Heating Systems Q and A #3 Heating Systems Q and A #3

Q. There are many heat choices out there - Forced air, radiant floor, Electric Baseboard, Hot Water Baseboard. What recommendation would be best for a new house?

A. For comfort, floor radiant can't be beat. It is also the most expensive to install. Like most other things, you get what you pay for. Additionally, you can heat your domestic hot water via an indirect water heater. This allows the boiler to run all year and boilers love that. Strange as it may sound, boilers that run all year outlast heat-only ones probably by 50 percent or more.

Q. Are fin combs for hot water baseboard heaters the same as the ones used on cars, AC condensers, etc.?

A. Because the fins are so short, you really can't accomplish much with a comb. The best way is one fin at a time with a butter knife or something flat and blunt.

Q. My steam mains are 2" and off the boiler are 2 1/2". The hardware store doesn't carry that size, and I was told most installers use the 2" to bush supply down and pipe it that way. Has anyone done this and is there really a difference in that 1/2"?

A. If you use both 2" tappings, you should be fine. If you use one, I would advise against reducing the size. It goes back to my original recommendation not to waver from the manufacturer's instructions. The reduced pipe size could increase the velocity enough to carry too much water out of the boiler and give you wet steam. That will cause the water line to drop too quickly and the boiler will cycle on low water. It can also make the radiators and pipes hammer. It will be much easier to do it correctly from the start than to live with the repercussions of a compromise or to have to take it apart later. Piping around a hot water boiler can be done many different ways and not affect the operation as much as the piping you are dealing with. Your homeowners insurance company would most likely not be happy if they knew you were doing the replacement. I hope that it will be worth it in the end in cost and personal pride.

Q. What are the pros and cons of having the furnace in your attic rather than the garage/basement? I've never seen a furnace in the attic and would like to know more about it.

A. It's just as safe for it to be in the attic as it is in the basement. Keep a 90 percent furnace out of an attic if you have cold temperatures. If it's less than 90 percent it will be less efficient. One point about a 90+ in the attic in a cold climate is if the proper steps are not taken, you can freeze a condensate line up there. The plus would be that if this is controlling the upstairs you would not have to try to run ducts up the walls from the basement and first floor, and it frees up space in the basement or garage.The downside is it's in an attic. Period. Nobody likes working in an attic or crawlspace. If it leaks water out of the auxiliary drain pan, it can damage the ceiling. It's just a matter of what will work best and give you the best heating and cooling job.

Q. I have Vari-valve Quick Vents on the 10 steam radiators in my home and am wondering how to clean them. The first time one got clogged, I exchanged it at my plumbing supplier but there must be a way to clear the clog.

A. It is unusual for a steam vent to get clogged because the water vapor that passes through the vents does not contain or carry anything that could clog the vent. You should find out what the substance is that is clogging them. It is more common for hammering in the system to damage them.

Q. I just had a home inspection, and the inspector said my furnace should be producing no more than 200ppm of CO, and it is producing 2000ppm. What can cause this, and how can I fix it the least expensive way possible?

A. Get it serviced by a qualified person, you don't want to take chances and you don't want to skimp with CO. Even if you did try to fix it on your own, you have no way of telling whether or not you solved the problem. CO can kill you without you even knowing it, you'll just fall asleep. No heating furnace should be producing that amount of carbon monoxides. Any furnace producing that amount may have one or more operating conditions causing such a high level of carbon monoxides. Some of those conditions that will need to be corrected are not do-it-yourself tasks.

Simple corrections can be linted burners and or improper air to fuel ratios. These types of conditions can be corrected by cleaning the areas around the burners and the burners themselves. Also the venturi tubes the fuel flows down to get to the burners may be a problem. A lot depends upon on the furnace type, its location and the fuel type used.

Adjusting the air shutters to provide more air to blend with the fuel also helps. More air leans out the fuel and produces all blue flames. If the burners have yellow flames or yellow in the tips of the flames, more air and clean burners produces blue flames. Blue flames on the burner(s) indicate cleaner combustion and less carbon monoxide. No soot should be present. If soot is present, the condition is likely to be more serious than a do-it-yourselfer can or should deal with.

High levels of CO can also be caused by several other conditions, which only a qualified heating service technician should correct, if possible. Over gassed burners (too much fuel for the burners capacity to burn) is one condition. Other conditions may be a cracked or internally restricted firebox, a lack of primary or secondary air supply, etc. These are all conditions only a service technician can correct. Hire a pro to inspect and service the heater ASAP.

Certainly, the amount of CO being produced is venting outside via the flue and not inside the house or structure. But the level is still much too high for the outside environment and indicates heating appliance conditions which need immediate and qualified professional attention.

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