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Watts radiant onix tubing...rip out?

I need help.

I have an oil boiler system with forced hot water baseboards on the first and second floor. I was getting very little out of the baseboards the past few days. The heater guy came to look at it, tried flushing the system and couldn't get enough flow to flush it. His attempts made the situation worse so now there is no heat. Said I had blockages, blamed the Watts radiant onix tubing. Said it was defective, is known to be defective and allowing oxygen into the system, and the only thing to do was rip it out and put in new.

My home is ten years old, built in 2006. To replace the tubing would require going through walls and ceilings to the cost of tens of thousands of dollars....which I don't have.

Questions:

Is there a way to clear these clogs without ripping out all the tubing?

Is there a known problem with this tubing? I found references to a Goodyear tubing class action suit, but that was reduced before my building was even built.

Do you have any suggestions for me? I am panicked about this.
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Comments

  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    Is it black or orange colored? How much pressure did he try to flush it with?
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Black. Flushed when 28 pounds. System is rated for 100, but he didn't have his air compressor with him and didn't have a nipple to fit the compressor with my system.
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    The black is Onix and supposedly has an adequate O2 barrier... but.

    Yeah, you are going to need to "take it to the limit" an old Eagles song by the way. Disconnect the loops, or at least the manifolds, as the boiler is not going to like 100 psi :)

    A high pressure pump may work also. Try and separate the various loops and see which are salvageable If you can get any flow, even a trickle usually you can run a cleaner and get it back to full flow.

    It's a time consuming, frustrating job.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    So you don't think it's necessarily necessary to rip it all out? What are the odds of higher pressure and a cleaner working instead?
  • lchmblchmb Posts: 2,831Member
    I would try pressure, cleaners before ripping anything out. Worst case you spent a bit in labor. I have a feeling if you have anything moving, with cleaners you can break it loose...
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,090Member
    I have had some jobs w onix tubing but it is usually the smaller 3/8 diameter tubing.
    Your system is for baseboard and is larger diameter tubing.
    The system would mud up but you usually had flow...it was the components that would have trouble.
    Maybe a zone valve or circulator is mucked up and causing the flow issues.
    I would only pull out the tubing as a last resort.
    that being said you will need to clean the system and be adding an inhibitor to the system.
    I use Fernox. Rohmar and Sentinel are other products that work.
    Where is this property?

  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thank you all! kcopp, the home is in Maine. And of course it's 20 degrees out and we're getting a blizzard the next two days....
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    It is not common to see the 3/4 size tube plug completely, especially with baseboard. If in fact you have 3/4 Onix? Make sure a ZV is not stuck some where or they tried to purge backwards against a check valve in the pump or system..

    More typically it is the 3/8 tube installed in a slab. The lower levels tend to plug first as the heavy magnetite that gets built up settles to the low spots.

    How many zones? Are they all plugged? It could be some other problem especially if it happened suddenly to the entire system?
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    ZV?

    Two zones, no heat in either. I was getting heat off the baseboards, but not as much as usual, for the past day and a half. After he tried flushing it and knocked around the system, no heat at all.
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,090Member
    ZV= zone valve...
    As I said I think you may have a plug in the boiler piping vs. the tubing itself.
    Do you have a pix of the boiler and the piping we can look at. We may be able to assess the situation from that.
    Yes we here is New England are getting ready for Snowmagedon!
  • archibald tuttlearchibald tuttle Posts: 543Member
    we here in southern new england had snowmaggedon last week!

    here is the deal on the flush. 28 psi will do nothing but make matters worse. even for simply bleeding in multi story jobs with no occlusion I just add a valve after the backflow preventer so I can use full water pressure. water is better than air in my experience but you need 80 lbs anyway and isolate boiler as suggested and get proof of concept you are circulating through the baseboard.

    what is your house water pressure? You should be able to put out 50 or 60 although 80 to 100 would be better. there might even be a hosecock for bleeding that can be isolated from the boiler without cutting the pipe (i put them at both ends on all jobs) but if you don't have 'em you could get a shark by IPS fitting and then put a hose adapater into the IPS side. and the other end, if you are strategic where you cut it so it is pointing down you could a bucket under it. or some kind of splash guard over the end and let it rip. with the IPS fitting you also could put an adapter so you could thread in an air chuck fitting and use a compressor. if the system has water, the air pressure is effective until it gets a little opening, then you need water under pressure. but my suspicion is that you might be able to quickly see that your loops are not blocked and move immediately to looking for the clog in near boiler piping.

    I actually suspect that since it was both legs at once that you might have a problem at the boiler or common piping close to the boiler.

    go to home depot - it being sunday of course - and buy out the 3/4" shark fittings if the guy before you didnt' so you aren't afraid to cut the damn system at hard piping and get it right back together for the weather (assume the near boiler piping for individual zones is 3/4" copper.)

    The onix itself doesn't corrode. I would suspect cast iron pump and or cast iron air scoop entry or lower boiler connection assuming you have a cast iron boiler.

