Help with Troubleshooting hot water system, CI rads and slant fin BB

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Old 11-15-13, 11:07 AM
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Question Help with Troubleshooting hot water system, CI rads and slant fin BB

Ok I need some help please. I cant seem to figure this out and it's driving me nuts.

Here's the issue, I have 2 slant fin BB in my second floor, one 3' and one 8'. My first floor has older CI radiators (5 total). My system is a 2 zone, one for domestic HW (Superstor Tank) and one for heat, run on a "one pipe" venturi/ monoflow type system. A 1" main line leaves the boiler, travels around the basement with a standard tee fitting feeding the 1/2" branch pipe to the individual heater and a venturi/ monoflow tee on the return side of the branch from the heater (also 1/2"). The circ is a Taco 007 on the return side.
I cannot get heat out of the slant fin on the second floor. I have bled them with the boiler off, and I do get water, cool at first then warm. I have also tried bleeding with the boiler running in hopes that it would push the water through that way, but to no avail- in fact no water came out, so I started over with the boiler off. I have also bled the rads and those are working perfectly fine.

Now I know that you're not supposed to mix BB and rads, didnt know that until AFTER I hade done it...oops. When I remodeled the bath room, I took out a small CI free standing rad and put in the 3' BB and also ran a line (PEX) over to my baby's room and put the 8' in there. I piped the BB on a loop system (feeding the 8' first, then that return feeds to the 3' in the bath and then returns back to the basement). I installed the bleed fitting on the return of the 3' BB which in turn is the final return to the basement. I figured that it may not put out full heat potential, but to me, something was better than nothing. Prior to adding the BB, the small rad in the bathroom was the only heater in our second floor. Home was built in the 1920's. The new PEX lines I ran aren't even getting warm. Cant check my boilers pressure because I just realized that way back when....they didn't put a pressure guage on it.

Should I just say screw it and re-pipe the system using manifolds?

Any thoughts or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thanks~!
~S
 

Last edited by sp10ez; 11-15-13 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 11-15-13, 12:38 PM
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First of all did that 2nd floor rad heat up before you removed it. Second, when you put in the baseboard did you hook up in the right direction. Why I'm asking is because you said you get water with the pump off and not on. Off , the water might be just coming from the return and not the supply, then with the pump on it's goin to take the path of least resistance and bypass that branch.
When you bleed with the pump off and you get warm water, check where the supply comes to see if that's warm also or if it's cold. That will tell you if it's feeding through or if it's coming from the return.
You must get a working pressure gauge on there to see what's going on. Right now you're flying blind and that's never a good thing with any system but moreso with a monoflo system.
As far as repiping what you can do is go with a 2 pipe system.
Run another pipe along side your supply and remove your return lines from each unit and pipe them into that new line which will go to your circulator. You will remove your supply from the circ. and cap it after the last unit is fed.
With this setup the water has no choice but to circulate back to the boiler.
 

Last edited by spott; 11-15-13 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 11-15-13, 01:36 PM
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Thanks spott.
Yes the prior radiator did get hot, so prior to me putting in the BB, I know the heated water circulated to the second floor.
I am almost 100% sure of my feed and return direction. I get when i bled with the pump off I may have been dragging it from the return, as the bleeder is on the return side as mentioned. And to answer you, no the supply was cold when I bled and got the warm water.

Where would I install a pressure guage on the system?

Also, wouldnt hooking my system into manifolds be more efficient than a 2 pipe system? And in the time being, is there anything I can do to at least get hot water running upstairs? I had a thought of installing a ball valve on the main line between the supply and return of the second floor, essentially forcing the water up and through the second floor- but thinking that it may reduce the overall heat on the 3 rads after that...?
 
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Old 11-15-13, 01:56 PM
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Is there any place to install a shutoff valve on the 2nd floor return line in order to force the water through from the supply side when bleeding?
 
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Old 11-15-13, 02:12 PM
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Yes I can put in a shut off as I have plenty of room in the basement. I could put a shut off just ahead of the returning monoflow tee in the basement... would that work better than a shut off on the main line forcing the water through the 2nd floor loop? I'm worried by installing a shut off on the return that the water will just by pass the supply line of the second floor at the tee in the basement and I'll still be in the same boat....

PS- This is why electricians should not mess with plumbling...lol.
Thank you~!
 

Last edited by sp10ez; 11-15-13 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 11-15-13, 02:34 PM
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Where would I install a pressure guage on the system?
Start by reading this... tells you how to add one without cutting into the pipes:

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html

Depending on the height from the boiler to the upstairs, you may need a bit more than 12 PSI minimum.

