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Home owners and the Wall

Shelby Member Posts: 38
I was just thinking back to what brought me to the wall in the begining. I just bought my first home this fall. I purchased it from a local plumber. I made the mistake of thinking that if a plumber owned the house that the water and heating systems should be in top notch shape. Boy was I wrong. After taking every cent that I had for tyhe down payment and getting the ok from the bank, in we moved. After a couple of days I noticed the floor in the boiler room was getting wet. On further inspection I found a coffee can under the drain on the hot water tank. Remember I bought this from a plumber. Well after some cursing I was off to the plumbing shop for a new drain. Went home installed it and thought that was the end of my troubles. About eight that night the sound of gushing water quikely got my attention. Ran to the water heater to find it blowing water out of the pressure relief valve near the top of the tank. Shut it down and back to the plumbing shop the next day. Came home with a new valve and started taking the old one off. To my suprise I found that the valve had been leaking for some time. The plumber's fix - Spray expandible foam up the plastic tube and try to seal it off. One wrecked coat hanger and an hour later and I had it mono-foam free and the new valve on. This got me thinking. If he did that with the hot water tank, what condition is my boiler in? After that I figured I had better start learning more about how the systems in my home work. Hence here I am, reading the wall every chance I get. Thanks guys.


  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    sounds like

    you need a thermal expansion tank & welcome aboard!

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Hear Hear!

    I'm a HO in the process of re-doing a whole house. After getting a contractor quote in the vicinity of a well-optioned Porsche Turbo 911 for a hydro air/AC system... in a 5,000 sq ft house... I laughed. Then I got angry when I found out they were serious and not responsive to questions.

    For example, one line item was $3,500 for the engineering... I decided I better educate myself and needless to say, I found a different contractor. In the consulting world, we looked upon these sorts of quotes as disguised "no quote"'s. At the end of construction, it will be interesting to note how much more (or less) the new system (radiant heat, AC cooling) will cost.

    I've learned a lot from the Wall, Dan's books, and Siegenthalers tome on how to heat a home comfortably. More importantly, I now know a lot more on how to do it right the first time... and being able to spot/evaluate a competent contractor is invaluable.
  • Shelby
    Shelby Member Posts: 38

    I have a 45000 btu teledyne laars gas fired boiler that heats my home. House is only 688 sqaure feet. It has 4 zones, 3 Baseboard and one radiant. How often should the boiler be cleaned. As in the above post I am worried that the plumber that owned the house before never looked after it. Am worried about CO.
  • Robert O'Connor_7
    Robert O'Connor_7 Member Posts: 688

    Check your incoming water pressure to the house. If the pressure exceeds 80psi you probably need a pressure reducing valve & a potable expantion tank (they go together. By installing the PRV you create a closed system and the houses water heater has no where to thermally expand)Now 80psi alone will not trip your T&P valve on the water heater, but off peak pressure fluxuation will. It may be 80psi during the day, but at night when no one is using water will cause the entire municipal systems water pressure to spike causing pressure in excess of the 150psi spring rate setting of the valve. Expanding foam in the discharge pipe is a major no no, if the conditions were right (meaning the thermostat on the water heater failed causing the valve to continue to fire & the valves were closed both hot & cold side of the heater) You now have created a BOMB! Call him up & tell him what I've said and the posts from the others in the industry & see what he says, I'm curious to his reply.... Robert O'Connor
  • Thad English
    Thad English Member Posts: 152
    what brung me....

    ..was the HUGE gas bill and 3 non-working rads in my new olde house with steam heat. It seems like only yesterday Noel and Steamhead got me started on this marvelous adventure in my education of steam heat by recommending that I buy Dan's books and that I use the Find a Professional link to get some help. Without that link I would not have found Jamie Pompetti and Big Jim Pompetti and my house would still be cold, loud, and expensive to heat.
    Now, I visit this site like a junkie going to his dealer.....gimme more info, man. Learn me.....
    Thanks guys.

  • Shelby
    Shelby Member Posts: 38

    Line pressure in was fine. It was a build up of scale that caused the pressure valve to fail. The plumber was just to lazy to replace it and opted for the expandable foam instead.
  • PJO_5
    PJO_5 Member Posts: 199
    What brought me here...

    Was a problem that my tech needed some help with in reducing the nozzle on my direct vent boiler...had to get an F6 air "flange" (I forget the part name).

    JCA helped with with my first post, I believe, and that was three years ago. I was nervous and excited...haven't looked back since.

