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    Wife HATES old steam radiators. Don't care for covers. Alternatives? (37 Posts)

  • agurkas agurkas @ 3:15 PM
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    Wife HATES old steam radiators. Don't care for covers. Alternatives?

    We have a 1938 house and I am looking into several alternatives, now that we are ditching the oil and converting to gas (we are in MA). House has oldschool radiators. I realize some love it, but we hate them. They get really hot, so there is risk with out toddler. Covers are really an eyesore to us and they kills so much of the efficiency of radiant.

    Is there any way to stick with single pipe steam, but remove those radiators and use something else?
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 4:38 PM
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    Not really

    Single pipe steam doesn't play well with baseboard type convectors (which don't play all that well with steam anyway), and they are close to your only real alternative.

    However, it is a myth that radiator covers harm efficiency.  Some do.  But it is quite possible to have covers which impair the efficiency very little, and they can be quite handsome as well.
    Jamie

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 6:58 PM
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    If they're getting that hot

    the system may be running too much pressure. Have it checked.

    Are you having a gas conversion burner installed or going with a completely new boiler?
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"

    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists

    Oil & Gas Burner Service

    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 8:37 PM
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    Torn

    I am torn between having burner swapped out to gas (~$2K) and getting couple more years out of the boiler or just scrapping the system and going hydro-air way with 1st floor and 2nd floor on separate air handlers. Not sure yet what the cost of 2nd route would be.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 10:53 PM
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    Opinions are like.....

    I am a homeowner and wanted to give my perspective on this.  As far as the kids personally I wouldn't worry about it.  Millions and millions of children have grown up with steam heat with little or no problems.  I have 3 kids (7 year old and 4 year old twins) and we have only had one very minor incident.  One of them touched a pipe while the system was running and he cried, but did NOT get burned.  The temp that these run at could burn you, but you will remove your hand long before that can happen.  I actually tested this theory by placing my hand on the rad to see what would happen.  Yes it hurts, but no permanent damage.  As I tell my wife if they touch it they will only do it once.  I would be way more concerned about hot pots on a stove or a deep fryer than those radiators.  What is it you don't like about them?  Do they possibly need painted?  As far as any kind of a ducted system you should think about comfort, that ducted system won't give the same comfort as that steam IMHO.  I agree with Jamie about the covers some of them are gorgeous.  I made one for my kids room when I remodeled it and it blends in with all the built in cabinets and the floating shelves in the corner.  I even did it as a built in with the baseboard wrapping in front of it.  In addition a totally new system with ducts is going to cost you big time.  We don't discuss price on this site, but you will be in for a shock when you get the quote.  In addition there is the cost of tearing out the old and patching all the holes etc.  The bottom line is it's your house and you have to do what you want.  If you do decide to tear it out, please do not just throw out those radiators sell them or find someone who sells them.  They are a treasure and deserve to be preserved especially if you have nice ones.  Just my 2 cents as a homeowner.
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 11:06 PM
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    They are just ugly...

    Cost will be a factor, but we do want to put in AC on the 2nd floor (only 1st floor with forced air system that augments steam system has AC).

    That said, those radiators are ugly and bulky (doubt the ones we have are of any real value besides scrap, no ornamentation on them). Rooms aren't exactly huge, so having those things there just robs the space. Wish there were better looking alternatives for single-pipe steam.
    Also, you can't regulate each room individually, which is bit of an issue.
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 12:08 AM
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    Once they are stripped and painted properly

    they'll look fine. You can also detail the elevated parts of the cast-iron in a contrasting color to make them really look sharp.

    You will NEVER be happy with "scorched-error". Keep the steam.

    What make and model is your current boiler?
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"

    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists

    Oil & Gas Burner Service

    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 12:14 AM
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    Steam factory

    Got one of the Weil-McLain WGO units. 2005 or so vintage (just looking through those service tags). It is running oil right now.