Estimate the height, let's say 20 feet... times 0.432 PSI ... equals 8.5 PSI ... then ADD 4 PSI ... equals 12.5 PSI (12 is actually close enough). If your older home has higher ceilings, you may need 13 , 14, even 15 PSI minimum to get the water to the top and still have a few PSI of pressure in the pipe.

Is the boiler as old as the house?

A little bit about monoflo(tm) tee fittings...

They work using the 'venturi' principle and develop a PRESSURE DIFFERENTIAL across the tee and between the two tees. This pressure differential is what causes the water to flow into the 'side track'. Water ALWAYS flows from higher to lower pressure.

The next thing to know is that ALL piping systems exhibit pressure DROP from the friction of the water moving through the pipes and fittings. This is called 'HEAD'. For now though, we'll just call it pressure drop.

Back to the monoflo tees... let's say for example that the pressure differential between the two tees is ohhhh... maybe TWO PSI.

What do you suppose happens when you connect a loop to those tees that has a pressure DROP of TWO PSI, or even MORE?

If you said that there will be NO FLOW in the loop, that is the correct answer.

I believe that by adding the fittings, pipe, tubing, etc, you may well have exceeded the pressure drop between the existing monoflo tees. The old single radiator worked because it was a straight shot UP, through a wide open cavity inside the radiator (no head), and straight back down again.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 02:42 PM
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So, how can you 'fix' it?

By increasing the pressure differential between the monoflo tee and the regular tee.

You could replace the 'regular' tee with another monoflo tee IN REVERSE. This won't quite double the pressure differential, but close.

As Spott suggested, you can do a 'home run' all the way back to the boiler. You don't need to do both pipes all the way. You could just run ONE of the pipes back. This is for all intents and purposes increasing the pressure differential between the tees... being further apart, the pressure difference will increase between them.

You said the monoflo is on the return side... so run the SUPPLY side back to the boiler and tee off the supply pipe there. You'll get oodles of pressure differential, plus the water will be HOTTER because it's 'first stop' on the heat train express.

By the way... what PEX did you use? I hope the stuff made for heating systems and containing an OXYGEN BARRIER?
 
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Old 11-15-13, 02:51 PM
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Some good tips here:

http://www.comfort-calc.net/monoflo_system.html

And technically, my suggestion of running a home run back to the supply side breaks one of the rules stated here... see if you can find which one.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 04:20 PM
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Years ago I put a monoflo system in my house mainly because plumber friends said it would never work. Being a heating guy I took it as a challenge and it is still working today. I will say bleeding at times became frustrating.
I have a small 8 room cape and because I had access to things I decided to zone off every room.
What I have are 7 t-stats each controlling taco zone valves. Although I put a zv in the kitchen I decided because there was only room for a 6 ft. I left the zv on manual and the kitchen heats any time another room calls.
What I finally did to bleed mine instead of the coin vents which I found annoying I installed a ball valve and a drain on the return line and bled line by line in the basement. No moving furniture or removing covers upstairs. It worked out fine. If you wanted to try something like that you would have to probably put another venturi on the supply.
I know all the rules about not valving one off because of flow change but I honestly haven't had any problems. In fact I removed the bathroom one for some renovation work and it's still out just valved off with no bypass.
A few years ago I installed a CI rad.in the basement with only 1 venturi tee and 1/2 in. pipe(against rules) feeding down with no zv just added to line. It worked so well it got to hot.
I guess my point is all the rules aren't carved in stone but are guidelines.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 05:10 PM
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I guess my point is all the rules aren't carved in stone but are guidelines.
I agree to an extent... but there's rules, and then there's LAWS (of physics!)

Obviously there's a certain amount of 'windage' that one can 'get away with' and have stuff still work. It's when you go to far that stuff stops working the way it should. It seems that in this case the 'line in the sand' has been crossed.

This is why electricians should not mess with plumbling...lol.
I know more than one electrician who should not be messing with ELECTRICITY! and I'll bet you do to SP! DOUBLE LOL!
 
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Old 11-15-13, 06:31 PM
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Should I just say screw it and re-pipe the system using manifolds?
No, first install a pressure gauge. Then temporarily jack up the system pressure to about 25 psi, and try again to bleed the air out of the system. If your monoflo system was installed in the 1920s, then it's obviously worked in the past, even though monoflo systems can be challenging to bleed air.

