One zone not heating


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Old 02-17-15, 06:02 AM
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One zone not heating

Hi guys, I came across this forum while researching an issue i am having with my boiler. I am a new home owner and this is my first boiler system. It is a 27 year old weil-mclain system, which heats a 3 bedroom 1400 sq foot home. The master bedroom and the two guest bedrooms have been cold the past few days and i decided to look into it. It appears that water is not going through the pipes, and the master bedroom pipe feels just warm as i feel it. It appears to be divided into three zones but we have four thermostats - i am thinking the master bedroom zone actually heats the other two bedrooms. The thermostats are located as follows - basement, living room (heats kitchen and living room), hallway (heats guest bedrooms?) and master bedroom (heats master and master bath). Unfortunately I did not play around with it enough before the problem occurred to figure out which thermostat heats which room.

I will attempt to explain the picture of the front view of the boiler. The very first pipe on the left is my cold water intake (with the red turn knob). It has a newer backflow preventer installed which is currently plugged. There are three taco boxes - the first appears to go to the basement, the second is the master bedroom (and possibly guest bedrooms) and the third is the living room and kitchen. As far as i can tell, i only have two levers - the green one to the right of the first taco box another green one that can be seen in the other pictures. There is a spout and turn knob by the second lever and i believe that is where water is supposed to drain if i bleed the system. I'm a little confused as i would expect to see a lever associated with each taco box. And of course on the backside view, the little box below the front lever is to control outside water pressure coming into the system. I'm guessing since i only see two levers, they control water input and output to the boiler. Does this mean i would have to bleed the entire system? (if i cant isolate the zones)

Any help would be appreciated!! Thanks
 
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Old 02-17-15, 06:41 AM
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It has a newer backflow preventer installed which is currently plugged.
What's the point of installing a backflow preventer if someone puts a plug in the vent? That should be remedied.

There are three taco boxes
Those are your "Zone Valves"

You need to have the leaking flange at the circ pump repaired.

OK, on to the problem at hand...

My first thought is always frozen pipes.

Did this problem occur suddenly with the onset of the frigid air?
 
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Old 02-17-15, 07:22 AM
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Hi NJ Trooper, thank you for the quick reply.
Regarding the backflow preventer, I agree. During the home inspection, the inspector mentioned that it is installed incorrectly and should be fixed at some point. We bought the house in November and haven't made any changes to the boiler.

The flange is the now corroded piece that connects the circ pump to the pipe right? As you mention, must be due to a leak. Since we bought the house, the bedroom baseboards have worked. With the frigid temps last week it has been noticeably colder in the bedrooms, and now the baseboards do not work. The master bedroom had been noticeably louder when the water flowed through - sounded like clicking, but not bubbling or gurgling to my knowledge. Definitely more noticeable than the kitchen and living room. That is what made me think there might be air in the pipes preventing flow. But it could also be frozen pipes as we keep the thermostats around 60 when we are not home and it seems the boiler in general cannot keep up with the cold temps (i need to get an energy audit at some point and seal any air leaks to the outside).

To the best of my knowledge everything looks original except that backflow. The boiler appears to have been serviced last year by the company that installed the new backflow (incorrectly). The inspector mentioned that the circ pump is typically replaced every 10 years, not sure how true that is. If this problem is due to frozen pipes, is there anything i can do to fix it? (and if not myself, should i call someone?). If i can't fix it, should i expect symptoms of frozen pipes like leaking?

Thanks again
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:37 AM
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First you would need to have some idea of where the pipes are frozen, if that is in fact the problem. Do you have one of those IR thermometers? Find the coldest spot and start there. Usually in places like outside corners, behind furniture is where I would look first. Become the water... if you were water, where would you freeze?

If this problem is due to frozen pipes, is there anything i can do to fix it?
Gotta thaw the pipes of course... do you have any electric space heaters? point them at the baseboards. Standard precautions of course... don't start a dang fire!

