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Getting hot water heat upstairs

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Every boiler are required to have pressure and temp gauge on the system, on the bolier itself... Perhaps pictures are needed... Where are you located by the way?

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  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Getting hot water heat upstairs

    My home (built in 1948) uses a one-pipe closed hot water heating system. It's a small cape, with cast iron radiators throughout the first floor, and one steel radiator (steel fins, that is) under a metal cover under each window (at the end of the room) in each of the two rooms on the second floor. Picture a cape with a small upstairs, one room at each end of the house (stairs come up the middle). The problem is that the upstairs rooms get very little heat.
    I was initially tempted to replace the radiators on the second floor with different ones (higher btu ratings), but I'm coming to the conclusion that the problem is that the water in the single pipe just doesn't want to come up 10 feet from the basement to heat these rooms, yet it doesn't mind coming up 18 inches to heat the first-floor radiators.
    When I take a look here: http://www.heatinghelp.com/heating_howcome3.cfm , I see a diagram early on of my heating system. Then a sample diagram shows placing a valve in the loop (in the basement, in my case) between the supply and return tees for the radiators in question, essentially FORCING water to flow up there, through those particular radiators.
    My questions are, 1) is this a good idea or bad idea? 2) I assume that if I did this, I could vary the amount of water that I allow to pass through the valve (so more or less can be forced to divert to the upstairs radiators)? I also assume I would be sure to always let at least SOME water through the valve, rather than force all the water through the upstairs units (since the piping to those units is smaller than the main). 3) Is there a special valve for this? Stopcock? Ballcock? Is there a spring-type (or pressure-type) valve, that would (for instance, if I inadvertently closed the valve on the radiator upstairs) allow the water to flow through the valve in the main line without damaging the pump?
    If inserting a valve is a reasonable thing to do, any reason I can't do it myself? I'm not a plumber, although I'm reasonably competent. What sort of fittings would I be using on this iron pipe?
    Thanks for your knowledge!
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
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    I would check

    the basics first of system pressure and where the circulator is relative to the expansion tank.

    Too often it is a matter of not enough water in the system or air sucked in the suction side of the circulator finding it's way to the high points.

    Your small house should have about 12 psi on the boiler when cold. You might get away with a little less but 12 is sort of a standard.


    The circulator should also be pumping away from the expansion tank. Very often it pumps into the return and the expansion connects to the outlet side of the boiler so the circulator is in effect pumping TO the expansion tank. A no-no. It is probably less intensive to move the expansion tank connection than the circulator.


    Assuming the system worked when first built and that you probably had it insulated and improved since, I imagine that sizing is not an issue.

    There may be more things afoot but I would start there. Way before cutting in valves. Way too intensive for what should be a simple, quiet system.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • first of all...

    I commended you trying to solve this problem with aliitle homework.... The real question is.. How much pressure do you have on the heating system? Should be aleast 12 to 15 lbs for the system to work and of course with proper sized pump...
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Brad, I have tried to bleed these radiators upstairs...no air (I imagine there could be some in solution, however). I am not at home now, but I will check the orientation of the system (location of circulator relative to the expansion tank, etc). Should there be a pressure gauge in place? Or do I check the pressure at a particular point?

    The first floor is plenty warm, even in the rooms at the end of the run. The second floor has NEVER been very warm - we have been in the house about three years...and this past spring we insulated the whole house, ventilated to roof properly, cleaned the fins of the radiators, and installed insulating (well, a little) window coverings. The windows are not that old - Certainteed vinyl.

    So I have a feeling that the upstairs has never been very warm. There is no doubt that there is a distinct improvement - we ARE sleeping in the upstairs this winter (we weren't able to in the past). There used to be at least a 20 degree gradient as you went upstairs. Now it's 8 or 10 degrees (in the winter).

    I was thinking the valve idea was less labor-intense (and far less costly) that replacing the actual radiators....but I'll first make sure things look right by the boiler.

    Thanks again.
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    How / where will I be measuring the pressure? Will there be a way for me to identify the pump....as far as size / volume / capacity (as I mentioned above, I'm unfortunately not at home right now to go look).
  • whoa....