I sort of doubt that the system was installed in the '20s - I have the notion that Bell & Gossett first introduced the monoflo system concept in the '30s, but I am willing to be corrected.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 07:22 PM
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it's obviously worked in the past,
Yes, he said it did, until he added 11' of baseboard in two different rooms where previously was only one radiator in the bathroom.

I think monoflo was even a bit later than that... maybe late 40's.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 07:56 PM
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Thank you everyone for your thoughts... My answers and responses are:

NJ- no the boiler is fairly newer, the house originally had wood stoves in the kitchen and basement, you can see where the old grates in the floor were by their patch of the hard wood floors. I don't know the actual age of the boiler as I have only been here for 5 years. It does however have an Energy Star label on it so I can only assume that it isn't THAT old, as Energy Star hasn't been around too long. And yes, I did verify that the pex was listed for heating applications, not so sure about the oxygen barrier though as it is the white pex, not the orange. I'm not a huge fan of running a new return line to all of the branches, as I'm trying to keep this as inexpensive as possible. I'd prefer to make this work for now with a valve or fitting. I can deal with doing the full repair next spring once I Do not need the heat. And yes, there are plenty of other electricians and even plumbers I know that should not be doing their jobs, which is why I do majority of my own work at my own house lol.

Gil- I plan to install the pressure gauge. Is it possible that I can permanently install one on the line feeding out of the boiler directly, as I prefer to have one perm instead of the one NJ was talking about with the hose fitting. And as I mentioned above, the boiler was installed much later than the house itself.

So going by the general consensus here, need to put on a pressure gauge first and foremost, check the pressures and jack it up if need be? Will that mess with the first floor rads or even my dhw? And then one of two options, put another monoflow in reverse on the feed to the second floor or put a valve on the half inch return from the second floor on and then bleed the BB? Would putting a 1 inch valve between the feed tee and the return tee on the main line do the same thing? Or even essentially could I put a check valve on the return from the second floor to prevent the bleeding from coming back up the return?

Thanks again!!
 
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Old 11-15-13, 08:19 PM
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I think monoflo was even a bit later than that... maybe late 40's.
I have a copy of the "B&G Handbook," dated 1940 (price $3.00). It has an 18-page section on mono-flo systems - the details of which suggest that this was not the first introduction of mono-flo systems. But certainly, I think mono-flo systems were introduced after the 1920s as cited by the original poster.

This is only my own theory: when forced-air furnaces began encroaching on the market share of hot-water heating systems, B&G developed the mono-flo concept, which reduced the installation and material cost of hydronic piping systems by half. I welcome comments on this theory.

Note: these old B&G manuals often show up on Amazon's link for reasonable prices. The "Handbook" is about 4" x 8", just the right size it fit into the back pocket of an installer's bib overalls. The best volume is the B&G Engineering Manual. Mine is dated 1954.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 08:29 PM
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I plan to install the pressure gauge. Is it possible that I can permanently install one on the line feeding out of the boiler directly
Yes. You can install it anywhere in the system. The elevation difference will be about 0.5 psi per ft. When the pump is running, the pressure will reflect that differential pressure. Go by the pressure without the pump running. But get a pressure gauge installed ASAP. Also a temperature gauge. Tridicators have both. I'm astonished that such gauges aren't installed.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 08:40 PM
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If you put the 1 in. Ball valve in it probably would work if you still wanted to try to bleed through the baseboard bleeder. If on the other hand you installed another monoflo tee on the supply and then installed a 1/2 in. ball valve and a draw off on the return you could do it from the basement at a greater force and much faster.
As Trooper said another monoflo tee would give you more force through that zone which is a good thing because once it's bled you want to keep it flowing. If you install the 1 in.valve once it's bled and that's opened you're back with the same flow and it may not be enough with all that pipe.
Personally I would go with the mono flow and the return line valve and draw off.
Where your boiler is not that old isn't there an empty tapping somewhere on the boiler for a gauge. There must be a cut out in the case somewhere.
 
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Old 11-15-13, 08:49 PM
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Yeah, there's a gauge on that boiler for sure.
 
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Old 11-16-13, 07:39 AM
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Exclamation

Gil- Ok thanks, I get what you're saying about the 1" valve, so just to be sure, if I do another monoflow I would put the tee in the reverse direction and I would put a ball valve with a drain on it on the return line from the 2nd floor, closing that valve, then bleeding the BB and bleeding from the drain of the ball valve and then re-opening the valve once completed? Did I get the right process there? This is after I put in a guage of course....

