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Jamie Hall

Jamie Hall

Joined on September 16, 2002

Last Post on July 20, 2014

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I don't blame the man

@ May 27, 2014 9:05 PM in Suggestions wanted

for not wanting to compromise the plaster and trim and siding and all -- I face exactly the same consideration here (although I have an additional headache -- this place is a museum, and National Register and all that -- so even if I wanted to...).

But it couldn't be a worse setup for deep setbacks.

Not only are gravity systems really bad at recovering from deep setbacks -- they were never meant to do that -- but the deep setbacks are, whether your client realises it or not, very hard on the plaster and woodwork.  Never mind any furniture, paintings, musical instruments (pianos, in particular, react very badly), and what have you.  But you probably can't convince him.

I like Harvey's idea. 

It seems to me that what is needed is to sort of reverse the thinking.  Make that oil burner your base heat -- the floor of the setback --on an ODR with constant circulation, and use the wood burner to lift the place out of the setback, or to hold it warm if and when there are people there to fire it.

OK, I won't

@ May 23, 2014 9:32 PM in Tips for quieting down a staple up radiant floor?

say anything about open combined systems.

Your tube noise is probably coming almost entirely from expansion and contraction, and the efforts you have taken so far to limit the noise with the milk jug trick and avoiding anchoring the ends and the like are very very good steps in the right direction.


What you really want to do is to eliminate that expansion and contraction -- which means holding the tube temperature as close to constant as you possibly can.  This is, in fact, a very good sort of application for outdoor reset!  The objective of the exercise, using the reset and some valving and bypassing, is to have the floor at all times at the temperature needed to satisfy your losses -- and never turn the circulation off.  Vary the water temperature circulating in the floor to match the loss as closely as possible, changing it as slowly as possible (using a long averaging for the reset -- which you can do if the whole floor system is fairly high mass).

What your reset will do is modulate a mixing valve to get the water temperature desired in the floor to match the heat loss.

I haven't really worked this through, but that's the concept.  I might add that I don't think it will help your overall efficiency much...

Those things

@ May 22, 2014 4:21 PM in Loss Calculations

depend so much on so many assumptions...  the first thing to do is to study the program, and see what sorts of things it takes into account (or not!).  And then see what the assumptions are that are related to those things -- and especially the things which it doesn't ask about.

Then take a look and see how closely those assumptions agree with the reality that you are dealing with.

The two results aren't actually that far apart -- 63K vs. 79K seems like a lot, but it really isn't; anything within 10% is really good, and those average out to about 71K.

Myself I'd be inclined to bias my selection towards the high side, but then I've always been a sort of belt and braces man.  But I'd have to know a lot about the structure you are heating and its exposure to be more confident.


@ May 22, 2014 2:40 PM in Electric Water Heater Problems

what overheating an element will do, isn't it?

Not pumping so hot

@ May 21, 2014 9:13 PM in Series pumps and my hydronic comedy of errors

I love it!

It's actually even worse than you say, though, Mark -- if you don't have enough NPSHA, not only will the pump not meet its performance curve, it may cavitate so badly as to destroy itself, sometimes in minutes.

I've seen it...

At least

@ May 21, 2014 6:48 PM in US Boiler IN12 with 2 pipe vacuum steam built in 1929

the Hartford loop nipple is short...

Did you notice that they managed to set up the various elbows so that they can't give for expansion?  That does take talent...

The generator

@ May 20, 2014 7:38 PM in LP or Oil

would be worth the effort.  I'd go with the LP, since you will have it.  The LP units start very easily, even if it is pretty cold out (assuming that your LP tank is big enough -- you want to make sure that your tank is sized properly for your connected load -- cooking, generator, boiler, water heater, what have you for the lowest temperatures you reasonably expect to have).  Diesels start... eventually... in the cold.

Make sure it is wired in correctly!!!

I have a rather elderly gasoline unit, and it is a little noisy, but it's down near one of the outbuildings so it doesn't matter -- and a generator is a really wonderful thing to have when the power goes out.

I second Zman's

@ May 20, 2014 5:22 PM in Electric Water Heater Problems

guess -- first place I'd look having found power to the unit would be a burned out element.  It doesn't take long with no water... less time than it does to fill the heater.  If it has two elements, look at the top one first.  Also check the thermostats on the elements.

All things considered...

@ May 19, 2014 11:35 AM in LP or Oil

I think I would go with LP if I were in your situation!  And I quite understand the "cowboy" feeling.  I love Newfoundland -- but "away from civilization" takes on a whole new meaning.

