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Hydronic system design for house, garage, pool, driveway heating

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mknmike
mknmike Member Posts: 82
edited January 2022 in Radiant Heating
I’m considering buying a TriangleTube for my latest purchased home, and want to figure out what size.  Since I’m going with a modcon, my gut tells me it’s ok to oversize it.  Perhaps if flow rates are higher with the three pump/zone system, lower temperatures (more condensing) would occur.  I don’t know.  

The 1919 house (I don’t live in) currently is capable of cooking the place up with 190 degree water in short order and will have you sweating on that 55-60 degree day if you aren’t careful.  This just can’t possibly be efficient.   

I live (in the same neighborhood) in a 1929 built twin (connected on one side) ~2500 sq ft 3 story with a few 2-3” pipes nearly all wrapped in insulation in the basement before heading to original standing radiators.  Attic is 4th floor well insulated.  Walls have no insulation but are plaster over double brick.  My single-taco pump TriangleTube Solo 110 is set to a curve of:

outside temp + water temp = 150 F

Nice and simple.  It might not heat real fast when coming home from a trip, but it’s not really that bad.  I like to start fires on the coldest of days too, figuring that’s when we get the most heat out of our fireplace insert.  I think our gas bills rarely exceed $100/month whereas we might have burnt through well over 100 gallons of oil / month generally requiring more than two 275 gallon tanks per year.  The TT modcon is great.  I never added a water heater because our water heater was brand new when we got the TT.  So it’s capable of running really low temps.  Our water heater is probably terribly inefficient though.  

Back to the subject property:

We bought this 1919 (in same neighborhood) 4200 sq ft standalone house this past summer and are renting it out.  It’s got a gas cold start (bang bang?) boiler and two water heaters under the fireplace (was on porch wall that got enclosed and turned into an addition).  It might be a long run to get PVC outside, but we can do it.  It’s got 4” (or possibly 5”?) boiler pipes in the basement that I confused for sewer pipes with no insulation.  I wonder if this house was originally a steam boiler setup.  The heater went straight to 190 F when we fired it up.  The first floor of the house was converted to cast iron baseboard from the original standing radiators.  We are investing in this house, and I figure updating to a modcon is in the works.  I like triangle tube (30 miles from me, and I can drive there for parts if needed) and heard a horror story of a neighbor with a Weil McLein.  So I’m shopping for a TT again for our new purchase.  (Our current TT hasn’t needed ANY maintenance in ~10 years of service now.)

Looking for advice on what to do next.  Maybe get the power bills from the power company of my tenant.  

Comments

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,271
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    I’d start with a heatload calculation, next an assessment of all the radiators.

    The load calc room by room tells you what you need, the emitters will determine what SWT is required. Zoning, piping, etc is part 3 the design.

    A number of folks here can do a complete / design. Or try it yourself
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,458
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    Do not even think of deciding on a boiler for hot water heat without first doing a proper heat loss calculation on the house. There's no point at all in oversizing a hot water boiler, even one that modulates, and there's no way to determine how much heat a given building needs without a heat loss calculation -- "what was there before" is a miserable approach, as is trying to compare to neighbouring buildings. It doesn't take that long to do.

    From the description of the piping -- brief -- I wouldn't be surprised if the house to which you refer hadn't had gravity hot water heat to begin with and was converted. This is fine -- but you will want to take some care in arranging the zoning and piping to get even heat. Even more so since some of the radiation was converted to baseboards.

    Triangle Tube does make good boilers. So, however, do a number of other manufacturers (including Weil-McClain; anecdotal evidence from other owners is not a good guide). It is much more important that the boiler chosen is one which your installer is familiar with and likes to work with, and will be willing and available to maintain. The best boiler in the world is junk, unless the installation is done correctly and well.

    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    SuperTechRich_49EdTheHeaterMan
  • Daveinscranton
    Daveinscranton Member Posts: 148
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    Near as I can tell, heat loss calculations are your friend.  The utility bills can be a bit of a check.  But folks oversize boilers a lot.  So if the current system is wildly inefficient, it can push you towards something way too big.  I like the elegant engineering of a mod con.  

    I would suggest extreme attention to dirt/magnetic separators.  The Triangle Tube design looks relatively insensitive to water compared to a lot of older mod con designs.  I would worry more about the cartridge circulator pumps with the old plumbing.  Spend a few bucks there for longevity and peace of mind. 

    The old Bell and Gossett 100 pumps would tolerate anything.  Except maybe over oiling.  Not so with cartridge pumps.

    Best wishes.  Sounds like fun!


    EdTheHeaterMan
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    A key decision factor for me with triangle tube is the fact that I can drive to their offices in about a half hour whereas a neighbor that recently needed a new blower for their Weil mclein needed to wait nearly a week in freezing temperatures and had to move out of their house while waiting on the part to arrive. That’s why I’m sticking with triangle tube.
  • Shane_2
    Shane_2 Member Posts: 192
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    Just make sure that they have parts available from their offices.

