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Problem with radiant heat system

chabadplumber Member Posts: 11
problem with residential radiant system

I recently was called to service a no hw situation At the point &

time of my arrival the client had been without hw for at least 3 days

that I know of.. Upon arriving I found the system to be a radiant heat w

pex tubing consisted of a Hw 3 zone gas boiler(crown) & a 20 gallon

Electric Bradford & white hw storage tank w/ a aquastat on the storage tank as well..The client

was getting no hw. I bled the system in 3 places, the boiler, the tank,

& the riser found it was filthy & adjusted the temp on the aqua

stat to 120 from 100 after bleeding the system  Hw started to flow again

at least temporarily. Besides my personal opinion that.the storage tank

is not a good fit in a 1 family house within NYC confines etc. I

suggested that a problem might exist with either the aquastat & or

the element despite the fact that the system was no more than 2 yrs old

. I personally walked away & strongly suggested to the customer that

you get the original installer to service it. My question is for the

futureIf my diagnosis/ assessment of the situation is / was correct or not? If not what are the probable causes & solutions. as i said I am not that familiar with the system design & personally think it is not good especially in NYC where ggas is plentiful etc.

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  • Slimpickins
    Slimpickins Member Posts: 339

    Just wondering if you own a multimeter because you didn't mention anything about testing electrical components. Is the B/W tank piped to the boiler or is 240v connected to the tank? It could be several things but you don't know unless bust out that multimeter. So I don't think your assessment was very good.  Sounds like you might need some more training to familiarize yourself with boilers and how they work and coming to the Wall is a good resource. At the top of the page, look under resources and there's plenty of reading material to get you on your way. Also, check out your suppliers for training classes and support. Good luck
  • chabadplumber
    chabadplumber Member Posts: 11
    reply re boilers

    I never said I know everything although I do know quite a bit The boiler is a hw gas fired boiler & they combined it with a electric hw storage tank. I will admit that combination I have never seen before.It is also very unusual for a system  2 yrs old or less with pex to be filthy & having such a problem..If I am wrong so be it. I am seeking knowledge for the future   causes & solutions.I have installed & serviced hw  boilers before as well as steam I have serviced gas hw storage tanks before.In my years I had never seen that combination before& personally believe the choice of a storage tank in a private house, Electric no less within The NYC Boundaries is a mistake or poor choice especially only 20 gallons.Be that as it may I am not looking for criticism etc.  Just  a simple cause(s) & solutions.If you cannot or will not provide same then please refrain from any comments
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,078
    limits to description

    chabad . . .

    i think the point is that the description of the system design and diagnosis isn't complete enough allow for much substantive response -- at this point can't say whether it is the diagnosis or description that comes up short, but don't be surprised if you're asking for professional perspective on your professional opinion if folks offer criticism.  We have broad shoulders here (what you mean we . . .) so take the water off a duck approach and learn something from every post. That's what I do.

    I too am unfamiliar with Bradford and White products.  Their website does not indicate a combination electric water heater such as you appear to be describing (where maybe the electric is intended as backup or to provide hot water during the summer or during service when the boiler is turned off).

    Instead Bradford and white list combination gas hot water heaters with heat exchanging coils that would allow you to circulate modest temp water to heating loads by using the stored domestic hot water as a heat source.

    If you have model # for the Bradford heater, maybe we can work backwards as to what it is. If the electric is a backup and it is intended to operate principally as an indirect heater with some kind of condensing (or regular) gas boiler as its heat source, maybe its not inappropriate setup at all. 

    IS this hotwater for a single residential unit or multiple individual units.  How many people, sounds like 3 zones on the boiler so maybe its several bedrooms all told?

    If, indeed, it does have electric back-up that is connected, there shouldn't be a complete lack of domestic hot water if the coil airs up although the electric bill would probably go up more than the gas bill would go down.  But you figure that out when paying bills, not because you don't have any hot water.  MAybe if the symptom is you have hot water but it runs out quickly that would indicate the electric back up isn't keeping up and the coil is aired up. You don't say whether you think you got significant air out of the coil and whether the air bleeding seemed to immediately restart circulation of hot water from the boiler. So I think Slim Pickens was asking whether the aquastat was calling (presumably) and that the circulator was running and/or zone valve called and still there was no hot circulation from the boiler, and following the bleeding there was.  That may be what you mean by hot water beginning to flow but it is unclear from your post as you could also mean that domestic hot water began to flow to fixtures rather than that boiler hot water began to flow to the heater.