Another thing that can work... the exhaust from a vacuum cleaner is usually pretty warm. If you can put the hose on the exhaust port, point it at the baseboard, direct the warm exhaust down inside the cabinet.

If i can't fix it, should i expect symptoms of frozen pipes like leaking?
It's always possible that a pipe has ruptured... kinda common actually... You might want to visually inspect all the piping as best you can with a flashlight and a mirror.

This is typically what you would find:


image courtesy applewoodfixit.com
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:40 AM
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Continuing to presume a frozen pipe, but it could still be air blockage... or perhaps an air blockage that limited flow and allowed the pipes to freeze...

But it could also be frozen pipes as we keep the thermostats around 60 when we are not home
I guess the best advice is to not do that anymore! When it's this cold out, it's less costly and less trouble at the end of the game to leave the heat up and spend a few dollars on fuel than it is to have to repair, or pay someone to repair, frozen pipes.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:43 AM
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The inspector mentioned that the circ pump is typically replaced every 10 years, not sure how true that is.
Dunno about that... I guess if you're a preventative maintenance pro-active kinda guy, it would be a good idea, but typically they are replaced when they stop working. I had one here went for about 25 years before the boiler itself was replaced. I've seen them much older.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:45 AM
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The flange is the now corroded piece that connects the circ pump to the pipe right?
Yes. There's a rubber gasket between the pump and the flange. They dry out over time and start to 'weep'. You often won't even see water because it evaporates quickly.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:56 AM
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Have you tried to open the zone valves manually with the lever on the side to be sure they are working?
Just a thought
Geo
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:58 AM
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If you want to verify that the pipe is frozen before going to all kinds of trouble...



Attach a hose to a bucket to the drain valve with the black handle.

Turn all thermostats down so all zone valves are closed.

Turn power off to boiler.

On each zone valve is a 'lever' that will allow you to manually open the valve.

CLOSE the ball valve below the drain (the 'lever' valve with the blue? handle above the pump)

I think you said that you don't know which zone valve is for which zone, but you need to push the lever on the zone valve to the manual open position and then OPEN the drain valve.

You will feel resistance when you push the lever, lock it into the MAN position.

If you get flow, the zone is not frozen.

If you get a 'spurt' and the pressure drops right off, the zone is frozen.

Here's what you are doing...

With that ball valve CLOSED, you have created a 'roadblock' to the water that feeds in directly below the ball valve.

The water is then forced to flow through the pump, into the boiler, up the pipe, through the zone, down the return, past the manually open zone valve, and out the drain.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 09:03 AM
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Edit: just saw new posts by you and Geo. Geo, I tried switching the one not getting water from Automatic to Open, but i did not turn the boiler off. It did not appear to do anything.

Thanks so much for all of this info, you are awesome! So based on difficulty of tasks, i'm guessing examining the pipes and attempting to thaw them would be the first order of business. Last night, I did check the master bedroom and a guest bedroom for a manual bleeder by removing the metal covers but there were only elbows going into the floor. I did not check the bathroom however.

Since we have 4 thermostats with 3 piped zones, is it likely that the bedrooms are all on 1 big loop since they all stopped working? If so, then any of those rooms could be frozen, and in multiple spots. This is a split level home and the bedrooms are above the garages, so I'm still trying to figure out the design of the piping. I'm guessing i don't want to try to bleed it if it is partly frozen. Based on having only two levers to control water, it would probably bleed all of the pipes since the zones are not truly isolated?

Thanks again. I am at work now and will be looking at this when i get home. I have 1 space heater, and will probably pick up an IR Thermometer from HD on the way home.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 09:31 AM
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Thanks NJ Trooper this makes complete sense! In the picture, it is the zone valve on the pipe with the red paint that would need to be set to OPEN. This would also clear out any air, right? Let it run for some time to cycle in new water and push out air.

