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Help! Many questions regarding boiler installation and radiators, including pressure testing.

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radowner
radowner Member Posts: 6
Hi Everyone,

I need your help and expertise. I know virtually nothing about boilers and radiators and now have to make some decisions primarily about boiler installation, testing the radiators before installation to ensure there are no leaks, and what I need to do if leaks are found. Needless to say, I’m very worried about making some wrong decisions. I live in Chicago so any area specific information about installers/service providers would also be appreciated. I’m not sure if you can post the info I’m asking for so please feel free to email me if needed: bluebird52004@yahoo.com

I live in a house (1 ½ story) that was probably built in the ‘30s. It has 9 cast iron radiators (hot water) on the main floor (approx. sizes listed at end). Some are covered with metal radiator covers.

My boiler leaked out water, has been subsequently shut off. Unfortunately, this happened right before a cold snap and there were a few below freezing temps (some nights I believe outside temps went into the 20s). I’m assuming that for a few nights the temps in my house may have dropped to high 20s-my house seems to get to 5-10 degrees above outside temps. Unfortunately, I had to be out of town during this time and I’m unsure if there was any damage done to the radiator system. When I returned, I found that the small radiator (36”H x 20”W x 5”D) in an enclosed small hallway next to the front door had a part that broke off the upper left, looked like black gunk may have blocked the water from going down the “column”. I believe this hallway probably got much colder than the rest of the house, very small room, draft coming in from front door, etc. All of the other radiators look fine from a visual inspection, but I’m concerned there may be some small cracks that can’t easily be seen. I don’t think there are cracks, the radiators look ok (for 80 year old radiators) but I think they should probably be tested before spending thousands on a new boiler. If the radiators are damaged, maybe I’ll need to look in another direction for heating options.

I’ve had 3 people out for estimates (heating and cooling professionals, not plumbers) and they say I need a new boiler.

My questions:
1. Should a heating and cooling professional or plumber install the new boiler?
2. Do you have any tips on finding the right person to install? I’ve tried to go through the reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List, but I haven’t found any that have actually installed boilers, lots to go through though. I know this is an important installation and would assume boilers aren’t easy to install.
3. The heating professional I’m thinking of going with says that the damaged radiator needs to be removed and capped off before installing the boiler and that I have a closed system. I thought that the valve with the black knob could have just turned that radiator off, but I guess that’s not the case. If leaks are found in the other radiators, do they also have to be removed and capped off before starting up the new boiler? Can a radiator still be used if it has a small leak even if it isn’t repaired? I’ve read about JB Weld, which I guess would be an option to repair small leaks also,
4. The heating professional says he can run an air pressure test on the system before installing the boiler and that a loud sound would be heard from any damaged radiators. Would this be an effective test to find any leaks or may it cause damage to the system?
5. Is there anything else I should be aware of before having the boiler installed? If possible, I would like to have the testing done and if the radiators are ok, the boiler installed within the next 2 weeks. Temps should be in the upper 30s and 40s for the next 2 weeks.
Any answers/tips you can provide me with would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much (in advance).

Approx. Radiator Sizes: (H, W, D):
Hallway: 36” x 20” x 5”
Living Room: 22” x 130” x 12”
Dining Room: 19” x 66” x 8”
Kitchen: 13” x 68” x 12”
Bathroom: 38” x 28” x 9”
Room 1: 36” x 30” x 10”
Room 2: 20” x 29” x 12”
Room 3: 20” x 29” x 12”
Room 4: 20” x 58” x 12”

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,433
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    Let's see here
    1. It should be a heating and cooling professional -- who does hot water heat.
    2. Have you looked at "fibd a contractor" on this site? Search by state -- it works better.
    3. Any radiator which has been damaged or leaks will have to be capped off, if not necessarily physically removed from the room. It is almost impossible to fix a leaker satisfactorily.
    4. The air test is the way to go. You may findother damaged radiators. You may also find damaged pipes. Sorry about that! But do not add water to a system which may frozen -- if there are leaks, the water will cause a lot of expensive damage.
    5. Have the pro. do good heat loss on the house and size the new boiler correctly.

    That's a good start
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,833
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    Do not cap off the supply and return line. Run a pipe between them to keep water flowing through the whole system unit you replace the rad.
  • radowner
    radowner Member Posts: 6
    Options

    Let's see here
    1. It should be a heating and cooling professional -- who does hot water heat.
    2. Have you looked at "fibd a contractor" on this site? Search by state -- it works better.
    3. Any radiator which has been damaged or leaks will have to be capped off, if not necessarily physically removed from the room. It is almost impossible to fix a leaker satisfactorily.
    4. The air test is the way to go. You may findother damaged radiators. You may also find damaged pipes. Sorry about that! But do not add water to a system which may frozen -- if there are leaks, the water will cause a lot of expensive damage.
    5. Have the pro. do good heat loss on the house and size the new boiler correctly.

    That's a good start

    Thank you so much for the tips. There are only 2 contractors shown for my area, 1 is for radiant heating and the other for steam.

    I'm thinking that if I have other damaged radiators or pipes, I should look into possibly having ductwork put in for central air/heat.

    Do you know how long the air pressure test should last, I think I read 15 minutes for water testing? Could it cause damage to the system?

    Thanks
  • radowner
    radowner Member Posts: 6
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    unclejohn said:

    Do not cap off the supply and return line. Run a pipe between them to keep water flowing through the whole system unit you replace the rad.

    Thank you for your help. I will check to be sure this is what will be done.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    Options
    What bad luck for you, especially during the winter.
    A qualified pro should be able to test everything with compressed air, and determine the extent of the damage, and make decisions on its remediation.
    Try to save the hot water heating if at all possible, as you will never find forced air as comfortable as hot water. Naturally you may wish to have air conditioning, which would need ductwork, and in order to have that, you may wish to put up with the added discomfort, and general inefficiency of forced air heating.
    Please let us know how this situation turns out.--NBC