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Water, Water, Everywhere, Not a drop of heat......

FredFred Posts: 6,959Member
Got up a couple days ago and noticed the house was chilly. It was about 30 degrees outside. House was 60 degrees. Went to the basement to check the boiler and found the pilot was out. Tried to light it but nothing. Decided that the thermocouple had failed and installed a new one. Tried to relight the pilot and still nothing but this time I noticed I wasn't hearing any gas flow. Went to the kitchen range and turned it on. Nothing! I called the gas supplier and asked if they had any calls in the area. They said not one. I told them I did not have gas into my house and they said they'd sent a tech out. A couple guys arrived about 10 minutes later (Wow that's responsive!). They went to the basement, unscrewed the output side of the gas meter, nothing. They unscrewed the incoming side, nothing. They then told me the gas supply into the house is blocked (we had about 3" of rain the day before). They thought the gas line into the house was filled with water so they brought two huge tanks of compressed air in. Hooked them up to the gas line and blew it out. Success (or so they thought). They could tell from the sound that it blew clear (or so they thought). They put the gas meter back in, turned the valve on the output side back on, asked me to turn a range on. No gas flow. They order more compressed air (or whatever was in those tanks) and we wait for another truck to arrive. During that time, they take the gas meter off again and we wait. While we were waiting, a neighbor around the corner called and asked if I had gas??? I say no and they say they don't either. I hang up and told the techs my neighbor around the corner doesn't have gas either. While I am telling them that, a neighbor across the street called; Do you have gas? No, I say but I have the gas company here. I tell the techs my neighbor across the street doesn't have gas either. They reinstall the gas meter and tell me they have a bigger issue than they can fix from my house and they call into dispatch to find out they now have some 50 calls in the area. They tell me they will be back to let me know what they found. It turns out that the gas main that supplies our neighborhood was filled with water and they had to pump hundreds of gallons of water out of the main. They return to my house at 1:00AM to let me know the problem was fixed and what they found. I asked; How does that much water get into a gas main? They say "These mains are over a hundred years old and they have holes in them and they are working to line all the gas mains and service into each structure but that takes time. In the meantime if that much water can get in, how much gas can get out? Anyway, I go to the basement and light my boiler and we are good to go, as long as gas from those leaking mains doesn't find its way into my basement!
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Comments

  • lchmblchmb Posts: 2,846Member
    They are monitoring the area's of the gas lines for the amount of escaping gas. With that said...it has to go somewhere.. glad I use oil...
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Posts: 2,315Member
    Gas escaping from old lines, as well as leakage from fracking well heads, is doing more harm to the environment than oil and coal probably combined.
    I wonder why the gas company took off the meter, had no gas flow and assumed it was water? Is this normal?
    steve
  • FredFred Posts: 6,959Member

    Gas escaping from old lines, as well as leakage from fracking well heads, is doing more harm to the environment than oil and coal probably combined.
    I wonder why the gas company took off the meter, had no gas flow and assumed it was water? Is this normal?

    This is the first time I've had any issue with incoming gas supply. They took the meter off to use that incoming pipe to blow back to the main and that was the most convenient access. They assumed it was water because of the 3" of rain we had the day before and they had a similar situation on the other side of town where they had to pump 600 gallons of water out of the main. Since we have never had this situation in this area and, at that point I was the only service call they had, they assumed it was just the feed into my house.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,188Member
    edited April 7
    @Fred I guess the water just lays in low areas of piping and collects? Sounds like your area is still low pressure.

    Our mains run at 50 PSI which may mean they're lined, I'm not sure. I've heard rumor that they boost the pressure after lining the mains to maintain volume.



    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • FredFred Posts: 6,959Member
    @ChrisJ , yes, we are on low pressure and they told me we should be getting liners this summer and that the pressure would be upgraded to "Medium" which they said was 40 to 50PSI. I'm not sure if water is laying in low spots or if the main is virtually filled with water. They said they pumped several hundred gallons which sounds like too much for just pooling in low spots but I'm not sure???
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 8,943Member
    You have to admit, though, that an oil spill is so much messier. You have the smell, and the contaminated ground or concrete, and all that hassle... At least after a gas spill you don't have to worry so much about cleaning things up... Your worries are all over!

