[SOMEWHAT URGENT] hydronic heating system pressure reducing valve troubles

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Old 01-24-13, 08:12 PM
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Exclamation [SOMEWHAT URGENT] hydronic heating system pressure reducing valve troubles

I have a pressure reducing valve fail on me in my baseboard hydronic heating system. The part that screws on top with the lever in the middle (cap assembly?) broke in half. I hope this pictures explain it well. The valve is Watts S1156F.

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The valve is leaking a bit, but nothing even drips on a floor. And it looks like it's been leaking for a while. The pressure in the system right now is 11-13 psi and if I remember correctly it was running 15-18 psi before. so the system lost some water but it was somewhat overtime. opening intake valve doesn't increase the system pressure, so it seems that the valve is closed as of now.

The valve needs to be replaced, but I'm somewhat hesitant to do it right now since it was about 0F outside this morning. The pressure usually is stable with intake valve closed and I open it once a month or so just in case. With a valve in this state, can I open it to add some pressure? I looked around about how they supposed to be operated, but I'm not sure I found the answer. Does lifting the lever opens the valve? Half of the part that holds the lever is gone, so I'm not sure if I could/should try to touch it at all.

I looked at the diagrams and it seems like there is a diaphragm inside. I'm wondering if I could buy a new valve (1/2 in. Cast-Brass SWT x SWT Water Pressure Regulator-S1156 at The Home Depot), unscrew top half of the entire body (4 bolts) and swap it with the one in my system. I would have to drain some water to bring the pressure down to zero, but it doesn't seem that I would need to drain anything beyond that. Will that work?

Another alternative would be to remove the valve completely, but I'm afraid that it would result in full system drain. Here are some pics:

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There two zone valves right above the valve which I could shut off.Then the pipe goes down to the pump and into the boiler. I think if I remove the entire valve, the pipes will start gobbling the water and let the water drain.. And I'd rather not do it in the middle of the winter. On other hand the pipe after the valve goes down first for bout a foot so it makes me believe that the vacuum in the system created when the water tries to go down will be strong enough to hold it in and not let the air go past the first bend in the pipes. I would screw the air scoop shut and there are not other vacuum relief valves in the system.

So basically my questions:

1. Can I stabilize the situation by either letting it run on low pressure for a while (~10 psi) or adding more water and keeping an eye on it?

2. Can I replace top part of the valve without draining the system?

3. Am I doomed and need to drain it and replace the valve entirely?

Please help with some advise!
 
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Old 01-24-13, 08:39 PM
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The only way you can get by without draining is if there are shutoff valves on ALL the pipes leading from the system, including the supply piping to and from the radiators... and then, you will still have to drain SOME water.

Otherwise, GRAVITY will be your enemy. Once you pop that valve open, the weight of all the water above will be pushing down...

Remember that even when a gauge says ZERO that there is STILL 14-ish PSI of atmospheric pressure working against you.

makes me believe that the vacuum in the system created when the water tries to go down will be strong enough to hold it in
The piping is too large to create the vacuum needed. Even if it were small enough, half the water would probably have to come out first.

My recommendation is to leave it alone for now.

If you have to add water into the system to keep the pressure up and counter the very slow leak in that valve, to do so with a garden hose and a washing machine hose (to change the 'sex') through a boiler drain. Remember that if you do this, there will be no pressure control, so you must open the valve VERY VERY SLOWLY and watch the gauge!

This is an excellent illustration of why our systems must be carefully inspected periodically so that these minor things don't become MAJOR things in the middle of the winter!
 
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Old 01-24-13, 08:55 PM
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If the pin is still in the feed valve you can push it down to add water. Take more pics of the broken fill valve.....

That handle mormally unscrews to access the nut and adjustment shaft. There is a pin down the center. The handle only pushes on that pin.
 
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Old 01-24-13, 09:15 PM
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As corroded as all that stuff is, I personally would not touch it...

I'm thinking try to push that pin down and end up with 'Old Faithful'.

Mike, this isn't enough for you?

 
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Old 01-24-13, 09:56 PM
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Mike, this isn't enough for you?
Yeah but it may be clean under there. I would like to see it. The part in his hand is pretty clean. He probably is OK on the PSI and may get him through the winter.....

Looks like someone just wrapped it with electrical tape to hold the lever on or something. That does not look like any normal corrosion I have seen....
 
