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Shoddy contractor, moral dilemma

GroundUp
GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
Happy Monday all- I have a bit of a silly question regarding morals of a shoddy contractor.

My elderly grandparents spent 60 years on the farm and were simply too busted up to continue climbing stairs and maintaining the farm, so they sold out and moved to town. There was a build-to-suit, slab on grade townhome available that they purchased and had built to their own specs and finishes via the general contractor (a "friend" of theirs). The GC hired his nephew, a local hack plumber, to install the radiant heating system and he did an awful job. It's 9 loops across 4 zones using actuators and a Navien NHB. The system circ is located upstream of the closely spaced tees while the air eliminator and expansion tank are downstream, and he stubbed both the fresh air and exhaust literally 6" above the shingles (in MN, where we often have 24" of snow on the roof) with no gooseneck on the intake- both just pointing straight up. From day one, the boiler has been going out on E302, low water pressure, almost daily. Several times at the beginning, the plumber came out and added a squirt of water (this is/was a glycol system, the garage is kept at only 40) to get it back running and eventually just installed an auto-feed to domestic water to keep from coming back. They never mentioned anything to me about it not working until a few months ago, at which point I looked at it and noticed how screwed up it was. They have called the GC a dozen times and the plumber a dozen more to get back and fix their mistake, but long story short they won't return calls or make it right since they already have their money. I've called the plumber several times myself and he insists "it's fine" that the relief valve blows every day and new feedwater is introduced into the glycol system. A couple months ago I extended the vent piping on the roof and installed a proper gooseneck on the intake but haven't touched the hydronic piping just yet- hoping the plumber will snap out of it and make it right. The way it's crammed into the room, it's not as simple as relocating the system circ and will require an entire repipe to make it right so I will have a pretty hefty amount of material into making it right but I am not going to charge my 85 year old grandparents for something that should've been done right a year ago and there's no reason they should have to reset the boiler every day to stay warm.

It's to a point now that I'm just going to fix it, but it really gets under my skin that people have to deal with this guy's crap and he gets away with it. What would you do? Just fix it and send the guy a bill? Shut up and act like I like it? A normal person would probably just fix it and shut up but this is about the 20th system of his I've had to repair and I'm tired of it. Maybe if he gets spanked he'll learn to read the manual or stop doing work he doesn't understand? I'd love some insight from you folks. TIA
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Comments

  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    Maybe just move the expansion tank and hope for the best?
    rabbitsfoot
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    The only reporting I can think of is with your local Attorney General under the Elder Laws. Doubtful anything come from it but enough reports and they have to take action.

    Just straighten it out as best you can, document and photograph / record everything you needed to do.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    pecmsg said:

    The only reporting I can think of is with your local Attorney General under the Elder Laws. Doubtful anything come from it but enough reports and they have to take action.

    Just straighten it out as best you can, document and photograph / record everything you needed to do.

    This is a VERY small town community, like the metropolis has a population of 200 people. Nobody is really into legal stuff, it's more of a handshake kind of place where nobody has ever left the county so nobody knows any better. The bartender would have more pull than the attorney general, honestly. I don't necessarily want to get the guy in trouble, he's a decent enough guy just has no idea what he's doing with hydronics. And is the ONLY plumber in the area, so he's everybody's go-to guy unfortunately. This is the same guy that installed the T&P after the mixing valve on an indirect I installed a few months ago that was discussed here and refused to fix it
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,687
    Hmmmm. Sounds like this plumber needs to learn more about hydronic heating, by being forced to learn the error of his ways the hard way. Perhaps the Better Business Bureau or the local inspector would be interested in this matter? If all else fails maybe report the shoddy work in the form of online reviews of his business.
    mattmia2
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    SuperTech said:

    Hmmmm. Sounds like this plumber needs to learn more about hydronic heating, by being forced to learn the error of his ways the hard way. Perhaps the Better Business Bureau or the local inspector would be interested in this matter? If all else fails maybe report the shoddy work in the form of online reviews of his business.

    He is not BBB accredited, nor would it matter if he was. There is no such thing as an inspector around here either, unfortunately. He has no online following or website, just a local guy that's fed business by word of mouth because he's the only plumber around. To be honest, he's not a good plumber either but there's nothing stopping him from doing it. The guy won't run gas lines or venting from a water heater, or even dig a sump basket because it's "below" him. He's a treat to work with
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,304
    edited February 2020
    GroundUp said:

    Maybe just move the expansion tank and hope for the best?

