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Bad hydronic panel install...

heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
OK, so its coming time to start going through all the jobs that this winter produced to be done this spring...

One is a house with a new finished basement, they have buderus model 11 panels installed, these are the 2 1/2" units, I like them and have used them before, although some customers get scared by the 12month warranty, they seem to work and hold up well, {although they dont come with the install fittings, and you need to use Buderuses for them not to leak}...

Anyway, They have 5 panels {4 at 3600btu and 1 2800btu}. The contractor {not heating, buildiing} did the install himself, he installed them like a baseboard loop, they are running of a ci oil boiler on a circulator {he installed a tee at the prv and another at the bottom drain, not a nice of a job either}.

The problem they are having besides a bunch of drips, is the first 2 rads are super hot and the last 3 are barely warm... Obviously this is because of the install... How he piped them, each panel has a home run back to the unfinished part of the basement, so I have a few options...

To keep costs down I was thinking install a 5 loop manifold { I was going to give these a try, never used them before, normally use the wirsbo <a href="http://www.pexsupply.com/Rifeng-RHM05-50PK-5-Loop-Stainless-Steel-Manifold-Package-1-2-PEX">http://www.pexsupply.com/Rifeng-RHM05-50PK-5-Loop-Stainless-Steel-Manifold-Package-1-2-PEX</a> }, with a mixing valve and circ... Run each loop back to the manifold run a pair of 3/4's back to the boiler, manifold that in correctly and be done with it....

My questions are- 1 has anyone ever used them manifolds before?

2-does anyone know a fitting that will fit the panels besides the $35 buderus unit?

3-would I have to change the internal balance valves in the panels, I normally install the buderus stats they sell, but the customer is trying to spend as little as possible.. So this will be the first time leaving in the factory balance units...



  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,446

    I have used that manifold. They worked well for me although I have heard some folks on here that have had bad experience with leaking. They require British threading so be sure to order the adapters with them.

    Those radiators should use a metric r-20 fitting. What did the installer use? I have not tried it but would be surprised if you had trouble with any r-20 fitting.

    Ideally you would use the buderus TRV to balance the room. You should be able to balance it manually with the manifold.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Bad Hydronic Panel Install Joke:

    This is really a bad joke.

    Manufacturers are selling their complicated products to the lowest common denominator in the quest for sales and leave we professionals to compete for scraps and then be expected to fix these disasters. I put in a few of these advanced, complicated and expensive systems. They never worked to my satisfaction. And although customers never complained to me directly, I never thought they were all that happy with the results. I spent more time looking at systems that couldn't be fixed in expensive houses.

    Some hot shot contractor didn't want to pay to have it properly installed by a professional that knew what they were doing, so he buys it on-line and installs it himself. He made a ton of money off his defective install. It doesn't work. Now he doesn't want to spend any money on you to fix it? When the cost of you doing it right in the first place would have been less than if you had done it in the first place.

    I came to find that I learned far more from fixing other installers wrongs than I ever did by my own mistakes. The more I had to do to keep it correct and proper, the more expensive it became to do it right the first time.

    These contractors all want to drive 5-Series BMW's but pay Ford Focus prices for it. Same philosophy they have about hiring professionals to do their work. Fast, expensive and cheap in price. A late Electrician contractor friend had a big sign on the wall of his shop where people first cam in and for all to see:

    "Your poor planning, doesn't constitute an emergency on MY part".

    There for "Contractors" who just spent 6 weeks in St. Barts in the Caribbean while nothing was done on their job with a completion date on June 15. And owners moving in for July 4th weekend. They were lucky if they moved in by August 1.

    And you wait 60 days or more for your money. After you cut 10% off the bill or they want you to cut them a check for cash.

    There's a line in a song by Woody Guthrie about "Some will rob you with a six gun, others do it with a fountain pen."

    I had a very long time customers who I did a couple of houses for him. He decided to build another one. He hired this Contractor that I knew as a sleaze. I told the owner that I would be working for him and not the contractor, that any pricing and billing would be going to him the owner, and any arrangements between the builder and the owner were out of my jurisdiction.  And that I was redy to start that day (November) and I had a lot of work to do the plumbing and heating, that it was a complicated install in a custom house. And that I didn't want the contractor calling me up on April 1 and telling me that I had 2 weeks to do the rough because he had sheet rockers scheduled for April 15 and if I couldn't do it, he would get someone else (which he had already. The foundation was done before November, and the lumber was already there. He started framing February 1. The owner called me April 1. I reminded him of what he said. Someone else did the job. I have too much work in the Spring to drop everything on a house like that. The heating was a disaster. A first floor loop was Runtal Panel Radiators, 15 panels piped in series with 1/2" copper, It started in the kitchen (thermostat) and ended up in the Living Room. The kitchen was hot, the living room was cold, with lots of NW facing glass. They used a Taco high head, high volume circulator to try to push the water around faster. Within 6 months I was back trying to salvage what was there. Much of what was there couldn't be salvaged. They learned to live with it.