The actual plumbing and setup of any good LP gas unit shouldn't be any problem for you.  The installation instructions usually aren't too bad -- and there are a lot of folks here on the Wall who can answer questions.  The only aspect which might be a little fiddly is getting the burner adjusted for best efficiency.  That is best done with various test instruments -- draught gauge, CO and oxygen meters, etc. -- and the higher the efficiency, the fussier things are.  I would take that into consideration in picking a unit.  There's a lot to be said for keeping things simple...


@ May 18, 2014 5:18 PM in LP or Oil

My word, lad, your options are limited -- and nothing is going to be cheap.  The maritimes are bad enough!

Look very closely at your electricity rates.  I honestly don't know what they are in Newfoundland, but in the maritimes and particularly Quebec they are low enough to be seriously competitive.  On the other hand, if the power goes out (and it does -- remember the great Quebec blackout?) things can get very chilly very fast!

Having done that, for me it would not be so much a question of the size of the physical size of the boiler, nor efficiency -- you can get very close with either LP or oil -- but who you have to install and service it and the relative cost.  There are pluses and minuses to both LP and oil, but what you really want to have is someone who knows what he or she is doing to install it, and someone who can maintain it in really top shape.

You mention not having oil on site as being a plus for LP.  True.  Not to mention that you can use LP for cooking as well.  However, having oil on site isn't really a problem, so I at least wouldn't worry about that.

Not a problem...

@ May 17, 2014 4:25 PM in one pipe system

provided you pipe it right.  Make sure your pitches are correct.

The only thing you may want to do is put a regular one pipe vent on the radiator, if your return is going direct to a wet return.  The other approach would be to pipe the return as a dry return until some point, put in a vent there, and then drop to the wet return.  Either way should work.  If you follow me...

We do fix

@ May 16, 2014 10:43 AM in Steam to Hot water

and restore, and love it -- and usually have excellent results.

Conversion isn't the same as fixing and restoring, though...

If it leaked

@ May 15, 2014 8:54 PM in Steam to Hot water

on the original vapour steam pressures, it's going to be Niagara Falls on hot water.

You will -- as Joe has said -- be much much better off getting a steam pro -- and there are several in your area -- to come in and restore the system to the way it should be.  Less money, less hassle, better results.

If you are determined to go ahead, however, what you are looking for isn't a conversion, but a complete tear out and reinstall.  If someone quotes you on a conversion -- and I expect that someone will -- read the contract carefully; I'm sure you will find contingency add ons in it which have the potential to break your bank.

Um... well...

@ May 13, 2014 5:32 PM in Mixing copper and iron pipes for steam? Insulation?

Let's get the easy one out of the way first: all steam carrying pipes should be insulated wherever they are accessible.  One inch is best.

Copper is not generally recommended for steam lines.  The problem isn't electrolysis -- there shouldn't be any liquid water sitting in a steam line to cause a problem.  The problem is expansion.  Copper expands a lot when it goes from room temperature to steam temperature, and if the expansion is resisted the forces can be tremendous.

However... if you are very very clever with your pipe routing -- always keeping in mind that the water has to drain back to the boiler, and the pipe sizes have to be adequate and the pipes pitched properly -- you can get away with copper if you don't mind the expansion noises.  Keep in mind as you plan the routing that the pipe lengthens as it heats up, and that lengthening has to have somewhere to go without restraint.  In larger sizes -- such as have to be used for steam lines! -- you will need expansion loops, and the legs of the loops will have to be at least 2 feet long for every inch diameter pipe to be safe.  Never set the piping up so that expansion can put a torque on a joint.  It will fail over time.  And I could go on...

On second thought... it's a whole lot easier, and in the long run it will be a whole lot cheaper, to run the thing in threaded black iron, as it should be done.

Almost exactly

@ May 10, 2014 6:23 PM in R Value Of Soils-Underground House Roof

what I would expect it to maintain.  That being very close to your annual mean temperature.

The actual heat loss of the new structure won't be that much, really, since that mean temperature is basically what you're low side temperature is (somewhat analogous to the "design temperature" for a conventional structure).  That soil temperature will be reached somewhere around 4 to 5 feet out from the buried walls of the structure, and you can figure your wall losses based on that much saturated soil.  The roof should have a lower "design" temperature -- in fact, unless it is much over 3 feet of soil, I'd use the actual design temperature of the site.  I'd use that, too, for the exposed window wall.


What you will also find is that unless you have a large amount of extra capacity in there, like two or three times what the heat loss says you need, it will take days to weeks to change the interior temperature in such a structure.  Literally.  This is something you might want to consider.


@ May 9, 2014 9:29 PM in Hartford Loop

I see your new reply.

The ONLY reason this thing is working properly is that that high Hartford loop is acting like a false water line.

