The Arguably Improperly Designed Hydronics System

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Old 12-12-13, 05:47 AM
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The Arguably Improperly Designed Hydronics System

I have a single story Cape Cod with baseboards and a New Yorker boiler. I'm guessing it is about 15 years old or so.

There is one run of pipe that goes from the boiler out to the back side of the house and T's off into a loop that goes to one side, and another that goes to the opposite side of the house.

It heats a living room, bathroom, two bedrooms and a small part of the kitchen/dining room.

I have a non-bladder type steel expansion tank which is piped up between the joists, just after the heated water exits the boiler. There is no airtrol tank fitting attached to the steel tank. It essentially just rises off of a wider section of the loop which then heads out to heat the rest of the house.

In theory, as the water rises up towards it, the air is supposed to go back into the expansion tank (thinner piping) and the bulk of the water continues on past it via the wider pipes out to the rest of the house.

For some unknown reason, there has always been an erroneously attached float type air vent just on top of the boiler on the pipe that protrudes and continues on to my pressure release valve.

Also, the circulator is attached just at the bottom side of the boiler, "pushing" the water into the boiler to be heated.

I do not have an automatic fill valve. When the system needs water, I manually add it.

I mention all these things because I have learned that several of them are improperly present, or improperly designed- or that's what I have been lead to believe.

It seems to be hotly contested. Some tell me old style steel expansion tanks are the way to go, while most tell me the new bladder extrol type tanks are the way. Who knows. Coke versus Pepsi?


Anyway, for the 9 years I have lived here, the expansion tank waterlogged annually. I hear that is because of the nature of water and air and having no physical barrier between the two. I also understand that the erroneously present float type air vent on a steel expansion tank system has contributed to this as well- speeding up the waterlogging process. Why it is present is beyond me.

Until a month ago- I never thought twice about it. Over these 9 years, that little vent has gone bad twice. I don't know if that is par for the course or not.

A month ago, the tank was waterlogged and I drained it as I always do. And I do it by isolating it from the system, draining it completely ( I know about the hours of glugging and the vacuum effect- yes- it is fully drained when I am done.) Then I fill back up to around 12 psi.

The system typically is good for the next 10-11 months and then I know it needs draining again when the pressure keeps dropping and is around 5 psi cold and 20 psi hot.

This year, a week after draining it, the float type air vent failed and spit out a nice puddle of water a week after draining the tank. It got me interested in figuring out why these two things keep happening. So I learned about the airtrol tank fittings, the need or not-needing of float type air vents on different air in, or air out, systems etc. and the requirement of them on the bladder type systems.

I also decided to crank down the cap on the float type air vent, since it apparently doesn't belong on my type of set-up. However, since I did that, I now hear air traveling in the pipes, and then glugging as it returns to the steel expansion tank. However, my pressure is staying right where it should be finally.

I want to make this all proper and right.

The problem I have, is that as I understand it, to make it right I would need the circulator on the opposite side of the boiler, pumping the water out of the hot boiler, not into it, and that I would want a bladder type expansion tank somewhere before the circulator.

Apparently "pumping away" is the way to go. I've learned about points of zero pressure, etc. Without major re-piping the system, I can't make this happen.

What I want to know is:

Will I have problems if I keep the circulator pushing water into the boiler?

Will I continue to have troubles if I keep circulating water towards an expansion tank as I do now?

Should I make major changes or should I keep things as they are, and just eliminate the float type air vent, and add an airtrol tank fitting to my steel expansion tank?

Or is there some other solution?

Should I ditch the steel tank and install a bladder type instead, that includes an air vent and air scoop combination just above it- but knowing the hot water leaving the boiler is going to be getting pushed at it?

Please help. Thank you if you read through this entire (yikes!) story.
Matt
 
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Old 12-12-13, 06:14 AM
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I read every word Matt!

I have a lot to comment on ... but no time to do so at the moment... I'll add my nickels worth later today or this evening.
 
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Old 12-12-13, 06:33 AM
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Trooper will give you detailed explanation, but I suggest you keep that air vent closed... Its not needed.

The air you hear in the system will come out and go to the steel tank. Thing is the line to the steel tank needs to be properly pitched in a way to allow this...