    I have bought lots of books from Dan and others, and attended a "Classic Hydronics" seminar in Harrisburg, sitting in a small group of Wallies that included Heatboy, Starch, Murph', Dave Yates (PAH - he's actually a bit shorter in person!), and Cheese (Mike Kraft - the guy that looks like Bob Seger). It was too short, but a great experience.

    One of these days I'll get to Wetstock...if I don't have three sporting events that day (like next Saturday)...I do enjoy coaching, though.

    What has kept me here is the helpful advice from professionals who are willing to share knowledge and experience...and share it in a gentlemanly manner as Dan would have it.

    Thanks guys...you're the best.

    Take Care, PJO
  • Shelby
    Shelby Member Posts: 38

    I wish that I could call him up, but he doesnt live in the same town as I do now and have know way of knowing where he is. Hopefully not plumbing others homes the way he looked after his own. One thing keeps me wondering though. If there was that much scale on the pressure release valve to cause it to fail. How much scale is in the rest of that hot water tank and how much longer will it last? What other problems do you run across when a customer calls with no hot water? The hot water tank that I have is only ten years old. I am on town water so it is not like I am pumping water from an old well.
  • David Efflandt
    David Efflandt Member Posts: 152
    I came because...

    I bought an older home with 1-pipe steam heat which was totally unfamiliar to me (I grew up with low pressure oil scorched air in the 50's). The air vents really whistled because the pressuretrol was cranked up to 8-9 psi, apparently due to a vent damper that failed to reopen when hot. That and a cheap thermostat gave wide temperature swings. None of the local reps for the brand of boiler I have seemed to know anything about steam (including contractor who installed it for previous owner with copper header).

    So with the help of posts here and Dan's books, I understand how it works, what the settings should be, and with a few changes, am a lot more comfortable. My highest gas bill this winter for circa 1910 3-br 2-story was $150 (northern IL).
  • Walt
    Walt Member Posts: 28
    Got me?

    I'm not sure why I still look at this site every few days....I think that some sort of mental illness has crept in. I even checked it from Afghanistan a few times. Just when I think I will stop checking in some deranged plumber posts something like that stainless steel header a few weeks ago (that was a work of art)...they I start checking it again.

    P.S. Our house is now comfortable. Thanks guys.
  • Robert O'Connor_7
    Robert O'Connor_7 Member Posts: 688

    You have many choices about that old water heater. The fact that it's ten years old and hasn't been maintained narrows the options. I would replace it. Typically water heaters last about 15 years, but usually after ten years, your on borrowed time. After replacement, bond the water piping together with 2 grounding clamps (1 on each, Hot & Cold) then install a piece of ground wire between them. This (in theory) is suppose to divert the harmful dielectric forces to ground, instead of eating your sacrificial annode in the tank and subsiquently eating your tank (again in theory it should give you significantly more life). Or you can also add an additional annode or a larger one before the install is complete. Another thing I would recommend is an automatic shut off device (this will save all your good stuff in the WET ZONE)It turns off the water supply to the tank if it senses that theres a leak. Or lastly you could purchase a inexpensive water alarm.... Robert O'Connor/NJ
  • Paul_30
    Paul_30 Member Posts: 1
    Laars boiler

    Call me at 603-335-6300x562 between 8 am and 5pm EST and I can give you some help with your boiler.
  • Reynz_2
    Reynz_2 Member Posts: 98
    Shop, Shop, Shop, Where's the Love?

    Gosh, I was getting all choked up with the What brought you here stories. Then, as always, the discussion turned to shop. Oh, well.

    I can tell you I was having a difficult time keeping the baby's room warm and decided to get a new fangled boiler. WHAT THE HELL DID I KNOW! I look back at my older posts (older, say about Jan 04), and realize how much I have learned from the old crew; Lead Pipe, Floyd, Kal, Gary. It is true, that to know a good contractor as well as a bad one, you need to be educated. It is not fair to those that really do a good job (Kal and Floyd's son, and probably the rest of ya), not to be able to recognize your work as good. God only knows there are a heap of bad ones out there.

    Information I learned here gave me the support and confidence to keep the contractor coming back until he installed the boiler as it was supposed to be installed. These lessons have saved me hundreds of dollars and the advice was priceless.

    Ok, the triplets are 27 months old now, and almost not able to fit into a clothes basket. But, they are a lot warmer at night….. and Dad knows the difference between that green iron doodad connected to the gray tank, with the pipes running into it, and the pressure release doohickey. And oh, by the way, the clicking noise is normal.
  • Larry (from OSHA)
    Larry (from OSHA) Member Posts: 716
    did ya notice

    that all these posts pretty much started with "my problem" and ended with "was solved".

