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Gravity Conversion to Manifolded ModCon

vicbrick Member Posts: 20
edited October 2015 in THE MAIN WALL
After several years of living with a 40 yr boiler and "gravity" piping in an old brick house, it was time for a heating upgrade.

Spent last winter reading Dan's and Siegenthaler's books, having "Coffee with Caleffi", and of course, reading this fine forum. The more I read, the more apparent it became of the existing "issues" in my current system. However, what really turned on the light for me was the video Rich Swatton of Modcon Sales and Support did for Taco (Field Notes: Anchorage Homestead). Wow! There it was! All I needed to do was "dumb" down Rich's master plan so I could install and service it. (I live in the middle of Nowhere, IN ...No Richie Swattons....Very few techs)

Monitored my natural gas consumption and radiator water temps (820 sqft of EDR) last winter and did the heat loss calcs to size my boiler: 60-70,000 BTU/hr to heat ~3,300 sqft of large windowed, solid brick house. Selected the TT solo 110 Prestige Trimax as the new boiler

Having limited experience with hydronic controls and a bad German gene, I opted for more cast iron, manual valves and limited pumps/electronics for my install. Additionally, I added 340 sq ft of EDR to better heat some of the upstairs bedrooms and to keep the return water temps low. I am hoping the additional radiators/ parallel piping will allow direct pumping through the boiler and rads, with a large delta T for the return water. No delta T pumps, just low temps and slow flow rates through the rads...hope it works!

A few other details:
- the 10 port manifold feeds 12 rads on the first floor
- the 8 port manifold feeds 6 rads on the second floor (3 spares)
- the SX40V expansion tank is "hidden" around right side
- return/supply pressure gauges are Ashcroft Industrial Duralife 25-1009-SW-02B-30#
- The Sorbox was selected and located in the flow to condition the water and provide the sacrificial anode protection...the Dirtmag (great name!) should catch the iron....especially if I have to add a ECM pump in the future

If anything looks stupid, or will be a constant source of frustration, please let me know before I fill it .

Additionally, it appears from the Caleffi info that as long as I keep the delta P across the supply/return manifolds below 3 PSI...that is ok??

Steamhead...I have also attached a photo of the Ringen Louis XIV rads I promised a while back....and the overhauled Holland rads...love them....but what a PITA to remove the cracked sections, strip, and paint!




  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
    Wow. Beautiful work.
    Robert O'Brien
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,880
    very nice work, thanks for using Caleffi.

    I like the paint detail on the radiators. It matches the Purdue logo on the boiler :) Your school? or just a tie in to boilermakers in general.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20
    Thanks for compliments...I took the Taco slogan to heart, I did my best work; just hope it is good enough!

    Hot Rod - Yes, 1990 Purdue grad..so, the boilermaker decal was a surprisingly good fit. I know engineers are not always well loved on the forum...sometimes deservedly so...In my case it's worse, graduated with a chemistry degree :)

    Regarding my boiler install: The TT boiler has a three speed pump, 2 of the 18 rads have TRV's , the remainder have manual valves (wife and kids love them). Think it might take a little trial and error to dial in the pump speed/flow rates to deliver the heat where I want it without developing too large a delta P across the manifolds. I know Caleffi makes the "delta P bypass tube" for the supply/return manifolds, but is there a general rule of thumb for the delta p? If I keep it under 2-3 PSI is that ok? 4 psI OK? I trust the Ashcroft gauges I have installed, just looking for a good feel for the delta P working range.

    Thanks ....and, Hot Rod, in case you are wondering, you give a great technical/product presentation...really nice job of keeping it moving, interesting, and relevant. sold me!
    Robert O'Brien
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 21,880
    Yes your numbers are spot on. That non-adjustable PAB that we offer for the manifold has a 3.6 psi threshold.

    No problems with engineers here. Occasionally I come in contact with MEs that are conservative and stick with 30 year old designs that have served them well. Some are slow to adopt or consider newer technologies like hydraulic separators, smart pumps, etc.

    Balancing is perhaps one of the deepest subjects relating to hydronics. It becomes math intensive quickly and ended up being one of the thickest Idronics issue.

