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A Homeowner's Story (Part 2)

Note this thread is a continuation, read part one here: <a href="http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/134598/A-Homeowners-Story-Part-1">http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/134598/A-Homeowners-Story-Part-1</a>



Part of what sold me on the ES2 was what their  marketing. From the brochure:

“Ideal Replacement for Millions of Existing Boiler Installations”.

 “The ES2 has been designed to be a “drop in” replacement. Boiler connections are compatible with industry standard near boiler piping configurations.”

“Generally, this means that the installer does not need to install additional piping to  connect the boiler to the home’s existing system.”

“Designed to handle the kind of high water volume systems present in most homes, the rugged ES2 cast iron heat exchanger can easily operate with lower system return

water temperatures than conventional cast iron boilers.”

“The ES2  has been designed to accept return water temperatures as low as 110°F without complicated piping or additional controls.”



Simple, right? Then I read the I&O manual. It was not so simple:

6. Thermal shock

(2) Install a boiler bypass, system bypass, or primary-secondary loop when needed to avoid returning large volumes of cold water directly to a hot boiler.

7. Condensation

 (2) Adhere to the boiler’s specific minimum return water and supply water temperature requirements. Install a boiler bypass, system bypass, or primary-secondary loop when needed to maintain water temperatures and flows within the specified limits.



 Re-reading the words in Burnham’s brochure now made me

recall a phrase a marketing person once told me about – “weasel words”. It’s a pretty common practice where you phrase things in such a way that it suggests

one thing to a casual reader, but the text is actually worded very carefully with well-crafted words so that if you read between the lines it tells another story. Words like “generally” and “most” are usually a clue. Anyway I don’t mean to criticize Burnham here.  The problem is that this is all sufficiently vague to be worrisome. What constitutes “cold  water” and “hot boiler”? How cold? How hot?



Is it always required to maintain the minimum 110F return temperature? Clearly when the boiler starts up after being idle for a few hours, the temperature of the return water is not going to be 110F initially. How long can the boiler be safely operated on startup for a while with water at a lower temperature, until the water warms up? Seconds? Minutes? It is very imprecise.  



 My old boiler (1954 Bastian Morley) had nothing special in the near-boiler piping. Although I had modified this piping years ago when I split the house into three zones, there were  no provisions for thermal shock or condensation and the system had worked fine for all those years. Obviously it did not have “industry standard near boiler piping” (if there is such a thing).



The particulars of my system (see attachment) compound the situation because  two of my three zones have lots of water in them. It’s a converted gravity system, see the attachment for a simplified schematic of the particulars. Zone1 is the family room with 32-ft of 9-in cast-iron baseboard. Zone2 is the first floor and basement with three free-standing radiators and 32-ft of 9-in cast-iron baseboard. Zone3 is the

second and third floor with six free-standing radiators and 48-ft of 7-in cast-iron baseboard. Also, I have set-back thermostats in each zone. So Zone1 could heat up in the morning, only to have Zone3 open up after being idle overnight and inject a big load of cooler water into the mix. On the other hand, having multiple zones means that when a single zone fires the water in just that one zone will heat up faster. 

 

I’d done a lot of research ahead of time on the subject of near-boiler piping. I’d read books,  manuals, I&O instructions, and done many google searches. My findings were somewhat surprising. However when I started installing the boiler I still had not figured out exactly what I was going to do…



I divided the near-boiler piping arrangements into three

categories:

Ineffective – “do nothing”, boiler bypass. Suprisingly, the

“do nothing” advice was on the wall as well as the opinion of the contractor

who installed the AC in my house and who also installs boilers.

Partially effective – primary / secondary, system bypass.

Effective – thermostatic valve, motorized valve or injection pump with sensor.



The bottom line is that the best solution monitors the return temperature and adjusts accordingly. For my application I believe the motorized valve / injection pump arrangements are over-engineered and too complicated. The Esbe / Danfoss thermostatic valve looks like the way to go, but even for that solution I’m still looking a good piping diagram showing proper installation for a single circulator (pumping away) with zone valves.



So for now I’m using a system bypass – a tee off the supply with a ball valve controlling the flow to the return. I calibrated this by simply grasping the two pipes as the boiler fired up and adjusting the valve so that they seemed equally hot. A globe valve should be used but a ball valve will suffice for one heating season. After that I’ll consider making some changes.



Thanks for reading,

Eric Peterson



PS Everything has worked great since the installation. The house is just as comfortable as ever, and my heating bills (cost per degree day) are lower.

Comments

  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    the REST of the story...

    Got the REST of the piping pictures?



    The devil is in the details.



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    What pictures would you like to see?

    I mean what part of the piping is missing from my description. that you need clarification on?



    Eric
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    I want to see your craftsmanship...

    In looking at the first photos you posted, I noticed that you didn't put the boiler on a house keeping pad as required by code.



