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Steam radiator made of copper pipe? Answered

I have an old house that uses steam heat and has big, single-pipe, cast-iron steam radiators.  I wanted to replace one of them with something modern looking, and one company sells such radiators, but they are very expensive (sold here http://steamradiators.com/)

My question is, can I make one of these  out of large (1.5" or so) diameter copper pipes, soldered together in the same fashion?  I've read that steam systems typically operate at 1psi of pressure, which sounds like it's well below the safety limit of copper pipes and solder joints.

I think it would look fantastic, but would it work?


You could make a radiator out of copper pipe but the reason cast iron steam radiators work so well is that they have a huge thermal mass that heats up from the steam and releases it slowly to the room. Maybe if you run the pipes in bigger chunks of metal or even stone, you could have something to replace that iron mass. Maybe even an oil filled system of pipes heated up by the copper steam lines. I'm sure there is some Scandavian design out there that has done this since they have some avant-garde heating systems. Good luck.

Many of the "portable radiators" are oil filled (which you probably already know :-)

Thanks, that does make a lot of sense. I wonder how that company in the above link does it, since its tubing doesn't seem to have much thermal mass. Seems like it's worth experimenting with, since it'll probably just cost about $100 in tubing and fittings :)

Those modern steam radiators are probably made from thick walled steel tubing. They do have some kind of proprietary internal structure and are claiming to raise prices based on increased steel costs. You may need to have a bigger array or bunch of tubes to be the equivalent of a smaller heavier and denser old style radiator. Before you do something, you have to research how the steam condenses in the radiator and the liquid will flow back to return to the boiler. Make an instructable if you build it.


6 years ago

how did this experiment turn out?
there is also disscusion on this subject here:

I actually never got around to building it, other home improvement projects got in the way. I probably should since the existing one seems to have way too much thermal mass. It rarely ever gets hot, just kinda warm.

Thanks for the link! I'll be consulting it once I get around to making the heater.

I'd be leery of conventional solder and steam, my preference would be to use silver-solder to make up the joints reliably.