Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Heating issues advice needed.....

Forgive the long and lengthy, but I've been clueless until reading a lot on forums like these.

My house info:

colonial style 2 level home

1st level (kitchen, living room, family room, 2nd family room).

2nd level (4 bedrooms, 2 baths).

Built somewhere around 2003 (moved in around 2004-2005).

Was appx. 2500 sqft.

I did not know until recently very little about heating systems etc.

Since we moved in we have had heating problems on the 2nd level. I noticed that the upstairs was taking long periods to warm up. Thought it was normal till it started blowing cool air in the winter.  Had someone come, they said they did a purge. That worked for about 6 weeks.

This had gone on for about 3 years.

Then my father-in-law moved in with us and we ended up having to put an extension onto the house on the 1st level. The people who did the work added another zone to the existing system.  However, the problems I've been having with the 2nd floor heating continued the next winter (lasted about a month, then taking longer and longer to warm).

I had someone come again, they said it needed purging. They did so (I believe anyway). That lasted about another 6 weeks. So, this has been going on since. To the point I can't afford to keep calling someone in. I asked people I know about it and they claim they purge every year so they don't see any particular problem. But reading on forums like this and it doesn't seem to be normal.

Well, after my wife continues to be annoyed, I call someone else in. The guy checks it out, says he's never seen a hydronic heat/air handlers setup in a house (1 in the basement, 1 in the attic, 1 in the unfinished space above the garage serving the extension). He also was suprised to find that there was antifreeze in the system which he was unprepared to handle at the time. He also said it was not convenient to purge and put in more water because of the cavity where they place the system and the "mess" of piping. He said any servicing if something fails will cost me a pretty penny.

My wife recently was at someone else's house where they were showing off their wood stove and how "toasty" it was. I was considering that especially because of how much I've paid in oil recently but don't really have the money due to some setbacks. I was thinking maybe in a couple of year but after doing more research on my setup I was dismayed to find that there are reports of people having a boiler like mine having cracks and leaks. That might push my time frame up.

Not sure what I should be looking to do. Been trying to read up as much as possible but I still truly understand what's going on. And I want to be much more informed before I do anything. Especially if I have to end up replacing that boiler.

I'm trying to attach a pic of my setup now.


  • pipeking
    pipeking Member Posts: 252
    what is the presure in the boiler?

    look ath the gauge on the boiler, but a pic would be better
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    How do they clean that thing?

    Anyway, is oil your only option? no gas propane or natural?

    If you were my customer and you wanted to replace that boiler with another oil fired, I would recommend a heat loss to size the new unit first, then I would throw them zone valves away, and install...

    Taco circ control with priority hot water

    4 Taco Bumble Bees {setup for delta t}

    Buderus GB115 with ODR {sized and setup for your property}

    Spiro vent resorber

    Install gauges on the return

    Probably would install a larger expansion tank, depending on your BTU needs and amount of system you have there... go form a 30 to a 60 and pump away from it..

    and I would install uni-strut on that right hand side wall and have all your piping away from the unit and the smoke pipe, that thing is a service nightmare...
  • berriesandnuts
    berriesandnuts Member Posts: 22
    In my neck of the woods,

    I don't have access to natural gas. Only propane, oil, wood, and coal. I do find in my area I'd been seeing outdoor wood boilers and a lot of people I know have wood stoves and now more pellet stoves. It had been suggested to me to switch to something else a few years ago but I didn't think it was worth the cost at the time. However, now that I know that there is a possibility of my boiler crapping out (I read a few people on forums saying theirs started going bad at about 8-10 years)...  And lo and behold, mine is probably around the 8 year mark now.

    re: servicing,  yeah, seems I'm always out 2-3 hundred every time someone comes. Can't keep doing that. And the last time a guy came to do a "purge", he did mention that if either the tank or the boiler had a problem, basically all the piping would have to be cut before they could do anything.  So I at least have to start considering options at this point. I don't really want to go into the next couple of winters like this.
  • berriesandnuts
    berriesandnuts Member Posts: 22
    Only guage I see

    I took a pic of. I don't entirely know what it represents but from memory, I don't think it's moved any.  I once spoke with a friend (works commercial hvac) over the phone who was gonna describe to me how to purge on my own, and to watch the guage,  however, I could not figure out how to let in more water as he was instructing me to so I gave up.

    He also seemed to think that a better "purge valve?" should be installed.

    I'm not really thinking to do that though because it seems I keep shelling out 2-3 hundred and the problems continue. I'd rather put that money towards a better solution. He also didn't seem to think it was necessary to drain and replenish the system. But I thought I read somewhere it should be if it has antifreeze.  I know I do my car every year but I don't know if that really applies in these cases. 
  • berriesandnuts
    berriesandnuts Member Posts: 22
    Oh, further

    I followed some advice on a couple of occasions to "purge" from the attic air handler. There is a couple of "bike looking valves" on the pipes off of the radiator inside the air handler. That only seems to work like a day or two. But soon after the fan kicks on, the pipe goes cool.

