sudden air in hot water heating system

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Old 11-30-15, 02:36 AM
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sudden air in hot water heating system

I live in an apartment that is on the same level as the boiler. IT is a semi-basement apartment, but only about 2 feet below ground, but there is nothing underneath. There are 6 units in the building, each with its own loop. My apartment is just on the other side of the wall to the boiler so after leaving the boiler, my loop goes down immediately and into the wall through a storage closet before going along my entire apartment and looping back around itself. So literally, aside from where it first comes off the boiler, my loop is completely below every other loop. Even the other ground level apartment has to go up to the ceiling to make its way above the door.

When I first moved in last year, I knew the woman across the hall and her apartment was getting the running water/gurgling sounds in her pipes. REALLY bad. Worse than I have ever heard it. But I was pleasantly surprised that I was not getting that because other tenants have said it has been going on for years, so apparently the landlords don't consider it an issue worth fixing.

Our heat is on year round, and has been providing heat this fall (off and on) for about 2 months. And not only did I not hear the noise, no one else did either. Not even the ones that have heard it for years.

This all changed yesterday morning. And literally in 5 minutes. At 7:00 o'clock, my heat went on and I heard some clicking, so I went down to make sure the baseboard was away from the pipe. I had spent the last couple weeks straightening out my fins that were badly damaged because I was getting really loud ticking and pinging whenever it came out. So when I heard some, I went down to fine tune it. I mention that because since I did that, and had my ears only about a foot from the pipes, I know for certain that there was no water noise at all...just like always. But then, about 10 minutes later, the VERY next time the heat kicked on for my apartment, it was like going down the Colorado River. There was nothing gradual about it.

1. How is that possible? I know there was obvious air in the system the entire time, but why would it all of a sudden rush through the pipes after not at all this season...and not last year for me? I don't know anything about these systems, so my first thought was that maybe since I was lower than any other loop, the air rose to the top and never got a chance to enter mine. But that doesn't seem likely, plus it wouldn't explain why I AM getting it now.

2. What can I try to do since again, my landlord seems unfazed by it. Obviously I am not going to mess around with his system too much, but is there any thing I can do? OR better yet, is there any knowledge I can take to him to maybe get him to realize that what appears to be a fairly simple fix would make his heating system run more efficiently? I mean, there sounds like there is a LOT of air. And I don't see any auto-purge valve anywhere. The only expansion tank seems to be going to the potable water heater only, and there is no purge valve on top of it anyway. I can't find any bleeder valves in my baseboards. The apartment across the hall has one on each pipe where it goes up her wall to go over her door. But it looks like since I have no high point in my system, I have none. She I try bleeding from my neighbors bleeders? She was a little apprehensive when I suggested that since she is a "don't rock the boat" kid of person that puts up with a lot of crap just to avoid complaining. But if I say I got some expert opinion suggesting it might work, I think she would change her mind since the noise is worse for her. Her kitchen where the pipes are running up the wall to go above the door sounds like someone is taking a shower upstairs whenever her heat goes on. And her bedroom gets it worse than mine too.


One thing that COULD have caused this is last week the apartment across the hall had a stuck zone valve so her heat never turned off. After that was fixed, I noticed that MY heat wasn't shutting off and called the landlord the next day and he came and fixed it. I am wondering if somehow he could have accidentally done something that allowed air into my loop. The setup is a HUGE mess and I think when he first tried to fix the other apartments problem, he was switching my zone valve. Her valve is labeled Ground Floor and is the left most one in the set up. But my apartment is Apt 1 and hers is Apt 2. So I am thinking he first tried to "fix" the second one which is what screwed mine up, before he realized which was which. I also noticed today that neither of he zone valve were fulled switched back into the Automatic position. They were about 75% over. I don't know if that really matters, but neither one was anywhere near the notch on the left side that it "snaps" into. But i can't figure out why, if this was the cause, why it waited 5 days to bring the flowing water noise. It was plenty cold enough earlier in the week right after he did it that we had the heat on.

