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bang! bang! hiss! hiss!

Posted by chelsea on November 21, 2000 at 00:38:48:

In Reply to: Re: banging heat pipes posted by Ken on November 20, 2000 at 23:46:43:

Well, it's not really "outsiders." It's asking elected officials to try to get government agencies to do their job of protecting tenants, when the landlord is not providing services required in a lease or housing law. And in my case, it was faulty new construction -- 11 years ago -- done without a building permit, inspections or a certificate of occupancy, which is why it involved the Building Department.

But anyway, here's the Dec. 19, 1999, New York Times item, which does indeed have a good explanation of the backpitching problem.

Q. AND A.; The Sound Of Steam And Water

Q. I have lived in a rental building in the East 20's for six months. Until
recently, I thought I was getting a steal with my rent. For the last month,
however, since the heat was turned on, every hour on the hour a loud banging
occurs for about a minute. Let me stress that this is loud banging that has
knocked my coat rack out of the wall and has basically ended a good night of
sleep for me. I spoke to the super as well as the management office and have
gotten nowhere. My neighbors also complained and were told that ''it's an old
building'' and that there is nothing that can be done. Is there any solution? . . .
Keith Mann, Manhattan.

A. Robert Bellini, an owner of Varsity Plumbing in Flushing, Queens, said that
with most steam heat systems, the steam produced by the boiler and sent to
radiators uses the same pipes as the water returning to the boiler after the
steam has condensed.

When such a system is working properly, he said, the steam moves through
the top portion of the pipe while the returning water flows along the bottom.
For the system to work as it should, however, all horizontal pipes must be
pitched back toward the boiler, allowing the water to return without pooling.

Problems arise if one or more of the horizontal pipes -- or the radiators
themselves -- are not properly pitched. If a pipe or a radiator is pitched in a
way that allows water to pool -- blocking the pipe -- rather than to run back
to the boiler, the steam from the boiler has to move that water out of the way
to continue its journey. It is that encounter, Mr. Bellini said, that causes the
loud banging described by the writer.

''You basically have the steam colliding with the water,'' he said. ''And that
collision can create some pretty violent banging noises.'' It is even possible, he
said, for a coat rack to be knocked off a wall if the collision occurs in a steam
pipe that runs through the wall behind the rack.

The problem can usually be alleviated by finding the trouble spot and properly
pitching the pipe. And while that can be done fairly easily if the problem is an
improperly pitched radiator, Mr. Bellini said, it is more difficult to accomplish if
the problem pipe is hidden inside a wall or floor or if the pitch of the pipe has
shifted because of settlement of the structure itself.

''Buildings sag over the years,'' he said. ''And since the piping is connected to
the structure, the piping sags too.'' In such a case, he said, it is likely that only
major renovation of the system would completely eliminate the problem.

Colleen McGuire, a landlord-tenant lawyer in Manhattan, said that if the noise
is as bad as the writer indicates, it may constitute a violation of the housing
code, a breach of the warranty of habitability, or a breach of the tenant's right
to peace and quiet enjoyment of the premises.

Accordingly, she said, the tenant can bring an action against the landlord in the
housing section of civil court housing court seeking an order to have the
violation corrected. He can also withhold the rent and raise these breaches as
defenses in a nonpayment proceeding commenced by the landlord. If the
tenant is successful, she said, he might be entitled to a rent abatement.

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