Newbie question: Anything I can / should do for my forced hot water heating syst

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Old 01-30-14, 09:15 AM
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Newbie question: Anything I can / should do for my forced hot water heating syst

Here in the northeast, it's cold. We have setback thermostats on our 3 zones system for our 20 year old slant/fin S-150D healing system and set them to 60 at night and 69 during the days. It's not getting up to 68 most of the time these days.

Is the answer that it's cold outside? Could anyone share tips on things I can do to check that the system is working OK or maintenance I should be doing?

What temp should the radiators be?
What temp should the water in the boiler be (there's a drain valve on the left side of the boiler - I drained some water and it was clear - I expected it'd be dirty.
I have one of those harbor freight non-contact electronic thermometers. Anything to check?

There's a circulating pump on the boiler - how would I know if it isn't working?

Our house is pretty well insulated - I put 2 layers of R19 in the attic, caulked cracks, windows don't have drafts, etc.

I don't know if the temp / pressure gauge is working. I guess check it when system is off vs. running? what is the correct temp / pressure. Does that just unscrew to replace it? when the system is cold, I guess, right : ) ?

Here's some pictures of the unit, the circulating motor, automatic damper, etc. If you see any glaring issues, I'd appreciate the info.
 
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Old 01-30-14, 10:49 AM
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That is a pretty steep setback. Water should be running hotter unless your aqua stat is set low or you have outdoor reset. Mostly all boilers are extremely oversized anyway so you should be able to get up to 70 and beyond. Do you have rads or copper finned baseboard?
 
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Old 01-30-14, 12:11 PM
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copper finned baseboards.

you say the water should be hotter. you are basing that on the picture of the thermometer? Yeah, as compulsive as I am, I never really looked at that closely. I think it's stuck? I can drain water from the right side spigot and check the temp?

I put my hand on the circ pump. I felt something but I guess I have to turn off the thermostats and see if it feels different? If a circ pump stopped working, would you get much of any heat upstairs just by natural flow of heated water. The house is pretty comfortable, just in the 60s while outside is 5 - 10 F.
 
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Old 01-30-14, 12:24 PM
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I'll run through all your questions later this evening unless someone else gets to them first, but wanted to ask... in the internal picture of the aquastat ( the L8148E ) there is a serrated 'dial' below that rectangular brown block with the two wires on it.

There is a 'pointer' on the side of it, can you tell us what the temperature setting is?
 

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Old 01-30-14, 12:54 PM
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You would get a decent amount of natural flow, enough to keep it in the 60 range that you're at now. Are all of the zones hot near the baseboard? Usually gravity flow will only be noticed in a single zone. Even at a lower water temp you should be able to maintain 70 and beyond in your home. My house runs 150 degree water temps on a zero degree day. (This is because my boiler is soooo oversized and i put a tekmar control on my system)
 
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Old 01-30-14, 03:02 PM
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Is the answer that it's cold outside?
I will say _probably_ not. Your system should be designed and able to keep the home at setpoint down to 10F, and more likely even 0F.

With a setback of 9F, it could take HOURS to warm the house back up in the morning when it's super cold out.

What temp should the radiators be?
What ever they 'need' to be in order to keep the home warm. There could be up to 180F water INSIDE them. The outside will of course be cooler. Fin-tube baseboards won't feel that hot unless you grab onto the bare pipe. You will NOT get 180F AIR out of them!

What temp should the water in the boiler be?
It could be as high as 180-190F, depending on the setting of the temperature dial I asked about above, and how hot it 'needs' to be to keep the house warm.

I have one of those harbor freight non-contact electronic thermometers. Anything to check?
At this point, no, not really. We're still on 'fact finding mission'.

If you DO use that thermometer, be advised that the temperatures will NOT be accurate. Different materials emit infra-red energy at different rates, so depending on the material it may or may not give you good readings. A trick is to TIGHTLY wrap black electrical tape around the object you want to measure. BETTER is flat black paint.

There's a circulating pump on the boiler - how would I know if it isn't working?
This has more or less already been answered. By 'feel' is one way. It is possible for it to be warm/hot to the touch and be vibrating a bit even if it is not pumping. In that case, feeling the pipes and 'following the heat' is another way to determine.

check it [the gauge] when system is off vs. running?
The gauge should read properly whether the system is off OR running.

what is the correct temp / pressure.
The 'correct' temperature depends on variables. The boiler is only going to get as hot as it needs to in order to heat the home and shut off the thermostats calling for heat. Depending on how cold it is outside, how many feet of baseboard you have, how much heat is lost from the home... etc.

It should NOT be much above 190 or so.

It should NOT continuously run much below about 150 or so.

Does that just unscrew to replace it? when the system is cold, I guess, right : ) ?
Not that easy.

USUALLY if you unscrew them you will get hot boiler water under pressure come spraying out at you. Hot boiler water under pressure can send you to the emergency room, even to the morgue!

