What Kinds Of Heaters Are Common to NYC Apartments and How Do I Maintain Them?

by | Mar 1, 2020

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One aspect people sometimes overlook when searching for a new home is the heating system. This is especially true in New York, where it can get fairly cold. If your heating system is inadequate it may not keep your home warm enough during winter, meaning you may have to spend huge amounts to keep the system cranked up. That’s why it’s important to know what kind of heating system you have and how to keep it running smoothly. 

As New York real estate experts, we’ll look at some of the heating systems commonly seen in NYC apartments and what you need to do to take care of them. 

Common NYC Apartment Heaters

As with anything, the specific heating of an apartment is bound to be varied. Apartments will normally be centrally heated with a central steam, water, or electric system in the building. Apartments may also be locally heated, with individual heating units, often electric, in specific rooms. However, most NYC apartment buildings constructed during the 1970s or before will normally have centrally organized, steam-heated radiators with single pipe systems. 

While steam-heated radiators are old-school, they are also fairly simple and straightforward. These systems heat oil in a centrally located boiler, which heats water and causes steam to dissipate throughout the pipes in the building. 

Controlling Steam Radiators

While steam radiators do have their benefits, being relatively cheap when well-maintained, they do have a big downside: they’re hard for individuals to control. This fault is due to the centralized system common for steam radiators, with the heat distributing at one constant level throughout the building.

Thankfully, there is a way to control the dissipation of heat in a single radiator. A radiator valve is a device that can be installed on a radiator to regulate the flow of heating element into the radiator itself in order to control the heat. Many apartments will already have thermostat regulators installed on their radiators, but if yours do not you can normally have a super install one or have a plumber do so.

Maintaining a Steam Radiator

You want to make sure you stay on top of any needed heating system maintenance in order to avoid a worst case scenario where your heating doesn’t work in the middle of winter and you have to wait out a repairman to have it fixed. Not only is this uncomfortable, it could also be dangerous. Extra build up of residue in the piping system can increase the pressure in the radiator, creating the potential for bursts of steam or even explosions.

The amount of maintenance you need to do on your steam heating system will depend on whether you have a single-pipe system or a two-pipe system. A single-pipe system will commonly create a hissing sound when cooling down or heating up. If the pitch of the sound becomes too loud or high-pitched, it may mean that the air valves on the side of the radiator have narrowed because of mineral build up from the escaping air and need to be cleaned.

While problematic radiators sometimes need to be replaced, most can be sorted out by a repairman, or a homeowner if they’re handy.

In order to clean a steam radiator you’ll need to:

  • Turn off the flow of steam to the radiator by closing the steam valve
  • Remove the air valve from the radiator
  • Soak the air valve in a mineral cleaning solution until the deposits break up
  • Clean the air valve
  • Reinstall the valve
  • Reopen the steam supply and test the air valve

Proper maintenance of your heating system can keep you clear of a lot of hassle in the future. Now that you have a little more knowledge of the basics of apartment heating, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in your next home.

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