    I've had good luck with Triangle and have one in my own home. That said, they went through one or two ownership changes and a new model or two since ten years ago
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,188
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    mknmike said:
    A key decision factor for me with triangle tube is the fact that I can drive to their offices in about a half hour whereas a neighbor that recently needed a new blower for their Weil mclein needed to wait nearly a week in freezing temperatures and had to move out of their house while waiting on the part to arrive. That’s why I’m sticking with triangle tube.
    The problem you mentioned about Weil McLain is the same problem with every mod con. These boilers are efficient but contain a lot of model/brand specific proprietary parts. These parts can be expensive  and most homes with hydronic heating have traditional cast iron boilers so HVAC companies and supply houses don't always have parts available. I've had trouble getting parts from wholesalers who sell the boilers. The nice thing about cast iron boilers is most repairs can be made with readily available universal parts that can be used on any brand.  Hopefully we will see that one day with the mod cons, but it seems like there are so many different brands with different designs right now. 
    EBEBRATT-Ed
  • flat_twin
    flat_twin Member Posts: 350
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    When our WM modcon was placed on the "discontinued" list, I started looking for spare parts. Besides keeping a maintenance kit on hand, I have a blower, outdoor temp sensor, gas valve body and a circulator as spares if needed. The WM parts were liquidator auction buys for considerably less than list price. It's a gamble that I'd never need them but I think I could get my money out of them down the road.
    mknmikeEdTheHeaterMan
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,458
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    As @SuperTech mentioned, the problem of parts is not unique to Weil-McClain. Nor is it even unique to heating systems. As he also mentioned, there is a tradeoff between reliability and repairability on the one hand and parts on the other. I honestly doubt that we will see much improvement in that regard, however, as each manufacturer has their own ideas as to how to create the maximum efficiency and flexibility in their equipment -- which is a good thing in principle -- and this leads to parts variation between makes, and even within makes as model changes are made.

    There is enough demand in cars and trucks for aftermarket suppliers to make most parts available for older vehicles (not highly computerized newer ones) -- but that isn't there for heating, and most home appliances are regarded as throw away items.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    So tonight I got into the house and was a bit surprised and pleased on this 35 F degree day and see the boiler temp was between 115-120 the whole time I was there and only the “main” pump that provides flow to the stand up radiators on the 2nd and third floors  was running.  The “addition/den” pump and the “dining room” pump that I suspect runs the whole first floor was also not running.  

    So I guess it’s possible for this boiler ive got to run at the same low temps once in continuous operation.  So maybe this boiler is somehow capable of modulating.  How?  I don’t know.  Time for more research I guess.




  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,579
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    You have a non-condensing boiler operating at condensing temps. It won't last long under those conditions.

    I would suggest either repiping it using a condensate protection valve or replacing it with a mod/con.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Rich_49EdTheHeaterMan
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    edited January 2022
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    Zman said:
    You have a non-condensing boiler operating at condensing temps. It won't last long under those conditions. I would suggest either repiping it using a condensate protection valve or replacing it with a mod/con.
    Aw dang.  And I was starting to think that I wouldn’t get much improvement out of a mod con after seeming this boiler running at a low temp.

    I now need to research and understand why that’s bad.  I had thought the “condensing” part was the exhaust gas condensing and due to acidity requiring a stainless heat exchanger and marble chips before feeding condensate into the sewer line.  That’s what I’ve got in my home with the TT prestige solo 110.  

    Is this condensing talking about heating water condensing?  That doesn’t make sense if it’s not hot enough to vaporize.  So I guess we are talking about exhaust gas condensing.  So I guess we are talking about a condensate trap in the exhaust piping.  I will try to take a look at that next time I’m at the property.  There’s a big bell over the boiler I guess to let in basement air to constantly be sucked up the chimney.  I should check to see if the chimney is stainless lined.  I hope so bc there are two water heaters in series too.  Seems like a pretty nicely done setup really, but I don’t know.  


  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    This article seems to provide some good reasoning for sizing a mod-con correctly. I think I get it now.  https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/sizing-a-modulating-condensing-boiler

    Even a mod-con can cycle too quickly killing efficiency and perhaps shortening the life of the boiler.  

    I am starting to wonder **** I saw in the property earlier tonight.  I know the one pump was running (surely calling for heat), but the boiler couldn’t have been firing or the temperature would have been going up. The dining room thermostat is the only one also connected to an AC system (the one in the basement), and the dining room pump wasn’t calling for heat (pump not running).  I am starting to wonder if they perhaps wired the system so the boiler fires only when the dining room thermometer is calling for heat.  When I turned up the dining room thermostats this past fall, that’s when I started sweating with 190 F boiler temps.  

    The upstairs thermostat is an ancient one that actually sparks inside the metal box.  It’s pretty cool, but maybe not so cool.  There’s another thermostat up in the second floor hall for the AC system that’s on the third floor.  So this second floor heating thermostat is no “brain” of the system, nor is the heating only thermostat in the addition/den.  

    Anyway, this is my first hydronic system with multiple zones.  I think I can understand when a mod-con boiler calls for heat.  Both of the following conditions must be met:
    - water temp is below the set curve (considering outside temp)
    - at least one zone/pump is calling for heat. 