    I have a grundfos cast iron circulator on a bunch of non-barrier floor tubing that runs through a stainless tank with a heat exchanger to keep the incoming oxygen out of the cast iron boiler, so that pump is the lowest common denominator galvanically speaking and the thing totally chocked up by the third season. very impressive. never seen that kind of corrosion in a cast iron pump before. but i literally was able to chip the crap out and put the pump back in while I trolled on ebay for a brass replacement (or stainless these days).

    good luck.

    brian

  • DH123DH123 Posts: 18Member
    I had similar situation with my radiant last winter (I leave in VT). I spent all summer trying to prove my problem into the radiant piping it turned out to be the mixing valve.

    I'm told the onix piping allowed oxygen to enter the system where the "onix hose fitting" connection is made at the manifold. The oxygen in the water attacks small metal parts first rusting them and plugging your systems: fill valves, expansion tanks, and mixing valves. I would replace them all and get a fill valve with a separate pressure indicator so you can accurately tell the pressure in the system. Isolate the manifold from the rest of the system, retrofit a hose fitting to your manifold if it doesn't have one and hitch up 60 PSI to the manifold. You should be able to blow rust out for a couple minutes then it should start to run clean water. If you can run clean water you won't need to replace the piping. You will need to regularly monitor it though.

    In the spring you'll want to flush the system again and make a decision depending on what the water looks like to add a rust inhibitor or not.
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    edited February 2017
    Pix coming
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Great advice, everyone. Thank you SO much. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Brian, I don't know my water pressure off the top of my head. Good question.

    Is ice in the system a possibility at all? I've never had it happen before, but it was a suggestion someone else made.
  • lchmblchmb Posts: 2,831Member
    if your tubing was exposed to any air flow from the outside it could freeze...either way you need heat, bring some extra into the basement and see if it works things loose. keep an eye out for leaks..just in case..
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    edited February 2017
    Thanks, ichmb. It wasn't exposed to the outside, per se, but my baseboards are all on exterior walls and parts of the tubing are close to my basement windows. I think it's a long shot, but maybe possible.

    Could a transformer be the issue? Someone else suggested that.
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,090Member
    If the circulator runs its not a transformer. The relay should tell you that. Hopefully the service guy could see that.
    When he purged the system did he open up the flow checks? I had that happen to me in an onix system last month... it was stuck shut. He would need to open up the set screw on top of each one. They are the green things on the supply going out.
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, kcopp. He opened up one flow check that I saw. I couldn't say for sure about the other. That is a good idea to check.
  • rick in Alaskarick in Alaska Posts: 727Member
    I will go out on a limb and say the tubing is not plugged. Feel around the pipes on each baseboard and see if any feel extra cold. A small pinhole to the outside and a good wind can freeze a line. I would think this is a long shot though because of the fact you have two zones out.
    Open up the flow check, close the valve on top of the circulation flange, and open the drain valve just above that. If everything is ok, you should have water come out that valve.Make sure you lift the lever on the fill valve, ( The beige looking device just to the right of the horizontal yellow handle shutoff valve on the black pipe in the back of the boiler), and watch the pressure gauge on the boiler to make sure it does not go over about 28 psi, or the relief valve will dump. Try this on each zone.
    If you open up the drain valve above the pump without opening up the lever on the fill valve, water should come out and the gauge pressure should drop. You should hear water flowing back in to the boiler from the fill valve. If not, and the pressure is slowly creeping back up, the fill valve most likely is plugged up. Not uncommon with a cast iron fill valve. With the lever opened up, water should flow into the boiler and out the drain relatively fast.
    If you don't get flow, I would start checking baseboard feeds to see if there is frozen sections.
    Rick
  • archibald tuttlearchibald tuttle Posts: 543Member
    good point about the possibility of freeze and man that setup does look frightenly new to be chocked up. (on the other hand, whoever did it has never heard of pumping away I see). but i tend to think some corrosive blockage is the likely trouble if both zones stopped heating at once and were marginally heating before, because any heat going through would rule out frozen plugs and if it stopped altogether right after the attempt to purge clean I'm thinking corrosion.

    I absolutely would not screw around with the boiler water feeder. They are barely useful for purging an open system, forget opening a blocked system. I would cut the copper feeds just past checks valves (top right of the photo) and put an angle shark and short piece of copper or pex into a bucket and shut off the ball valves above the pumps and attach a washing machine hose to the hose outlets in the returns and to that a garden house connected to whereever your pump or city water yields the most pressure in the house and try to force water through each loop (obviously you can do that stuff one loop at a time so you don't need to duplicate your setup for accomplishing this). if the loops will not force you have a lot of hand to hand combat street fighting looking for the blockage, whether its corrosion or frozen. if you can get water through, then you can start pulling various iron bits on the near boiler piping and using the same general idea see which way the water will go out of the boiler etc. and look at the easiet pulls first like the pumps to see if they are harboring the clogs.

    and once you find whats wrong, you only need two straight sharks to put the whole thing back together again.

    go do that voodoo that you do so well.

    good luck,

    brian
  • DH123DH123 Posts: 18Member
    I agree with Brian. Cut the pipe where you can install a straight shark bite and put the water to it and isolate your problem.
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, everyone! It's definitely not a transformer or circulator, both are working. A local heater guy talked through some stuff over the phone and he thinks something is frozen somewhere. He recommends I heat the house as much as I can with space heaters and hope between that and higher temps outside the next couple of days it breaks/melts the ice.

