New Boiler not producing enough heat

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Old 11-20-08, 08:09 AM
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New Boiler not producing enough heat

Hi everyone - I'll be greatly to anyone who might be able to offer some insight to me.

Last week I switched my heating system from oil to natural gas. My heating/plumbing guy replaced my old 35 year oil boiler with a new gas boiler (Dunkirk Plymouth Extreme PWX-4V).

Now the problem - with the new gas boiler, the house is just not warm enough (as compared to the old oil boiler).

Examples: The thermostat is programmed to stay at 60 degrees during the days (while I'm at work) and at night (while I sleep). The thermostat is programmed to be 70 degrees from 5-9 am and to be 70 degrees from 5-10 pm.

During the mornings, after 4 hours the temp only increases 4 degrees (from 60 degrees to 64 degrees). With the same setting, my old oil burner would have increased the temp from 60 to 70 within an hour or two.

I called the plumber yesterday to explain the low heat problem. He said it was probably due to a problem with bleeding so he came out and bled and pipe and installed some little metal, acorn shaped pieces to the pipes that he said would help bleeding in the future. (Cost with labor = $500)

This morning, I woke to the same problem: In 4-5 hours, the temp only increased 3-4 degrees. Obviously, bleeding the pipes was not the issue.

My house is tiny - 1300 square feet so it's not like I'm heating a mansion. With the current situation, even if it runs 24/7 - I doubt the temp will ever get about 66 degrees.

I'm a nervous wreck as I could barely scrape together the initial money needed to change from oil to gas, the new furnace, installation, etc.

I'm just sick to my stomach at the thought that in an effort to save money and be more effecient, I've instead made a huge mistake. It's times like this I wish I had a husband

Can anyone imagine what the problem could be? I never had any problem with my old boiler. Should I give up on this plumber and find someone else? Could the boiler be bad? Am I screwed?

THANKS in advance to anyone who might offer me some advice.

FYI - I live in SW Connecticut - recent temps during day are in mid-30's and night mid-20's
 

Last edited by Spy10021; 11-20-08 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 11-20-08, 09:16 AM
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There are many potential problems, whose fix ranges from simple to complex.

There might be air in the piping.

The aquastat on the boiler might be set too low or isn't working right.

The thermostats might need new batteries. (Try this first.)

Can you take some pictures of the system, host them on a site like Image hosting, free photo sharing & video sharing at Photobucket and provide a link to them here?

You have plenty of boiler for a 1300 sf house in SW Connecticut. In fact the boiler is probably oversized by a lot. Probably about three times larger than it needs to be. Chances are the installer didn't do a heat loss for your house to see what size is actually needed.

You can do a heat loss calculation yourself in about an hour or two using free software from

How to get Hydronic Explorer 2

which does it "by the book."

Change the batteries in the thermostats and take some pics of the boiler and the associated pipes, pumps and whatnot. Stand back so we can see the whole thing and how everything's connected. If it's a good installation, it will be pretty obvious and that narrows things down a lot (i.e., the installer knows what he's doing). If it's a hack job, it will be pretty obvious and we can probably help suggest what and how to approach the problem and deal with the installer.

When it comes to boilers and hydronic heating, husbands are vastly overrated. Most are clueless.
 
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Old 11-20-08, 09:49 AM
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xiphias,
Thanks for your quick reply!!

You've already ruled out one of my fears - that the boiler was too small!

I believe the thermostat is working as I can hear the boiler clicking on/off when I change the desired temp on the thermostat and it clicks on/off at the programmed times.

However - in full honest disclosure I installed it myself (and am not an electrician). Could I have screwed it up since it seems to be working with the furnace? I only had two wire (white and red) and I connect the white to W and the red to Rh.

Regarding air in pipes - the plumber bleed the pipes yesterday, so I think that ruled that out as the issue. (FYI - It didn't help.)

QUESTION - What is the aquastat?

PS - I will take photo tonight - please stop back and take a look at the photos.
 
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Old 11-20-08, 01:04 PM
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I just got a call from the original installer (plumber) - he just checked my boiler and thinks he's found the problem - he said the blower was turned way down.

Does that sound right or make sense?

I guess I'll find out when I get home....keep your fingers crossed!
 
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Old 11-20-08, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by xiphias View Post
When it comes to boilers and hydronic heating, husbands are vastly overrated. Most are clueless.
True, true. But they can keep the missus' warm when the heat goes out.



Al.
 
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Old 11-20-08, 04:31 PM
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he said the blower was turned way down.

Does that sound right or make sense?
Frankly, no.

I can't imagine what 'blower' he was talking about.

He _might_ have just 'called it that' ... so you wouldn't ask him "What's an aquastat?" ... when in fact he turned the aquastat temperature up ...

Let us know ...
 
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Old 11-21-08, 05:38 AM
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****UPDATE****

I’VE ATTACHED PHOTOS – HERE’S THE LINK: Flickr: cindywidga's Photostream

Whatever my plumber did yesterday did help a little bit. For example, in THREE hrs of running the heat this morning, instead of only increasing 3 degrees (from 60 to 63) it increased 6 degrees (from 60 to 66).