If it is frozen, then i need to thaw it and possibly reintroduce water since some may have been lost in the initial test you described?

thanks!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 09:58 AM
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the bedrooms are above the garages
Oh........... I'm getting more down with the frozen pipe theory. Split levels with garages below are often problematic in this sense. Usually poorly insulated and the pipes may run through very cold areas subject to freezing.

we have 4 thermostats with 3 piped zones
This is very odd! Maybe the 4th thermostat is not hooked up? Have you found all four sets of thermostat wires in the boiler room? Is it possible that 2 of the thermostats are connected in parallel so that either one can call for heat on a single zone? ( a logical OR condition )

Based on having only two levers to control water, it would probably bleed all of the pipes since the zones are not truly isolated?
You should be able to individually purge each of the zones with the previous method.

The water will only flow through the zone on which you have an opened zone valve. So if you were to need to purge all three (which is unlikely, usually only needs to be done at initial start up) you would just open one zone valve at a time.

I'm guessing i don't want to try to bleed it if it is partly frozen
Partly? You mean in only one spot? You won't be ABLE to bleed it because you won't get any flow. But the previous test would confirm frozen. If it's AIR, you will get flow.

This would also clear out any air, right? Let it run for some time to cycle in new water and push out air.
Yes, if that is (hopefully) the problem... but...

CAUTION!

If the boiler is HOT allow it to cool to 100F or less before running a lot of COLD water through it.

In the previous tests, if you DO get flow through that zone when you open the valve, STOP and let the boiler cool before purging the zone!

You do NOT want to crack the boiler!

ALSO, when purging air, it helps to have HIGHER PRESSURE in the boiler than the pressure reducing valve provides. There is a lever on the top of the reducing valve that when lifted bypasses the regulator portion of the valve and allows a FAST FLOW of water through.

When you purge a zone, you lift that lever while watching the pressure gauge on the boiler. Stay around 25 PSI. You can 'modulate' the lever to maintain that pressure.

One more thing to point out.

When you introduce fresh water, you also introduce tons of dissolved air. When the water is heated, that air comes out of solution and forms NEW BUBBLES. Your air removal devices should take care of this over time, but it's like a 'catch 22' situation. To remove air, you add air...

It is only advisable to purge the zones when ABSOLUTELY necessary, NEVER as a 'routine practice'. That old nasty oxygen starved water is what you want in the system.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 10:02 AM
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Speaking of air removal devices, I only see ONE in your pictures...



That white cruddy looking thing hiding behind that pipe at the lower left.

There is a cap on top of that which must be LOOSE if air is to escape when it is caught.

Yours appears to have been leaking and my bet is that the cap is closed tight to prevent the leakage.

It's common for those things to only last a few years or so...

You may have to replace that (in the spring).

I don't see any other air removal devices on your system. Do you?
 
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Old 02-17-15, 10:21 AM
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Regarding air:
I will have to take a look at the cap - if it is closed then air caught is not escaping, and when caught air builds up enough, it will just stay in the pipes then which is a possible cause of my problem? I cant remember that specific area so this question may not make sense - should it be loosened and then use some type of catch can to get any leaks? (and then replaced in the spring)

Regarding frozen pipes:
Initially i thought purging was something that should be done yearly to ensure extra air does not end up in the pipes, resulting in coming home or waking up to a cold house or zone. Based on your notes, this is not the case then? Just want to make sure I am understanding correctly!

So i would only run the purge "test" for a few seconds to check water flow so i don't introduce too much cold water at once. If it fails, pipes are frozen.Otherwise wait until it cools to < 100f, purge the zone by adding a little extra pressure by raising the little stick lever on the reducer valve installed near my backflow preventer, let it run for a few minutes into a bucket until there are no spurts (extra air), reset reducer valve and close the drain spout, move zone control from open to auto, open level to allow it to recirc to boiler.

Overall:
Can the closed cap actually cause the water not to flow, resulting in frozen pipes? Will purging help if that cap is tight?

