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Pulsating, whooshing, buzzing sound from upstairs

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Etoile
Etoile Member Posts: 20
edited February 2021 in THE MAIN WALL
This building is a former textile mill. A new neighbor moved in right above us 3 months ago. Her unit has a gas boiler with forced water baseboard heating, unlike all of the other units in the building. (The other units, including ours, have gas furnaces with forced air through wide ducts on the ceiling with large vents ) In the 15 years we’ve been here, we have never heard any of these noises until she called a local plumber in for service because she thought that she smelled gas. The plumber cleaned the boiler and then the trouble started. After the cleaning, she heard noise so she called the plumber in again. The plumber told her it could be caused by any of three parts. The air purger was changed because it was the least expensive of the three parts. Sentinel was also added. About five days later she heard a new noise, and sent us a video/audio of the sound. We have been hearing a whooshing sound all over our residence. It’s at it’s loudest in the area approximately beneath where her boiler is located. Last night it stopped for about five minutes, then started again. Husband says that it sounds like a flying saucer, could also be described as being in an air tunnel. The neighbor decided that she made a mistake and that there really isn’t any noise, so I’m here trying to get understanding on the cause of the noise to address it with her. Based on what I’ve come up with, it seems that there may be air in the system and that air needs to be removed. I’m understanding that water and air together can cause this whooshing sound and the air doesn’t belong there. I may be completely incorrect in my assessment. Please help to figure out what is causing this constant whooshing noise. Help please❗️
Thank you so much!

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
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    You are correct that air should not be in the system, and can create noise.
    Can you post a picture of her boiler, and it’s piping? The experts here can then make some recommendations for her plumber to follow.—NBC
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Thank you for your reply. If there is air in her system would it potentially cause this kind of noise? Is it possible for us to hear her baseboard heating living one floor below? I have photos of the baseboard heating and the video that she sent me to ask if we were hearing the noise it was making. Since then she has dropped the ball. Trying to attach the video! Please let me know if you can access and view the video. Thanks SO much!

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,505
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    Over pumping could ba a cause of whooshing also
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,176
    edited February 2021
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    From the sound on the video, it is difficult to determine the source of the noise. it could be one of two things.
    1. There is air in the closed piping/boiler system. Check one thing for her. See that the air vent is not closed. the air vent is the silver cylinder on a separate pipe just behind the gauge. That has a small 3/8" cap (approx diameter) that can be left loose to allow for air to vent from the closed system.
    a) If that cap is closed, no air will vent.
    b) If that cap is open then air can vent over time as long as there is an automatic water feed to put water back in to replace the air that leaves.
    c) if the vent is closed and you open it and water leaks out, then the vent needs to be replaced.

    2. The gas is burning inside a burner tube (where it does not belong). The flame should burn above the burner tube. That may be a result of incorrect alignment of the burner tube after maintenance. or incorrect pressure setting on the gas valve regulator.

    This can be determined by looking at the burner while operating. You must take the front door off the boiler and look in at the very bottom of the boiler where you see the blue glow of the flame. Sometimes you need to look from the floor, you can look slightly up to see the burner.



    Yours Truly,
    Mr.Ed

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,176
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    hot_rod said:

    Over pumping could ba a cause of whooshing also

    Agree with bob but Unlikely. Since it worked for 15 years without noise, unless the pump was recently replaced, but that is not likely either, the plumber did something that resulted in air in the closed system or burner noise.

    Quote from OP
    "In the 15 years we’ve been here, we have never heard any of these noises until she called a local plumber in for service because she thought that she smelled gas. The plumber cleaned the boiler and then the trouble started."

    Respectfully submitted,
    Mr.Ed

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Thank you so much!! for your comprehensive reply. Could either of those two possibilities cause us to hear a whooshing, windy kind of sound, in our unit below? It’s throughout our place, although somewhat louder beneath the boiler area. This leads me to believe that the noise is following the path of the baseboards.
    The noise started after a plumber cleaned the boiler, and then days later because of noise that the owner was newly hearing, replaced the air purger. Could any of these actions, done incorrectly or incompletely, cause there to be air in the system?

    With enormous appreciation for your help.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
    edited March 2021
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    A different plumber checked out our neighbor’s gas heat boiler while we were there with the neighbor. The flame was VERY loud, and I questioned the noise. Plumber claimed that the loud sound was normal. I have new photos that were taken by someone else at an opportune moment, so I don’t have a photo of the brand name (forgive me for not looking) or a photo of the flame and its location. I am thinking at this point that the sound we’re hearing beneath her utility room is the flame. Seems to me that a boiler of this type would usually be found in a basement, not on the fourth floor in a building above someone’s bedroom!
    Please help me to figure this out!
    Thank you!



