How to prevent hot water heating pipes from freezing – Antifreeze? Pump Exercisi

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Old 01-07-13, 10:43 AM
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How to prevent hot water heating pipes from freezing – Antifreeze? Pump Exercisi

Once I had a forced-hot-water heating pipe burst because on a very cold day I had the fireplace doing all the heating, thus the thermostat didn't call for heat and without flow the water froze.

I would appreciate comments and recommendations on the use of (non-toxic) antifreeze and also on “pump exercising” (i.e. periodically turning on the recirculating pump for a brief moment when the outside temp is below a certain point, even if the thermostat is not calling for heat). Thanks!
 
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Old 01-07-13, 11:48 AM
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If it were me, and this is your regular home, I would not use anti freeze. IMO its just bad stuff. It has its place though, but needs to be maintained.

If it were myself when heating with the fireplace, I would simple put the boiler gas valve on pilot and turn the t stat up all the way so the circ runs 24/7.

Moving water will not freeze.....
 

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Old 01-07-13, 12:33 PM
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Could also leave the t-stat set to a normal temp, and if/when the fire dies (at night or away for a length of time), the boiler would kick in supplementing the wood stove.
 
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Old 01-07-13, 12:42 PM
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Could also leave the t-stat set to a normal temp,
Mike I would think the FP is keeping the t stat from kicking on of course. So it may be -10f out but 80. in the room with the FP and t stat. Where normally the heat will cycle to keep the house warm and pipes from freezing, here it will not in this persons situation.




(The stork did not come yet?)


 
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Old 01-07-13, 01:21 PM
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Mike I would think the FP is keeping the t stat from kicking on of course. So it may be -10f out but 80. in the room with the FP and t stat. Where normally the heat will cycle to keep the house warm and pipes from freezing, here it will not in this persons situation.




(The stork did not come yet?)
I was just thinking of situations like my parent's have where they use their fire place for primary heating when they are home during the day, and let it die and the oil furnace takes over at night or during the day when they are home.
Provided the OP isn't dealing with 3/4" copper pipe outside exposed to the elements, it'll not likely freeze with this method and would keep stuff moving.
Re-reading the OP, it almost sounds this way. I think your idea would be better.


Edit: Forgot to mention, no stork yet. For sure by the 9th.
 
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Old 01-07-13, 07:23 PM
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Mike & lawrosa, Thanks for your comments! Indeed, by the time t stat kicked in (after the FP died out) it was already too late, by then evidently there must have been an ice plug that impeded flow. A few hours later (around 3-4 AM) I heard what sounded like a gunshot and some 20 min later there was yet another; actually the copper pipes burst in two locations – both inside of an outside wall.

When repairing of course insulation was added around the repaired pipes, but unfortunately my apartment has several other similarly vulnerable areas. In other words from that experience I can’t have any confidence in the insulation provided by the condominium developer. Any method to keep the water flowing will of course be helpful as long as we have power, but if we lost power during a cold spell it is likely that my pipes would freeze. This is why I would like to explore using antifreeze as the last resort in precautionary measures.

A friend of mine tried antifreeze and there was a lot of leakage at several pipe joints, but I’m convinced his plumber just poured in gallons of the stuff without determining the proper proportions, let alone testing the resulting concentration. Since I live in the immediate Boston suburbs, where the temps don’t go too low, my hope is that I could get by with a milder antifreeze concentration as the lesser of the evils.

Further comments will be highly appreciated and hopefully others will join this discussion – Thanks!
 
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Old 01-07-13, 08:14 PM
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Yes antifreeze will reduce the likely hood of frozen heat pipes. If the electric goes out you will have no heat but the pipes will not freeze. You then need to worry about your potable water pipes. But with them you can just run a pencil stream out of the faucets.

The antifreeze need to be checked every year. It turns acidic and needs to be replenished. If not it will corrode the pipes. Just remember that once you put it in.

I believe the theory is once its in you can never really get it all out and the acidic conditions stay... Not sure if I remember that correctly. So your a slave to it.

I hate the stuff but it has its place. I mostly installed it in the million dollar summer homes out on the beachfronts of NJ.


