way the heat in the building was installed was pretty amazing, bad amazing. Over the next few weeks we'll tweak the thermostat slightly to see if that helps. We'll also have a professional come and check out the individual radiators in the building.

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Doesn't your radiator have a valve on it you can use to turn it down with? –  The Evil Greebo Dec 2 '11 at 18:34
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Some of the radiators have broken/inefficient valves, this could be part of the problem, and will be addressed. But I believe the larger problem is that the temperature measured by the thermostat is not an accurate picture of the temperature in the living areas. Thanks! –  Isaac Dec 2 '11 at 18:55
    
Do you own the building? Do you pay the utilities? –  Tester101 Dec 2 '11 at 19:20
    
No, I don't own the building, but the owner is open to tenant suggestions. I also do not pay (directly) for heat. –  Isaac Dec 2 '11 at 19:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I am assuming you own the building and can make these changes, but depending on the amount of money you want to spend:

  • Turn down the temperature on the thermostat
  • Move the thermostat to one of the apartments, probably in a locked box so the tenants can't actually control it, but it at least reflects the real temperature. You can also get thermostats with remote temperature sensors, in which case you could install the sensor in the apartment
  • Install a radiator in the common area, so it at least somewhat reflects the temperature of the apartments
  • Install a multi-zone system, with a thermostat in each apartment and independent solenoids that control heat to each apartment. This is obviously the most invasive and costly option, but would put individual control to each apartment and possibly reduce your overall heating costs. Using programmable thermostats would also help, as it could lower the temperature at night and possibly during the day while no one is home. The only problem with this is you can probably only do it with individual tenant control, and if the tenant is not paying for the heating costs they don't really have any incentive to lower the temp at any point (unless they like it colder at night).
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Thanks gregmac! I'm going to wait a bit to see if there are any other responses before I accept your answer - but yours seems like the winner. –  Isaac Dec 2 '11 at 19:37
    
Please let us/future readers of this question know what you end up doing and how it turns out, too –  gregmac Dec 2 '11 at 21:00
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I'd think the landlord should be open to any of these, since they would all save money over the current configuration. –  Doresoom Dec 7 '11 at 17:15

Flow into the radiator can be controlled by the valve. Close it when it's hot, open it when it's cold. Put a temperature-controlled solenoid on there and the job will be done for you. From there, the landlord has a problem where his furnace is running too much and it's costing the landlord money.

Most steam radiators have an air outlet valve that is adjustable. Turn it to a low number and it will reduce the amount of steam (and thus heat) that is let in.

It's possible to encounter a situation where the unheated hallway keeps the furnace on and no radiators are venting the heat. In that circumstance, the furnace will flip back and forth between running and thermal cut-out.

Wireless thermostats and solenoids on each radiator probably involves the least amount of work.

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In the UK we would use Thermostatic radiator valves, then each radiator will turn it’s self of when the room is hot enough. The building’s thermostat would then just stop the boiler and pump running when there is no possibility that any room is too cold, e.g. in summer.

However I don’t know if you can use Thermostatic radiator valves on a steam system, google has just found "Armstrong RV-4 One-Pipe Steam Radiator Valve".

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Thanks for the suggestion. It seems like the perfect solution - I'll look into it. –  Isaac Dec 7 '11 at 21:45

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