QUESTION – Is this normal to take three hrs to increase temp by only 6 degrees? Maybe I’m unrealistic in my expectations? (Although if I remember correctly, my 35 yr old oil boiler could increase the temp by 10 degrees in under 2 hrs) FYI - It’s 30 degrees outside

I did some detective work and sat down by the boiler for 30 minutes this morning. Is the following normal?

1. The burner will come on for approx. 3 mins. Then go out for 3 mins. This cycling seemed constant. Why doesn’t it stay lit until the thermostat reaches the programmed temp?

2. The basement is the warmest room in the house due to the heat coming off the boiler unit (there are no radiators down in the basement)

3. The large vent/pipe coming from the boiler unit to the chimney is very very hot! Is this normal? It seems like a huge waste of heat to be going up the chimney to the outside.

I’m so frustrated as I really had to dig into my meager savings in order to change from oil boiler to natural gas. I thought I was doing the right thing but am really regretting it.

EVERYONE – please offer comments/advice. You’ll never know how much I appreciate them. THANK YOU!!

Cindy
 
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Old 11-21-08, 05:53 AM
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Cindy,

Part of my problem was perception.

My old 1949 oil-fired boiler got very hot and could raise the temperature in house by 8 degrees in about 1 hour.

This summer when crude oil hit $147/barrel, I installed an electric boiler and it takes twice as long (2 hours) to raise the temperature the same amount.

In my case, the old boiler was oversized. So it is normal when a proper sized boiler is installed that it will take longer to heat up the house.

To get around the problem, I set my thermostat timer to turn on my boiler an hour early to compensate.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 06:03 AM
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Cindy this may not make you feel better but may help with the setback situation. I have a 257,000btu boiler and likely am getting a 120,000 one in a month. My current unit is vastly oversized and 100% of people i talk to have told me that.

Even so, the time to reheat the house from a much lower temperature is quite long. (you'd think i'd have 80 degress in 5 minutes lol) I have it on 65 all night then have it set for 5-6am to be 67. I just need a bit to take the chill off. I get up at 6 and out of shower and into kitchen by 6:20. I dont honestly know if the house ever gets up to 67 or not, but the temp still says 65 on the stat! I do know my house is leaky and am going to fix it.

My point is even with this 'huge' boiler, it's a very long time to even get up 2 degrees. You are trying to get up 10 degrees and from all my years with this unit i can tell you it would be a very long time to get up that much a distance.

I'm NOT a pro and know barely more than you, but maybe you should try keeping the min and max temps a little closer together and see how things go. Maybe 63-67 or something like that. I've been told by even the guy that will be installing my new unit that he doesnt recommend more than 2 degrees setback even though i'm getting a 'new fancy unit' for 8K lol. I told him i'd like to keep it 5 degrees apart to save more money and he told me point blank it wouldnt recover quick enough for me.

again, dont take my words as gospel except that it is my personal experience with my unit. good luck
 
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Old 11-21-08, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Spy10021 View Post
****UPDATE****

I’VE ATTACHED PHOTOS – HERE’S THE LINK: Flickr: cindywidga's Photostream

...

I did some detective work and sat down by the boiler for 30 minutes this morning. Is the following normal?

1. The burner will come on for approx. 3 mins. Then go out for 3 mins. This cycling seemed constant. Why doesn’t it stay lit until the thermostat reaches the programmed temp?

2. The basement is the warmest room in the house due to the heat coming off the boiler unit (there are no radiators down in the basement)

3. The large vent/pipe coming from the boiler unit to the chimney is very very hot! Is this normal? It seems like a huge waste of heat to be going up the chimney to the outside.

...

EVERYONE – please offer comments/advice. You’ll never know how much I appreciate them. THANK YOU!!

Cindy
There is something that you can check, on the boiler side with the red switch there is a round gauge. This gauge is white faced and located on the large copper pipe on the right hand side. Can see it in picture P1010026.

There are two needles on it. One will be pressure (psi or feet), the other will be temperature (in degrees F). The temperature is the one we are interested in.

Next time the boiler is running on recovery from set back, note the temperature reading. As the boiler runs the water temperature will increase. When the burner shuts off, and the circulator is still running, note the temperature.

Then as the temperature drops and the burner turns back on again note the temperature. The temperature readings will show whether the burner/boiler is producing enough heat.

Typically the high temperature will be 180 F, with the low point at 170 F.

To your questions:

1). There is a high limit on the boiler to prevent the water from boiling.

2). Not uncommon. Putting insulation on the hot water pipes (not the flue) can help.

3). The flue actually needs to be hot. This is to keep the water in the exhaust gases evaporated and carried outside to condense back to water. If the flue is too cold the water vapour will condense in the boiler, flue or chimney. This will cause problems, such as the boiler rusting out, or the chimney masonry/tile deteriorating.

The heat going up the chimney is a waste of fuel. There are boilers available that allow condensing within the unit. This lowers the flue temperature by recovering more heat from the fuel. But it comes at a higher initial cost.

Back to the boiler, let us know what the water high/low temperatures are. If they are OK there may be a lack of water flow in the radiators.

Al.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 07:59 AM
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Al - thanks for your response. When I get home from work tonight I will check the temperatures and post here.

Please check back! Thank you.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 08:06 AM
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Answers to your questions, then some questions and observations of my own. Some of this may sound harsh or fatalistic. Fear not. We've seen much, much worse here. There are some issues that need to be addressed, and they absolutely should not cost you a cent. The installer will need to make them right.

Answers

Is it normal to take 3 hr to raise the space temp 6F? No. Not with the way this system is set up.

On/off in 3 minute intervals is known as 'short-cycling.' Not efficient. Partly this is due to the boiler being probably at least twice as large as it needs to be. The boiler can only safely heat the water up to the point where the limit control (see below) tells it to stop. While the boiler may stop firing, the circulator (the black pump near the bottom of the boiler) should continue to run until the temperature in the house reaches the thermostat setpoint.

The large vent pipe is hot because you have a lot of combustion going on. Yes you are dumping a lot of useful heat. While new, this is an "old-fashioned" boiler. They are not nearly as efficient as the newer (more expensive) ones.

Questions

1) What kind of heat emitters do you have in the house? Cast iron radiators? Copper fin-tube baseboard? Other? Need to know that.

2) What make/model is the limit control. That's the small black box with the metal conduit coming off of it that leads to the red shutoff switch box. It is connected to the piping just below the temperature/pressure gauge.

3) When the boiler is running, what are the readings from the temperature/pressure gauge. The red should be in degrees Fahrenheit. The blue should be in psi on the outer. During a full on/off/on cycle what are the readings for each at the beginning/switch-off/switch-on?

4) Does the circulator continue to run even when the boiler is not firing? It is quiet, and you may have to feel it to see if it has a small vibration/hum. It is probably HOT to the touch. That's normal.

5) What is the approximate length, width and height of the basement? Is this the only combustion appliance in the room?

6) What is the approximate size/diameter and height of the chimney? Does it have a typical 8x8" clay liner? Was the chimney cleaned before the boiler was installed? Is there a cleanout access somewhere below where the boiler vent enters the wall?

Observations

1) I am absolutely not sure about this, but I think that a standard ball valve on the gas line (down near the bottom of the boiler, with the yellow handle in pic 0021) is not code-compliant. Need some others to weigh in on this.

2) The installer didn't fully read and follow the directions. The manual calls for at least 6" clearance on the left side of the boiler. Here's the manual:

http://www.ecrinternational.com/secu...cument/388.pdf

Hopefully there's nothing on that side of the boiler that requires access. See Figure 2 on page 4 (it's actually a Table).

3) The expansion tank (the gray tank near the ceiling) should have a strap on the pipe going to it for support from the ceiling. These things get heavy if/when they fill with water.

4) I see a big old green tank in the ceiling in photo 0031. That is the old expansion / air capture tank from your oil system. The new, small gray tank is a diaphragm tank. This style of tank needs to have an air elimination system. The manual bleeders upstairs for $500 don't fully cut it. (It would be nice to have some pictures of those, too.) Look at the manual, Figure 5 on page 6. See where it says "air purger"? You need one.

Let's first get these questions answered and hopefully get better performance out of this setup. Then we can figure out what the contractor should address to make up for some of the shortcomings of this installation.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 09:01 AM
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Xiphias,
You've asked a lot of questions - some I can answer now - the rest I'll answer when I get home (please check back tonight!!)

1. I believe they are fin-tube baseboard? Each unit is old (original to the house) and are metal enclosures which are built 1/2 way into each wall. The heats comes from something that looks like it is made up of little vertical metal pieces (fins?) that are lined up horizontally - looks like an accordian. I hope this makes sense. I can certainly take photo.

2. Model/make of limit control: Will check tonight

3. Will check readings of temp/pressure guage tonight.

4. Will check tonight.

5. Basement is approx. 23ft x 37ft x 6ft ceiling. Yes - this is the only combustion appliance in the room.

6. Chimney was cleaned and inspected prior to installation (this is required by permit and afterwards was signed off by the city.) Chimney goes up two stories to roof. I don't think there is clean out access below where boiler vent enters wall.

Answers to your observations:

2. While it may not look like it in the photos, I'm almost 99% sure there is at least 6" clearance on left side of boiler (I'm not at home but will confirm)

4. That big old green tank wasn't hooked up to my oil boiler (but may have been prior to my buying the house). Instead, the oil boiler used the small gray tank with is now being used by this unit!

Someone else mentioned the lack of air elimination system on the small gray tank. Do you think adding this might solve the problem?

I'll answer the rest of your questions (#2, 3, 4) tonight. Can you check back here tonight or tomorrow?

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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Old 11-21-08, 11:22 AM
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If all your "heaters" are the same as in your bathroom then you have what are called cabinet convectors.

It is absolutely NOT normal for the burner to operate 3 minutes on and then 3 minutes off, especially the way this system is piped.

Look closely at the "body" and the handle of the manual gas valve that Xiphias mentions. It should have the logo of the American Gas Association on it somewhere. This may be a stylized AGA with the G being larger than the A.

I think your problem is either air binding or the "flow control valve" is stuck. The flow control valve is the green casting above the boiler with a copper pipe entering the bottom and black steel piping leaving the right side with the expansion tank to the left. (picture 025)

Installing an "air purger" will be a big job. It needs to be installed in the horizontal black steel pipe now leaving the flow control valve. If the system worked okay with the previous boiler then an air purger, while desirable, is not absolutely necessary.

Sorry to say but you got a lousy installation. The boiler should have been positioned so that "dog leg" in the supply from the boiler to the flow control valve was unnecessary. This would have also given more clearance between the boiler and the wall. The flow control valve should have been replaced and an air purger installed.

Please (if possible) post some pictures of the "little metal, acorn shaped pieces" the plumber installed. I am assuming these would be manual air vents on the cabinet convectors. You may only need to bleed more air from the system to get it working properly.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 01:45 PM
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Thermostat incompatible?

Hi,
we got a Dunkirk boiler, switching from oil to gas also, but different from yours in that it's a steam system. It's been a huge problem... more on that in a minute, in case anybody has ideas. But the thing that jumped out at me in your messages was your nice electronic thermostat. I was looking forward to using one of those also, but the literature that came with our boiler said that they have had problems with electronic thermostats and therefore don't recommend them for use with their boilers. Rats! Anyway, I wondered if that also might be part of the problem you're having.

[... I've put the rest of Shemaya's response in a new thread... please read ... NJT ...]

Shemaya
 

Last edited by NJT; 11-21-08 at 02:59 PM. Reason: better in new thread
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Old 11-21-08, 03:47 PM
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First of all THANK YOU TO ALL - YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!

Xiphias - below are some answers to your questions:

Q2. Make/Model of Limit Control (small black box): GuardDog Model RB-122E

Q3: What is Temp/Pressure Guage: It seemed to stay steady at a tad over 170 degrees and pressure was between 45/50. It didn't move much during the continuous cycling of the burner (3 minutes on/ 3 mins off - approx.)

Q4. Does circulator continue to run even when boiler is not firing? YES

In response to Xiaphia's "Observation #2": Yellow handled valve control is "Watts Regulator FBV-3C (150 WSP B16 33)


Furd - if you look at this link, you'll see the little "acorn" piece that he installed on all my convectors/radiators
Flickr: cindywidga's Photostream

Now that you have this info - any diagnosis?

Again - THANK YOU!!
 
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Old 11-21-08, 04:57 PM
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GREAT PICS!

I don't think any of my observations have anything to do with your current problem.

I noticed the position of the Low Water Cut Off (the Guard Dog)... I think they are supposed to be mounted above the boiler ? Are there status lights on that unit ?

I would have installed a full port ball valve between the boiler supply outlet, and the point where the feedwater tees into the supply pipe.

I'd also add some support for the expansion tank ... a piece of metal pipe strapping under the pipe at the elbow on the end, and across to each joist above would do the trick. If that tank fails and becomes waterlogged, that's 30-40 pounds hanging on the end of that pipe ...
 
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Old 11-21-08, 05:05 PM
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new boiler??

First, stop what your doing and call the town inspector and sic him on the contractor....he'll be down there quick to do it right. Problem is, he's not licenced. Tell him its his problem, find a licenced man and fix it NOW! I'm not paying anymore!
Those air vents are $12 from HD. The supply pipe appears to be too small, the takeoff is at least 1-1/4, the pump is on the wrong side, it should be pumping away from the point of no pressure change (on the supply side) some did this on the return side many years ago, but no one today is that dumb. The thermostat may also need an anticipator adjustment or resistor installed. If that pump runs, the coils should be hot to the touch, if not its air bound...also the pump appears to be too small. It should be 1-1/4 at least not a 3/4 or 7/8 as it appears. The book may even call for 1-1/2 I don't know! This of course is difficult to judge pipe sizes from a picture. Make sure the coils have been vac'd of all dust. The pressure in the boiler should never have been higher than about 20PSI at the most....not 40.. normal is 12-15. Some of the original piping may have been gavity hot water or steam and the piping is too big, but the near boiler piping appears to be all wrong. Call the inspector...You already paid for him, why not let him be your advocate. The contractor won't be able to double-talk him! If it doesn't work out, take him to small claims court, it costs only your time..
 
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Old 11-21-08, 05:27 PM
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170 degrees and pressure was between 45/50.
I missed this on first read ...

No way is that pressure correct ... please check the reading again, or a close up photo of the gauge ... Your 30 PSI relief valve would have opened long before this ... please check the valve on top of the boiler and see if that metal tag says 30 PSI ...

Hvac, how do you know he's not licensed ? It would be a small world if you knew him ...

This of course is difficult to judge pipe sizes from a picture.
Correct ... but if you look at the 1/2" water feed ... and compare it to the bigger pipe, it sure looks like 1-1/4" to me ...

I sure don't see all the problems that you see ... looks fine to me (with a few exceptions) ...

While it's true that everyone is throwing around terms like 'pumping away' ... and putting the pumps on the supply these days, etc ... it is also true that there are perhaps MILLIONS of systems out there that are happily chugging along for the past 25 years piped and pumped exactly like this one with very little problems... it's really not "all wrong" ... just not as trendy perhaps... and it can and will work ...

However, Xiphias I believe has noted that there doesn't appear to be an air scoop on the system, and that IS something that should be addressed ...
 
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Old 11-21-08, 06:47 PM
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NJ Trooper - I just checked again - for Pressure there is a scale inside the bottom "arc" and outside the bottom "arc" - the pressure arrow point to approx. 20/45 -(in/out the arc) does that make more sense/
 

Last edited by Spy10021; 11-21-08 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 11-21-08, 07:08 PM
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Spy was most likely reading the altitude scale on the pressure gauge, if so the readings would correspond to about 19 to 22 psi and that is completely normal.

I agree that $500 for the air vents sounds high, BUT I don't know how many of them were installed OR how hard it was to remove the old vents or the pipe plugs if there were no vents.

The size of the circulating pump flanges is NOT sufficient to determine the pumping capacity. I seriously doubt the size of the pump is inadequate.

I agree that it is best to have the system piped for "pumping away" but as NJ pointed out the vast majority of systems in existence or piped that way.


As I previously wrote, Spy got a lousy install. Maybe she asked for the absolute cheapest install possible and if so, that's what she got. Still, no self-respecting installer would have re-used that old flow control valve and I doubt if they would have not installed an air eliminator.


Spy, do make sure that you thoroughly clean the coils in all of the heaters as hvac suggests. Make sure the little red cap on the "acorns" (automatic vent valves) are unscrewed at least one full turn from tight. You might even want to manually vent the air by removing the cap and pressing down on the pin. It is just like a tire valve and will close when you release the pin.

I also want you to take a hammer and tap the flow control valve lightly when the circulator pump is running. It is possible that the valve is not opening all the way and light tapping may cause it to release.

Also, please take some pictures of where the main piping tees off to go to at least one of the heaters. The vent valves MUST be on the heater outlet side to work properly. I also want you to look at the back side of the circulating pump and see if there is an arrow cast into the pump body and if it is pointing towards the boiler. I can't tell for certain but it is just slightly possible that the pump is installed backwards.

At this point I think the primary problem is air in the system. I do NOT think you have a thermostat problem nor do I think there is a problem with the pump or piping sizes. Air is the most common problem in these systems and can be one of the most difficult problems to solve.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 07:32 PM
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Thanks for answering all these questions. It helps.

The inside blue scale should be "psi." Outside is probably "Feet H2O."

For psi, it should be less than 20, preferably around 12-16. For Feet H2O, it should be under 40 (but I don't do conversions in my head too well).

Question: do you hear air/water or other sloshing/whooshing/gurgling around in the pipes in the house or near the boiler?

HEY TROOPER! This boiler has an L7148F aquastat. It's described on page 18 of the manual. Does it need a separate limit, e.g., like shown on Figure 5 on page 6? I agree that the LWCO should normally be higher than the boiler, and it seems strange that the manual would call for one in the location where Spy's is installed. And not call it that in the diagram.(Also a bummer that the Dunkirk manual kinda stinks....) Technically, though, the LWCO may be above the water line in the boiler. By an inch....

Spy, I'm officially skeptical of this installer. The vents he put on the cabinet convectors are a) unnecessary, and b) not installed at the high point of the convector so won't be venting any collected air. See in pic 034 the vent is on the low side -- the fin assembly slopes down toward the vent. Bubbles in water float up....

Those vents should be removed and the holes plugged. At no cost to you. But it needs to be part of a broader series of fixes that we'll get to.

Question: are all the cabinet convectors connected by a single pipe that leaves the boiler, runs up to each, back down, then up, down like a snake? OR, is there a big pipe that runs around the perimeter of the basement with tees that go up to each convector then back down to the main pipe and rejoins in another tee?

The latter is known as a monoflow-tee or diverter-tee system and they can easily become air-bound and not move a whole lot of water. Which results in the sluggish performance you are experiencing. Monoflow systems are a pain to purge out the air, especially when the circulator pump and the expansion tank are installed as done in your system, AND there's no air elimination system at the boiler.

Furd also raises an important consideration -- possible that the flow control valve is stuck. Do any or all (or some) of the pipes at the bottoms of the cabinet convectors get warm/hot? Or the piping several feet away from the green flow control valve?

[EDIT: and a second vote to do all the stuff furd suggests in the post immediately above....]
 
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Old 11-21-08, 07:40 PM
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Spy, I'm officially skeptical of this installer. The vents he put on the cabinet convectors are a) unnecessary, and b) not installed at the high point of the convector so won't be venting any collected air. See in pic 034 the vent is on the low side -- the fin assembly slopes down toward the vent. Bubbles in water float up....
Xiphias is absolutely correct about the vents being on the WRONG END of the convector (good catch, Xiphias!). I thought it looked strange because I have always seen the vents on the right-hand side. I disagree with him about the vents being unnecessary, though. You MUST have vents on the high points of all the heaters for proper air elimination. I like the automatic float vents (which is what you have) although some people prefer strictly manual vents. At any rate, the vents MUST be on the higher end of the heating coils and the idiot that installed them on the wrong end needs to come back and install them on the high end and do it at no charge.
 
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Old 11-21-08, 07:48 PM
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To mostly agree with furd, I agree that a bleed point is useful on these convectors (basically required if this is a monoflow system), but would strongly suggest manual bleeders (thumb-screw or key type, whatever) over autovents for two reasons.

1) autovents eventually leak. If he put them on every single convector in the house, that's X number of potential leak points. Who needs it?
2) in this non-pumping away installation, insufficient positive pressure at the top of the system may allow the highest vents to serve as 'air-letter-in-ers' instead of 'air-letter-out-ers'. Been there, as furd well recalls.

The fact that the installer has the pressure up around 20 psi and his first reaction to a problem was to run around and install vents everywhere, where presumably none existed before, reminds me of either a Holohan or an Eatherton article about pumping away....
 
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Old 11-22-08, 02:41 AM
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First of all THANKS for all the time and thought you guys are providing. It really means a lot to me - very valuable!

Below I’ve tried to answer all your questions:

FURD SAID: “Make sure the little red cap on the "acorns" (automatic vent valves) are unscrewed at least one full turn from tight. You might even want to manually vent the air by removing the cap and pressing down on the pin.” CINDY'S ANSWER: I just checked and they are all already at this point (unscrewed – not tight). I also pressed done and water immediately came out. Am I correct to assume that is good thing?

FURD: “I also want you to take a hammer and tap the flow control valve lightly when the circulator pump is running.” CINDY: I did this- nothing happened (ie – I didn’t suddenly hear water flowing or anything)

FURD: “Also, please take some pictures of where the main piping tees off to go to at least one of the heaters.” CINDY: Done – see photos Flickr: cindywidga's Photostream

FURD: “I also want you to look at the back side of the circulating pump and see if there is an arrow cast into the pump body and if it is pointing towards the boiler.” CINDY: Is the circulating pump the black piece in photo P1010029? If yes, there is a sort of arrow (really, more of a little triangle) on the back and it is pointing TOWARDS the pipe going into the boiler.

XIPHIAS: “Do you hear air/water or other sloshing/ whooshing/ gurgling around in the pipes in the house or near the boiler?” CINDY: No –really couldn’t hear anything.

XIPHIAS: “The vents he put on the cabinet convectors are a) unnecessary, and b) not installed at the high point of the convector so won't be venting any collected air. See in pic 034 the vent is on the low side -- the fin assembly slopes down toward the vent. Bubbles in water float up....” CINDY: Sorry but Photo 034 is deceiving. I just double checked and measured. The fin assembly is level (it just appears to be sloping in the photo but it’s level). In fact, I just measured all my fins assemblies and they all appear to be level with the floor. Are the supposed to slope??

XIPHIAS: “Question: are all the cabinet convectors connected by a single pipe that leaves the boiler, runs up to each, back down, then up, down like a snake? OR, is there a big pipe that runs around the perimeter of the basement with tees that go up to each convector then back down to the main pipe and rejoins in another tee?” CINDY: The latter - big pipe with tees that go to each convector.

XIPHIAS: “Do any or all (or some) of the pipes at the bottoms of the cabinet convectors get warm/hot? Or the piping several feet away from the green flow control valve?” CINDY: Starting at the green flow control valve I walked the permiter of the basement and all large pipe and the tees feel warm/hot (there are no cold pipes)

EVERYONE – I also installed a photo of the temp/PSI. Click on it and you can clearly read where it’s at.

Now that I’ve answered your questions, I’ll be anxious to hear your “diagnosis”!! Do you still the culprit may be the lack of air purger/air vent near diaphragm tank?

PS – you’ll be pleased to know I’ve already learned a TON from you guys!
 
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Old 11-22-08, 08:17 AM
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Cindy, the pic of the gauge clears up that question ...

Looking at the blue scale, you can see that there are two scales in one ... feet H2O ... and ... psi ... the inner scale is the PSI, and the outer is FEET ... just as furd suspected... and everything on that gauge looks perfect. No problem there.

I'd like to see the OTHER tee to that radiator that you pictured also. Please take a close look at the tees and see if there are any arrows, or names on them ... I believe you have a DIVERTER TEE system, but the tee you pictured appears to be a standard tee... that's why I'd like to see the other.

One possible solution to the drawback of the automatic vents leaking would be to install a small valve between the rad and the vent ... valve normally closed during operation, opened during air bleeding, filling system, etc ... the other option is always to just screw the cap down tight after all the air is out ... and only open it when there's an air problem.

Yes, you do need an air purger ... and that ball valve I mentioned earlier in the supply line would aid greatly in purging air from the system ... I also agree that with a diverter tee system, pumping away should be strongly considered as a modification to the piping ...

Hmmmm... the more I look, the more I see 'stuff' missing ... there should have been a drain/purge valve installed on the system side of the return piping, to the right of the circ (the black thing).
 
  #27  
Old 11-22-08, 12:46 PM
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Monoflo tee

From what I see, those appear to be standard maleable tees, I could be wrong. There would have to be some sort of restrictor to persuade the water to go up to the convectors if they were standard tees, like a ball valve...etc. To remove air install a Spirovent at the place where the flochec is and relocate the flochec a bit downstream. I think whats happening is, the hot water is going in a circle rather than going to the convectors, there is no reason for it to go up, the path of least resistance is in a circle, thats only if these are standard tees. The reason I speculated he's not licenced is that no heat guy would walk off a job without it working and also the way its put together, and missing things like a purge valve before the pump, the TP valve pipe cut off at 6" above the floor...
 
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Old 11-22-08, 03:55 PM
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That's what I thought too ... but could be just one per ... that's why I wanted to see the other one too.

I'm just tryin' not to scare poor Cindy ...

The distribution was working fine ... it's probably air still stuck in the convectors ... cuz like you sed HVAC, the hot water is just going in a circle, not getting up to the convectors ...

Cindy, can you determine which way the water flows in the system ? If so, can you tell if those air vents were installed on the UPSTREAM, or the DOWNSTREAM side ?

Also, someone mentioned earlier about cleaning out the fins ... I just zoomed in on one of the pics and I have to agree 100% that they need to be blown out ... start by vacuuming the BOTTOM first ... try to get the small brush attachment bristles between the fins ... be careful! there are sharp edges ! easy to cut your hand ! ... the best way to get that stuff out is with an air compressor and a blow nozzle ... but it makes a mess ... you need to have the vacuum running at the same time, and catch the stuff you blow out ... you can drape an old sheet over the convector and pretend your an old time photographer ... you can try to find a loose brush to get down into the fins ... I've used wallpaper brushes, and that works ehhh, ok ... cut the brush down into like 4" section ...

I betcha a steam cleaner would work good ...

But, if you take the time to clean them real good, you will be AMAZED! at the difference in the heat output. It's all about the airflow.
 
  #29  
Old 11-22-08, 06:38 PM
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C'mon guys, this system worked just fine BEFORE the boiler was replaced. What has changed?

1. The system was opened, probably completely drained, and refilled with water.

2. A new boiler and circulating pump was installed with some minor piping changes.

While I agree that an air eliminator should have been installed the system worked okay without for several years. I've seen other systems, yes, with Monoflo tees, without air eliminators, work just fine once the air was bled from the convectors.

Whether or not the system has Monoflow tees or balancing valves is really irrelevant at this point. The circulator being on the wrong side of the expansion tank is also irrelevant because no changes other than the boiler have been made.

THE PROBLEM is a lack of circulation! Lack of circulation is almost always a result of air in the system.

All of the proposed fixes are good ideas and I agree that they should have been made when the new boiler was installed. But this woman has stated that she used all her money for the new boiler, she doesn't have any left to buy fancy air vents (Spirovents) or have major piping changes made. She needs heat NOW! She needs to get the air out of the system and that will likely require the use of the installed air vents on the convectors.

Cindy, please try to determine which end of the coils in the convector cabinets seems warmer when the heat (what there is of it) is on. The ends with the vent valves should be a bit cooler. If the vent ends are the hotter ends then you have the vents on the wrong ends.
 
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Old 11-22-08, 06:51 PM
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I'm mostly with furd on this. Simple is more likely. But... changing this over to a pumping away setup would help now and in the future. Throw in a Spirovent, Taco 4900 or similar while it's being done. Offer to split the cost with the installer. We all agree the install leaves a lot to be desired, and clearly it's not performing up to standard.
 
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Old 11-22-08, 07:43 PM
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I'm pretty sure we all agree that the immediate solution is to get the air out ... but unfortunately, one of the deficiencies with this install is the fact that there's really no way to purge the system properly ... at least that I can see in the pics ...

There needs to be a ball valve on the supply line, below the point that the water feed tees in, and a purge/drain valve on the return line, to the right of the circ ...

It wouldn't surprise me if there was a big ole bubble, right in the main ... and no way to purge it ...

Cindy, are there any other valves on the system that we can't see in the pics ?
 
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Old 11-23-08, 03:54 AM
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Hi Guys,

1. NJ TROOPER “If you take the time to clean them (airfins) real good, you will be AMAZED! at the difference in the heat output. It's all about the airflow.” CINDY - Great suggestion and something within my capabilities! That will be my project today is to brush/vacuum out all the air fins!!

2. FURD & NJ Trooper – thanks for being voices of reason! Yes – the system (with current monoflo tees, piping, lack of air purger) worked fine with old oil heater. While it may not be perfect it worked before!

3. NJ Trooper “Cindy, please try to determine which end of the coils in the convector cabinets seems warmer when the heat (what there is of it) is on. The ends with the vent valves should be a bit cooler. If the vent ends are the hotter ends then you have the vents on the wrong ends.” CINDY – Honestly, I’ve checked out 4 of the convectors and the temp feels identical at both ends. Is there any other visual clue for me to determine which end is the incoming water and which end the water departs?

4. XIPHIAS suggested that I perhaps “offer to split costs with plumber to install air purger.” CINDY – While $$ is really tight, the thought of a cold winter and the current inefficiency (which has its own $$ costs) bothers me even more. Can anyone guestimate the costs (labor and parts) to have air purger installed? I assume that on top of the installation itself, the entire system would have to drained, repressurized, etc. Keep in mind labor expenses in this part of the country (NYC suburbs) are always on the high side.

Cindy (hugs to all of you!!)
 
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Old 11-23-08, 04:22 AM
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In my view, you'd be looking for a pretty extensive do-over of the piping. What he did stinks, frankly, and we're in agreement on that.

We could certainly come up with a simple diagram -- on which we'd all agree, because this is a simple system and piping it right is very straightforward -- that would set things right and make the system easy to initially purge, and subsequently maintain/service.

New parts would include (off the top of my head)

air separator -- Spirovent or Taco 4900: $120-150
new flow check -- Taco -- $50-75
misc ball and drain valves -- $100
misc copper piping -- $50-100

labor -- crude guess 5-7 hr for this guy

You buy the parts, he buys the labor.

Going back to your observations of boiler temperature swings during off/on/off/on cycles, does the temperature on the gauge just hang at 170 or does it drop down to say 150-160 then come up to 180-190?

I wish we had a better diagram of the boiler guts to tell you where to look for the aquastat and see what it's set at. Maybe Trooper can help. He groks 'stats.
 
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Old 11-23-08, 04:52 AM
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Hi Xiphias - no, during the cyclings the temp low is 168-170 and it shuts off at 180. The only time I saw it lower was this morning when I woke up - I turned the thermostat up then went downstairs to watch what happens.

The aquastat (?) temp was 130 degrees at then time, then 8 minutes later reached 180 degrees and shut off.

FYI - I'm pretty sure my plumber told me he set the Aquastat to 180. Here's a link to the manual - if you are interested:

http://www.ecrinternational.com/secu...cument/388.pdf


5-7 hrs labor? At $160 hr - that a LOT Of money. (FYI - to those who keep asking - YES, he is licensed and has been in business for 20+ yrs...it's an old family business his father started. For whatever it's worth - he came highly recommended to me by natural gas company - does a lot of work for their clients.)

I'm still confused as to why I had no problem with heat with old boiler (which did not have air purger, or the other pieces you mentioned....)
 
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Old 11-23-08, 05:13 AM
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The aquastat is inside the boiler jacket. It's a piece of the electronic controls. It is typically set to 180. If that's what he said it's at, fine. That setting is also consistent with the behavior you're seeing at the gauge. But you should probably be seeing more than a 10-12F swing. That suggests there's (probably) an air problem inhibiting the flow. The boiler is spinning its wheels. (That said, a 130-180 rise over 8 minutes suggests there's pretty good cold water return for the system to take that long to come up to temp. Hmmm.)

Unfortunately, replacing a boiler isn't like replacing a lightbulb. It's not 1-for-1. Among many things that are different on your system compared to the oil system are:

new/different circulator (pump)

some new piping, probably different from how it used to be set up

different boiler, with among other things, different flow rate through it, different thermal characteristics, different heat input and output rates, and different vent control

it's even possible your old oil boiler was set to run at 200F instead of 180F. Who knows.

The bottom line is that your system is short-cycling (3 min on, 3 min off) and apparently isn't heating the space adequately.

Labor costs what it does. These guys have to make a living, too. It costs him a lot to stock a truck, run a business, insure it, pay employees, etc. etc. etc. But if he's from a long-term company with a good rep, then he should make good to get this system working well and not charge you an arm+leg. Callbacks/do-overs are part of what his business model needs to include.
 
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Old 11-23-08, 05:40 AM
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Thanks Xiaphias!

Honestly - I'm not begrudging his rate. It no more than any of the other dozens in town and I'm sure he deserves every penny.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, I could probably only afford 1 hr of labor. That's just my reality so maybe I'll just have to live with it this winter and hope that next winter and I can afford the correct fix.

He's a nice guy and I can tell really wants to solve the problem. With any luck - tomorrow he do just that!
 
  #37  
Old 11-23-08, 09:14 AM
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I have a suggestion that if it works will get you through the winter and it shouldn't cost more than five dollars at the most.

Go to the auto supply store and look at the cans of instant flat tire repair. Select one that has a hose and fitting that will screw onto the tire valve. Buy it and then cut the hose off close to the can, leaving the tire connector and hose.

Turn off the gas valve on the boiler and allow the pump to run to bring the temperature down to below 130 degrees. Take the hose and tire connector along with a coffee can or similar container to the heaters. Remove the cap from the automatic vent valve and while holding the end of the hose in the container screw the tire connector to the vent valve. This will allow a free flow of water into the can. Let it run until the can is at least 3/4 full and then remove the connector and replace the cap, leaving the cap loose. Dump the water and go on to the next heater.

You should get a fair amount of air bubbles when bleeding in this manner. You may need to do this several times and you might want to try it with the pump running and also with the pump off. When you have done at least one complete circuit of all the heaters turn the power off to the boiler and turn the gas valve back on. Then turn the power on and the boiler should fire.
 
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Old 11-23-08, 09:57 AM
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furd, yer a daggone genius... great idea! but me, well, I'd go to the auto part store with a box cutter in my pocket ... when I left, there would be a defective can sitting on the shelf ...

KIDDING!

Seriously, that's a very good idea...
 
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Old 11-23-08, 10:28 AM
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Furd - I had to read your note several times before I realized you were NOT advising shooting aerasol can into my vents!!

I've spent the day vacuuming all my convectors but couldn't get everything. Then I came up with an idea that I hope will work - I'm going to buy some cans of air that are used to clean out computer keyboards, etc. They should easily blow all the link stuck down between the fans.

Wish me luck with both a) cleaning with cans of air and b) Furd's tire hose method.

Am heading out to store for cans of air and tire stuff - I'll report back later.....

Cindy
 
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Old 11-23-08, 11:59 AM
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FURD - I just bought the tire stuff but the end that screws on to the tire does NOT fit the new valves. Although it fits perfectly to the old valves that my plumber removed. The tops of the new valves are just a tiny big bigger.

Damn!! It was such a good idea, too.

Any other creative suggestions??
 
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