Glycol Antifreeze for Home Boilers.Yes or No? Should Outdoor Boilers Use Antifreeze?
 
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Old 01-08-13, 11:16 AM
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The antifreeze need to be checked every year. It turns acidic and needs to be replenished. If not it will corrode the pipes. Just remember that once you put it in.
Mike can you cite a reliable source for your information about PG corroding pipes? I've never heard this about PG recommended for use in home boilers--but obviously it could be true if someone were foolish enough to install RV antifreeze or some "bulk packaged" PG without the appropriate conditioners & inhibitors.

I've done a bunch of reading on this subject since buying a place with PG in the system and have concluded the only downside is slightly less heat transfer (less efficiency) than plain water. Since most people have oversized boilers anyways, this shouldn't be a concern. In fact most sources I've read, including the owners manuals for my boiler and circulator pump, state that the additives in approved propylene glycol will protect the system better than tap water.

Personally I have no choice--I'm in an extreme northern climate where the power goes out frequently.
 
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Old 01-08-13, 03:25 PM
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I've read that the PG can become acidic over time. I have never tested the PH of any so no experience, just what I've read.

Because the stuff is 'slipperier' than water, it can sometimes find small leaks that water won't.

I did google a bit today and saw some references to the fact that in lower concentrations, around 20% or so, that it allows some sort of bacteria growth in the system... true? Dunno!

Would a document from NIST be reliable enough?

http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/build85/PDF/b85010.pdf
 
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Old 01-08-13, 04:03 PM
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I could find something..... I have installed boiler antifreeze and maintained systems. They all have inhibitors in them. Yes the RV stuff does not.

The problem I see is most techs test with litmus paper or test strips that are highly inaccurate. When the PH looks good it is indeed not. Plus during service work I have been called out to repeated customers with antifreeze to repair pin hole leaks.

These were customers that had antifreeze way before I started servicing them.

Its nasty greasy sticky stuff to work with. Some pipes I removed were pitted like swiss cheese.

I did not read troopers link yet...

You do what you need to do. It does not matter what anyone says here or what you read, right?
Personally I have no choice--I'm in an extreme northern climate where the power goes out frequently.


 
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Old 01-08-13, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by lawrosa
You do what you need to do. It does not matter what anyone says here or what you read, right?
I did read the link. They tested solutions of EG & PG containing no additives. Maybe the reason they did so was that might be what people typically put in their solar heating panels (the purpose of the study). Maybe they did so in an attempt to minimize variables, as normal lab practice. No surprise they found the presence of air in the solution had the greatest affect on the degradation. The report recommends regular PH & concentration testing of glycol-filled solar heating systems.


I'm open to suggestions how I can protect my system against freezing in winter if the power goes out. In the absence of a better idea I'm planning to do what the PO, my neighbors, and the owners manual suggests. This is all new to me and I'm trying to learn.
 
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Old 01-08-13, 08:56 PM
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Yes, it was directed primarily at solar systems... but I feel that the principles apply. Just because there were no additives involved (I didn't read it that carefully, I confess) I don't think that anything that I DID read negated the need for regular PH testing to be performed. I did some googling after the fact and have seen numerous references to PG becoming acidic with numerous organic acids.

I wouldn't assume that just because it's a heating system, not a solar array, and there will be additives in your PG that acids can NOT form.

If you need to use PG, then you need to use it... I would agree that's the best course for you to take, as long as you do due diligence and monitor it with regular testing protocol.
 
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Old 01-08-13, 09:52 PM
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From Mike's comments I've given up the temptation of using antifreeze. For the event of a prolonged power failure I have pondered about setting up the electrical input so that I could feed my heating system with a generator.

In my case, with a small boiler (natural gas, 50 KBTU DOE, single zone, baseboards) I possibly could even get by with a voltage inverter (300 or 500 VA) connected to my car, so I could run it every few hours. (My recirculating pump is rated as 0.7 Amps and I can't imagine the controls use that much power.)

Comments anyone?
 
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Old 01-08-13, 10:03 PM
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But your original query was not power outage related, was it?

I thought you were regularly heating with wood and that's when the pipes burst?

