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control recommendations

rhl
rhl Member Posts: 91
Hi,

I want a control system for my residential mod-con boiler which can handle multiple zones of cast iron radiators as well as high and low mass radiant. since each of these different sets of zones will have different design temperatures i want the boiler to produce lower water temps when it can. (e.g. when only one of the floor heat zones are on). It should also have be outdoor temperature reset enabled. Current thermostats are nest thermostats. Boiler is a weil mclain aqua balance, it has opentherm, not that any of these controls seem to really use it. I've seen people building this stuff DIY out of arduino's.

I was looking at the tekmar stuff. Does anyone have any experience with them? are they good?

Best,
-rhl

Comments

  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,420
    edited October 2018
    Tekmar makes a wide range of controls. They are not compatible with Nest and have their own sensors. There are generally 3 types of settings needed....low temp, high temp and DHW. The low temp is usually coupled with a 3 way mixing valve and motor actuator when a high temp (radiators) zone is present. The controls can be purchased to work with pumps or zone valves. They are not inexpensive and the "near-boiler" piping must be done correctly, per their schematics. Some boilers have their own integral control that comes with the boiler and does all of the above (Viessmann)
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,811
    Tekmar usually talks to the boiler via 0-10VDC or 4-20 M/A signal.
    It doesn't look like your boiler has those inputs.

    I would recommend calling Tekmar and WM tech support to see if there is a way to control this using the opentherm terminals.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • BlueGreen
    BlueGreen Member Posts: 19
    I called WM tech support about a year ago and they said that Opentherm was not enabled on the boilers that had the Openterm terminals, so you may want to call them and confirm that. Opentherm is still and across the pond thing as far as I know. If they have enabled Opentherm, there are transducers out there that may be able do the conversion from 0-10v.

    Since the Aquabalance has outdoor reset, you may be better off with a buffer tank and a simple 4 zone relay and maybe a mixing control/valve for you lower temp zones.
  • rhl
    rhl Member Posts: 91
    edited October 2018
    Wow thanks for the all the advice.

    I was looking at the tekmar boiler controller with zone control system. I can't believe that is not compatible with the nest thermostats!

    The boiler does have an outdoor temperature reset, but, the main deficiency is if your low temp zone kicks on, the boiler will output a temperature based on the programmed OTC curve, not based on the fact that the zone doesn't need super hot water. For example, maybe the OTC says, hey, produce 140 degree water, but, the floor heat zone is never exceeding 120 degrees, there is at least 20 degrees of heat wasted in the primary loop. This is the problem i want to fix with a smarter boiler controller. essentially to program in the otc curves of each zone, and then the boiler should take the maximum water temp of each _active_ zone.

    Also, the Aquabalance not having opentherm activated is ridiculous. I will be calling them on monday to check on that.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 16,646
    On the Nest -- as has been said before, at least once or twice -- it is a nice widget for forced air heat, which is what most people have, and it heavily advertised. However... it is not designed for or meant for use with hot water or steam systems, which lose efficiency with large setbacks, and it certainly was never intended for use with radiant floors, which can't have setbacks lasting less than several days.

    Therefore there is no reason for Tekmar -- or anyone else making equipment for hot water or steam or radiant heating -- to consider it in the design of their equipment. And no reason for anyone with such a heating system to install a Nest to control it.

    Sorry to be a bit harsh on the Nest.

    On the "waste" heat: if your radiant floor system is properly designed and controlled, the secondary pump will operate at the correct speed to provide 120 degree water to it, or whatever else the floor temperature controller requires. The boiler, in the meantime, will supply -- either modulating or turning on and off -- enough heat to satisfy the circuit. It's all a matter of selecting and setting up and using the correct controls for the system...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    TitanMechNY
  • rhl
    rhl Member Posts: 91
    Jamie, i'm not an expert, but this latter statements don't seem reasonable. Why have higher temperature water in the primary loop than is needed in the secondary loops? That just seems inefficient.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 16,646
    rhl said:

    Jamie, i'm not an expert, but this latter statements don't seem reasonable. Why have higher temperature water in the primary loop than is needed in the secondary loops? That just seems inefficient.

    It's a matter of mixtures. The secondary loop (if the system if piped properly) takes the hotter water from the primary loop and mixes in a proportion of the return from the secondary to achieve the desired feed temperature for the secondary. Depending on the heat output of the boiler, this may or may not take all the flow from the boiler; if it doesn't take all the flow then the boiler may cycle on and off (or modulate combustion) to maintain hot enough water coming into the system to give the desired result.

    There is an amazing variety of control strategies to accomplish all of this!

    It's worth remembering, too, that temperature and heat are not the same thing at all. The heat input to your slab, for instance, is determined by the temperature drop between the feed and the return and the flow rate. The heat output from the slab into your conditioned space is determined by the temperature of the slab and the area of the slab. One of the keys to radiant design (there are several!) is that one wants to keep the slab temperature uniform, or reasonably so, across its area -- and the easiest way to do that is with a relatively low input temperature and a moderately high flow rate.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England