    If you are going to come and and show and strut your stuff, then you should be prepared for constructive criticism.



    Just want to see your handycraft... and make sure you haven't inadvertently created any dangerous situations.



    We're here to educate, hence the name Heating Help...



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    Where is the code that you are referring to?

    I am not aware of any code in my location (Illinois) that requires the housekeeping pad that you describe. If there is such a code here then I would like to know more about it.

    The boiler is leveled and sitting on thick aluminum spacers on a concrete floor in the same location where a heavier boiler was located.



    Thanks for the feedback.



    Eric
  • rlaggren
    rlaggren Member Posts: 160
    The pictures will be worth it

    You've done enough research to talk intelligent and get some intelligent responses; sounds like you've done at least some work that's functioned OK for you in the past and that gives you a bit of grounding.  While you may get some bruises by posting pics, I doubt you'll actually get damaged. . You can take it - just stay calm and honest.



    Thing is, the pics really are critical to anybody making a good assessment of what's going on with your installation and thus to giving any meaningful advice. While you might not like getting beat up a little,  think about the situation a moment and consider: This is a truly rare opportunity to get the thoughts and advice of at least half dozen deeply experienced professionals who care enough to argue, discuss and consider the reasons and workings of problems in their field. IOW, not your average fast talking tech on commission - I'm sure some of these guys bill out in the range of lawyers! Nobody promises to give you the answers or kudos you might want. BUT they will give _your installation_ the best input that years in the business can provide.



    Seems a shame to miss out on that when you've stepped up and already got you feet wet. In for a dime, in for a dollar, eh?.



    Cheers, Rufus
    disclaimer - I'm a plumber, not a heating pro.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    No problem,

    I'll get some pictures posted since that seems to be important here.



    Eric
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    edited February 2011
    The code...

    Actually, there are numerous codes in place across these United States. I operate under the Denver Mechanical code which requires HK pads, and I apply that universally regardless of where I am working.



    Your code might not require them. My faux paux if they don't...



    They CAN be the difference between some water on the flor, and a total tear down and rebuild due to partial submersion :-)



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    I have tried

    to follow codes here where I live.  When we had an addition put on our house and I extended the heating system with new pipes and radiators, no one was even interested in inspecting the work done,

    If the reason for this code is to protect the boiler if the basement floods, I am not too concerned since our house is on high ground and there has never been a water problem in the 25 years we have been here. Not even the time when it rained 14 inches in 12 hours and a lower street one block away was underwater. We installed a sump pump and drain tile years ago as a precaution but I can only recall one time when the sump level rose enough to activate it.

    Here in Illinois the codes vary quite a bit. For example Romex is not allowed in Chicago or many of the suburbs, but my parents's house downstate is all Romex (where it is allowed). Oddly enough they also have all copper waste lines. Go figure. In my town I am allowed to do my own plumbing (it must still be inspected) but not electrical. In a different suburb where my brother lives, the homeowner is allowed to work on his own electrical but if anyone helps him they must be a licensed electrical contractor.



    Eric
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Inspections.

    Where I live in New Jersey, you need a building permit, for which a considerable payment is required, for just about everythng. Once you have a permit, you  must notify the permit department when the work has been completed and they then send out an inspector.



    I have disagreements with some of these inspectors, but I usually keep them to myself. The electrical inspector, the plumbing inspector, the gas inspector, all come into the house and examine what has been done. The electrical and plumbing inspectors even insist on seeing the stuff inside the walls before the sheet rock is replaced. There is another inspector, I think of him as a building inspector, who made sure that insulation was put in before some sheet rock was replaced. Those are the good guys, even when I disagree with them. They seem to be trying to protect me from mistakes and incompetent contractors.



    There is another kind. When I had vinyl siding put on, I was surprised that I needed a building permit, but I got one. When the job was done, as far as I could tell, and as far as the contractor could tell, the inspector may have driven past my house; he may have even slowed down. But he would have no idea if the job was done right or not.



    Similarly, when I had my roof repaced. The contractor said I had too many layers of shingles on there, so he had to rip off the old ones before putting on the new. We both knew that, so it was no surprise. But when he ripped off the old shingles, he found the plywood was only 3/8 inch, that may have been legal in 1950 when the house was built, but no more. The sad thing was that the plywood was perfectly good. So he left it there and put 5/8" or 3/4" on top of it before the new shingles. There would be no way an inspector could tell that he brought the plywood up to code, or even that he removed the old shingles just by driving by the house. But as far as I can tell, that is what happened.
  • Dan Joyce_2
    Dan Joyce_2 Member Posts: 6
    Part 3

    Anxiously awaiting the rest of YOUR story. I for one, agree with many of your observations vs some "nit picking" and a attitude.

    Re read Rufus's post. Well written.