    Do you think that solves most of the problems? Just wondering.
    You have to at least do that anyway, right?
    Maybe leave the air eliminator where it is, plug the bottom, move the exp tank over to where the water feed is located, using a Webstone expansion tank valve. Bracket to the wall.
    It appears the flow is moving in the right direction.
    Sorry for the crude mock up.

    steve
    GroundUpIronman
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    @STEVEusaPA that's the least intrusive option I was seeing, yes. I still think the system circ should be downstream of the close tees and A/S both for air removal and pressure purposes. Maybe I have a false understanding of the system circ location, but I've always been of the impression that it should be downstream of the close tees to properly achieve hydraulic separation. Seems this way with both circs running simultaneously, the pressure in the boiler would spike even if the tank were relocated?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,049
    I've sent you a PM...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,304
    edited February 2020
    I guess the first step is to grab the install manual, and whatever secret info @Jamie Hall sent you. :)
    steve
    ratioCanuckerErin Holohan HaskellGrallert
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    edited February 2020
    Install manual was cited months ago and it's as I said, and Jamie's concerns have been addressed.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    It’s as simple as pointing out code violations, installation manual short falls, and that the system does not function properly, do to not properly following the installation manual/ manufacturers recommendations.

    Sounds like the building inspector isn’t following through either.

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    This is also a prime example of how advising HO to call a pro when they come here with issues. It is fraught in the real world.
    Brewbeer
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 2,321
    > @Gordy said:
    > This is also a prime example of how advising HO to call a pro when they come here with issues. It is fraught in the real world.

    Professional
    Someone paid for a service.

    Qualafied Professional
    Someone with factory training and continuing education!
    Brewbeer
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,834
    Maybe go against his license?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 462
    In a small town, with an unresponsive contractor(s) you would seem to have two choices, go the legal route or just eat it.
    Depends on quite a few factors mostly social and financial.
    GroundUp
  • BillyO
    BillyO Member Posts: 274
    what are the code violations in this photo?
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,283
    Hi, I’m no fan of the courts, but this guy is harming people. For the benefit of the community and to help him grow up, I’d take him to small claims court.

    Yours, Larry
    pecmsgGroundUpSuperTech
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,957
    BillyO said:

    what are the code violations in this photo?

    M20001.1 in addition to the requirements of this code, the installation of boilers shall conform to the manufacturer's instructions.

    First line in the boiler section of the residential code.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,019
    This
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    GroundUpSuperTechGannon
  • BillyO
    BillyO Member Posts: 274
    ok, so what are the code violations
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    Gordy said:

    It’s as simple as pointing out code violations, installation manual short falls, and that the system does not function properly, do to not properly following the installation manual/ manufacturers recommendations.

    Sounds like the building inspector isn’t following through either.

    Pointing them out to who? It's falling on deaf ears with the plumber and there is no such thing as code enforcement or inspectors in the state of MN unless government buildings or certain large municipalities.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    Steamhead said:

    Maybe go against his license?

    No licensing required in the state of MN
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281

    Hi, I’m no fan of the courts, but this guy is harming people. For the benefit of the community and to help him grow up, I’d take him to small claims court.

    Yours, Larry

    Nor am I, and although I agree it would probably be the best route, my 85 year old grandparents are not going to bother suing some jerkwad over this. I would, because I'm petty like that, but it's not my house. I actually have to file a suit tomorrow as a matter of fact, for an ex-tenant who didn't pay rent for 5 months and trashed my house. Would've been easy to just kill 2 proverbial birds with one stone while I'm there, but that's not the case.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    @hot_rod so you're thinking just relocating the expansion tank would be a proper fix here? The boiler circ is indeed on the return, pumping into the boiler, so both would in theory be pumping away from the XT if it were relocated to the left of the system circ.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,957
    Perhaps that expansion tank is too small or improperly charged or both for what seems like a lot of tubing in that system and that is what is causing your shutdown.(although getting all the air out of that tubing won't be fun either and is going to be much worse with the tank and elimination in the wrong place).
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    mattmia2 said:

    Perhaps that expansion tank is too small or improperly charged or both for what seems like a lot of tubing in that system and that is what is causing your shutdown.(although getting all the air out of that tubing won't be fun either and is going to be much worse with the tank and elimination in the wrong place).

