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Need Help With Radiant Floor Heating-How to operate my system

I just purchased a home with radiant floor heating and have no clue about how to operate it. The previous owner who did not live in the house bought it at an auction and said that there may be a leak in the system. I asked for any details and he refused to go into any detail.

It seems there are 3 zones and is powered by a small tankless water heater. I can see that a relay has been pulled from the system and that the plug for the water heater is unplugged. I have pictures of the setup and I will post them if allowed. My question is how do I turn it on to test it? How can I tell if water is in the system? If someone here could look at the pictures and be able to tell from them how to operate and test the system that would really be great. I live in a remote area of Montana getting a plumber here is all but impossible and if so very expensive.


Pictures
Radiant Floor system
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Comments

  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    I really hope someone can help with this.

    Thanks
  • Rich_49Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,540
    Is there any sort of gas available at your location .

    Which one of these heaters closest matches what is currently there ?
    http://www.titantanklessheater.com/titan-tankless-water-heaters
    What type water heater is installed for domestic hot water ?

    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • Rich_49Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,540
    Where exactly in Montana are you located ? Will a zip code do or do we need GPS coordinates ?
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    It is hard to tell which one when looking on the Titan home page I think mine is older than those. We have a 40 gallon short electric water heater for domestic. No gas at location all electric.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    zip code is 59047
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    About 50 miles from Bozeman? There are quite a few top notch hydronic guys in that area, a few live in your direction. If you want a set of eyes on it, I can get you some names and numbers. Those Montana contractors are used to traveling.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    RobGJean-David Beyer
  • Rich_49Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,540
    They gotta be don't they Bob ? Dale is right there , correct ?
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
    sonofaplumber
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,870
    A couple years ago my brother and I were working on an old irrigation well pump located in a snake and spider infested pit. The well had come with his property.
    We had a conversation that went like this, "I'm not plugging it in you plug it in, I'm not plugging it in you plug it in." Finally we decided that I would plug it in and that he would dial 911from outside the well. This one turned out fine (after we got the mouse out of the volute) and 911 was not needed.
    After looking at your photo's, it appears that you are missing a pressure relief valve. I personally would never "plug it in" without one of those. The water in the system could flash to steam and and lead to an explosion worthy of myth busters.
    In other news, you would also normally see an air elimination device, expansion tank and some means of filling the system with water.
    Tracking down a radiant specialist in your area would be an awesome idea. Be prepared to pay for the consultation and sleep well at night.

    Carl
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Mark EathertonBobbyBoyJean-David Beyer
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 13,867
    Rich said:

    They gotta be don't they Bob ?

    In that part of the country you learn what "in the middle of nowhere" means. If you're not in a town, natural gas is not an option. Not sure what the propane or fuel oil situation is, it's been a while since I was there.

    Bridgerguide, is the Chico Hot Springs resort still operating?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    hot rod said:

    About 50 miles from Bozeman? There are quite a few top notch hydronic guys in that area, a few live in your direction. If you want a set of eyes on it, I can get you some names and numbers. Those Montana contractors are used to traveling.

    They are a few I was quoted $500 to just come out and pressure test it. :(


  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,870
    edited August 2015
    It kind of sounds like you are stuck.
    How far are these guys driving? How far to the nearest supply house?

    The 2 major items that are missing in your pictures are these.

    http://www.supplyhouse.com/Watts-0274428-3-4-174A-Relief-Valve-30lb-3638000-p

    http://www.supplyhouse.com/Amtrol-101-1-15-Extrol-Expansion-Tank-2-Gallon-Volume-2556000-p

    Are they there just not pictured?

    A picture of the Titan heater with the cover removed as well as the model number would help.
    How big is the place? Is all the tubing in the slab?

    Carl
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Steamhead said:

    Rich said:

    They gotta be don't they Bob ?

    In that part of the country you learn what "in the middle of nowhere" means. If you're not in a town, natural gas is not an option. Not sure what the propane or fuel oil situation is, it's been a while since I was there.

    Bridgerguide, is the Chico Hot Springs resort still operating?
    Chico is still an awesome place and still alive and kicking!
    Zman said:

    It kind of sounds like you are stuck.
    How far are these guys driving? How far to the nearest supply house?

    The 2 major items that are missing in your pictures are these.

    http://www.supplyhouse.com/Watts-0274428-3-4-174A-Relief-Valve-30lb-3638000-p

    http://www.supplyhouse.com/Amtrol-101-1-15-Extrol-Expansion-Tank-2-Gallon-Volume-2556000-p

    Are they there just not pictured?

    A picture of the Titan heater with the cover removed as well as the model number would help.
    How big is the place? Is all the tubing in the slab?