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Old 01-25-13, 06:51 AM
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guys, thanks for the prompt replies. i've been on these forums for maybe a year or two and i learned that i could always rely on some experience folks to chime in. my last posts here were probably a year or so ago and it's nice to see the same members being there when you need it!

the whole things is not really corroded. the blacks stuff on the picture is just black water from the system. no electrical tape. i bet i can clean it up and make it look pristine. my hesitance to do so for the pictures was fear of having it catastrophically fail on me. but now it looks like even if i remove the the other broken half nothing would really happen.

there is some sediment in the half that broke off and that's about it. our water is really soft to boot.

the pin is still in the valve. i'm trying to find a schematics for the valve or even simple instructions to figure out how it works, but somehow i have no luck with that.

it seems that if pin is down it opens the valve and when it's up it's closed. i assume it's spring loaded and the very nut that broke off when it tightens pushes it down. is it fair assumption? from some info online it looks like lever is used to quickly open the valve to let the water down.

so if i remove the other broken half, it will still be closed shut. can i find a nut that would fir over the threaded part and use it as adjustment mechanism? forget the lever completely, when i screw that nut will it start pushing the pin down and essentially restore the function of the valve?

if i can't do it with the nut, can i simply use a C-clamp and slowly push it down until i get some pressure and then close the intake valve. i know it's very redneckish of me, but i don't want to mess with it in the winter much. and if half the drain of system is warranted i have to confess i would not to mess with it at all my system is 31 yo with original boiler, so it will be replaced eventually and if i can get by with a temp solution for a while, i might just consider it. unless you guys tell me i'm crazy and need to replace it when i have a chance.

feeding water thru the drain valve is a good idea too - i will keep it in mind. but since i have my intake valve, my first intention would be to open the reducer and then use the intake to slowly bring the pressure up.

by the way, what is the normal system pressure. is it 16 psi?

as always, thanks for all your help, i appreciate it!
 
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Old 01-25-13, 07:42 AM
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Here is the instructions and schematic.


http://media.wattswater.com/1910265.pdf

so if i remove the other broken half, it will still be closed shut.
Yes

can i find a nut that would fir over the threaded part and use it as adjustment mechanism?forget the lever completely, when i screw that nut will it start pushing the pin down and essentially restore the function of the valve?



No. It does not work like that. Although once the fast fill lever is removed you can either try to push the pin down, or loosen the nut on the stem then use a flat bade to turn the stem......

You may overfill turning the stem so best to fill to proper psi then shut the feed valve off.


by the way, what is the normal system pressure. is it 16 psi?
12-15 psi cold boiler.







 
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Old 01-25-13, 07:55 AM
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OK, last warning... then I'll let y'all do what you want.

Think about where that water could be coming from if it makes it's way out the top adjusting stem such as it is.

Take a look at the diagram of what's inside the valve and think about what kind of corrosion you can NOT see on the components inside. Yes, I'm sure you can clean the OUTSIDE of the valve, but if the INSIDE OPERATING GUTS of the unit are even half that corroded, you are playing with a potential problem.

Try pushing that pin down and I can think of a couple scenarios that would cause you major headache...

1. Push pin down, whatever is SLOWLY leaking inside will now start RAPIDLY leaking.

2. Push pin down, it don't come back... boiler overpressurizes and blows the relief valve open.

Like I said, do what you want, but I personally would NOT mess with it at this time.
 
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Old 01-25-13, 09:56 AM
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lawrosa, thanks for instructions and schematics. I found this PDF last night, but now with a bit more info it makes a bit more sense. I just want to make sure that I got all this right.

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Fast fill lever when lifted pushes the pin down to allow for rapid refill. Otherwise it doesn't do anything.

The part that I have broken is fast filler lever cap. Its purpose is to keep lever in place and let it operate by serving as a fulcrum and possibly keep the lock nut in place. It does not keep the pin in any specific position and itís actually not vital to keep the valve open or shut.

If I remove fast filler lever cap and the lever, nothing is going to happen. Since adding new water doesn't change the pressure reading it appears that the valve is shut right now. The fact that fast filler lever cap is broken probably has nothing to do with it.

As lawrosa suggested, I can loosen the lock nut and try to adjust the stem position by turning it:

Remove the fast fill lever cap, and loosen the lock nut. To raise the reduced pressure - slowly turn the adjusting screw clockwise
until the system gauge indicates the pressure required. To lower the reduced pressure - turn the adjusting screw counterclockwise.
After completing adjustments, tighten the lock nut and replace the fast fill lever cap
This is actually how itís supposed to be operated and unless itís all rotted out it should work. No need to push on the pin, since it wonít go down since itís threaded and sits in the spring cage threaded top.

> Think about where that water could be coming from if it makes it's way out the top adjusting stem such as it is.

From the schematics it seems that spring cage is supposed to be dry. The fact that I have a leak at the top of the spring cage tells me that either diaphragm is breached or the diaphragm lock nut, lock washer & pressure plate are leaking. So pushing the stem down might make it worse and result in a large leak as you suggested.