    Manually flushing and then water level refill with bunch dire warnings from inspect and boiler guy I saw cleaning it after (pre-sale) about not messing it up wasn't exactly something I wanted to hear. Especially when wife was there to hear it.
    This post was edited by an admin on June 8, 2014 12:15 AM.
  • Steamhead Steamhead @ 12:41 AM
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    That boiler

    can be fitted with a probe-type low-water cutoff that doesn't need to be flushed- just needs to have the probe pulled and cleaned once a year. You'd have to move the pipe connection to the indirect tank, but that's no big deal. Here's a pic of one of our W-M Gold installations with a probe-type low-water cutoff and a Carlin gas burner:
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"

    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists

    Oil & Gas Burner Service

    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 11:15 PM
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    Like I said opinions

    I love the look of the rads, it fits in with an old house.  To me (just my opinion) if you like old houses you like rads it's a package deal.  Anyway as far as taking up space yours aren't really that big if that one you posted is similar to all of them.  Also lets say you do ducts and there is a duct where that rad is, you still can't use that space because you will block the duct so you haven't really gained anything.  Also a CORRECTLY done duct system will probably have more ducts than the number of rads you currently have.  For ducts you typically need at minimum 2 ducts per room (supply and return) and they need to stay open for airflow.  Again just my opinion.  It sounds like you have decided what to do so I would recommend calling some HVAC contractors and getting some quotes.  There is a find a contractor link on this site which is a good place to start.  Good luck.  Oh and those rads absolutely positively have value no matter what, so don't scrap them.  They don't need to be fancy to have value.  They would be an upgrade for me because of the small size, mine are over 3 feet tall!
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 11:25 PM
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    Ducts on top

    Well... thinking was to do ducts on the ceiling, since attic space is accessible.

    While we did buy a Cape, interior is tad more modern than most Capes and we intend to make it even more modern. The addition is totally modern.

    I looked around a lot and just can't find any more slick modern radiators for single-pipe. Guess nobody does them. I have seen only Runtal ones and they are ugly as sin. Worst interpretation of "style". Plus they are like $900 a pop. That is whole new system kind of money for the whole house.

    I grew up with single-pipe steam.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 11:20 PM
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    regulation

    Actually you can regulate the steam room by room.  If you are getting uneven heating there is usually a problem with the system.  These systems can be balanced and can work beautifully.  Here is a link to a TRV to control individual radiators.  I have 2 of them in my house and they work fantastic!
    http://www.supplyhouse.com/Danfoss-013G0140-Thermostatic-Rad-Valve-w-Vac-Breaker-1-Pipe-Steam-5551000-p
    http://s3.supplyhouse.com/manuals/1295385084103/44329_PROD_FILE.pdf
    http://s3.supplyhouse.com/product_files/013G0140-Submittal.pdf
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 11:30 PM
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    Got those in my office

    yeah I have those regulators in my office. Challenge is that you can turn them down when you are not there. There are the ones we got http://www.supplyhouse.com/Honeywell-T100B1035-Remote-Setpoint-and-Sensor-for-V100-and-V2000-Series-Radiator-Valves

    At least "remote" function allows you to have better handle over real temperature.

    I have seen some Honeywell units that they sell in Europe, which connect wirelessly to central controller and you can adjust each room via app. But seems like they don't sell them in US
    This post was edited by an admin on June 7, 2014 11:31 PM.
  • KC_Jones KC_Jones @ 7:53 AM
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    Little confused

    You are talking about individual room control, but then mention hot air.  With hot air you don't have individual room control either?  Well you maybe sort of could with a bunch of dampers in the duct work or something, not really sure how well that would even work.  You can put duct into the ceiling, but some of it still needs to run down the wall other wise the supply and return can "short circuit" and the system will never really be comfortable.  There needs to be some amount of cross circulation to function correctly.  If you put the supply and return in the ceiling, hot air rises so you will suck all the hot air off the top of the room and never really get it comfortable.  I work for an industrial Refrigeration and HVAC company as a designer, but like I said honestly just a homeowner.  Not trying to talk you out of anything, just trying to give  you some information to think about.  The more informed you are the better you can pick a contractor.  And as Steamhead and I both stated you will never be as comfortable with hot air as you are with steam or any other hydronic system.  Hydronic heating is a Cadillac and hot air is the Yugo.  I am sure there are a couple HVAC guys that might blast me for that one, but we are all entitled to our opinions.
    Just another homeowner trying to find his way through.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 9:05 AM
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    Compromises

    Look I get that there will be compromises needed. And I may come across modern style covers. Previous own did say that upstairs was getting hot and downstairs needed help (hence additional forced air downstairs). That said, I still have three bedrooms on the 2nd floor that need AC. Big windows and 90 degree days aren't fun.
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 9:14 AM
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    Mini-split

    Mini-split systems are a lot more efficient (double under some conditions I think?) than central air.

    They also don't need duct work or to make your walls look like swiss cheese to install.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 8:22 AM
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    Risk to children?