Leave the pump where it is... They have been being put there since the beginning of time....LOL

You could ditch the steel tank but why would you? Its really no maintanance... If you went to bladder type then you need air vents/seperator on the system...

If you can take a few pics of the boiler and piping that would be great....

( I see troops still online so maybe he will comment...)

Hope this helps...
 
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Old 12-12-13, 09:26 AM
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I see a lot of what appears to be relatively new copper which is put together with 'pro-press' fittings. Has this system already been reworked recently?

There is no airtrol tank fitting attached to the steel tank
That's not important really. That airtrol thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. What's more important is that the pipe to the tank be 3/4" minimum so that the air bubbles have room to pass by the water inside the pipe and that the pipe be pitched up toward the tank appx 1" per 5 ft.

I believe that a much more appropriate point for the expansion tank to be piped is where the automatic air vent is located now.

I believe that if you were to remove that air vent and repipe to the tank in 3/4" off that top port where the air vent is now with proper pitch up to the tank that the great majority of your problems will disappear for the cost of a few feet of pipe and an hour or two labor.

more later...
 

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Old 12-12-13, 09:38 AM
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An automatic air vent should not be installed on a system with a conventional steel expansion tank - it will deplete the air cushion in the tank.
 
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Old 12-12-13, 09:39 AM
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Old 12-12-13, 10:30 AM
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@NJ Trooper: yes, the pro press stuff was what my plumber modified last year in an effort to create a better way for the air to find its way back up into the steel tank. (Why he still left the float type air vent there though, is beyond me.)
Then off that horizontal section of 1 or 3/4 inch pro press at an elbow of 90, it goes upward towards the tank and then turns again 90 to the left and heads to the tank on a very subtle incline. So subtle, that a small torpedo level on it was the only way I could even tell if it had any pitch at all, up towards the tank.
I can take some more pics if you think it would be beneficial.
 
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Old 12-12-13, 10:36 AM
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For some unknown reason
Actually the reason is well known and prevalent. One word: IGNORANCE.

Will I have problems if I keep the circulator pushing water into the boiler?
Problems? such as? My short answer is no, you will not have 'problems'.

Will I continue to have troubles if I keep circulating water towards an expansion tank as I do now?
Troubles? such as? I think you are talking about circulating air in the system... yes, but not because of the pump location.

Should I make major changes or should I keep things as they are, and just eliminate the float type air vent, and add an airtrol tank fitting to my steel expansion tank?

Or is there some other solution?
I outlined what I feel is the most cost effective and least labor intensive approach in previous message.

Should I ditch the steel tank and install a bladder type instead, that includes an air vent and air scoop combination just above it- but knowing the hot water leaving the boiler is going to be getting pushed at it?
No, I wouldn't...

The idea of 'pumping away' has nothing to do with what is getting 'pushed at' or 'pulled from'... it's all about 'dynamic pressure distribution' throughout the system.

By placing the pump with it's suction side at the PONPC, the pumps HEAD PRESSURE will be ADDED to the system piping, causing the air bubbles to be 'squeezed' smaller and making them easier to move through the system. The bubbles then will be the LARGEST at the LOWEST PRESSURE point in the system which would be at the PONPC, which is also where they would be most easily caught by an air removal device located at that point.

I believe that your wisest approach at this point would be to ditch that air vent, pipe from that point to the expansion tank with 3/4" minimum pipe. Cheap, easy, quick 'fix'. THEN run the system and evaluate if you wish to make further changes, or not. I'm betting not...
 
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Old 12-12-13, 10:49 AM
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Here's my attempt to diagram the design.
 
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Old 12-12-13, 11:00 AM
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heads to the tank on a very subtle incline. So subtle, that a small torpedo level on it was the only way I could even tell if it had any pitch at all
I think that 1" in 4 or 5 feet is only about a 'half a bubble', so yeah, you don't need a LOT of pitch, but there needs to be some. That's the minimum too... for example, if the tank were directly over the boiler you could shoot straight up into it. You could run 45 if you wanted. Point to be made is that there needs to be at LEAST enough pitch for the air to make it back to the tank.
 
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Old 12-12-13, 11:01 AM
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Here is what is proposed..........