Thanks!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 10:50 AM
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I will have to take a look at the cap - if it is closed then air caught is not escaping, and when caught air builds up enough, it will just stay in the pipes then which is a possible cause of my problem?
Correct.

should it be loosened and then use some type of catch can to get any leaks? (and then replaced in the spring)
You can leave it closed most of the time, then open it periodically to let the air in the can out, and close it again until you have chance to replace it.

In other words, operate it as a manual vent.

It's possible that there is so much mineral build up inside the valve that the air won't come out... just something to keep in mind.

If you are familiar with how a carburetor (remember those?) float works, that thing is basically the same principle. There is a float inside that drops when air is collected. When float drops, valve opens, air is vented. Water comes into can after air is out, float goes up, valve closes.

Based on your notes, this is not the case then? Just want to make sure I am understanding correctly!
Yes, correct. If the air vent devices are working properly, there is no need to purge the system yearly (or EVER).

So i would only run the purge "test" for a few seconds to check water flow so i don't introduce too much cold water at once. If it fails, pipes are frozen. Otherwise wait until it cools to < 100f, purge the zone by adding a little extra pressure by raising the little stick lever on the reducer valve installed near my backflow preventer, let it run for a few minutes into a bucket until there are no spurts (extra air), reset reducer valve and close the drain spout, move zone control from open to auto, open lever to allow it to recirc to boiler.
Also correct. You're a quick learner!

Keep the end of the hose submerged in the bucket so you can see when the air stops coming.

One last thing... you said it right, just want to point out that the order is important:

reset reducer valve and close the drain spout
Yes, in that order. If you close the drain FIRST and then release the fast fill lever, you may have a bit too much pressure in the boiler and the relief valve may spew when it heats up.

By releasing the lever FIRST, you avoid that scenario.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 10:52 AM
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When you get home and are at the boiler, snap a pic of where the red expansion tank is connected to the system. I don't see that in any of the pics, only the bottom of the tank (or is it the top? is your tank HANGING, or standing on it's head?)

[wait... I just looked back at the pics... I think it's mounted horizontally? down on the floor? That ain't right, but more on that after you get the problem at hand fixed. I still want to see how it's connected to the system though]

You MIGHT have another air removal device there...

Then, you will need to know this info at some point, so read these and file for future reference:

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...sion-tank.html

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html
 
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Old 02-17-15, 11:27 AM
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Thanks again for all of your help!

Yes I wish I took a better picture of the tank. In the picture of the tank by itself, it is hard to tell where it is and its orientation. In the very first picture of my original post you can barely see it in the background. It is slightly elevated off the floor in a horizontal position next to the boiler. I am pretty sure it is not directly resting on the floor but I can confirm later.

Thanks for those links as well, I will read and learn about that.

So when I get home, I will do the following:
1 - examine cap
if it is closed tight, then manually vent caught air by opening cap and then closing it. raise thermostat in zone to see if water now flows in those pipes. Should I expect any type of pressure that has built up in case it has not been able to vent itself? Or is it usually not noticeable.

2 - purge test (opening and closing the cap fails)

2a - If there is a mineral build up blocking the valve, then purging the zone is just a "quick fix" and air will build up again and not be released. Is that valve something that is easily replaced, or worth a service call? if that is really my only air vent, then other zones could encounter the same problem with air not being released, and then those zones needing to be purged?

2b - purge test failed = frozen pipes.
find frozen areas with IR Therm, thaw with space heater (i only have a 1500w tower one, it may not be enough directed heat). The vacuum trick might work tho. after thawing pipes, water should flow. if it still does not, there could be an air problem which requires the zone to be purged if the cap venting did not work

my only hope right now is that i didn't wait too long to investigate this, which may have caused more problems - the stuck cap does not vent air, causing water not to flow, allowing water to freeze in the pipe in that zone over 3-5 days.

overall, does this sound like the correct process?

thanks!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 11:31 AM
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Trooper,
Take a look at his back flow preventer in post #13.(discharge)
 
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Old 02-17-15, 11:34 AM
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Yeah... see my comment in post #2.