    You just said you grew up with single pipe steam, how did you make it out alive without protection from those burning hot radiators?
    We're about to have a baby and the last concern I have is them somehow managing to burn themselves on one of my bare radiators.  Steam radiators are not hot enough to cause an instant burn and I certainly hope my child has the brains to not hold a body part there long enough.  I know our cats and Chihuahua manage just fine.  Sorry, but I've heard many people make this argument and it's just annoying now. 

    Ugly is of course a personal opinion and I really can't argue that, personally, I like how they look.  I grew up in a house with forced hot air and honestly even if I hated how the radiators looked I'd still keep them.  Every time we visit my parents who have forced hot air I get reminded of how much I hate it and they have a modern 90% system in a house they built in 2006.

    I can, and do regulate two of my rooms individually with single pipe steam.  Have a look at the pictures in my signature and you'll see two TRVs I installed.  They work beautifully.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • agurkas agurkas @ 9:16 AM
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    Bit snarky aren't we

    Not sure if there is really place for snark here.

    That said, yes I grew up with steam and hated it, because it was always too cold or too hot. But I realize there were no thermostats back then.

    And our radiators were running hot enough for inspector to warn about it.

    Lots of research and learning for me. I do appreciate everyone's input.
    This post was edited by an admin on June 8, 2014 9:16 AM.
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 10:09 AM
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    Snarky

    Wasn't intended to be snarky.
    If I was you, I'd have the steam system tuned up, get things working properly and silently like they should.  I would then have a few mini-splits installed.

    Doesn't mean that works for you or the wife, but it's what I would do if I was you.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • agurkas agurkas @ 10:16 AM
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    Might be worth the shot

    Boiler still has some life to it, so we can probably squeeze out bunch of years out of it with proper gas burner installed.
    Maybe TRVs and modern style covers will keep the wife happy.

    Need to find a steam heat "magician" to tune this system up. I think that addition threw things out of whack. Highly doubt they spent the money to rebalance the system.
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 10:27 AM
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    Additions

    One "trick" that contractors with no steam knowledge like to use is to add on radiators by using the fittings where the main vents were to connect a radiator take-off. Apart from usually being to small for the connected radiation, they also get rid of the main vents. When they find the steam no longer reaching the radiators until the boiler cycles on pressure, they jack up the pressuretrol to force it. If you can't find your main vents, that's the first thing you need to get fixed, and this will improve things dramatically.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 8:27 AM
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    Radiator Covers

    Radiator covers can be made to look good without lowering the effective radiation. In fact, the enclosures designed for convectors are part of the reason they can get so much EDR out of such small units.

    The best enclosure designs have vents or grilles at the top and an opening at the bottom so the cold air enters at the bottom, rises past the hot surface, and flows out into the room at the top. Since the front is closed, they're essentially toddler-proof.

    Most radiator covers I've seen are built on the misconception that radiators radiate heat. They don't. They heat by convection. The trick is to bring as much room air in contact with the heated surfaces as possible, and use the convective current to circulate the room air.

    I found some good examples online at http://www.hudsoncabinetrydesign.com/galleries/radiator-cover-galleries. I'm not making an endorsement here; I've never done business with this company, haven't even looked at their prices or where they're located; I'm just saying that the cabinets appear to show an understanding of how radiators work, and they probably don't look like what you think of when you picture a radiator cover.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • agurkas agurkas @ 10:37 AM
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    These would work

    Was browsing a bit and showed these radiator covers to my wife. Actually I like them a lot, she did too.
    Need to find somewhere not too expensive to get them made.
  • ChrisJ ChrisJ @ 10:40 AM
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    Interesting

    I hate to say it but I actually like them too.
    The only issue I'd have is they may reduce output some due to how small the top vent is.
    Weil-McLain EG-45 connected to 392sqft of radiation via two 2" risers into a 3" drop header and 2" equalizer. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures updated 6/5/14.
    https://picasaweb.google.com/thetube0a3/Boiler?authkey=Gv1sRgCImUxIqv9436MQ#
  • agurkas agurkas @ 10:48 AM
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    Linear bar grille

    Maybe cutting in and fitting linear bar grille in the top shelf would fix the issue
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 10:54 AM
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    I cut louvers in the tops of mine.

    I had a bunch of typical home-made radiator covers in my house that had solid tops, grilles on the fronts, and went all the way to the floor, so I cut louvers in the tops, made a vent between the top and the front, cut out an opening at the bottom, and stapled a sheet of masonite to the inside to block any air currents from entering through the grilles.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 10:48 AM
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    Show the pictures

    Print some pictures that look similar to what you need and show them to some local cabinetmakers. Emphasize the importance of creating a "chimney effect."

