Gurgling in hot water system

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Old 01-05-10, 10:02 AM
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Gurgling in hot water system

I have a Burnham V-7 oil heated hot water system. I bought this home which is about 10 years old in August. I have never had this type of system and need some help. Recently I noticed alot of gurgling in the water pipes (I think my wife opened one of the valves) and the baseboard in one area does not seem to be as hot as the others. It happens to be the largest room and it has gotten quite cold here in New Hampshire so I thought there might be air in the pipes and I might be losing some efficiency. This is a two story house with basement. There are five zones; one being the hot water.
Can someone tell me how to bleed the pipes (if that is what I need to do); what levers/valves to turn and in what sequence.
I have pictures of the system, but I'm not sure how to attach them.
I greatly appreciate your help. Thanks.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by jabony View Post
I have pictures of the system, but I'm not sure how to attach them.
Upload the pix to another hosting site. (Google "free image hosting," and you'll get a listing.) Then post the link here.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 01:28 PM
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Old 01-05-10, 02:31 PM
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Go to the baseboard that isn't getting hot. Look for a bleeder valve on one end or the other (may have to remove the end-piece of the baseboard). Open the valve - may take a screwdriver or a bleeder tool available at hardware stores. Bleed until just a stream of water comes out (no air). To avoid making a mess, try to catch the stream in a cup and have a towel handy.

Also, visually check that the zone valve for the cold room is opening when there is a call for heat from that zone's thermostat.

Check back here if there are problems - there may be another way to skin the cat.

When you say your wife opened a valve, which one? Do you have any idea how air might have gotten in the system? Was the system drained or opened for maintenance since you moved in? Has the one baseboard been cold for all this winter or did the problem just crop up?

See that brass-looking jobadoo on top of the expansion tank? That is an air removal device. If it has a small cap on top, like a tire's valve cap, make sure it is loose - so air can get out.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Speed 30 View Post
Go to the baseboard that isn't getting hot. Look for a bleeder valve on one end or the other (may have to remove the end-piece of the baseboard). Open the valve - may take a screwdriver or a bleeder tool available at hardware stores. Bleed until just a stream of water comes out (no air). To avoid making a mess, try to catch the stream in a cup and have a towel handy.
There are no bleeder valves on any of the pipes. I believe this is a closed system.

Also, visually check that the zone valve for the cold room is opening when there is a call for heat from that zone's thermostat. There is heat coming from the pipes in these rooms, it just doesn't seem as hot as the other rooms. Again, perhaps because they are in a cathederal ceiling room with connection to the living room and kitchen that there is just too much space to heat.

Check back here if there are problems - there may be another way to skin the cat.

When you say your wife opened a valve, which one? Do you have any idea how air might have gotten in the system? Was the system drained or opened for maintenance since you moved in? Has the one baseboard been cold for all this winter or did the problem just crop up?
There was a fan heater in the basement that wasn't working because it wasn't connected to a thermostat. She opened the drain briefly and let some water out. I'm not sure this caused any air. It's just that since then I have noticed the gurgling more. The system was checked by a professional when we closed on the house.

See that brass-looking jobadoo on top of the expansion tank? That is an air removal device. If it has a small cap on top, like a tire's valve cap, make sure it is loose - so air can get out.

There is a cap like a tire valve on the bottom of the tank. I removed it and pressed the pin briefly and some air and water spurted out. I am not sure if this is the valve you are referring to as it is on the bottom of the tank and nothing will come out unless you press the pin. There is a brass device on top of the tank as well.
I guess my original question still stands. Do I need to bleed the system and if so what is the correct procedure.
Thanks for your quick response. I do appreciate the help.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 03:46 PM
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No, wrong cap. Look at the brass air eliminator device ON TOP of the expansion tank.

When there is an air problem, usually it totally blocks flow to a praticular baseboard or zone. Your suggestion that there just isn't enough radiaton in that large, high room may be correct.

