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Anyone using logging thermometers to balance radiators?

Jells
Jells Member Posts: 558
I have tenants complaining about occasional cold in a 4 story mulitfamily. There's a single thermostat in the living room of the 3rd floor and that radiator has a small port. The 4th floor thinks it gets colder when the weather is above 45, that the heat isn't running long enough to reach them. I have an 'EasyLog' thermometer that I'm going to place in their unit and see if there's any correlation to outside temp by comparing temp graphs.

But it got me thinking, if I had 2 or more of these, I could place one on the benchmark radiator, and others on rads in question, to see exactly the timing of when they get steam relative to each other. But at $60 a pop they're not cheap. Is there any other tech way to approach balancing other than constant monitoring and tinkering, which is hard in a multifamily rental? I was even looking at some bluetooth based grill thermometers with 4 or 6 sensors, but haven't found one that graphs.

Comments

  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    I think you're looking at the wrong end of the horse.

    1 Pipe, 2 pipe steam?
    Depending on type, I'd suspect partially closed valve, or more likely, improper venting (main or at rads) or traps. You can shoot them with a thermal imaging camera to see what's getting hot and how fast.
    steve
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,542
    I use loggers quite a bit. My fleet is just USB Onset Controls loggers. I use them to quantify complaints about temperature swings and don't usually need real time data.
    They are also very useful when combined with state loggers. You can log boiler run times and outdoor temp at the same time to fine tune boiler sizing
    I think Onset has real time bluetooth models, although they are likely very expensive.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    Thanks for the responses. Those Onset loggers seem to be more or less equivalent to what I have, just a tad cheaper. I guess I wasn't looking for realtime collection, just easy collection. Right now I have the unit in the tenant living room, right above the room with the thermostat. I'll be able to see if there's any hiccups in the heat, and compare to outdoor temps from NOAA. If I had 2 or more, I could compare times between various points.

    Damn, it's hard to explain heating even to intelligent people. I have to explain radiators are not continually on whenever it's cold out. I have to explain that moving the thermostat to their unit would make their cold bedroom problem worse, since the setpoint is 70 and their LR was currently 75!

    Steve, it's one pipe. There does not seem to be venting problem that I can detect. The BR radiator that is apparently the central complaint here has a Hoffman 1A set to 6, the most open. The main vent on that line has a Gorton #2. I was wondering, why is it not a thing to add a tee between a top floor rad and its valve, and put in a high capacity vent there to clear the whole riser quickly, rather than just the horizontal main?
  • Pats of butter on plates, placed on the supply end of the radiators should all melt at the same time if your system is in perfect balance. Unlike the inedible data loggers, you can then eat some nice buttery toast!
    The Gorton #2 is good for about 20 feet of 2 inch of main pipe, so is that the length you have? A Big Mouth will handle twice as much air for the same price.
    if you look on your low pressure gauge, (1-3 psi), you can see when you have enough main venting. During the initial venting stage, the back pressure should be no more than 2 ounces, and less is even better.--NBC
    ZmanZipper13
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    That's interesting Nick. I believe I have 45' of 2.5 on that run. But my system does not seem to have a low pressure gauge. Getting at that vent is a huge PITA, it's behind a wall in the basement tenant's apartment! That's why I asked about a vent at the Rad at the top of the run.

    The butter method is quaint, but not practical for rentals.

  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    There are those who install a Main vent on risers to vent the air out of the risers. The main vent goes on before the radiator and the radiator vent remains to control the rad. If the living room is 75 degrees, I find it hard to believe the bedroom in an apartment is 'cold". It does sound like a radiator/vent balancing issue. On the Hoffman 1A's you have to make sure the setting of 6 is actually fully open. There is enough slop in the cap of that vent that if you don't take the screw off, hold the little cap in place while you screw it back together, it could be set almost to closed.
    1Matthias
  • Neild5
    Neild5 Member Posts: 163
    I have started using inkbird wireless bluetooth loggers for that purpose, make sure you use the one with the external probe. They are about half the cost of the easylog and can download to an excel spreadsheet. I twist tied the probe to the radiator with bare copper wire. It can record 20,000 points and is a simple Bluetooth connection.
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    edited December 2018
    Neild5 said:

    I have started using inkbird wireless bluetooth loggers for that purpose, make sure you use the one with the external probe.

