Omnia Mechanical Group

571 Timpson Place Bronx, NY 10455

Phone: 212-534-2500

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How Do Thermostatic Radiator Valves Work? The Ideal Heating Solution to Prevent Being Too Hot or Too Cold

If the occupants of your New York City condominium or co-operative building sound like Goldilocks to you – never able to get that “just right” temperature in their homes – you probably field a lot of complaints. You can eliminate those calls with an easy solution: thermostatic radiator valves. If you’ve wondered, “How do thermostatic radiator valves work?” we answer that question here and review the many benefits of these handy devices that can solve the temperature problem for you in an affordable way.

Are the Units in Your Building Too Hot or Too Cold?

A common problem with steam heat

Most residents of New York City condos or co-ops suffer from the same issue in winter: it feels impossible to get the right temperature inside. Everyone is either too hot or too cold. The former is usually the case, especially in older buildings, as steam heat was designed to provide enough warmth to allow occupants to throw the windows open for improved ventilation during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

You may have thought about installing thermostats in every unit, but how would that work with everyone trying to influence a single commercial boiler at the same time? One resident may want the heat turned down, while another would like it turned up. Enter the thermostatic radiator valve.

What Is a Thermostatic Radiator Valve?

An alternative to standard radiator valves

Your radiators come equipped with valves that are essential to their function. But these valves don’t give you much flexibility when it comes to subtle temperature adjustments inside individual units. In order to make a room hotter, for example, you have to open the valve more to allow more air to escape, which in turn fills the radiator with steam. The boiler also has to be cranked up to allow the radiators to heat at maximum capacity.

A thermostatic radiator valve, or TRV, is a special valve that replaces the normal valve. It permits sophisticated temperature changes, so residents can each get the temperature they want without fighting over the boiler operation.

How Do Thermostatic Radiator Valves Work?

TRVs explained

A thermostatic radiator valve is composed of two primary parts. There’s a valve body that mounts on the radiator. Above that sits a valve head with a dial. Typically, the dial features a scale from zero to five or six, which corresponds to how little or how much heat the radiator is producing.

An actuator inside the valve head senses the relative temperature of a room. It expands as a room heats up, which moves a pin in the valve body. The pin then forces the valve body to close, stopping the flow of steam (or sometimes hot water in hydronic systems) to the radiator. Once the room cools a bit, the sensitive capsule in the valve head contracts again, releasing the pin in the valve body, so more steam can again enter the radiator.

The scale on the TRV dial represents the distance the actuator has to move in order to cause the valve body pin to close the valve. One is the smallest distance, with the largest number being the greatest distance. The larger the distance the capsule has to move, the warmer the room will get before the radiator shuts down.

How Do TRVs Work in Conjunction with Programmable Thermostats?

Even more precise heat control

You can gain even more control over a TRV if you pair it with a programmable or smart thermostat. Rather than having to adjust the TRV dial manually to set the radiator to produce the desired level of heat, the TRV “talks” to the thermostat.

Programmable thermostats are a great convenience nowadays as they can be set to raise and lower the heat at predetermined times. For instance, if you want the heat to come on before you arise in the morning or want it lowered once you’ve left for work, the thermostat can do that for you.

Better yet are smart programmable thermostats that can be manipulated with a home hub or mobile device. If you want to adjust your heat once you’re already in bed, say, you can do it remotely. Plan on staying late at the office? Use your phone to tell your thermostat to delay increasing the heat.

What Are the Benefits of Thermostatic Radiator Valves?

Multiple advantages besides creating the ideal temperature

As well as letting the occupants of your building set the perfect temperature for their unique needs, thermostatic radiator valves, particularly when used in conjunction with programmable thermostats, offer other benefits:

  • They reduce heating costs for whomever is footing the bill, whether that’s the occupants of individual units or one entity.
  • Because energy usage is reduced, the carbon footprint of your building is also smaller, which is good for the air quality in New York City.
  • Property managers don’t have to field so many heat-related complaints and can focus on other tasks, like plumbing repairs and similar maintenance.
  • Programmable thermostats let users lower their unit temperature safely when not at home, without having to turn off the heat completely, thereby greatly decreasing the risk of frozen pipes during cold snaps.
  • Thermostatic radiator valves are a more cost-effective solution than many other options.
  • Installing new radiator technology improves property values and attracts more desirable residents.

Don’t spend another winter dealing with frustrated residents who are too cold or too hot. Sanitary Plumbing can help you safely, quickly, and affordably install thermostatic radiator valves in each unit, making sure their application is correct for the type of system you have (one pipe, two pipes, hydronic, etc.). Our partners at Bolt Electric can assist if you would like to add thermostats simultaneously. Call us at 212-734-5000 today to schedule your appointment.


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