    Dan Joyce
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    Here are some pictures

    of my near boiler piping. It's difficult to get a good shot in close quarters.

    Return Manifold: you can see the four 2-inch pipes used when the original 3-inch piping to the main house was split into two zones.

    Supply Manifold: two of the zone valves are visible in this shot.

    Near Boiler Piping Closeup: the system bypass (ball) valve is on the right. Return on the bottom. Supply the black fitting in the middle.

    Near Boiler Piping: Shows connection to supply manifold.
  • rlaggren
    rlaggren Member Posts: 160
    Good clean pics

    And the piping looks neat and plumb and perpendicular like they kept trying to beat into me back when.



    Your boiler connections look about like what I have in my family's 100 year old houses. The idea is to get the temps up to the operating level and keep them there as best as possible and there are various ways to do this, as you listed. My converted (in the 60s) gravity systems have been running with a simple valve bypass like that shown in your pics with few problems and no special treatment all their lives. One is a WM cast HX and the other is an AOSmith copper HX. Neither are especially efficient but show no signs of trouble (knock wood). IOW from what I can see you have a viable boiler system as is, with lots of room for upgrades, which I'm not qualified to speak to.



    However flue temperatures may be a problem. You don't want your combustion products condensing in your chimney and your system needs to maintain a high enough flue gas temperature to prevent that; you have an old brick chimney and they don't heat up easily. That is something only expensive equipment used with some training and skill can tell you about. But that would be part of a combustion analysis which is an extremely good idea in any case so you might want to vet the local pros and arrange a service call specifically to do those tests.



    Cheers, Rufus
    disclaimer - I'm a plumber, not a heating pro.
  • rlaggren
    rlaggren Member Posts: 160
    On Inspectors

    JDB



    In my experience in San Francisco, inspectors can have way more than enough work scheduled for a day. After a contractor has been in business a few years inspectors get to know you, your people, and what kind of work you do. When they have a more than usual heavy day, they will, depending on the complexity or not of a job, often sign-off on the contractor as much as on the job. It works the other way also - some contractors _never_ get a break.



    I was fortunate enough to learn the trade with a crew that was on good terms with all but one of the city inspectors (9 at the time IIRC). We had enough respectful disagreements that they all got a chance to get re-acquainted with our work at least once a year or so; we developed a high degree of mutual respect and it benefited both us and the inspectors.



    I think you can see where I'm going with this. I don't know your locale but I think it's at least possible that the inspector had more reason than just a sunny day to pass your permit.



    Cheers, Rufus
    disclaimer - I'm a plumber, not a heating pro.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    The problems I see....

    As has been noted, nice straight pipe work. If you want to keep it that way, provide proper support.



    The lack of isolation valves is going to come back to haunt you many times when it comes time to do things like replace the pumps bearing assembly, replace the boilers relief valve etc. Valves are cheap when it comes to having to drain and refill a system...



    You have at lest 2 bull headed tees on the system. Bull headed tees are a definite no no.



    Will the system function? Obviously, it is. Will it have the life expectancy of a properly installed system? Probably not, but it will outlast your time in the home.



    All and all, not bad for a non professional, but I would have done it differently tho.



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    It's not evident from the pictures

    but there is a stainless liner in the chimney. It goes all the way to the top. I know because I've stuck a mirror in there and looked up. There's a cleanout box that sits below the flue opening which also has a drain attachment for any accumulated rain water.

    I had an experience with flue gas condensation many years ago in the house we were renting. Although the chimney was much shorter, there was no liner, and the pieces of the clay liner had broken off and collected at the bottom. On a very cold day the furnace was running a lot and the water vapor condensed and froze in the narrow opening, resulting in complete blockage and CO poisoning. Luckily my mom recognized the flu-like symptoms so we called the gas company who came out immediately (I told them I smelled gas to make sure of that) and red-tagged the furnace. It was amazing how quickly our headaches disappeared once the furnace was shut off. This was in Madison, WI.

    That problem will not happen in my house.



    Eric
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    I checked

    both when I extended my heating system with pipes and radiators, and

    when I installed my new boiler. In both cases there was no permit

    required to do the work. So there was no inspector involved as there was

    no permit. 
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    Thanks for the feedback.

    I'm sure the near-boiler piping could be improved. Your comments do lead me to a couple of questions:

    1) Isn't a bull-head tee one where the branch diameter is larger than the main run? If that's what you mean then where are the two bull-head tees to which you refer? All the near boiler fittings and pipes are 1-1/4". 

    2) I thought I had the system pretty well isolated. I can isolate each supply and return as well as the zone valves, the expansion tank and of course the supply. To replace the pump or the relief valve I would isolate the system and drain some of the water out of the boiler. This is just a few gallons of water. Since each manifold has a purge valve I think I could then get any air out of the near-boiler pipes. The system would never have to be drained.



