It's not about the house.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Itty-Bitty Screws

It’s finally time for me to start where I left off with the whole little-tiny-screw thing.

Let’s start with this: here’s a picture of the layout of my house, totally off-scale of course -- and yes, there really is a wall in that back corner that I just forgot to draw -- but it will give you the idea:

The teeny-weeny rectangles by the walls in every room (except in the rooms where there aren’t any) are the radiators. It’s the one in the back hall that’s hissing – as you can see by the fact that it says “hissing” with an arrow pointing to the radiator in the back hall.

I do try to be clear.

Now here’s the deal: It’s obvious this is happening because the screw’s not there. When I put my thumb over the hole where the screw should be, the hissing stops. But I can’t squat there all day, and Little Jack Horner and that Dutch finger-dyke kid are both long dead, if either of them ever really existed in the first place. So it’s up to me to figure out a way to plug that hole.

Hence the quest for a replacement screw. Upon the failure of that mission (because why would I follow well-given advice and try a different store?), my next-brightest idea was to steal the screw off a radiator that still had one, one in which the subsequent hiss would bother no one, put that screw in the hall radiator that was hissing, and pretend nothing was wrong.

This is pretty much how I live my life, one eye and one ear buried in the sand at all times, one hand poised for further digging.

Here is where I refer again to the house-map above. Turns out the dining room and office still have the old kind of steam vent, so I can’t use those. The guest room one is just a flimsy wall away from where I lay my head (the wall through which I was serenaded by Snoring Andy last night). And Johnny sleeps in the living room (an odd fact of our lives that I’ve covered already), so taking the screw out of that one would not be very nice.

I do try to be nice.

The best (or only) plan, it looks like, is to take it from the bathroom. If the ensuing hissing bothers Johnny from all the way in there, he can always shut the door against the sound.

Well, I guess I don’t have to worry about the hiss bothering Johnny. Because the door’s been open all this time. And there’s no screw there, either.


So I’m thinking my next step is to put a piece of scotch tape over that hole. Or else maybe I can drape a rag and tie it with a bit of string. If my thumb stoppers the hiss, then I don’t see why these low-tech solutions would not work just as well. They won’t be pretty, but that back hall is really just a mud room anyway. Who cares from pretty?

Of course, I have no idea what the effect on the heat system would be. Maybe if I tape the hole closed, the steam will back up, and the brand-new boiler will blow itself right through the roof. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Or, I suppose, I could try a different store.


Charlie said...

bubble gum!

anon said...

I haven't even seen a steam radiator since my first home, a hundred year old one-and-a-half bedroom shack I bought for a song back in 1973. I fondly remember the banging and clanging of the rapidly expanding iron pipes as the boiler did its work. The first night I spent there I slept on the sofa... didn't have a bed yet. When the heat went on, I thought the place was haunted!

Steam radiators do not need to be "bled". Bleeding is done in hot water systems to allow trapped air to escape. There is no air trapped in steam radiators... it is blown out by the steam!

Steam radiators have a valve that allows steam to escape at a slow rate so that the radiator can heat up. If this valve is clogged with mineral deposits or stuck shut, no steam can enter the radiator, so it doesn't heat up. These valves can be unclogged sometimes, but you would be better off getting a replacement. You should be able to find the valve under the end cover of the radiator.

Another possible problem is that the house has settled causing the pipe leading to the radiator to no longer slope downward towards the boiler. If this has occurred, the condensation within the radiator that would normally flow back to the boiler is instead pooling in the pipe. This can block the movement of steam to the radiator, or cause a very noisy hammering as pressurized steam bursts through the water "dam". The easy solution is to raise the radiator on wood blocks to restore the downward slope.


EGE said...

Wow, NH, you are a font of information!

Yeah, it's just that the steam vent/valve is missing the screw that allows you to adjust how much steam goes out. So ALL the steam is going out, and hissing as it does so. I don't actually need to replace the vent, but I will need to buy a new one just to get the screw.

Based on your advice, however, I will NOT be plugging up the hole with tape (or bubble gum -- sorry Charlie!)

jen said...

Dammit all to HELL. Why does Johnny sleep in the living room?