hydronic baseboard heat in a condo unit

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Old 10-22-13, 10:05 PM
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Question hydronic baseboard heat in a condo unit

Hi all,

We bought this condo in Feb this year. It was winterized by the seller. We turned on the water without any issues. The heat wasn't working, but we didn't mind much as it was already getting warmer by the time we moved in in May. Now, the heat doesn't work.

It is a hydronic baseboard heating system. Our neighbors are getting heat, which means the building has turned on the heat. There are two rooms- a large living room which has the thermostat, a valve that can be turned with a wheel and a red plastic match box sized thing with small wires, the box is a bit hot. I can post pictures if needed. The bedroom has the baseboard on one wall and has only the knob with the wheel at one end.

When I change the temp on thermostat, it clinks, so I guess it's working. How do I know if it's actually connected to the basboard? So far, I have turned both the knobs counter-clock wise and set the temp to the highest with no avail.

Thanks in advance.
Sam
 
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Old 10-23-13, 08:36 AM
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Hi Sam, is the maintenance of the heating system the condo owner responsibility? Or is it the responsibility of condo management?

Yes, please take pictures of the items you are describing.
 
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Old 10-23-13, 02:49 PM
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pictures of the baseboard

The property manager said that anything inside the unit is the owner's responsibility. If there is any problem with the common elements of the system it will be fixed by the heating contractor of the building.

I want to figure out whether the problem is "in the unit" or "with the common elements".

Adding pictures.
pic 1: the baseboards in the living room. The bedroom is small and has the baseboard only on one wall, it is not shown in the pic.

pic 2:thermostat, cranked up all the way

pic 3: one end of the living room baseboard, uncovered. Looks like, this is where the hot water is supposed to enter the condo. The rest of the pipe in the living room is finned, no more knobs or anything. the same pipe continues through a hole in the wall, to the bedroom.

pic 4: the other end of the bedroom baseboard, uncovered.

Please let me know if you need any more pics or info. Thanks a lot.

Sam
 
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Old 10-23-13, 03:44 PM
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Sam, are all the valves OPEN? They should be, counter-clockwise, fully open. Is that the position that you found them in?

Are ANY of the pipes hot? or warm even?

a red plastic match box sized thing with small wires
That's the thing in pic 4 ? That is an 'electric zone valve' which should open and water should flow when the thermostat calls for heat.

Is there a 'manual' lever on this valve? Is there any make/model visible on it?

When you turn the thermostat all the way down, does it make any noise? (a whirring noise is likely).

When you turn the thermostat back up again, does it make any noise?

You say it's warm, so it must be getting power from the thermostat, but whether it's opening or not is unknown at this time.

How many of those small thingys with screwdriver slots are there on the rest of the baseboards? (seen in pics 4 and 5)

Those are manual air bleeders. If you turn the screw in top counter clockwise, you should get either water, or AIR out of the little 'pee hole' on the side.

Try opening one of those and if you get AIR out, let the air continue to come out until you get water and close it again. DON'T LET YOUR INNER GORILLA JAM THAT SCREW SUPER TIGHT! Only tighten it enough to stop the flow.

Continue around and do the same for all of them. It sounds to me as if your pipes are 'air-bound'. If they are full of air, no water will flow.

While you've got the covers off, grab the vacuum cleaner and get as much of the dust buildup out of the fins as you can. The cleaner they are, the more heat you will get out once the water is flowing.

Let us know what happens.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 12:36 PM
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Yes, all the valves are open currently, I have turned them all counter-clockwise. Not sure how they were initially.

The pipe next to the electric zone valve is warm. The bedroom pipe is cold.

The electric zone wall is Bell & Gossett. This link on Amazon Bell & Gossett 109024 Electric Zone Valve Operator - Amazon.com shows a similar zone valve, though I am not sure of the make. I couldn't move the zone valve to see the make.

There seems to be a little lever on the zone valve, but it's stuck at the top, just the way it appears in the pic on Amazon.