    If you have leaky pipes in the neighbourhood, get some good gas detectors (get them anyway) and keep your nose working -- and don't forget: if you smell gas, don't turn anything on or off -- get the h___ out of Dodge and call the gas company.
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • ZmanZman Posts: 4,419Member
    edited April 7
    I would think you would have to have a huge hole in pipe and very low gas pressure to get that kind of ingress.
    If you hadn't mentioned the rain, I would have thought they had a very disgruntled customer with a water hose.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,188Member

    You have to admit, though, that an oil spill is so much messier. You have the smell, and the contaminated ground or concrete, and all that hassle... At least after a gas spill you don't have to worry so much about cleaning things up... Your worries are all over!

    If you have leaky pipes in the neighbourhood, get some good gas detectors (get them anyway) and keep your nose working -- and don't forget: if you smell gas, don't turn anything on or off -- get the h___ out of Dodge and call the gas company.

    Some will ALWAYS push for oil Jamie, you know that.

    What gas detectors do you recommend? I tried to find some for a friend and all that I found had horrible reviews, claiming them to be highly unreliable.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 8,943Member
    Ridgid makes -- or used to make -- a pretty decent one. It's made in China now, though...
    Jamie



    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.



    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,411Member
    Those old low-pressure gas mains are usually cast-iron. The joints are lead and oakum, just like old-school soil pipe except they use two layers of each and the hubs are deeper.

    Most of these old gas systems originally delivered manufactured gas, which had enough moisture in it to keep the oakum wet and expanded. Not so with natural gas, that's why they leak like they do.

    I bet @Tim McElwain could tell some stories about this.............
    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
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    I’d be checking dirt legs in your area after that episode. I bet some of those “pipe holes” are sitting in someone’s line now.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 4,495Member
    Well guess who is paying for all the leaking gas? You bet we are. They certainly are not going to absorb it. And they line their pockets with money instead of lining their pipes like they should be doing.

    They need to really step up and get going on their infrastructure rebuilding. 1880s cast iron pipe and wooden pipe in some areas. They need to get with the program.

    a few explosions will get things moving. That's what their waiting for.

    I just got a letter from the gas co today warning plumbers about clearing clogged sewer lines.

    Seems someone cleared a sewer line which was blocked because the gas utility had "horizontal bored" a gas line through the sewer line so the gas line got cut letting gas into the sewer line.

    Now the gas company is selling "insurance" against such a catastrophe. What a racket.

    maybe oil should make a comeback
  • FredFred Posts: 6,959Member
    @the_donut , hopefully there isn't mud or debris in the line into my house. There was no water at the gas meter when they disconnected it and when they blew it out, they blew back into the main and they then pumped the main out rather than blew it out, so I feel okay with that. I can't speak for all the other houses as some of them are actually at lower levels than mine. I would guess there is some mud/debris laying in the main but I assume when they come to line those pipes they will somehow clean them out as the liner goes in??? We'll see what life holds when that exercise begins.
    @EBEBRATT-Ed I agree with you. The kinds of profits these utilities post, year over year, you'd think responsible management would put far more back into the infrastructure than they have, in the past.
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Posts: 1,586Member
    I don't think it's a coincidence the American Gas Association headquarters is conveniently located practically across the street from the Capital Building.
  • kcoppkcopp Posts: 3,168Member
    What city are you in?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,188Member

    Well guess who is paying for all the leaking gas? You bet we are. They certainly are not going to absorb it. And they line their pockets with money instead of lining their pipes like they should be doing.

    They need to really step up and get going on their infrastructure rebuilding. 1880s cast iron pipe and wooden pipe in some areas. They need to get with the program.

    a few explosions will get things moving. That's what their waiting for.

    I just got a letter from the gas co today warning plumbers about clearing clogged sewer lines.

    Seems someone cleared a sewer line which was blocked because the gas utility had "horizontal bored" a gas line through the sewer line so the gas line got cut letting gas into the sewer line.