    Eric
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    Bull headed tee explained...

    Looking at the letter T, the vertical leg is called the bull, and the horizontal part is called the run. The reason why you should never run water into the bull (other than a true primary/secondary closely stacked tee assembly) is because water is like my ex brother in law. Wet, lazy and stupid :-) Given that a decision has to be made as to which direction it should flow, it can't make up its mind. So it keeps changing its mind, and never establishes true hydraulic balance. You have two bull head tees in your near boiler piping. One at the return, and one at the system supply and the system bypass.



    As for valves, at least you have SOME valves. Many jobs I see have ZERO valves, and when something goes South, it costs the consumer a minimum of a days work to drain, repair and refill and purge the system. In your case, you will have to spend some time running around, venting radiators, but will obviously be expending your own labor.



    The other thing that I would have done would have been to incorporate some means of guaranteeing that condensation will not occur, like installing a 3 way mixing valve on the return (ESBE, Danfoss, Termomix).



    I have seen German cast iron boiler which are supposedly much more corrosion proof than American boilers that had significant signs of condensate corrosion in a very short period of time (less than 5 years worth of run time), and I would trust German technology much more than American technology. They've been at it much longer than we have.



    What kind of expansion tank do you have? Ceiling hung non captive or diaphragmatic bladder type? I see the air separator, but didn't see the expansion tank.



    Did you perform a combustion analysis and draft test?



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    Thanks Mark,

    but since tees are the only way to combine two flows into one (or split one into two)  I guess you're saying the flow into the tee should be from the side rather than the way I did it.





    The Danfoss ESBE thermostatic valve is the mechanism I would like to use

    rather than the simple system bypass I have now, which was just done to get

    me through the heating season. It's not so easy to find these valves, and I am still looking for a good diagram that shows how to install them on the return when pumping away. If that doesn't work out then a mixing valve will have to do, although I would prefer a simpler mechanical device. There is an ESBE calibrated to 113F which would meet the 110F minimum return temp spec for the ES2.



    The expansion tank is a ceiling hung steel tank located about ten feet from the boiler. I have a 1" pipe that angles up towards the tank.



    I plan to have those tests performed in the near future, by a contractor I guess since I lack the equipment.



    Eric
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    In the Run, and out the bull and end run...

    Never only IN the bull, then out the runs. It requires a lot of fore thought and space consideration, but your system will lock into a perfect hydraulic balance, eliminating wishy washy flow patterns



    Regarding the Thermic valve, I suspect you got caught up in the "Pump Away from the BOILER and the PONPC" syndrome. What is more critical than pumping away from the boiler, is that you pump away from the PONPC. It is perfectly acceptable to pump IN to the boiler, so long as you are pumping away from the expansion tank connection (PONPC) and aren't dealing with a static fill pressure that would come close to the relief valves release threshold. Then the Thermic valve will make sense and you won't need to add another pump so that you are pumping away. I'd also recommend going with the higher set point to insure a good amount of separation between you and the dew point.



    Dan's assumption, and rightly so, was that the boiler was being used in many cases as the point of connection of the expansion tank, hence the need to pump away from the boiler AND the expansion tank. The series 100 pump you have is a relatively flat curved pump, so the chances of it cavitating are slim, plus the low pressure drop of your system decreases the chances of cavitation.





    Curious as to how you built your main distribution manifolds with the large ball valves without the use of unions. Left right nipples??



    Also, if you are on natural gas, call your supplier. They will send a technician out to perform the analysis. May be a small fee associated with it, but better safe than sorry. You are dealing with things that are extremely dangerous, and can cause death and destruction in a heart beat.



    Curious, what do you do for a living? You are obviously mechanically inclined.



    Welcome to the hood. It is quite addicting :-)



    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Eric Peterson_3
    Eric Peterson_3 Member Posts: 55
    So on the return where two flows are combined

    is it OK to have them come in on the runs, and out the bull? If not then what is the best practice?



    Good point about the PONPC. My new summer project will likely be re-doing the near-boiler piping with an ESBE.



    On the supply side the manifolds were constructed by starting with one of the pipes then working towards the boiler and then out towards the other direction. There are some unions in the system out where the re-zoned piping connects up with the original distribution pipes, they just weren't in the pictures. Similarly with the return manifold.  Everything is normally-threaded.



    By trade I'm a project manager, with a background in software development, and more recently IT support.  We have an old house and I have worked on many reno projects over the years. Some things I do myself because I want it done a certain way and feel I have or can acquire the skills to do the job well. Others, like framing the addition on our house or re-roofing I prefer to leave to others. I am lucky to have good resources like my father-in-law who worked as a machinist and maintenance engineer, and a neighbor who has been a general contractor and is now working on the reconstruction of Wacker Drive in Chicago.



    Eric



     
This discussion has been closed.