Upstairs radiators don't heat fully ó airlock or pressure problem?


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Old 11-26-07, 09:53 AM
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Unhappy Upstairs radiators don't heat fully ó airlock or pressure problem?

Hereís a puzzle for you: My downstairs radiators work fine, and kick a lot of heat. My upstairs ones, however, are only warm at the bottom, and are cold on top. Iíve tried all the various fixes Iíve found on the internet: Bleeding the radiators, bleeding them in a certain order, etc., but I still canít seem to fix the problem. When I bleed the downstairs ones, water comes out immediately. Upstairs, I can bleed a bit of air every day, but no water ever comes out (and recently, I can only bleed air from the first radiator I attempt to bleed upstairs, nothing happens with the other two). Whatís going on?

Iíve read that I might need to add water or pressure to my system, but Iím not sure how. The pressure gauge on my boiler usually reads around 10 PSI or so. I found a reducing valve (or feed valve, a Bell Gossett one with a lever), but Iím not fully sure how it works, since I donít know which position is on and which is off; and Iíve tried running the system both ways and it doesnít seem to make much of a difference.

Does anyone have any insight or suggestions? Is there anything easy/obvious I might be missing? I just bought the house this year, and the system is pretty old, but otherwise seems to be working alright (I just had a furnace guy inspect it a few months ago).
 
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Old 11-26-07, 10:04 AM
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Could you take some photos of the fill valve and general boiler? You can use photobucket for that.

You do need more water and water pressure in the system - with the photos it'll make it easier for others to see how to best do that.
 
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Old 11-26-07, 10:48 AM
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Of course. I'll take them and post them tonight. I had some trouble finding the right valve to turn. I finally pinpointed one stop valve that I thought seemed correct, since it came from the (cold) water supply into the boiler (before the reducing valve), but I'm not able to turn the darn thing. I wonder if it's stuck, and if it's safe to try to force it to turn.

Thanks for the help! I'll post photos in a few hours!
 
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Old 11-26-07, 02:27 PM
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No, probably not a good idea to try and force it ! Looking forward to seeing the pics... the more the better, and a wide general shot so we can see where everything fits is always helpful too!
 
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Old 11-26-07, 03:39 PM
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Here are the pics

Hey friends-

I appreciate the interest and the time! Here are the pics:

Here's an establishing shot:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A closer up view of the boiler:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A closer up view of above the boiler:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A close of up the reducing valve (note that the lever is up):
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Sorry this is blurry, but this is a close up of the valve that won't turn. It's hard to see, but it's in the upper left (by the flash of yellow) on the pipe that leads into the reducing valve:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Alright, guys; what do you think? Let me know if you need anymore pics!
 
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Old 11-26-07, 04:04 PM
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Since the pressure reducing valve appears to be pretty new, for now let's assume it's OK.

Between the hand valve that's stuck, and the reducing valve, that other thing is a check valve. That's probably not a problem.

It appears that the black handle valve is closed... you need to get that moving somehow. BUT... before you do anything, find the main water shut off for the house and make sure it works! You want to be able to shut off the water in case you break something... might wanna have a plumbers phone number handy too !

Pick up some penetrating oil. I like PB BLASTER (automotive stores) ... it's the best I've found. It STINKS like kerosene, so use sparingly. Spray a little bit on the stem of that valve, and let it work itself in for a day or so.

Grab the handle and start working it back and forth, back and forth, and see if it doesn't start to loosen up.

It's very possible that someone previously closed it very tight, and you might just be able to put some muscle to it to get it to open. IF it's actually closed! It may be open ... some gate valves have a 'rising stem' that comes up as you open the valve. Some don't... and you can't really tell if they are open or closed by looking at them.

I don't think it's good advice to put a wrench on the stem, but that's probably what a plumber would do if you called one. He would have the resources to repair it at hand though before he did so...

OH, by the way, the position the fast fill handle is in in the pics is the 'normal' position. Lifting that handle causes the valve to open and fast fill. Leave it where it's at for now.
 
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Old 11-26-07, 04:11 PM
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Noticed something else...

On the return pipe near the circulator, it looks like there is a PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE there... The discharge on that valve should be piped down to the floor. If that opens for any reason, boiling hot water will come spewing out that valve and could severly injure anyone in the vicinity, not to mention that it would be spraying all over the circulating pump motor... BOILING WATER + ELECTRICITY + HUMAN BODIES is NOT a good mix !
 
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Old 11-28-07, 02:16 PM
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Tried the PB Blaster

Ok, I tried the PB Blaster (cool stuff, by the way)... so far, that valve isn't moving; the stem seems pretty cemented in its current position. I can try spraying some more later and letting it sit a little while, but in the meantime, what should I do? Will it help anything to continue bleeding the upstairs radiators (I can squeeze out a little bit of air every day).

I think I'm too timid to take a wrench to the stem of the valve; think I should call in a plumber to take a look at it? How much do you think that would set me back? I'm trying to decide how much money I want to spend on this problem, since I still get some heat upstairs. That being said, if this is going to cause damage over the long run, I don't want to put it off.
 
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Old 11-28-07, 03:38 PM
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Cool stuff, but it does stink !

Yes, I would put a bit more on and let it sit for a while longer, then try again.

I doubt that any further bleeding will help. Low pressure is low pressure... there just isn't enough to push the water up that high.

Is there a washing machine in the vicinity ? Do you have a garden hose ? I'll explain why later...

