Extreme heat Radiating from Boiler

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Old 12-09-12, 06:14 PM
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Extreme heat Radiating from Boiler

Hello,
I'm trying to figure out an issue on a boiler system at my mom's house. The house is old (1911) and the heating system is both boiler and furnace. This post is related to the boiler piece. Only the first floor uses radiators, second and third floor is forced air. The radiators put out heat but they aren't overly warm. I can put my hand on them without too much discomfort. The biggest issue, is down in the basement where the boiler is heating the ambient air temperature to about 100 degrees. The basement is about 600 sq ft so something seems off with this. We had a professional come look at the system and his response was "the boiler is old" and said he would give us a discount on a new one. Needless to say, I don't particularly trust the assessment.

I fairly mechanical but I know nothing about these systems. I've been researching online and and I have a good idea of how to to bleed the system but I can't find much on trouble shooting what seems to be an overheating issue. Thought I would post here and get some feedback before I start flipping valves.

Thanks
 
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Old 12-09-12, 06:17 PM
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Start by posting a couple dozen (or more) pictures of the existing installation. Make sure the pictures are well-lit and in focus. We need both close up and distance shots to see how everything fits together. There is a lot of talent here with old heating systems (as well as modern ones) so you can trust the answers you will get.
 
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Old 12-09-12, 06:27 PM
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Make and model as well as picture of gauge(s) is helpful too.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 03:58 AM
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Suggest you sit back and read as many posts as possible on this forum. Lots of good information as well as stories. Might also want to read the sticky thread on how to test your pressure gauge. If it's an old system the gauge cannot be trusted. Lots of great people on this site!
 
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Old 12-10-12, 05:15 AM
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Welcome to the forum.
Was the boiler used last heating season?
If yes, how was it running when it was used?

Big question... Steam or hot water?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 03:10 PM
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We had a professional come look at the system and his response was "the boiler is old" and said he would give us a discount on a new one. Needless to say, I don't particularly trust the assessment.
Not to cast aspersions on any of the ethical boiler techs, but a great many of them are not.

You are wise to be wary of the 'professional' boiler salesma.... uhhhh, techs... uhhhh, no, I mean salesmen.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 04:09 PM
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Welcome

A lot of info to be had here...
 

Last edited by boilernut; 12-10-12 at 06:05 PM.
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Old 12-10-12, 09:03 PM
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Posible causes...
Air in system causing no flow,
Pump failure causing no flow.

Perhaps the boiler heat exchanger is SO dirty is not transferring heat well, but I really doubt that.

Is there a temp and pressure guage on the boiler ? What does it read ?
 
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Old 12-11-12, 12:26 AM
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Seven responses to a first time poster who only stayed connected long enough to post his problem. I hope I'm wrong but I suspect he won't be back.
 
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Old 12-11-12, 06:31 AM
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I've been thinking the same thing Furd... probably yet another 'fly by'...
 
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Old 12-14-12, 12:29 PM
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No I am coming back, just got caught up with job stuff. I apologize for taking so long to respond and really appreciate everyone getting back to me. I will work on getting pictures this Sunday. I only go to the house on the weekends otherwise I would post this right away.

I do know one answer though, the system does not use steam, it's hot water.

Pictures to come
 
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Old 12-14-12, 12:34 PM
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Thanks for the update.
Get lots of pictures (close up and from afar).
Make/model of the boiler, burner, etc as well as info on what the temp/pressure gauge is reading. A manufacture year should be listed somewhere on the boiler or burner. This could help as well.
 
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Old 12-14-12, 12:39 PM
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Also.. the history of the system.

We bought the house in 2001 and added the forced air system at that time. We have not changed the boiler at any point in our ownership of the place. It's been used every winter since we've been there. The system is always on and runs up an enormous gas bill. My mother lives alone in the house and her gas bill alone is $1400+ a month in Rockland county. That's before electric. Something is clearly wrong. I go around the house every weekend trying to figure out if there is a thermostat somewhere keeping it on but I can't find anything but the basement is a sauna

I wasn't there the last time the HVAC service was at the house but they told me mother "if she shuts it off the system won't restart" and they will have to come back to the house. I'm hoping my mother is exaggerating because that's just obnoxious to expect someone to run their heat full blast for the entire season.

Again, I appreciate the feedback and i will get the pics and info. Thanks
 
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Old 12-14-12, 12:48 PM
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Hello slfash868 welcome

Just a Few of questions. I know some may have been asked already but they can help the people in figuring out the possibilities.

