Some pipes (zones) ice cold...

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Old 01-04-12, 07:45 PM
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Some pipes (zones) ice cold...

Hello. Long time lurker that now needs assistance. I know I should be giving a professional a call, however I want to see if there's anything I can do before going down that road. Money is tight.

The boiler is old - I found documentation that it may have been installed in 1950 or 1952 (the writing is faded), and is a U.S.-11 Series Capitol Gas Boiler by the United States Radiator Corporation.

Anyway, woke up today and the upstairs of our small Dutch Colonial home is cold (1 and 1/2 story). Go downstairs - the dining and living rooms are cold as well. The rooms with hot pipes are the bathroom, downstairs bedroom/computer room, and kitchen (all seem to be on the same pipeline. It seems that they are all directly connected to the same pipe as the Thrush Control Valve).

There is only one radiator, and it's in the kitchen. I searched every single other pipe, and none of them have bleed valves. So if i"m up against some sort of air-in-the-pipe issue, I'm not sure what to do. Anyway here is the picture gallery:

ImageShack Album - 11 images

A few notes about the pictures:

1. Thermostat is set to 68.
2. The 4th picture is the pipe coming out of the boiler that leads to the thrust control valve. Very hot.
3. For the 7th picture (the return pipes... right?) Top valves are closed (clockwise), bottom valves are open (counterclockwise).
4. 8th picture - Clearly the pump has seen better days. It doesn't seem to make any sound, and I do wonder if it is functioning properly. It has never been noisy, though, so I cannot tell you what it sounds like. The rubbermaid tub is on the floor for two reasons: a friend of a friend suggested draining everything entirely, and so there is some dripping from the spigots. Also, at the bottom, the red relief valve (the one on the right) has always had a bit of a slow drip, which my home inspector said was "normal." Oh how happy I am to have bought a house in 2007 (I regret it every day). And oh how I feel so stupid for being so uninformed and naive.
5. 9th picture is the tank hoisted to the celing. It is cold to the touch.
6. Wanted to show the pressure gauge after it has been running for a few hours (thermostat picture was taken a minute later.


So, that's about it. I drained the entire system. I bled the only radiator. If I open up the spigots to the first and second return pipes (the cold ones), hot water does start to flow out, but the respective pipes in the house are not hot. Makes me think it isn't being "pushed" to those.

Sorry if this is long-winded. I wanted to be as detailed as possible in case this could help anyone diagnose my troubles. Thank you for reading.
 
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Old 01-04-12, 08:43 PM
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It doesn't seem to make any sound, and I do wonder if it is functioning properly. It has never been noisy, though, so I cannot tell you what it sounds like.
You should be able to tell if it's RUNNING though... the motor will be warm... and if you look in those holes between the motor and the pump you should be able to see the 'coupler' spinning... DON'T STICK YOUR FINGER IN THERE!

The rubbermaid tub is on the floor for two reasons: a friend of a friend suggested draining everything entirely
Yeah... well,... that was just that wrongest advice they could have given you. Why would you want to drain it? what would that have accomplished except to go from bad to worse... anyway, what's done is done... I hope you got it filled back up again.

If the pressure gauge is accurate, you have enough pressure in the system ...

To me, it sounds as though the pump isn't pumping...
 
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Old 01-04-12, 08:45 PM
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lso, at the bottom, the red relief valve (the one on the right) has always had a bit of a slow drip, which my home inspector said was "normal.
I have no more love for your shoddy brained home inspector than I do for your friend of a friend of a friend...

He's totally, completely WRONG. It is NOT normal. It should be repaired.
 
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Old 01-05-12, 04:57 AM
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Thanks NJ Trooper. The friend recently started some sort of HVAC program so I guess I was desperate. He said that if there was "airlock" in the upper floors, draining it would get rid of it. But I thought to myself, "what prevents air from getting in there again?" After I drained it and turned the water back on, it did refill. The boiler did its thing, and again the "main line" coming out of the thrush was red hot.

At one point late last night after my post, I had shut the boiler down for 30 minutes. Upon turning it back on, it fired up, and then I heard running water through the pipes in the dining and living room (same line). It only did it once, though. For the next couple of hours, it was the thermostat showing 60-62, with the little flame symbol on indicating the boiler was running, but no hot water running through the pipes except for the "main line."

One last thing - I noticed that if I drain a little bit of water from either of the cold return spigots, that I hear water movement through the thrush, and then I can hear water in the cold pipes (for instance, the dining room, which is above this part of the baesment). Not sure if that means anything, but thought I'd add the detail.

I'll check on the pump when I'm home from work to see if it's running. I guess it doesn't have to be working for water to go through the thrush though, right? It needs to be working to get the water up to the other lines in the house (especially up high)?

Thanks again for your help. And if you know of any good, honest HVAC people in South Jersey, let me know.
 
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Old 01-05-12, 10:30 AM
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Small update. Went home for lunch and, having set the thermostat to "off" before I left for work, turned it back on. Thermostat said
58 when I went into the house. So, I set it for 63, just to see. Boiler fired up, and then eventually I heard water rushing. I went downstairs and the pump was on! But, water was only going to the "main pipes" as I referenced previously, but not the others.
 
