How to make sure your radiator is safe in an NYC apartment

By Virginia K. Smith | December 16, 2016 - 1:59PM 

Though the city has deemed the radiator-related death of two young Bronx girls a "freak accident," in the wake of the tragedy, many of us are now understandably wondering how to ensure the radiators in our own apartments are safe.

Thankfully, radiator-related injuries are exceedingly rare, as the New York Times reports, and you're far more likely to be injured by contact with the hot metal than by steam. For this reason, one of your best bets for safety is to simply cover up the radiator, whether you opt for a custom wood or metal covering (we've got options for those here), an inexpensive cloth cover, or a higher-tech solution such as the Cozy, an insulated cover that circulates heat from the radiator based on the current temperature in your apartment. For hot pipes, you can simply wrap them in foam insulation to prevent unpleasant run-ins.

As for the radiator itself, as we've written previously, many people operate under the misconception that adjusting the heater's valve will also adjust the amount of heat the radiator emits. Not so: Your valve should either be turned all the way on or all the way off, and there's no such thing as a medium setting. (In fact, having it turned to somewhere in the middle is often a cause of that irritating clanging sound.) "It's not designed to be a control valve," Peter Varsalona of RAND Engineering & Architecture has told us.

To adjust the temperature, you'll need to have either a steam air vent or a thermostatic radiator valve professionally installed. Both options attach to the heat valve and allow you to adjust for temperature, though expect to spend a few hundred dollars between the cost of equipment and installation. However, resist the urge to take off the vent or turn it around any time the apartment gets too cold—as DNAinfo has reported, this can cause it to fall off altogether, leaving the radiator open to fill the room with steam.

As with any serious systems problem, if there are signs of an issue (such as a valve that feels loose or doesn't close all the way, or steam filling the room) don't tinker with it yourself, and, instead, call the management and super. (Reportedly, the parents of the two girls who died had been repeatedly complaining to the landlord that their apartment had become a "steam room" prior to the accident.) And if your management doesn't respond quickly, it's time to file an official complaint with 311, which will send an inspector to address the problem and force your landlord into action.


Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.