Why not rewire the pump to a switch so that you can manually operate the pump whenever you are heating with wood?
 
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Old 01-08-13, 10:22 PM
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NJ, actually it is a gas fireplace that we use very sporadically and for a short while; when my pipes burst (18 years ago) we had used it for the whole day...

Anyhow, my initial query was about how to prevent pipes from freezing thus we got into antifreeze. The other method I've heard about and would like to learn is "pipe exercising" (if that's what it is called when an outdoor sensor causes the re-circulation pump to come on periodically even if the thermostat is not calling for heat.
 
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Old 01-09-13, 06:18 AM
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I see... I had a different scenario in mind!

"Pump exercising" as I am familiar with it is somewhat different. This is a timer that will run the pump for a minute or two when the system has been idle for DAYS. It's done in order to prevent the pump from 'sticking' during the off-heating season and the system is not being used. The timer is usually built into the boiler or zone controls.

Many newer boilers also have a feature called "Frost Protection" which would actually fire the boiler itself to maintain a 'fail-safe' temperature in a building in the event of something like a thermostat failure to call for heat during cold weather.

It would not be terribly difficult to design controls for a system which would do what you are thinking and there may be already made systems available for the purpose.

I think that the problem would be in deciding just how often and for how long to run the pump to prevent the freezing of a pipe.
 
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Old 01-09-13, 10:10 AM
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Many newer boilers also have a feature called "Frost Protection" which would actually fire the boiler itself to maintain a 'fail-safe' temperature in a building in the event of something like a thermostat failure to call for heat during cold weather.
Boy that would be handy to have. Maybe I'd sleep better knowing my boiler was smart enough to bypass a simple problem like a failed thermostat. OTOH making the controls more complex could have the opposite effect.
 
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Old 01-09-13, 09:01 PM
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Many newer boilers also have a feature called "Frost Protection" which would actually fire the boiler itself to maintain a 'fail-safe' temperature in a building in the event of something like a thermostat failure to call for heat during cold weather.
NJ - Do you happen to have any links available? (I'm looking to replace my small home boiler and this feature would be very helpful when I go away in the winter.)

"Pump exercising" as I am familiar with it is somewhat different. This is a timer that will run the pump for a minute or two when the system has been idle for DAYS. It's done in order to prevent the pump from 'sticking' during the off-heating season and the system is not being used. The timer is usually built into the boiler or zone controls.
NJ - Indeed, as I've started to search I have found that same concept. OTH, somewhere I have heard that in Europe they commonly turn on the pump for a short while (depending on outside temp) even if the thermostat is not calling for heat. I'll keep digging and will report back.
 
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Old 01-09-13, 09:15 PM
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Do you happen to have any links available?
Offhand, no, but my new Burnham MPO has the feature.

Check the L7224U aquastat sheets... it may be a built-in feature in those.
 
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Old 01-09-13, 09:27 PM
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Originally posted by Lawrosa regarding the use of antifreeze:
Its nasty greasy sticky stuff to work with. Some pipes I removed were pitted like swiss cheese.
Recently I had commented (in this thread) that Mike's comments had persuaded me to stay away from antifreeze, especially as my condo building is now 22 years old. Anyhow, while searching for circ pump timing (previous post) I came across the three links (below) regarding what must be done if one uses antifreeze - yuck!

Anyhow, a side effect of skimming through that information now get's me wondering about the proper procedures regarding flushing the lines when simply replacing a boiler, e.g. use TSP or not... etc. Geez, there is no end to this! (Q: Should this "add-on" topic be on a different thread - for the benefit of other readers?)

---------------------
Anti-Freeze in Hydronic Systems

http://www.buderus.us/files/20100122...guidelines.pdf

http://www.weil-mclain.com/en/multim...ltrafreeze.pdf
 
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Old 01-09-13, 09:59 PM
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Anyhow, while searching for circ pump timing (previous post) I came across the three links (below) regarding what must be done if one uses antifreeze - yuck!
LOL.....................Antifreeze has its place, but it is very high maintenance.... Like I said, you become a slave to it...