    Now the gas company is selling "insurance" against such a catastrophe. What a racket.

    maybe oil should make a comeback

    That's a strange comment, isn't it?

    Oil will make a comeback if people see it's cheaper and less hassle then natural gas.

    That's how the free market is supposed to behave, no?


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Posts: 2,315Member
    ChrisJ said:



    That's a strange comment, isn't it?

    Oil will make a comeback if people see it's cheaper and less hassle then natural gas.

    That's how the free market is supposed to behave, no?


    This is hardly a free market-oil vs. gas.
    Gas has great lobbyist, pushing governors up in New England, for one, to try to legislate banning heating oil and switching to gas, despite a few 'issues':
    -Nat gas just doesn't have the capacity to serve these towns.
    -Big gas wants to run new pipelines, but doesn't want to upgrade/fix the old ones (well they don't want to pay for it).
    -Lobbyist have convinced legislators that fracking won't harm the environment. Fracking is banned in most European countries.
    -Big Gas wants these pipelines built so they can export product, not make it cheaper for Americans to get natural gas. Prices for nat gas will almost always go up.

    They don't even have capacity now. The gas companies switch all their 'heavy' users (interruptibles) over to heating oil when there are sustained cold snaps. This causes a temporary shortage as well as a price spike--everyone loses. So all the 'savings' for discount rates the interruptibles received throughout the year gets eaten up with a 2 week cold snap.

    Who knows that ultra low sulfur, renewable BioHeat burns cleaner than natural gas...it's true but hardly anyone knows.
    Who knows that the same heating oil is doing less harm to the environment than fracking, old pipes leaking and burning nat gas...also true but no lobbyist convincing politicians.

    Funny how a small residential spill of heating oil gets the people in white tyvek wiping off birds, but the airlines dump millions of gallons a year of toxic chemicals into the ground (they call it de-icing a plane), no one seems to care.

    I know of all oil's faults too.
    But people better hope oil doesn't go away. If it does, there goes your free market-nothing stops the gas/propane prices from sky rocketing.



    steve
  • FredFred Posts: 6,959Member
    @kcopp , I'm in Dayton, Ohio
  • sean_armsean_arm Posts: 1Member
    It seems like the obvious alternative to natural gas and oil is a cold-climate heat pump. I studied the question with real bills thorugh a winter cold snap, and found that at a low efficiency heat pump (COP 2.45, or HSPF 8.35) is cheaper over an entire year than gas. It's the annual gas price spike that makes all-electric cheaper--just a couple of weeks of 4x-10x higher gas prices erase the savings.
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Around here (nw Indiana) you need a cop > 4 to break even with natural gas. Issue is the same on infrastructure availability. Basically you don’t have natural gas unless you live in municipal limits.
  • ratioratio Posts: 1,675Member

    It's not one size fits all...

    This

    This is the perennial problem that comes from one common mechanical (read energy) code. Good luck getting a code for Alaska to match up with a code for Hawaii without either uselessly-vague terms or enough exceptions to make them, in effect, separate codes.

  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,188Member
    > @ratio said:
    > It's not one size fits all...
    >
    > ThisThis is the perennial problem that comes from one common mechanical (read energy) code. Good luck getting a code for Alaska to match up with a code for Hawaii without either uselessly-vague terms or enough exceptions to make them, in effect, separate codes.

    They use heat a lot in Hawaii? ;)
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Depends on elevation.
  • BenDplumberBenDplumber Posts: 17Member
    @Fred I've been reading this thread and thinking this happens all the time in the area I worked...... Dayton Ohio
  • CanuckerCanucker Posts: 472Member
    > @ChrisJ said:
    > > @ratio said:
    > > It's not one size fits all...
    > >
    > > ThisThis is the perennial problem that comes from one common mechanical (read energy) code. Good luck getting a code for Alaska to match up with a code for Hawaii without either uselessly-vague terms or enough exceptions to make them, in effect, separate codes.
    >
    > They use heat a lot in Hawaii? ;)

    Depends on the size of the shower?
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Posts: 1,586Member
    > @sean_arm said:
    > It seems like the obvious alternative to natural gas and oil is a cold-climate heat pump. I studied the question with real bills thorugh a winter cold snap, and found that at a low efficiency heat pump (COP 2.45, or HSPF 8.35) is cheaper over an entire year than gas. It's the annual gas price spike that makes all-electric cheaper--just a couple of weeks of 4x-10x higher gas prices erase the savings.