    Just because you're handling a lot of money, doesn't mean you're making any.

    Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.

    Is it worth it? Sometimes its hard to separate pride from good sense.
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    The fittings on the panels are r20

    but the installer used 3/4" sched. 40 PVC... Its a mess, all but 2 joints are leaking...

    Do you have a link to one of the adapters you used on the rifeng manifolds?

    I hate to stray from wirsbo since they have been very good, but the home owners are on a tight budget, they spent a lot on this project, and now their out of state contractor is.........Out of state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am trying to keep the material cost down, the regular buderus adapters for the panles are around $20 each and I will need 5 of them, then the manifold, a roll of 3/4 pex, a roll of 1/2 pex, $100 of fittings, flanges, and hangers, 6 hours of labor and they should be in good shape...

  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    The contractors work

    doesnt look terrible, the basement came nice, he hired an electrician for the electrical, and a window company to install the windows but he did the plumbing and heating himself. It looks like a homeowner and his drunk uncle did it on a Sunday afternoon...

    The toilet valve is just hanging on pex outside the wall, the shower valve is loose inside the wall, he had to over tighten the valves facia to get it stable and not moving, the heating work is terrible, all green, no soldering done, all sharkbite and pex with some pvc where it doesn't belong... Just a mess....

    They spent a good amount of money on the system, probably more than I would have charged if the carpenter hung the panels and drilled the holes...... Now they have to pay twice...

    Another funny fact about this job is, they called another company {well know, they have a few trucks on the road around here} and they told them they had to add 4 thermostats, 4 more circs, and repipe the entire boiler, and they should change the existing {7 year old} boiler, while they are there....

    This is why people are so leery of contractors....

    I am going to make it as simple as possible, I could leave the near boiler piping alone, but its leaking anyway and so wrong its not funny, so I will install the zones where it belongs, pipe in the manifold, pipe in the units the correct way with the correct adapters so they can salvage all that is there and not break the bank...

    I hate walking into other peoples nightmares, but it happens often, about a month ago I went to a 90+ weil mclain ultra 80 vented into a chimney with 2 water heaters and another boiler rite next to it, so 3 natural draft units and a forced 90+!!!!! Been there for 2 years!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I was there to repair on of the water heaters {which needed to be changed} and I told the home owner I would not touch anything until that boiler was vented properly... After explaining the issues they said "but its fine, it has worked for 2 years", I gave them a price and they never called me back to do any work, not sure if they fixed it or not....

    I told them it was dangerous and they said they have co detectors and they never go off...
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited March 2014
    It was fine:

    And it was just fine. It worked for 2 years.

    In your travels, you must see some fine examples of Kindergarten Plumbing Picasso's.

    What were they thinking?

    Is it even legal to vent a Weil-McLain 90+ boiler into a chimney? Let alone with the atmospheric gas water heaters. How did the they handle the Stainless Steel exhaust that's part of the heat recovery? The condensate? Is it just run on the floor?

    Sounds right nifty.
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    It is not legal

    I have used chimneys as chases before for pvc or stainless vents, but never just vent into a clay lined chimney, the shared flue just makes it much worse...

    The condensate was ran into a sump pump basin if I remember correctly... Its probably the same way to this day.....

    I have seen some pipefitting nightmares for sure, a lot of the simple, pipe the return so you can not access the cleanouts, fire chamber, ect, or put the boiler in a position so you can not access the chimney cleanout, or use the boiler to block in a 40 gallon water tank so when the tank goes you have to remove the boiler to replace it, ect...

    The best {or worst rather} was a unit done totally wrong, a large water heater gas fired, maybe 80 gallons... Used as a boiler, piped with pex and shark bites, a circulator on top of the water heater and it fed a loop, it had no feed valve or prv, just a switching relay and circ, to feed it water they had a hose running to the bottom of the tank from the faucet on their well.... It actually heated the house, it was about 1000 sq feet, they had it vented with dryer vent {the metal flexi stuff}....

    It was the homeowners brother in law who installed it and I guess it worked, the house was being bought by a customer of mine, he wanted it for the land, but the bank wouldnt give a loan on it because the mechanical couldnt pass inspection, so we had to install a boiler and bring it to code, to tear the house down... I installed a 5 section boiler in the house, because we removed it the week after the closing and saved it for his build, which was much larger and came beautiful...

    That house was in Foster, RI which has some old shacks in it, but lots of nice land...
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,409
    Read this and made me think....