    So with a “cold start” boiler like the one in this newly purchased property, with 3 pumps/zones, I’d expect it to fire if both of the following conditions are met:
    - water temp is below set point of 180 F
    - at least one pump/zone is calling for heat.  
    I think both these conditions were met tonight, but the water temp was only 115-120 F.  I wasn’t paying attention really well, but I do think I recall the temperature going up a little, from maybe 116 to 118.  I’m obviously not sure, but if this is the case, the burner must have fired, and I didn’t notice.  Wait.  I wanted to remove the cover but thought better of it because I could hear the burner. Maybe it was actually burning ALL that time I was down there.  If so, then yes, somehow this burner is not cooking up the way it did before.  I guess I need to figure out what portions of the house are on what zones.  Maybe the addition and dining room zones (which weren’t firing tonight) are tiny and the zone that was running tonight is massive.  That could be another possible explanation for the low water temps tonight.  

    I now feel the urgency to assure I’m not dripping natural gas combustion acid all over my cast iron boiler.  
  • Daveinscranton
    Daveinscranton Member Posts: 148
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    40 years ago I saw a condensing cast iron boiler.  I was buying fancy flue pipe for a wood stove.  Henry looked like he smoked pot nonstop.  After talking with him for 5 minutes, I was convinced he had never seen a joint in his life.  His father was a plumber.  He inherited a plumbing and heating business.

    He had a small old cast iron boiler to heat the shop.  Which was big.  He had rigged it to burn outside air.  And built a very nice stainless heat exchanger to condense his flue gases.  It pretty much was dripping out lukewarm water.  But the boiler itself was fine.  Intrigued, I asked Henry about it.  He said that the gas company had been there twice to change out meters.  Third visit they brought cops and guns, convinced he was stealing gas.  He wasn’t.  30 minutes later, the gas folks and the cops were trying to buy one.  It wasn’t for sale.  

    Henry has been dead for decades.  I do think that you would be well served finding the equivalent of Henry, and they are on this site, for an opinion, to look over what you have and what to do.  

    Best wishes 
    mknmikeEdTheHeaterMan
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    I agree that I should get someone to do a heat load calculation.  Perhaps this boiler is undersized when considering the massive basement pipes.  

    I am in WILMINGTON, DELAWARE and only about 2 miles off I-95.  I believe that Burns & McBride has been servicing this boiler which was in a dark room made of fixed louvre doors surrounding the heater and water heaters.  I had all that ripped out to clear out the basement. So now everything is much easier to access and see what’s going on with all the pipes.  

    I had a bad experience with hydronic when installing the Triangle Tube Prestige Solo 110 in my current home.  I bought the heater myself over 10 years ago, and it seemed the technology was fairly “new” then.  Again, I chose TT due to their proximity and knowing parts can be tough to obtain for these mod-con units.  A friend of mine was paying someone to install a Weil McLain mod-con and re-piping the whole house, removing the massive pipes he said were steam pipes, claiming downtown West Chester, PA provided steam from the city directly to homes.  (This Wilmington, DE house I purchased appears to also have a capped 2” inlet pipe that I guess could have been a water line, but maybe it too was steam. ???).  Anyway, I couldn’t get his guy to do the install, and struggled to find a contractor to install my TT.  I built a 2x4 wall in the basement, hung the unit, and piped the combustion/exhaust air pipes, and finally found a smaller company to do the install.  I left the manuals for the guy and wasn’t there when he did the install, but he did all the following wrong:
    - piped the water lines backwards on the primary boiler loop.  Probably not a huge deal, but I had to get the TT tech support on the phone to go over the diagram bc the company owner didn’t believe me and my explanation of the diagram.  I got him to redo the copper piping.
    - installed the new taco pump inside down, such that it was overheating.  I flipped the pump myself.
    - set the “curve” on the heater to just always go directly to ~160 F.  He clearly didn’t understand mod-con boilers.
    - left a leaky copper fitting which I ultimately just fixed myself by re-sweating the pipe.  

    I basically learned that I could have done the “skilled” part of this install better myself, while I do appreciate the labor side of it that got the old oil tank and boiler out of my house.  My old reliable plumber told me stories of how annual tune up guys would usually just come down into basements and look for signs of really bad things and smoke a cigarette instead of doing any actual work.  After getting weak responses to tough questions myself, I think I’ve been trained to do a lot of DIY and understand my systems.  And I gave up on finding anyone who really cares to understand mod-con boilers.  Perhaps the delta in fuel savings isn’t enough to pay for the skilled labor to understand them.

    if there’s anyone on this site that wants to take a look at BOTH the TT in my house for a once-a-decade system inspection, and ALSO do a load calculation consultation on the property I bought less than a 1/2 mile down the street, I will be glad to pay for the services.  I will admit to being a tough customer, not regarding payment, but I’m not accepting a situation where a contractor thinks it’s ok to not understand the work they are doing.  

    Mknmike@live.com is my email if anyone wants to contact me directly.

    in the mean time, I will see if Delmarva power will give me the power bills.  

