This 'Glorified Oven Mitt' Stops Radiator Banging

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This story is part of our latest New Tech City podcast. Listen to the full episode here, and subscribe here.

If you're like many New Yorkers, cold weather brings your ancient cast-iron radiator to life. That means your apartment is probably too hot (or too cold) and filled with loud clanking that sounds like trolls banging on your pipes with metal hammers. 

Don't worry though. These pre-war building inconveniences don't need to last a lifetime. 

Meet Marshall Cox, founder and CEO of a New York City startup called Radiator Labs.  His company is working to solve your heating woes, dampen the noise and even reduce energy expenditures and pollution. 

Cox and his team have developed a heat-resistant radiator enclosure fitted with a small fan, temperature sensors and a ZigBee wireless radio transmitter. You place the device over your radiator, Velcro it in place, then control the temperature in the room through a web interface. 

"It's a glorified oven mitt and a fan that's controlled with pretty simple electronics," Cox said. 

The Radiator Labs system will allow users to control how much heat goes from the radiator to the room and doesn't require any special equipment in the boiler room or changes to the pipes or radiators themselves. 

According to Cox, once the interior of the enclosure heats up to 100 degrees Celsius, it will no longer accept steam.

That's where the energy savings and pollution reduction come in. The dispersed steam is redistributed to other radiators in the system. Since the boiler will have to turn on less frequently, less heating oil will be burned. 

Cox estimates the technology could save building owners between 20 and 30 percent in energy costs. 

As for the noise, Cox says the device will stop the banging and clanking sounds, but won't necessarily stop the hissing. 

The only bad news is that the Radiator Labs device is still in development, so the product is not yet on the market. 

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Alex Goldmark and Daniel P. Tucker


Charlie Herman

Comments [6]

Noise is created by Air being trapped in the pipes. Steam is trying to get through and the hammering is caused by steam trying to push against air pockets in the system. Open your radiator valve all the way and let all of the air escape. If you continue to have noise, then you need to get your upstair and downstair neighbors do the same. Preferably at about the same time. A Saturday morning would be a good time to coordinate this. "Bleeding" the radiators at the beginning of the heating season is a good idea.

Jan. 08 2014 02:06 PM
CassIrurn from nyc

To fully remove the banging, you'd need the superintendent to rise from their posterior. Good luck with that. But part of that clanking and banging is from water trapped in your radiators. You can fix that by

i) being sure that the vent end - opposite the knob for the steam valve - is level or a fraction higher then the valve.
ii) never open the valve partway. It's not a thermostat. It's meant to be fully open or closed. If you crack it open a bit, steam can get in easily but water will go out more slowly. Thus, trapped water.

Post #1 is correct: if properly managed, steam heat works very well, lacking only thermostatic control in original form. But given the hassles of being a landlord in NYC, the types who will buy the buildings are not the types who will look after such details.

Nov. 29 2013 09:26 PM
Iddelz from Windsor Terrace

steam heat. clunky radiators. the butt of so many jokes. the ire of so many tenants.

one pipe steam heat was actually an elegant solution of its time; no expensive pipes or copper, nothing of value to steal, and when balanced precisely, they will operate silently (its true) with up to 85% efficiency.

unfortunately, the plumbers who installed the systems are all dead so old systems are improperly maintained, serviced and balanced and when new boilers are improperly installed, everything gets messed up. mains don't vent (banging), wet steam draws water to radiators (clunking), pressure is set too high (excessive heat) all leading to overworked and inefficient boilers.

most of the little things to fix noisy systems requires boiler access. but this product is one of the few things that can be done at the radiator. i wish the show addressed how they compare to thermostatic radiator valves, which stop steam from entering the radiators once a preset temperature is met.

Nov. 27 2013 09:22 PM

this won't work if the radiator in question doesn't currently get "enough" steam

Nov. 27 2013 02:17 PM
Keira from Manhattan

The clanking and banging I hate, and this device sounds amazing, but I will always love the sweet hiss of a steam radiator whispering that warmth is on the way.

Nov. 27 2013 11:10 AM
Beth from Brooklyn

BOOOOOOO! I want it now! Said the girl with chunky knit socks on and a hoodie pulled tight, under three blankets.

Nov. 27 2013 10:09 AM

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