boiler noise, expansion tank issues

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Old 10-03-09, 10:20 AM
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boiler noise, expansion tank issues

I recently bought a home, and it is equipped with a weil mcclain cga-4 gas boiler for heat. before firing it, I drained off the expansion tank, which the water was quite dirty, then refiled it to roughly half level. I have the steel, closed type tank, which does not have a sight glass, so it is tough to tell exactly which level it is at. When the boiler fires, there is some light pipe hammer, followed by the occasional heavier pipe hammer. Are these boilers supposed to be silent for the most part? It also seems that the boiler keeps taking the water level down in the expansion tank, therefore I have to keep topping it off, but it always seems quite low. I have determined that the shut off water temp is roughly 170F, but what is the "normal" operating pressure on this unit? When I closed the shut off valve between the expansion tank and the rest of the system and filled the tank to what I thought was much closer to half full, then opened the valve, it brought the system pressure up to 20 PSI. Is this pressure too high? to my understanding, the "normal" pressure is 12-15 PSI. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 10-03-09, 12:04 PM
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Not sure I understand some of what you said, and rather than type a billion words to try and get it, it is probably better if you first post some pictures of your system.

Set up a free account at Image hosting, free photo sharing & video sharing at Photobucket and upload the pics there, and drop a link back here so we can view the pics.

Info:

The 'level' in the expansion tank will be whatever it is... it's not really adjustable in that sense. That tank should start off completely empty after you drain it with the valve closed. Completely full of air. When you close the drain, and re-open the valve to the rest of the system, the air that is trapped in the tank will compress at whatever pressure is on the system side. You shouldn't be pressurizing the tank first... ???

The 'normal' pressure on a COLD (room temp) system is usually around 12-15 PSI. It will be higher by a few PSI if your home is more than 2 stories tall. When the system heats up, the water expands, and the pressure will increase. The increase should be around 5-8 PSI, could be a bit more, but should not go over around 25 PSI when at the high limit.

The 'hammering' you hear could well be air flowing through the pipes... it can be quite loud at times.

So let's see some pics and we'll go from there...
 
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Old 10-03-09, 08:08 PM
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here is a link for some pics of the boiler unit and the setup of the system, let me know if you need any more photos, any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Pictures by cheinemann_605 - Photobucket
 
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Old 10-04-09, 09:06 AM
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There's another expansion tank in the pics... I suspect that it may be on the domestic side? The smaller tank that says "Therm-X-Spa..." on it. What piping is that connected to?

Can you pull back somewhat and get a wider shot so we can see where all the piping is going? In particular, the connection from the large expansion tank into the rest of the system...

Also, where does the water feed go into the heating system?

Basically, I'd like to see everything... and a wide shot so I can follow the piping.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 10:10 AM
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One more thing I forgot to point out...

On the side of your boiler there is a 'pressure relief valve', a tank colored thing with a handle on top of it.

For safety purposes, that valve needs to be piped down to the floor. If it should happen to vent while someone is standing there, someone is going to the hospital... (or worse?)...
 
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Old 10-04-09, 11:22 AM
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Thanks for your reply. First I would like to say that yes, I am aware of the relief valve not being piped to the floor, I plan on plumbing that relief, among other items as well. Secondly, the Therm-x tank that you see is the expansion tank for the hot water heater. This need not apply to our situation. Finally, I uploaded more pictures of the piping of the system. Let me know if you have any more questions, or need any more pics. Thanks for your help!
 

Last edited by cheinemann; 10-04-09 at 11:49 AM.
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Old 10-04-09, 12:30 PM
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Good... On the water feed line, I do see a 9D backflow preventer, but what I don't see is a pressure reducing valve. Which strikes me as kinda odd. The 9D looks relatively new, and I'm curious why they would not have installed a reducing valve at the same time. Unless it's way further back on the piping?

So, in order for you to get water into the boiler, you have to manually add water by opening the valve, correct?