    The expansion tank is large enough for a system more than double this size, but it may be improperly charged and is most definitely in the wrong place. Air purging is no issue, I do 50,000-100,000 ft of radiant a year so I'm no stranger to this sort of thing.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,019
    > @GroundUp said:
    > @hot_rod so you're thinking just relocating the expansion tank would be a proper fix here? The boiler circ is indeed on the return, pumping into the boiler, so both would in theory be pumping away from the XT if it were relocated to the left of the system circ.

    If the boiler circ is pumping into the boiler and system circ is pumping clockwise, then the P/s tees are switched. Should flow into left tee return thru right branch

    You basically have a reverse injection, blending is downstream of second branch. Direct, the more common method has blending between the tees, mixing boiler supply with system flow. Not ideal, but not dangerous

    Seem like a lot of little errors adding up

    Depending on your objectives I’d address and document code, safety, and manufacturers errors

    But then what?

    You can lead a horse to water...
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    > @GroundUp said:
    > (Quote)
    > Pointing them out to who? It's falling on deaf ears with the plumber and there is no such thing as code enforcement or inspectors in the state of MN unless government buildings or certain large municipalities.


    Really? No residential inspections of any kind?

    Permits?
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    > @pecmsg said:
    > > @Gordy said:
    > > This is also a prime example of how advising HO to call a pro when they come here with issues. It is fraught in the real world.
    >
    > Professional
    > Someone paid for a service.
    >
    > Qualafied Professional
    > Someone with factory training and continuing education!

    Sounds to me in the state of MN on a residential level that’s not going to happen.

    Why should they, no one checks their work.......still trying to fathom this.
    mattmia2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,049
    Don't be that surprised that there are no inspectors or codes, @Gordy -- this is true in many more rural areas (like, geographically, most of the country!). When I was a building inspector (boo hiss) in Vermont some 50 years ago now, there was no code or inspection anywhere in the state except Burlington except for "public buildings" -- basically, if it was your house/barn/whatever it was anything goes. Still is, I think in much of the state. Is this good or bad? Dunno. Not going there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    edited February 2020
    That was a half a century ago 😂 @Jamie Hall Hall. Not like that around me. Country, or city. Grid won’t tie to the panel with out licensed electrical, and inspection, and no plumbing gets tied in to city mains with out license, and inspection.

    Survey, drawings to build.
    Footing inspection.
    Framing Rough in.
    Plumbing rough in, and final.
    Electrical rough in, and final.
    Occupancy permit. ( Dwelling has to meet a certain level of finished before moving in).
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,019
    the workmanship that we see is not all that bad. Following piping and installation instructions is not in his wheelhouse.

    I doubt the plumber is going to "snap out of it"?

    You, being the good guy, may chose to fix certainly the dangerous conditions, venting, relief valve discharge and other issues that keep it from working properly. Since it is family and all.

    Get me his mailing address and I'll mail a set of Idronics. He may take the medicine, maybe not. Some plumbers do not know what they don't know.

    Most important you do the right thing so you sleep better. This isn't the first time you had this burr under your saddle :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    ratioGroundUpicy78
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514
    hot_rod said:

    the workmanship that we see is not all that bad. Following piping and installation instructions is not in his wheelhouse.

    I doubt the plumber is going to "snap out of it"?

    You, being the good guy, may chose to fix certainly the dangerous conditions, venting, relief valve discharge and other issues that keep it from working properly. Since it is family and all.

    Get me his mailing address and I'll mail a set of Idronics. He may take the medicine, maybe not. Some plumbers do not know what they don't know.

    Most important you do the right thing so you sleep better. This isn't the first time you had this burr under your saddle :)

    That’s a great idea!
    I’d love to see the expression in opening his set of idronics . How could you not want to read it all!

    mattmia2SuperTechicy78
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,687
    I'd love to have a full set of Idronics! I only signed up for it a year or so ago. I think this guy badly needs to read it, for the sake of the community.
    mattmia2
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    Gordy said:

    > @GroundUp said:

    > (Quote)

    > Pointing them out to who? It's falling on deaf ears with the plumber and there is no such thing as code enforcement or inspectors in the state of MN unless government buildings or certain large municipalities.





    Really? No residential inspections of any kind?



    Permits?

