Urgently need advice re pipes in heatless home with cold wave descending

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Old 12-26-17, 08:34 PM
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Urgently need advice re pipes in heatless home with cold wave descending

For those of you not following my saga, I've been without heat since a gas boiler fire on Dec. 5 led to the local utility shutting my gas off until a) perfection was restored to the boiler and all the gas pipes in the basement and b) that perfection was certified by a NYC inspection. I've been doing everything that seemed reasonable since then to accomplish that, but have encountered a series of dismaying delays and misinformation (and outright lies and deception) in the process, and have finally decided to switch to an oil boiler-- against the unanimous opposition of everyone here at DIY, but I see no other way of preserving my house through the winter.

Meanwhile, bitter cold is descending upon NYC and I need to take immediate protective measures. Several weeks ago, I drained the boiler system (the boiler itself and all radiators), which was the most vulnerable thing in the house. But now I'm trying to deal with the pipes. I couldn't drain the hot water tank and hot water pipes because, I discovered to my chagrin, that even when the valve to the hot water heater was turned off all the way, enough water still flowed through it to make draining impossible without turning off all the water to the house, disconnecting the hot water heater and putting in a new valve. I may still do that, but meanwhile, I thought I could use the same method to prevent freezing I intend to use for the cold water pipes: running water continuously but at a very slow rate. However, I don't really know how slow is too slow to be effective, and how fast is unnecessarily fast. So my first request is: Could someone quantify it by describing how long it should take for the flow of water to fill up an 8 ounce glass? And I assume that if I let both the hot and cold water run at the same time, then that flow should fill the 8 ounce glass in half that time.

Another problem: Several of the sinks have a draining problem that I haven't been able to remedy with a drain-cleaning product and the one and only time I got a plumber in for a stubborn clog, he blew out my drain and caused a massive flood before I discovered what had happened to the drain. So my idea, which I'm sure will work if implemented properly, is to attach a tube to the spout on the sink where the water comes out and place the other end in the toilet, securely taped in place. My only uncertainty is how I should deal with the connection between the tube and the spout-- some kind of stretchy, rubbery material seems like it might be suited to the job, but I'm concerned about a secure attachment of the rubber to the tube and to the mouth of the spout. And what kind of rubber-- perhaps one of the fingers of a Playtex-type glove? Clearly, I need some advice here.

Assuming I'm able to open the stuck valve discussed in another thread, that would still leave one glaring omission-- the shower in one of the bathrooms ( the one controlled by the valve stuck in the closed position) leaks somewhere inside the wall when you turn it on, so it has not been used since the leak's discovery many years ago, when it dripped into the kitchen. If I run the water going to that bathroom (in the sink and toilet), will that help prevent freezing of the water in the pipes for the shower, even though I'm not running the water there? I also need to know how to recognize a critical situation developing in the pipes to the shower-- and what do I do then? Forget about running water in the sink and toilet and turn off the hot and cold water valves (assuming I've gotten the cold water valve open in the first place) to that bathroom? At least that will minimize any flood.

You guys can see why I'm opting for an oil boiler to be installed as soon as possible.
 
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Old 12-26-17, 09:20 PM
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A stream from the faucet about the diameter of a pencil should be more than enough flow. If you have single-lever faucets then set them in the middle to get flow from both the hot and cold piping. If individual faucets then turn one on to a slightly smaller than a pencil stream and then the other until the stream is the size of a pencil.

From the electrical to the gas and now drains it reads as if you house has a lot of deferred maintenance issues.

How are you coming along with the estimates for the oil-fired boiler installation?
 
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Old 12-26-17, 10:06 PM
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Furd, not too many companies install oil boilers these days, plus I need it urgently. I need someone who can do it very soon. Thanks for the info about the rate of flow. If I decide not to run the water continuously, do you have any idea how many minutes per hour I need to run it?
 
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Old 12-26-17, 10:46 PM
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Not sure you want my opinion, but unless you blow the boiler lines out you will probably still have pipes freeze and burst in the heating system..

Second its going to be cold next 3 weeks here east coast... Id advise also winterize the potable water lines while they're at it winterizing the boiler..

Then pack the family up and get to a relatives ...

There is such thing as an emergency install without permits...

You could of had a new gas boiler in already.. You have a no heat situation...

Someone certainly dropped the ball....Stubborn and foolish from where I sit...

Again all my opinion... You asked here on freezing and I gave you my best sound advice....