    Here is a link to idronics 8 on Hydronic Balancing. You will find all the info you need, and plenty of number crunching opportunities.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20
    Hot Rod thanks for the reply/additional information

    For what's its worth: Filled and purged the system over the weekend and brought the boiler on-line. Had a delta P of ~3 PSI across the supply/return (s) with the pump set on speed 3 and a delta P of ~1.5 PSI on speed 1. So, think I am fine....looks like speed 1 should get me a delta T of 25-30 F. Will need to wait for colder temps in Dec/Jan to fully sort it out.

    Thanks again for this forum and all who contribute....and especially Taco/Rich Swatton for the video.

  • vvzz
    vvzz Member Posts: 39
    What a beautiful install!

    Coming back to the constant circulation discussion - I wonder if it's already almost happening by default in your case(if the outdoor reset is enabled) I can imagine very long burn times on low fire.
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20

    Thanks for the compliment!
    Yes, the ODR is installed and active. I also upgraded to a Nest thermostat, so it provides boiler run time history/data. The boiler operates about 10-12 hr/day, (still unusually warm here) think as I tweak the ODR curve/reduce the SWT, I will be able to get closer to 18-20ish run times.

    Honestly, I think your use of a hydraulic separator with an ecm delta P pump is a more elegant solution...but, hindsight is always 20/20 :)

  • Danscrew
    Danscrew Member Posts: 130
    Very Nice install you take pride in your work is there any reason you went with the Nest over the Ecobee 3 ?
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,416
    @Danscrew not sure why you posted a pic but I couldn't help notice (amongst the neat install :smile:) you have a steam tee on your gas piping. I also wonder if there is any downside to pumping into the neutralizer? I've always piped the condensate through the neuatrilizer, then into the condensate pump (if required).
  • Danscrew
    Danscrew Member Posts: 130
    I have since changed the condensate drain to a gravity system thru the neutralizer and into the washing machine dump.
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20

    Glad you like the plumbing work. Will look at my work for a long time (I hope), so I tried to get it right.

    Honestly, I installed the Nest largely because you can access the house temp remotely via Wifi. I wanted to make sure the heat is on and nothing will freeze when I am gone. The rest of the Nest functions are a bonus. So, unfortunately I didn't compare thermostats and can't help you with selection process.

    The only disappointment with the Nest:

    I couldn't allow the Nest to draw it's power from my Triangle Tube boiler. Needed to install a separate low voltage transformer and relay to run the Nest. Not sure if that my Old house issue, Boiler issue, or Nest issue...but, that is what I needed to do to keep them all happy

  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    If your TT boiler is a TriMax, the thermostat terminals actually have DC on them (~18 V IIRC.)
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20

    Yes, my boiler is the Trimax. Not sure if the boiler delivers 18V or not. The version of the Traingle Tube install manual I received with the boiler specifically outlined the compatibility problems of "power robbing / stealing" thermostats with their units. Additionally, a few authors on the Nest forums also reported charging/power issues with their triangle tube boilers....Intermittent electronic issues dive me bat crap crazy; so, I just bit the bullet and installed a dedicated power supply and relay....with good results so far

  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    The TriMax uses DC on its controls circuits, so you can't power steal using typical thermostats. You also can't switch them using TRIACs, as I recently found out on a job where we ended up having to add relays to our control panel in order to accommodate one.
  • NYplumber
    NYplumber Member Posts: 503
    Nice work. If only more heating guys could come close.
  • Rich Swatton_2
    Rich Swatton_2 Member Posts: 24
    Great work
    Can you feel the difference
    It's called COMFORT
    Rich S
  • njtommy
    njtommy Member Posts: 1,105
    Looks great.
  • Robert O'Connor_12
    Robert O'Connor_12 Member Posts: 728
    nice work
  • vicbrick
    vicbrick Member Posts: 20
    Hey, thanks for all the kind words. Could have never done it without all the shared information on this site ,etc.

    Rich! Thanks again for the video, I copied so much from your Anchorage Homestead install that I feel guilty...you remind me a lot of my HS auto shop teacher, "Wedge". He was very bright and fearless; I learned more valuable technical and life lessons from him then the rest of my HS teachers combined.