    Nope, nothing. When I first went into business years ago I called for a mechanical permit and they had no idea what I was talking about. Building permit and electrical inspections are required from the county, but nothing else. Not even a building inspection, as long as the county gets their permit and tax money.
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    edited February 2020
    @hot_rod I'm not sure I understand this "reverse injection" theory. Colder return water comes from the left and is sucked up into the boiler via the left tee, is heated, and pumped back down into the heating loop via the right tee to be sent on to the heat loads. That is how every drawing I've ever seen shows P/S with close tees done, including this Navien manual- is it wrong? I've been doing it that way forever. Seems counterintuitive to suck warmer supply water back into the boiler again and reduce the possibility of condensing but I'm always open to new things!

    Aside from that point, would you suggest simply relocating the expansion tank as a proper-ish repair? I realize it's more in-depth than that to make it "right", but I feel a simple XT relocation will eliminate this pressure issue at least with minimal cost and intrusion.

    As for the burr in the saddle, remember a month or two ago when someone installed that T&P on the mixed side of my HTP indirect and refused to fix it? Same guy.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,957
    Is the location of the expansion tank causing it to pull and push enough fluid in and out of the tank to cause enough pressure drop in the boiler to cause it to lock out? If that is the case, could increasing the system pressure a bit fix it(although it is all in this isn't recommended but math and science might fix it territory)?
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,019
    GroundUp said:

    @hot_rod I'm not sure I understand this "reverse injection" theory. Colder return water comes from the left and is sucked up into the boiler via the left tee, is heated, and pumped back down into the heating loop via the right tee to be sent on to the heat loads. That is how every drawing I've ever seen shows P/S with close tees done, including this Navien manual- is it wrong? I've been doing it that way forever. Seems counterintuitive to suck warmer supply water back into the boiler again and reduce the possibility of condensing but I'm always open to new things!

    Aside from that point, would you suggest simply relocating the expansion tank as a proper-ish repair? I realize it's more in-depth than that to make it "right", but I feel a simple XT relocation will eliminate this pressure issue at least with minimal cost and intrusion.

    As for the burr in the saddle, remember a month or two ago when someone installed that T&P on the mixed side of my HTP indirect and refused to fix it? Same guy.


    The boiler pump is pumping into the boiler? That is correct.

    Which direction is the flow in the distribution? If it is left to right, clockwise, that is correct. Blue manifold is return, so it looks correct.

    Moving the expansion tank to the "red" location should change the dynamics, both circs will be pumping away and the delta p added will show up in the boiler as required.
    An accurate boiler gauge would first show fill pressure when nothing is powered, it should increase when the boiler circulator runs, correct?

    I think it will work with the system circ upstream of the closely spaced tees, flow rate will be the same in either location.

    While not ideal the air purger should function fine.

    Manual suggests an additional LWC, I suspect the boiler has at least a pressure switch for protection?

    Move the exp tank connection would be my opinion, nothing else piping wise.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • GroundUp
    GroundUp Member Posts: 1,281
    Correct- your prior assessment suggested otherwise though and that's why I asked. I am not familiar with Navien in general, but they do utilize a digital pressure gauge on the front readout panel of the boiler which I would assume, if the tank were relocated, would rise during operation as it's on the discharge side of both circulators. I have not sat there and watched the system run, as I was hoping the original installer would grow up and fix it, but before I do anything I will certainly get more in depth with the diagnostics and watch what the pressure is doing in the system. The fact that it keeps tripping on low pressure tells me there is a LWCO pressure sensor installed from the factory
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 15,019
    GroundUp said:

    Correct- your prior assessment suggested otherwise though and that's why I asked. I am not familiar with Navien in general, but they do utilize a digital pressure gauge on the front readout panel of the boiler which I would assume, if the tank were relocated, would rise during operation as it's on the discharge side of both circulators. I have not sat there and watched the system run, as I was hoping the original installer would grow up and fix it, but before I do anything I will certainly get more in depth with the diagnostics and watch what the pressure is doing in the system. The fact that it keeps tripping on low pressure tells me there is a LWCO pressure sensor installed from the factory

    Sorry I got confused by your first post of the circ upstream of the purger, I had flow direct wrong in my mind.

    The expansion tank connection correction I suspect should address the pressure LWCO trip. Assuming there are no leaks allowing pressure to drop. Maybe confirm that also, valve off the boiler and maybe test to 60 psi or more to quickly detect a small tube leak?

    You have hose connections on the Webstone below the boiler if you want to add an accurate 30 lb test gauge there to confirm boiler gauge reading, and watch static and dynamic pressures.

    I don't think the system is all that bad. Communication between you and the installer maybe not ideal :)

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    GroundUp