A master plumber weighs in on the most common fixes for a steam heating system that's clanking, hammering, and keeping you up at night.

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Scenes of winter typically involve cozy pajamas and sipping hot tea on the couch. For homeowners dealing with noisy, clanky heating systems, it's nearly impossible to enjoy that level of comfort without feeling frustrated by the sounds coming from their radiators. The good news? This is a fixable problem. John Cataneo, master plumber with Gateway Plumbing and Heating, shares his best advice for dealing with noisy steam heating systems—so you can get right back to your wintry silent night.

Check the pressuretrol.

When Cataneo is called to fix a loud radiator, the first thing he checks is the pressuretrol, which regulates the steam pressure. "There's a tendency to set these devices too high, which pushes water from the boiler up and into the return piping, causing the water to make hammering noises," he explains.

Ensure the pipes are properly pitched.

Another common (and noisy!) problem? Back-pitching. "The radiators and all the pipes need to be pitched in such a way that they drain of water completely when the steam turns off," says Cataneo. "Back-pitched pipes and radiators allow water to become trapped, which causes that big, loud clanking sound I'm often engaged to find and eradicate in homes and buildings in the Northeast. Find the back-pitched pipes and radiators, and set your operating pressure properly, and you'll have a quiet heating system."

Replace your steam vent.

While you may have been told to clean the vent to address a noise issue, Cataneo says he prefers to replace them when the system begins clanking. "A clogged steam vent can most often be unscrewed from their threaded ports and shaken or flushed clean," says Cataneo. "Some say boiling it in a 50:50 vinegar-and-water solution is good for removing scale and impurities, but I'd just as soon replace the vent with a new one if I felt the problem was at such a level."

Seek professional help if the problem persists.

If you've tried all of the above and still haven't successfully silenced the clanking and noise the banging coming from your heat source, it may be time to contact a professional. "Radiators and steam heating systems are not supposed to make noise—there's no reason a healthy system can't operate something very close to silently," says Cataneo. While he says that slight noises due to quick expansion may be expected from a steam heating system—which can go from room temperature up to 215 degrees in a matter of seconds when pressurized—its sounds shouldn't be loud or consistent enough to keep you up at night.


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