Help, 2 zones out, 3 still working


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Old 04-12-09, 07:36 PM
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Help, 2 zones out, 3 still working

I'm a complete novice with heating but found this forum while trying to figure out what's wrong. I have a 5 zone gas boiler. A few months ago I had problems with the heat not coming on in my basement zone which lasted about a day but then the problem went away and I never addressed it. Now I have no heat in my basement plus now a second zone, my main floor has no heat as well. With 3 kids and still 30 degree temps at night, I definitely need to fix it ASAP.

I am hoping someone has an idea of what is wrong, and if so if it's something I can fix or at least I'll know what's most likely wrong before calling someone to fix it. Here's a link to pic's of my boiler:

Pictures by kibe29 - Photobucket

I was told by an electrician friend that my basement zone is set up as low voltage and the rest of the house including the main floor has line voltage thermostats. I'm not sure if that makes a difference...

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 
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Old 04-12-09, 09:01 PM
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From what I can see, it doesn't appear that you have line voltage thermostats, but without being able to trace all the wiring, who knows? It would be kinda odd if that were the case though, seeing as how you've got transformers growing out of the system everywhere... those are all low voltage (24VAC) jobs I believe... in the first pic, there are THREE of them hanging off that electric box, and another on the side of the boiler... and my guess is that one of those transformers is NFG, or there's a loose wire in that rats nest of wires... I wonder if the installer thought you needed one transformer for each valve?

Are all the zone valves V8043 models? If so, those are all low voltage... I believe the 8044 is the model for line voltage... not sure without looking at the books... bad memory.

Do you own a multimeter and know how to use it?
 
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Old 04-13-09, 06:08 AM
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Yeah all 5 are 8043 models and it says 24v on the label. Now that I know what the transformers are, all 4 are the same model and they all say 24v if that helps. Would that possibly mean that it is low voltage and just the thermostats are line voltage models? I know for sure the LUX Thermostat in my living room is line voltage from looking up the model but the Ritetemps in the basement appear to be low voltage ones.

The wires appear to be ok from inspection but then I didn't really want to mess with them with the power on. I don't have a multimeter, but I could get one (nice excuse to buy more tools, hehe). Would this be something an electrician could handle if it's the transformers?
 

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Old 04-13-09, 06:51 AM
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After looking at those picture it sure is a shame to do those ruthless things to an beautiful innocent defenseless boiler. She had no way of defending herself. The installer should feel ashamed of taking advantage of such a beautiful thing like a water boiler.
He has taken her perky parts that should stand erect like her relief valve and left it droop to it's side. He is shoving water in her backside instead of drawing it through her rock solid sections allowing it to caress all of her hot surfaces absorbing as much of her heat as possible. He has deprived her of air separation which allowing her to block her lovely arteries due to not allowing her to exhale that nasty water slowing, radiation output reduction, corrosion causing air which makers her sick long term. He is taking a chance of stressing herself as she produces that beautiful heat and gets good and hot then runs cold water into her. I must stop here I just cannot look at that ravishing beauty violated that way.
Maybe 32 years is too long to be doing this work. My wife tells me I love my job too much. Maybe she has a point!
 
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Old 04-13-09, 07:03 AM
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When I bought the house a year ago there was a master plumber in to do some work to get the house up to code, paid by the sellers luckily. Anyway he did comment that the plumbing seemed off for the boiler but the cost would be expensive to get it right and it was better left alone unless there was a problem....

RBeck, what you're saying in an abstract way is that it is plumbed incorrectly? Could that be causing my problem? It also sounds like you're also saying there's the potential for other problems from how it's set-up as well as it is innefficient...

It kinda seems like I'll need an HVAC/plumber to get this right...
 
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Old 04-13-09, 07:11 AM
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rbeck waxes poetic!

rbeck, you sure you ain't been 'tippin' it a little early? Beer 4U2

I didn't wanna get too harsh on the old girl ... but there are a few 'areas' ...

kibe, I guess it's possible to use a line voltage thermostat on a low voltage circuit... I mean, it'll work...

there is a possibility that for whatever reason, the installers used line voltage thermostats on the 120VAC side of the transformer... can't imagine WHY, but it's possible...