Do you have a pump with this boiler or is it gravity?
Is there just 1 thermostat in the house? Or do you have zone valves in the system?
Water pressure reading?
Did you try to bleed the air out of your radiators?

These questions may give the people trying to help a better idea of what the problem maybe..
 
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Old 12-14-12, 12:49 PM
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I would put my money on Bad Pump, air in the 2nd floor radiators, or some sort of restriction in the second floor feeder or return line (a long shot , but easy to test). When the boiler has been on for about 30 mins just cautiously touch the 2nd floor supply and return lines from in the basement. If they are both hot then you most likely need to bleed the air out of the 2nd floor radiators. If you bleed the air out of all the 2nd floor radiatiors and see no change in 2nd floor heat, the you should look at the main pump. Note: servicing the main pump is a big job and should be left to the pros, but you can make sure it is getting power and sounds like it is running. Most of those pumps have two ports in the front and rear to oil the bearings.

Tools and stuff that would help are electronic laser thermometer, a hot water radiator bleeder key, and some high temp boiler rated bearing oil (not WD40).
 
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Old 12-14-12, 01:17 PM
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I've never touched the system so I can't speak to any maintenance on it. I will get all the info requested this weekend. However, you mentioned 2nd and 3rd floor radiators..but those were removed in place of the forced air system. The boiler only powers the kitchen's radiant heat floor and radiators in the dining room, living room and TV room. That would be a total of 5 radiators and one radiant floor system. That ties to two thermostats that control all of that making is a 2 zone system, correct?
 
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Old 12-14-12, 01:49 PM
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I was mistakenly calling the 1st floor the 2nd floor, but because you have two thermostats then you more then likely have some flow controllers in line.

Some pictures would be nice, because this is not a simple system. Pictures of boiler and any pumps, basement radiators, main lines, and any areas where the line reduce or has flow controllers visible. Also the type of thermostat and make of the boiler. Try to compare the temp of the basement radiator(s) with the radiators in the dining room, living room and TV room.
 
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Old 12-14-12, 03:41 PM
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have some flow controllers in line
I believe you mean zone valves ?

Something is clearly wrong.
Yes, and let us not speculate until we can see the pictures.
 
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Old 12-16-12, 03:35 PM
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OK. Attached are all the photos I took. From what I could tell, the boiler has two hot water lines coming in off one of the houses hot water heaters. The temperature setting on the Boiler is 180. The gauges said it was holding 180 @ 12 PSI. There was another gauge for "altitude" (it's old looking gauge in the photos) that read 16-20. To give you an idea of the heat being thrown off, I stood 3 feet away with a digital temp gauge and recorded 109 degrees ambient air temp. I used the pyrometer to check temps on the pipes around the boiler and most were btw. 140 and 150. The old original pipes (white ones in the photos) were holding 165-170. All the valves were open. Prior to taking these photos I turned all the thermostats to off and there were no pumps running.

Photos attached.
 
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Old 12-16-12, 03:39 PM
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trying again with the photos..
 
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Old 12-16-12, 03:43 PM
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more photos. Hopefully these help.
 
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Old 12-16-12, 03:53 PM
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Here is the last batch. These are all the photos I took. Thanks for the help everyone.
 
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Old 12-16-12, 04:23 PM
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I see nothing unusual or out of the ordinary in the pics.

What I'm still puzzling about is why they told Mom that if she turned it off they would have to come back to start it again... that makes no sense at all.

Obviously there is a problem...

I love that old brass gauge! Where/how is that connected to the system?

Can't see the silver thermometer (glare) but what is that measuring?

Why are there two water heaters?

That boiler at 225,000 BTUH is HUGE HUGE HUGE! Even when it was heating the whole house, it was HUGE! Now that it only does the one floor, it is TRIPLE HUGE!

I bet to heat that one floor you need a 50,000 or LESS boiler.

You said:

The boiler only powers the kitchen's radiant heat floor and radiators in the dining room, living room and TV room. That would be a total of 5 radiators and one radiant floor system. That ties to two thermostats that control all of that making is a 2 zone system, correct?
So there's a thermostat in the kitchen and one in another room on that floor?

What I see in the pics though is another story... on the wall, those Honeywell boxes are ZONE RELAYS, and each one of those controls one of the four pumps I see in the pics.

What I'm presuming since you said that the 2nd and 3rd floor are now heated with forced air, that at least two of them are not being used.