    Every boiler are required to have pressure and temp gauge on the system, on the bolier itself... Perhaps pictures are needed... Where are you located by the way?
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
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    Chuck-

    The pressure I cite would be at the bottom of the system, at the boiler. You say "no air" at the radiators but do you get water? It may sound like a dumb question but if you open a vent and neither air nor water comes out, that is zero pressure right there.

    The ideal is that you want about 4-5 PSI pressure at the top of the system. Every 2.31 feet (about 28 inches) of water height is one pound per square inch pressure. So if it is 14 feet from your basement boiler gauge to your upstairs radiator top, that is 14/2.31=6.06 PSI. Add four or five pounds to that and you are at 10-11 lbs. So call it 12, what is the harm?

    The next part is to calculate a heat loss and see if the radiation can serve it, regardless of improvements to insulation. But let's eliminate the more mundane mechanical aspects first. Next we will move on to the piping...
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • sorry guys

    For some reasons, I was gettin the inforamtion back at me saying the connection didn't go thru and I resend it and somehow its too many like I have a repeating problems...
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    I'm not saying there isn't a gauge. I'm at work at the moment (not at home) but I will check the boiler in the morning when I am home. So I shall look for a pressure gauge and a temperature gauge.

    I'm in New York...on Long Island. I had a plumber at the house once (he was there for a totally-unrelated topic...we were renovating the bathroom). After he put the radiator back in the bathroom, he went around and bled the rest of them. Well, he made it clear that he had no desire to do the ones upstairs, and when I insisted, he looked at the them and said, "there's no way to bleed them." I also explained the issue about chronically not having enough heat upstairs, and he literally said, "there's not much you can do about that." Needless to say, I subsequently found the bleeder valves on top on the radiator (very hard to get to, though, since the metal radiator covers don't like to provide access). And I surely wouldn't have THAT guy in my house again.

    I also explained my plight to the guy at the local plumbing-supply house (a big Blackman Plumbing store), and he tried to sell me fan-assisted convectors.

    Do I sound a bit frustrated? So I've decided my choices are to find someone competent, or do it myself. I'm attempting to try the latter first.
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Hmmm.
    Yes, the radiators bleed water. The ones on the first floor will spurt in a strong stream. The ones on the second floor only trickled weakly (but it was not very scientific - perhaps I hadn't opened the bleeders far enough. So what you're saying is...sice we anticipate a loss of about 6 psi to get to the upper radiators, we need to start with about 12 psi down at the boiler, to establish that our net (at the upper radiators) is at least 5 psi or so. Yes?
  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928
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    If you get a steady stream of water (no matter how strong or weak), the static fill pressure of the system has done its job of lifting the water to the highest point. In other words, the system is full of water just like it should be.

    After the static pressure provides the necessary pressure to keep the system filled, it's the job of the circulator to move the water.

    Considering you say that the upstairs rads are different than the downstairs, it's a fairly safe assumption that the upstairs rads were added later. Also considering you say this is a one-pipe system it's not particularly easy to "tap into" such a system--especially when the newly added rads have branch piping considerably longer than those in the rest of the system. Up, down, over doesn't matter--the static fill pressure has taken care of this-- what matters is the flow resistance in the path of the "new" radiators compared to the "old". If the "new" rads have considerably higher flow resistance you'll get less flow...

    While I could be wrong, I suspect you have a long-standing piping problem caused by a poor modification to the system. The only real solution to this problem is to correct the piping.

    Barring changing the piping there's a couple other things you might try. You mention that the upstairs rads have covers. If the covers are merely aesthetic remove them! If the upstairs is poorly insulated/weatherized, insulate/weatherize EXTREMELY well and the resulting reduced heat loss might solve the balance problem.
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
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    Radiation out of balance

    Sounds to me like the radiation is out of balance. If its a single pipe system, you probably have 1 thermostat. If the room where the thermostat is located has too much radiation, it will turn off the pump and boiler prematurely before the upstairs radiation has a chance to put out enough heat for the 2nd floor.

