Metro Steam Systems

Simple measures for metro steam systems to enhance efficiency and comfort.

Tech Overview

Applicable Buildings Types multifamily
When to Implement anytime

*Be sure to consult a qualified service provider to determine the right measures for your building.

What is a Metro Steam System?

Metro steam systems distribute steam through a building’s pipes to radiators that heat occupant spaces providing a simplified and cost saving heating system in large buildings and campuses. Recent developments in multi-sensor controls for metro steam systems have made it possible to enhance the resident comfort by improving the quality of heat through measures such as advanced zoning and apartment level temperature control.

Fig 1 (left).  An imbalanced metro steam system, where the top floor receives too much heat and the bottom floor receives too little. Fig 2 (right). A properly balanced system, where each floor receives the same level of heat, and occupants can adjust temperature to match their personal preference.

How to Implement

A metro-pipe steam retrofit requires not only tuning and upgrading boilers, but comprehensively improving each radiator, enhancing the distribution, and optimizing controls. High performance is only achieved when the system is addressed as a whole. Download the full tech primer to learn more about each of the following steps:
A. Upgrading Controls makes a steam system more responsive to actual heating needs with the help of multi-sensor controls that monitor both outdoor and indoor temperatures
B. Insulate Piping and Radiators in order to optimize heat distribution and prevent overheating upper floor apartments
C. Support Staff Training and Maintenance can help achieve energy savings by identifying and addressing maintenance needs independently or engaging qualified contractors
D. Tune Existing Boilers to ensure dry steam for an effective steam system
E. Replace Boilers with new boilers that are correctly sized for the distribution system

Cost and Benefits

Cost and benefits of a metro steam system retrofit will vary depending on your building’s baseline systems and conditions. Typically, buildings can expect to see the following results:
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Savings
A comprehensive metro steam upgrade can moderately reduce heating related GHG emissions.
Tenant Experience Improvement
A metro steam retrofit greatly improves tenant satisfaction by delivering balanced, even heating throughout the building.
Utility Savings
Moderate utility cost savings can be expected from a metro steam retrofit.
Capital Cost
Metro steam upgrades require a moderate capital investment.
Maintenance Requirement
Metro steam systems require a moderate level of maintenance including burner tuning and boiler cleaning to ensure optimal operating efficiency and can easily be done by knowledgeable staff.

Take Action

This information is part of more than a dozen High Performance Technology Primers prepared by the Building Energy Exchange and the Retrofit Accelerator to introduce decision-makers to solutions that can help them save energy and improve comfort in their buildings. Curious about other retrofitting possibilities? Explore our complete library of Tech Primers here.
The NYC Retrofit Accelerator’s team of Efficiency Advisors offers free, personalized advisory services to help streamline the process of making energy efficient improvements to your buildings.
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Available For You


  • Retrofit
  • System Upgrade
  • Multi-Family

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