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Help identifying what I've got

Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
I recently moved to an old farm house that was recently gutted and redone. The work looks top notch. The question is can you help me identify how the HVAC system is designed to work. Asking the installer is not an option unfortunately. Here's what I know:

1) it's a munchkin 140m boiler running four zones: upstairs, down stairs, back room, and domestic hot water. Upstairs is 5 rooms worth of fin type baseboard. Down stairs is three rooms of baseboard with one kick board heater under the kitchen sink. The back room is one kick board heater under the back sink. ( back room is 14x17)

2) I don't think there is an outdoor thermostat associated with the boiler

3) I am burning propane.

The specifics of my question are:

1) I don't see any type of mixing valve where the inlet and outlet meet. There is just a pipe that connects the two sides of the loops. Should there be a valve?

2)The kick board heaters have an electric blower that use a ton of electricity. Keeping the back room warm 55F (insulation is bad,it's the only room that didn't get a full makeover) doubled the electric bill for one month. We just shut the room off for the winter. Would you expect the jump in electricity to be that sever. Usage went from 437kwh to 980kwh.

3) The kick board heater in the main kitchen is first in the loop. From the main loop outlet, a line tees of to the kick board via a smaller white pipe, not pex like everything else,, then the kick board's return tees back in to the main loop a couple of feet down stream from where it originally teed off. Is is ok to do it like that?

4) The last base board heater in the first floor loop is the downstairs bathroom. It is always freezing. It is furthest from the.thermostat on the north side of the house. The rest of the main floor is comfortable so I don't want to heat up everything else more just to heat the bathroom. Do I have any options?

5) None of the exposed pex lines have pipe insulation. Should put some on?

Thanks for any help.



  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12

    I tried uploading some pictures but it didn't take.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited March 2013
    Munchkin Piping:

    I don't think I've ever seen a Munchkin piped quite that way.

    It certainly doesn't follow the installation guidelines. Or the ones I have followed.

    There's an Indirect there. It should have been piped using a Vision Pro. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.

    Hydronic heating is extremely forgiving.

    Your estimation on the cost or running fractional HP electric motors on the toe kick heaters is way too high. Not even close. They use about the same electricity as a 40 watt light bulb.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258

          If you are refering to the loop formed right off the boiler and a need for a mixing valve, the answer would be "no". That is a set of closely spaced tees. They allow the boiler to have the circulation it needs while not being affected by the system circs.

         Do the emitters in the cold areas get hot when the zone is calling for heat?
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited March 2013
    How closely spaced

    are those tees?  They're both closer to a 90 than they are to each other.

    Is it possible your "smaller white pipe" is actually potable water PEX?

    The difference in your electric figures would require a 24 x 7 load of approximately 750 Watts.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258
    edited March 2013

    I thought the same thing, but the supply and return tappings are about 8.75" apart, according to the manual. It does violate the minimum spacing tee to elbow though.
  • SlimpickinsSlimpickins Member Posts: 314
    edited March 2013

    those tee's should be closer together and I like to have 12" of flow coming out of the tee before it 90's on the secondary loops. Also the primary pump should be pumping into the boiler, not out of the supply. I don't see a backflow preventer either.. Ice Sailor is right about the indirect piping, I would think it doesn't have the Vision Pro controller. If you repipe it it would be a good time to upgrade to the Vision Pro then you can have outdoor reset and domestic water priority. If you have cast iron drain pipes I hope there is a condensate neutralizer. Also do you know if the heat exchanger has been cleaned and a combustion analysis performed? Very important. I think you need someone familiar with correct piping, pumping and servicing the Munchkin boiler. I hope that didn't scare you too much. I've seen worse.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258

    That circ is on the return.
  • SlimpickinsSlimpickins Member Posts: 314

    You're right Paul, just looked at an old manual. Been awhile since I've worked on a Munchie. I took a job and I've been doing more scorched error lately than boilers and I sure miss it.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258
    Small Stuff

    The distance to the elbows. The scoop is useless piped there. No backflow.
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    As long as they're repiping it

    and installing the ODR, might as well set it up for constant circulation and replace those four electricity hogs with a single smart circ.
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    Electric usage

    So that kick board fan shouldn't draw that much? Maybe I have something else going on. Time to investigate further.
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    edited March 2013
    White pex

    The smaller white line is not Pex. I use pex a lot on the rentals I manage. It is a smaller diameter and very stiff. Almost feels like there is a metal core.