    You need to have a heatloss done so you can see the ratio of radiation to heatloss for the room where the thermostat is. This ratio has to be duplicated in every room, including upstairs in order for the house to heat evenly. Even if you have the correct radiation upstairs, it won't matter if you have too much downstairs where the thermostat is located.

    Think of 2 rooms, each requires 10ft of baseboard. Room 1 has the thermostat but there was 15ft of baseboard installed, and room 2 has the proper amount of 10ft of baseboard. Room 1 will always be comfortable, it has the thermostat. When its cold, the thermostat will run the heating system until it is satisfied. Remember that room 1 has 15 feet of board instead of the 10 it needs so when there is a call for heat, it heats the room up faster, and room 2 gets cold because the heat doesn't stay on long enough.

    Now take the same scenario, this time move the thermostat to room 2 which has the correct amount of baseboard - 10ft. Theres a call for heat and it keeps the circ and boiler running until it's satisfied. But what was happening in room 1? It had 50% more baseboard than it needed, therefore it was getting too much heat. It gets too hot and you crack open the window a bit.

    This is why you have to get a heat loss to determine what the radiation output values should be versus what is really in each room. I'm confidnet his will solve your problem.



  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Photos

    I'm almost positive the second floor radiators are original. They were painted with the same very first coat as the walls...and the pipes to them (and connections, etc) match the originals exactly. And, quite frankly, having seen what the walls are built like, it's VERY unlikely that someone was able to get pipes through ten feet of the plaster and lathe and wire walls we have.
    So although I don't know for sure why the radiators don't match, I'm confident they were installed at the time the house was built.
    I will attempt to attach a link to an album with multiple photos.
    The boiler has, on the left, a large circulator pump...the return water goes to the circulator, then into the boiler.
    Out of the top of the boiler, there is a small (copper) pipe; it rises a couple of inches from the top of the boiler, then comes to a tee. To the left is a 12 psi pressure regulator, and from that -- the cold supply. To the right of the tee...there are a couple of elbows, then a vertical copper pipe, then to the poorly-hung expansion tank. Is this the right place for such an expansion tank??
    Anyway, also from the top of the boiler (a bit to the right), is an iron pipe that rises vertically, then goes to start the loop to the radiators.
    Mike, it seems to me that the circulator obviously moves the water (as the first floor rads get plenty hot), but that the water takes the path of least resistance when it comes to the second floor rads - that is, the water just bypasses them, rather than flow up 14 feet. Is there still something I'm missing?
    Thanks again, everyone, for all the help so far.

    Oh yes, this link will hopefully work to the photo album:
    http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandingSignin.jsp?Uc=kxgjwzv.92ohwq5b&Uy=-h9zls5&Upost_signin=Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Ux=0
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Glenn

    Hi, Glenn, and thanks for replying.
    I certainly do understand what you mean...the thermostat is in the living room downstairs, where there are two cast iron radiators. It gets just a bit warmer than the other rooms on the first floor...not enough to make a difference down there (even the last room in the "circuit" is warm enough by the time the thermostat in the living room shuts the heat off.
    Here's the thing - the radiators on the first floor are cast iron...and they take a while to heat up. So the heat inadvertently runs at least for a while each time it comes on (especially, say, in the am, when the thermostat setting jumps from 63 to 68 degrees). My feeling is that there sould be PLENTY of time for the upstairs radiators to at least HEAT UP...even if they don't have time to warm the room much. And in fact, that's partly true - if the boiler kicks on, it takes at least maybe 8 or 10 minutes before the heavy iron radiators show any signs of heating. But the steel radiators on the second floor feel perceptibly warmer much more quickly (especially the one with no cover on it). The fact is, though, the iron radiators are a'blazin' after, say 20 minutes. And the steel ones upstairs remain lukewarm. Are you able to check out the pictures? I made a link above.
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
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    The question is ?

    Based on your last post, it would appear that you don't have adequate circulation through the upper circuits. Are there valves on the upper radiators - if so, are you sure there are no obstructions to limt flow?