Are you are sure there are no bleeder valves on the baseboard units? Did you remove the end pieces from the baseboards? (They don't really look like valves.)

If you want to go to Plan B for bleeding, here's the drill:

Cool down the boiler to 100 deg or less. Make sure all thermostats are turned down all the way so they are not calling for heat. Manually open the zone valve for the cold room.

Find the automatic fill valve in the line from the city water supply to the boiler. Go upstream from there, and open the manual shut-off valve (it may already be open).

In your last picture, there is a ball valve with a green lever, just above the pump - shut it.

Above that green levered valve is a hose bib. Attach a short hose to it and stab it into a bucket with a few inches of water (so you can observe any air bubbles).

Open the hose bib for about 30 sec, and watch for bubbles.

Restore the system and valves to their original position.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 06:15 PM
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When you pressed the wrong valve (the one on the gray expansion tank), how much water came out? Mist or stream?

The system pressure looks quite high, if the gauge is to be trusted (which it may not).

Have you noticed any water on the floor dripping out of the pressure relief valve? (That's the valve in pic2 located to the right of the water heater zone valve and to the left of the white service tag. Its pipe makes a left turn and down close to the floor on the left side of the boiler about where the water stains and the red paint are.)

Could be that the expansion tank is shot. That would explain gurgling and the high system pressure.

Mike, FWIW it's not uncommon for copper baseboard systems to lack bleeders. Mine hasn't got any. A thoughtful purging and pumping away system like that described in Pumping Away makes them unnecessary. (Although this particular system is obviously not pumping away.)
 
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Old 01-05-10, 07:15 PM
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Thanks again Mike. I checked all the pipes on both ends and there are no vavles of any type.

I took a picture of the brass connection on the expansion tank and saw a little tag marked Spirovent Microbubble Resorber.
http://i786.photobucket.com/albums/y...s/P1040660.jpg
I looked more closely at the valve and it looks like there should be some type of screw cap. It also looks like there is some corosion. I also noticed that after the furnace turned off I could hear a slight hissing sound of air escaping for about 20 seconds. I assume it is from excess air in the tank. I don't know if it needs to be cleaned or whether a cap would help control the escaping air as there appears to be a rubber gasket visible. Can I assume that if this is working that there should be no air in the pipes? I can still hear the gurgling; is that normal?

As for the bleeding, I hear gurgling in pipes in other rooms as well. Should not all the zones be bled? Do I turn off one at a time or can I do them all at once? Does it matter if I do the upper floor zones first or last?
 
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Old 01-05-10, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by xiphias View Post
When you pressed the wrong valve (the one on the gray expansion tank), how much water came out? Mist or stream?

Have you noticed any water on the floor dripping out of the pressure relief valve? (That's the valve in pic2 located to the right of the water heater zone valve and to the left of the white service tag. Its pipe makes a left turn and down close to the floor on the left side of the boiler about where the water stains and the red paint are.)
Can you provide answers to the above, please?

The expansion tank has a rubber diaphragm. If (when) it fails, the tank fills with water. The system pressure, which is normally 12-16 psi goes up to 20-30 and the relief valve pops because there is nowhere for the hot water to expand.

You have gurgling and high system pressure. You may need to replace the expansion tank.

What you are probably hearing is the air in the system expanding and contracting in the piping as the boiler cycles because there is no more cushion in the expansion tank.

The tip of the spirovent can have a bit of corrosion. If you hear/feel air escaping, then it is working. It is a one-way vent.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 07:32 PM
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Xiphias raised some questions that should be addressed...

If your gauge is to be believed, that relief valve should/would be spewing... from what I can see of the gauge, it looks like 30 PSI?

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate gauges? Time and again they have proven that they are the enemy.

Why would they install a 75 PSI range gauge on a 30 PSI boiler?

When you pushed the button on the bottom of the tank, you let some air out... making a bad situation worse. That air charge must be correct!

I would suggest that before you do anything else, you determine if the expansion tank is any good or not, and if it is still ok, make sure the air charge is correct. Yer gonna go around in circles with this if you don't.
 