OK, so to service that exp tank, you would close the valve on the line from the boiler to the tank, drain ALL the water out. Don't let the tank fool you into thinking it's empty, cuz it will develop a 'vacuum lock'. It will stop draining, but there could still be a lot of water in the tank. If you have good lungs and aren't afraid of getting a mouthful of bacteria laden water, you could blow into the end of the hose. Or use a small compressor to do same. Or sometimes just loosening the hose at the bib on the tank will be enough to break the vacuum and let the tank take a gulp of air. Bottom line is just to be sure the tank is empty and use whatever works to get it empty.

Close the drain valve, open the isolation valve in the line to the boiler, and then with the boiler at room temp, open the water feed valve and add water until you have 12-15 PSI .

When the boiler fires up, watch the pressure gauge, with the boiler at high limit, the pressure might be as high as 20-25 PSI, which is OK.

You might consider adding a pressure reducing valve, because you will otherwise need to be diligent about making sure you have enough pressure in the system.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 12:37 PM
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That expansion tank has a Bell & Gossett "airtrol" fitting on it. While I personally think the Airtrol is the most useless device B&G has ever made it does give you a means of venting the tank when you drain it by opening the little brass fitting on the bottom of the Airtrol.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 04:15 PM
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Thank you! this is some great informatoin, but I do have some questions. First of all, I posted another picture with more of the water supply piping. On the right is the backflow preventer, the valve on the left is the one in question. Is this the pressure reducing valve, or is this simply a supply shut off valve? Secondly, what you are trying to say is that the expansion tank needs to be empty? The reason I ask this is that because I read in a boiler book is that the expansion tank needs to be half full of water, and half full of air. This in turn would give water a place to expand, but also will exchange water with air pockets in the system as well. Finally, as for the pipe hammer, what would be a solution for this? I have tried to bleed off the heat registers multiple times. The first time or two, a small amount of air bled off the line, but now when bled, they do not expell any air. Thanks for your feedback!
 
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Old 10-04-09, 04:28 PM
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The yellow handle valve is a ball type shutoff valve.

I still see no pressure reducing valve in the pics... it would look something like this:


photo courtesy State Supply

Other manufacturers may be different color, but the basic bell shape will be there.

what you are trying to say is that the expansion tank needs to be empty?
No, not exactly. It will START empty after you drain it. Then, when you open the valve to the system, water will flow into the tank under system pressure and compress the air that is in the tank. When you adjust the boiler pressure to 12-15 PSI cold by adding water, remember that pressure also exists in the expansion tank.

The actual water 'level' in the tank is determined by the system pressure, how much the air in the tank is compressed by the system pressure. There is no 'control' over how much water is in the tank, other than that system pressure.

Air can be compressed, water can not. So that air that was in the tank is compressed and becomes the 'sponge' for absorbing the expansion of the water in the system as it's heated.

What happens in some systems is that the air that is trapped in the tank is gradually lost, and the tank becomes 'water logged', without enough of a 'sponge' to absorb the expansion. At that point, the safety relief valve usually blows because the pressure goes above 30 PSI.
 

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Old 10-04-09, 04:46 PM
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Finally, as for the pipe hammer, what would be a solution for this? I have tried to bleed off the heat registers multiple times. The first time or two, a small amount of air bled off the line, but now when bled, they do not expell any air.
In an ideal system, all air would flow through the system and eventually find it's way back to the expansion tank, where it belongs.

Also ideally, the air that is in the expansion tank would STAY in the expansion tank, but this is typically not the case. Since the water in the system is 'air starved' some of the air in the tank will dissolve back into the water and find it's way out to the radiators, etc... this air then gets bled off by opening the bleeds, and it's 'gone'... repeat this again and again over the years and eventually there isn't enough air in the tank to absorb the expansion.

This doesn't answer your question though.

If all the air bleeds on your system were located at the 'high spots' in your piping, you could shut the system down, then go around and let the air out. Most of the time they aren't in the right locations.

Bleeders should be located wherever the piping turns to go downward. These bleeders would be best opened with the circulator pump RUNNING.