The damage in the long run... as long as the water level in the boiler doesn't go down to the point where there is very little water, not much. However, if it does happen that the water gets that low, and the boiler 'dry fires' you can count on having to replace the boiler. There is also an extremely elevated risk of fire... with no water in it, that boiler could get VERY hot . This would only happen in the event of a leak that drained the system, so it's not iminent danger, but the possiblity does exist.

I dunno... I would guesstimate a couple hundred perhaps. Figure 60-100 per hour labor (depending on where you live), and maybe 25 for a new valve (have it replaced with a 'ball valve', just like the one with the yellow handle). A good guy could probably knock that out in an hour or two with no 'other' problems, such as the house shut off not closing. While you had him there, you might ask about having him install a proper 'BACKFLOW PREVENTER' in place of the 'check valve' that's there now.

Do you have a pair of 'vice grips' ? If so, clamp them on the stem. It's good that you are timid, stay that way. Don't FORCE them, but just wiggle them back and forth, like you were doing with the handle. This will let you get just a LITTLE bit more leverage, and might loosen the valve up.

I can tell you how to get water into the boiler temporarily using the garden hose ... but I would recommend getting the valve fixed if you can swing the funds.
 
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Old 11-28-07, 05:43 PM
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Stuck Valve

You could try a little gentle persuasion via a hammer. Rap firmly (don't wail) on the valve body while working with the vise grips.
Another "how to": Secure the handle on the reducing valve with a zip tie or piece of wire around the handle & the pipe. You don't want that handle to accidently get perpendicular to the pipe. When that happens, it opens the "fast fill" & negates the pressure regulation of the reducing valve.
 
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Old 11-28-07, 07:16 PM
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You guys are great; thanks for the tips. I'm going to sit on this for another day or two, then let you know what happens.

Incidentally, though; there is a washing machine nearbye, and I do have a garden hose... I'm very curious to hear what you're suggesting here, even if I don't actually attempt it
 
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Old 11-28-07, 07:31 PM
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OK, if you're game...

Since the boiler is probably already hot, let it cool for a while, say 100* or less. You don't want to introduce a large amount of cold water into a hot boiler... can you say CRACK? and that you don't want.

So, use the hot connection to the washer. Turn off the supply valves to the washer, and disconnect the HOT hose from the back of the washer. Connect the garden hose to it. Direct the hose into the washer tub or a laundry tub or a bucket and fill the hose with water. Put your finger over the end of the hose. (the object here is to minimze the amount of air you put into the boiler by filling the hose first.) Connect the other end of the garden hose to the drain on the boiler, below the circulator pump. Open the hot water valve to the washer. Go to the boiler drain and SLOWLY open that while observing the pressure gauge on the boiler. Continue to SLOWLY fill the boiler in this fashion until the pressure gauge reads 15 PSI. Close the boiler drain. Close the washer valve. Leave the hose connected for now.

Try bleeding the upstairs radiators, you should get water now. If not, try adding 1 or 2 more PSI, but 15 should be enough. After bleeding, check the pressure again, it may have dropped. Add a little more water through the hose connection.

Try running the boiler and see if you get heat. Bleed some more, check the pressure again, repeat as necessary.
 
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Old 12-06-07, 09:17 AM
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I got the valve unstuck!

Well, NJ Trooper, you were right: That PB Buster really, really does work. I gave it a little bit more time, a week or so, then tried to turn the pipe, on a whim, and it turned like it was never jammed in the first place!

Alright, so it turns now: My question, then, is now what? I tried turning it to the on position and there was no sudden rush of water that I could hear... what should I do? Should I turn it so it's on and then just leave it for a while? What position should I keep my reducing valve lever in?

Thanks so much!
 
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Old 12-06-07, 03:36 PM
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Yeah, that stuff should be called PB MAGIC ... I've found nothing better, and I've tried them all! If only they could make it smell like Sandalwood...

When you opened the valve, did the pressure on the boiler increase at all ? Or, had you previously used the garden hose to pressure the system up ? In other words, what pressure is the boiler at now ?

The "normal" position for the fast fill lever is the way it is shown in the pictures you posted. I second Grady's suggestion to use a piece of wire around the handle and the pipe to keep it in that position against accidental opening.

If you lift that handle, you may hear water flowing... Do you? ... but be careful, because you need to watch the pressure gauge, don't let it go over like 15 PSI or so.
 
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Old 12-06-07, 07:33 PM
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The pressure is still at just about 10 psi, where it's been all along (I didn't attempt the garden hose trick). When I turn the recently unstuck valve, I don't hear any water; nor do I hear any water move when I pull the reducing valve lever.

I guess I'm sort of at a lose. I can't tell if there's a problem with the water supply or not---all the other faucets in the basement (and the rest of the house) are working fine.

Should I just turn open the recently unstuck valve and hope that water slowly trickles to the right place, or should it really be a lot more immediate than this?
 
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Old 12-06-07, 08:12 PM
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It should be a little more immediate than that... particularly when you lift the fast fill handle. That handle 'bypasses' the pressure regulation part of the reducing valve and allows almost full flow of water past it. You would know it right away, and probably hear the water hissing past it.

You see that check valve in line to the right of the manual hand valve ? Try giving that a 'rap' or two three with a small hammer... don't wail on it! just kinda knock on it's door. Maybe it's stuck...

I don't think in your case I would leave the valve open... you don't know what the reducing valve is set to, and if something all of a sudden lets water flow, you might end up overpressuring the system.

I can't really think of anything else to suggest...

Have you followed the fill line all the way back and are certain there are no other valves in line ?
 
 

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