    It was also suggested to me to get the pump on the supply side instead of the return side. But if the pump is what I think it is, there doesn't appear to be space for that.

    Oh, I also did one of those online heat loss calculations. It seems to come out with numbers somewhere around 76000.  That's with some general estimations on my part. I will attempt to do another one and try to input a bit more accurate numbers. Also, I think I read somewhere that the domestic hot water can draw significant energy. And there are two large tubs in the house. One of which does get used from time to time.  And three plus 1/h bath.  I'm not sure how that plays into the figures.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Oh for goodness sakes. They "purged" that with anti-freeze in the system? How did they do that?

    The reason the second floor stops working after 6 weeks is because you need a bigger Extrol tank (Minimum of #60) and the air/float vents on the top floor MUST BE CLOSED AT ALL TIMES!!!!  End of discussion.

    As far as "purging" the second floor, the only way I have found to actually purge it when there is Anti-Freeze in the system is by having a electric pump, and a 5 gallon bucket with an anti-freeze solution in it. The pump must be connected through the outlet to the supply side of the system and the return goes into the bucket. The pump sucks out of the bucket.med, open the return drain and have it cycle through the 5 gallon bucket. You will always be pumping solution water through the zone and you will purge the air out of the system. When the bubbles stop, close the valves, shut off the pump and cycle the zone. It should be getting hot.

    The system pressure needs to be at least 16# PSI. The Extrol needs to be preset to 12# or less. That way, there should always be a reserve air pressure in the tank. If the system pressure goes below the precharge, there is no expansion room in the system and it will go negative when the system cool\s, drawing air into the system through the top vents.

    I don't think that the service techs understand the concept and what is wrong,

    Anti-Freeze systems are a PITA to purge. It takes longer to get the equipment on the job and set up and take down. The actual time is short to do the purge.
  • Wayne M. Lawrence
    Wayne M. Lawrence Member Posts: 19
    air problems

    Hi, From the pics I see that the circulator is on the return, and with the pressure drop thru the hydro-air coil piping, and zone valves, I see why this is a job security call! In the past I have worked on a few like these. I would have a contractor, plumber, or service company relocate the circulator on the supply header, pumping away from the compression tank. I would charge the extrol tank to 20psi, and set the feed valve to 20psi as well using a remote gauge. I never trust tridicator gauges. There is a huge difference with the circulator on the supply, and running the system at the higher pressure should stop the air problems. I would also make sure there aren't any auto- vents on the piping at the air handler coil. Hope this helps
  • pipeking
    pipeking Member Posts: 252
    edited February 2013
    berriesand nuts

    i agree with allot of the suggestions, and they need to be taken in steps if your looking to save money and get it to work. the reason i ask for the pressure reading was to see if there was enough pressure to get the water to the top of the system to efficiently purge. so do this:

    drain down the near boiler piping and replace the auto feed (cheap insurance to know it working properly) take your pressure reading with another gauge for accuracy and pump up the expansion tank to 20psi. fill and purge every zone. now run every zone 1by1 starting with the lowest. then make sure all vents r closed. i would say 99.7% this should take care of it.

     i don't know your system and the thermal mass it has, so i want to say your expansion tank should be big enough(cuz your relief valve hasn't tripped), but if it does after this change get a bigger one.

     now putting the circulater on the supply after the expansionn tank will help by letting the circulater put all its output force to the system and not be impeded opon by the air cushion of the expansion tank and the resistance of the boiler. on your system i would say that this will have minimal gains because the circulator will not over come the pressure differential off the expansion tank and your boiler has low resistance. but it is becoming common practice with installers, and hi res. boilers, but conventionals still come from the factory with it on the return, so i would leave it.

    now the other .3% ..... we will talk about it if it comes, but it would be a compromise of the closed loop.

    as for the air handler in the attic u need 1 of 2 things either cold weather circulation or more then likely antifreeze. i just hope that it is not already compromised! u prolly wouldn't know the water will just go in the safety pan then outside! 
  • berriesandnuts
    berriesandnuts Member Posts: 22
    Extrol tank...

    You say extrol tank? Didn't know what that was, I had to look it up.

    I took a look at the one I have, it says Model #30. That would be the size? It doesn't appear that anything bigger will fit that space. I'm guessing it would require a bit of work for a plumber to do?

    Also, you mentioned air/float vents should be closed. Is that the little canister looking thing on the pipe leading away from the attic air handler? It was added during one of the service calls. I will check to see if it is open or closed. I took a pic of it.

    Question? If it is closed, how does it vent?
  • berriesandnuts
    berriesandnuts Member Posts: 22
    Expansion tank...

    Pipeking, you mention a relief valve tripping. I'm not entirely sure what and where that is. I'll look it up. However, I remember about a year ago during yearly maintenance the guy mentioned there was liquid on the floor. He ended up changing that expansion tank. Said it was full. 
This discussion has been closed.