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This weeks case, The Case of the Missing Glycol

RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233

Greetings Detectives,

We replaced a snowmelt boiler and connected it to the existing snowmelt system. Prior to the second heating season, we checked the boiler to ensure it was ready for the snow. While checking the boiler, we checked the glycol level and were shocked to see the glycol was gone. Checking the water meter on the makeup water, it showed over 20,000 gallons were used in the past year. Where did it go?

As usual, I will offer no clues or comments until Friday when the video is released. Have fun.

Ray Wohlfarth
Boiler Lessons


  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,404

    Hmmmmmm. Was this a case of 'hot water snow removal'?

  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 548

    well that is a lot of water. "leak" seems like the low hanging fruit, but that is a whole lot to lose to a leak. We see a lot of parking lots with snowmelt that get altered later and the company doing the job usually cuts right into the snow melt tubing, but if that happened they would definitely know. I had a case where a pump kept failing over and over, and later heat exchangers were leaking, when I went to the jobsite I found a garden hose attached to the suction side drain on the pumps webstone drain-flange . the hose was dragged around the corner where the company workers were using the 180 degree boiler water to clean their painting supplies! In the process they would starve the pump of water and burn it out, the excess make-up water was very hard and would kill the poor triangle tube boilers heating the building.

    I am thinking something along those lines happened in your case as well, but there is just a plethora of possiblities on this one

  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 19,277

    is the snowmelt connected to a water fill of any so?

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 10,571

    I have seen systems with water logged compression tanks, where the relief valve would dribble water.

    This caused the water fill valve to continue adding water to dilute the glycol.

    These also had the relief valve piped to a floor drain with a 90 pointing down thru the drain cover.

    The dribbling was never noticed with this piped this way.

    Amazingly the insurance inspector found this and wrote up failing relief valves.

  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 4,668
    edited March 22

    The maintenance staff had hooked a garden hose to the system to have hot water to wash their fleet of vehicles (and personal vehicles) all year

    1 pipe Peerless 63-03L in Cedar Grove, NJ, coal > oil > NG
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,736

    My vote is for someone hooked up a hose and is using boiler water as hot water for something but I like the bad compression tank too.

  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 548

    20,000 gallons over a year comes out to 0.038 GPM I'm bad at math though so maybe that is wrong, that could be a dribble I think

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,736
    edited March 23

    2.2 gpm

    er…2.2 gph

    .038 gpm

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 7,736

    So maybe a hose down a drain somewhere or a stuck open relief valve piped illegally.

  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,597
    edited March 23

    Since there is no mention of a heat exchanger, I'm going to assume this is a mod/con with an injection loop to get things going, but all system fluid is shared.

    So a leaking boiler vessel at 0.38 gpm down the condensate drain would go unnoticed.

    20,000 gallons is an awful lot to be washing cars with......

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233

    @ethicalpaul had the correct answer first The maintenance person connected the hose to the boiler. He washed the floor of the boiler room weekly. Based on the usage, I would imagine he used it for other areas. When asked about it, he said the nearest other hose bib was in the hall and didnt want people tripping over it. Thanks for the suggestions. Her is the link to the case.

    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • Dave Carpentier
    Dave Carpentier Member Posts: 503

    Wow. So thats where the story ended ?

    I dont see any shared fault here. Do they think each and every valve and port should be labelled "Authorized Use Only", and every gauge stem etc should be labelled "Do Not Hang Clothes Here" , every wire should be labelled "Do Not Cut This Wire" , etc etc ??

    30+ yrs in telecom outside plant.
    Currently in building maintenance.
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,026

    I hope you're fighting for complete payment, Ray.

    Their attorney seems like the same firm that put "CAUTION HOT" on my coffee cup.

    You'd think a maintenance person in a high end building would have at least the minimal understanding of... building maintenance.

    And, they seem like the type to garnish the maintenance guy's wages to pay for it, which is of course illegal.