He's already aware of that, came up on the home inspection report...
 
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Old 02-17-15, 01:49 PM
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nothing happened when i removed the cap. i put it back how it was. here are more pictures of the tank
 
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Old 02-17-15, 02:13 PM
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overall, does this sound like the correct process?
Yes, it does.

1 - examine cap
if it is closed tight, then manually vent caught air by opening cap and then closing it. raise thermostat in zone to see if water now flows in those pipes. Should I expect any type of pressure that has built up in case it has not been able to vent itself? Or is it usually not noticeable.
As you've found, no... either air or water, or neither, will come out, but not under any kind of great pressure.

Just letting air out of that vent wouldn't help a zone that has an air blockage already in it.

Is that valve something that is easily replaced, or worth a service call? if that is really my only air vent, then other zones could encounter the same problem with air not being released, and then those zones needing to be purged?
It is easily replaced, but that easy for me to say. How difficult it is for you depends on your confidence and skills. You would need to relieve the pressure in the boiler by shutting off the water supply and opening a drain until there is no pressure in the boiler.

You would want to close any and all valves that would help to keep the water up in the system.

Then, it is possible to replace without having to drain the boiler... but you need to be QUICK ABOUT IT! Have the new one where you can put your hand on it with ONE and NOT MORE THAN TWO wraps of teflon tape on the threads. (I don't like tape myself, I would use Rectorseal #5 pipe dope). NO TAPE OR DOPE on the first two threads! You don't want that stuff blocking the opening!

Loosen the old one, have a thumb (or a helper's thumb) ready to put over the hole as soon as you take it off. You WILL get water due to gravity, but you won't have pressure.

Then quick like a bunny, remove the thumb and thread the new vent it place.

Open all the valves you closed, turn the water back on, repressurize boiler, check for leaks.

You shouldn't have to tighten that vent much more than hand tight.



I have little doubt that tank hasn't had it's air charged checked in years... and is probably ripe for replacement.

If and when you have the boiler de-pressurized to change that vent, you should make it a point to service that tank.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 02:44 PM
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okay cool, thanks. im going to purge - is it normal boiler temp rises when all thermostats are down? you mentioned to turn them all down and then turn off the boiler. i did that and the boiler kept running and the temp rose to 210f, is this expected? thanks!

edit: that is just the gas burner switch. to turn off boiler, i can use electrical panel

edit2: both electrical panel and gas burner emergency are switched off and i still see a flame in the boiler. am i doing something wrong?

i removed the paneling and see a switch that says on, off and pilot - do i need to switch off?
 

Last edited by JD284; 02-17-15 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 02-17-15, 03:11 PM
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i did that and the boiler kept running and the temp rose to 210f, is this expected? thanks!
The main burner should not have been firing if the thermostats were all the way down.

i still see a flame in the boiler. am i doing something wrong?
That's probably the pilot flame, that's OK to keep that burning... it's just a single small flame, right?
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:12 PM
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that is just the gas burner switch. to turn off boiler, i can use electrical panel
You mean a switch with a red plate ? That should be enough to cut off the power to the boiler.

The pilot will keep burning though. As previous, OK, no problem.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:14 PM
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all thermostats are down, the gas emergency switch is off, it is switched off in the electrical panel. the only thing on is the switch under the panel which has on/off/pilot options. it is a small blue flame. the gauge says 190F and same pressure of 22. when the gas switch was flipped it was quieter after
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:15 PM
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I wouldn't worry about purging... if the other zones are working, leave them alone.

Just do the test to determine if that zone is frozen or not.

One thing at a time!

I'm going to ask more questions later on, but let's focus on the problem at hand for now.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:17 PM
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when the gas switch was flipped it was quieter after
That probably means that the main burners were firing when you hit the switch.