AIR will gladly travel horizontally in a pipe, but not downward. So when the pump is running, the air will collect at the locations shown in the drawing. Once the pump shuts off again, if that downturn is not a HIGH spot, the air will float back to the high spots.

In some cases, the bleeders are just plain in the wrong places. Then, you don't have much choice but to try a 'power purge', where you push water through the system using the valving installed, under city pressure. The problem with this is that the fresh city water you introduce is FULL of air, and the first time you heat that water that air will be forced out of solution and form new pockets of air.

Your system does have those needed valves, but first try running the system for a while, and while the pump is running, open the bleeds and see if you don't get more air out. If it's not so bad that the water flow is actually blocked as in the diagram, eventually the air that's in the system might find it's way back to the tank.
 

Last edited by NJT; 10-04-09 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 10-04-09, 04:50 PM
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great! this is starting to make sense! On another note, the valves that you posted pictures of I have also read and they have been referred to as an auto-filling valve, that will automatically top off the system with water as needed. Also, these systems under correct and normal operation, will operate rather quietly, correct?
 
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Old 10-04-09, 04:54 PM
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Finally, there are piping strategies that make air removal from a system much easier... "Pumping Away" is the biggie.

Read the following for a basic explanation:

http://www.bellgossett.com/Press/Cou...tJan2001-A.pdf

There's a whole book about this... called appropriately; "Pumping Away" by Dan Holohan.

Your system is NOT set up to pump away. Your circulator is located on the return to the boiler, and your expansion tank is piped to the top of the boiler. Your pump is pumping TOWARD the tank, or, the 'PONPC' (Point Of No Pressure Change).

Not to say it's wrong, or should be changed, but by todays standards, it's not the best in terms of air removal.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 04:56 PM
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ok, thank you very much for your help! Finally, these systems should operate rather quiet and should not be very audible? or should there be a small amount of noise?
 
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Old 10-04-09, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by cheinemann View Post
great! this is starting to make sense! On another note, the valves that you posted pictures of I have also read and they have been referred to as an auto-filling valve, that will automatically top off the system with water as needed. Also, these systems under correct and normal operation, will operate rather quietly, correct?
Yep, auto-fill is another name for the same.

They are set to maintain the cold fill pressure, and will automatically add water as needed. The downside to them is that if you have a small leak somewhere, it can be masked, because you won't know that the valve is adding water. The upside to them is that you won't run the boiler dry, and destroy the boiler and start a fire...

Yes, quietly... you should not (or very barely) hear the water flowing in the pipes. You will of course hear the boiler firing up though, when the burner lights... Whooooshhhhh...
 
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Old 10-04-09, 05:00 PM
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Thanks for the awesome info! I will let you know if I have any further questions!Beer 4U2
 
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Old 10-04-09, 05:03 PM
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You do not have an "air removal" device on your system so all air is (hopefully) removed in the boiler and then it rises to the expansion tank. At least that is the theory. In reality the air will collect in the highest point of the piping and if you have baseboard convectors the air bubbles can often restrict the water flow to the point where you get very little heat.

Ah, I see that Trooper has posted a picture of a convector and where the bleed valve should be. You may indeed need to bleed quite a bit of water, several cupfuls maybe, before you get all the air from the piping. Of course as you bleed the water the pressure in the system will be dropping and you will need to add more water.

Trooper also gave you the straight scoop on the water level in the expansion tank. When the system is cold the water level will be quite low in the tank and when at operating temperature it may be 3/4 full or even more. The purpose of the expansion tank is to maintain a relatively constant pressure as the water expands and contracts due to temperature changes. Generally speaking the system should be about 12 psi when cold (water at room temperature) and something less than 27 psi when at maximum temperature.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 06:16 PM
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once again, thank you very much for this info! Another question that I did come up with is that, I am also wanting to replace the thermostat for the unit and also split it up into a two zone system, which it is set up for, but the zone valves are connected together. My question is, is a specific thermostat required for a boiler, or will any generic thermostat work?
 
