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Joined on September 13, 2010

Last Post on September 1, 2014

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Defective Controls:

@ November 20, 2011 6:53 PM in new residential generator - defective control

A 20 KW gen.set is not a shabby unit. It is not something you purchase at HD, load in the back of your pick up truck and hook it to a propane tank. Backfeed the panel with a large extension cord and be good to go.
Is the installer a dealer for this gen. set or did he purchase ot from somewhere? A 20 KW LP fueled unit is usually ordered from the factory with the transfer switches provided. A 20 KW unit usually has pretty steady power and surge protectors are usually installed to protect sensitive electronics. The place I work has two 30 mile extension cords providing power to 10,000 to 20,000 people, depending on the season. Surge protectors are highly recommended. They have whole house protectors.
You need to contact the manufacturer to find out where you stand.

Whining Generators:

@ November 20, 2011 8:34 AM in new residential generator - defective control

Jamie is correct in everything he says.
Have you been in contact with the generator set manufacturer about your "whine: and fluctuation problems? Most reputable manufacturers are loath to have their brand names posted on forums like this one in a discussion on an installer giving poor performance and hoping that the warranty will run out so they can walk away.
All the Sparky's I know and work around would never let something like this go on. And if a warranty problem, would have the bad board shipped overnight or two day.
I've not heard any whining generator sets unless there was something wrong with it. You might need to consider moving up to the next step.

Plumbers, Heaters and spewing water:

@ November 20, 2011 8:17 AM in Radiator Vents Spewing Water. Help!

There are Plumbers, Plumbers who are also Heaters, Plumbers who think they are Heaters and are not. There are Heaters, there are Heaters who think they are Plumbers, and Heaters who are neither. A lot of Heaters know a lot about scorched air and forced hot water but when confronted with steam, are clueless on how it works and just think that that old steam system is just a funny hot water system that has funny controls on it. After almost 50 years of twisting pipes, I never considered myself an expert on steam. Where I work, there is very little of it. But I have been learning. I'm still no "expert" but I do know more today than I did two years ago.
I would say that the "plumber" that looked at your system, may have been a good Heater but maybe not the best Steamer. To a Wet-head "Plumber", 10# in a gauge is just fine. Hot water systems run at 12# average. To a Steamer, it's like the rattle of a rattlesnake. What the Fructose?
What I have learned here would have taken me a career to learn somewhere.
Pictures, we love pictures. I like to see how things were done. Show a picture of your replacement boiler and the near boiler piping. I've been finding a serious case of institutional "I don't need to read no stinkin piping diagrams from the manufacturer." They know it all. REALLY!! Then, there's the new radiator, How was that piped. I've learned that venting steam is a science in to itself.
If you post some pictures, you will get the consensus of some of the most knowledgeable steam heaters in the country.
Send some pictures.

Radiator Valve Parts:

@ November 20, 2011 7:35 AM in radiator valve parts

It is my experience and practice that unless there is some compelling reason to futz with radiator valves, I let sleeping dogs lie. If the packing's are leaking on the valve stems, like said, graphite packing will fix them. It is usually twisted packing. You can separate the stranded and still use the whole piece. It's an art form. I always use some grease when packing them. If the handles are hard to turn after packing them, loosen the nut. If it starts leaking, tighten it down. It's a nut. You don't need a 2' wrench to tighten it. Most of us only tighten it enough to stop it from leaking at the moment. Tighten it more is for later.
If you are trying to get the valve assembly out and unscrewed from the valve body, you are a brave man. It is my experience that if there are eight valves, seven are in a place where a wrench won't fit or it turns the wrong way. Because thread lubricant is extremely expensive (and might make it easier for someone to get it apart in the future), it was never used on the threads by the old dead manufacturers. Making it a ground joint. When tugging on the fitting, you should back up the valve. There will NEVER be room for both wrenches on all eight valves. So, when it comes, look out. It goes from 300 Ft Lbs of torque to 0 in an instant and you go skidding across the floor to run in to something and damage it. Do that eight times.
If they are single pipe steam valves, fix the ones that you need to. But be ready for a fun time.
Been there, done that.

Finding leaks with air:

@ November 19, 2011 12:01 AM in System Losing Water

I can't think of a single leak I used air on that I didn't find quickly.
I've had houses freeze up with broken pipes in walls and ceilings. I don't cut holes in walls and ceilings unless I hear the sound of rushing air. When I do new gas pipe, I test it with 100# of air. If it holds for an hour, I put on the 5# gauge and get the test. If it doesn't leak at 100#, it will not leak at 5#. Trying to find a 5# leak is a lot harder than looking for a 100# leak. If I can't hear it, leak detector will show it.
And my final attempt would be an odor-ant. But if it won't hold 15# of air, you will find it.

Purging/winterizing houses:

@ November 18, 2011 11:28 PM in Glycol ph tester & purge pump recomendations

I blow out everything.
PEX doesn't break when frozen except when it does.
I drain EVERYTHING with air. Copper, galvanized (don't see much of that anymore), copper and PEX. Potable water and heat.
I drained a duplex today that is two stories with a finished basement. It has series looped baseboard on all three floors with three bathrooms, three zones, a Munchkin and an indirect in each unit. I blow the whole systems. I've done it for over 5 years. I have never had a single break. There is no way to drain the heat. There are no drains on the  heat drops and they are in ceilings.
I blow the water heater tank and use it as a temporary air storage tank. I set my air regulator for 60# and leave it. I purge the heat system through the fill valve and use the bypass. If it is set up properly so you can purge the air out of the system when filling it, you can blow all the water out of the system.
If you are worried about water being left in the system, I drained houses for years the old way. I pitched things to low points to drain. Pulled solenoid valves off etc. When I found installs done by "pros's" that think that "pitch" is a musical term and that "a low point" is a bad time in your life, I had to start antifreezing. It was extremely expensive and difficult. What convinced me about air was the large amount of houses I plumbed and drained by opening up drains and never had a problem. I did a few houses and after they were drained, I put the air to them. I was surprised to see how much water was still in the system and I never had a problem.
There's no end to what you can do with compressed air.

Need Information on Radiator Valve:

@ November 17, 2011 10:19 PM in Need Information on Radiator Valve:

I was working in an old house today and when I filled the system, one radiator wouldn't work. I have a personal rule to never touch a radiator valve until all options are used up. It is a a replacement valve on a gravity radiator. It is made by American Valve #45 or 45S. This is on a plate on the top. I had no flow. I assumed that the radiator worked. I turned the valve in the direction it said to turn it to "open". It never stopped turning. There was no stop. I lifted up on the handle. It moved up about 3/8" and when I turned it CCW, it hit a stop. If I turned it CW, it didn't stop. No matter where I leave the valve, there is no flow.
Can anyone tell me how this valve is made? I went to their website but I can't tell what the valve mechanism is.
The radiator had been re-piped and it looks like there are pitch issues. I raised one end up 3/4" and it didn't make any difference.

Anti-freeze and draining houses:

@ November 17, 2011 9:11 PM in Glycol ph tester & purge pump recomendations

I drain a lot of seasonal houses too and I pumped antifreeze into systems only a couple of times. It was too much of a PITA and I took up the air pump.
Don't talk this up, but in the time it takes you to pump out a water heater, I can have the whole house drained, and no anti-freeze residue left in the potable water system. I paid less than $200 for my air compressor that has a "hot dog" tank. It weighs less than 50# and it is one of the most used tools in my truck. I did some boiler piping today. When I was done, I immediately tested the whole system. I have my "rig" that I connect to any place I can put air into the system. If a 50 gallon water heater is in a cellar, and I am draining it with a hose, it will be empty before I can go upstairs and drain a bath. Once the WH is drained, I use it as an air storage tank. It drains everything. I only use antifreeze in traps, washing machines, dishwashers and a cup in toilet overflows. Open the faucets until you get "smoke", run the solenoids until air, including ice makers, and you are done. I often leave the system pressurized for the winter and come back in the Spring and there is still pressure. I just turn on the pump it local water, fill the water heater etc and leave.
And so smelly antifreeze odor while purging all the old anti-freeze out of the system.


@ November 15, 2011 9:03 PM in Connect Monoflo Tees

Maybe they are, maybe their not.
They should have had an air vent on the loop but the system worked well for some long time while capped off, I think it will work fine as is.over time, the air will be absorbed.
Make a list of important things you need to worry about (wars, land mines, tornado's, floods), put that loop at the bottom of the list. Worry about the rest first.

Square pipe in a round hole:

@ November 15, 2011 8:55 PM in 392 sq.inches versus 201 sq. inches?

This sounds like a good question for hvac-talk. Any pictures?


@ November 14, 2011 8:55 PM in WM Ultra P/S

OK, tell me I am wrong as to how I understand the physics of it.
The reason for the closely spaced tees, not to exceed 4 pipe diameters, that's a 4" nipple on 1", is so that whatever flow is in the primary loop or the boiler loop, is whatever it is. Keeping the closely spaced tees as close together as possible, will cause local circulation on the secondary loop THROUGH the primary. There is where the mixing tales place. In the boiler piping pictured, the primary flow is circular as it flows down the pipe. The secondary flow being horizontal, is laminar. The extreme turbulence causes the mixing and balancing. I don't think that the goal if P/S is the have the secondary circulator pump the water back to the boiler, only pump It through the primary loop and flow in the secondary loop. The wider apart the tees, the greater the chance of loosing the circulation through the loop and it returning back to the boiler.
I have an article in a piping manual about how Gil Karlson figured out Primary Secondary piping. It had to do with a power plant built at Notre Dame University. The boilers and piping for the plant were designed by one engineering company and two or three new dorms and related piping were designed by another company. The circulator pumps in one side (maybe the power plant) was grossly over sized and the pumps on the other side (dorms?) were not. The mis-match caused the water to not flow from the power plant to the dorms. It was a huge mistake and expensive to fix. The idea of the closely spaced tees came up and it was found that inducing whatever flow in a portion of another pipe would correct the gross mistake. Hydraulic Separators or Low Loss Headers are a better route but just another form of P/S piping.
Or how I understand it and it works for me.