 
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Old 01-10-13, 01:23 AM
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Could you just add a thermostatic switch to a section of the water pipe that is outside, so that when the water temp drops to near freezing, it closes a contact and calls for heat or turns on a circulation pump? When the water temp rises about 10-20 degrees, it would then automatically open the contact. Something like this 2570L099 - Thermal Switch |
 
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Old 01-10-13, 08:31 PM
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Sparky31415
Could you just add a thermostatic switch to a section of the water pipe that is outside, so that when the water temp drops to near freezing, it closes a contact and calls for heat or turns on a circulation pump?
Thanks! Actually my heating pipes are not outside, they are inaccessible inside a frame construction wall, i.e. 2" x 4" studs every 16", with fiberglass insulation between the studs. For whatever (dumb?) reason the construction practice is to place the baseboards under the windows, which of course means heating pipes running inside of the outside walls. In other words, it would be a miracle if a condo developer meticulously insulated the pipes and applied fiberglass insulation appropriately.

Since I'm planning to replace my 22 yr old boiler, per the Moderator's advice I will be looking for the "frost-free" feature that intermittently runs the circulating pump even if the thermostat is not calling for heat.

PS - For others seeking to add this feature to their existing systems here is the reply I got from a leading circulation pump manufacturer:
Message from Taco-Hvac We do offer a timer & we also offer a relay board with pump exercise option. Please see info attached. Hope this helps.
http://www.taco-hvac.com/tmp/102-385.pdf
http://www.taco-hvac.com/tmp/[email protected]_093204.pdf
 
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Old 01-10-13, 08:50 PM
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looking for the "frost-free" feature
I have to check the manual again, but I believe this may be a part of the ODR that I've got installed... it must be in some way related because it has to rely on the outdoor temp sensor.

Or maybe not... it might be measuring the temp of the BOILER WATER... yes, I think that's it.

It only fires the boiler up to a 'keep alive' temp.

Go to U.S. Boiler Company is a leading manufacturer of home heating equipment, water boilers, steam boilers, hot water heaters, radiators and boiler control systems. and download the manual for the MPO (and I'm sure any of their newer boilers) and you can see for yourself. As I said, it might also be a feature included in the Honeywell L7224 aquastats.
 
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Old 01-10-13, 09:16 PM
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this may be a part of the ODR that I've got installed... download the manual for the MPO...
NJ, please help me with the acronyms that are over my head... I went to the US Boiler link but got nothing when I searched for MPO... For the L7224 Aquastat here is one link I found...

Anyhow, I will definitely be seeking to get the "frost free" feature... as I slowly continue to work on selecting a new boiler to be installed next summer... Thanks!
 
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Old 01-10-13, 10:06 PM
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Old 01-11-13, 07:12 AM
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The system in my house was filled with PG when a new boiler was installed 20 years ago. The reason the PG was used was obvious once I got into the eves in the attic. The PO of the house had a pipe burst in two sections. It's repaired, moved closer to the envelop of the house and wrapped in insulation. I'm in the house 5 years and have done a lot of research on the PG in the system. PH tested with a meter showed the stuff was still in good condition after 20 years.

The system has shown no ill effects from the PG. No leaks, no corrosion, maybe just a slight effect on heat transfer efficiency but with the oversized boiler it wasn't noticed.

I have taken the PG out this year and am currently doing a system clean and flush. The house now has back up power so the heating system will always run regardless of electric supply.

Don't be afraid of the PG. Used correctly it will not harm your system. You will need to isolate the supply water with a back flow preventer if you do switch over. Use only PG approved for use in hydronic heating systems and make sure you use the correct ratio for your needs.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 07:16 PM
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Can I test?

Is the recommended ph and concentration testing something the homeowner/handyman can do or are the instruments too expensive?

From what I've been reading it's the newer aluminum boilers that can have issues with glycol. Like with cars, there weren't a lot of corrosion and leakage problems when everything was steel and cast iron. With more aluminum showing up in engines the engineers had to re-formulate antifreeze and re-design gaskets.
 