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Old 12-12-13, 11:04 AM
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@lawrosa and @NJ Trooper: That seems easy. I like it! (And that gets rid of the vent all at the same time too.) Thank you both for the advice.

It is obvious that this location [where the air vent is] sees plenty of action with respect to air gathering too, because it was always hissing at least a little bit. Until recently though, I never knew it was the air that was supposed to be in my expansion tank escaping and removing my cushion.
 

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Old 12-12-13, 04:43 PM
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this location [where the air vent is] sees plenty of action with respect to air gathering too, because it was always hissing at least a little bit
Perfect! You now know that is EXACTLY where you want that tank connected!

I might wager a bet that if you were to find the original manuals for that boiler, there's good odds that one of the installation diagrams will show that as the connection point for a conventional tank.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:05 AM
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Thanks. One concern that came up today. Last night it was about 15 degrees or so. The system was running quite often. On a normal operating day during heating season, with my aquastat settings at 160 and 180, the standing temp rises up to 220 according to the gauge. I understand the gauge may not be accurate. This has been the temp I've seen it rise to for years now- so I'm not concerned. However, last night with it constantly running, I found it at about 225 this morning. Is this a result of it running to heat the house so much last night, or is the bit of air I hear causing it to have some other problem? Or maybe something else altogether?
Thanks
Matt
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:29 AM
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What type of heat emitters?

Does that boiler heat your hot water ?

That is hi and I would turn the aquastat down 10 degrees... But you also need to turn the lo down since it has to be a 20 F difference...

If no domestic hot water is being heater then turn the lo all the way down and wait for further suggestions...

Let us know.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:36 AM
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I have baseboards. And the boiler does have a domestic/potable coil that heats my water. I have a mixing valve as well for that. I've heard it can be bad news to fiddle with the aquastat controls as they are "touchy." Is this worth that risk?
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:41 AM
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Yes.. Your wasting fuel if you leave it like that... The boiler does soak some if it happens to kick off when at the 180F mark but thats a bit hi..

Try 170F... The low should be 150F and the diff 20...The diff holds the cir off while using hot water, when there is a call for heat..
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:44 AM
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Does the LOW need to be set as high as 160 in order for you to get adequate domestic hot water to the home?

What is the DIFF setting ?

The important thing would be REPEATABILITY of the setting, rather than the absolute accuracy.

Have you ever observed the temperature at which the burner is actually cut OFF by the control?

There is this thing I call 'heat soak' whereby if there is a heat call in progress, the burner is firing and the circulator is running, and the temp is at or approaching high limit... and the heat call ENDS at that point. Since the circulation has stopped, the water inside the boiler will continue to soak heat out of the cast iron and get hotter... even after the burner has cut off.

This MIGHT be what you are observing... OR...

The thermometer is inaccurate

The aquastat is inaccurate

BOTH the above, possibly in different directions even

OR

The sensing bulb for the aquastat is not fully inserted into the immersion well, or otherwise not in good thermal contact with the well for some reason (well to big for bulb is one way this could happen)

If you find that the boiler temperature is ACTUALLY reaching 220 BEFORE the burner cuts off, you should look into that. Temperatures above boiling on a hot water boiler can be dangerous in some circumstances. (for example... a vessel full of water above boiling at a pressure sufficient to raise the boiling temperature above 212... this vessel suddenly for some reason or other loses pressure... what happens to that water that is above the boiling temperature but not boiling because of the increased pressure? It FLASHES TO STEAM and then you have big trouble... BIG TROUBLE! )

If I were you I would verify the temperature gauge first, and observe the temperature at the time that the burner goes off on high limit.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:47 AM
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I've heard it can be bad news to fiddle with the aquastat controls as they are "touchy."
That warning sounds akin to Mom telling us to not cross our eyes when we were kids because they would stay that way...
 
