Hot water not circulating

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Old 01-08-10, 06:50 PM
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Hot water not circulating

We recently purchased a foreclosure house and this is my first experience with a boiler system. The boiler is older (not sure what year) and does not have zones. It is a Burnham oil fuel low pressure boiler system (RS-111). The radiators are the smaller baseboard units. The system pressures to about 20 psi and the boiler heats to around 180-190. The problem is the water does not circulate. It was on for half the day and I did not feel heat in any of the pipes except within a few feet of the boiler - I have heard others talk about gravity working, but no heat made it to any radiators in my case. I bled out all the radiators many times so I do not think that is the problem. I do not know if the circulators are working. I do not hear anything - should I be able to hear a noise? The circulators did feel hot. One of the circulators looks just like the one pictured on:
Troubleshooting a Hot Water Boiler - Noisy Pipes.

Circulators are Bell and Gossett. One is a NRF-22.

I have a photo of the system but it is not on a URL (how do I put it in my post?)

Spent all day w/o success today, any quick ideas/troubleshooting to try tomorrow would be very helpful.
 

Last edited by LearningB; 01-08-10 at 07:01 PM. Reason: More Info
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Old 01-08-10, 07:30 PM
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No circulation

Pictures are best posted on a photo sharing site such as photobucket.com & a link provided here.

Can you tell if the circulators are running?
 
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Old 01-08-10, 07:59 PM
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Not sure about circulators

I did not hear much of any noise from the circulators. I am not sure if they are working. I never had a boiler system before - what should I hear? What should the circulators sound like?

Thanks for the photobucket info. Here is a photo of the system.

 
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Old 01-08-10, 08:04 PM
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Photo

Sorry the photo didn't make it. Try again please.

Circulators shouldn't make much if any noise. Sometimes you can feel them running. Also touch the motors to see if they are warm or hot.
 
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Old 01-08-10, 08:29 PM
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Circulators were hot

The circulators were hot.

I think the photo made it after my edit. Hope it helps.

Any things I can do tomorrow to narrow down the problem and/or try to troubleshoot?
 
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Old 01-09-10, 01:36 AM
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You can use a screwdriver as a 'stethoscope'... put the handle to your ear, and the pointy end on the circulator.

If you have a multimeter and know how to use it, and are not afraid of 120VAC (in other words, are aware of the dangers) you can measure the voltage to the circulators... you say they are hot so I'm pretty sure this is not necessary, but they could be hot from the water in them.

Dumb questions, but are the valves above and below the circulators OPEN?

Are there any other valves in the lines to the radiation that might be closed?

Are both circs running off the same terminals in the aquastat? (the gray box on the boiler that they appear to be wired to) and is there only one thermostat in the home?

You say that the boiler 'pressures to 20'... do you mean that it starts off at a lower pressure when cold, not less than 12 PSI, and when it heats up it goes to 20 PSI?

Somewhat unrelated issue:

In the upper left of that pic, there is a green thing (air scoop) with a brass can on top (air vent). There is a pipe on the bottom that turns and goes UP... is that pipe leading to a tank strapped into the joists above the boiler? If so, that's piped all wrong...

Pull back with the camera a bit and take some more pics so we can see the whole setup.
 
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Old 01-09-10, 06:16 AM
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Another try today

Thanks for the suggestions, I will try them today.

Some responses:

Are the valves above and below the circulators OPEN? yes, all valves are open, other than the drain valves at the very top (one just out of picture above red handle and the top blue handle.)

Are there any other valves in the lines to the radiation that might be closed? I don't think so, is there any other place to look?

Are both circs running off the same terminals in the aquastat?
(the gray box on the boiler that they appear to be wired to) and is there only one thermostat in the home? I am not sure about the aquastat, but I do know there is only one thermostat.

You say that the boiler 'pressures to 20'... do you mean that it starts off at a lower pressure when cold, not less than 12 PSI, and when it heats up it goes to 20 PSI? Yes, starts around 12 cold and goes to around 20 when hot.