    Can you tell me which model, Is it the 'IBS-TH1 Bluetooth Smart Sensor' that looks like a puck? It's a bit confusing on their page as they have a thermometer line and a separate datalogger line. I had seen the 4 probe unit, but going to one head that transmits it live to the phone, rather than recording by itself.
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    edited December 2018
    You only have to do the butter routine a couple of times, while you make such main venting changes to get all the radiators getting steam at the same time.
    Later you can do the datalogger study, in the unlikely instance of anyone complaining of being cold. The problem with measuring air temperature only at the beginning, is it doesn’t pinpoint the degree of imbalance of the system, and people will think that there is a microphone in the sensor!!
    You can put the low pressure gauge anywhere in the system, on a radiator vent.—NBC

  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558

    The problem with measuring air temperature only at the beginning, is it doesn’t pinpoint the degree of imbalance of the system

    No one is talking about air temp, we're talking about a probe on the rad or the control valve to pinpoint when the steam hits it and compare that to the baseline rad in the thermostat room. I can't be running around the building for hours ducking into people's homes with dishes of butter!
  • i would get the main venting first, and then, if needed, get the dataloggers. You will be surprised at the difference the proper venting makes.--NBC
    1Matthias
  • Neild5
    Neild5 Member Posts: 163
    Also they are handy in multi unit buildings to stick one in the apartment of the person that always claims how cold their unit is.
  • I have used indoor/outdoor wireless thermometers for that purpose. Some of them can accommodate 3 sensors, and remember lows, and highs.—NBC
  • Neild5
    Neild5 Member Posts: 163
    Jells said:

    Neild5 said:

    I have started using inkbird wireless bluetooth loggers for that purpose, make sure you use the one with the external probe.

    Can you tell me which model, Is it the 'IBS-TH1 Bluetooth Smart Sensor' that looks like a puck? It's a bit confusing on their page as they have a thermometer line and a separate datalogger line. I had seen the 4 probe unit, but going to one head that transmits it live to the phone, rather than recording by itself.
    This is the one I have: https://smile.amazon.com/Inkbird-Monitoring-Temperature-Thermometer-Hygrometer/dp/B07C8GG98W/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&ref_=ox_sc_saved_image_9&smid=A197YPAPAP8V04
  • I would be interested in knowing how far the signal goes from those sensors back to the phone, in older buildings with thicker walls, than the newer sticks and cardboard structures.
    Several of them could show how the arrival timing of steam to the radiators varies from inadequate main venting to proper main venting.—NBC
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558

    I would be interested in knowing how far the signal goes from those sensors back to the phone, in older buildings with thicker walls, than the newer sticks and cardboard structures.
    Several of them could show how the arrival timing of steam to the radiators varies from inadequate main venting to proper main venting.—NBC

    Sorry to be snarky Nick, but yes, that's the whole point of my thread here, to analyze the venting situation. It looks like the best solutions are the logging units like Neil and I have, since the realtime bluetooth seems sketchy. I have used bluetooth headphones in this building and I can only get about 2 or 3 walls away. That's OK. With the ones Neil referenced, I don't even have to enter the apartment to collect the data.

    I already ordered the Big Mouth you mentioned, the only question is whether to replace the Gorton, or stick it between the valve and rad at the top of the riser. I'm wondering how noisy it will be. Then, presumably, I can be dialing back the heat using the rad vent port sizing.
  • Neild5
    Neild5 Member Posts: 163
    I live in a brick 20 unit building built in 1927, each apartment is 600-800 sq ft. I am easily able to read them by standing outside the kitchen door without disturbing the occupants.
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    Neild5 said:

    I live in a brick 20 unit building built in 1927, each apartment is 600-800 sq ft. I am easily able to read them by standing outside the kitchen door without disturbing the occupants.

    Neil, I got 2 Inkbird sensors, and they seem great, but I cannot figure out how to export a data file from the phone. I have 1500 data points, click "export data", and up pops a screen of communication choices like email, text, or googledrive. I've tried several, but none actually create a file. The googledrive showed up as a file with 0 data. email has no attachment. I see no relevant help on their website. What am I doing wrong?
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    So I finally have my sensors up and running. I recently upgraded the main vent on this line to a Big Mouth. I have placed the sensors right on top of the rad shutoff valves. It appears that the bedroom, in blue, is getting heat simultaneously half the time with the living room, in red, directly above the boiler in the apartment below, where the thermostat is located. So far so good!

    But what the hell is with those missing 2 boiler cycles? Is that an intermittent failure of the Hoffman 1A there? If the rad valve got down to 65 it must have been chilly in there. That could explain the cold snaps they're complaining about. That and the fact that their windows were slightly open at the top.

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    edited January 2019
    Some people have had problems with radiator vents temporarily plugging up with a few drops of water, due to wet steam. Maybe this is happening in your case.—NBC
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,585
    Very cool. How many surprises like that are lurking out there with no easy way to discover them?! I love it. Something else for my amazon wishlist
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Jells
    Jells Member Posts: 558
    Well, today's reading had a 5 hour dropout last evening on the radiator. I replaced the 1A with a Jocobus D. hopefully this is the beginning of the end of my hassle with the system. Next, I move the sensor to a wall somewhere in the room so I can start dialing back the heat with smaller ports.