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convection baseboard heating issues in house with mix of 1/2in and 3/4in pipes

wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
Hi, I'm having problems with my baseboard heat. House is built in 1960's 3 floors. There are 3 loops but they are not organized by floor. 1 loop for the basement, for the 2 other floors one loop covers the east half and the other covers the west half. Heat hasn't worked properly since I moved in 2 years ago.

The basement was finished more recently, so they installed the 3/4in pipes as per code. The upstairs loops have 1/2in pipe. it's all 1 zone with the thermostat on the second floor. The basement gets hot, the east loop is luke warm in the bedroom but barely warm in the living room below it, the west loop is completely cold.

I've hired 3 plumbers already. One tried bleeding at the return, didn't fix it. The next guy bled the system at the return, and at the purge valves for each of the 3 loops. These loops don't have isolation valves though so I can't bleed loops individually. Also tried bleeding at the baseboard. Got a little heat in west half but then got cold again and couldn't get it warm after. The last guy, a master plumber, took one look at my utility closet and said I needed an air scoop (he didn't look at anything else, he didn't even turn on the system to test, never went upstairs to see how the plumbing was organized. All together I've paid about 1000 so far and nothing has changed.

I'm wondering if it's possible the hot water just keeps cycling around the basement loop due to the larger cross section area and lower elevation? If I have the heat on and the west half is cold, if I open the bleed valve to a baseboard, it does start to warm up as the pressure loss forces the water into that loop. But as soon as I close the valve, it goes back to the way it was.

Sorry for long reply and lack of pictures, I can post those later.

Comments

  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 3,461
    It's a shame you paid all that money and didn't get a resolution.

    The basement was finished more recently, so they installed the 3/4in pipes as per code.

    Which code is that? Pipe size is determined by btu requirements.
    When you say it never worked properly since you moved in, do you even know if it ever worked properly to begin with?
    It could be a simple flow issue, or a improperly sized or non working circulator, which it sounds like nobody checked.
    A picture of the near boiler piping and how everything branches out to the loops would help, as would a full diagram.
    Anyone who says you need an "air scoop" hasn't embraced any technology from the last 30 years.

    You obviously need a real hydronics person in there to look over the entire system. Most likely the basement loop has the least restriction and flow isn't interested in the rest of the house. If it's all one circulator, maybe you now need a bigger circulator.
    This could be balanced with valves or a re-pipe of the near boiler supply and return piping.
    Is this one circulator, 3 zone valves, or 3 circulators-one for each zone?
    steve
  • Paul S_3Paul S_3 Member Posts: 1,257
    edited May 2016
    Where are you located?
    ASM Mechanical Company
    Located in Staten Island NY
    Servicing all 5 boroughs of NYC.
    347-692-4777
    [email protected]
    ASMHVACNYC.COM
    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/asm-mechanical-company
  • GWGW Member Posts: 3,456
    Sounds like the issues is the basement as you and everyone else suspects. Can you **** off the new basment loop and see of heat flows?

    Not many people can diagnose a sysyem that has been goofed up.

    Gary
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7

    It's a shame you paid all that money and didn't get a resolution.

    The basement was finished more recently, so they installed the 3/4in pipes as per code.

    Which code is that? Pipe size is determined by btu requirements.
    When you say it never worked properly since you moved in, do you even know if it ever worked properly to begin with?
    It could be a simple flow issue, or a improperly sized or non working circulator, which it sounds like nobody checked.
    A picture of the near boiler piping and how everything branches out to the loops would help, as would a full diagram.
    Anyone who says you need an "air scoop" hasn't embraced any technology from the last 30 years.

    You obviously need a real hydronics person in there to look over the entire system. Most likely the basement loop has the least restriction and flow isn't interested in the rest of the house. If it's all one circulator, maybe you now need a bigger circulator.
    This could be balanced with valves or a re-pipe of the near boiler supply and return piping.
    Is this one circulator, 3 zone valves, or 3 circulators-one for each zone?

    Thank you for the response. I'm probably wrong about code, came across something while researching and I'm misquoting.

    Some home info: Previous owner was a woman who's parents owned the house before her, she grew up and spent her whole life in that house till her mid 30's. My guess is that the house went to her and based on what she got back when I bought the house, she probably took out a second mortgage at some point to do renovations. I think the people she hired to finish the basement were only concerned with making water flow through those pipes and didn't do any heat calculations or take into account the system as a whole. (grrr, wish people were honest and would do proper disclosures instead of screwing people over).

    The basement is finished so I don't have a clear picture of where the pipes are going, I will take pics of the utility closet tonight after work. There is 1 circulator, 1 zone, 3 loops (I only have 1 thermostat).

  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
    Paul S said:

    Where are you located?

    I'm in PA, philadelphia.
  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
    GW said:

    Sounds like the issues is the basement as you and everyone else suspects. Can you **** off the new basment loop and see of heat flows?



    Not many people can diagnose a sysyem that has been goofed up.



    Gary

    On the return side of those 3 loops I do have purge valves, unfortunately isolation valves were not installed by those so I can't bleed each loop individually.

    If I did have iso valves, my thought was, what if I could close off the basement loop and run the system. Hot water should circulate through the basement but since it's blocked from reentering the system it should be forced into the 2 other loops and based on how hot those get or if there is a heat imbalance at that point, it might help with diagnosis.

    I'm in a bit of a tough spot at the moment financially. I want to rent rooms in the house out, but without the heat working well, it'd be immoral and illegal to do that. I can deal with it by being uncomfortable and running space heaters when needed or sleeping in the basement on cold nights but I would never put a paying tenant through that.

    A friend of a friend whom I met somewhat recently is a plumber and I'm going to ask him to take a look. So maybe together we can drain the system, install an iso valve (or all 3) to test whether it's the basement loop causing all the issues. Maybe we can just cap that loop at the return instead of installing the valves. I don't have that much access to the pipes from the supply side due to the ceiling being drywalled, it's far easier for me to get to the return side pipes.

    If in fact this is the issue (water circulating in basement) what are the usual fixes in this case? new circulator? zone the basement? I'm just so scared of spending thousands more and the issue not being fixed.
  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
    null
    thanks Hatterasguy.

    I'm usually a do it right the first time person, but my financial situation is not great at the moment, impending layoff. My goal is to make my house rentable to conserve emergency funds so I think a major reno on the system is not doable right now.

    I think that the system would work fine if the basement wasn't involved. I believe that the system probably worked okay until the previous owner did this reno on the basement.

    Do you think the test I outlined above, cutting off the return on the basement loop with an isolation valve (or capping it off temporarily) and then running the system is worth doing to figure out if this is in fact the issue? If I get enough heat through both upstairs loops after this, maybe I can just zone the basement and have 2 zones with 3 loops. From energy conservation pov, zoning both upstairs loops is kind of pointless in that they aren't arranged by floor but by east side of the house/west side.

    If the upstairs loops are fine after doing this "fix " I might be inclined to just keep the basement cut off to get heat to the rest of the house and use the basement as storage, or just get a space heater for that space. Honestly the only reason I'm using that space now as my living room is because the upstairs living room is too cold in the winter. Once my situation improves or I have more income from renters I can think about getting everything done the right way.
  • GWGW Member Posts: 3,456
    Hum maybe I used the wrong vowel? I don't recall typing ***.
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    www.wilsonph.com
    [email protected]
  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
    I'm really curious as to what **** and *** are now.
  • wyen78wyen78 Member Posts: 7
    Ah shut off haha.
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