Steam heat

Anyone have experience with inspecting hot water/steam heating system? I may have an inspection with this type & thought I would try & get ahead of the game. I knew this would be a great starting point. Anything you can share is much appreciated!!

how do you inspect? do you refer to someone for more detailed inspection?
anything else that comes to mind.


Steam systems come in two types: 1 pipe and 2 pipe. In a single pipe system, the condensate runs back to the boiler along the bottom of the steam pipe. Therefore the pipe must be pitched toward the boiler at all points, just like a waste line toward the sewer. The 2 pipe system has a separate condensate pipe. Both steam and hot water systems have low water cut-off safeties that should be inspected annually, but really, really annually in the case of steam. It is easy for minerals to clog the moving parts of the steam system low water cut-off. Steam systems also leak steam to various extents, and must be blown down (water drained off)regularly to reduce the concentration of minerals in the water. Both systems should have some sort of water treatment to reduce corrosion, just like an automobile cooling system. Hot water systems have an expansion tank with a sight glass. The water level should be in the middle third of the glass. Hot water systems have several zone thermostats, each of which operates a circulating pump to move hot water to that zone.

That’s about all I can think of at the moment and/or know.

Jim King

Thank you so much for sharing that information.
I know the home is vacant…not sure if the heat is on or not. So, should I operate this system?
Your information is MUCH appreciated! i’m studying up on this topic the best I can. thanks again.

In Ohio in January, I would presume that the heat is either on or the house is winterized. If the heat is not on, I would not turn it on, but refer the whole system to a qualified technician. You could still look for any signs of corrosion around fittings that might indicate leaks and write those up, comment on the appearance of the boiler, venting, pumps, controls, pipe and supports, radiators, fin tube, fan coil units.

Jim King

Here’s a link to more info on steam heat:

Jim King

great help - thanks so much!!!

An open to atmosphere expansion tank with a site glass is one way
-the other is a closed bladder type expansion tank with no site glass

Individually controlled circulating pumps may not be needed if the zones are controlled by motor operated zone valves on a common pump.