USUALLY, the thermostats would be low voltage models and be switching the OUTPUT 24VAC from the transformer to the zone valve motors... but they might have wired them to the INPUT 120VAC of the transformer... maybe that's why there are so many transformers...

Can you tell what type of WIRE is going to the line voltage t'stats? If it's skinny thermostat wire, and they are running 120VAC on that, it's a disaster waiting to happen...

With the multimeter, you could also measure the voltage at the thermostats themselves to be sure... with the thermostat NOT calling for heat, you would measure the voltage on the two wires...

You don't need a fancy multimeter... a cheapo $20 analog job is fine for this purpose, so don't go crazy with the credit card.

An electrician can easily replace a transformer... you might be able to handle it also, not a big deal, just make 100% certain that the power is OFF! If you can change a light switch or an outlet, you should be able to handle the transformer. Thing is, there are probably way too many wires in that box that the transformers are hangin' on, so it might be difficult to get in there and do it.

On the exposed screw terminals on those transformers, you should read somewhere around 24VAC. It will probably be a volt or three higher than that, that's ok... if you get ZERO, you need to look at the 120VAC primary side, and check that you have voltage there. BE CAREFUL! 120VAC can KILL!
 
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Old 04-13-09, 07:30 AM
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kibe, do you know who installed the boiler?
 
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Old 04-13-09, 07:30 AM
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Trooper, not tipping the bottle just long hours getting ready for the sales meeting this week. Priming for new product intro's etc.

I am saying there are some piping issues but unless the problem is air related it is not causing your problem. Turn thermostats all down. Turn up one that does not work in a short time does the boiler turn on? Verify the water temp is below the setting on the aquastat. turn it down and do the same thing for the other zone. If the pump comes on and the boiler fires it is an air problem. If not it is electrical either wiring or part related. it is not a pump or boiler problem as they work with the other stats.
 
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Old 04-13-09, 07:37 AM
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No unfortunately I don't know who installed it. According to the sellers it was done about 3 years ago if I'm remembering right. The left no paperwork for that but did leave paperwork for the basement carpet install, reverse osmosis water filter and a few other things. I would much rather have had more info on the boiler and install....

Just to be safe I think I'll give my electrician friend a call, he works for cheap and I have another small project for him anyway.

So step one is to check the power on each transformer with a multimeter and replace it if there's nothing going through it? Is there any specific transformer I should look for?
 
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Old 04-13-09, 08:46 AM
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The couple things that rbeck pointed out... I'll elaborate a bit for him if he don't mind... well, even if he do mind...

The Pressure Relief Valve, the thing on the left side of the boiler, coming off a pipe on top, with a handle on it, and a pipe leading to the floor... that should really be installed in an upright position.

The 'manifolds' where the zone valves are installed... it doesn't look like they used a big enough pipe... the pipes to the heat emitters should be like 3/4"... but the main pipe coming off the boiler should be like 1-1/4". The way it's piped presents a 'bottleneck' to the flow of water through the boiler, it's being 'choked' down.

The thermostat wiring appears to be telephone wire, which will work... (it has been working...) but it's typically too small a gauge wire... thermostat wiring should be at least 18ga, that stuff is probably 22ga... maybe even 24ga... and it's not done in a 'workman-like' manner... sloppy... 'just gitter done' way.

I'm guessing that this was a homeowner install... or maybe his "brother-in-law, who is an expert plumber"... I'm sure we've all heard that one before.

Now, as rbeck mentioned, the problem COULD BE air in the system. I have been under the assumption, and possibly wrong, that it's an electrical problem, but maybe we oughta look into the air first... take a look at the pressure gauge on the boiler, and tell us what pressure you have, at what temperature. i.e. 18PSI @ 165 ... and if you can, let us know what it reads both cool and hot...

Then, we're gonna take a look at the zone valves when you turn a thermostat up to call for heat... when you turn up a t'stat to call, you should be able to tell if the associated zone valve is opening or not. Have someone turn up the stat while you are at the boiler listening. When the zone valve opens, the pump should start, and the boiler may fire up... do this for each one... rbeck touched on this above.
 