Also, after reading NJ's posting about the proper spacing of monoflow tees, in the pictures attached, I'm thinking these may now be too close together to work properly? The spacing between them is only about 18", whereas I now have 11' feet of BB on them...did I totally mess this up??

NJ- See the attached pictures...in the last picture (untitled), would that maybe have been the guage at one time lol? never really thought anything of it until you guys mentioned it....

One last question... Legend, Taco or B&G? Scoop style or Venturi style?
 
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Last edited by sp10ez; 11-16-13 at 08:02 AM.
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Old 11-16-13, 09:56 AM
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Can you tell us the make/model of the boiler yet?

What is that capillary tube in the second picture going to? (not part of problem analysis, but curious why you thought to include pic?)

Yes, it appears that the last picture could in fact show what remains of a gauge. WTH happened to that? Did you poke at the rust to see if there's a gauge underneath that debris?

I believe that in the end, adding valves, jacking pressure, messing with this, messing with that... you'll be back at your starting point.

Adding a valve BETWEEN the tees will almost certainly force the water to go up. But at what cost? By placing a partially closed valve between those tees, you WILL affect the flow in the rest of the system in a negative way. Whether or not it's enough to cause problems heating the rest of the rads, I wouldn't want to be the one to experiment with that.

Monoflo tees require FLOW in order to operate and develop the pressure differential needed to side track some of that flow. As an example, if one looks at the Taco spec sheet, they give a Cv number.

Cv is the amount of water that must flow in order to develop ONE PSI of pressure drop (in this case differential) across the tee.

For the Taco tee, the 1" x 1/2" monoflo, that number is THIRTEEN for one tee on the return. Others are similar... for TWO tees, one on return and one on supply, the number is TEN.

What this means is that you need to be flowing TEN GPM in order to achieve ONE PSI of differential with TWO tees. (It's not clear to me if this is for EACH tee, but let's presume that it is, someone please correct me if this is a wrong presumption, or if I'm reading the numbers wrong)

With a 1" main, you should not be flowing more than EIGHT GPM. So, you may not even see TWO PSI with two tees installed.

I don't think that's even worth trying in this case. I'm guesstimating the pressure drop on the new loop upstairs at around 2' of head, or a little less than 5 PSI.

Here's my suggestion:

Cut out the RETURN MONOFLO tee and replace with coupler.

Cut into the RETURN LINE at or near the boiler with a tee.

Run the return line from upstairs to this tee with a GOOD QUALITY GLOBE VALVE in series with the line.

Something like this would be a good choice, but if you search you may be able to find a solder variety too if that's your preference:


Patriot Supply - 10402

Same valve is copper sweat variety:
Webstone Valve 11822 N/A 1/2" Brass Globe Stop Valve with Soft Seat - CxC - Amazon.com

Don't use a ball valve, they are very difficult to modulate flow with. Use PEX for the return line if you wish.

The reason for adding the globe valve will be to prevent the loop from 'hogging' too much flow from the main line and depriving the rest of the tees from proper flow. You would only open that valve enough to gain the flow you require for the new loop, and it probably won't be much. You only need about ONE GPM of flow for that 11' of baseboard. (actually less, but cutting the flow too much will cause the water to slow too much and you may have problems with air in the loop. By keeping the flow faster, air will have less probability of collecting and causing a problem)

The way I would set the globe valve is start with it closed and the lines bled. Start boiler and let it get good and hot. With hand on the return line, open the valve a little at a time until you feel hot water returning and leave it at that. You could get uber-fancy and install thermometer on the line if you like fancy.

I think this is your best chance at getting that loop to work without impacting the rest of the system.
 

Last edited by NJT; 11-16-13 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 11-16-13, 11:13 AM
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To answer your monoflo question of spacing. In a perfect world they want the tees spaced at the same distance as the baseboard but I've rarely seen it done mainly because of room constraints on the pipe. The minimum distance they want is 18 in. where you will find most of them including mine. Since the name of the game is flow the less the fittings the better.
If you put a ball valve on the return that draw off is a seperate part and not part of the ball valve unless you you can get one.
If you take troopers suggestion which sounds workable with minimal piping this all becomes relevant but at least you you have some options.
Good Luck.
 
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Old 11-16-13, 06:50 PM
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Hey guys, seriously, thank you!