    If we assume (a big word here) air isn't the issue, then circulation due to headloss clearly is. Water will always take the path of least resistance. If the temp at the beginning of the upstairs radiator feels warm, and it feels significantly cooler at the end, you have minimal if any circulation through the radiator. The question you will have to solve is why. Once you do, then you will be back to the balancing issue of radiation loads. Installing a valve between the two monoflow tees and closing it will force the water through the radiators.

    If I were to install a monoflow system, I would absolutely put full port valves between each set of tees, close it fully so that I could be sure they would be purged properly. Then if I really wanted to have a modulating valve of some kind on a radiator, I could open the valve and it would the system would act like it was never there. It's a cheap way to confirm proper purging and trouble shoot a problem like this.

    Is there two monoflow tees installed on the 2nd floor loops. If so, is the one on the return side reversed? Check this- it could be the source of your problem. You could still appear to purge properly but if the tees are not installed correctly, you will get no flow- which sounds like what you are experiencing now.

    Saw the link for photos - will take a peek at them.
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
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    One Point Mike

    It is not enough to just fill the radiators. You need pressure at the top as a "reverse cushion" to assure that there is no room for air to collect up there in simple terms. The additional 4-5 psig is designed to reduce the size of any air bubbles and allow some force during venting rather than "hoping". If the pressure at the top of the system is weak or zero, the vent will do nothing, if that makes sense. There is no "higher to lower pressure" during venting.
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
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    Without benefit of a heat loss

    those upstairs radiators look tiny compared to what I would expect to see.

    Let's keep working on the piping as Glenn said, (eliminate the less likely variables).

    Then we can get you to calculate a heat loss for each room and compare what the radiation can do within that room.

    Baby steps but let's keep going.

    Brad
    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"



    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
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    One more thing

    One of the benefits of a piping arrangement such as you have is you can control the output of a radiator by controlling its flow without affecting the relative output of other radiators downstream. If you have the capacity to adjust flows, this could make the balancing of radiation to actual heatloss less of an issue.

    Can you show a close up picture of the monoflow tee's. That will show if they were installed properly. Did this system ever work correctly ?
  • william_5
    william_5 Member Posts: 62
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    ??????

    Chuck
    Do you have vales under the convectors?????
    If so do they turn??? you should only be able to turn them a 1/4 turn ONLY let me know
    William
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Valves

    Yes, every one has a valve. They're open, and I believe most of them turn (I don't think I've tried them all).

    I'll take a photo of the tees as soon as I can, but I am pretty sure there is no indicator suggesting flow or direction or red bands, etc... but I will assess them and hopefully get some photos...to be sure.
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    I'll try to get a photo of some tees. I don't know if the second floor was ever very warm, but my guess is that it was not.
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
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    The magic tees

    Hmmm I wonder if someone prior to you tried to copy what they saw on other portions of your loop and put in regular tees instead of mono-flow tees. That would certainly explain things.
  • william_5
    william_5 Member Posts: 62
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    humm

    How do you know that there are all open??? if you thad not tryed them all?? do they keep on turning ???? like i said they should only turn 1/4 turn only a lot of times
    i have customers force the vales to go past the vale stops breaking off the vale tit if this is so at last we know why you are not getting heat we can walk you through the steps to get heat
    william
  • perhaps the next baby step...

    Perhaps the next baby step is to locate and hire a REAL boiler pro... I know Long Island is kinda of lonng.. But there's many good boiler pros on the island and can't rememeber which and the location... You can find them from this site.... They will get your heat in proper working order..
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Open valves

    Well, Richard, here is what I know.
    All of the radiators on the first floor get plenty hot. So they MUST be open. And regardless, even if they were all closed, that would not affect the flow to the second floor radiators (provided that they are open). Am I wrong here?
    So, the next things for me to check are:

    1) if the valves are open on the second floor. I tried to turn them by hand, to no avail. I will try again later (may be after work, close to midnight)...and I will obviously try to turn them closed first (assuming they may be open already), so I don't try to open them past the stop. Since the radiators upstairs do get at least lukewarm, it seems safe to say that the valves are at least partly open already (unless they are technically closed, and a bit of water trickles past the valves).

