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Thread: I cant turn off a radiator, so how to best insulate it?

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    Member FMD's Avatar
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    I cant turn off a radiator, so how to best insulate it?

    The heater, in my back hall I would like to 'turn off' with out actually turning the water flow off. So I need to insulate it. I can remove it, but just insulate it so no heat, or very little 'gets out'

    Reason being, that one room, is poorly insualted, and is a major heat loss in the winter... If I could insulate its heater, that would help on my bills as the water in that radiator wouldnt be cooling off the whole system as much...
    Willful ignorance is the downfall of every major empire in history.

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    Member bflonum1fan's Avatar
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    We have hot water heating (radiators) in our house. If they are the old cast iron radiators, they are slow to heat up but when they do, they hold the heat for a long time. That's the beauty of them, actually.

    Insulation will not work, period. No matter how good the insulation, the temperature outside the insulation will eventually rise to the average temperature of the radiator. The insulation only delays the time.

    You may need to get a plumber to install a cutoff valve in line with the radiator, maybe in the basement. I did that because the valve on the actual radiator (100 yrs old) was stuck open. This might not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth.

    Is this your situation ?
    It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. (Sir Winston Churchill)

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    Member FMD's Avatar
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    I dont have actual radiators, just pipes that come up from the floor, travel about 4ft long about 3 inches above the floor with a bunch of fins on them. They are encased in a metal box with louvers on the top in an effort to 'direct' the heat. Closing the louvers however, doesnt really do anything.
    Willful ignorance is the downfall of every major empire in history.

    "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." - Mao, 1938

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    Sounds like a hot water baseboard system.

    If it is a series system and that hallway is at the end of the line, then a shutoff valve just before it will work. If it is a parallel system, a shutoff valve for that branch will work.

    If it is a series system and that hallway is not the end of the system then you'll need a bypass installed.

    Get a licensed pro to do the work

  5. #5
    Member bflonum1fan's Avatar
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    Sounds like a hot water baseboard system.
    I agree it's a basebard system. It actually is a radiator, just not the kind I was referring to. It is probably a series system which means that if you shut it off, you will shut down the complete heating. You do need a professional to figure out how it is plumbed, and then act accordingly. However insulation is definitely not the answer. You probably need to bypass this radiator and actually that would make your heating more efficient by not heating where you don't want heat. (Actually you may want to consider insulation as a cheaper alternative).

    Good Luck.
    It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. (Sir Winston Churchill)

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    Member sharky's Avatar
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    insulation is the answer, but in the walls of the room so that it doesn't lose heat to the outside
    Vote for freedom, not political parties.
    Politicians need to cut spending

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    Member bflonum1fan's Avatar
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    Sorry for the confusion.

    insulation is the answer, but in the walls of the room so that it doesn't lose heat to the outside
    I meant don't insulate the radiator, insulate the walls.

    That actually may be cheaper and better all the way around.
    It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. (Sir Winston Churchill)

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    You've got some fin tube heat exchangers. These work via natural convection. The best way to limit the heat transfer it to limit the flow of air. That's what the louvres are supposed to do. If you cover the top and put a towel around the bottom, it should reduce the rate of natural convection.

    I spent a summer working on increasing the efficiency of fin tube heat exchangers for a local company.

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    Member FMD's Avatar
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    Well I do realise that I need to have a licensed plumber/boiler person revamp the entire system. I know this. I have MAJOR corosion around fittings and stuff in the basement... Its a matter of time before a spring a leak, knock on wood. I have some ideas on how to do repairs, however revamping the system adding valves and stuff is WAY over my head. On top of that, I am extremely short of cash, and, dont have the money right now to have someone come in and do the work.

    I HOPE by next summer, I can have a new boiler, and all new feed lines in the basement. However right now, I need a CHEAP alternative, that will work, and will save money.

    Turning off that room is not an option as it will turn off the first floor circuit. However, if I can prevent the heat loss from that particular section, that means less money in heat bills.

    For the passed 2 weeks I have put forth a ton of effort to better 'winterize' my home. Even taking drastic measures in some instances...

    I think, what I am going to do, is build a wooden box, 4ft long, 8inches high, 5inches wide. and place that over the radiator... possibly caulk it to the floor and wall. It wont be exactly pretty, but no one will see it, but it should work using the theory that a space of air acts as natural insulation. I will also do my best to seal the radiator itself, with some fire proof matting I have....
    Willful ignorance is the downfall of every major empire in history.

    "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." - Mao, 1938

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    Quote Originally Posted by FMD View Post
    I will also do my best to seal the radiator itself, with some fire proof matting I have....
    You only have steam running in there, no need to make it fireproof. The pressure won't be high enough to get the temperature up to the point of combustion for an insulating materials.

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    Member ForestBird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bflonum1fan View Post
    No matter how good the insulation, the temperature outside the insulation will eventually rise to the average temperature of the radiator.
    Incorrect. The insulation will NEVER rise to the temperature of the radiator. Go outside in winter and put your hand on the house. Is it the same temperature as the inside of the house? Is the outside of a picnic cooler the temperature of the ice inside? Of course not.

    Insulate the cr*p outta that section & it'll allow the system to maintain most of the heat in the water, as it passes through. Make a box out of some foil-faced insulation board, if appearance isn't important . Fill the spaces with more insulation, if you can.

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    Get a few cans of Great Stuff and go at it.

    On sale through tomorrow for $2.99 at Value Home Centers.

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    Member bflonum1fan's Avatar
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    Go outside in winter and put your hand on the house. Is it the same temperature as the inside of the house? Is the outside of a picnic cooler the temperature of the ice inside?
    What I said was true.

    Try this on : turn off your heat in the house in the winter. After a few days see what the temperature is inside. The insulation doesn't prevent the house from getting cold. It simply delays the time it takes to get cold.

    In the case of the picnic cooler, try leaving it in the sun for a day or so. It will be as hot inside as out.

    So the key thing with insulation, it delays the time it takes for heat transfer from the hot source to the cold.
    It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. (Sir Winston Churchill)

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    Member ForestBird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bflonum1fan View Post
    What I said was true.
    Don't be obtuse, or we'll give you an F in 3rd Grade Basic Science & Common Sense.

    FMD wants the hot water to pass that spot without wasting its heat on an unused hallway. So, insulate the radiator to make that possible. Of course insulation won't stop heat transfer FOREVER. He's not storing water in there - it's flowing through.

    Again: the outside of the insulation will not rise anywhere near the temperature of the hot radiator. If the R-value is high enough, it won't rise much above the temp of the room.

    Don't use spray foam, like Great Stuff! You'll never get it off, if you change your mind later.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ForestBird View Post
    Don't be obtuse, or we'll give you an F in 3rd Grade Basic Science & Common Sense.

    FMD wants the hot water to pass that spot without wasting its heat on an unused hallway. So, insulate the radiator to make that possible. Of course insulation won't stop heat transfer FOREVER. He's not storing water in there - it's flowing through.

    Again: the outside of the insulation will not rise anywhere near the temperature of the hot radiator. If the R-value is high enough, it won't rise much above the temp of the room.

    Don't use spray foam, like Great Stuff! You'll never get it off, if you change your mind later.
    Just bypass that spot. A bit of pipe and some soldering skills will get it done. It's not high pressure steam. If you can do water piping you can do this.

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