    I found the site by chance when I was looking for answers about my own boiler and system. I believe that I asked about outdoor reset for a residential system, and the responses that I got started a process which has resulted in lower fuel usage, and a higher level of comfort. Just what I was told would happen.

    I'm sure that the biggest benefit has not been the improved performance of the system, but the incredible amount of knowledge that I've gained. When people start talking about the various theory involved with hydronics, it blows me away. Some of the discussions here are truly amazing.

    Even more noteworthy is the willingness of those who spend their day plying their trade, and then taking the time to help us that come with questions of all sorts.

    But why do we who are not anywhere near being in the trade keep coming back? I'm here every day and the posts about being hooked on the Wall certainly made me laugh. (My son thinks I'm kinda weird for hanging out here.) I don't know, there seems to be something very special about this place. I can't quite put it into words, there is so much.

    So to all (Hot Rod, Heatboy, Mad Dog, ME, Dave Yates, Bill Nye, Mark Strawcutter, Bill W. at Honeywell, George at Rhomar, Mark Hunt, everyone I've not mentioned (due to memory issues), and certainly most of all Dan, who have helped me solve problems, learn new stuff, and become informed about SO MUCH,


  • Shelby
    Shelby Member Posts: 38
    Thanks Robert

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I will start looking into the price of a new tank. Cold showers at 5:30 am are no way to wake up. Amazing how we take things like hot and cold running water for granted until it breaks down and we have to go without.
  • Doug Murphy_3
    Doug Murphy_3 Member Posts: 15
    Why I first came here.

    I work as an HVAC (jr.)engineer at a firm in Boston. I originally came here a couple of years ago looking for information on EDR on old pin style steam coils in a school. Someone here found info on it from a book he had (circa 1910) Since then I'm hooked. I also bought a house 4 years ago. Unfortunately its scorched air! Someday I'll put a hydronic system in.
    Why I come back is because there is a large disconnect between the engineering world and the contractor's world. An efficient, inexpensive and well designed system is the ultimate goal for the owner. Whether its commercial systems that I do or residential that I own. The posts made by everyone here educates me in areas that I frankly have no knowledge of. Someday I may be able to help someone else. Thanks guys!
  • Hey Doug

    You are a breath of fresh air! Come here often.
    I like your style.


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,715
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • David DeFord
    David DeFord Member Posts: 13
    I stumbled upon ...

    this site about 6 months ago. I don't recall exactly how but I do recall that it has been mentioned by several of the manufacturers that I have talked to. Anyway I became the owner of an 83 year old farm house with one pipe steam heat. Fortunately I found this site before the inoperative LWCO allowed the boiler to dry fire and destroy my house and possibly me. It has also allowed me to determine that I hadn't been able to find a competent local contractor until I was at a home show about a month ago - he had all the right answers and no one else did. Thanks again for all the help and cameraderie. As I have said before this is one of 2 boards on the Internet that I frequent - this is entirely due to Dan's efforts for which he is to be commended.
  • Floyd_5
    Floyd_5 Member Posts: 418

    your a one in a million!!!!! One of "them" that actually admits that he has no knowledge of something!!!! :-)

    Wish we could educate a few more of you'un's....
    come work in the feild with us for a while, we'll educate you fer sure......at least in what not to do!!!

  • Reynz_2
    Reynz_2 Member Posts: 98
    Hit the Nail Right on the Head

    Doug, you hit the nail right on the head. I have said the same thing about 500 times the past month. Here is my experience;

    An installer came to repipe my condensing boiler about two weeks ago. (Oh, same company, and this was the second of finally three times it was repiped) They had piped it the same way they have been piping boilers for 25 years. However, this boiler does not work as efficiently as it could when piped they way he did it. I tried to explain to him that I was not an engineer or HVAC professional, but this boiler likes a cool or cold return and actually welcomes condensing (IT IS A CONDENSING BOILER! and works at its highest efficiency in the condensing mode. It is aluminum. He disagreed with me and said that "He was the one who checks engineer's work on construction projects" and went into a story about how he was trying to tell an engineer a certain configuration would not work, and it didn't. Oh, by the way, he said he was also an inspector. He said (which is true) that condensation is acidic and causes corrosion. Anyway, what a ding ding. If he would only have read the installation manual, like I did, he would see the manufacturer spelled out exactly how the boiler was to be piped (PEROID). HVAC systems are becoming much more technical these days and if contractors and engineers would try to meet somewhere in the middle, it would be a lot better for us all. I told the contractor in a letter that I "didn't want to get in the middle of a design disagreement between him and the boiler manufacturer, I just wanted it piped as the engineering team at Weil McLain indicated".