    2) check (or photograph) the monoflow tees. or the tees, whatever type they are. I'll try to get some pics of the leading and far side of some first floor radiators, as well as for the second floor radiators.

    Thanks again.
    -Chuck
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Hire a pro

    Although a part of me would like to avoid this...it may ultimately be the best idea. At the least, though, I can (especially after hearing from all of you) have a bit of an idea what's going on, and have a feel for what is realistic or reasonable (as far as what the pro says) and what isn't.

    The biggest reason I'm not toooo hesitant to hire a pro..is even if we (together) figure out what the issue is, I'll probably have to have a pro come and fix it (unless it's a closed-valve issue, which doesn't seem too likely, but I DO need to check). Because if the determination is that tees need to be replaced, or if a valve under the second-floor rads will help (to force more water to them), or whatever...I don't expect to be the one cutting and threading the iron pipe (myself) and such.
  • william_5
    william_5 Member Posts: 62
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    if you are getting little heat

    sounds like the vales are closed or almost closed if this is the case i would bet the stops are broken. if you cant turn them eather way i would spray then with (w d 40)now you need a starting point (that vale has a butterfly in it every 1/4 turn the vale is open or closed you will turn that handle untill you hand fall off ) now mark the vale handle and the side of the vale with white nail paint this is your starting point turn up heat wate about 5 mins now turmn handle a little at a time and wate a min or two you will feel the hot water riseing when the vale starts to open this could take you a 1/2 hour to find when the vale is full open
    william
  • Glenn Sossin_2
    Glenn Sossin_2 Member Posts: 592
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    Don't sound like fun Chucky

    While I applaud your trying to not only to fix but to understand, I would have to agree it's time to get a pro. I'm sure one of the LI wallies will e-mail you should you request it.



  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    I'll try that tomorrow morning (I'm leaving for work now). I'll mark the valves before I try to turn them. And I'll make it a goal to not turn them too much. I just called my oil burner service company. The response from the person to whom I spoke was, "sure, we service boilers and heating systems. I'd be happy to have a salesman call you...when a cast iron boiler is over 20 years old, it starts to lose efficiency...maybe that's what's wrong..." When I told her that is NOT the issue, she seemed turned off....then said the manager would call me later. It's hard to find competent people here on LI. they want to sell you new stuff...and then they want to install it poorly, so they have to service it multiple times. Of course, I know that not EVERYONE will do this, but people out here seem to care less and less about their work.
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    Pro

    Glenn, check out the post I just made, above (start's with "I'll try...") Frustrating already.
    -Chuck
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,111
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    cape's and mono flows

    Not to beat a drum but it sounds like a typical promblem found in a lot of capes that have a mono flow tee sysytems and also has 2 finished bed rooms on the second floor i have found that in alot of cases only 1 mono flow tee was used but usually the spacing was to close and there was not enough pressure difference to obtain flow to the second floor rads .In most cases even with a steel piping system and the proper tools it's no big deal to some one with experence and knows what they are doing .i have done this many times in capes in jersey and always got them heat in the rad that never heated in some cases like 50 years with no heat but another thing back then peoples bed room doors wher open all the time and people splept with threre windows open also ,peace and good luckc clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • chuck h
    chuck h Member Posts: 14
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    tees

    How, specifically, do I identify the tees? A brief glance surely didn't show much....they just look like black iron tees.
    And yes, I'd guess I'm in that boat -- the one with the rads that have had little heat for 50 years.

    The spacing between the tees is more than a foot (more like three feet, off the top of my head)... so here's a question. If I determine that there is one (not two) monoflow tee...or some scenario like that that would suggest the need to turn a tee around or change out a plain tee for a monflow tee...is there any reason that I would RATHER do that, than just add a valve? The reason I keep coming back to the valve idea is it seems to me that I would then be able to VARY the amount water sent upstairs. -Chuck
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