    Thanks!
    Mike

  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,579
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    Triangle Tube makes a solid boiler and if parts are readily available, it sounds like the brand for you. That being said, that firetube design has become a commodity, you can get a very similar boiler from at least a 1/2 dozen manufactures.

    You may have walked into the boiler room at the beginning of a cycle, before the boiler reached steady-state temps. It also may be possible that the system has so much mass that the boiler never gets up to temp before the t-stat satisfies.

    Old gravity systems like yours work great with mod/con boilers. Their high mass and oversized radiators work well with low temps and allow the boiler to run at peak efficiency with very few short cycles.

    Size the boiler to the heat loss of the building.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    DaveinscrantonmknmikeEdTheHeaterMan
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    I’d typed up a response but didn’t finish it.  Thanks for the comments @zman

    Today my wife and I took a walk around the neighborhood and I heard the AC compressor running.  I messaged my tenant, who responded that the AC was accidentally on maybe from bumping the thermostat, and thinks it was on for days.  Perhaps she’s had the AC fighting the heat on the second and third floor for days.  Oh man.  Well that’s a real drawback of having separate thermostats for AC and heat as the house does.  The AC is Unico high velocity, one in the basement, another on the third floor.  The thermostats for the second and third floors are on the second floor hall.  

    Anyway, I thought I better disclose this issue.  I think those two thermostats are just two wires each, and there’s hallways and doors between the two.  So using a single thermostat might require some significant wiring efforts.  The heat thermostat is old, and the AC thermostat is less than 20 years old with the Unico install.  

    Anyway, here’s what I’d written the other day…
    —————-
    Well, Delmarva Power won’t let me have access to the power bills. So I will have to bug my tenant.  This is the kind of stuff where I feel it’s best to leave sleeping dogs lying. My tenant is great and paying far more in rent than I ever would.  If it turns out the heating bills are horrible, I will possibly have an urgent scenario on my hands.  I guess I will simply check the gas meter next time I’m there and see how much has been used since the bill was in my name.  I think I can do the same for the electric.  

    The other concern for the current heater is the amount of corrosion on the cast iron boiler.  I guess I will need to see if I can get in there and figure it out.  Maybe I can find some instructions on how to open up that boiler for a look.  

    I wonder where I should be looking for condensation, in the flue on directly on the boiler cast iron.  

    I honestly don’t know what I’ve got in the chimneys.  My 1929 home in the same neighborhood has 13x13” terracotta square chimney liner. Assuming the subject 1919 house is the same, I would think I should get some stainless liner if I’m going to continue using conventional boiler / water heaters.  I was also thinking it’s not real efficient to have two water heaters in series for just one person living in this house (despite the 3.2 bathrooms).  I could maybe add a bypass pipe to one of them or just set it’s temperature really low I guess.  Heck, I guess it might be most efficient I just set them both at low temperatures, perhaps much less heat loss than a single larger water heater.  I don’t know.

    Anyway, I think a modcon makes sense in the long run, perhaps even a combi since we’ve got the space to even keep the old style water heaters.  Maybe they won’t be big wasters if they are kept at low temps.  

    I wonder if maybe adding the modcon in a different location might make sense and migrate the different zones over to the mod-con might actually be a nice migration plan.  

    Hmm…

    And now for the separate topic… the two story detached garage.  I am running a gas line to the garage, along with a new water line and new electric lines.  We are burying the service power line that currently runs directly above the swimming pool and trenching right past the garage.  

    I’d like to put a bathroom in the garage and make it a usable suite, but it’s currently got ZERO insulation.  It does have a first floor wall radiator and chimney.  I’m trying to figure out the best way to heat this garage (to keep it above freezing and also be able to heat it like living space on the second floor if we so desire).  I could see how maybe we end up shutting off all heat to the garage to save energy.  So I am planning on making sure the water line can be drained inside the house basement.  That won’t prevent the need for antifreeze in sewer traps, and if we decide to use hydronic with the existing wall radiator, then either using anti-freeze or even just draining it.  

    It get complicated.  So I’ve thought of going with a temporary simple solution, like hooking something up to the chimney like a wood stove, but I’d really prefer to have something on a thermostat so I can set it and forget it. Even though the pool system is drained, and there’s no water in there currently, there’s paint in the garage and probably other stuff that probably doesn’t like to freeze.  We rarely have more than maybe 3-5 days where it doesn’t go above freezing, but it’s just not something I want to have to worry about.  Yet I want the best of both worlds.

    I guess nobody can recommend a setup without seeing the property, but there’s one more thing I’d like to ultimately have, a warm water loop under the driveway to melt snow.  The house is right next to the driveway though, and the driveway isn’t really sloped.  So maybe this is a ridiculous add-on.  Just another thing to consider, and probably easiest to do from inside the house as opposed to the garage.  I don’t know though.  

    There’s a lot to consider here.  I wonder if anyone would like to consult for me.  
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    mknmike said:

    There’s a lot to consider here.  I wonder if anyone would like to consult for me.  

    I am sure that I would scare away most professionals.  Too much talk before I open up the wallet.  

