Why is steam rising from the New York streets?

New York Steam System

Why is steam rising from the New York streets? It has to do with the New York City steam system. This system heats much of the city and can also provide cooling. The steam in New York is a very familiar sight. The fuming manholes on the streets and the orange-and-white striped funnels with steam are signs of this system. The steam heating system consists of about 168 kilometres of steel pipes that lie beneath the streets of New York. Read more about how the New York steam works below.

Steam on New York Streets

The steam in New York that you see rising from manhole covers and the steam from the orange-white funnels is actually condensation from the city’s heating and cooling system. This may happen when cold water comes into contact with hot pipes or if one of the underground steam pipes leaks. If a leakage happens, a hole has to be dug, but sewer manholes also give access to part of the system.

The reason these ‘chimneys’ (steam funnels) are used is to ensure that all traffic can be clearly routed around them. As a result, the steam will not bother anyone because it will rise higher from the ground. In addition, the steam, which might be extremely hot, cannot spray straight into someone’s face.

New York Steam System - Steam on New York Streets New York Steam System - Steam in New York

Cooling in New York

Steam in New York can also be used to power large steam chillers. This provides air conditioning and other cooling in buildings. Museums in particular make use of this, such as MoMA and the American Museum of Natural History. This not only makes it more pleasant to walk around the museum, but it also helps protect the art and other artefacts on display.

New York City Steam System

Since March 1882, New York has been largely heated by the New York steam system. More than 168 kilometres of steel pipes run beneath the city streets, providing steam to almost 1,500 buildings. The steam system heats several buildings, including the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station. In these locations, the hot water coming out of the taps is also heated using the steam system.

How does the NYC steam system work?

The entire steam system works as follows: water enters a steam generator where it is first purified to ensure that no harmful substances can be released. Subsequently, the water is heated with natural gas in one of the boilers until it reaches a certain pressure and temperature, typically around 456 degrees Fahrenheit (236°C). It is then distributed to all the buildings through the pipe system.

The company behind the system since the beginning is Con Edison, which is why it is also known as ConEd in New York.

Why is there steam in New York?

This has everything to do with New York's heating system. Read more here.

What is the smoke in New York streets?

The smoke coming out of the ground in NYC is steam for heating, cooling and other commercial uses around the city. Read how it works here.

Can the steam in New York also be seen in summer?

Steam can also be seen in New York during the summer months. This is due to the high temperatures of the pipes running underground.

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