Hot water boiler system - Chilly 2nd floor

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  #1  
Old 12-03-19, 11:48 AM
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Hot water boiler system - Chilly 2nd floor

Hello, and thanks in advance.


I have a hot water boiler with old-school radiators. The boiler was installed in 2010 and as far as I know is in working condition. My problem is that the 2nd floor of my house is 5-6 degrees colder than the 1st floor. In some locations the difference is closer to 8-9 degrees. These are the knowns:
  1. The radiators on the 1st floor are about 120 degrees when the system is active (temp taken with laser thermometer on the surface of the radiator pipe.) Several of the radiators on the 2nd floor are also about 120 degrees. The others are 108, 112 and 118.
  2. I have a consistent square foot to radiator fin ratio throughout the 2 floors.
  3. Boiler water temperature is 120 degrees and pressure is 20psi (according to gauge).
  4. Radiators are bled and consistently hot. No cold spots.
  5. From the boiler I have essentially two runs of piping, one for the North side of the house and one for the south. After the initial branch, every radiator has its own supply and return back to the main branch.
  6. Windows are decent.
  7. House built in 1916, so essentially no insulation. Above the second floor is a partially finished attic. At all four corners of the house there is an unfinished, uninsulated attic space. Its fairly large. Ceilings are 6í at the wall and taper down to floor, widths are about 10íx6í.
  8. We have a large front and back porch with a pitched roof attached to outside foundation of the house. There is a cavity between the pitched roof and porch ceiling. Inside that cavity there are gaps where the joists between 1st and 2nd floor extend through the foundation. We definitely have cold air entering through those gaps. The floor of the 2nd floor is quite cold.
  9. The thermostat is located on the 1st floor.

So Iím guessing that insulating the four corners of the attic and the gaps in the porch cavity are a top priority.


But Iím wondering if there is anyone that can fill me in on the physics of the hot water boiler system itself. Is my pressure good? Is my temp good? Is flow a relevant factor? Also, I have valves at the base of each radiator. I have never operated them because I donít know if they work or exactly what they do. Likewise, I have valves on both of the supply lines and both of the return lines in the basement. 3 of the 4 valves are fully open, and the fourth valve is mostly open. These are the valve positions that the boiler installer set and I havenít changed them, again because I donít know exactly what they do.

Thanks again.
Mike

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Last edited by PJmax; 12-05-19 at 06:27 PM. Reason: resized pictures
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  #2  
Old 12-03-19, 01:14 PM
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How the boiler is controlled - is it zoned with thermostats for each zone, or just one thermostat for the whole house? Your boiler temperature gauge shows 100 deg F. Is that as high as it gets with the boiler operating? If so, it should be around 175 deg.
 
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Old 12-03-19, 01:59 PM
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No zones, just one thermostat for the whole house. I know zoning would allow the boiler to keep running until the 2nd floor reaches the set temperature, but I'm hoping I can improve the situation without zoning. Due to cost.

I took the picture after the system had shut off. Normally the temp gauge reads about 120 degrees when it is on. The display screen on the boiler itself also indicates system temperature of 120 degrees when it is on.

If I'm getting 120, and you're saying it should be 175, thats a pretty significant difference.
 

Last edited by Roro123; 12-03-19 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 12-03-19, 02:18 PM
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No, the temp should run around 175 deg, not 150. 120 deg is too low. Jacking up the temp setting should be relatively simple, but without knowing much more about your system, it's difficult to say how.
 
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Old 12-03-19, 04:15 PM
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It's a Lochinvar Knight boiler. I believe I can manually adjust the temperature in the system settings. If I do that, in theory, the 2nd floor should warm up faster, and the radiators will stay warmer longer, after the thermostat on the 1st floor reaches the set temperature and kicks the boiler off?

Do the valves on the radiators or basement piping play a role in this?
 
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Old 12-04-19, 06:34 AM
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First, see if increasing the system temperature helps. With your whole house on a single zone, you may have to add manual balancing valves to throttle the first-floor supply. You could experiment with pinching down on the downstairs radiator valves, but be ready for valves that are stuck due to lack of use, or stem packing leaks. Ideally, you should put the first and second floors on separate zones, each controlled by its own thermostat and zone valve - that is the best solution.
 
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Old 12-04-19, 11:24 AM
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That sounds good, thanks Gilmorrie. I'm going to do some insulation work, and increase the system temperature. I'll ask my boiler guy if there was a reason he set the system at 120 degrees. If he did it intentionally, I don't want to second guess him and screw something up.

So if I decide to adjust the valves on the first floor radiator (which I would do with caution), the idea is that I would be closing the valve somewhat in order to restrict the flow through the radiator, and heat the first floor more slowly, so that the second floor could warm up faster?
 
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Old 12-04-19, 04:35 PM
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I suggest, while you are in contact with him, that you bring out your original installer and have him look at your issues - but you should expect to pay him for his time. It's difficult to effectively work through such problems over the internet. Let us know what he says.
 
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Old 12-05-19, 10:42 AM
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Could you post pictures of a couple of the 2nd floor radiators including the inlet and outlet piping? As @ gilmorre suggested having a professional company look at the system to make sure that everything is installed correctly. Some of us that monitor this site have many years experience in the HVAC field but we are hampered with solving your problem since we can not be there to see just how the system operates. There could have a problem with the new piping arrangement or even the size of the pump. .I doubt that you will see a system temperature anywhere 180 degrees until the outdoor temps fall to near Zero. my 2 cents.
 
  #10  
Old 12-09-19, 07:35 AM
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Some radiators at about 110 degrees F while most are about 120 degrees would not ring an alarm bell in my mind.

I think you can boost the boiler temperature to at least 150-160 degrees by adjusting some controls, what I refer to is called an aquastat. Regardless of the number of zones this should be done.

Until you can get around to improving insulation including rim joist insulation between the first and second floors (or breaking up the system in separate zones) you can put blankets over part or all of some radiators to balance the heat throughout the house.

If the boiler can maintain 170-180 degrees when the outside temperature is 0 degrees, it should certainly be able to maintain 160 degrees now. You may have a "modern heat management system" that runs lower boiler temperature during less severe weather but that should be easily adjusted to give you boiler temperatures you want.
 
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