    What do you mean about the tee spacing? Where the too loops connect right near the outlet and inlet of the boiler or somewhere else? The tees at the outlet and inlet are 9" apart and the next tee on either side is 5" away. What does that mean?

    EDIT: I was wrong. The smaller white line is pex.
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    Indirect piping?

    I don't understand the indirect piping comment..

    The heat exchanger hasn't been touched. It was only installed two years ago. Should I look into hat now?

    Drain pipes are all new PVC.

    Where does the vision pro fit into the system?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    12" before the 90

    With the system in place already, would you consider repiping to get the recommended 12"?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    Pipe insulation?

    Any thoughts on insulating the pex?

    Thanks so much for all the help!,
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258

    You really need to get a pro in there to help with the near boiler piping,upgrading the controls, and adding necessary radiation. They will do a proper heat loss and make sure you don't freeze your arse off. In the mean time, anything you can do to tighten the envelope in those cold areas will help. Add insulation, have the sills foamed, new windows, whatever you can do. Where are you located?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    What will I gain.

    What gains should I expect when I repipe? Why is 12" before the first 90 important. Just want to make sure it's worth it. I'm in upstate NY. Insulation for the back room is on the list for this weekend or next.
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12

    The emitter in the bathroom does heat up but it's never on long enough to warm up the room.
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258
    Read This 

    In addition, you would get a properly functioning air removal device. Yours, as plumbed, will not work properly. If you choose, you can eliminate 2 of those circs, and zone with valves. There are many possibilites that you would have to discuss with the contractor.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited March 2013
    What is the reason to repipe it?

    When Im building a primary secondary I don't always have 12"s before the 90's... On some I use street 90's out of the closely spaced tee's {my own house included}, never had a problem... What will it do? I always keep my tees as close as possible, but the space before a 90 going to the secondary has never made a difference in any of my jobs, especially when you have a smaller secondary pipe diameter... Has anyone ever noticed a system wouldnt work because of 90s being too close?

    For your freezing bathroom, you have a few options, the first and what I would probably do is shorten up that zone, if the water is entering at 180 and falls too far before it returns to the boiler the zone is too large. You want to get the system to run with around a 20* difference... Its ussually not too much work to split a zone, just need another circulator and control {unless your zone control has a spare spot}, or you do it with zone valve or you can just split it with a couple tees and another purge and isolation station... Lots of options...

    As for the toe kicks using a lot of electricity, that is odd... I would say you shouldnt even notice the amount they cost to run... I would look into that..

    As far as the closely spaced tees, that will work, with your system setup you should be fine, and I dont think you would notice the difference between that piping and piping done with the "by the book" primary secondary setup...

    It doens't look like a terrible job, I don't see the point in mounthing it on that crazy wood contraption {Not sure if that would even pass here}, if you are going to hang a boiler like that just bolt strut to it and at that point lift it high enough to tuck the tank under it, and I don't pipe the dhw off the secondary I normally come rite off the primary with the dhw, before the closely spaced tees..
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258
    What will it do?

           I'd suspect it adversely affects hydraulic seperation.Because you can get away it on most,or many jobs doesn't mean you can ignore the rules.Whether it's affecting the performance of this system....I don't know. Is there air in the system, that's not being removed, because the scoop is not plumbed correctly? Is there backflow prevention on there? Would the system benefit from a control upgrade with ODR?

           Where do you start? If you have one tire on your car that is bald every 5000 miles, do you just keep changing the tire? Or buy 10 tires because you get a better price?

           I'm just a Machinist, you are the HVAC professional. I just don't troubleshoot that way.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    I just don't see the point of repiping the system, its there, its working, and the problem he is having {freezing bathroom at end of loop} isnt going to fix it... Yes a backflow would be nice, and comply with codes but also not going to change performance of the boiler {I see TONS of boilers with no Backflows, and the truth of the matter is most customers arent going to pay $200 to install one when they hear what it does, we write it on the receipt and move on...

    His system would be much better off splitting the zone that is too long, to remedy the cold bathroom problem, and if he wants an ODR, that is easy enough, just swap out that control with a Hydrostat 3200 and od sensor... I would also swap them circs out with bumble bees or alphas {bumble bees are getting hard to find but the alpha is nice too}, at least the zones that call all the time. Them changes will get you return and make noticable differences...