Winterize the home and get your family to safe conditions until you figure it out ...

Its 20f out now and will be 8f for the next week or so...
 
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Old 12-27-17, 04:00 PM
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lawrosa says, "Not sure you want my opinion, but unless you blow the boiler lines out you will probably still have pipes freeze and burst in the heating system.."

I don't know what you mean, lawrosa-- I thoroughly drained the radiators and boiler-- I kept draining until not a drop came out! So why will things freeze and burst in the heating system?
 

Last edited by LatestCraze; 12-27-17 at 04:00 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-27-17, 06:39 PM
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You have radiators or baseboard? Its hard to drain all the water out of horizontal piping without air pressure. If you have no heat its boaund to freeze with these temps. IDK if your using space heaters or not... Its copper pipe I assume?
 
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Old 12-27-17, 08:28 PM
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lawrosa says, "You have radiators or baseboard? Its hard to drain all the water out of horizontal piping without air pressure. If you have no heat its bound to freeze with these temps. IDK if your using space heaters or not... Its copper pipe I assume?

I have radiators, lawrosa. You're right about its being hard to drain all the water out of a heating system simply through gravity (it proceeds progressively more slowly, trying your patience for one thing) but why would I have to drain ALL the water? I thought the reason freezing in pipes or radiators in a heating system is a calamity to be avoided is that water expands when freezing and since in a filled system it occupies all the space when in a liquid state, there's no place for it to go when it freezes, so it creates a lot of pressure on metal radiators and pipes that weren't designed to withstand pressure. But if there are only a few ounces (at most) of water taking up a tiny fraction of the available space (where before there were several quarts taking up all available space), why should it be a problem if it freezes?

Yes, I am currently using three radiant heaters simultaneously (with high setting at 1500 watts and low 1250), each on its own circuit so there's no danger of overload of an individual circuit. I have a fourth heater that I use only when not using the one in the kitchen-- I'm concerned, perhaps unjustifiably, that four heaters used simultaneously may trip the amperage limit for the house. It's an odd thing, lawrosa, but I have three pieces of information about that amperage limit for my house, and they all contradict one another. First,the main switches where the lines come into the house are two in number, and each has 100 on it-- and they're not connected in any way, and move independently, I assume. So that strongly implies a 200 amp limit. But the circuit breaker box (Federal Pacific, ouch!) says 125 amp max! And 20 years ago, when I was in a similar predicament without a working boiler, I used either four or five (I can't remember) of these electric heaters simultaneously and blew the house's main switch circuit breaker. Since my total amperage at the time must have been below 75, that suggests that lower number (125 rather than 200) represents the true max. And perhaps, since there are two main switches, if I happened to have all the heaters on the line controlled by switch 1, and switch 1 supplied half of a 125 amp max, which is 62.5, then that would explain why I suffered the blackout! Or, more likely Federal Pacific are not just defective in failing to trigger when overloaded, but prematurely trigger when not overloaded.

Currently, the temperature in all vulnerable locations for water pipes in my house are above freezing. I'm thinking seriously of bringing in one of the heaters to these locations should the temperature plunge closer to freezing, in addition to running the water at a slow rate.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get an oil boiler installed as quickly as possible.
 

Last edited by LatestCraze; 12-27-17 at 08:31 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-27-17, 08:40 PM
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1500 watt heaters use 12.5 amps..

If you spread these out to each leg of the panel you can run more. Possibly you tripped a different branch breaker instead of the main?

Run 3 heaters on one leg, and 3 on the other.. about 40 amps each leg... But you need to find the right outlets in the home and that are on separate branch circuits...

May or may not need extension cords..
 
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Old 12-28-17, 12:15 AM
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lawrosa, thanks for helping me strategize; I wouldn't be so timid in my experimentation if it weren't for the fact that these circuit breakers are Federal Pacific and therefore not merely defective but UNPREDICTABLY defective, i.e. each time it is tripped and returned to the ON position, it becomes a 'different' circuit breaker with different properties, usually a more unresponsive one, although sometimes perhaps a too easily triggered one. At least that's what studies have shown.

You say, "1500 watt heaters use 12.5 amps..

If you spread these out to each leg of the panel you can run more. Possibly you tripped a different branch breaker instead of the main?

Run 3 heaters on one leg, and 3 on the other.. about 40 amps each leg... But you need to find the right outlets in the home and that are on separate branch circuits...