In the upper left of that pic, there is a green thing (air scoop) with a brass can on top (air vent). There is a pipe on the bottom that turns and goes UP... is that pipe leading to a tank strapped into the joists above the boiler? If so, that's piped all wrong. I do not think the pipe goes to the expansion tank, but I will check. I am pretty certain the system was in use for years by the prior owner, just a case where he walked away over a year ago and it then went through foreclosure, so it hasn't been used for over a year. I already went through the pain of repairing what a a flawed winterization job can do to radiator pipes.

Pull back with the camera a bit and take some more pics so we can see the whole setup. I will have some more pictures tonight. Thanks for your help
 
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Old 01-09-10, 08:39 AM
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Are there any other valves in the lines to the radiation that might be closed? I don't think so, is there any other place to look?
Follow the piping around... there shouldn't be any valves 'hidden' in the walls and such, and how would they get closed even if there were?

I already went through the pain of repairing what a a flawed winterization job can do to radiator pipes.
This probably means that there is air trapped up there, since the pipes would have had to be drained to do repairs... what you will probably have to do is a 'power purge'. I'm a bit hesitant to suggest messing with the 'pressure reducing valve' (the bell shaped thingy on the water feed line, B&G FB38, given that it looks kinda 'funky'...). As long as you have a manual shutoff valve upstream that you can close in case the 38 leaks through, you will be OK... but still might have to replace the 38... there's no problem running with the manual valve closed, in fact, B&G recommends it... once the system is up to pressure, just close the manual valve. If you do run with the valve closed, your homework assignment is to do due diligence in keeping an eye on the boiler pressure gauge.

Many codes now require a Low Water Cut Off (LWCO) which would shut the boiler down in the event of low water... which in the future you might want to consider.

But what would be involved in a power purge would be connecting a drain hose to each of the drains in turn, above the circulators... CLOSING the gate valves inline above both circs, OPENING the drain valve with the hose (run it into a bucket so you can see bubbles) and LIFTING the handle on the FB38 to get a fast flow through the system. When no more bubbles appear in the bucket, close the drain and move to the other one and repeat process. Re-open the valves above the circs.

The reason you are closing the inline valves above the circs is to force the water to take the path up through the zone and out the drain... a 'roadblock' and a 'detour' as it were... if you don't close them, the water will simply traverse the short section of piping from where it enters, and up through the circs and out the drain... short circuiting...

I do not think the pipe goes to the expansion tank, but I will check.
My bet is that it does... IF it does, you would have two choices... Keep the existing expansion tank, replace that existing air scoop with something like a B&G Inline Air Separator (IAS) and pipe the tank to the TOP port of the IAS, such that the air from the system that is caught is routed back to the expansion (compression) tank where it belongs... OR, keep the existing air separator and air vent on top, and install a bladder type tank hanging from the port on the bottom, in place of the piping to the other tank. IF there's room for the tank at that location. But let's talk about this after you get the heat working...
 
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Old 01-09-10, 08:11 PM
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Another Day

I restarted everything today and my first thought was that the red circulator was not working, but I didn't know where to go from there. It turned out that a plumber (hope this doesn't violate DIY board rules ) that helped me repair some pipes earlier came by and helped me go further. He discovered that someone had put a plastic zip tie on a closed faucet that needed to be open. You can probably see in 1st picture below (was out of view in earlier photo). Well that made a big difference. He then power purged the system just as NJTrooper was describing (I just missed your response before I left - but your advice was on track) to get the air out. In the end, the system still did not operate fully as the red circulator turned out be inoperable. I plan to replace this unit and then should be in business.
I hope the second picture clears up the question on the line running to the expansion tank. As you can see, there is a little more to it which may resolve your concern. The plumber did not mention any problem with the configuration.
Would be nice to have zones, but that is a completely different issue.
Thanks for all your help. This board is great.

Up close:
[IMG][/IMG]

Further Away:
[IMG][/IMG]
 
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Old 01-09-10, 10:54 PM
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I hope the second picture clears up the question on the line running to the expansion tank. As you can see, there is a little more to it which may resolve your concern. The plumber did not mention any problem with the configuration.
No, it doesn't... not at all. So just where IS your expansion tank, on the other side of the house? Seriously, where does that pipe go?