     Wouldn't expect it to have transfer problems in such a 'young' installation but maybe there was sediment or other problems that has limitecoil based on your observations, but that still shouldn't account for no HW.  Lukewarm or not keeping up, different story, which is why we need the full story to say much useful.

    As to how dirty the water in the heating system is, my experience is that can depend on whether new equipment was placed in service with existing equipment and piping that might have been dirty to begin with, or very [very] occasionally incompatible materials withing new installs.  You don't indicate what heating loads and equipment and approx apparent age the boiler is serving besides this hot water heater, or describe the boiler itself in those terms, so it is difficult to offer any thoughts on why the system is dirty.

    Finally, as to electric vs. gas hot water being inappropriate, it sounds like electric is intended as back-up but that is strictly a guess on my part.  So the question of testing whether it is hooked up comes up because it should have been providing hot water regardless of the boiler loop (i.e. getting out that electrical tester along with field observation of whether there seems to be an independent electric service line corresponding to the manufacturers Amperage demand rating running to the heater, and whether that circuit is actually on.) If, in fact, the hot water is dual sourced with a coil capable of serving the DHW load from the boiler and an electric back-up that seems quite and adequate design. It may also be, depending on whether the boiler is highly efficient that the backup is intended to run when the boiler isn't needed for heating. Then a 20 gallon would seem small, but generally, you don't need as much hot water in the summer in the northeast has been my experience so maybe it is still a reasonable compromise.

    Even as a principle source I don't rule out Electricover gas depending on usage and venting issues. And the balance is not getting any worse for electric as the northeast is moving more and more to electricity derived from natural gas -- I'm sure if I said we should burn a lot more coal this message board would reverberate for a while, but those discussions are out there if you want to find them.  In the meantime that means that electricity and gas are getting more fungible and their relative costs will track each other for the foreseeable future.

    Maybe someone can jump on with the equivalent in KWH of one CCF of gas so you can do some math and see what kind of load the electric company (meet the old boss, same as the new boss, the electric company is the gas company where I come from) is charging to convert the gas to electricity. Obviously there is capital cost for generation equipment and transmission system, but on the other hand, those costs can be spread across virtually all households, because electricity is virtually universal while gas service is more limited.

     I would imagine there is still a modest disadvantage to not buying the raw gas and making the heat yourself, but, depending on your hot water use, you get no combustion, no heat loss up the chimney simpler more effective insulation and simple installs although less recovery, so sized right I wouldn't be an outright naysayer on electric hot water, even if gas is available.

  • chabadplumber
    chabadplumber Member Posts: 11
    re problem

    It was not a heater I made that clear it is a storage tank There is nothing else to describe the boiler was off .After bleeding the heater the supply & return lines heated up..Respectfully you did not read the whole thing otherwise you would have read everything including the word storage tank. A heater does not have a aquastat attached to it.3 zones are obviously for heating different rooms as I said it was a one family. I didn't design or install the system I only responded to a service call & found out when I arrived after looking at it that it was a storage tank. Getting a whole lecture is not what I am seeking.I described the situation in full detail As I saw it.I also said I was unfamiliar with the set up & personally didn't like it or approve of it. Whatever the reason the homeowner didn't or wouldn't have the company that installed the system service it is suspicious enough but not my business
  • NH03865
    NH03865 Member Posts: 38
    Reading Everything

    It looked to me like he read everything very carefully.  You describe the tank as an "ELECTRIC" Bradford&White storage tank.  Does that mean that it was an electric water heater that was used as a storage tank or that it still used electric heating elements.  Later on in your post you state that one of the problems may have been with the element or the aquastat.  Are you referring to the heating element for the "storage tank"? 

     You posted this same question in the Radiant Heating section and stated " It was definitely set up as a storage tank even a electric heater has a pilot that is accessible this did not It was sealed with no opening therefore a storage tank"

    Was there an electrical connection to the "electric storage tank"?

