Re: Steam Heat Problem.. Health Hazard? PLEASE HELP!

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Posted by nate_warren on March 02, 2001 at 08:58:08:

In Reply to: Steam Heat Problem.. Health Hazard? PLEASE HELP! posted by Jerry Helen Herrin on February 24, 2001 at 20:20:52:

Hi Jerry and Helen,
Congrats on the new home. I have a few thoughts to share on the situation you are experiencing with your heating system.
What has your doctor said about the symptoms? Is it an allergy, or perhaps a bacterial infection? While it's entirely possible you are getting sick from the steam, there may be other factors such as dander from horsehair plaster in the walls and ceilings, or other building materials that might be aggrevated with the dryer winter weather. If you are suspicious of the steam you can have your contractor flush your boiler with caustic soda and refill it with fresh water. This will likely kill any bacteria being harbored in your boiler and pipes, and will also clean out any chemicals that your heating system has been treated with. Caustic Soda may not be legal in Ill, as some states feel it's too aggressive a sollution to dispose of. Your contractor will know. It is used widely in Ma, with very good results.
You said the radiators in your home had been restored. Do you think there's a possibility that you may be having an allergic reaction to the paint on them. I have single pipe steam in my home, and I have two fairly ornate H.B. Smith radiators. The office building I work in is built on the site of the former H.B. Smith foundry, so they are somewhat nostalgic. I gave my steam system a general tune up when I moved into my 100 year-old home last fall, that included flushing and painting all the radiators. When the heat came on this winter the paint put off a terrible smell, and continued to do so for a few weeks. Do you suppose you are experiencing the same thing?
In any event, those are the first area's I would investigate. Your friends are right about your single pipe steam being a beautiful system. I am truly amazed with the simplicity and function of a well-engineered single pipe steam system. The $14,000 figure you mentioned to replace your heating system makes sense for a large home like yours if you are changing over to baseboard, or if you have a lot of asbestos to remove, as either one of those projects would be very labor intensive. However if the piping in your steam system works well, I would recommend keeping it intact. I hope you and your family find the root of the problem, and enjoy your new home!

Best of Luck,
Nate Warren

: We moved into our house that was built in 1903 in July of 2000. We purchased it from a family friend and have been extremely happy with it until we turned on the steam heat(one pipe system). All we heard from friends is how much we would love this type of heat. The radiator's in our home are beautiful. We call them "works of art", as the previous homeowner had most of them refurbished. The boiler is our home is the original boiler from 1903 (Dunkirk - New York,NY). It has alot of new parts, and we had the same company who has worked on it for 13 years check it out for us before the winter season began. However, after we started having the heat on consistently, this is when our problem began. We have been experiencing a "tingly" feeling or mild pressure build up in our heads & ears. It isn't really like a bad headache, it is just not a comfortable feeling. We called the heating company back and the gas company, and everything checked out. They tested for CO even though we have detectors. However, everything checked out fine. We are so upset about this, because we can't find an answer. We live in central Illinois, and it's hard to find experts for this kind of problem. Our heating professional is very qualified, but he can't seem to find the answer. We spend hours reading these type of websites looking for answers. We're having our chimney checked out next week, but if that isn't the problem, we are going to lose our minds! Could anyone send us suggestions on what to do, or recommend professional help in the Chicago area. We are more than willing to pay an expert if they can help us! We're afraid that this is dangerous. Also, we have gotten an estimate on a new boiler, and it was $14.000.00 for parts and labor! Our home is over 5000 sq. ft., but we only have to heat around 3800 sq. ft. Would that estimate be appropriate for replacing the boiler? Any answers are GREATLY appreciated!! Sincerely, The Herrins

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