  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233

    @Dave Carpentier I guess so No one wants to take responsibility for their actions Thanks for the comment

    @HVACNUT I just let it go. Found out I wasnt the first or last company to have this done. I got a call a year later and they asked me to come out. I told them I would once they paid me for the back charges and $500 advance for this call. They hung up Thanks

    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    Dave CarpentierratioethicalpaulMarjPinard
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 749
    edited March 28

    @RayWohlfarth; Way back around 1980 the owner of CS&E sent me to a job about 3 hours away to fix a Sellers boiler . I had a past due bill (5 years old) for about $600.00 in my possession that needed to be paid before I would service his boiler. He said that he would pay for both after I took care of his present problem. I said that I needed the past due amount plus another $900.00 in advance or I would get in my truck and drive away. He handed me a check but I said "cash only" and that I would wait for the cash. He went to the bank and got the money. I counted it then fixed his problem. When I got to the shop the next day, my boss asked for the check and I handed him the envelope with the cash. He was a happy man.

    STEAM DOCTORDouble DMarjPinard
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,446

    I am not a fan of connecting any glycol system to makeup water for this reason. I like glycol feeders. Putting very tightly installed caps on all hose connections and removing handles and ziptieing them to the valve also makes sense. With the price of glycol these days, the maintenance guy can cause a 5 figure issue.

    I walked into a commercial parking garage a while back and could smell that sweet smell. The guy power washing the floor found a great place to connect his hose 😞.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Anthony Menafro
    Anthony Menafro Member Posts: 194

    Sounds like someone hooked the garden hose up to the wrong hose bib when washing cars, etc!! LOL

  • 109A_5
    109A_5 Member Posts: 683

    Hello @RayWohlfarth,

    I assume the system was not labeled as containing Glycol. With an inexpencive sticker you may have got all your money. Nowadays stuff like that should be labeled.

    National - U.S. Gas Boiler 45+ Years Old
    Steam 300 SQ. FT. - EDR 347
    One Pipe System
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 5,632

    I had a customer that used a boiler loop purge valve to to connect the washing machine hot pipe. They used Hot boiler water to wash the clothes. After disconnecting the hose 3 years in a row, I changed the valve to a ball valve with a plug in it. I left a note on the valve,

    This is a boiler service valve.
    This is not potable hot water for laundry.


    Esta es una válvula de servicio de caldera.
    Esto no es agua caliente potable para lavar la ropa.

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
  • Approach2_8wrangler
    Approach2_8wrangler Member Posts: 1

    backflow preventer gone wild, was my first guess. Saw the answer now… 💦

  • GermanPlumber
    GermanPlumber Member Posts: 49

    Wow after being in the Trade since 1981 it never stops to amaze me what story's we all have to tell . Thanks for sharing Ray . With the liability laws in the US it might be a tricky case . Here in Germany we would laugh about and collect plus a stupid fee . But if your case would make to court I would throw it back at the manufacturer of the boiler . He should have labeled the hose bib .

    Greetings to all ,


  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233

    @retiredguy They know they will have to pay for any past due amount before I would pick up a screwdriver Like that story

    @Zman Youre right about the price of glycol and I never thought the guy would use the hose connection for cleaning the floor.

    @Anthony Menafro Yep thats exactly what happened

    @109A_5 I just assumed he knew Wont make that mistake anymore

    @EdTheHeaterMan Yech would not want the water inside the pipes on my clothes

    @Approach2_8wrangler Yes sir. Glad that didnt happen.

    @GermanPlumber I like the stupid fee

    Thanks all

    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,597

    Stupid fee.....

    We need more of those! But then again, stupid people can't afford it!

    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • scott w.
    scott w. Member Posts: 196

    Wouldn't the first clue be the glycol smell coming out of the hose and that something isn't right. Hot water should not smell like radiator fluid.

  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233
    @scott You would have thought so.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,196
    built in soap
    known to beat dead horses
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 1,233
    @neilc lol
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons