Should my system have bleeder valves on the second floor?

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Old 01-05-09, 07:48 PM
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Question Should my system have bleeder valves on the second floor?

Here's a link to pictures of my gas fired hot water baseboard heating system. I live on the second floor of a two family house and my boiler is in the basement. My house is old and drafty and the heat never seemed to work great.

http://dimitroff.com/heater/heater.htm

My problems began with a swooshing sound each time my hot water baseboard heat turned on. I assumed this was caused by air in my pipes so I tried to bleed the system. I don't have any bleeder valves on the second floor so I turned off the "emergency" switch, made sure the water feed valve was open (it was) and then opened the drain valve. I let gallons of water flow thru. In hindsight I think I might have drained the system instead of bleeding out the air. The water feed valve did open up and allow water to flow in.

After doing all this the boiler would run and get hot, I'd have water pressure at the boiler (I think it was around 15psi) and the circulator would run, but the baseboard heaters wouldn't get hot.

After reading the diy forums and some other stuff online I tried the following,
1, Manually opened the feed valve and watched the water pressure climb to around 30 psi at which point the relief valve opened and the pressure dropped to 15 psi (I think, I didn't take notes, all these pressures are from my sometimes faulty memory).
2, Manually opened the release valve until the pressure dropped below 10psi and the feed valve opened and brought the pressure up to 15psi
3, Checked the pressure in the expansion tank - which it turns out is kinda pointless without draining the system, but this did lead to the discovery that my diaphragm is probably ruptured and the tank needs to be replaced (thx njtrooper).

I opened the feeder valve and then opened the relief valve (keeping the pressure between 12 and 20psi) over and over and now the system seems to be working pretty well.

My questions are,
1, Did I drain the system when I opened the drain valve? My symptoms after doing this look like some sort of air-lock problem, right?
2, Should my system have bleeder valves on the second floor? Should I add them when I replace the expansion tank?
3, Do I have any manual bleeder valves currently? I don't think so. The Hoffman No. 77 Air Vents are auto valves, right? How should I bleed my system?

Thanks, Mike D
 
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Old 01-05-09, 07:53 PM
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Mike, do you own the home, or are you a tenant?
 
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Old 01-05-09, 07:58 PM
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You can put manual vents on the second floor but no automatic vents.Your biggest problem is no air separator and circulator is on the return side of the boiler. We need to use the pressure produced by the circulator to help get rid of the air.
See piping diagram @ this link.
http://www.comfort-calc.net/pictures...old_Piping.JPG
 
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Old 01-05-09, 07:58 PM
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I'm the homeowner.

Thx, Mike
 
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Old 01-05-09, 08:11 PM
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OK, first thing is that if you got water, as we talked about before the tank needs to be replaced... don't bother doing anything more until that's done, as it is likely contributing to the problem.

See the way the tank on the other boiler is sagging? That's why I recommended some kind of support for the tank. A piece of metal strapping up to a floor joist would work ... or whatever you can come up with ... maybe some kind of 'leg' holding the tank.

In the fourth picture, you labeled the 'drain valve' and just below that is a screwdriver slot. That's a valve ... you might be able to 'purge' the loop by opening the feed valve, but you first have to close that other valve by turning the screwdriver slot perpindicular to the pipe. By the way, shut the boiler off and let cool to less than 100° before you start.

Hook up the drain hose and open the drain and the feed valve... closing that screwdriver valve will force the water through the boiler, up through the zone, back down the return and out the drain. Put the hose into a bucket and you can see when there is no more bubbles.

The reason it won't work if you don't close that screwdriver valve is because the water will simply come in the pipe, up a few inches and right back out the drain... nothing through the boiler, nothing through the zone ... short circuit... by closing that valve the water has no other choice but to go up and down before exiting.

The caps on the tops of the Hoffmans... are they left loose to allow the air to escape? If screwed down tight, they can't do their job. If they leak when the cap is loose, then need replaced.

rbeck is talking about a concept called "Pumping Away" ... check his links, and Google the term for more info.
 
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Old 01-05-09, 08:19 PM
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NJ Trooper,
Thx for the info. I'm going to,

1, Try to bleed the system using your advice tomorrow.
2, This weekend I'll drain the system and replace the tank.
3, While the system is drained I'll add manual bleeder valves on the second floor.
4, Add supports for both tanks.

Should I add an air separator? If yes, where?

Thx, Mike D
 
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Old 01-05-09, 08:46 PM
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Mike, what model are those boilers?

Honestly, you are wasting your time bleeding/purging before you replace that tank. Yer gonna have to do it again anyway ... if the expansion tank is that bad, I'm surprised that your relief valve hasn't already been opening ... I personally would do the minimum amount of work during the heating season as necessary. Why not just replace the tank, and purge the system as I described to see if that will get you through the winter... I mean, it's been working OK for how long the way it is?

Place the bleeders at any obvious high spots and use the high bleeders when the circulator is NOT running, after the system has been idle for a while to allow the air to collect in those high spots.

Also place bleeders at any elbow where the flow turns to go DOWNWARD ... because this is where air will collect when the circulator IS running, and that's when those should be bled.

I don't know if your boilers are one of them, but some units have the supply pipe set up as a 'dip tube' where it extends down into the water inside. There will form an 'air pocket' at the top of the boiler which could be vented by the air vents. These types of units sometimes don't need an air separator...

If you want to install an air separator, that's a bit of work ... and again, you might just want to wait until spring...
 
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Old 01-07-09, 06:56 AM
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This is a 100+ year old house and the previous owner did a lot of half-a**ed work on it himself. I've owned the house for 5 years and have always had trouble keeping the house warm in the winter but wasn't sure if it was because of the original 100 year old windows and poorly installed storm windows or if the heater wasn't working properly. I recently did a bunch of work on the house and used a dozen tubes of caulk to seal the storm windows and fill a gap that opened up where the floors meets the exterior walls. (The floor and base molding had shrunk and opened up a big gap. When I got down on the floor I could literally feel a breeze.)

All this caulking helped, but things still didn’t seem quite right - some baseboard heaters were much hotter then others. So I tried bleeding the system but in hindsight I did this incorrectly and made things worse and my quest for info lead my to this excellent forum…

Here's the latest status…. I have NOT replaced my faulty diaphragm expansion tank yet, that will be this weekend's project. I used NJ Trooper's advice below to properly purge my system. As the fresh water flowed in, the drain hose spat and sputtered and the pipes shook as the air was expelled. This went on for at least three minutes. When I turned the system back on and went upstairs I could smell the dust cooking on the baseboard radiators - it was like I was turning the heat on for the first time this year. I was able to get the temp in the house above 70 degrees - something I've never been able to do in the winter in the past. I went back downstairs and kept on eye on the boiler for a little while. The boiler would turn-off but the circulator kept running b/c the water was still nice and hot. I have a hunch that in the past my boiler was spending too much time running b/c of problems with air in the system - does this make sense?

At this point it seems like the system might be working better then I've ever seen it work in the 5 years I've owner this house. Thanks NJ Trooper!!!

This weekend I'll install the new expansion tank and I might replace the feed and overflow valves will I'm at it. I posted some additional photos on - http://dimitroff.com/heater/heater.htm - one of them includes the boiler's model and specs. I'm curious if I should install an air seprator or if this boiler has the integrated dip-tube you mentioned.

Thanks again, Mike D
 
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Old 01-07-09, 07:19 AM
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I found this on Hydro Therm's web site - http://www.hydrotherm.com/modules/li...litFileID=1550

It looks like the latest version of my boiler. It looks like my relief valve, air vent and expansion tank are hooked up as per the specs and I don't see any mention of an air separator in this manual. Does this mean I don't need a separate air separator?

-Mike D
 
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Old 01-07-09, 03:16 PM
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I have a hunch that in the past my boiler was spending too much time running b/c of problems with air in the system - does this make sense?
Sure it does! If the thermostat calls for heat, and the burners fire and bring the boiler up to temp... and there's still no joy for the thermostat, it will keep calling... and calling... and calling... eventually the boiler would file for a restraining order!

I've flipped through the install sheets again, and while they didn't specifically SAY that you don't need the scoop it would appear that if they don't show one, you don't _need_ one. Installing one would tend to prevent the problem from eventually returning though. Something to think about for the future, but if it seems to be working OK, I'd leave well enough alone. (but I'm lazy that way)

Keep an eye on the system pressure until you can get that tank replaced! There's a good chance that the extra air in the system was acting as extra expansion room ... you _may_ have pressure problems now ... and relief valve openings... might wanna place a puke bucket under the relief valve pipe, Justin Case.

What does the pressure gauge show when the system is at it's high limit now?
 
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Old 01-07-09, 03:26 PM
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Don't think I mentioned it in this thread, but when you replace the tank(s) it would not be a bad idea to add some stuff to make it mucho easier in the future to maintain the tank...

Come off the fitting with a nipple, a ball valve, another nipple, a tee, another nipple, perhaps an elbow pointing down...

Into the tee, install a boiler drain.

If you use the elbow pointing down, you can 'hang' the tank (one of the pics in the manual shows this).

And you should still support the piping with a strap to the structure, or some kind of 'leg' to keep the weight of the tank off the piping.

With the valve inline, and the drain between the valve and the tank, you hook up a drain hose, close the inline valve, open the drain and let the pressure off the tank. Now you can check/adjust and/or replace the tank without having to touch the boiler. Either remove the valve handle and hang it on a nail, or put a tie wrap around it to prevent accidental closing when in operation.
 
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Old 01-09-09, 10:48 AM
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NJ Trooper, As you predicted my faulty diaphragm expansion tanks must be letting the systems pressure get up over 30 PSI - I haven't seen the gauge go this high, but I've got a water in the bucket I placed under the relief valve drain.

I started with a cold pressure of about 15psi and watched it get as high as 22 psi when the systems got hot. The next day I checked the cold system pressure again and it was down to about 10-12 psi and the bucket under the relief drain had water in it so I assume the pressure must have gotten up over 30 psi at some point. I emptied the bucket but when I checked last night it had water in it again. In spite of this my heat is still working pretty well but I intend to replace the tank this weekend.

I'm going to try to add the valves etc you outlined below but I don't have a lot of space to work with b/c the two units are pretty close together. I'll report back my results...

Thx, Mike
 
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Old 01-09-09, 03:19 PM
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Mike, if there's not enough room _between_ the boilers, you can 'elbow up' right from the connection point, install the new valve and drain on the vertical part, and then 'elbow right' and hang the tank... the tank doesn't need to be immediately adjacent to the boiler, it can be a distance away and above and it will still work just fine.

 
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Old 01-13-09, 09:06 AM
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Thumbs up

I installed new expansion tanks along with isolation and drain valves to make future tank replacement easier on both my hydronic heating systems and everything seems to be working great. The pressure relief valves have not opened - one of them did when I had the faulty expansion tank. Here's a link to a picture of the final set up.

http://dimitroff.com/heater/sml_P1020958.jpg

I did have one complication. The one component on the second floor heating systems that seemed to work well was the pressure reducing valve. This valve is sweated into the cold water feed line while all the other components I was replacing were part of the black-pipe drain / expansion tank system. B/c this valve seemed to work and sweating a new fitting into the cold water feed seemed like a significant expansion in project scope I decided to not replace this part on the two systems even though I'd decided to replace the relief valve and expansion tank in the other system just in case (these seems to work ok on the first floor system). The expansion tank had a manufacture date of 1985 so I assume this was when all the components were installed.

Well wouldn’t you know it - when I went to refill the first floor system the pressure reducing valve didn’t want to open automatically. The one component that seemed to work on the 2nd floor system didn’t work on the first floor system. I ended up taking the valve apart and cleaning it (it was full of black, grainy sediment) and now it seems to work ok but I imagine I should replace these two valves at some point soon.

Thanks again to NJ Trooper for all your help.

Regards, Mike D
 
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Old 01-13-09, 05:14 PM
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Looks good Mike! I can see that you didn't really have room to 'hang' the tanks though... only thing that's really gonna do is make the 'easy bladder test' impossible... you won't be able to 'blip' the air valve to see if there's water on the air side.

Keep yer eye on the pressure on the other boiler with the valve that you cleaned... make sure it doesn't creep slowly up... up... up...

Wow... almost one year! Congrats! (you know what I mean )
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-13-09 at 07:12 PM.
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