    I am just thinking what I would charge to repipe that "by the book" and Its just not worth it, its a situation where it is rite enough... The primary secondary systems are pretty easy to make work even when bending or ignoring the rules....

    Does anyone know the exact "rules" I was taught up to 6 pipe diameters between the tees never over 12"s, and 4 diameters before the 90's with all the same size pipe on primary and secondary, primary circulator pumping into the boiler {with a check valve installed} and the air separation on the secondary supply before the zones with the exp tank and water feed......

    But for example, my house has a solo 175 I have a 1 1/4" primary with the return on the supply side before the tees, the tees are about 8" apart with street 90's turning it to the zones, the air separation is on the supply secondary side and the secondary side is all 1"... No check valves on the primary side the only check valves in the entire system are in the bumble bee secondary circs... So I broke a few rules, and the system works flawlessly... I originally used a 0011 but now swapped it to a alpha and have noticed no difference {except the I'm sure it uses less power and makes less noise}....

    Sure I have done a lot of system by the book, but some times it makes you go way out of your way, with my house I was trying to get everything in a certain amount of space and ended up using smaller street 90s rite out of the closely spaced tees, which is against the rules but it works, and I have done the same system by the rules that work the same...

    Can anyone say exactly what the diverse effects of doing this would be, maybe Im looking for the wrong symptoms... I used 1 1/4" x 1" tees for my primary with street 90's coming out of the 1" side to the secondary.... What should I be looking for as far as fault in the system...
  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,258

    I just think he would be better served by bringing in a pro, and let him go over the system. He has options, and there may be other things wrong in the system. He may opt to just fix the issues related to comfort, and that's fine. I think the operative is "qualified". They need someone, such as yourself, that can make the system comfortable and efficient.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    You are rite

    definitely not something a diy'er is going to tackle, need a pro to get real eyes on the system..
  • TomTom Member Posts: 458

    Be careful when it comes to "pro's", remember a "pro" probably installed this current problem.
    Montpelier Vt
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Not all pros are bad, lol..

    Just use common sense, get someone that has been around a while, will show you pics of his work, let you talk to past customers, ect... But most of them time you can tell by a fast conversation..

    Like I said I wouldn't try to sell you a repipe, I would address your cold bathroom issue by giving you a handful of options, telling you the pros cons and prices of each, then I would tell you "look if you want to spend money on the system, I wouldnt spend it repiping, I would spend it upgrading your control and circulators"

    If you get a pro there that says, "oh no you need to do this that and repipe the primary and move this to hear and add this, and its $3000 before even mentioning the actual problem, then you may be on the wrong track, although it would be nice to see they know whats wrong you have to ask, what am I going to gain by correcting it besides plumbers that see it knowing it was done by the book?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    I think it's number 4

    I read the entire link you supplied. Thanks for the info. I really think my system is plumbed like example #4. Would more pictures of my set up let you know if I'm correct or not?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    This makes sense

    You comments make a lot of sense to me. I think this is the route I will go.

    Any additional thoughts on insulation on the lines?
  • Austin_NYAustin_NY Member Posts: 12
    A new wrinkle...

    So another problem has come up. The kick board heater in the back room is on its own loop with its own thermostat. We used the room yesterday for the fist time in a while. Turned the heat of to 62. When we were done we turned it back to 50. Several hours later the temperature in the room had dropped to 55 and the heater continued to run for a couple hours even though the thermostat was set to 50. It kicked on and off several more times...each time the room was still over 50.

    What's up with that? Could that have been my electrical phantom?
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    line insulation

    Are these copper lines or PEX? I don't think it is going to be labor and cost smart to insulate the lines, I obviously would have to take the ambiant temps and do the math but Im sure your not losing a ton of energy through the lines.. I say this knowing you still have to insulate the un-insulated portion of the climate controlled living space, that is where your labor and money is going to be best spent.... Even if you don't use the space much, it is most likely still sucking the heat out of the other portions of the house...

    Now for the "new" problem, this could be anything from a faulty t-stat to a sticking control, I don't know if you are saying just the fan was running or the circulator and fan, I also do not know how it is wired, I have seen this done a lot of different ways, 120v t-stat controlling the fan and circulator, lv t-stat controlling a switching relay feeding the circulator and a 120v aquastat controlling the fan, ect.. Is it still running now?
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