You said the radiators have all been removed from the upper floors... removed and the pipes CAPPED OFF? What about the THERMOSTATS on the upper floors? Were they also removed?

There is writing on the tops of the relay boxes, black permanent marker, what do those writings say?

I'm wondering at this point if the thermostats on the upper floors are still calling for heat from the boiler... perhaps the thermostat itself was removed and the wires were pushed into the wall... and maybe they are shorted together resulting in a constant call for heat.

Do you own and know how to use a multimeter?

First thing I would check is what I just said... I would open each of those four relays and take some measurements inside to see if one was 'stuck' on for any reason.

We could walk you through this, but you aren't there, right?

WARNING: 120VAC INSIDE THE RELAY BOXES! YOU CAN BE KILLED!
 
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Old 12-16-12, 07:41 PM
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The pipes and radiators on the 2nd and 3rd floor have been all removed. Not capped but removed all together. The only thermostats on the 2nd and 3rd floors that exist are for the forced air system. There is nothing left over from the boiler system. My dad passed away a while ago otherwise I would be asking why me did the swap in the first place.

The water heaters.. there are two because the system is designed so that once the gas heater (white one) gets a heavy draw on it, it will start pulling on the blue one as a back up. There was a lot of people living in the house at one point.. The boiler is tied to the blue one which is electric.

Regarding the first floor. I am 100% positive that there are only two thermostats for the boiler system. One only controls the raidant floor heat in the kitchen and the other controls the remaining radiators. I would go on a limb and guess that the electrician wired 2, maybe 3 zones onto one thermostat. Of the radiators left in the house, they sit on opposite side of the house. I sat and stared at these pipes and traced their route, I can't imagine they are all on one circuit. That brass gauge is drilled into an end cap on one of the original pipes and from what I can tell, measures the water level in the network of pipes for the radiators. If it's accurate, the pipes are very under filled with water and would indicate a stuck valve somewhere in the system. (Right??)

Could this be an issue.. The radiant floor heat in the kitchen was installed when we moved in (2001). it's a web of small rubber hosing underneath tile. Could the boiler be producing heat faster than the water can circulate through the small rubber hosing causing a heat build up?

Again, everything works. It's the ambient heat being thrown off that concerns me (and the gas bill) Could the chimney be blocked forcing the heat to vent into the basement? If so I would be setting of CO2 alarms right?

I have very basic knowlege of multimeters. I have one but only use it to check car betters and find proper grounds on my motorcycle.
 
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Old 12-16-12, 07:51 PM
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measures the water level in the network of pipes for the radiators. If it's accurate, the pipes are very under filled with water and would indicate a stuck valve somewhere in the system. (Right??)
Looks like a PRESSURE gauge to me, not LEVEL. If it's accurate (and it might be, they made stuff better "back in the day", then 20 PSI is fine. The boiler gauge appears to be reading about 12 PSI so one of the two gauges is off.

A man with one watch knows what time it is, a man with two is never sure.

But that's straying from the point...

The boiler is tied to the blue one which is electric.
No, I don't think it's electric. I think being tied to the boiler it is using that as it's heat source. One of the system pumps pulls boiler water through a heat exchanger inside the tank.

Those water heaters are costing some money to run.

It's the ambient heat being thrown off that concerns me (and the gas bill) Could the chimney be blocked forcing the heat to vent into the basement? If so I would be setting of CO2 alarms right?
If you are saying that the boiler is ALWAYS at 180F it probably means that it is reacting to a constant heat call. That boiler should only get hot when one of the thermostats, OR the blue water heater calls it to heat up. It should NOT be 'maintaining' that temperature 24/7.

I can give you some basic instructions that might tell us something... it would involve removing the covers from those 4 relay boxes and taking some measurements.

I would need to know what the markings on top of them say...

Are you game?
 
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Old 12-19-12, 06:51 AM
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I'm game for sure. Let me know what I need to do. Hopefully i can identify what the heat call is and trace it back to a thermostat. Meantime, I've turned down the heat setting on the blue tank to 120 degrees which is about half way on the gauge. It was maxed out before. Thanks a bunch.
 
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Old 12-19-12, 03:03 PM
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First thing I need to know is which relay is for which 'zone', then covers get removed and things get measured.

Remember, there is 120VAC INSIDE THOSE RELAY BOXES! YOU CAN BE KILLED!

It's best to turn off power to the boiler before opening those, and hope that the tech was not correct when he said "if you shut it off, we'll have to come back"...
 
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