One of the thermostats was probably calling for heat, probably the zone that has no heat... it can't get warm so the thermostat keeps calling.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:20 PM
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Is your domestic water heater a stand-alone? Or does your boiler also provide your domestic hot water?
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:22 PM
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thanks. it is stand alone. i opened the spout a little and there is water coming out that is lukewarm, and only the zone not working is set to open
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:25 PM
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psi remains unchanged and opening the valve more, it is still a trickle of water. not sure if it is supposed to gush out or not based on how open the knob is

just opened the knob all the way and it still trickles into my bucket. sometimes it is not consitent, it slows and then speeds up. seems like there isnt much water in it, but what is in it is lukewarm. when water does come out it makes a glug glug glug sound like when you pour a water bottle
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:35 PM
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I have to say that zone appears to be frozen.

You should get a good solid stream of water under pressure.

The reason it seems to be starting and stopping is because you are draining the pipe going up. Air is going in, water is coming out.

Stop there... proceed to try and find the frozen section(s) and try to thaw them out.

You should have an emergency plan though in case you DO manage to get them thawed and find out that now you have a major leak, and NO HEAT in the rest of the home!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:40 PM
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so i should not play with the pressure valve while the spout is open? it seems like all water is drained.
i will take a look at the pipes in the rooms now. thanks!

also, upon flipping the ball valve to open up flow to the boiler i hear a rush of water. should i not open it all the way, and let it in slowly? edit: scratch that, it lasted only a second
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:42 PM
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Let's talk about that emergency plan...

In this pic:



I believe that the green handled ball valve is the supply pipe to the basement baseboards, is that correct?

The bigger pipe that continues up, that's the hot supply out of the boiler (the zone valves and pump are on the return to the boiler).

That bigger pipe has to branch out to the different zones.

Are there any shutoff valves up there?

If you do have a ruptured pipe, you are going to need a way to isolate that zone by valves if you expect to continue to run the boiler.

Can you take more pics? Show me everything.

Also, when you get a chance, tell me the model of the boiler (look for a silver plate with data)
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:54 PM
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That is correct, the green one controls the supply to the basement baseboards and the big pipe is the hot water supply that goes everywhere else. i only see two ball valves - to the basement baseboards, and the return supply to the boiler. there are two knobs to shut off the input water supply. I don't see any other ball valves.Name:  IMG_0857.jpg
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sorry, pics rotated themselves 90 deg in the wrong direction
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:01 PM
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I don't see any other ball valves.
Bummer...

So you need to rethink things a bit then.

Do you want to try and thaw the pipe and risk not having heat in the whole house?

It's one of those 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' decisions.

Probably not a good plan.

Does that plate say CGM 25 ?

At the lower left of that picture, there is a control with a temp dial, can you tell what that's set at?
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:06 PM
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i dont see CGM 25 anywhere - on the back of the front plate it says PC / CGM schematics. Temp is set to 180 if i am reading it correctly. I do have a home warranty plan that came with the house, is it time to look into that? not sure what the next step is. thanks so much for helping me so far!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:17 PM
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i dont see CGM 25 anywhere
On that dataplate, inside the silver box below "Boiler Model No" , what is stamped in there?

Does it have a "SERIES NUMBER" anywhere on that plate?

Temp is set to 180 if i am reading it correctly
You probably are, and 180 is fine.

I do have a home warranty plan that came with the house, is it time to look into that?
I certainly would. Check the policy to see what is covered. If frozen pipes are, call them right away. Even if it doesn't say so, call them anyway. Might as well use it if you can!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:20 PM
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i dont see one i need to take a break and eat. So i should not try to use a blow dryer on the pipes underneath the baseboards to thaw them? i know it could be frozen anywhere
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:25 PM
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So i should not try to use a blow dryer on the pipes underneath the baseboards to thaw them?
I would say no...

You don't want to open the floodgate.

That pipe could also be frozen inside the wall... or the garage ceiling if that's where they travel.

Yes, it's time to cook the food... hungry!
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:51 PM
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Any high volume fan you might have for summer will work, It's just Mass*DeltaT.
 
 

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