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Old 10-04-09, 06:23 PM
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Any good quality thermostat is fine. The 'better' ones have a little bit of 'smarts' built in that 'learn' the heating pattern of the home, and adjust the anticipator circuit accordingly.

Let us know if you have any questions with the wiring... but you shouldn't, it's no harder than wiring up a 7.1 surround sound system.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 07:01 PM
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Some zone valves require a three-wire thermostat but even these valves can be used with a "standard" thermostat by installing an intervening relay.
 
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Old 10-04-09, 07:14 PM
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alright, thanks for the advice guys! Apparently, trooper, you actually looked up my background as well! I am not only an audio/video guy, but also possess an electronics degree as well!
 
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Old 10-06-09, 05:10 PM
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So, I have taken your advice, by draining off the tank, and refilling the system to approx 15 psi cold. I then opened the valve between the boiler and the expansion tank, then, again topped off the system to 15 psi cold. This noticabely added water to the expansion tank. After this, I fired the unit and let it get up to temp. Once the boiler quit firing and was only circulating, I went to the registers and bled off several cups of water. After this, I allowed the system to get cold again, and verified the system pressure of 15 psi cold. There is still some pipe hammer, but this does not occur now until the water temp is approx 130 F. When it starts hammering, it will continue until it reaches the peak temp of 170 F. At this point, I am guessing that the expansion tank will take care of the rest? Does anyone have an educated guess as to how long it takes for the expansion tank to remove the rest of the air from the system?
 
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Old 10-06-09, 05:29 PM
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I've been known to mess with them electron thingies myself...

I think you would be able to tell if it's air in the system... but you are describing something that sounds a bit more 'ominous'. You said 'hammer' and this might be something else altogether.

Can you locate the source of the sound? Is it more from the boiler? or is it in the system piping?

Are there any more descriptive words you can use to further describe the sound?

Oh, and perhaps more important than the cold pressure, is the pressure when the system is HOT... did you notice that?
 
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Old 10-06-09, 06:41 PM
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Looking at your pics again... and trying to follow the piping around, I can't really make the connection between the piping to and from the zones at the ceiling level, back down to the boiler.

I've gone back and forth between the pics, but am still not sure I'm seeing it right.

There's the pipe coming off the top of the boiler... the larger of the two, not the one to the expansion tank... is that one going to the B&G SA Flow-check? (that's the big hunk of iron sitting on top of the pipe, with the lever on top) and then to the zone valves?

Notice the flow direction arrows on this device:

photo courtesy Bell & Gossett

And the one with the pump on it... is that going to the white painted pipes, with the red shut off valves, and the two drains above them?

I'm beginning to wonder if something ain't caddy-wompus in the piping... it sorta looks like the two pipes cross over each other above the boiler, and it might be backwards from what I described?
 
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Old 10-07-09, 07:57 PM
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first of all, to be more specific of the "noise" that I am hearing, can be anything between a dull thud, and a loud "tinging" sound. As for your question on the piping, the bell & gosset valve that you illustrated in your last reply goes to the pump. This valve is between the zone valves and the pump. But the one thing that I did notice is that the indicator on top of this valve DOES NOT point in the same direction of the arrow. I am only able to turn the indicator about 1/4 of a turn, but no further. It also seems that only the indicator is turning, but nothing else. I will have to follow up on this, because at the time in which I am writing this, the boiler unit is currently firing, and I do not feel comfortable working with the valve at this time. As for the source of the "noise", I am able to conclude that the noise is coming from the line that comes out of the boiler, to the knob-type valves for each zone, on the supply side of the boiler. I hope this helps, and if you have any other questions, let me know.
 
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Old 10-07-09, 08:10 PM
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following up on the bell & gossett valve.... It seems that the plastic "indicator" on top of this valve is only spinning, but not actually opening or closing the valve. Is it possible to break off the plastic piece, and use a pliers to verify that this is open or closed? Finally, if this is not an option, would it be safe to take the plug out of the other side of the valve to verify that it is open? If this is an option, what would need to be done prior to taking the plug out? closing of valves, etc?
 