    Check out the thread...

  • Reynz_2
    Reynz_2 Member Posts: 98
    Floyd, Floyd, Floyd

    Floyd, Meet in the middle, meet in the middle, meet in the middle,Meet in the middle, meet in the middle, meet in the middle, Meet in the middle, meet in the middle, meet in the middle, Meet in the middle, meet in the middle, meet in the middle.

    HOWEVER Doug, Floyd is one of the great guys in the Forum. He and Kal go round and round on occasion, and has been one who has provided a lot of assistance with us homeowners. Floyd, Floyd, should I remind you about "I had to go through the same rethinking process....sat beside Dan last march and was a sceptical fool......said many things I wish I hadn't....even gave Dan some writing fodder...... " Floyd?
  • Floyd_5
    Floyd_5 Member Posts: 418

    what I said was meant to be a compliment to Doug. I'm sorry if it didn't come across that way.
    I just get so tired of seeing schools, churchs, and other large buildings getting 60's and 70's technology thrown into them because that is what was taught when they went to school.
    Yes, I was very wary of the newest technology, but have embraced it and have become very excited about it. But before that I had what I thought was the cat's meow in the Weil GV boiler... those things are wonderful and had installed them in situations that they had no business being placed into.
    I have saved numerous large building owners tons of money with modular boiler setups, and could never get it through to many more because I didn't have the degree and I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about.

    As I said... sorry if I offended anyone.....didn't mean to, just releasing some pent up emotion.....and frustrations.

  • Reynz_2
    Reynz_2 Member Posts: 98
    I agree

    Sorry about that Floyd. After re-reading your post, it is obvious you were complementing him.

    You have a lot of credibility on The Wall, cause you've got an open mind, and tons of practical experience; can't buy it in college or read it in a book, have to live it. You are probably one of only a few old salts out there who can change with the times, which is a good thing. The one "inspector" I talked with is stuck square dab in the middle of the 1960s, and will never leave.

    Doug, want to learn a lot and help bridge that gap? Take up a little apprenticeship with Floyd.
  • Mark J Strawcutter
    Mark J Strawcutter Member Posts: 625

    I stumbled on heatinghelp as the result of a google search. What a breath of fresh air compared to alt.hvac and to a lesser extent hvac-talk.com!

    Bought my first hydronicly heated house, a circa 1910 with standing cast-iron rads, and was trying to understand how the system worked.

    Despite several private hate-emails in response to my postings, this site is one of the most civil and professional I've encountered. Dan has a true gift for knowing how to keep things that way without looking like he's doing it.

    I think the real key is "passion". The posters here have a real passion for what they do, are able to communicate it, and in the process don't feel threatened by sharing information. That passion is infectious.

  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    Say Floyd

    Still looking at that church job? Maybe we can talk it over at Wetstock.

  • Earthfire
    Earthfire Member Posts: 543

    Your the kind of engineer that every contractor wishes for.Hopefully your experience and attitude will overrun the engineering and contracting professions and all of us will be able to provide the customer with SAFE, cost effective comfort.
  • prm_6
    prm_6 Member Posts: 2
    Technicians & Engineers

    I too am an engineer, although not in the heating and cooling field. I agree that both engineers and tradesmen need to work together much more constructively. There is no reason for the adversarial relationship that develops. I think it is because of a combination of insecurity and the inability to listen.

    There would be far fewer problems if both groups read The Wall more.

    It seems that the tradesmen that post here are much more technically savy than the local tradesmen that have been to my house. (like the ones who quoted me 150kbtu/hr boiler AND a Bradford-White DHW heater for a house that has a max heat loss of 20kbtu/hr. Funny, they work for the same companies that sell fuel, hmmm)

    Engineers should read The Wall because there is a wealth of information and history here that really isn't available anywhere else.

    And the best part of The Wall is the sense of "we're all regular guys doing the best we can and enjoying it(mostly)". There are too many engineers and tradesmen that don't do their best and are nervous that someone from the other camp will challenge them on it.

    I've no doubt that Wall readers from both disciplines can and do work together, and, together, can really make a difference in the comfort and efficiency of heating systems, in spite of an often stubborn and lazy industry.

    Long live The Wall. It may be our only hope when fuel oil and LP hit $8/gal.
This discussion has been closed.