  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
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    Without knowing what the first plumber did besides "clean" which can mean 20 different things. Maybe he jacked up the flame/gas valve. What does a flying saucer sound like? I've never seen/heard one before.
    Zman
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    It’s a whooshing sound. Thinking that the noise we hear downstairs below her furnace is the flame, that is very loud.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    You've answered your own question, really -- "The plumber cleaned the boiler and then the trouble started". The translation of that in plain English is "The plumber cleaned the boiler and messed something up". I suggest getting a competent HVAC man in there to clean and adjust the boiler -- and repair it if needed.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    bucksnortMy570
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Anyone recommend a top notch HVAC person in Western MA? The contractor listed on this website for our zip code does not service this area.
    Thank you!
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
    edited March 2021
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    @Jamie Hall I’m trying to gather information to encourage and convince the upstairs neighbor to address the noise. I can complain, but without solid information nothing will be done. The two plumbers who’ve been up to see the boiler (who, we found out later, are close relatives of each other) said all is good.
    If it was our boiler we’d have brought someone in to work on it already!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,675
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    Charles Garrity -- @Charlie from wmass .
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kcopp
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,111
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    I have seen pictures (Utube) of burners reinstalled upside down.....strange but true.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    The flame was right side up, making a loud noise though. The noise is the concern.
    Thank you for your help!
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
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    Etoile said:

    The flame was right side up, making a loud noise though. The noise is the concern.
    Thank you for your help!

    Might be as simple as getting a HVAC tech in to check the A/F mix through combustion analysis. A garden variety plumber probably doesn't have the equipment.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Neither of the plumbers checked the A/F mix as far as I know. Can you tell me how this is done, and what does A/F stand for? Thank you so much!
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
    edited March 2021
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    Etoile said:

    Neither of the plumbers checked the A/F mix as far as I know. Can you tell me how this is done, and what does A/F stand for? Thank you so much!

    Air fuel ratio and carbon monoxide rates. If you feed too much air to the burner the flames will jump the burners and sound like a jet engine. To much fuel and when it lights off can go "whoosh". They have special testers that measure the A/F and gas pressure. Anything else is just guessing. Gurgling sounds are symptoms of air in the pipes. Whooshing or Sc Fi flying saucer sounds like a combustion issue. You need a HVAC tech with a combustion tester and manometer. If you call and they have neither, hang up and find someone with them. As long as they're there, have them check yours for shts and giggles. Maybe the building has gas pressure issues. If you are just eyeballing stuff, you're guessing.
    Etoile
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    My hero!

    As I’m listening to the blowing, absolutely jet engine sound, it would be a relief if this was the cause of the noise. The flame sounded very loud when the plumber showed it to me after taking the door off.
    1. Could a combustion issue raise the cost of heating the location?
    2. Could the A/F mix have been thrown out of balance when the boiler was cleaned?
    3. Would this noise be constant?
    4. How would the building’s gas pressure issues affect the combustion?

    Looking forward to giggles on this subject✨

    With great appreciation
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
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    Without a qualified tech with proper tools, you're just guessing. Get back to us with the numbers the test comes back with. Before and after
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Thank you!
    I’m trying to build a case to present to the neighbor. The more points I can put together to support getting a pro in there, the better. Since there have already been two plumbers in there
    who certainly didn’t check the A/F mix and blindly determined that all is good, I have to get my ducks lined up.
    She has a hearing problem, which doesn’t help the situation. So did the last plumber, who advised me of this as we were walking up to her place. He said, when I asked about the very loud noise of the flame, that was ok.
    I can call both of the plumbers (relatives of each other) to ask if they checked the A/F mix, unless you have another suggestion. The HVAC company recommended on this site for our zip code doesn’t service this area.

    Thank you for your great and continued support.
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
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    Call your gas company. Tell them you suspect a combustion problem that needs to be tested with proper tools. They may even have techs that will do it for free or a fee or they should be able to give you the names of qualified techs. Stop calling plumbers. They fix gurgles, backups and leaks. You have a whoosh and a jet engine.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    We called the plumber for our tankless hot water system that on occasion produces cold water until it heats up. Would there have been a better category of subcontractor to call for that? It has never been serviced in 15 years. Figured as long as the plumber was coming anyway, we worked it out for him to check the boiler upstairs. Plumber is supposed to replace the igniter and gas sensor in the tankless hot water heater. Does that sound right?
    Oh my and for those giggles, we have a forced air duct heating system. Completely different from the jet engine boiler that lady has upstairs. The unit above us is the only one in the building with that setup.

