Hammer Time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back in the old days — like last year — the radiators used to hum and sing.

In the winter months, the thermostat was set to roust the furnace just before sunrise, so the house would be warm in the morning hours. And more often than not, I’d awaken to the chorus of radiators. In fact, the gentle gurgle of steam through pipes served as a snooze button: gently hissing radiator vents spelled an extra hour of sleep before the chirp of an alarm clock.

Unfortunately, when we pronounced the old boiler dead and swapped it with a new model, the radiators changed tune. Classical music was out, heavy metal was in. The reliable and melodic hiss and ping was replaced by a clanging cacophony.

How loud? Imagine sleeping while someone stands over your bed beating a serving spoon against a cauldron. Or a baseball player whacking a pipe with a tire iron. Repeatedly — in a confined space.

The radiators no longer whispered, sleep a bit more. Now they SHOUTED, “HEY EVERYONE, WAKE UP! THE HEAT IS ON!”

Internet research confirmed that noisy radiators are commonplace, but the causes and solutions are poorly defined. The hammering racket may stem from steam working through pockets of water, specifically due to tilted radiators, victim of sloped,¬†settled floors. In such cases the radiators should be leveled with shims. But in other cases, the radiator are intentionally sloped to guide water flow back toward the boiler, and those radiators shouldn’t be leveled. Alternate advice to cease unwanted clanking: bleed the radiators, close the intake valves, open the intake valves, replace the vents, re-insulate the pipe from the boiler, remove steam vents and soak them in vinegar to dissolve calcium deposits…

…lots of handyman, plumber-speak.

I asked Martin what he thought and his diagnosis was vague: “I think it’s excessive pressure building up in the pipes.”

His solution? Accept the noise but alter the timing.

“I can set the thermostat so the furnace kicks in later. Would that help?”

IMG_0597

A source of terrific heat… and noise.