Another thing I am wondering is if maybe the landlords shut the pump off for the late spring-early fall months but leave the boiler on. Figuring that if a LITTLE heat is needed, gravity will be enough. I don't know if that makes sense, but IO know that Monday, before the problems with the heat not turning off across the hall, they WERE doing something in the boiler room. But I don't know what it was. But with this happening all of a sudden, I wonder if the pump stirred up all that air that had "settled" at the top and is circulating it through my system now too. Like I said, I don;t know enough to know if that sounds crazy or not.

And here is another weird thing. On Sunday, suddenly my neighbor's heat was stuck on again. And mine seemed to be off. I turned it all the way up to 85 and waited a bit and the pipes were lukewarm to the touch. Meanwhile, she turned hers all the way down and her pipes were hot. Then, I decided to ask her to turn hers up for a minute. I turned my down, and she turned hers all the way up. And lo and behold, my pipes got hot! Somehow, her thermostat controlled my loop! But once I got it started going on again, she turned hers back down and I turned mine back up (still well above 70 to get it to go on) and then mine started working again. Not perfectly. I have to set it about 8 degrees hotter. But once I do, it works normally. So, setting it to 78 gives me 70. Dropping down to 76 gives my 68. But at least turning it up will make the heat go on. So I can't explain THAT either.


So like I said, I am looking for something I can either try myself that is idiot proof, or if not that, any knowledge that I can take to the landlord to see that something really should be done not just for our benefit, but for his too. Aside from me and the other apartment, all the other tenants are long term (10+ years) so I think he gets a little complacent figuring that no one is going to leave. Especially because my city is going to hell in handbasket and if you move, you never know if you are going to be living in the same place as a drug dealer, gang member, etc. So no one here WANTS to move since we are all quiet, and all are professionals or retired. But I can sleep with this rushing water all night long for the next 4+ months.
 
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Old 11-30-15, 03:21 AM
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Cant help you too much as its your landlords issue and he needs to fix it.

But as for the air, if you see no exp tank it may mean its a steel tank in the ceiling. This tank may be water logged and needs to be drained.


And all air bleeders should be closed. These are the AAV type. If left open the system may be sucking in air.



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Old 11-30-15, 03:42 AM
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I don't see any bleeders at all around the whole messy set up. But everything is one big jumbled mess. The wiring to al the zone valves literally looks like a plate of spaghetti. And the pipes are weaving through each other.

And I am not sure any tank could be in the ceiling since it is not a drop ceiling or anything so wouldn't it be too big? Plus, all the loops are already split before going into the ceiling. Wouldn't the input for an expansion tank be just one line coming off the boiler.

I am really confused about the one tank I see. IT is being fed by the incoming city line. Then going INTO the boiler. And it is slightly hot when it comes out of the tank, but the pipe coming in is room temperature (presumably cold water coming in, but with it not flowing it has warmed up in the hot room) with it definitely being hotter coming out. Not burning hot..but significantly hotter. That doesn't make sense, does it? Nothing would be expanding at that point. So maybe it is not an expansion tank at all. But what would the need be for a cylindrical tank between the city line and the boiler?
 
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Old 11-30-15, 10:48 AM
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What you are describing is a pressure tank. A few pictures would be beneficial.
http://www.doityourself.com/forum/el...-pictures.html
 
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Old 11-30-15, 07:31 PM
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This is the set up. That tank is obviously not an expansion tank like I thought. Once I was able to follow the lines coming in, I realized that the line coming in is the city water, which his being split (not pictured) to go to the potable water heater, and then also to this tank, which then goes into the boiler. So am I correct in thinking that the switch that is right before it is the pressure reducer?

As for the general overview of the entire system..don't say I didn't warn you. That is why I had so much trouble figuring out where things were going or coming from. IT is like those games in kids coloring/activities books where you have to determine which of the 4 strings is going to the kite and the whole page is just a jumbled mess of lines.

And for the record, my zone valve is the one with no cover on it.