    I agree to an extent. Like at @Jamie Hall said, every job needs to be looked at, independent of your personal preference and focus the the facility and its workings.
    We took over the HVAC agreement of a major NE golf club. 3-4 year complete renovation. Completely gutted and redone to a "T". All heat/cool by WSHP. Not a tree around for 150 yards. And then came the cold. Most of the building couldn't get over 58 degrees. No secondary stages.
    That's not exactly the correct design for the circumstances.
    There's 2 large Viessmann boilers serving 2 large indirect and a couple of small space heaters in the basement. We're looking into piping in a heat exchanger to increase the incoming water temp. during the winter with an outdoor temp sensor.
    It's a shame it wasn't designed correctly.
    My point being, even a high efficiency heat pump, water or air, IMO should have a 2nd stage, electric, hydro coil, obviously in the climate that warrants it, and if and when that 2nd stage kicks in, that eats into the savings. And different regions have different electric rates, so those areas with higher rates also save less.
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 9,188Member
    the_donut said:

    Depends on elevation.

    Best I can tell, the record low in Hawaii is around 50 degrees.
    I've got a feeling they never use heat for a structure.

    I don't know that for a fact, just an assumption.

    Of course, I'm weird......I often run air conditioning when it's 50 out.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • FredFred Posts: 6,959Member
    @BenDplumber , What part of Dayton did you work? I've been here almost 70 years and in this house 27 years this is the first time I've ever experienced this.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Posts: 5,840Member
    This happened in Denver a few years back, and I told the water department that they needed to do a search of excessive water usage (winter) in the area, and put feets on the streets to track down the disgruntled (former) homeowner who had cross connected his water service with his gas service and shut it down. They never did find the offender, but they did install a float operated condensate drain in the lowest piping they could find. It would take me about $20.00 in parts, and about 1/2 an hour to start filling the gas main in my street. The utlity even provides a place where you can make the cross connection upstream of the meter :smiley: With the general knowledge of the fact that pressure flows from high to low, how does water get into the mains? And as it pertains to the ethyl mercaptan, I'm told that dirt filters most of it out, so that you can't detect it...

    I'm thinking doppler leak detection equipment... "Un-accounted losses" make up a fairly significant chunk of every gas utility's cost of operation (water companies too) and yes, we the consumers are paying for it.

    Hard to believe that something so simple can''t be tracked down and cured...

    ME
    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 12,411Member
    We replaced a steam boiler over the holidays. The house had several relatively new Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps, which could not keep the house above 55 degrees during the bitter-cold weather we had in that period. They did keep the house from freezing, but that's about it.

    Haven't seen a heat pump yet that could handle very cold weather. That house wasn't comfortable at all until we got the steam going again.
    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
  • GordyGordy Posts: 8,464Member
    Mark wouldn’t they have to know their unaccounted losses? Consumption is metered. Somehow what’s delivered to the system is a known.
  • LeonardLeonard Posts: 482Member
    edited April 9
    Here some old 12-16 inch underground street gas lines are very low pressure and have rust pin holes, they used corrosive soil backfill in some areas. IF have 6 ft of water in soil over the pipe that's ~ 2.6 psi water pressure outside the pipe, So water pressure outside pipe can be higher than gas pressure, and water drips in.

    We had a problem in winter. The street lines were deep enough to not freeze the water in them. So water evaporated into the dry nat gas, till it hit the ice cold meter and froze up blocking gas flow. Gas company "solved" that problem by wrapping meter in electric heat tape and insulation (we paid for the electricity). The next year the $300 gas valves on both of the restaurant's big HVACs failed, HVACs were on roof and their valves exposed to winter cold. Took it apart and found it internally corroded. I should have sent them the bill. Send them the bill if your burner valves fail in a year like mine did.