    Carl

  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    edited August 2015
    Thanks Carl. Those items are not present. The house is about 1800 sqft not sure if all tubing is in the slab.
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    It looks like the element on the left has been leaking. You have about a 39,000 btu boiler. You need to do a pressure test on the system, fix any leaks, add an expansion tank and a relief valve and in my opinion I would replace the boiler with a Thermolic brand with outdoor reset (or an LP boiler) depending on what is less expensive on fuel. You have a bunch of splices in the tubing so figuring out the loop lengths would be difficult. If it heated before it should heat now though.
    bridgerguide
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    Looks like you have pressure on the system if that gauge is accurate. If you crack open that red handled valve and get water, then the system should be filled and pressurized.

    Next run the pump and see if you hear water flowing. Also look at those flow meters on the manifold and see if they read some flow or movement.

    If so plug in the boiler and see if it warms.

    I think you have a 3 loop,1 zone system from what I see. So probably only one thermostat that starts the pump and calls the boiler on.


    * But you really need at least a pressure relief safety valve added. An expansion tank would be wise also.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    bridgerguide
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Thanks RobG and Hot Rod I will look at replacing the boiler and testing like the pressure like Rob mentioned. Supposedly the system did work so hope it still will after I add those missing components and replace the boiler.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    For the pressure relief valve and the expansion tank where in the system do I place these?
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    If you replace the boiler just follow the piping instructions. The expansion tank should be installed before the pump inlet and the relief valve on the hot water outlet of the tank. It looks like the home is on a slab? If so pressurize the boiler and the tank to 12psi.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Okay now for the really dumb question where should I be able to fill the system in the future? I did not see any place to do so unless the previous owner attached a hose to the drain valve and filled it in reverse, which sounds kinda crazy. :)
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,870

    Okay now for the really dumb question where should I be able to fill the system in the future? I did not see any place to do so unless the previous owner attached a hose to the drain valve and filled it in reverse, which sounds kinda crazy. :)

    That is exactly what they did. They used a washing machine hose with 2 female ends.

    Once you confirm that there is water in the system and that the gauge is accurate, There is no harm in plugging in the cube relay,, turning up the t-sta and checking the pump operation. If it holds pressure and makes the flow gauges move, you are onto something.

    Plugging in the heater is where you should be careful. I would just check it for operation using an amp meter then shut it down until you get the pressure valve and expansion tank installed.

    Carl
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    bridgerguideBobbyBoy
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Awesome thanks for that info! :)
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    There may be nothing wrong with that heater. While not a true "boiler" the electric/ electronic boilers are quite similar under the hood.

    If the pressure holds, pump and heater work properly, maybe just add the relief and expansion tank.

    The gauge could be removed, add an additional tee or cross fitting and add a relief and tank there.

    Since a relief valve is a safety device, you may still consider a trip from a pro. Sending them pics of what you have could save them multiple trips. You would need some specific tools and test meters to prove this system safe.

    Keep in mind reputable contractors will insist the system is brought to code for your safety and theirs.

    Radiant Engineering, Harveys, PJs, Ranger are some of the experienced hydronic shops near you.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    Mark Eatherton
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Okay I opened the drain valve and no water. :( I assume that the gauge is bad. So what should I do next? Fill the system with water or should I try using that Schrader valve and adding air into the system to somehow test the loops? I also am guessing that the previous owner drained the system for fear of freezing.
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 5,870
    The valve on the very top is an air vent, not a schrader.
    It would be best to replace the gauge so you can see what is going on.
    There is no harm in adding a bit of water to the system and see if it will hold pressure as long as the tubes are all in the slab and a leak will not damage anything.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    I will look for a replacement gauge locally and try to match what is on there now, if not I will have to find online. I also found my extra washing machine hoses so I will add some water after I replace the gauge. Thanks again for everyone's advice :)
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    If you are replacing the gauge, this would be a good time to add a couple tees for the safety relief valve and expansion tank.

    Here is one way it could be done. Remove the red handled valve and unscrew that tee from the system. Add two tees above that, one 3/4, the other a 3/4 X 1/2. The 3/4 tee will get a 30 lb pressure relief valve, the 1/2 a connection for the expansion tank.

    You could just plug the tee until after you pressure test, in the rare case you have a leak somewhere that cannot be fixed, like split tubes in the slab. Draining a system like that generally requires an air compressor to blow out all the loops. If that was not done the freeze potential is greater.

    Or gamble and add the relief and expansion tank while you are doing the gauge replacement.