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Old 12-13-13, 05:55 AM
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The temperature where the boiler actually turns off is much lower. I'd say about 190. I'm not positive what the diff is set at, but I believe it is at 10 or 15. Only my wife and I live in our home, and we've never run out of hot water, even when taking two consecutive showers. I think I could afford to go lower with the temps. My house is being heated fine too. I am a miser, so I've got the thermostat set at ~65. My AC digital thermostat reads about 64 when heat kicks in, and it warms up to 67-68 when the heat has finished running. I do hear what almost sounds to me like boiling when it runs though. That's how I'd describe it anyway. Or maybe even more accurate, it sounds like hot water being heated before it starts to boil on the stove top- that shhhhhhh sound. As soon as the circulator kicks in, it quiets down and then I mainly hear the fins on the baseboards pinging and them expanding.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 09:04 AM
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Ok. I adjusted to:
High: 175
Low: 155
Diff: didn't change- still at 10

Heat turned on, I went to see the temps. Circulator started immediately with burner, and temps dropped to about @155. Circulator kicked off shortly thereafter. Circulator went back on at @195. Both burner and circulator turned off at @205. Temp from heat soak rose to 210 in first 2 minutes, 212 by 4:00 minutes out, and about 215 around 7:00 minutes out.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 09:14 AM
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Circulator went back on at @195.
Both burner and circulator turned off at @205



That should not be... I think you need a new aquastat..
 
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Old 12-13-13, 11:02 AM
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Ok. I adjusted to:
High: 175
Low: 155
Diff: didn't change- still at 10
Yeah... something going on there...

With those settings, circ would be disabled at 145 ( Low limit minus the FIXED NON-ADJUSTABLE DIFF of -10, and it should start again at 155

A bit of explanation about the LOW and DIFF... the LOW has TWO differentials in play, one is the FIXED NON-ADJUSTABLE that is -10 . The ADJUSTABLE DIFF is ADDITIVE to the LOW MINUS FIXED.

The CONTROL RANGE of the LOW setting is defined as:

BOTTOM OF RANGE is always 10F LESS than the LOW, LOW - 10 = Bottom of control range

TOP OF RANGE is: (LOW - 10) + ADJUSTABLE DIFF

In any event, what you are seeing is NOT right... that circ coming back on at 195 is WAY off! Even with the DIFF dial as high as it goes (25), the circ would come back on at 170.

Is it possible that a 'stop' has broken off the DIFF dial and it's turned clockwise one full revolution?

Both burner and circulator turned off at @205
This is whacked too... but for both burner and circ to stop it would mean that the thermostat was satisfied and shut down the heat call.

Check that capillary bulb to make sure it's fully inserted into the well and that there are no 'kinks' on the capillary tube.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 11:04 AM
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Here's my thought though: Didn't they both (burner and circulator) shut off because the thermostat no longer called for heat because the house temp had risen? For example, had the temp in the house reached the set temperature of 65 degrees, but the water temperatures within the boiler where currently below the HIGH limit, wouldn't the circulator have stopped, but the burner continued to fire until it met that high?

It certainly seems like my HIGH setting on the aquastat isn't matching the gauge or vice versa. I was happy to see that (at lunch time) the whole system was back at normal pressure and temps, as far as what I typically see. I really feel like it was that heat soak concept going on, from the system being in use so frequently all last night, that had the temps slightly higher than normal when I checked the gauges first thing this morning.

I am curious now to see what the burner shuts off at when solely being called to heat up my potable water. I think that will give me an idea too, as to where the aquastat thinks it should be shutting off. However, if this weather stays so cold, there won't be many chances for the system to cool off to see that.

Lastly, based on my summer/winter hook up with the potable hot water coil heating my hot water, what should my DIFF be? Do you still believe it should be 20? It is currently 10.

Thank you so much for letting me pick your brains, gentlemen. I truly appreciate it.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 11:22 AM
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First thing is to verify the gauge... Then go on from there...

Troop will post the link.... Troop?

Never mind, Im quicker....

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html
 
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Old 12-13-13, 12:40 PM
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FYI: I did some laundry and here's the hot water numbers:

Boiler kicks on at 165 degrees to heat the water up, and shuts off when it reaches 195. (All going by the gauge, that is.)

Also, nothing is visibly broken on the aquastat knobs.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 12:59 PM
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Im sorry that link is for a pressure gauge...

Where is the gauge? Can you take a pic??
 
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Old 12-13-13, 01:14 PM
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I'm having trouble posting it this time around. It is on the top left front face of the boiler just to the left of the potable coil. It's about 7 inches down from the top of the boiler and about 12 inches above where the circulator goes into the boiler. You might even be able to see it in that other pic. It would be at the bottom right of the image I think.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 02:27 PM
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OK... You can easily replace that and IMO should be done ASAP....