May or may not need extension cords..​"

First of all, in response to "​Possibly you tripped a different branch breaker instead of the main?​"

No, it was definitely the main, because all the lights I had on went out, as well as all the heaters, even though I was careful to put each heater on a different circuit after a careful examination of the chart in the circuit breaker box. lawrosa, you'll be appalled to know that at the time of that blackout, about twenty years ago, I didn't even know there WAS a main switch or main circuit breaker​, or a pair of them in the case of the house I was living in. I naively thought that whether or not you had enough power to run X devices was governed strictly by the individual circuit breakers, and as long as you didn't exceed the limits of any of them, you'd be fine. Did I call myself 'naive'-- as uninformed as a three-year-old child who's never yet uttered the word 'electricity' would be more like it! I didn't understand what had happened and when the electrician I called to the scene immediately restored my power by flipping a switch in a little room deep in the recesses o the basement, I was dumbfounded! He then explained to me the concept of main switches preceding the circuit breakers.

But now that I know that I have two main switches, it seems odd that ALL the heaters (four or five) went off in this incident. You'd think that, if only by chance, I'd have hooked up at least one to a circuit in the other switch's domain. And it's also odd that all the lights went out; how could there have not been a single light or radio, etc. in the other switch's domain? Y'know, I wonder if those two main switches labeled 100 each are actually not independent-- that would explain why every single electrical device in the house I had on went out 20 years ago. I didn't test those I didn't have on to see if they would work.

By the way, is there any way of telling which circuit breakers are under the control of which main switch? Obviously, in order to spread them out the way you suggest I'd have to know which circuits are in the territory of main switch one, and which in the territory of main switch two. Of course, there's an easy way to find out-- plug a lamp into every outlet in every room of the house and shut off each of the main switches in turn, Observe The Results, and write them down for future reference. And if these weren't Federal Pacific I would do just that!
 
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Old 12-28-17, 01:50 AM
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We would need a pic of the panel...

IMO federal pacifics were not that bad.. It was the aluminum wiring that often when with them... I work/worked with many electricians in all aspects.

There was a lapse in certification for a while which spawned the CPSC investigation, but don't think they found anything..

Most peoples fears are from what they read. Can't believe it all unless you have seen it first hand...

You can get new breakers for the panel... been out for a while... years and years..

http://www.connecticut-electric.com/...acific-reg-pos

And pics of the boiler and gas lines in question...

You seem like a good writer, but dont seem to be producing results... And lack of pics and data to help you its becoming a mundane.

You seem set on oil and I wish you luck , and your mind seems made up. I cant help you much more.

As a person I feel very bad you have no heat and it could of been different. Time was of the essence and correct visuals and data early on you would have had heat by now..

I think others too may have tired of this thread too.. who knows.. I may be the only insane one still trying to help...

Oh well..

Good luck, peace out!!!!!!
 
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Old 12-28-17, 04:55 AM
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Latest, like Mike I would like to help you. But, as Mike alluded to, my frustrations at getting the necessary information from you has reached its peak. I have asked for pictures of the electrical, the boiler and the gas piping to no avail. You never give a reason or excuse why you won't post these pictures. Is it because you don't own a digital camera? No cell phone that takes pictures? Don't know how to attach pictures? Or a fear that someone might recognize some distinct feature of your house and then know who you are? There is NO STIGMA in not owning a digital camera or cell phone that has photo capability. There are instructions, and I'm pretty sure the link has been posted at least once in each thread, on how to attach photos.


Another story. When I bought my first house, built around 1953, it had a fuse box containing two "pull-out" fuse blocks, each containing two cartridge fuses for 240 volt circuits. One of the pull-outs was for the kitchen range and the other was for everything else in the panel, a "main" fuse. Everything else consisted of four screw-in "plug" fuses. Two of those fuses were used (another 240 volt circuit) for the electric water heater which left two 120 volt circuits for all the lighting and convenience receptacles in the entire house. As I recall, there was ONE receptacle on one fuse and all the other receptacles were on the other fuse.

So, it is entirely possible that the majority of your receptacles are on just one or two of your circuit breakers. As for you having two main circuit breakers, I suspect that it is simply the case that the person that installed that panel did not use a proper two-pole circuit breaker for the main AND neglected to install the "handle tie" that should have been installed. BUT, not being able to see the panel NO ONE can make an absolute statement of what you have.
 
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