    Does anyone know what a fair hourly rate I should expect to pay someone to do a heat loss calculation for me?  Or to explain to me how best to do my calculation?  I think we have a very cold day coming up on Wednesday.


  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,655
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    A fair hourly rate (or even a contract cost) varies too much from place to place for anyone but a local to give a guess.

    Have you tried the 'Find a Contractor' link above?

    You can get some first-rate assistance here, though—want to make a go of it yourself? There're more than a few homeowners here who took the plunge & successfully made the repairs/rework/replacement they needed, assuming your codes allow it.

    Mosherd1
  • Rich_49
    Rich_49 Member Posts: 2,766
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    You'll need alot of information as best as you can determine to have a proper heat loss calc done . I can almost guarantee a new boiler will be much smaller than the current one . If you'd like you may give me a call .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC
    732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey, Eastern Pa .
    Consultation, Design & Installation anywhere
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,458
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    There is a lot there. While not strictly heating help, a more general help. You need to very clearly define what your projects are, and the goals for each project. Some of them may overlap, it's true, but until you get them very clearly defined it will be hard to see where they do -- if they do. If they overlap, then you also need to figure out what projects -- or parts of projects -- need to be done in what sequence.

    Also, by doing that, you may discover that some of the projects -- or parts of them -- are things which you can easily do yourself, perhaps with a little help from us, and which are things you really don't want to tangle with.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    Thank you everyone!  I am in communication with someone who said he can give me a list of the information to collect, and will be able to do the heat loss Calc if I send the details.  
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    edited January 2022
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    Just looking to document a little more of my plans as the formalize.  

    I got a call from a local recommended shop on this board today, and as nice and helpful as the guy sounded, I got the sense that a Buderis cast iron boiler was what he was going to be looking to sell me, and I also didn’t get the sense he was going to be coming down this way to do the load Calc himself.  He also wanted natural gas bills. I will work on getting all that, but the load Calc might get delayed to March when I have full access to the house.  It will just be easier then.  

    Anyway, with this topic of modcon parts being hard to get, I decided to figure out what parts my 11 year old Triangle tube Prestige Solo 110 might possibly need, and just buy them to have on hand in case of a future failure.  I could see some jerk home inspector claiming parts are difficult to get and saying the heater needs to be replaced when I go to sell this house. With spare parts on hand, I will be able to call BS on that.  $500 spent now should assure no frozen pipes or having to buy a new heater when I go to sell the house.  

    So $450-500 (shipped) in spare parts.  Some of these mod-con units seem to only cost $2100-2200.  So I’m thinking that maybe having two identical units could be ideal.
    1) sized correctly for the house alone
    2) an identical item to install in the garage and use the excess potential BTUs for heating the ~17,000 gallon in-ground pool and/or driveway melt loop.  The melt loop would never need to be emptied, nor would the radiator(s) in the garage if inI put the correct mix and amount of antifreeze into the system.  That way I could shut down the garage heat if desired.  The pool heat would need to run on a heat exchanger.  The flow from the pool pump is insane in terms of heating, so I’m guessing a mixing loop off the pool pump loop would be the way to go on this.  

    So with this logic, perhaps it could make some logical sense to oversize the garage heater to the point that I could get an identical modcon for the house.  That also doesn’t preclude me from running the driveway heat  loop into the house (in addition to into the garage).  

    I feel the plan is starting to come together a bit.  Over-engineering it.  :-)
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    Well, just a little bit more research. And I now see that heating a pool with natural gas is pretty environmentally irresponsible.  But this integration with air conditioning seems like it might be great if you don’t mind the pool being toasty in the heat of the summer.  It’s too bad my condenser / compressors are on the opposite side of the property compared to the garage / pool pump.  Something to consider maybe if/when the AC system needs service though.  


  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    Back to the heater shopping.  Ok.  Just because I have extra system options doesn’t mean I need to take advantage of them.  BUT, it looks like a tankless water heater or combi will be a good option for the garage, where there will be very limited need for hot water.  Also, going with a combi for a single venting system in the garage that also saves space, and leaves the chimney available to use as a wood stove sounds pretty nice to me.  This may be a scenario of the tail wagging the dog, but I like the idea of having two identical heaters for the garage and house too.  Sure, the combi might not be good for hot water for the house, but it doesn’t mean we need to throw out the two tank water heaters that are in the basement.  So we may end up with three water heaters in the basement.  I will just need good controls to turn them down or off as desired.  

    I see the turn down ratio with the triangle tube has tried to catch up to the rest of the market and gone to 8:1 from 5.5:1.  Our prestige solo 110 is capable of doing 30-110k btu input.  The instinct 199 with 8:1 should go down to 25k btu then.  That’s less than our Solo in a connected house about half the size.  So I feel the range must be safe for the house.  It may still be way oversized for the garage, but the fact is that the garage heat will probably get used very infrequently.  So hopefully cycling on the garage won’t be too much of an issue.  Perhaps it will be if I’m just trying to keep the garage above freezing most of the time.  But I will have the optional BTUs available if I want to do a pool or driveway heater.  