    The best advice here is to not run that heater without a pressure relief valve installed. Test the pressure, run the pump, but not the heater without a safety valve.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    Zmanbridgerguide
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Or just buy one of these.
    RobG
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Thanks Hot Rod for the drawing and explanation. SWEI I also like the functions of that valve as well.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Okay I have replaced the gauge, and I am a little concerned after looking around my house a bit. Most of the rooms in my house on the bottom floor are cement with the exception of the living room floor which is wide planked wood. I noticed at least 7 maybe more 2" wood plugs in the floor in different areas. Someone took a 2: hole saw drilled the areas out and then glued back the plugs. I am wondering if they were looking for a leak? I wonder if it could be sand and tubing under some decking and then the planks. I fear filling the system with water and flooding that room. Is there a way to pump air into the system and isolate which loop leaks down if any? Thanks again for all the help.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    Sure you could isolate every loop at the manifold and air test them. Are they labeled? If there is a supply and return manifold they often have isolation valves built in. Whether they work or not is a crap shoot. I like to remove them from the manifold and test. This confirms that you have the correct S&R, and also eliminates manifold leaks

    You would need a few fittings to be able to connect to that compression fitting. I'd test every loop for at least an hour with 60 psi, if you can isolate them.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    bridgerguide
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    I would like to test all the loops. One thing I noticed just recently was a terrible copper patch job on one of the loops. In this image http://imgur.com/a/tFZY7#U7WPbpS That loop looks like it is pointed in the direction of the wood floored room. That is the one I worry about flooding and think that there may be a leak based on all those drilled out hole plugs. It looks like there is a supply and return manifold and I will try and see how to turn them off I did read about adjusting the flow rate with a key;not sure If all I have to do it turn the flow rate all the way down. I will see if I can research what fittings to do the air test.I have a small framing compressor I can use to add the air.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    I wonder if I used this gauge http://www.pexsuperstore.com/pex-accessories/air-test-gauges/60-psi-air-gas-test-gauge.html With a sharkbite t fitting that has a brass female in the middle and then use a nipple and reducer to make it all fit. Would this work?
  • Rich_49Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,540
    3/4" x 1/2" bushing and a SB x 1/2" Male makes that just fine . Cap the other end and you're off .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
    bridgerguide
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Rich said:

    3/4" x 1/2" bushing and a SB x 1/2" Male makes that just fine . Cap the other end and you're off .

    Rich I got the valve with the air valve in today. After looking at the connections to the manifold, they seem to be attached by a type of euro cone compression fitting and I believe that It was put on with tool that stretches the pipe around the cone part of the fitting. I am trying to think of the best way I can connect this new valve that I got from the pex store as well as plug the other end of the loop. My plan was to test the loops one at a time. The manifold is made by Rehau. Here is a quick link to the manifold. http://imgur.com/a/tFZY7 Also there seems to be little room for play with these pex lines. Any input on testing these that lets me reconnect them back to the manifold with the least hassle would be much appreciated.Thanks.
  • Big-DBig-D Member Posts: 21
    This might be a simpler solution for replacement, Expansion tank integrated. All components pre-assembled. www.nextgenboiler.com
    image
    bridgerguide
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501

    Rich said:

    3/4" x 1/2" bushing and a SB x 1/2" Male makes that just fine . Cap the other end and you're off .

    Rich I got the valve with the air valve in today. After looking at the connections to the manifold, they seem to be attached by a type of euro cone compression fitting and I believe that It was put on with tool that stretches the pipe around the cone part of the fitting. I am trying to think of the best way I can connect this new valve that I got from the pex store as well as plug the other end of the loop. My plan was to test the loops one at a time. The manifold is made by Rehau. Here is a quick link to the manifold. http://imgur.com/a/tFZY7 Also there seems to be little room for play with these pex lines. Any input on testing these that lets me reconnect them back to the manifold with the least hassle would be much appreciated.Thanks.

    You may not want to disturb those connections to the manifold.

    You could cut each pex line 6 inches below the manifold, cap and test each loop and reconnect them.

    To reconnect either get a pex crimp tool and some couplings, or a few SharkGrip couplings.

    So either invest in the tool to crimp the pex or buy 6 SharkGrip DIYer fittings.

    Build a test set up with a SharkGrip X male adapter with the test gauge connected.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
    bridgerguide
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Big D I like that replacement option and may look into that if I can make sure I have at least two loops that are not leaking.

    Rich I will take your advice and cut the lines, I may be able to borrow a crimp tool, if not I will use sharkbite. Thanks everyone, I will be back after I get some tests run.
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    Okay I finished testing all three loops and it held 60psi for 1 hour. Is 1 hour long enough to think that the loops do not have any leaks? If so the next step would be to add water into the system. I want to add a fitting that I can connect a compressor to blow out all the water. I am thinking a brass 1/2 Tee fitting with the Tee part threaded to accept a male quick connect to connect the hose from my compressor. Does that sound about right? I was thinking of cutting the copper line on the supply side after it comes out of the circulator pump and before it enters the supply manifold and adding it there. I have a washer hose I can connect to a garden hose to fill it through the drain valve, but how will I know when it is completely full? Thanks for all the help :)
  • hot_rodhot_rod Member Posts: 13,501
    Why do you want to blow out the system with air? Just add water pressure to 10 psi, purge and fire it up
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • bridgerguidebridgerguide Member Posts: 37
    I was thinking if I ever needed to blow out the lines to leave the house in the winter. So fill to 10psi okay sounds good, but what do you mean by purge is that just opening the drain valve to let any air out? Thanks and yep we got snow yesterday :) UH OH!
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