Then you can get a handle on the boilers function and save fuel...Plus rule out a faulty aquastat..


Lowes has the better watts brand...


Shop Watts 1/2-in Back Entry Pressure and Temperature Gauge at Lowes.com


 
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Old 12-13-13, 02:29 PM
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Didn't they both (burner and circulator) shut off because the thermostat no longer called for heat because the house temp had risen? For example, had the temp in the house reached the set temperature of 65 degrees, but the water temperatures within the boiler where currently below the HIGH limit, wouldn't the circulator have stopped, but the burner continued to fire until it met that high?
Let us know what the exact model of your aquastat is... the function of all is the same, but it would be good for us to know what you have.

Here's sequence of operation for a typical Honeywell 8124 style 'triple aquastat'.

In the ABSENCE of any heat call, the boiler will behave as described earlier.

When boiler cools to 10F below LOW setpoint, the circulator will be DISABLED and the burner will fire.

When the boiler has heated to (LOW - 10) + DIFF the burner will shut off and the circ will be ENABLED.

In the PRESENCE of a heat call, AND the boiler is hot enough that the circ is ENABLED, the circ will run and the burner will fire until either of the following occurs:

1. The heat call is satisfied. BOTH burner and CIRC will shut down immediately. The burner will NOT continue to fire until it hits high limit. There's no reason for it to do so.

2. If the heat call continues long enough for the boiler to reach high limit, the BURNER will shut down, but the CIRC will CONTINUE to run.

If the heat call continues long enough for the boiler to cool to (HIGH LIMIT - 10) the burner will again fire until high limit, all the time with the circ running... and if the heat call continues to continue, the burner will fire, shut down, fire, shut down... 'bouncing off' the high limit and firing again at 10 degrees below high limit.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 02:33 PM
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based on my summer/winter hook up with the potable hot water coil heating my hot water, what should my DIFF be? Do you still believe it should be 20? It is currently 10.
I usually advise a 20F DIFF.

But your aquastat or temperature gauge, or both, are clearly messed up.

You should not be seeing what you are seeing.

You need to stop thinking and talking and do a couple things.

1. VERIFY THE TEMPERATURE GAUGE.

2. CHECK THE SENSING BULB ON THE A'STAT IS FULLY INSERTED INTO THE WELL AND MAKING GOOD THERMAL CONTACT, AND THAT THERE IS NO DAMAGE TO THE CAPILLARY TUBE. Even the smallest 'kink' in that tubing can screw it all up.
 
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Old 12-13-13, 03:05 PM
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My aquastat is a Honeywell Triple Aquastat Relay Type L8124A,C
L8151A.
Is the pressure/temp gauge easy to install?
Thank you for all the tips. I'll get on this and report the results.
Just curious- knowing that this has been at these temps since as long as I can remember- (been here 9 yrs)- am I in any danger or am I just losing money from a system that's not running as it should?
 
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Old 12-13-13, 03:49 PM
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You need to try to isolate the zones , turn off the water feed and drain the boiler some...

More pics of the boiler and we can guide you...Just to see what valves you have there...

Also look in back of the gauge. You should be able to get a large crescent wrench on it to turn it out..

Then add a few wraps of teflon tape to the new one and install...

You may get water out the boiler, and make sure boiler is cool. You may need to be quick about it so not too much water spills. Unless you can isolate and drain the boiler under the gauge level..

 
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Old 12-14-13, 04:14 PM
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While we're going through all this stuff with a scrupulous eye, does this look to be wired right? I ask because I saw an old post that NJ replied to and it was discussing the wiring to an aquastat. Just thought it wouldn't hurt to throw that out there. Thanks.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 04:23 PM
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discussing the wiring to an aquastat.
Good point... But my old eyes cant see your pics... There is no blow up feature such as in a hosted imaging site...

Can you draw a diagram of your wiring?

Trooper can probably draw it up as its supposed to be...
 
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Old 12-14-13, 04:24 PM
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knowing that this has been at these temps since as long as I can remember- (been here 9 yrs)- am I in any danger or am I just losing money from a system that's not running as it should?
Well........ I don't want to actually say that there's no danger... liability, ya know?