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Old 01-11-13, 09:39 PM
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tomf63 wrote:
Don't be afraid of the PG. Used correctly it will not harm your system.
... have done a lot of research on the PG in the system. PH tested with a meter...
...I have taken the PG out this year and am currently doing a system clean and flush.
Tomf63, I sure would appreciate further info. PG brand, concentrations, additives, PH meter, links, etc - Thanks!
 
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Old 01-13-13, 07:53 AM
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I think we hit a post limit
 
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Old 01-13-13, 08:23 AM
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guy48065 wrote:
I think we hit a post limit
Hmm, I'm new on this great forum, what is a "post limit"? - Thanks!
 
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Old 01-13-13, 09:58 AM
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I'm not [new], and I have no idea what Guy is alluding to...
 

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Old 01-13-13, 12:28 PM
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Just a joke...(the smiley is a hint). I've noticed many topics here quickly die off to a dialog between the OP and one or two moderators, then just seem to abruptly end.
 
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Old 01-13-13, 01:04 PM
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I've noticed many topics here quickly die off to a dialog between the OP and one or two moderators, then just seem to abruptly end.





The OP was asking another member Tomf63 a question.... I already gave my advice and really have nothing more to add....
 
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Old 01-13-13, 04:00 PM
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Antifreeze

I have used antifreeze in my boilers,[old and new] for around 26 years, and have had no real problems. It will slightly collect on the top outlet of the automatic air vent, and thats about it. I use it because I go away for a few week in the winter, so if we loose power etc, at least I won't loose the heating system. Once in a while I check the antifreeze for PH, and Inhibitor.
Sid
 
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Old 01-13-13, 04:42 PM
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I got the smiley Guy... I knew you were 'funnin', but I just didn't get it.

Yes, at some point, there's just nothing more to say!

Talking Heads said:

"Say something once, why say it again!"

But obviously, around here, some things just need to be repeated... again and again, ad infinitum. I believe that's because ppl don't realize that there is a 'search' function on the forums.

To give some direction to your question though, I would look around and see if the stuff they use in auto shops to test EG will work for PG. Might be the most economical way if it's compatible.
 
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Old 01-13-13, 05:20 PM
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Thanks for responding to my questions. I figured since PG and EG have similar specific gravity I could use a regular hygrometer for either. I contacted Prestone to verify but they said no...and they don't make a tester for their PG :-/

Are ph meters and refractometers inexpensive enough for a homeowner? I don't know if the $20 refractometers on eBay are what the pros use or cheap imitations.
 
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Old 01-13-13, 05:36 PM
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I have no idea what brand it was. The PH meter (digital) was purchased online for about 20 bucks. I never used any additives and could find no record of anything done to the system after it was converted. It seemed to be just fine for the many years it was in the system. I only started to check the PH level after reading about the effects Glycol could have if it becomes corrosive, which never happened.
 
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Old 01-14-13, 04:42 PM
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At risk of asking a silly question: Is it OK to shut off the house water main (incl feed to nat gas boiler w/baseboards) while away during the winter?

Why? That would seem to be the lesser of the evils, if my pipes froze at least my home would not flood after a thaw. (Also wanting to stay away from using antifreeze.)

For context: I live in a condo building and use a FreezeAlarm (Freeze, Water and Temperature Alarms | Protected Home) that would call a neighbor and my cell phone if my temp dropped below 45F (thermostat set at 55F).

I think of my 'forced hot water' boiler/baseboard (one zone) system as a 'closed loop' that would rarely require make-up water... On the other hand, do "all" boilers have a built-in protection that would shut down in case of insufficient water? (Mine is a 22 yr old Hydrotherm Model HL-55-C boiler).

Any guidance would be highly appreciated!
 
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Old 01-14-13, 05:01 PM
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Is it OK to shut off the house water main (incl feed to nat gas boiler w/baseboards) while away during the winter?
Probably OK, particularly with your freeze alarm calling a neighbor. But, also, shut the isolation valve between the water supply and the automatic boiler fill valve.

Hot-water boiler systems should have a low-water cutoff that shuts off the burner if the water level drops. If yours doesn't, they can be added to your system. They can be added to the piping outside the boiler itself, at an elevation above the boiler's top level.
 
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