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Old 04-13-09, 08:51 AM
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I turned the temp down on every thermostat and then turned one of the non-working zones up. The burner did kick on about 10 minutes or so later and was on for about a minute or 2 then shut off.

RBeck you said to "Verify the water temp is below the setting on the aquastat." I'm not sure what I should be looking at to do that? Pardon my ignorance this is a crash course in heating systems for me.

I did check the wires on a few of the thermo's so far all have larger wires not small ones. I did verify the model # for my basement thermostat and verified it is a 24v thermstat unlike the other 3 that are LUX ELV line voltage models (I have a separate zone for a basement bathroom that works and it's the same thermostat as the other basement one).
 
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Old 04-13-09, 09:08 AM
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Ok another update

Temp is about 215 it's all in red no other gauge for that so I guess there's no cold water temp reading. PSI, the guage has 2 catagories for the same arc feet -H2O which is about 25 or so the PSI part looks to be about 15

I'm by myself at the moment but the burner is 10 feet away and keeping the door open to it I can hear a click when I turn on the non-working zone.
 
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Old 04-13-09, 09:19 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised about the boiler install, I believe the previous owner mention his cousin was in some field of construction/heating. The basement heat has small baseboards that look like molding and use small pipe to circulate the water. I remember the prev owner said he got them online after seeming them on a Bob Vila episode.... They look cool because you wouldn't know they were part of the heat system but I'm sure it's not very efficient.

I haven't heard any gurgling sounds from the pipes since we moved in if that means anything.
 
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Old 04-13-09, 08:05 PM
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IF the gauges are accurate, I think 215 is high...

The aquastat may be a gray box, about 4x6" mounted on the boiler. There is 120VAC inside, so turn off power before removing any covers. There will be a temperature dial inside that box. That's the 'high limit' at which the burner will shut down. It probably should be set to 180 or so...

If the boiler is really that hot, and you've only got 15 PSI in the system, I would say that the pressure is low... it should be 12-15 PSI when the boiler is COLD. And maybe 8 PSI higher when hot... so something ain't right there either, but could be gauge accuracy...

Those sound like 'radiant baseboards'. Extruded aluminum with a channel on the back into which is press fit PEX plastic tubing. They work OK, but the BTU output is roughly half what you get out of 'fin tube' baseboard... about 200-250 BTU / FT, compared to 500-600 for the latter.

You would have to let the boiler cool off to get a cold temp... there won't be another gauge for that, same gauge, just cold boiler.
 
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Old 04-13-09, 08:08 PM
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I haven't heard any gurgling sounds from the pipes since we moved in if that means anything.
Yes and no... sometimes the air will 'hole up' in a spot in the piping and not move unless ya blast it through. And an air bubble like that can stop the flow in a loop completely.

In a basement zone though, I would be a little surprised if the problem was air, unless it was piped all screwy, with places for the air to 'hide'.
 
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Old 04-14-09, 06:58 PM
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Ok so here's where I'm at. I checked everything that was mentioned here and still nothing. So at the request of my wife I called the plumber/heat specialist.

After looking at it he was thinking it is air. He tried flushing the air out but that didn't work. One of the zone valves was still letting water through even though it was supposed to be closed and the only open one was the basement. The plumbing isn't too great with only one way to get the air out....

He said ideally there should be valves to shut off each zone and a drain for both the output and separately the input all running off manifolds. He echoed your comments about the pressure relief valve. Also there are a few "T"'s in the plumbing that should not be there. I asked about the pipe sizes, if there was any parts that were too small diameter and he said it all looked good to him....

So he came back today and replaced that zone valve (it was not the basement one), installed the cutoffs and drains on 3 zones (trying not make the repair to expensive/extensive) just not the basement ones. Once that was done there was definitely some air drained out of the system but possibly because of the smaller pipes in the basement he had a really hard time getting it to flush without pushing the psi too high. Eventually it seemed to go and we had heat running through the pipes....but... Soon after he left I checked the basement again and no heat even with the zone valve wide open. And no heat again on the first floor.... I just checked the basement zone valve with the heat on it seems to be open but the pipe is cool and no heat.

PSI is now at 19, temp turned down to 180.

Uploaded pics of the updates and a few others as well

Pictures by kibe29 - Photobucket
 
 

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