    Gas company is closed now. Will contact Berkshire Gas tomorrow morning and keep you apprised. You are amazing. Thank you❗️
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
    edited March 2021
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    Did your plumber suggest you need more than just replace parts? More like deliming the guts. Or maybe he just knows he'll be back shortly to sell you a new unit when it gives up for good. No maintenance in 15 year? Oh My! When was your forced air last looked at? Did you have the plumber look at that too? I hope you have a few CO alarms in your home. From what it sounds like I wouldn't have anything underneath you neighbors boiler that you care about that might get drenched.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Although we have owned the place for 15 years, it’s only since COVID that we have been here full time. Mostly was three day weekends and school vacations before that. We have a super duper whole house water filter that includes the water that goes to the on demand tankless water heater. Plumber suggested that he could add valves to, I guess, the pipes leading to the tankless to flush out the system. (The developer’s plumber didn’t put those valves in) It was decided this week that it wasn’t necessary because the water here isn’t at all hard.
    We’ve had our heat off all winter in a futile attempt to save money. (According to a report I read, MA has the second highest utility rates in the country). The forced air heat furnace hasn’t been “on” for most of the 15 years, as we haven’t really been here.
    The gas company informed us that even when the thermostat is set to the lowest possible number - 45 degrees - when it’s very cold, the furnace will kick on to bring the temperature back up. Given that we are surrounded by other units that do have their heat actively on,, and the thermostat is consistently between 65 and 67 for the ambient temperature, I don’t see how the furnace would kick on by itself.

    An OP who wrote privately said that the techs from the gas company may know what they’re doing or not, hit or miss.

    It is beyond wonderful to have your input and expertise.

    1. Can an unbalanced A/F mix be risky or dangerous?
    2. Why do you think we could have a drenching?
    3. If it is exceptionally cold outside, like 3 or 4 degrees, would the boiler upstairs make a louder noise because it’s working harder?

    Thank you again, you’re amazing, and I appreciate your help.
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
    edited March 2021
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    A bad A/F can cause all sorts of problems. The worst can be CO poisoning. Get CO detectors if you don't have them. They're cheap. Your gas air furnace or water heater can do you in. My BIL was in the fire dept. and had many stories of bad fires where there were no detectors or they were missing batteries.
    Boilers can all of a sudden spit out water from drips to gallons. If your place is under the boiler location think water dripping down from the ceiling. A toilet can do the same thing.
    When it's colder out the boiler doesn't per say worker "harder". It works longer. That kind of boiler at least.
    You're lucky. Our water comes from deep limestone. 40 PPM hardness.
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
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    Ok, we have CO detectors. Thank you.

    On the other hand, woo hoo!
    Because of the information that you gave me, the plumber said that we don’t have to pay him. Yeah, he got snagged. First I called Noritz (tankless manufacturer) to ask about the parts. Yes, was told the unit should be flushed, as it should be done every five years or so. Seems the plumber was told when he called them that the first step to diagnose is to test the gas pressure with a manometer!! I asked him if he had done that and of course he hadn’t. Then I asked about the flame in the boiler in the loft above ours, and possible issues with the A/F mix. I have learned so much from you!

    Will you help me put together a list of reasons that will encourage the upstairs neighbor to recognize that she must have her boiler checked by a competent pro because she has a potential problem on her hands!
    How about other risks of bad A/F
    in addition to possible CO2 poisoning
    Do you have other suggestions?
    Thank you so much!
    Very very grateful for your help✨
  • bucksnort
    bucksnort Member Posts: 167
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    A bad A/F will either clog your boiler with soot or cook the iron leading to premature wear. The happy medium is what you should shoot for. Everything has a design point where you should expect it to last. A 2" thick boiler should last forever say than a 1" thick one. Abuse the 2" one with improper A/F and it will not last.
    I've gone through my work career with the mantra that I should do the best at what I do or I shouldn't be in that field. The ability to learn and learn from your mistakes. Making excuses seems to be the norm today and subpar service or products is accepted as the norm.
    Not sure how you can convince your neighbor to do what she should. You just found out what should have been done ,wasn't. You might get 10 years out of your tankless without service or 20 with. I grew up taking broken things apart. I figured it was broken already, let's see why and how it works. I gained basic insight in how things work and what happens if you don't maintain something.
    As for convincing the lady upstairs she might not know or even care unless the day comes and it doesn't work. Most people know you need to change the oil in their cars. But then you still get the ones that are surprised when the motor seizes from neglect. I convinced my Mom to have her get her masonry chimney cleaned. Guy found out the flue for the boiler was rotted out and she needed to replace the whole deal. Educated her that she could die motivated her decision.
    Sounds like a plumber told her the noise was normal, and instead of making an uninformed decision decided not to do anything more. Like your tankless. You know now that it needs preventive maintenance. You might accept it when it dies before it should. I am more willing to accept it if I'm told "It had a good life but it just wore out".
    I convinced you the benefit of flushing your tankless and CO alarms. How can you convince your neighbor? That's the million dollar question.
    The only dumb question is not asking the question.
    Good Luck!
  • Etoile
    Etoile Member Posts: 20
    edited March 2021
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    The idea would be to put together a list of things that could happen or are already happening as a result of bad A/F. If it comes from a pro, she will take it seriously. I’ve noticed that she pays attention to what men are saying when there’s a choice between a woman or a man speaking.
    Included in the list would be indications of trouble, such as: noisy flame, whooshing sound.
    I’ve attempted to delve into something that I know nothing about because the noise is rocking the stillness of our space. I like to sleuth around anyway and you made it possible
    Would you please add anything that you can think of to my list?