    I'm doubtful it is frozen, but at this point heat and wait are the only options I have. (Yay, blizzard.) If it doesn't fix itself by Tuesday, I can have someone else come by to try to expel the blockage and/or use a cleaner. The general consensus seems to be it could be done with some effort.
  • archibald tuttlearchibald tuttle Posts: 543Member
    edited February 2017
    heating is essential anyway because if you aren't circulating and you got a blizzard goin' on you need to keep the baseboard from freezing or you'll be fixing leaks until the cows come home. i tend to pull the covers on the basedboard whereever you can do that easily. a little late for this advice but propane space heaters are the nuts in case the power goes out. obvious cautions about stupid **** like burning the hose down, but runnign a 20,000 btu heater is just like running your gas oven which also has no chimney . you can run a few. make sure to check your CO detector and your smoke alarms and don't put the heaters stupid places, like right next to the curtains or that kind of s%#^. if you are on electric space heat, you gotta pray for no power outages. nothing wrong with a good prayer anyway.

    brian
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, Brian! Exactly what I was thinking, that I'd need to keep the house warm anyway.

    I have pets, so the propane concerned me re: fire. The electric ones are doing well at the moment...the house is up to 78, which is a good eight degrees higher than I'd normally keep it. If the power goes out, I've got a family member with a generator. Hoping it won't be needed....
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Horrible news. So another guy came out. Tried pushing 100 psi of water through the system to no avail. Couldn't get enough flow to run cleaner through. He cut through the tubing to see if he could find a spot where it was plugged... It's plugged through the whole thing. He said he's never seen such a thing. And mine is half inch tubing.

    He said the heater was set at 200 degrees (set before I moved in, I didn't even know how to do it.) and the tubing is rated for up to 180. He believes that caused the problem. Any thoughts if that could be?

    I'm just beside myself here. This is a nightmare.
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    Do you have any pictures of that cutaway tube?

    Yes the higher temperature certainly has something to do with the oxygen ingress. Most sludge like that is caused by the breakdown of the ferrous components in the system. Hold a magnet to that gunk, if it clings to the magnet that was caused by ongoing O2 ingress.

    Although running 20 above the listing temperature alone did not cause the problems. I wonder why the system runs so hot?

    At this point, if the lines are slugged that tightly, you are looking at a repipe. How much of the tube is accessible?

    Sorry about the bad news.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Here's a pic of the cutaway tube. Not sure is the best pic, but it's what I could get in the moment with the lighting.


  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Second pic


  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, Hot Rod. I'll try the magnet and see.
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Yep, the gunk clung to the magnet. That means this has been a lengthy O2 process?

    The first floor tube is accessible. Second floor tube requires going through walls and ceiling.
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Any thoughts on whether the 20 degrees over rating could have caused this?
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    Correct.

    IF you could get any circulation at all, a magnetic separator can eventually pull the particles out.

    ECM circulators are very sensitive to this fine magnetic sludge, by the way.

    IF you did get it flowing again you would need to come up with a plan to prevent it from reoccurring.

    Two options, separate the tubing from all ferrous components, brass or stainless pumps, expansion tanks, etc.

    Or a chemical regiment that includes an O2 scavenger. But a chemical solution requires ongoing monitoring and boosting of the O2 scavenger component.

    Both circuits are plugged solid?

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Yes, both plugged.

    Can you tell me more about a magnetic separator?
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    Magnet separators are designed to catch the very fine magnetite particles as they flow through a system. These particles are much too small for a filter or strainer to trap.

    So the magnetic separators are used in systems to catch and remove these particles before they cause problems like you seem to have :)

    We have greatly increased the offering of these devices after seeing how well they protect modern hydronic systems, up to 14" pipe size.

    Manufacturers of ECM electronic pumps are strongly promoting these type of separators to help eliminate potential binding caused by the particles attracting to the permeant magnet rotors.

    The one, red bucket photo is from Kevin, a long time contributor here.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, Hot Rod. Could you give me a company name or website for a magnetic separator?
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,090Member
    edited February 2017
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    Thanks, kcopp!
  • hot rodhot rod Posts: 8,617Member
    here is an example of one of the 4 in 1 magnetic devices being blown down.


    And a DiscalDirtMag with Kevin in the driver seat.



    And the old rotohammer trick :) Apparently they use this tool to loosen crud in panel rads in the UK?

    Start pounding on the tube!


    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Bluechair55Bluechair55 Posts: 32Member
    How much flow do you need for this?
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