    They said if the heat tape didn't work they could install a methanol bubblier to absorb the water out of the gas.
  • ZmanZman Posts: 4,419Member
    edited April 9
    sean_arm said:

    It seems like the obvious alternative to natural gas and oil is a cold-climate heat pump. I studied the question with real bills thorugh a winter cold snap, and found that at a low efficiency heat pump (COP 2.45, or HSPF 8.35) is cheaper over an entire year than gas. It's the annual gas price spike that makes all-electric cheaper--just a couple of weeks of 4x-10x higher gas prices erase the savings.

    @sean_arm
    I am curious what market you are in. Do you mind sharing your numbers. You made a pretty blanket statement that is just not true in most markets.

    I just looked back at the original title, sorry I followed this one bit off topic...
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • the_donutthe_donut Posts: 374Member
    Dual fuel
    ChrisJ said:

    the_donut said:

    Depends on elevation.

    Best I can tell, the record low in Hawaii is around 50 degrees.
    I've got a feeling they never use heat for a structure.

    I don't know that for a fact, just an assumption.

    Of course, I'm weird......I often run air conditioning when it's 50 out.
    You are looking at a low elevation station. It snows in Hawaii almost yearly. And trade winds increase heat loss.
  • BenDplumberBenDplumber Posts: 17Member
    @Fred I've lived and worked for 25 years in Montgomery and surrounding counties. Lots of frozen gas meters and services. One of the reasons dp&l sold its gas division to vectren was the deterioration of the transmission and distribution pipelines.
  • SuperTechSuperTech Posts: 468Member
    > @Steamhead said:
    > We replaced a steam boiler over the holidays. The house had several relatively new Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps, which could not keep the house above 55 degrees during the bitter-cold weather we had in that period. They did keep the house from freezing, but that's about it.
    >
    > Haven't seen a heat pump yet that could handle very cold weather. That house wasn't comfortable at all until we got the steam going again.

    The Carrier infinity greenspeed is designed to work well down into the single digits. It's not perfect, but it's better than most heat pumps.
  • HVACNUTHVACNUT Posts: 1,586Member
    > @Gordy said:
    > Mark wouldn’t they have to know their unaccounted losses? Consumption is metered. Somehow what’s delivered to the system is a known.

    Excellent point. (I don't have nat gas though)
    They MUST know what's going out, so they should show the math. And they should be held responsible without raising rates.
    Are those figures public record? Might make a good news article for the areas that need repairs most. From what I've read above, the whole thing ain't too purty.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Posts: 5,840Member
    Gordy said:

    Mark wouldn’t they have to know their unaccounted losses? Consumption is metered. Somehow what’s delivered to the system is a known.

    Speaking only for Denver Water and Xcel Energy (providers in Denver), yes, they know what they treat, and what is billed for. Denver water is now fully metered. And yes, it is public record, if you know where to look. Denver water has a very active leak detection program that "listens" to fire hydrants on each end of a block and can determine where the leakage is within feet of actual leak. they can also determine the quantity (approximately) of the leak so they can prioritize repairs, so the press doesn't give them much flack. They also have a fairly extensive main replacement program and got rid of all of the oak stave mains in the older portions of their system.

    Now Xcel Energy, I can't really speak for them, but they are scrutinized by the public utility commission, so I have to assume that they too know what goes into and out of their systems, and what the difference (unaccounted for losses) is.

    Some cities are still not completely metered on the water side, so it becomes a moving target to track down.

    ME

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • ZmanZman Posts: 4,419Member
    Xcel Colorado has a pretty active program that monitors the condition of underground steel gas lines.
    I am not sure how it works, but I can tell you they get very surly if you are temporarily supporting a meter you are digging around by using bailing wire to an electrical conduit.
    Once the gentleman calmed down a bit, it was determined that a nylon strap was acceptable to his equipment. He was doing a survey and was set up some distance away. We introduced a new element that was screwing up his test.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
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