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No shutoffs on apartment building boiler

BMurrins
BMurrins Member Posts: 35
Hey everyone,

I manage an older 18 unit apartment building that our management company recently bought from dangerously neglectful owners with a hydronic heating system. The hyvent failed at the end of last winter as well as the expansion tank. Replacing the vertical expansion thank on Monday which thankfully has a shutoff valve, but the Hyvent is giving me a headache just thinking about it.

There are no shutoffs between the hyvent, and the boiler supply to the building (mind you there are no zone valves in this building either). My biggest fear is draining the entire system and having to worry about air in a ton of apartments with non functioning bleed valves in some radiators. 

Any recommendations on how to change the Hyvent without draining the system (wishful thinking) or how to bleed an entire building from only the boiler without having to worry about lingering air in a radiator in the middle of winter?



Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,935
    Lovely. Just lovely.

    Try this: https://www.amazon.com/General-Wire-CST2-Cold-Shot-Freeze/dp/B002JAZV8A/ref=asc_df_B002JAZV8A?tag=bingshoppinga-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=79920803409762&hvnetw=o&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=&hvtargid=pla-4583520382228124&psc=1

    I've never used it, reviews are mixed, but some folks seem to be able to make it work and the principal is sound.

    Ridgid makes a better one, but it's very costly. Might be able to rent it from a plumbing supply store?

    And put a ball valve on the line while you're at it, for the next time...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 619
    Another option to fill it would be to begin at the top floor with a garden hose connection to a water supply to fill it from a potable water supply like a slop sink if there is one and just let the water fill the system and fall by gravity to the basement.

    Draining the system would allow you to fix everything the previous owner neglected to do right the first time like adding air vents and changing bad air vents in the apartments.

    Whether the new owners are willing to fix things the right way for the first time is another matter but if work is done correctly and nothing leaks all the better.

  • BMurrins
    BMurrins Member Posts: 35
    Thanks for the ideas guys. 

    Unfortunately there’s no way for me to fill it from the top floor. No spigot or line to tap into. 

    What about filling the system, closing the return which thankfully does have a valve right before the boilers, then using a utility pump to bleed the system from the boiler?

    seems extreme but it’s one of the only realistic options that I can think of. Don’t forget, tenants are always difficult about apartment access. It’d take months to get new valves on those radiators. 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,637
    Best plan is drain it now and fix or install vents on all units. You have time they don't need heat yet. And install a few strategical located valves. needs to be done sooner or later doing it now will save money in the long run.

    the alternative is to freeze it to fix the vent but with only 18 units i would drain it
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 440
    edited September 18
    Hello @BMurrins,

    Ponder this;
    Is your radiation air tight ?
    Can you shut off the DCW feed ?
    Can you isolate the expansion tank with a valve ?
    Can you bleed off the remaining system pressure ?


    Proof of concept short clear tubing. Then a garden hose the height of the building, if you want.
    I would pre-assemble and stage a nipple, valve and the new hyvent. Tarp the boiler's electrical.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
    Larry Weingarten
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 658
    I have frozen lines (with no flow of course) up to 3", using shaved dry ice, held in place with bath towels. You need lots of dry ice, a couple helpers, safety equipment to protect your eyes and body parts from the extreme cold, lots of patience and time. I did this only as a last resort. That said, I would prefer to drain the whole heating system and do all the needed updates, valves, vents, controls all at the same time. Do it once and do it right.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,935
    @109A_5 is correct. I still think I'd try to freeze the pipe -- but even if you don't, the idea of having a Sharkbite ball valve handy by is a good one, combined with their observation. If you follow their comments (you don't have to get the pressure all the way down, though), cut the pipe and slap the valve on it quickly (valve open -- it won't fight you that way) and quickly close the valve, you will lose very little water, and likely what you lose won't be enough to give you trouble later.

    This will work even if a few of the vents are leaky.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 619
    edited September 18
    We would have a much better idea of how to help you if you described the buildings layout, height, apartments per floor etc.
    ================================================================


    Your renters are going to have to get used to the idea of not having water for a few hours in one day to fix things to avoid a massive failure later.

    Prior to the day to the repair place a note to the tenant's at the building entrance and on thier doors stating that the building will have no water for at least 8 hours starting at 8AM.

    Remind them they have to fill thier tubs if they have them, so they have water to flush their toilets or to plan on renting a room for one night or
    staying with a relative.

    Providing the tenants with drinking water and distilled water for coffee the day of the repair will go a long way in the tenant goodwill department.

    Turning the water off at the curb will let you drain the heating system completely.

    1. add more boiler drains to vent air and water on the upper floor or floors
    2. add a large air vent at the top floor or a boiler drain valve sized to the feed piping and cap it after the
    air is vented
    3. fix the boiler room plumbing and add a boiler bypass line and valves to fill the entire heating system.
    4. add a shut off valve for the domestic cold and hot water to each floor
    5. hire a sewer cleaner to clean the main drains the same day from the roof vents and or the sidewalk
    cleanouts as it sounds like they did not do much with the sanitary pipe drainage either

    If you do not fix it all when you have the chance to do it with the water off it will bite you later.

    The old Purolator commercial says it best "You Can Pay Me Now Or Pay Me Later".

    The repair costs are deductable against gross revenue income anyway so that is that much less gross income that the owners will have to pay income tax on anyway.

    Put the repairs in the tenant goodwill bank and they will not have many complaints about plumbing if any in the future.