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Old 01-05-12, 10:51 AM
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First you will need to make sure your gauge works.

With the boiler off and somewhat cool turn off the water feed to the boiler and drain some water out of the expansion tank drain. Does the pressure go to zero?

If so try to drain all the water out of the expansion tank. This may take some time.


If you think all the water is drained from the tank, close that drain and refill the system. The fill valve should fill the boiler to about 12 psi. Does it?

If so take an overall pic of the boiler and a pic of the water feed. There is a pic with three and three valves. This is where you want to bleed some air out. You close all three green valves and put a hose one at a time to the hose bibs above the green valves. You may have to open and raise the fill valve to increase the pressure while your bleeding. Dont go over 25psi. The relief valve will trip if you go over 30psi.

Thats a start let us know.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-05-12, 03:19 PM
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One thing to know... about the gauge... even if it DOES go all the way to zero, it doesn't mean that it's ACCURATE at any pressure higher than zero.

What you should probably do before you start chasing all around and not getting anywhere...

VERIFY the pressure gauge. I use one that I made from junk box parts:



You can buy one at HD or Lowe's for about $10 or so... problem is that it's a 200 or 300 PSI gauge and doesn't give good resolution on the low end of the scale. I might be usable to verify that 20 is 20... but other than that, not much good. You need a gauge with a 30 or 50 PSI range. You can use the fitting from this gadget and swap out a different gauge. (check real plumbing supply, or swimming pool supply houses).


image courtesy homedepot.com

You could just buy a new boiler gauge, but you will probably have to drain the system again to install it... HD and Lowes may have 'tridicators' in the heating section. You need to make sure that the threading is the same as your boiler if you get one of those.

I guess it doesn't have to be working for water to go through the thrush though, right? It needs to be working to get the water up to the other lines in the house (especially up high)?
Since hot water is more buoyant than cold, you will always get SOME 'gravity flow', and some of the pipes may be hot simply because the hot water 'floats' upward.

The HEIGHT of the system doesn't matter to the pump, since it's a CLOSED system. Your water is like a big Ferris Wheel... the pump pushes and pulls at the same time... and GRAVITY pulls the water back down. All the pump has to do is turn the Ferris Wheel...

BUT, the STATIC PRESSURE in the system has to be high enough to raise the water to the top of teh system. It takes about a half PSI to raise the water one foot. Then you need to add a few PSI on top of that.

So, the first thing to do is verify that your pressure gauge is working properly, and then go from there.
 
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Old 01-05-12, 03:22 PM
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He said that if there was "airlock" in the upper floors, draining it would get rid of it.
You might politely suggest that he study harder!

I can't understand the logic behind this thinking... in order to get RID of the air, you are going to take the WATER OUT, and add MORE air ? That's just silly...
 
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Old 01-06-12, 11:38 PM
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Hi again. I did as lawrosa (Mike) posted (I saw that before I saw the post about gauges). After getting done, I fired up the boiler, and the results weren't different. However, on a whim I turned the lever of the thrush valve from normal to "Open," and now all pipes have hot water! A little story about the thrush valve lever..

I never even saw it before, as I didn't really know or look at the various parts of the boiler when I bought the house. But, it has been set to open for 4 years. Recently, when I was trying to get everything going, I had set it to normal after draining the tank and refilling it. When that didn't work, I set it to open (but without success), so I set it back to normal. But this time, after doing what Mike suggested, the hot water has circulated in all pipes.

I did find the original instructions for the thrush valve, and it says that it should only be set to Open when you' are either draining the boiler or there is a power failure. So, I'm thinking that my pump may be working intermittently. While I did hear it at one point yesterday, I honestly haven't heard it since. Today I was in the basement for at least two hours and never heard it turn on.

The bottom line is - obviously, I need to have it looked at and fixed (the dripping, the pump... maybe just a new, efficient boiler). But, this has been quite a learning experience, and I am much more informed about the workings of the boiler. So, I just wanted to say thanks for your help. I showed my friend this thread and told him to PLEASE pass it along to his HVAC-in-training buddy for a little training help!
 
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Old 01-07-12, 06:16 AM
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Well you have one circulator correct?

I am not sure why there is a flow control and it may have been there from an older configuration. Plus I see the expansion tank is tied into it.

I would think you have zone valves now correct?

If so yes the flow control should be open because its not needed IMO if the zone valve think holds true.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-07-12, 09:12 AM
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blow that relief off to clear it out,and might want to pick up a spare B&G coupler for that style pump.if the pump isn't running during a heating call the boiler will just continue to make that limit temp setting.might want to adjust during a heating run to see where it actually is(shuts boiler off) and what your actually reading
 
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Old 01-07-12, 09:56 AM
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blow that relief off to clear it out
I actually would not recommend that you do that at this time.

If that valve has been leaking for a long time, chances are very good that if you do try to 'clear' it by blowing it out, it will leak WORSE afterward.

The relief valve that you see there is NOT a 'proper' relief valve by today's standards. You should have a proper one installed.
 
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