You may be able to get by with things as they are, although it isn't just wonderful, but...

People who don't match water levels should be strung up.

And may I add

@ May 9, 2014 9:27 PM in Hartford Loop

that if this is a new there is a potential for a much more serious problem: if the water level in the new boiler really was lowered, you have a good chance of some problems out elsewhere in the system.  The water levels should have been matched within an inch, and this doesn't sound like it..  If this is the case, I do assure you that this may cause problems in normal operation!

Solution?  Don't lower the Hartford!  Raise the boiler!  It's a pain, I know, but that's much the better way to do it.

It's a lot more complicated

@ May 9, 2014 7:29 PM in R Value Of Soils-Underground House Roof

than it looks!  The problem is that the temperature which you have on the "other" side of the wall and insulation is not the design temperature, but rather a mix of the design temperature and the structure temperature -- and conventional ways of predicting the heat loss simply don't work, as the soil itself has a tremendous capacity to absorb or release heat, depending of course on whether the interior is warmer or colder (almost always warmer, actually).

Soil itself, particularly if it is wet (which it usually is) has a rather poor insulating capability -- not all that different from water.  But, since it can't convect or radiate, all the heat transfer is by conduction -- unlike a conventional wall, where the heat transfer on the outside side (inside, too, for that matter) is mostly convection.

Anything much over a few feet from either the surface or the building  the soil temperature will be very close to the annual mean temperature, year 'round.

Have fun!

Do make sure

@ May 7, 2014 8:48 PM in Heat Loss discrepancy

that you have entered everything right -- particularly window type and quality and insulation.

Either figure could make sense.

Joe V

@ May 7, 2014 2:03 PM in Vapor system questions

seems to have hit the high points.

Vapour systems do, however, benefit from intelligent contemplation, and a somewhat leisurely approach.

First off, you can indeed switch to a modern gas fired boiler as your heat source.  No problem at all.  Furthermore, piping it with a drop header is a very good idea indeed.  Main things with making that replacement are first, to install that new boiler so that the new water line is within an inch or two of the old water line.  You may find that you need to raise it on blocks to do that, but it really is important.  All sorts of very odd things can happen out in the system if you don't!  Second is to follow the manufacturer's instructions as to number of risers and sizes of risers and the rest of the near boiler piping -- but to take them as minimums.

Then... install a vapourstat to control the system.  Costs a little more, but it's worth it -- particularly with the type of outlet controls (ball and elbow) which you have on some of the radiators.  They simply don't work right at much over 12 ounces pressure.

Venting can be a bit odd on vapour systems, and it is rather important to do it right.  Many (not all!) vapour systems depend on crossover traps at the ends of the steam mains.  These are thermostatic traps, just like a radiator trap, but installed above the steam main and dry return (you go up and over 90 into the inlet of the trap, then down from the outlet of the trap to the dry return).  These work splendidly well, assuming they are working at all -- and it's well worth checking them.  If that is your setup, there will be main venting on the dry return(s) right near the boiler (there will be anyway) but no main vents on the steam mains -- the crossover traps do the job.  The main venting must be good sized; it's venting everything.

Check all your radiator traps and radiator control outlet elements.  Some may need replacement.  Water and air should get by -- but steam never should.  You can replace the ball and elbow units if you need to, but you may not need to.

Boiler size as Joe noted is important.  Size it based on the total EDR of the connected radiation, not on building heat loss or anything else.

Pipe insulation is also important -- insulate everything you can.

And follow up with more questions or thoughts as you get into the project!

Wise man...

@ May 4, 2014 7:52 PM in Wiring size controversy

There is a time and place for everything -- but wiring 90 amp circuits really is a job for a pro!

90 amps?

@ May 4, 2014 4:42 PM in Wiring size controversy

My friend,, you are no longer playing with marbles.

First, double check the nameplate amperage draw.  Then check to see if there are, in fact, any built in breakers on the unit.  Assuming that it all adds up to 90 amps...

Now.  You will need a separate, fused or breakered disconnect on you main switchboard to handle this thing.  It will have three poles on the breaker, or three fuses.  If it has fuses, it will also have a disconnect switch (three poles).  You  may be able to find a 90 amp disconnect, but I'm going to bet you're going to find a 100 amp unit.  That will work -- if there is a breaker in the unit itself.  If not, and it says 90 amps, it means 90 amps, and you'll have to find that.

The wires from the unit to the disconnect will be No. 2 copper.

If there is a separate neutral terminal on the unit -- there may well be -- it will need a separate No. 2 wire in addition to the three phase wires.  This will go to the disconnect, but does NOT, repeat NOT, have a switch, fuse, or breaker on it of any kind.
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