In order to replace that gauge one would have to shut off the boiler and allow it to cool to 100F or LESS, and then operate the proper valves in order to drop the pressure in the boiler to ZERO, and then be able to VERY QUICKLY remove the old gauge and screw in the new one, and you WILL still have water shoot out even with zero pressure in the boiler.

There is an alternative for the PRESSURE gauge... READ THIS:

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html
 
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Old 01-30-14, 03:05 PM
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BY THE WAY --- IMPORTANT!

If you have not already guessed, inside the L8148 aquastat control there is LIVE 120VAC !

DO NOT TOUCH ANY TERMINALS! YOU CAN BE KILLED!
 
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Old 01-30-14, 03:07 PM
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I can drain water from the right side spigot and check the temp?
You can, but you need to know that inside the boiler the water at one point might not be the same temperature as the water at another point, so you may or may not read the same temperature on drained water as you read on the gauge, EVEN IF THE GAUGE IS CORRECT.
 
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Old 01-30-14, 03:10 PM
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Something that any homeowner can do, service expansion tank, READ THIS:

The title talks about leaking relief valve, but the STEP BY STEP instructions for properly checking and charging your expansion tank will PREVENT it from happening. Those instructions must be followed to the LETTER. NO SHORTCUTS! As stated in the post, this should be done at LEAST every two years.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...sion-tank.html
 
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Old 01-30-14, 03:16 PM
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Is this system 'new to you' ? Have you recently moved in and this is your first winter with it?

Wondering if you have any 'history' with the system, and if you know whether or not it has always acted like this, or if it's a new development.
 
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Old 02-06-14, 08:54 AM
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sorry! How do I get the system to email me when someone replies? I had a heck of a time finding this thread again!

Even my profile didn't list it?! I saw other threads I started a couple years ago.

NJ Trooper - no, I've been here for 15+ years. Haven't done any 'maintenance' on it. I suppose there's things I should be doing? System has worked good over that time. And now that it's warned up a bit since posting this, it is getting to the set temp. So I guess it's maxed out at the lower temps - the heat being generated is <= what's needed?

But I don't know if that's the final answer. Having not done any maint on the system for so long, doing things might (would : ) get more heat out of the system?

I think the only thing I've done and that was a while ago, was take air compressor and blow dust off fins of slant fin baseboard radiators...
 
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Old 02-06-14, 09:12 AM
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How do I get the system to email me when someone replies?
Need to 'subscribe' to the thread. Two ways to do that:

At top of messages there is a " THREAD TOOLS " drop down box. One selection in that box is SUBSCRIBE TO THREAD which if you check it will email you.

In your 'user profile' there is a box you can check to AUTOMATICALLY subscribe you to threads that you start.
 
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Old 02-06-14, 09:15 AM
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So I guess it's maxed out at the lower temps - the heat being generated is <= what's needed?
That's actually unlikely. Most boilers installed in the yesteryears were way oversized. I'm betting that there's enough radiators also.

It's a very good thing to clean the baseboard fins, that makes a huge difference, maybe it's time to do it again.

Please go back over my postings and answer any questions which I asked. It looks like there may have just been the one in post #4 where I asked about the setting of the temp dial inside the aquastat...
 
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Old 02-09-14, 08:52 AM
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Sorry for missing that question about the setting! THANK YOU for being so helpful! Here's a picture. Seems the arm is set at about 160? That's 180 above the arm and 140 below it.

Funny - the thermometer has been at 150 whenever I look... till I went to take this picture. Then it seemed to be 160. and as I watched it, it dropped to 150, as if it was saying 'doh, he caught me being some other number. Quick, back to 150 : )'
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:05 AM
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The 'arm' is a 'stop' not the setting.

The setting is in the 'middle' of the window. You say that's 180 in the middle there? that's what it's set to which is fine.

Is that the 'inner' side of the dial? There should be a 'pointer' shaped like a " V " above the dial, I can't tell from the pic if you are looking at the correct side.

The system will only run the burner until the heat call is satisfied. In many cases the boiler won't get 'up to' the HIGH LIMIT setting because the thermostat will satisfy before it does.

The thermometer on the boiler may not be accurate. Give it a 'finger flick' to see if the reading jumps to something different.
 
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Old 02-09-14, 10:48 AM
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inner side of the dial? Do you mean the inner side of the frame that holds the dial? That;s closed on that side. these pictures are from the left side of the aquastat, the only side that's open to view the dial. I turned the dial a bit for the picture. there's a bump in the dial. is that the v you talk about? So that's about 190 degrees? In theory, the water temp should get higher now?

The thermometer is saying 130 now (with the system off during the day), so lets go with it reading the right temp, or at least not stuck.

So back to the base of the original question - Is there anything I should be doing to check performance / check operation?

I remember I had an oil fired steam boiler with an auto and manual fill system. it had a glass tube I could see the water level and make sure it was at the right level.