Don't hear any whirring when I turn the thermostat down. It only makes a clink noise when the temp crosses room temp. The room temp needle is moving correctly to reflect room temp. Hear a little whirring near the electric zone valve, regardless of where the thermostat is.

There are only two manual air bleeders, one in each room.

I tried to open the manual air bleeder in the living room with a screw driver. It doesn't move I stopped, as the screw driver slot itself was getting wider. Also, there is a white tape wound around the underside of the bleeder, the smooth and thin white tape that plumbers use to seal leaks.

Looks like, the screw is already GORILLA jammed. I see the "peehole". what can I do if the screw doesn't move?

Thank you.

Sam
 
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Old 10-24-13, 02:12 PM
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My mistake... those zone valves are what is called a 'heat motor' design, and you won't hear the 'whirring' noise that is typical of gear motor designs.

I'm not familiar with the B&G Comfortrol valves, and I have not yet found a manual for them... but the design of zone valves is more or less two types.

There seems to be a little lever on the zone valve, but it's stuck at the top
When you say that it's 'stuck', that means that you tried to move it and it would not move? That kinda 'stuck' ?

I wonder if that valve not appearing to open has anything to do with the fact that the painters decided to paint it... and maybe paint got inside and jammed something up?

I'm thinking that the zone valve is not opening, and that your problem might not be air in the pipes, so don't risk snapping the bleeder off! Do try the other one to see if you have any better luck, but if it won't open easily, don't continue to try.

If you were using a screwdriver that didn't quite fill the slot on the bleeder it might be why it wouldn't open. You might try a bigger screwdriver, but be careful!

Turn thermostat down, wait about 10 minutes and see if that lever changes position. If it doesn't change, it means that the valve is not opening.

It might take a little bit of pushing, but that lever should be able to be moved to manually open the valve.

If I were you, I would make friends with the building heating guy and see if he will help you change that zone valve head. He probably has replacements on hand... maybe he would respond to a couple six-packs or a bottle of Dewar's.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 02:27 PM
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Old 10-24-13, 03:23 PM
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Sure does! Thanks Mike!

I don't know why it didn't come up in my Googling...

Sam, don't try to move that lever, that's not for manual opening.

Refer to page 2 in that PDF file. To manually open that valve you need to remove the power head, very easy!

MANUAL OPERATION

A power failure may necessitate manual operation of the Comfort-Trol.

If required, please follow these instructions:

1. Turn the switch bringing power to the Comfort-Trol operator to the OFF position.
[turn thermostat all the way down]

2. Squeeze the two formed wire release tabs together and lift up to remove the operator. See Figure 3.

3. The valve is now fully open and will allow gravity circulation through the system.

NOTE: After power is restored, return the Comfort-Trol to normal operation by:

1. Assembling the operator to the valve by installing the operator over the bonnet assembly and pressing down until the wire form tabs both engage the slots on the bonnet assembly. This is the reverse of the process used to remove the operator from the Comfort-Trol. Do not squeeze the two formed release tabs when reassembling the operator to the Comfort-Trol.

2. Turn the power switch for the Comfort-Trol to the ON position
So go ahead and do that and see if the water starts flowing. If it DOES, then we know the valve head is bad.

If it does NOT, then we know there must be air in the lines preventing flow.
 
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Old 10-24-13, 05:56 PM
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Cool, will try removing the power head tomorrow.

I was able to unscrew the manual bleeder, I needed a long screw driver. Bled both the valves, water came off from the peeholes without any noise. The water is cold.

Does that rule out "air in the pipe" possibility? If so, the other thing that can go wrong "in the unit" is the electric zone valve? When the zone valve is opened manually, we'll get hot water and heat, but we won't be able to reduce the temp with the thermostat. Is that so?

I had turned the thermostat all the way down in the morning. Now the electric zone valve is cold. Also noticed that the pipe between the blue round knob and the red electric zone valve is warm, but after crossing the zone valve, it's cold.

Thank you guys.

Sam
 
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Old 10-24-13, 06:18 PM
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Does that rule out "air in the pipe" possibility?
Yes, pretty much.