I finally found the auto air purge valve. It is hidden behind the main outlet pipe on the boiler. Of course, it is pretty much useless. I don't know how old the boiler is, but the potable water heater has a sticker estimating the yearly cost of operation. And let's just say it is estimating it based on gas prices from 1984! (It's also only a 40 gallon tank for a 6 unit building with 8-9 people living here. Which explains why I have to be in and out of the shower in 3 minutes if I don't want to freeze to death.

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Old 11-30-15, 08:13 PM
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That looks like an indirect water heater on the right of the boiler.

That is the expansion tank for the boiler as far as I can see.

I dont see the air purger.

Possibly the PSI in the boiler is low..

That type system needs and uses working air purgers.. Possibly when they worked on the system as you said they introduced air into the system. It will find its way out if the air purgers are working..

You really need to talk to the landlord. If you touch anything you would be held liable..

Others here that are landords may chime in...
 
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Old 11-30-15, 11:45 PM
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Oh, I'm not touching anything in there other than unscrewing the one purger I found and immediately screwing it back tightly when air gave way to pretty freely flowing (drizzling, but a steady drizzle) water. I just feel like with most "cut every corner" landlord, the most I can show I know about the situation, the more likely he may actually do something. But I definitely don't plan on actually messing around with anything. I doubt I would touch that mess if it was MY house. I'd immediately have a professional clean up that mess no matter what the cost.

The pressure was pretty steady at 15 PSI whenever I looked at it Sunday and Monday. But in the last few hours, I have noticed it fluctuate between 12 and about 18. I'm just going to assume that is normal since as far as I know, no one came to do anything to it today.

Right now, I am having the same issue that I had last Tuesday. My thermostat is all the way to the left, yet heat is pumping out like crazy. 75 degrees even with three windows slightly open in 30 degree weather. I really wish I knew what they did last Monday to cause this whole mess, because it was working perfectly for the past two months. Unless maybe it was air locked on the 3rd floor. But if that was the case, I would have thought they would have called long before last week.

For the record, the one auto-purge I could find is hiding behind the main outlet line out of the boiler. Just to the right of it. Here is a close up. Doesn't seem like the best place for it. To me anyway. Which may be why it obviously doesn't work. I honestly think there are YEARS worth of built up air in the pipes. Either that or there is some place that is constantly letting air in whenever it gets purged. I jus would have LOVED it if it was just a matter of "Hey, I found the auto-purge. Loosening it will gradually let all the air out and get any new air out in the future." But it's never that simple, is it.

I'm just still completely stumped as to why I never had the sound last year when at least 2 other apartments did, but now I am also getting it. Could there have been air that was not quite locking up the system on the third floor but was staying up there and somehow it got pushed through all at once so all that air got reintroduced to the entire system

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Old 12-07-15, 04:32 AM
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Strangely, the air sounds have seemed to stop just as suddenly as they started. But again, only for me. Or at least, not for the woman across the hall. Don't know about the others. Nothing was done because I know the landlords didn't come by at all last week. But once day both myself and the woman across the hall were having major issues with the heat. Hers wasn't turning off and mine wasn't turning on. And then when she turned hers up, MINE went on. But then mine stayed on the rest of the night too. By the next morning, it seemed to be working again, and I guess hers did too because neither of us called and he definitely never came because one of us would have heard it. But that next day after the problems, I heard a LITTLE air in the pipes, but much less. And after that day, nothing.

Now if only I can get the landlords to allow the gas company to swap out the gas meter that is creating a ghostly moaning sound in my apartment. The gas company said they had no problem swapping it out for a new one, but the landlords never returned their call to set up a time since they would have to come in to each apartment after to relight the pilot lights on the ovens. An that was last April or so when it would have been much easier to put the new one in. We could have easily gone without heat for an hour or so while it was being done. But oh well..my rent covers electric, so they are paying for me to keep a fan on for hours at a time to block out the moaning noise for the next 4 months. I sort of hope a icicle falls on the meter and damages it more so they HAVE to replace it. And considering the gutters right above the meter are either clogged or bent which caused massive cascades of water any time it rained over the summer, that is a very definite possibility.
 
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