    So am I stupid thinking two identical combi units like this would be a good idea?
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Triangle-Tube-Instinct-184K-BTU-95-AFUE-Combi-Gas-Boiler-Direct-Vent-/372800624184

    That doesn’t cover AC for the garage though. A window unit or worst case two should be plenty to cool the garage if needed though.  

    That’s where my head is today.
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    Options
    There is a lot there. While not strictly heating help, a more general help. You need to very clearly define what your projects are, and the goals for each project. Some of them may overlap, it's true, but until you get them very clearly defined it will be hard to see where they do -- if they do. If they overlap, then you also need to figure out what projects -- or parts of projects -- need to be done in what sequence. Also, by doing that, you may discover that some of the projects -- or parts of them -- are things which you can easily do yourself, perhaps with a little help from us, and which are things you really don't want to tangle with.

    @Jamie Hall clearly hit the mail on the head Jan 24.  The spiral is expanding into additional projects, and you saw that coming. I like how you think and really appreciate you seeing where I was going with this all.  I want the house to be as efficient as possible while being as good as possible.  It’s my turn to take this house into the next century. 

     Tesla Solar roof doesn’t seem ready for prime time yet, or at least the shingles don’t look right to me.  So I’m delaying that portion of the project while trying to plan ahead for it, dropping the wires in the trenches, etc.   Here are a few pictures of the house as we bought it and after cleaning up the pool a bit. 


  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,579
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    The video on Ac heating the pool was interesting. That option will certainly make your AC run a bit more efficiently and add a few degrees to your pool temp in the summer. Is that your goal? Most folks want to extend the pool season. The AC option will not help with that.

    I would just install a couple of condensing boilers for your heating and drive an EV to save the world :D .
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    mknmike
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    Zman said:
    The video on Ac heating the pool was interesting. That option will certainly make your AC run a bit more efficiently and add a few degrees to your pool temp in the summer. Is that your goal? Most folks want to extend the pool season. The AC option will not help with that. I would just install a couple of condensing boilers for your heating and drive an EV to save the world :D .
    I do want to move forward as green as possible.  That is a major goal here.  Insulation and passive energy savings/gains are the best ways to go, and best bang for the buck, but I want to finish the garage space (not exactly green to expand living space, I know), but want the ability to use minimal heat there, including the ability to shut it down and let it freeze.  So I plan to include a drain for the supply water in the basement of the house, but realize antifreeze will need to go into the drains and toilets if opting to do that.  Glycol in the driveway loop and wall hung radiator(s).

    …. but also the modcon itself… Can I drain that?

    I may have to make a call to triangle tube to see if there’s a way to assure the water is all drained from the combi.  I will want to design all the plumbing so it has drainable low-spots.  I will want to choose a combi that has the ability to be easily drained.  

    Also, in the house, I assume that we could setup the combi to supply just one bathroom or possibly the kitchen.  Deciding what’s most efficient for that setup is something I assume I can do down the line.

    Just curious, do these combi units ALSO have the ability to do a DHW tank too?  I assume they are one or the other.  Our prestige solo has a DHW loop we are not using (but have considered possibility switching to when our conventional water heater dies).  It might be nice to use something like a Smart tank hopefully for higher efficiency and maybe eliminate the chimney in the basement, possibly freeing it up for a wood stove.  Long term plans here. 

    And yes, ideally in the long run we will have solar tile roof that is capable of peering an EV without burning fossil fuels.  That same logic would be an argument to use heat pump technology instead of natural gas.  But is also part of the logic for wanting the ability to have wood stoves and freeing up the chimneys (as the CO2 from the wood is ultimately released by rotting anyway). 
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    Options
    Being interested in Green options, the fact is that any natural gas system will always be a CO2 emitter burning fossil fuels.  

    Since mod-cons run at lower temperatures, and it’s clear that AC systems can transfer heat to water like a pool, and heat pump water heaters supposedly exist, then why not consider a heat pump boiler?  I assume it might not provide the heat needed in the coldest of times.  I did a little hunting.  This site says it’s actually a good match for high surface area applications.  


    That gets me thinking about planning farther ahead, and setting up floor heating.  Hmm… 

    I also tried to consider geothermal about 10 years ago, but went with the mod-con.  I wonder if taking another look at geothermal makes sense for this new home with a bit more land.  Hmm…
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    edited February 2022
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    That's a nice property. There are various approaches to what you want to do. Make sure your budget fits the approach. I'd use a mod con for heating the house and making DHW in an indirect tank, sized for the future load. I'd supplement the DHW using a 2 panel thermal rooftop array and change the DHW tank to a solar dual tank with boiler backup. There's still a 30% federal tax credit available. I'd use a separate pool boiler to heat the pool and depending on the square footage of the snowmelt, use a separate boiler or add a heat exchanger to the house boiler. Snow melt systems are pricey to run and install. You'll need to add capacity to the boiler to match loads. If your snowmelt exceeds 100K BTU requirements, use a separate dedicated boiler.
    mknmike
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
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    Thanks Paul Pollets! 

