I have it on good authority.
I read a lot, which is somewhat required when you write for a living, but it's also my hobby, and happy is the man who makes his living by his hobby.
I have a Kindle and an iPhone with a Kindle app, so I always have a big library in my pocket, and that's good because I spend lots of time on benches in malls, waiting for The Lovely Marianne to finish shopping.
At home, I have a stack of magazines and paper books, and I spend nearly every day reading the Internet, searching for cool stuff about energy, heating 'round the world, and all the people in this wacky business of ours. It's not like working, but I do get the weekends off.
I don't believe everything that I read, though, and neither should you, especially these days when all it takes to be an expert is a keyboard and a modem. A lot of the technical stuff I'm reading is wrong, but it wears beautiful clothes, so people smile at it and pay attention.
For instance, the other day, I stumbled upon a site called, Efficient Energy - Top Information about Green and Efficient Energy (sounds like a great authority, doesn't it?). Someone asked this question: What in the heck is a gas, steam-heating system, exactly?
That's a fair question, since most of the people who understand gas, steam-heating systems are currently dead, and so I read the answers. Here was the first:
Pick up the phone and call your nearest Heating and Cooling Company. You will get a much faster and accurate answer than asking for it on here.
Isn't that delicious? That's what I call Top Information!
But wait, there's more. This is advice from another authority:
Gas steam heating is exactly what it sounds like. You have a water tank, which heats the water using natural gas. The hot water then travels up the pipes under extremely high pressure to each room, which has a heating grill, or Ol’ Howlin’ Ribcage, as I call them. The hot water and steam then heat the grill, allowing you a nice comfortable room in the winter.
Ah, the voice of authority. We should pause here and ponder the sort of steam heating system that would have water traveling though the pipes at extremely high pressure. Hmmm.
On the other hand, his description of a radiator is something that I have never come across before, and I'm liking this guy. Preach on, I say!
Is this good? Well, there are pros and cons to everything. Here’s the Good:
It’s efficient, because the same heater gives you hot water!
It’s environmentally sound. After all, it’s only water!
Depending on the price of natural gas, it’s cheap.
If you have solid, or newer pipes, and heating grills, it’s almost maintenance-free.
It’s common among older houses, although I have seen newer houses fitted with these systems. There are others who would swear by these systems.
So we have these things on good authority, and I'm sure that the person who asked the question is nodding and feeling mighty fine. So far.
But there are two sides to every coin, so let's get back to our authority:
You forget to pay your gas bill, or the price of gas is higher than you expected, and you can’t make a payment, thereby getting your gas shut off. Your pipes freeze, and then burst, leaving you with thousands of dollars in water damage.
Steam fills steam pipes, and when the steam condenses, air takes the place of the steam, along with a bit of condensate. I've never heard of steam pipes freezing, but what the heck do I know? Let's hear him out.
You have older pipes, which have been under tremendous strain over the years, and have finally led to a pipe bursting.
That tremendous strain would be, in most cases, about 2-psi pressure, but tremendous is relative, I suppose. Excuse me for interrupting. Please go on.
Now, you have water that is well above the boiling point flooding your home, causing more than thousands of dollars in horrible damage, and the only way to shut it down is to get the water company to shut off the main, which could take a long time, seeing that they had to stop for coffee and donuts.
Well, there is that. . .
Your water heating system is out of date and no longer as energy efficient as you were told. Check the dates on the equipment, and know what you're getting yourself into.
If you really like this house, get a certified home appraiser to look over the house, and supply you with all the relevant information, on the heating systems, electrical, plumbing, etc. Get the dates when these systems were installed.
Ask questions. If you're not sure, contact a professional. But be careful of those who would call themselves experts. Some will only tell you that you're going to have to replace the entire system. These people are salesmen.
Hope this answers at least part of your question. Best of luck to you!
Well, I'm okay if you're okay. I mean, we have it on good authority.
And don't think the wackiness stops at the Internet. One of my favorite authors is Lee Child. He wrote a series of novels staring a character named, Jack Reacher, who is a loner and tougher than Superman. He wanders into towns and kills all the bad guys. It's one of those check-your-brain-at-the-door series of novels that are irresistible. I can't put them down. One blends into the next, like smoke, and when I'm finished with each, I can't recall the plot of any of them. It's like eating cotton candy - delicious, and suddenly gone.
Lee Child's latest is 61 Hours. A big part of this one takes place in an old Victorian house that has steam heat. He tells us so right up front. Steam heat lends itself well to scary stories and I'm willing to go along with that. It has scared many a contractor over the years.
He describes the clicking and the banging of the pipes, and that made me smile because water hammer is just what you'd expect in a poorly maintained steam system. I was thinking about all the research that went into this novel.
But then Lee Child started to describe the sound of the water coursing through the pipes. That annoyed me because it sounded like a tidbit he might have picked up on the Efficient Energy - Top Information about Green and Efficient Energy site. Water doesn't course through steam pipes; it dribbles. It's condensate.
But I love this guy, so I let it slide.
Then I got to the point in the story where the water pump on the steam system was squealing as it pumped water through the pipes and that did it for me. I could no longer concentrate on whose ass Jack Reacher was about to kick. I just stared at my Kindle and grumbled. "No pumps on steam systems," I muttered.
"What's that?" The Lovely Marianne said.
I just shook my head.
Okay, spoiler warning: If you're planning on reading this book, don't go any further than this sentence
Still with me? Thanks.
We get nearly the end of the novel and there's a point where Reacher and the bad guy are down in this cave, 300 feet below ground. They're down there with a huge tank that's filled with jet fuel. With me so far? Good.
Okay, more bad guys show up topside. They have a truck with a long hose. They lower the hose 300 feet down to that big tank. Then they turn on the pump, which is up there on the truck, and proceed to suck the oil from the tank.
At this point, I shut off my Kindle and went out for a long walk.
Even in a perfect vacuum, you can't suck a fluid any higher than the atmospheric pressure will allow. One-psi pressure equals 2.31 feet. The atmosphere, at sea level, weighs 14.7 psi. That's all the push there is, so how the heck are you going to suck jet fuel up 300 feet? Grrrrrrr.
Don't believe everything you read.