It this is the way it's been for 9 years, and you're sure of that, then the likliehood that you are in danger I suppose is rather small.

But, I don't want you to say "It's been like this for 9 years, then what's 9 more?" ...

Yes, it's probably burning more fuel than it could be.
 
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Old 12-14-13, 04:27 PM
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does this look to be wired right?
What I see in that picture is an oil burner primary control, an R8184G, and I don't see any issues with the wiring.

There's a jumper on the T T terminals as there should be, the yellow wires from your cad cell are on the F F terminals as they should be.
 
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Old 12-17-13, 01:25 PM
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Update: I have not yet replaced the gauge, as my dad, who helps me with this stuff and is the one with sweating pipes skills, doesn't want to do this during the heating season. I have to agree, but if my plumber calls me back, I'll ask him to do it. Anyway, I've now set the aquastat at a high of 170 and low of 150, with the differential still at 10 as it has been. I got a hold of my brother-in-law's infrared thermometer and checked it all out in action. The low on the gauge read 160, and I missed what temp the circulator kicked on at, but it hovered around 180 for a long period. Finally, burner and circulator kicked off at 200 when thermostat upstairs reached temperature I had set. When it turned off at 200, I took a reading inside the boiler under the outer fascia (so to speak) and under the insulation. The infrared thermometer read 215. Incidentally, the infrared reads 208 when the gauge reads 210, so they're not too far off. Definitely seems like the aquastat is bad- at least on the hi setting side.
Attached is a photo of the aquastat wiring if it is of interest.
 
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Old 12-17-13, 03:01 PM
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Infra-red thermometers are a great thing... BUT... they do have their drawbacks.

This article has some good tips and pointers to get the most accurate readings, pay particular attention to the part about EMISSIVITY. The charts that give emissivity of different materials aren't in there, but the tip about painting a flat black spot on the object to be measured is.

Infrared Thermometer

Copper piping will give particularly inaccurate readings. Cast Iron will be very close.

In lieu of flat black paint, you can even use black electrical tape.

But yeah, it does sound like your a'stat is off a bit... and I would not be at all surprised if you find that the sensing bulb is not all the way at the bottom of the well, and/or that the bulb is a loose fit inside the well.

Replacement a'stats often come with a small tube of 'heat conductive paste' that they recommend be squeezed into the well to help with the heat transfer. I don't recommend using the whole tube because you can end up not being able to get the bulb out when the stuff dries up. A dab on the end of the bulb is a good idea though, and make sure to gently bend the capillary such that it keeps the bulb in contact with the bottom of the well.

Checking that the bulb is fully inserted is a 'freebie'. Won't cost anything but about 10-15 minutes of time.
 
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Old 12-19-13, 07:00 AM
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The Arguably Improperly Designed Hydronics System

My plumber/heating guy who lives up the street finally came over last night. Wow was that frustrating! He argued with me until he was blue in the face that the circulator HAS TO BE on the supply side- not the return. Then argued with me that the float type air vent needs to be there, despite every last site I've seen and every last diagram I've seen stating that if you have a steel expansion tank, you can't have it. Then when I spoke about the model boiler I have and the built in dip tube I believe it has. That started to at least make him question himself. When I look up my model (New Yorker S-118-AP) I can only find the AP-U series boiler from New Yorker. It looks almost identical, but they don't make it in a 118,000 BTU version. Anyway, on the AP-U series literature, they say it has a built in dip tube for positive air elimination. I'm pretty sure mine is the same, which seems to further support our proposed plumbing of the top port with the pressure relief valve being piped right to the expansion tank. Similar models from other makers illustrate this exact scenario. I'm certain this is right but the plumber has me doubting the move to plumb it this way. Here are my main resources
:
Why expansion tanks need to be understood | Hydronics content from Contractor Magazine

http://leisurelinestoves.com/files/44240843.pdf

http://www.newyorkerboiler.com/pdf/1...-U)%20w%20.pdf

There's many more- but I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the choir.
Frustrating.
Oh- and when I contacted New Yorker via their website- they replied, "contact a heating contractor." Thanks New Yorker boiler company. *****
 
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Last edited by lawrosa; 12-19-13 at 07:18 AM. Reason: Removed comment regarding boiler company....
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