So I think Iím going to do the following. I like the idea of adding water by connecting to some of the discharge valves. I will get the parts ready for that but wonít do anything yet.

I will monitor the pressure daily (my boiler is old, so it wonít shut off if pressure goes down to zero). I have 2 story house with boiler in the basement. The top point of the system is about 14-15 ft. so it looks like pressure down to 9.5 psi is still ok (15 * 0.43 + 3). If I see it dropping closer to 8 psi I will add water to the system by a hose and bring it to 15 cold.

Hopefully this will take me to the end of the heating system.

I looks like I have to replace the valve first opportunity I have. I will buy a replacement and try to replace the seat and disk assembly and spring cage with a filler cap. I think I should be ok leaving the main body of the valve in place. I really hope that it wonít drain have the system!

So does that sound like a good plan? Did I get all the details right?
 
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Old 01-25-13, 11:07 AM
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No need to push on the pin, since it wonít go down since itís threaded and sits in the spring
That pin is loose. You can pull it right out with your finger. Its just an extension.

If you look at the other pic in the link I posted you will see you need to remove pin to allow you to turn the stem with a flat blade screw driver after you loosen the stem nut.....
 
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Old 01-25-13, 11:32 AM
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lawrosa,

sorry if i'm being slow. i see what you saying, but then i have a different question. how does it normally operate? is pin only for fast fill? and how would it push on a stem that needs turning and not pushing?

from the instructions:

. To reset the regulator valve:
Remove the fast fill lever cap, and loosen the lock nut. To raise the reduced pressure - slowly turn the adjusting screw clockwise
until the system gauge indicates the pressure required. To lower the reduced pressure - turn the adjusting screw counterclockwise.
After completing adjustments, tighten the lock nut and replace the fast fill lever cap
when they say "adjusting screw" i thought they were talking about the pin. but now it looks like it's not true. and to get to stem it seems that one needs to remove the pin and the whole spring cover.

or maybe pin is slotted too and sits in the stem slot?

i'm going to buy it tomorrow, and i will take it apart. hopefully that answers all my questions
 
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Old 01-25-13, 12:59 PM
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Yes, the top part of the valve is normally completely dry. If there's water up on top, it means it's leaking past the diaphragm somehow.

The pin simply rests in the cavity and pushes directly on the diaphragm when the lever is lifted to push it down. This simply 'bypasses' the regulation by manually pushing the valve open.

The 'adjustment' is performed by loosening that locknut around the threaded tube that sticks out the top. That tube screws up or down and adjusts the spring tension inside the valve, which adjusts the pressure at which it regulates.

to get to stem it seems that one needs to remove the pin and the whole spring cover.
No, not at all.

Again, the pin normally just sits inside. The only time you need the pin is when you are fast filling. Else, it just sits there, not under tension or anything... idle.

The 'stem' is the threaded portion that sticks out the top. Loosen the locknut, and turn that threaded part. It pushes on the spring, adjusting the tension.
 
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Old 01-25-13, 01:43 PM
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got it! thank you i'll proceed with my plan that i mentioned before and let's the valve holds on together until spring
 
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Old 01-28-13, 07:58 AM
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I was thinking about trying to add water to the system using a hose and one of the discharge port, but decided to try the cold water intake feed again and it actually worked. I seems that pressure reducing valve is open and I can add water slowly using intake valve. I raised the water pressure to 15 psi. Since itís cold out, the boiler pretty much all the time and 15 psi is hot water pressure.

Hopefully it will stay stable until I can replace the valve. I bought it this weekend and took spring assembly off. Now it makes sense how it operates and all the comments in this thread.

Iím not sure if I still want to replace only inner part of the valve and leave the body screwed to the pipes or replace the whole thing. According to the service instructions the inner part is serviceable, so I can take it out and replace it. Maybe I will try to take it out from the old valve first and depending on how that goes replace it. Or, if not, replace the whole thing.

Thank you guys for your help.
 
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Old 01-28-13, 08:08 AM
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Makes no difference. You need to drain the system anyway whether you repair or replace. So why not just replace???
 
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Old 01-28-13, 08:31 AM
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True that... and somehow, those valves never seem to work right after taking them apart and putting back together...

Add some service valves when you do the work so that you won't need to drain if the valve needs replaced in the future.
 
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Old 01-28-13, 08:59 AM
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i didn't want to disturb all connections between the pipes and the valve. that was the reason i was hesitant to replace the whole thing.

and "and somehow, those valves never seem to work right after taking them apart and putting back together... " is the reason i'm hesitant not to replace the whole thing!

there is not much space for a service valve without redoing some pipework and i haven't try sweating the pipes myself yet and not sure the heating system should be my test bed for that!

i will take apart the old valve and make a decision on what i find there.
 
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