The make of the boiler is Ultimate, don't know the actual model as I cannot find anything other than the name Ultimate on it. Sorry I had forgotten to tell you that. And I just merely took pictures of the boiler itself to show that I had no gauge....and it does now appear to me that the rusted mess probably was the gauge at one time or another, I have no idea what or how or even when that happened, I just never really looked at it, even now I have no real proof that it was the gauge, just my best assumption because of its shape and a round knob in the center that May have been the dial...even scraping the rust and debris have given no proof of a former gauge lol.

As far as the capillary tube, I'm assuming that is a sensor or probe, it ties back into the Honeywell control box on the front behind the temp adjustments inside. I was just using that pic again to show no visible gauge.

Ok, so the last question I have right now is if I were to run the return back to the boiler return line as NJ suggested, do I leave the standard tee fitting that feeds the second floor loop or does that need to be replaced with anything?
 
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Old 11-16-13, 07:18 PM
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The make of the boiler is Ultimate, don't know the actual model as I cannot find anything other than the name Ultimate on it
Somewhere on the boiler should be a 'data plate'... but maybe it went with the gauge when it left! Or maybe it's under one of the added controls.

Any chance that basement was flooded at one time?

I suspect that the boiler is this one:

http://www.ecrinternational.com/comm..._key=8&ext=pdf

This looks like a newer (more readable) version:

http://www.ecrinternational.com/comm..._key=8&ext=pdf

If it is, you might want to print the manual out for future reference. It was found here, and there are other manuals which might apply:

Ultimate Boiler | Literature

ties back into the Honeywell control box on the front behind the temp adjustments inside
It would seem that the installers 'relocated' the control. Is that an L8151 aquastat? (model should be on label inside cover)

do I leave the standard tee fitting that feeds the second floor loop or does that need to be replaced with anything?
Yes, keep the straight tee on the supply side.

Run the return back to the boiler using the shortest path possible and as few fittings as possible. You want to minimize any flow restriction as much as possible.

Cutting out the monoflo on the return side will actually help the other rads, less obstruction in the line.

You said that there are 3 more rads 'downstream' of this one?
 
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Old 11-16-13, 07:28 PM
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By the way... something that might make your life easier when you go to cut out the old tee... if you don't have enough 'wiggle room' to squeeze couplings in to add pipe in place of the tee...

REPAIR COUPLING

There's no 'stop' in the middle of the coupling which enables you to slide the coupling down the pipe, insert a new chunk of pipe, and slide the couplings back up.

Copper Coupling Less Stop , Copper Fittings , Copper Pipe Fittings - PexSupply.com

Clean the pipe with your plumbers strip BEFORE you cut it. Much easier to clean years of oxidation off when you have a stiff pipe to play with rather than a floppy, dangly cut one... oh man, did I just say that?
 
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Old 11-17-13, 02:52 AM
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The term Monoflo was first registered and used January 3, 1935. It is still an active trademark.
MONOFLO Trademark of BELL & GOSSETT COMPANY - Registration Number 0679867 - Serial Number 72060651 :: Justia Trademarks
 
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Old 11-17-13, 07:30 AM
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Hey furd, thanks for that info..

NJ-see the photo lol, the donkey that installed this thing didn't bother. So much for the nameplate. I know about the slip coupling, but the monoflow tee is longer than a normal tee so I may have to "patch in" a piece of 1". Not a big deal. And yes it is an 8151 aqua stat. Thanks for finding the boiler manuals. Oh and yes, there are three rads after the 2nd floor loop.
 
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Old 11-17-13, 07:47 AM
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the donkey that installed this thing didn't bother.
Probably installed by "Knucklehead and Sons, P&H"

there are three rads after the 2nd floor loop.
You'll have more than enough pressure diff to get circulation in the upstairs then.
 
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Old 11-17-13, 08:29 AM
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Awesome, thank you...I'll keep you posted on the progress...
 
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Old 11-17-13, 04:30 PM
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if you don't have enough 'wiggle room' to squeeze couplings in to add pipe in place of the tee...

REPAIR COUPLING
Good info - new to me. But this reminds me of something that I was taught in the Navy. The Navy used many socket welds and brazed connections (not soldered connections, at least that I recall).

When making socket welds, the procedure was to shove the pipe all the way into the fitting's stop, and pull it out a quarter inch or more - then weld the connection. The concern was that when hot water or steam hit the connection, the pipe would expand faster than the female fitting, and possibly overstress the connection if it were butted up inside. I suspect this may not be a concern with soldered copper pipe, but I always follow that old procedure.
 
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