    It avoids a scenario like the Florida Condo Collapse fiasco where the condo association president saw the damaged concrete walls that were ready to fall in the night before the accident and she did nothing and as result of that there was only one human survivor of the collapse.
    That entire tract of land is haunted now.

    Your tenants are going to have to understand that if they have a broken pipe in thier abodes that they have to let a plumber in there to fix it if it is a pipe failure.

    The other thing is if the plumbing is not up to code it is going to have to be fixed anyway especially if you have a fire sprinkler system.



  • BMurrins
    BMurrins Member Posts: 35
    Hey everyone I appreciate all of your responses so far! Super helpful. 

    @109A_5 thankfully, yes to your 4 questions. 

    @leonz the building is a U shaped garden apartment complex. 2 stories high. 2 apartments per stack (probably not the right word but hey it’s sunday) for a total of 18 apartments. Since the boiler feed has a CW shutoff, we thankfully wouldn’t have to go the route of shutting the whole complex off. 

    I just took a walk through the basements over there and realized that every unit has a bleeder valve where it branches off from the supply. I would be more than happy to replace and add some hyvents if it has a good chance of reducing air in the radiators. See attached. I’m also attaching better photos of the boiler and it’s piping. The only thing not pictures is where it branches off to the expansion tank.
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 440
    Hello @BMurrins,

    " Can you shut off the DCW feed ? "

    OK, I meant, Can you shut off the DCW feed to the boiler? Not the whole building. Although whole building would get that part done.

    You do have some crusty stuff.

    Is this is the hyvent device you need to change ? This is the one I had in mind with my post. Seeing it up closer, I think I would have an Ez Out for the hyvent NPT part and / or a replacement reducer bushing too.



    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,012
    that's the active compression tank hanging there at the ceiling, correct ?
    if so,
    after you refill and initially vent air, all those bleeder vents get their caps screwed down tight for normal operation,
    or you loose the air cushion in your tank,
    known to beat dead horses
  • BMurrins
    BMurrins Member Posts: 35
    edited September 18
    Hi yes that’s what I meant. I can completely turn off the cold water supply to the boiler. Independent of the building supply.

    also yes that’s the hyvent. If I go that route I might as well get one of those spirotherm float vents while I’m at it right?
  • BMurrins
    BMurrins Member Posts: 35
    No that’s an old expansion tank. The current Extrol sx-60v that we have is dead and I’m replacing tomorrow. 
  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 440
    BMurrins said:

    also yes that’s the hyvent. If I go that route I might as well get one of those spirotherm float vents while I’m at it right?

    Sure you could try that. If you have a valve between the vent and the system you can easily experiment to your Hearts content.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 619
    BMurrins said:

    No that’s an old expansion tank. The current Extrol sx-60v that we have is dead and I’m replacing tomorrow. 

    =================================================================

    Did you push the needle valve to see if water comes out of the Schrader valve of the bladder tank?

    So the steel compression tank and the extrol bladder tank and the high vents are open and you have the fill valve open to the system as well? If this is so I can tell you where your heating problems are already.

    You can have a steel compression tank, internal air separator, and airtrol valve to get rid of all your air bubbles and slugs of air blocking flow BUT YOU CANNOT have heating system that has both a steel compression tank and a bladder tank and air scoop connected to the bladder tank unless one or the other is shut off and properly plumbed to allow the other to work.

    Can you take some more pictures of the steel compression tank and it piping the bladder tank and the mess around the bladder tank and upload them here before you compound your problems? Whoever put that expansion tank and the high vents in your system did not know what they were doing apparently.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,935
    This ^^^
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • BMurrins
    BMurrins Member Posts: 35
    Hey Leonz. Ceiling mounted tank was decommissioned years ago it has no piping going to or from it, so it’s just the extrol tank that’s standing to the side there now. it’s just one expansion tank for the system.

     Pushed the schrader valve and yes water came out. Also 0 psi after isolating and checking with pressure gauge. Here’s a better pic of the shitshow that is this heating system.
  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 619
    edited September 19
    Hello BMurrins,

    Would you be so kind as to upload a picture of the connection of the bad extrol tank to the system?



    ================================================================
    After seeing that plumbing my first suggestion would be to trash the extrol tank, remove all those
    automatic air vents and buy and hang a 60 gallon steel B+G compression tank or a pair of 60 gallon tanks along with 2 B+G Airtrol valves and 2 B+G Internal Air Separators and 2 water level gauges for the steel compression tanks over the two boilers or secured to the wall.

    By tying in the steel compression tanks in parallel as recommended by B+G you will have 80 gallons of water and 40 gallons of air blanketing the water volume in both tanks.

    Any air trapped in the system being bubbles and microbubbles will meet the cast baffle(s) in the Internal air separator(s) and travels up the water vent pipe(s) to the Airtrol valve(s) into the steel compression tank(s) where the bubbles will travel into the water in steel compression tank(s) and dissolve into the air blanket.

    As the water cools in the steel compression tank(s) it sinks and travels down the cold side of the airtrol valve casting and back into the water flow of the system.

    If you fix it right now using The B+G diagrams it will not be a problem 5 years from now as there is no bladder to rip ever. Just be sure to snug up the packing nuts on the water level gauges a 1/4 of a turn when you install them.

    I have a 30 gallon steel compression tank hanging above my coal stoker boiler and I have no problems heating an old house other than not having enough insulation.

    The other benefit is the system pressure will be lower too.