When the zone valve is opened manually, we'll get hot water and heat, but we won't be able to reduce the temp with the thermostat. Is that so?
That is correct. With the head removed you will get non-stop heat. So, open the windows, or pop the valve head back on. Since they building has a central boiler, you don't pay for heat, is that correct?

Also noticed that the pipe between the blue round knob and the red electric zone valve is warm, but after crossing the zone valve, it's cold.
This is consistent with a zone valve that is not opening.
 
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Old 10-25-13, 12:45 PM
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Removed the power head of the electric zone valve this morning. It's been almost six hours since, still the pipes are cold.

Does it take longer to get them hot or could it be some other problem?

Thanks,
Sam
 
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Old 10-25-13, 01:45 PM
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Does it take longer to get them hot or could it be some other problem?
They should have gotten hot almost immediately if the building has the boiler running.

That is... IF the valve is not 'stuck shut'.

There's a 'pin' sticking out the top of the valve thingy after you remove the head, isn't there? Are you able to press that pin down after you remove the head? or is it stuck in the down position?
 
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Old 10-25-13, 02:03 PM
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Yes, there is a round pin on the valve. Can't press it down. It's stuck in down position.
 
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Old 10-25-13, 02:12 PM
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Cool

I wonder if the hot water feed to your unit was shut off in the common area boiler room due to the sale of the unit.

Maybe contacting the Condo management/ Building Manager to ask them to turn it on is all you need????

B W A
 
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Old 10-25-13, 02:38 PM
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B W A, is the pin stuck down means it is stuck open? I am thinking it is stuck shut.

Also think, the hot water is turned on for out unit. The pipe is hot right before the zone valve. We have hot water in faucets too.
 
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Old 10-25-13, 02:56 PM
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Yes, there is a round pin on the valve. Can't press it down. It's stuck in down position.
As I said, I'm unfamiliar with that type of zone valve other than what I've read in the install brochure that Mike posted. You looked at that too, right?

I don't know how much force it should take to push down... but obviously when you remove the head, that pin should have come UP to open the valve.

Can you pull UP on the pin at all? BE CAREFUL! DON'T "BREAK" IT!

It's obvious that there are replaceable parts for that valve, but realize that when the valve is disassembled that you will have water shooting out of that.

You DO have valves that you can close ... but whether or not they will close completely and isolate your homes piping so you can take apart and investigate what's sticking is another matter altogether.
 
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Old 10-26-13, 03:20 PM
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I was able to get the pin in the seal gland in "UP" position. Still the pipes are cold.

Does that rule out the possibility of something being wrong "in the unit"? The problem is with the bigger system "common elements"? I think may be, because per the manual Mike posted, removing the power head should operate the valve manually.

I removed the seal gland, which is a disc with the pin at the center. The pin could be moved up and down after coming out. Put the pin back in up position. Tried to poke in the base of the valve with another pin, it hits some metal and came out dirty/black. By reading the manual, not able to tell how the pin opens the valve. Does anyone here know?

Will opening another thread with the title "how Bell & Gossett 109024 valve works" help?

Thank you,
Sam
 
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Old 10-26-13, 03:37 PM
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Will opening another thread with the title "how Bell & Gossett 109024 valve works" help?
No, probably not...

From what I can see in the manual, the pin pushes down the washer in the 'bonnet' piece to close the valve. I'm a little surprised that when you pulled the seal/gland part that you didn't get any water out the top.

I suspect that the washer in the bonnet part is stuck to the opening in the valve body.

There could also be a problem with one (or both) of those two shutoff valves. If those are 'gate' valves, they have a problem sometimes where the 'gate' part of it jams into the valve and when the handle is turned to open them, the gate stays put and the stem pulls out of the gate... and then the valve is stuck closed.

But this is just guessing... but could be...

You just bought the place, right?

Isn't there some kind of a home warranty ? I mean, if you bought the place and the heat didn't work from the start, why should you have to pay for that?

I would insist on warranty work if I were you!
 
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Old 11-02-13, 05:43 PM
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Unfortunately, have no home warranties.

Now, I am working on the possibility that the washer in the bonnet is stuck closed. I got the part delivered today- bonnet and retainer assembly.