I'll bet your 'plumber' didn't say anything about the condensate dripping out of your chimney, rotting out your flue pipe either, did he?
 
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Old 01-10-10, 07:30 AM
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AWOL Tank

I too wonder where that pipe off the bottom of the air scoop goes. I also noticed two what appear to be switching relays mounted on the wall below the switch. The one upside to the whole mess is the circulator (if it is indeed bad) will be easy to replace.
 
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Old 01-10-10, 09:26 AM
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Yep, I seeum now Grady! What's weird though is the both circs seem to be wired into the aquastat. It looks as though there's also a transformer back there.
 
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Old 01-10-10, 03:07 PM
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Transformer

Trooper, Yeah I saw the transformer. It looks like at least two sets of stat wire back there to boot. I canno figure out what is/was going on there.
 
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Old 01-10-10, 05:34 PM
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Response to comments

The pipe coming from the bottom of the scoop I believe does go to the expansion tank as you surmised. I will verify when I go back out.

I have the picture below of the expansion tank, but probably can't get everything in one shot.

You are losing me when you suggested the change to the piping. Appreciate if you can describe the concern in more basic terms.

I believe the corrosion on the flue pipe may have resulted from a roofing problem. The roof was recently replaced before our purchase, so I suspected the corrosion was from a leak up top.

I will take a picture of the area by the switch. Never noticed the other items.

 
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Old 01-10-10, 06:06 PM
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Expansion tank

One doesn't normally use an air scoop (green part to which tank is piped) with a conventional expansion tank & I would suggest replacing the conventional tank with a bladder type.
Said bladder tanks are normally screwed directly into the bottom of the air scoop but due to the proximity of the scoop to the wall, that would not be possible in this case. Since there is a trap between the tank & scoop you might still be OK with the conventional tank. In any case, there should be a shut off valve between the scoop & tank. Is there a drain valve on the tank?
 
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Old 01-10-10, 07:14 PM
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Pipe from air scoop

It is hard to see, but there is a shut off valve with an air bleeder in the pipe running from the scoop to the expansion tank. In the picture labeled "Further away" you can just barely see the edge of the air bleeder and valve about half way up the vertical section (real hard to see as most is hidden behind another vertical pipe.).

The expansion tank does have a drain valve on the other side of the tank.
 
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Old 01-10-10, 07:46 PM
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I believe the corrosion on the flue pipe may have resulted from a roofing problem.
I hope you are right about that... but rainwater won't usually rust galvanized...

Usually with a standard steel compression tank such as you have, there are no automatic air vents on the system, and the piping is arranged so that any air that gets caught is routed back into the tank. This can only happen if the tank is piped from the TOP of the air scoop. The way it's piped, no air can ever travel from the scoop back into the tank.

There needs to be an 'air cushion' that can be compressed as the water expands when it is heated. Water can't be compressed, and without that cushion, your relief valve would spew every time the boiler fired.

What happens when automatic air vents are added to a system with a compression tank like yours is that slowly, over time, the air in the tank dissolves back into the water in the tank, that water exchanges with the water in the system, and the air in that water ends up going out the vents. Then slowly, the tank becomes waterlogged, and no longer able to take up the expansion of the water.

It's possible though that since the tank is quite a distance from the boiler you might not have a problem. Time will tell... if and when you have problems with the boiler pressure going to high because the tank is waterlogged, you will already know why... might not happen though... so take a wait and see on it.

Does the pipe get hot all the way back to the expansion tank as the system heats up? If it stays cool all the time you might be OK...
 
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Old 01-10-10, 07:50 PM
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I will take a picture of the area by the switch. Never noticed the other items.
Is there central A/C in the home?

Is there more than one thermostat? (did I ask that already?)
 
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Old 01-11-10, 03:18 PM
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Scoop/Tank

I would take the wait & see attitude. It would be a pain to put in a bladder tank unless it were put where the conventional tank is now mounted.
 
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