    By the way, in the picture you posted, those vertical slots on the front do absolutely nothing, aside from giving you a glimpse of the radiator inside. They may even disrupt the convective currents. The only features that matter are the slot at the top and that nice, big opening at the bottom.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • agurkas agurkas @ 10:51 AM
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    I might be missing something

    Really? There is really no heat radiating and it is 100% convection? I was under impression that radiators are better than baseboard because there was radiant heat coming from them, hence why you put reflective shield behind it to keep the heat from radiating into the wall.
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 11:00 AM
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    Okay, there is some radiation

    But you don't need an opening in the front of the cabinet to let radiant heat through. In fact, a metal grille, which you often see, probably blocks more than it lets through. Radiant heat is infra-red. It goes right through a thin sheet of plywood or masonite, especially if it's very dark in color. But really the majority of the heat radiators provide to your living space, assuming you don't have poorly designed radiator covers, is from convection.

    The reason radiators are better than convectors or baseboards is mass. A big chunk of hot cast iron keeps you warm a lot longer than a thin pipe with sheet-metal fins on it.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
    This post was edited by an admin on June 8, 2014 11:02 AM.
  • agurkas agurkas @ 10:01 AM
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    You sure?

    You sure about Masonite or any of the engineered dense boards? I was looking around and radiant heat places don't recommend anything dense above radiant floors.
  • Hap_Hazzard Hap_Hazzard @ 5:54 PM
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    Density

    When they talk about density in flooring materials they're talking about stone, tile, concrete, not masonite. A good rule of thumb would be, "does it float?" Physical compactness of lighter materials actually improves transparency to infrared. Consider what happens to fiberglass insulation if it's compressed, or compare the insulating qualities of styrofoam and a sheet of polystyrene.
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S

    3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • BobC BobC @ 12:01 PM
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    Grill area

    Grills pretty much max out at 63% open area for anything meant to keep fingers out of something. That means if you need a sq ft of open area you will need about 1.5 sq ft of grill area.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • Fizz Fizz @ 8:51 AM
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    Beauty is in eye

    of beholder.  You're getting great advice from guys who know.  For my $, and aesthetics, steam is king.  The rads are like the song says "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life....!"  Truthfully steam lends comfort and healthy air quality, whereas air vents need to be kept clean, requiring more attention and more $ to clean.  As for beauty, well, I love them!  I grew-up with hot water, and large rads, and now live in grandparents home built in early 1900's and it has steam with traditional rads.  The rads add charm and "warmth", not just heat.  We converted our WM SGO-6  3 yrs ago to gas and the results are beyond expectations.  The boiler is 13 yrs old, your's 8yrs.  If you convert you will have that for many more yrs, and your kids will be grown and tell their stories of how they grew-up with steam and wish they could go back.  Just some musings on an interesting subject.  Whatever your decision, I wish you good health and happiness.
  • RobG RobG @ 1:06 PM
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    Radiators

    Actually, radiators operate predominantly on radiation. Their counterpart, baseboard or convectors operate predominately on convection. One solution for rad covers that works quite well is to use a piece of marble or granite as the platform on the cover. Just make sure to leave the bottom open and the upper portion louvered to allow for the moderate convection it will create and you will be fine. My wife loves putting her plants on them as they warm the root systems and promote growth. Put TRV's on the rads you want to regulate (usually the bedrooms) and live in peace and comfort.
    You can use mini-split heat pumps for your a/c and heat during the shoulder seasons and the steam for the others. You will get the best of both worlds.

    Rob
  • Charlie from wmass Charlie from wmass @ 9:43 AM
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    Make the system run well and ride out one winter

    If the wife does not like the radiators by mid-February find a new wife. Now that was Snarky. In all seriousness I do think the beauty of the radiators can be found after a cold winter with them running properly. I hate covers and TRV's are great but often are over kill for smaller building, as in those under 4,000 square feet I find. I also use adjustable vents and keep the boiler tuned to the steam load. If you are in MA call me I probably work in your area too.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • agurkas agurkas @ 9:58 AM
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    You are not getting me into trouble!

    Charlie,

    You are not getting me into trouble. I married up, I look in the mirror, I know who got better deal here :-)
    This post was edited by an admin on June 10, 2014 10:06 AM.
  • Charlie from wmass Charlie from wmass @ 10:17 AM
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    You are working hard to keep her happy

    I am sure she is happy with the deal you made. There is the option of removing the plain ones and going with ornate ones. Radical Radiator has some beautiful ones. Less noise and drafts with radiators then hydroair.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
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