    I will have to research the rooftop arrays to understand them.  I haven’t done any research into them.  I’m on the architectural committee of the neighborhood that’s on the national historic register, and roofing is a major component aesthetically.  In this ~200 home neighborhood, we have yet to have anyone with any type of rooftop energy device.  I am trying to help the neighborhood move forward into this century and set an example of what can be done.  4 foot wide Tesla roof panels were a bummer when the sample I was provided was 18” wide.  So I think I’m postponing solar for the garage.  

    As far as budget goes, I’ve basically got $30-40,000 to burn on repairs to this property for the next 2 years.  So I’m guessing total budget is at least $80,000.  We got this house probably $250,000 under value and consider ourselves extremely lucky in this market.  I enjoy DIY and think I can do so many things better myself, even if it takes me 20x the time.  So most of our expense is likely going to be on materials and/or large projects.  Running all power lines underground and water and gas to the garage with a new panel in there is going to be $12,500, our first large expense.

    I’d really feel warm and fuzzy if I could make this property generate its own energy like my sister has been able to do with her farm and 720 sqft of solar panels facing south to power her whole farm and then some.  That doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me though.  Trees are more important, and perhaps investing in community solar will be just as effective.  But even solar doesn’t make CO2-free natural gas.  

    The pool doesn’t need to be heated, but I do really like the idea of dumping AC cooling heat into the pool, at least for the shoulder seasons.  That seems like a no-brainer.

    The more I learn about hydronic, the more I learn about it’s versatility.  I can understand why people remove it from small homes that don’t have the space for radiators, or the money to rip up floors to install radiant floor heat, but for larger more complex homes, it seems like the most efficient way to go.  

    I’m going to have to start planning out some floor plans for the basement to see how much room I want to ultimately dedicate to systems.  It’s possible that the basement could make an additional den, and perhaps reuse the chimney down there for wood burning some day.  So I should plan ahead carefully.  I might see if it’s feasible to relocate the heating system to the laundry room that’s right next to the driveway and under the kitchen and second floor bath.  Currently the the heater and water heaters are on he opposite side of the house.  

    On the DHW setup, if I ultimately want to eliminate the chimney usage with the two tanks (100 gallons total?), I will definitely want to do an indirect setup.  I don’t think a single combi would be sufficient for a house with 9 sinks, 2 dishwashers, 3 showers, so in my triangle tube mindset, I’m thinking of some Smart tanks in addition to a combi.  

    Reading the installation manual for the combi, the DHW sensor is internal in the TT combi, and there appears to be only one sensor setup.  So it sounds like there might not be an ability for a combi to prioritize:
    1) tankless hot
    2) indirect smart tank
    3) house heating zones
    Since a TT combi can’t do #2 above, which would require a different set point (constant, not a curve based on outdoor temp like 3), I imagine I’d need a PhD in TriangleTube programming to make that work.  That seems pretty ironic as I’ve got a solo here that’s not even using its DHW setup which even has valves pre-built into it and comes with the DHW sensor.  The new Solos don’t seem to have that same feature for the plumbing.  Not a big deal though.  

    Anyway, this plan is starting to come together a little.  

    Digging trenches for power and plumbing to the garage starts in less than 4 weeks.  


  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    edited February 2022
    Options
    Cool info on solar collectors other than the PV solar panels for electricity that are so popular now.  This stuff would be great on a farm or in an industrial setting, but not something that I think would jive in our neighborhood.  :(

    https://www.epa.gov/rhc/solar-heating-and-cooling-technologies

  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    Options
    About two weeks into the heavy work.

    So right now, I’m about to have the porch roof (was asphalt shingle) with standing seam copper.  My roofer caused a leak and I had to cut an access point to get the wet insulation out.  sucked.  I just had that room painted including the ceiling.  Now it needs to be redone.  That’s kind of irrelevant to HeatingHelp though.

    We have the water line and natural gas line run to the garage, and the electric trench is still open, and I’ve got my plumber’s heavy duty hammer drill which has a bit that isn’t quite big enough for my 1.25” conduit.  I’ve made it work though.  I had chiseled a hole with brick chisels and really really prefer the hammer drill.  So now I’m trying to plan ahead and think about putting any holes in the house that would ever be needed.  It might not be a big deal to dig and drill later, but it makes a lot of sense to make any holes I definitely want now.  

    Holes for a driveway heating loop don’t make too much sense because that will involve so much digging later.

    Holes in various spots around the house for electrical outlets probably does make a lot of sense.  

    Maybe if I could figure out where I’d like a grill to be placed, then I could drill a hole for natural gas.  

    Anyway, I almost have the wires for the garage 100 amp service in.  I hope to finish that tomorrow. That’s the 1.25” conduit.

    I am putting in an empty 2” conduit that is for potential solar on the garage.  I’m not planning on having that enter the house or garage.  I just don’t know if it will ever be needed, and I don’t have the tools to try and get a conduit that big through the brick walls 3-4 bricks thick on the house.  So I plan to just cap the conduit really close to the power meter.  I could possibly get this into the garage above the brick base, and maybe I will put some 2” conduit through the wall of the garage.  