    Perhaps the reason that the unit was sealed with no opening was the fact that it was an indirect water heater and not an electric water heater being used as a storage tank?

    As the people in both forums are stating, without a lot more information, it will be impossible to answer your questions.

    You also state "I was unfamiliar with the set up & personally didn't like it or approve of it.", was your disapproval based upon the fact that you were unfamiliar with exactly what you were looking at or did you fully understand what you were looking at and basing your judgement upon the technical aspects of the installation?
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,094
    A few questions and suggestions

    Wondering what is heating the domestic ,a coil in the boiler or is it a indirect .I have seen others use eletric hot water tanks as a storage tank( with the element not powered) and use a pump off either a tankless coil or in conbination with a dual heating boiler/domestic combi unit to boost domestic water volume .On the later set up it is usually due to volume issues .Don't leave out the fact that they got what they paided for ,i saw one set up simalar to you are talking about except the contractor had the electric tank wired and handling all the domestic water because he did not have any understanding of how a dual combi unit works so he sold them a electric tank and said they needed it for storage piped it in series and wired it got paided and never was seen again,also don't rule out that a total tool did the job and knows nothing  .So don't rule that out with what you see .Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
  • chabadplumber
    chabadplumber Member Posts: 11
    fed up with bs etc.

    I am not a expert on the inside contents on heaters.Clearly the whole thing wasn't read I said I looked at the system for 10-15 min. I didn't do in depth research on Bradford white models etc. heaters don't have feed & returns on the bottom at least not residential.Heaters don't have aqua stats attached to them!if it was a regular heater the h&cw lines would be on top!.As I previously said I am not interested in critiques which is most of the replies. I posted  the request to get solutions & feedback of yes or no with that nothing more nothing less. I have said all I am going to say on the matter.If you cannot offer me what I need then please do not waste my time. I asked a real expert but unfortunately as many know he is currently unable to answer me after the tragedy that befell him & his family.I only hope that he recovers fully
  • chabadplumber
    chabadplumber Member Posts: 11

    You are probably right on that aspect.The owner didn't mention a coil in the boiler& I didn't really think about that.There definitely was no pump & it probably was indirect.Crown is not exactly top of the line & come to think of it I didn't see a coil or a opening.Wouldn't a coil be very unusual on a smaller boiler anyways?I walked away after 15 min. after bleeding the heater didn't want to waste my time etc. pursuing something I wouldn't get paid for anyways
  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,086
    Wrong or Right Diagnosis

    Your original post doesn't offer enought information to anwser your original question. You asked a question whether you were on the right path. You left yourself open to critique due to the lack of information. The critique are the guys way of asking you a question for them to be able to provide you their best advice.

    Can you post pics or a piping schematic? I could ask more questions like what was your delta-t across the indirect (htrs) supply and return? I think others asked you for the model number so they could get an idea of what you are actually working on. Nothing wrong with critque and not a waste of your time. There are great minds here that think from the science of hydronics to come up with their advice. Most of these minds are the best in the biz. Stick around..
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,078
    direct vs indirect (posts)


    your original post said you thought it was a bad system design since gas is plentiful. Forgive me for thinking that meant that coupled with your repeated use of the adjective electric lead me to believe that you thought this tank was electric hot water heater.  So, if the boiler is gas -- (which I assume but you do not say) then what was the whole question about the appropriateness of this setup as opposed to gas about?  If you were saying that a standalone gas heater might have been a cost effective alternative I'd probably agree depending  a bit on the efficiency of the boiler. But the issue isn't that gas is readily available, rather it is the cost and complexity of using an indirect approach that is also subject to various modes of mechanical, electric (control) and hydraulic failure vs. a standard gas hot water heater.

    Again, checking Bradford White, the only 20 gallon model (actually 19 but model number is 20) that they list is a wall hung electric.  Indirects only go down to 30 gallons.  I suppose it is possible they made a smaller one in the past but I have seldom seen a 20 gallon indirect from any manufacturer.