If I unscrew the bonnet, water will shoot off. Need to drain the pipe. Can I use the bleeders to drain the pipe? I turned both the shut off valves clockwise to close them. Turned the screw on one of the bleeders and let the water flow through the peehole. This bleeder is the one near the zone valve. Per my calculations of the pipe length and water removal speed, the pipe should have been drained and water should have stopped in about 1.5 hrs. Well, it's not.

Can I drain the pipe this way?

Now I am thinking, I'll contact the building management to shut off water, unscrew the bonnet and try to catch as much water as I can- with wads of towel. In a few minutes, the water should be drained off the pipe, then go about replacing the bonnet assembly and try to get the zone valve to work manually.

NJ Trooper, what do you suggest?

Thanks,
Sam
 
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Old 11-02-13, 06:00 PM
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Can I drain the pipe this way?
Through an air bleeder? No. You need some professional help.
 
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Old 11-02-13, 06:03 PM
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Hi Sam,

If there is a valve where the pipe enters your condo, and a pipe where it leaves your condo, closing those is all that should be necessary.

Yes, open a bleeder to relieve the pressure in the pipe, which you have already done.

Does the water come out of the bleeder under PRESSURE? Or is it just 'dribbling' out?

If it's just dribbling, I would think there is no pressure...

You probably don't have to drain the entire pipe... the pipe is all at the same 'altitude' in your condo, yes? If so, and if the shutoff valves are working and not leaking through, after you relieve the pressure in the pipe you should be safe to go ahead and replace that part.

Here's the famous last words... "...you SHOULD BE safe to go ahead..." because the opening for the valve is on the TOP of the pipe. If there is no pressure, the water shouldn't come UP in the opening after you remove the bonnet since there is no pressure and if all the pipes are at the same level.

What holds the bonnet in? Two screws? Is there a gasket or an O-ring? If so, why not try and loosen the bonnet screws (with a container under the pipe and towels or disposable diapers around it) and test to see if you've still got pressure? Don't take the screws all the way out, just loosen them so you can wiggle the bonnet to test if water will leak. If it leaks fast, tighten the screws again and we'll think up a plan B. If it doesn't leak, or just dribbles, work fast and replace the part.
 
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Old 11-03-13, 06:25 PM
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Smile

NJ Trooper, guess what? heat is working

The washer in the bonnet was stuck in the valve body. No water coming out, even after unscrewing the bonnet and the bonnet also not moving. Poked the bonnet with a screw driver and water started coming out slowly, more poking, more water. Shut off the valves and screwed back the bonnet and the seal gland. Now, the seal gland can be pressed up and down. Turned on both the knobs, the pipes got hot in no time..

Now it's nice and warm. Still operating manually, will put back the motor head later.

Thank you for your patience and help. Look at me, what a great progress from the red match box thing!

Sam
 
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Old 11-03-13, 07:06 PM
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Look at me, what a great progress from the red match box thing!
I'm lookin'! and proud of ya Sam! Seriously!

Good work!
 
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Old 11-03-13, 07:47 PM
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This reminds me of something. I like to exercise all my valves every year or so. It helps keep the stem packing fresh, helps keep stems from binding, or the seats from sticking to their disks. I do this even for ball valves. Globe valves, for sure. I don't have any gate valves, but they would be very important, too. For flo-control valves, I turn the jacking lever a half turn or so, each way, just to help keep the packing from drying out or sticking and the stem free.

P.S. And, manually lift the lever of the relief valve. Manually lift the fast-fill lever on the pressure reducing valve.
 
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Old 11-03-13, 08:14 PM
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That's good advice generally, but Sam doesn't have to worry about anything except 2 gate valves and one zone valve. All that other stuff is building management's problem!

As far as the relief valve goes... FYI for any future readers... if you haven't REGULARLY tested your relief valve and you do it now... after it's been closed for 5 years or more... be prepared to replace it because it probably will leak after you let go of the handle.

Relief valves should probably be routinely replaced on a 5 year schedule.
 
 

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