Orillia Home Inspector. biz ... Home, Cottage, and Commercial Inspection evidence files-old hotwater and steam heating systems

These photos were taken during different commercial inspections in buildings around the Orillia area last year.

From the evidence files of the Orillia home inspector. biz-heating info.   As an Orillia home cottage and commercial inspector I will sometimes come across abandoned Wiring, ductwork, and gas or water pipe. These photos show two large tanks that are strapped to the ceiling . These tanks are air expansion tanks for abandoned steam or hot water heating systems. One is noticeably larger and came from a commercial inspection around Orillia and the other was also a commercial inspection from further north in Muskoka. Of the two the one with the largest tank, it was about four feet long, also has the much larger pipe in the background. This is due to the larger one being for steam heat. When converting water to steam it expands to 270 times the original volume and thus the larger pipe as well. These types of installations are clues to look for things left behind as well. This is another photo from the files of the Orillia home inspector. biz- heating. This ceiling mounted tank is the smaller one discussed in the prior photo. Found in a commercial inspection it is about two feet long and about 12 inches around. I too is a clue to look for other parts of an old system that may have been abandoned or incorporated into the new system incorrectly.  When a steam system is converted to hot water as many of them were, there are many parts such as valves reused even though the location of certain valves have to change to function correctly in the system. Sometimes this is not done.

As neither of these tanks that are mounted in the ceiling are still connected they could be removed but I often find them left in place. Both of the photos show old expansion tanks. Water being heated expands and these tanks allow water or steam to expand by compressing the air in the tank. Without an expansion tank the water would become pressurized and forced out of a blow off valve or could even blow a fitting or rupture a pipe. The expansion tank is just one of many control features on the steam and hot water heating systems.

The photo on the left was installed in a commercial multi family residence I inspected. It was originally hooked into an oil fired hot water heating system having individual room rads for heating.  Note the 3/4 inch iron piping in the background. and the short stubby tank common to a hot water heating system. When heating water to under the boiling point it expands from room temperature to just under 1.5 x the original volume. Steam heating on the other hand requires much larger piping as that shown in the photo far right. Note also the tank is almost three times the length of the other tank. This is because when heating hot water and producing steam you require 270 times the space for the steam and thus the need for larger pipe and air tanks.

These tanks are not just evidence of an old hot water or steam heating system though. They are signs that should alert an inspector to the possibility of several  other things as well.

This is a photo from the Orillia home inspector. biz-heating  evidence files. As an Orillia  home inspector  I have found during home cottage and commercial inspection that there are some clues left from old installations no one is happy to find. This photo is of pipes found during a commercial inspection north of Orillia. It is wrapped with what appears to be old pipe insulation. Of course there is an automatic assumption that this wrap contains asbestos, however, that may not be the case. There were other inert materials used in pipe insulation. Only proper sampling and testing by a recognized and certified lab can determine if in fact asbestos exists.  This photo too comes from the evidence files of the Orillia home inspector.biz-heating and it is another photo of suspect insulation wrap on a heating pipe. Even though only a lab can tell for sure, as a home cottage and commercial inspector I would point out this material to the client as suspect. I would also forward information in the report on asbestos remediation, control of asbestos that is left in place, and lab testing for asbestos which is an ancillary service of Done Right Home Inspections.

The truth is no Inspector wants to find this.------------------------------------------- Or this.  

These steam pipes covered in a pipe wrap were discovered by the Orillia based home inspector during different commercial inspections north of Orillia and in Muskoka.  Odds are very likely this is asbestos pipe insulation although only  proper sampling and a certified laboratory can confirm that. You cannot tell just by looking at it and even a steamfitter that has worked with this material can not visually tell if it contains asbestos or is made with another inert fiber as much of it was. Cork, fiberglass, and mineral wool combined with a canvas wrap are just a few of the types of pipe insulation that look very similar.  Still, as long as it is not disturbed all experts agree that it is not dangerous. However, removing it rather than sealing it up is a very expensive proposition. If renovations are contemplated to the area this is not usually a welcome sight. Even if it tests negative for asbestos fiber, waiting for the test  and results can hold up a closing for just over a week.