    I will definitely drill the little holes for cable and Ethernet / data cables in the house and garage.  

    The big important thing is to get the wires in the conduit for the power from the telephone pole though.  That needs to be inspected and hopefully switch over from the power line that runs above the pool. I need to get the plants I dug up back in the ground too. I think they’ve been out of the ground for two weeks now. Driveway power gate is on the list too. I bought that on Amazon months ago. Anyway, I got to work on the heater a bit and am now thinking about what Hvac enhancements to make and when. Maybe I should consider figuring out where I’d put a modcon boiler. It would be great to not have the heater and water heaters in the room that’s currently the boiler room. That’s the biggest single room in the basement and would be great for a fireplace / wood stove and maybe a den. But in addition to moving the boiler, the high velocity AC ducts would need to move.  
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    Options
    End of year is coming, a good time to spend on items that could end up being projects for the next several months.  

    Looking again into condensing boilers and planning to get two identical ones, one for garage (way oversized) and one for house (properly sized) and deciding what to do regarding the two water heaters, replace with indirect, use a Combi heater unit? Or both? 

    Any suggestions knowing I’m a triangle Tube fan (with NJ facility right over the bridge from here).  Maybe that’s not needed if I’m buying two identical heaters and can steal parts from the garage unit.  
  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 1,072
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    @mknmike

    Without reading through the thread in its entirety. I am a fan of using a boiler with a tank. Combi boilers are nice and serve a purpose, but occasionally they do not meet the expectations of a homeowner, and some service techs have trouble diagnosing issues as they often involve the plumbing in the house which they are not as familiar with. For what it's worth I have a tankless unit in my house and am happy with it, I just often get complaints about performance of combi units from homeowners. (this is not a brand specific issue at all)

    Since you are a fan of Triangle tube, I have had success with their new series the Instinct, they offer an indirect water heater line to match with their boilers as well "SMART" series tanks. I like the newer product better than the older product, their warranty is excellent, and I really like talking to their tech support when I need to as they have a guy there who really knows his stuff and will not BS you. Make sure to register properly after install to get the slightly better warranty.

    https://triangletube.com/products/instinct-solo wall mounted

    https://triangletube.com/products/instinct-solo-floor Floor standing model (more money)

    https://triangletube.com/products/smart-316-residential Water Heater
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,655
    Options
    @mknmike, I don't remember if I mentioned this in your thread or not, but a few years ago I picked up a cheap chinesium core drill for a few hundred bucks, & the amazon wet core bits are still in the $40-50 range. It ended up costing about what it would to have the one hole I needed professionally drilled, but now I'm tooled up & the next holes will be basically free.
  • mknmike
    mknmike Member Posts: 82
    Options
    GGross said:
    @mknmike Without reading through the thread in its entirety. I am a fan of using a boiler with a tank. Combi boilers are nice and serve a purpose, but occasionally they do not meet the expectations of a homeowner, and some service techs have trouble diagnosing issues as they often involve the plumbing in the house which they are not as familiar with. For what it's worth I have a tankless unit in my house and am happy with it, I just often get complaints about performance of combi units from homeowners. (this is not a brand specific issue at all) Since you are a fan of Triangle tube, I have had success with their new series the Instinct, they offer an indirect water heater line to match with their boilers as well "SMART" series tanks. I like the newer product better than the older product, their warranty is excellent, and I really like talking to their tech support when I need to as they have a guy there who really knows his stuff and will not BS you. Make sure to register properly after install to get the slightly better warranty. https://triangletube.com/products/instinct-solo wall mounted https://triangletube.com/products/instinct-solo-floor Floor standing model (more money) https://triangletube.com/products/smart-316-residential Water Heater


    I know it’s been a while, but I’m totally on board with this.  I believe I want to go with a Smart 50 or something like that.  

    I’ve lost my tenant in the house and haven’t found a new one and am now heating the house on my own while slowly making renovations.  Just wrapping the pipes in the basement with moving blankets has helped to decrease the basement temp from something nuts like 80+ degrees probably.  So I need to get some insulation on these massive pipes.  I’ve found sources of drafts and am trying to reduce them however possible.  Lots of work on that.

    But I’m always trying to make my game plan for the modcon, maybe just behind my shopping.  I noticed some rust on the cold water inlet on the 2016 water heater while the 2001 water heater (in series) looks ok.  Maybe I could try to tap the current heating system for a Smart tank, but I figure it makes more sense to integrate it once I’ve got a modcon in place.

    As I Wade back into this today, I wonder what the difference between the Prestige Solo and the Instinct Boiler is.  The Instinct seems to be less expensive (like what I recall my prestige solo 110 costing over a decade ago).  That PS110 Ive got in my primary address (“old house”) has a pipe connector right on the bottom for the DHW.  I wonder if maybe the new Prestige Solo don’t have that, and if the Instinct do. I got a little confused today when checking it out. 

    Anyway, I’m looking into getting a Smart ASAP.  Which modcon to get for it with an outdoor reset is what I’m looking to get my hands on too.