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Bad heat in basement and kitchen of house.

eliasjj12
eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6
edited November 2022 in Gas Heating
I have a customer who has been dealing with unbalanced heat in a 3 story brownstone in Brooklyn. She says at some point someone had a steam to hot water conversion done to the house. I believe it is some type of old gravity hot water system but I am not sure. The piping in the boiler is two 4 inch mains that continues about 10 ft into the basement before turning into 2 1/2 mains thats continue back to the entire house with a bunch of 2 and 2 1/2 piping all throughout the basement ceiling. The piping is a mess and it’s hard to determine what’s a supply and what is a return pipe. She had been complaint about the house taking forever to get hot and not enough heat in the kitchen, which is the furthest point away from the boiler room and she has a tenant that lives in the basement in the furthest point away from the boiler room. The basement apartment furthest away from the boiler room has also complained about bad heat The basement has no radiators with the exception of the supply and return piping in the ceiling, and some of the ceiling piping has baseboard fin piping attached to the ceiling piping. She has expressed interest in adding radiators to the basement.The kitchen has two sets of baseboard, along with a modern wall hung radiator a contractor added to the kitchen. Also as a side note the kitchen is absolutely massive with windows and doors everywhere. 
After I told her that I was not going to get involved with a system like that She had a heating contractor tell her she needed to add a high velocity pump, add the prv closer to the boiler (it’s currently outside in the hallway outside the boiler room) and add a bypass valve so the system can fill faster. He also reckons insulating all ceiling piping. Currently she has a bell and gosset series 100 pump and the return side of boiler. Her expansion tank is on the supply and the feed valve is in the hallway ceiling. The price the contractor quoted her was around 4,000 so she decided to ask me if I can do it for cheaper. I am skeptical about the diagnostic the contractor made to resolve the issue as the basement currently does not have a actual heating system beside ceiling piping and a few scattered ceiling baseboards attached to supply and return piping. As for the kitchen she has 3 separate radiators devices and a central air system and that still is not satisfactory for her. My recommendations was to let the original contractor do he suggested repair, the add a mini split system to the kitchen and basement apartment for heating, to add a separate boiler to heat the kitchen the basement apartment, or to re do the heating system with a modern system. My questions are if I was to continue with the contractors advice, what type of pump would I add and is there any consultants or contractors experienced with this type of system located in Brooklyn New York that would be able to help with this system. 

Comments

  • eliasjj12
    eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,217
    A good look at the radiators will tell you if they were reworked for hot water or were always gravity hot water.

    What emitters are in the rest of the house? If it is standing cast iron that heats very differently than fin tube baseboard. If they are all on the same zone it will never all heat at the same time. Probably the best bet for the kitchen is to do a heat loss to figure out if the installed emitters are capable of heating the area, then putting it on a separate zone off the boiler, adding more emitters if the heat loss says you need it. A 3rd zone for the basement with a heat loss and new emitters would heat that.

    The long time to heat needs to be explored more. If it is cast iron radiators and piping with a lot of mass it will take time to heat up from a setback, it really should just be kept at the desired temp. You also should check that the boiler doesn't suffer from sustained condensing from low return temps because of the mass of the system. There may be orifice plates in the radiator supply valve connections from when it was gravity, those will make it heat unevenly with forced circulation so that could also be the "forever to heat" complaint. You need to find out more about what they mean by this.

    Making this work right is going to be a lot of labor but if you do it right you'll only do it once.
  • eliasjj12
    eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6
    Thank you for your suggestions. Most of the house is old school standing radiators, the attic is baseboard and the kitchen is cast iron baseboard and a modern wall hung baseboard. And the piping is massive 4”, 2 1/2 and 2” supply and returns. There are no zone valves, separate circulators, or flow checks only one circulator for the entire system. There are separate takeoffs and returns coming off the system. I will look into about the orifice plates in the valves and there is no return water bypass.
  • eliasjj12
    eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6

  • eliasjj12
    eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6
    The first picture is what one of the original radiators look like and the second picture is 2 4” pipes and two 2 2 1/2” pipes continuing 10 feet into the other side of the floor before making a turn and reducing down to a small size. Straight ahead are what I believe to be 2” returns and supply piping coming back to the boiler room
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 20,525
    Probably was gravity hot water. Rebalancing such a system can be a real problem, as when they are pumped they behave very differently from when they were gravity.

    Which, however, is not to say it can't be done. As @mattmia2 said, you almost certainly will have to rework the near boiler piping -- at least -- to provide three zones: basement, that kitchen, and the apartment. You may need to add radiation to the kitchen -- and almost certainly to the basement. Try to keep it all one type on any given zone. Then you may also need to add balancing valves -- at least to the remaining old central zone -- to even out the heat between downstairs and upstairs.

    I would go to zone pumps, rather than zone valves, and I would also add primary/secondary pumping and circulation to protect the boiler. That single big pump isn't helping the situation one little bit.

    And that's just off the cuff here.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,217
    2 pipe steam would have used a top tapping on one side of the radiator and a bottom tapping on the other side. Gravity hot water frequently used bottom tappings on both sides. Unless you can see evidence where someone removed a plug and plugged the top (and there would be no reason to because hot water could use the top and bottom tapping from a steam setup), it was gravity hot water originally.

    It wouldn't be difficult to add 2 more zones at the boiler either with 2 more circulators and flow checks or with zone valves. With zone valves and a single circulator you would need balancing valves to slow down the flow in the gravity zone and force some flow in to the higher resistance new zones. The current system probably needs to be balanced with the radiator valves because of the mix of original large piping and reworked small piping even between the cast iron radiators.
  • eliasjj12
    eliasjj12 Member Posts: 6
    Thank you for your suggestions. I will relay that information to her.