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Old 01-05-10, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by jabony View Post
I looked more closely at the valve and it looks like there should be some type of screw cap.
No, there should not be a cap. The threads are there for the TEMPORARY installation of a cap during pressure testing of the system. Per the manual,

http://spirotherm.com/docs/installation/JrIOM-A.pdf

"The threaded connection at the air vent outlet has been provided as a convenience for those wanting to pressure test the system with air prior to filling. To test, install a ” pipe cap before filling and remove the cap once testing is complete. During operation, this threaded connection should be free of any piping connection with the unit in service to allow the free flow of air and gases."
 
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Old 01-06-10, 02:51 PM
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Answer to questions.
I only briefly pushed the pin in and air mixed with a little water spurted out. The fact that air came out with water would lead me to believe that is was a small amount of water in that part of the tank. If the diaphragm was broke the bottom of the tank would have been flooded and water alone would have come out. (Just my analysis)

Since I have been here there has been no leakage of water or anything else anywhere.

I also noticed the pressure at 30psi and I also noticed a red triangle on the guage at that reading so I inferred that 30 was the setting it had to be at.

Regarding the gurgling sound; it sounds more like a boiling of water or what a stream sounds like. It is not a banging noise but more of a fluid sound as you might expect if water were traveling through a pipe.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 04:21 PM
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Theoretically, there should be NO water at the bottom of the tank. The off-center location of the schrader valve on that tank _could_ mean that there is a significant 'puddle' of water just at the edge of the valve. The bladder doesn't have to break per se, it can develop a 'weeping' leak and allow smaller amounts of water into the air side.

How old is the system? Looks to be pretty new and well maintained... so it might be unusual, but not unheard of, that the tank is actually defective.

One thing a lot of folks don't realize is that those tanks don't hold the air indefinitely. They tend to lose 1-2 PSI per year through the membrane. Same way a kids rubber balloon loses air... So, if the tank is say 5 years old, and started out with 12 PSI, how much is in there now?

The red mark on the gauge is the MAX you would see on your system. The Pressure Relief Valve is set at 30 PSI, so when you see the gauge that high, trouble is near...

NORMAL cold fill pressure on a boiler system is 12-15 PSI in most cases (only increased if the house was very tall... more than 3 stories). The expansion tank is there to control the increase in pressure as the water expands when it is heated, and ideally would not / should not be more of an increase of say 5-8 PSI.

But, again... gauges 5uck! And if your relief valve is not spewing or at least weeping with the gauge at 30 PSI, you can bet that gauge ain't tellin' the truth. Have you ever looked at the gauge when the boiler is cold? What does it read then?

Bottom line I guess is to not make assumptions, cuz yer tail will be in yer face and you _will_ chase it!
 
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Old 01-06-10, 04:33 PM
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I guess my original question still stands. Do I need to bleed the system and if so what is the correct procedure.
I say NO, don't bother bleeding until you have verified that the pressure gauge is in fact correct or not... if it IS correct, you need to determine why the pressure is so high, and why the relief valve has not opened. If it is incorrect, you need to know what the pressure is in the system... either replace the gauge or find another way of measuring the pressure in the system.

Next, you need to verify the condition of the expansion tank.

Only then should you bother to bleed the system.
 
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Old 01-06-10, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by jabony View Post
Regarding the gurgling sound; it sounds more like a boiling of water or what a stream sounds like. It is not a banging noise but more of a fluid sound as you might expect if water were traveling through a pipe.
Without actually listening to the noise, it's hard to comment. But, there will usually be a noise caused by fluid traveling through a pipe. It's caused by friction and turbulance.

It will be louder with higher flow velocities. Since your system has a single pump and mulitple zones, each controlled by a zone valve, the flow rate (and flow noise) will vary depending upon how many other zones are calling for heat. The noise would be loudest in a zone if it is the only zone calling for heat.

For the time being, at least, I would forget the noise issue and concentrate on the other problems.
 
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