Steam out of chimney? ? ?

I live in an old six-unit apartment building which is heated by oil-burning furnace.
For most of the time on cold days, we can see a fair amount of steam coming out of the chimney.
Obviously some heat is being lost. The question is whether this is normal. I don't recall seeing this steam coming out of other older buldings in our area.
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Yes, it is natural. Most oil burners are about 80% efficient and the rest of the heat is going up the stack. Fuel also contains some moisture, as does the air for combustion. This goes up as vapor and will condense and be visible as it eaves the stack in the cold air. You don't see it all the time as conditions vary.
If you are seeing black smoke, the burner is in need of cleaning and/or adjusting. That is very wasteful as it is fuel that is not completely burned and thus wasted.
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Ray wrote:

Is it steam or is it a cloud - smoke. Steam is 212º or hotter. :-)
I suspect it is just condensing water vapor. You burn hydrocarbons and you get H²O and CO and CO² plus heat. When this mix hits the cold air it condenses the H²O.
--
Joseph Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
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It can't be steam, since steam is invisible, like any other gas.

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The idea of raising your thermostat is a good quick step with *no* changes to habits (well except teaching folks to test the water temp before being immersed in it a good practice anyway) personally I like a *really* hot shower.... and wouldn't tolerate a "scaldproof" adapter.
I think a small usage change will do you better with less investment. Can you convince the family to stagger the washups? some in the morning, some at night, some in the afternoon?
--
be safe.
flip
Ich habe keine Ahnung was das bedeutet, oder vielleicht doch?
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toller wrote:

...
....
Not necessarily--most common are, but isn't necessarily so...
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Oh, what gas isn't invisible? (Of course chlorine is yellow, but it isn't opaque like the water vapor the OP is asking about.)
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toller wrote:

UF6, I, ...
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Toller, steam is clearly visable at 10f or less in normal 80% efficient NG furnaces as a white vapor exiting chimneys. I see it all the time when it is cold out. Fuels contain water.
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But you are seeing water vapor not steam. Once the exhaust cools below 212 F there is a phase change.
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Right, and OP is seeing water vapor.
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Wrong.
Wrong again.
Wrong again. The OP saw water droplets, or smoke, or particulates...
Nick
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toller wrote:

Good catch.

--
Joseph Meehan

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Joseph Meehan wrote: ...

It's likely the condensed water vapor which is what happens when the warm, moist air hits the cool exterior air...same effect, smaller volume as the cooling tower.
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Is the apartment building heated by a furnace or a boiler? There is a difference.
If it's actually heated by a boiler, you may have a cracked section above the water line.

oil-burning
coming
I
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If it is a boiler, not forced air check if makeup water is being added. Does it have an auto water feed. You could turn it off , but monitor it carefully to see if the water level drops during its running, dont let it go low. If it is a cracked boiler replacement may be necessary
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