    Nonetheless, working on assumptions, it appears you found a small indirect heater and bled the coil and the hotwater went back on.  That sounds plausible, but nothing else you have said regarding the appropriateness of the system really rings true. As far as its install. Operationally, the question remains why it was dirty and how much that is affecting peak performance and transfer efficiency, but you weren't really doing an energy audit. Nonetheless, you might consider this as an area of future research as if it is really dirty enough to cause problems then you're going to get a call back.

    IT sounds like you are somewhat unfamiliar with indirects altogether, again based on your saying you hadn't seen this kind of setup before. While in your second post you do describe it as a storage tank, you preface that with the adjective "electric" again. This creates confusion as storage tanks are just storage tanks, they aren't electric. And a technical if not term of art way to refer to an electric hot water heater is as an electric storage tank, i.e. a tank that stores hot water after heating it electrically.

    The fact that this has an aquastat doesn't make it electric. That is a control, not a heating source. That said, if, in your mind, you were clear this wasn't an electric hot water heater we are at odds over language and not equipment.

    Again, I think you misconceive the benefit of this forum.  This isn't a place where people lurk to tell you you did something wrong or they are smarter than you are. But they do ask for more information quite often -- and if they think it is information that should have obviously been provided they might occasionally be a little sardonic in their request. But the moniker "heating help" is actually quite truthful. that's what you get here. There are other great sites for these discussions and some that are better on HVAC and refrigeration -- but I think you will be hard pressed to find a better place for "heating help", so don't wear out your welcome with a bunch of CYA , I said this, I said that, and you probably aren't helping your cause by saying I spent a few minutes looking at it, wasn't worth any more.  If that is the case why are you bothering to ask.

    Sounds like, really, you want to be able to make a quick effective diagnosis on indirect potable water heating systems and cogent recommendations to customers even when you didn't install them. And you can read someone not calling the original contractor any number of ways: they are already concerned they got taken advantage of and the system seems less than optimal to them; they didn't finish paying for the installation, etc. You can always ask why, that's not outside the bounds of commerce, it's pretty honest to say it will take me longer to diagnose a system I didn't install, I'm glad to have a look at it,t but it might run above a minimum visit. Is there a reason you don't want to call the original installer on a system that is so (relatively) new.

    I've already spent well in excess of the time of your original service call thinking about this for which I'm not getting paid either and I have no problem with that.  I'm not actually posting this for your benefit, I only come here for my own benefit.  I just make a habit of trying to answer some question when I come on to ask a question, I just figure that is the pay it forward way to approach it. Don't know whay you titled this "problem with radiant system" in the first place but it caught my attenion and I picked this one. Sounds to me like ti should have been "problem with hot water heater".

     But, If people don't find answers here, there is less traffic and less chance of getting my own questions (of which I have plenty) answered so i forged ahead anyway. I could play it differently, which is to hope that people whose questions seem less than fully formed or informed get ignored in favor of my own, but that would require the smug assumption that my own perspective is always fully informed, which is a way to get yourself in way over your head. So i try to remain humble. You'll get a lot further here if you eat a little pie yourself.


  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,078
    edited July 2011
    direct vs indirect (posts)

    sorry duplicate,

    and why does the system keep kicking me out before I post.  I have to sign in to get to a screen to post in the first place.  And then I spend 20 minutes putting something together and go to post it and it has forgotten who I am. I solve the math problem (they're tough but I'm on top of it), but it boots me out to log in again.  MAybe you can change that lag time. I usually go to manufacturers pages or other sources and whatever the timeout it is, it is way too short for me.

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    re: brian

    I usually go on this website from 3 different puters.   Never once did it boot me on a post.  Sometimes the 'posting page' could be sitting  for 15 minutes, before I get back to it and finish.

    I would like to know how the posts get out of order :)
  • archibald tuttle
    archibald tuttle Member Posts: 1,078
    don't know what my sign in problem is

    steve, thanks for your first person experience. I didn't mean to hijack this thread but I have the problem repeatedly. you can't even get a reply to thread screen without logging in, which I do and then when I got to post my magnum opus it tells me I'm not logged in. Obviously isn't a problem everyone is having.

    at least if I just log in it takes me back to my post without losing my work.  I've experienced other websites where failure after clicking "submit" or "post" results in a loss of your post and you have to start over, so a much more minor complaint. 
This discussion has been closed.