    This isn't a plumbing story, but it relates to people comments about it's been that way for so many years and it's fine.  In reality it's not.  I have a cousin that had a house burn completely out...why you may ask?  Well it was an electrical issue from when the house was built...10 YEARS EARLIER.  Apparently the installing electrician nicked the outer insulation on a high amp feed to his electric stove.  After 10 years of expansion and contraction the nicked insulation finally failed and it arced and instant fire.  I always tell people that story when the say oh it's been fine for X number of years.  Sure it is, but tomorrow it burns your house down or kills everyone.  Being less wrong still isn't right.  It's either right or wrong no middle ground when peoples lives are at stake.  I know off the primary topic, but I just felt like relaying that story.  I am sure I am preaching to the choir though.  Just a humble homeowner.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,616
    edited April 2014
    The Moral of the Story...

    is that this happens all over the country. Whether it's a hydronic system or forced air. We spend almost 30% of our time repairing poorly installed systems. This is Seattle where there's significant income. How come?

    There are many reasons for this scenario, but somehow, the owner or GC saw that a cheaper price had value. Often a plumber tried his best, but didn't have the right stuff or technical background to perform. He did have a low price. Sometimes the GC would have his crew try to do the install...same result. Non-performing system with high fuel costs.

    While price certainly is important, what difference does it make if the system doesn't work right?

    I tell potential clients to do some vetting on the internet, because pricing can vary as much as 100% from sub to sub. If the heating contractor doesn't have a website, bad news. If they have a website but don't show pics of their boiler piping, bad news. A pic of the fancy house exterior doesn't tell much, does it? Have they installed more than 10 systems? Have they called any references with working systems? Have they attended manufacturer's training?

    Some of this is related to the poor business or selling practices of qualified techs, who aren't able to price the job to do it right, or convince the owner that a lower price really means less, not more.
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,721
    Uponor EP Manifolds

    Guys , all homeowners do not do bad work . I believe it is all in the instruction they receive . I design systems for homeowners and have the right material shipped to them , I also am mostly able to determine whether or not they are capable of performing their own install . These homeowners usually perform better installations than many self proclaimed heating guys . It really is a sad state of affairs , many of us that assist folks here on the site are the exception not the rule , as we have found out over and over again .  Websites do not make for competent installers , designers or anything , pictures are kinda  deceiving , I have seen pics of my work on others sites , pretty funny huh ?  The attached image is of a job that a homeowner installed and is similar to the job mentioned above , 17 Buderus Panel rads with TRVs and 3 rooms of radiant . I wish plumbers would do work like this , In case you wonder I did not spec galvanized .

    The Uponor EP manifolds are cost effective and work fine , of course watch what type of HTF you add if any at all .  
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    nice work

    panel is a little close though...

    I agree homeowners can do great work, I have given many homeowners instruction on doing their own installs, I have a customer rite now doing his own boiler and hydro air install, I went and brazed in the line sets and checked on the job he is doing a very nice job, spending more time on it than most contractors would....
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Homeowner Install:

    That may appear to be a fine example of a homeowner install.

    The galvanized pipe will probably  destroy the system. Why on earth would they ever use that? They spent huge sums of money on the latest high tech system with all PEX, brass and stainless steel equipment just to stick some iron in it? If they had the knowledge to do that installation, they should have had the knowledge to not put the Galvanized in.

    At first I thought that it must be installed by an electrician. If it was, I hope that he didn't use galvanized HW conduit. Because you can't use electrical conduit on water piping. The skelp isn't made to be pressure water tight and will leak after time. Sometimes, right away. But then, it appears that the exhaust piping and the water heater  is inside the radius of the electrical panel. An electrician would know that it is too close for the electrical code. If someone gets "Hooked Up" in the panel, they're supposed to be able to fall away without hitting any obstructions while they are pulling away or falling away. Electricians and inspectors where I worked were really touchy about anything being in the way of their panels.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    You noticed:

    " ""panel is a little close though..."" "

    You noticed that too.

    I mentioned that and was afraid that some would think I didn't know what the cluck I was talking about. That's in the NEC. I guess that RI inspectors enforce the same regs as Massachusetts.
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,804
    The workmanship is clean

    but the galvanized pipe is killing me.
    Steve Minnich
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,721

    appeared to be a bit close to me also . I have been assured that the panel is indeed fully to the front half of the room and the exhaust does in fact have a 15" clearance to the edge of the panel .  The appliance is not a water heater as someone stated , it is in fact an HTP Pioneer boiler that has 55 gallons of mass . The galvanized is killing me too . Other than that which the homeowner has told me he will be changing in the spring it is rather nice work and quite possibly better than a majority of what we repair , rip out on a daily basis that was completed by so called heating men . Can we agree on that ?

      Point also being made was that the system referred to by the OP can be made proper for little monies spent . 
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2014
    Yah that would not fly here...

    Sure some inspectors may walk by it and not notice, but the day it springs a leak and soaks the panel and kills someone is the day my insurance will drop me...

    I as a practice, stay 36" from all panel fronts, 6'6" tall, 30" from the sides...
  • RobG
    RobG Member Posts: 1,850
    edited April 2014

    It almost looks like the pipes might be painted silver. I can't quite tell. It's hard to believe that there is not one black fitting or support in there. I hope thats what it is, for his sake.