I think I have an auto fill system on this? I drained some water (about a quart) from the boiler drain valve on the left a week ago. Is there a way to tell there's enough water in the system?

I remember growing up, we had a forced hot water system like this one and my dad would keep paying to have the circ pump replaced every couple years because he wouldn't oil it. But then finally got one that didn't require oiling. I think I have that type? It's been years of no maintenance and its working.

our gas bill came yesterday and it was about $310, last month was $375. suburban house 2400 squarre feet?

And with the oil fired system, there were gadgets the tech would bring to see performance. Are those available for gas fired systems?

The flames are mostly blue at the bottom of the furnace.

Is there something I should be doing to take care of this? get a pro in here?
 
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Old 02-21-14, 04:14 AM
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if I turn the dial on the aquastat when the system is on, how quick should something (the system stops running because it reached the new lower temp?) happen? seconds or longer?
 
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Old 02-21-14, 05:07 AM
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Hi Baba, sorry I seem to have missed your previous message... I'll get back to those questions in a bit, but first the temp dial on the 8148. The 'pointer' is circled in this photo:

Name:  8148 temp setting.jpg
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This is pointing to approximately 185.
 
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Old 02-21-14, 05:16 AM
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Is there a way to tell there's enough water in the system?
It's based on system pressure.

When the system is COLD, you should have a MINIMUM of 12 PSI on the gauge, and when HOT (say 180F) the pressure might be 5-8 PSI higher due to expansion of the water. If the system pressure is pushing 25 or so, need to investigate the condition of the expansion tank and it's air charge.

You need to know that your gauge is accurate... I posted this link earlier:

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

Also this link with instructions on how to PROPERLY check the air charge in your expansion tank:

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...sion-tank.html
 
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Old 02-21-14, 05:22 AM
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But then finally got one that didn't require oiling. I think I have that type?
Yes, you do. Taco 007, no maintenance required.

our gas bill came yesterday and it was about $310, last month was $375. suburban house 2400 squarre feet?
Sounds high to me. I don't think I spend that much on OIL per month! But I presume that you are also cooking, heating water, drying clothes with gas as well?

Take a look at the gas bill and tell us how many THERMS you burned each of those months.
 
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Old 02-21-14, 05:26 AM
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And with the oil fired system, there were gadgets the tech would bring to see performance. Are those available for gas fired systems?
Yes, combustion analysis tools. Not quite as complicated for GAS as for OIL, and the new tools are all electronic rather than the items you might have seen back in the day.

If your system has not been serviced for 15 years it could probably use a good cleaning and perhaps an adjustment...
 
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Old 02-21-14, 05:50 AM
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if I turn the dial on the aquastat when the system is on, how quick should something (the system stops running because it reached the new lower temp?) happen? seconds or longer?
Let's talk about what the aquastat actually does... the sequence of operation:

Thermostat calls to ZONE VALVE for heat.

ZONE VALVE OPENS, and when fully open calls to BOILER to provide that heat.

Aquastat responds by turning on circulator and if the boiler water is cooler than the HIGH LIMIT setting of the aquastat, the burners will fire.

At this point burners will fire until 1 of 2 things happens:

1. Thermostat satisfies BEFORE water temperature in boiler reaches HIGH LIMIT setting of aquastat and the entire system shuts down... burners AND pump.

2. Call for heat continues long enough for boiler water to reach the HIGH LIMIT setting of aquastat at which point the BURNERS will shut down, but the PUMP will continue to run.

If the heat call continues long enough, the boiler water will cool as heat is delivered to the home and when it cools approximately 10F BELOW the HIGH LIMIT setting (this is called the DIFFERENTIAL, more about this below...), the BURNERS will again fire to reheat the water back to HIGH LIMIT. PUMP continues to run.

This cycle will repeat until the heat call ends, and the burners and pump will shut off.

About the DIFFERENTIAL:

All aquastats have a DIFFERENTIAL. On many, including the 8148, this DIFF is FIXED. It is typically, depending on the exact model of aquastat, between 8 and 15 degrees.

The DIFF provides what is known as HYSTERESIS. (Google for more in depth explanation)

Basically what this means is that when the burners are ON, they will stay ON until the temperature hits the high limit temperature setpoint.

When they shut OFF, they will STAY OFF until the water cools by the amount of DIFFERENTIAL and then fire again to reheat.

This prevents rapid on-off cycling of the control.

So, to directly answer your question, if the burners are firing and say the water temperature is currently at 160F ... and you turn the dial down to that temperature, the burners should turn off almost immediately, and STAY OFF until the water cools to around 150F before firing again to reheat to 160F.

Remember that the boiler MAY NOT reach the HIGH LIMIT setpoint at all! If the heat call ends before the water reaches setpoint, the burners and pump will shut down.

I hope I've explained it clearly?
 
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