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Old 10-07-09, 08:58 PM
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Another few things that I forgot to mention is that the HOT pressure is roughly 16-18 psi. On another note, the "noise" is also traced back to the pipe that leads up to the expansion tank. When the boiler is being noisy, the pipe that connects to the tank is hot, then when it quiets down momentarily, that line will get cold. This would possibly be air being discharged from the system and being replaced with water from the expantion tank?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 02:39 PM
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OK... seems like you got yerself a bit of a problem there.

I am willing to bet that the old boiler that was there before this one was piped the other way... with the supply off the TOP of the boiler feeding into that B&G check valve.

I don't know how to tellya this gently... but if they installed that boiler backwards, then the zone valves are probably backwards too.

That B&G valve is a CHECK VALVE. When the handle on top is in the normal position, water will only flow ONE WAY through it, and that is UP from the bottom, and OUT the side. If yours is piped so that the bottom goes to the SUCTION side of the pump, it's backwards, plain and simple, and is likely a huge part of the banging noises you are hearing. That, and the zone valves installed backwards will contribute...

More about that B&G valve... it's not a 'shut off' valve at all. The handle on the top is a 'manual open' for emergency situations where the circulator fails. Please read this link, as I don't feel like typing it all out, this will explain:

Bell & Gossett - The Flo-Control Valve

Here's what you need to do:

1. Check your circulator pump for proper direction of flow. It MUST be pumping INTO the bottom of the boiler.

2. Check the zone valves for proper direction of installation. They must also be properly installed.

I believe the bottom line is that you will have to reverse the connections between the boiler and your system.

Don't try to do anything to that B&G valve until you understand what it is, and how it works. If you can free up the handle on top, it should be screwed COUNTER CLOCKWISE to manually lift that weight. Only then should you even attempt to run the boiler. Previous owners may have already discovered that the valve is backwards, and it may already be manually opened, but you need to verify that. If your pump is sucking on the bottom of that thing, you will not be circulating any water if it's not open.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 03:40 PM
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one thing that I did notice is that the indicator on top of this valve DOES NOT point in the same direction of the arrow. I am only able to turn the indicator about 1/4 of a turn,
If you've read the info on that valve at the B&G site, you already know that the direction that handle points is meaningless.

And that it definitely needs to turn more than 1/4 turn... more like 3-4-5 turns... it's a 'screw' that turns and lifts the stem on the check valve weight.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 03:46 PM
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would it be safe to take the plug out of the other side of the valve to verify that it is open?
I don't think I'd try that... you probly would have to pull so hard on that thing to get that plug loose that you would end up twisting the copper pipes into pretzels... even if you used two wrenches...

Probably better to spritz the valve stem with some penetrating lube and see if you can work the shaft free...

Reality is that since you have zone valves, you may not even need that check valve...

But, still, it's clear that at one time your system pumped the other direction, and maybe should be returned to the way it was designed.

What types of radiators are in the home? baseboards? etc ?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 03:50 PM
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HOT pressure is roughly 16-18 psi. On another note, the "noise" is also traced back to the pipe that leads up to the expansion tank. When the boiler is being noisy, the pipe that connects to the tank is hot, then when it quiets down momentarily, that line will get cold.
The 16-18 PSI when hot is fine... but I have to ask, when all this is going on with the noise and all, is the pressure gauge steady?

Almost sounds to me like some kinda boiling, or surging going on in there... or maybe the boiler isn't actually full of water? !
 
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Old 10-08-09, 04:00 PM
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OK, one last thought...

"recently bought a home" ... means that the home was [hopefully] inspected by a competent person before you signed, right? Did the inspector look at the heating system? Can you go whack him with a 2x4 for me please? KIDDING! I'm a peaceful person... but if it was inspected, and not noticed, the whacking would be well deserved.

Might you have any recourse with the previouses, or perhaps an insurance company? cuz otherwise, yer gonna have to pay for the repairs.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 06:54 PM
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First of all, I think that you are on to something. When the boiler does make noise, the pressure guage is rather spuratic, and will spike up to 30psi, causing the relief valve to trickle a small amount of water. Secondly, It appears that the check valve and zone valves are correct to the circulator pump. But, according to my research, the circulator pump is pulling water out of the bottom of the boiler, not pumping it into the boiler. I also traced that the noise is much more noticable in the line that feeds to the expansion tank. Which, according to the illustrations provided by weil-mcclain, the tank is not exactly plumbed correctly either. I am thinking that a quick fix for this would be to get the check valve opened up and then switch the zone valves to manual, and then flip the circulator pump around, so that the water is flowing in the correct direction. What are your thoughts?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 06:57 PM
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on a final note, when the home was inspected, from what I recall, the boiler was NOT fired, but the system was looked over, but not in much detail. I actually met the person whom last serviced the boiler, and he had told me that he had repaired a lot of leaks, other than that the system was fine. Lastly, the illustrations that I have been referencing back to from weil-mclain can be found on their website @ Weil-McLain :: Boilers and Water Heaters for Home and Commercial Heating Applications.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 07:08 PM
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In conclusion, according to all of my research, the circulator pump is backwards...... would this have a dramatic effect on things?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by cheinemann View Post
In conclusion, according to all of my research, the circulator pump is backwards...... would this have a dramatic effect on things?
Uhhhh... yeah.

You really think it's pumping out the bottom of the boiler?
 
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Old 10-08-09, 07:26 PM
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I am thinking that a quick fix for this would be to get the check valve opened up and then switch the zone valves to manual, and then flip the circulator pump around, so that the water is flowing in the correct direction.
That may get ya going for the winter... BUT... you will have 'gravity flow' and the house will probably overshoot the thermostat every time... the 2nd floor (if you have one) will probably be VERY hot...

You MUST turn the pump around.

You MIGHT be able to free up that valve so that you can make sure it's manually open.

You MAY be able to 'live with' the zone valves being backward until the spring.

I think the expansion tank is fine, but haven't looked at the reference you cited yet.

OK, just looked at the I&O manual for the CGa ... and the connection for the expansion tank is as recommended in the manual. Don't forget there are two types of tank, and you have the older style steel compression tank shown in Figure 10 of the manual. No problem there.

I think the best solution long term would be to move the circulator to the supply side, as shown on the front page of the manual. But it might be more than you want to do considering that the heating season is almost upon us.
 
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Old 10-08-09, 09:48 PM
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yes, the pump would definately have to get flipped, i am thinking about bypassing the zone valves, and bypassing the gravity flow check valve, then in the spring, moving the pump to the supply side, so it pumps away from the system, would this work?
 
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Old 10-09-09, 08:41 AM
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finally, I am thinking that if I have positive results after flipping the pump around and bypassing stuff, would it be as easy as removing the zone valves, and flipping them over, so that they face the right direction? Then with the zone valves enabled, this would prevent gravity feeding, correct? Or, do the zone valves need to be on a certain side, the supply side, or return side? Finally, after I flip the circulator pump around, will the line that feeds the expansion tank still be correct? I read somewhere that that the tank needs to be plumbed to the suction side of the pump.
 
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Old 10-09-09, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by cheinemann View Post
yes, the pump would definately have to get flipped, i am thinking about bypassing the zone valves, and bypassing the gravity flow check valve, then in the spring, moving the pump to the supply side, so it pumps away from the system, would this work?
I think you missed this paragraph:

That may get ya going for the winter... BUT... you will have 'gravity flow' and the house will probably overshoot the thermostat every time... the 2nd floor (if you have one) will probably be VERY hot...
But, it's worth a try... above all else, you absolutely must not torture that poor boiler for one more heating season with reverse flow through it... so, you do have to do something. The overshooting with the gravity flow might not be as bad as I'm describing, but it will occur. You might even find that the zone valves will work OK installed backward... (they might hammer when they close though)... but you might be able to live with it.

Are you absolutely sure the pump is backward? There's a flow arrow on it?
 
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