Getting Reamed:

@ November 14, 2011 8:26 PM in Cast Iron Fittings

Reaming pipe is a lost art. Done with a missing tool. My Ridgid #* reams up to 2". Back when the older dead men were still alive, I/we used to thread 1 1/4" and 2" Galvanized pipe for well pipe. The 2" was for "deep wells" where we used packers, an ejector on the end of a 1" galvanized pipe. If you didn't properly ream the 2" pipe, it would rip the two, 2" cup leathers off the ejector. After getting the whole thing together, and you went to fill the pipe to prime the system, if the leathers were ripped, the water would run out the pipe. Then, you had to dig up the whole mess. You learned to ream really well. The supply house I buy from has a Ridgid #400 power drive for customers to use. The reamer has a broken pin making the reamer useless. I own a #300 and all the stuff. If I need to thread a nipples, I bring my own stuff. Sharp dies, cutters, etc. I have a Ridgid OOR 1" to 2" threader that use so I can make crooked threads when needed. No one ever heard of a crooked, why you would want one and how to do it. One of the first things my old late boss taught me. That and making nipples with a home made nipple holder.

As far as the CI Vs. Malleable, My supplier only stocks Malleable fittings. But you can't use CI on gas, only Bl. Malleable. A lot of guys who wing up fittings, so tight, that it takes 2' wrenches to get them off, should screw a few CI fittings and deal with the cracking. But when you wind it in and decide that you need to go around one more time, and it is getting tighter and tighter, and it suddenly gets easier to turn, don't understand that they just wrecked the fitting.  

W/M Ultra P/S

@ November 14, 2011 4:21 PM in WM Ultra P/S

That is a beautiful thing. I looked at the first comments about the controls. No mention of the piping.
Somehow, it strikes me that that is not how Weil/McLain intended Primary-Secondary piping to be done. It would seem to me that when you add the coach house, you end up making the primary loop a dump loop for the cold returning water. The tees are too far apart. If they are too far apart, the water doesn't circulate through the closely spaced tees but circulates through the boiler.
Maybe I am wrong, but my gut says no, and I would never let them get that far apart. The spacing is a matter of pipe diameters, not an arbitrary dimension. One thing I have from Taco says that it SHALL be no more than 4 pipe diameters. That makes 1", 4" apart. Less is better.
Others more experienced than I will chime in and say I am wrong, or right.
I looked at a house today that had a replacement Combi Mod-Con, connected in the wildest way to a floor system of that 1992 Orange Heatway Entran II tubing with a couple of loops disconnected. I told them not to touch a GD thing and PRAY.


@ November 14, 2011 7:03 AM in Gas Pipe Question

I wasn't referring to you. I was referring to the  same "technicians" that you were writing about. The ones who do installs and they (the installs) end up on for all of us to see, They have no shame. Nor a sense or responsibility.
You, on the other hand, should be hired out by some of the dubbers to read the manuals and advise them. But I fear that they would still not listen.
When you take a water sample, use a test bottle with a tight cover. Take the sample and put the cover on. Let the sample cool. Then take the test. Covered, the sample can't absorb CO2. Pool filter kits will keep you in the ballpark though. I've owned a few PH pens and they all died from lack of consistent use. And you need the buffering solution to calibrate the instrument.
Again, I don't think that anyone here would consider you a non manual reader. I always look forward to whatever you have to say.

Gravity Conversions:

@ November 14, 2011 6:47 AM in owner

Another way is to connect the supply and returns on the boiler and leave whatever pump is in place. Connect two closely spaced tees, install a Taco "I" Series 4 way mixer and a circulator and you will have boiler protection, outdoor reset, and it won't matter what you have for a secondary circulator. The boiler will have whatever flow it has, and the secondary piping/system will have, and the two shall meet in the primary loop. The provided sensors that come with the valve will control the system temperature and it will be a beautiful thing. With all radiators getting warm at the same rate because the secondary system starts out cold, like it did when it was gravity, and rises to whatever temperature the outside dictates.
A truly beautiful thing.

Hot convecters

@ November 13, 2011 10:49 PM in Need help with hot water system

Absolutely correct.
They work fine. I never saw an old house with them that didn't heat properly. The old dead guys usually over radiated the rooms anyway.

Three Beeps:

@ November 13, 2011 9:30 AM in heating

I once shut off a boiler to work on it on a Friday and left it off for the weekend. It was cold but not to freeze up the house. I finished up on Monday. I fired off the boiler, a Weil-McLain HE-6, and it wouldn't fire. No draft or fan prover switch open.
Over the weekend, the little meeces got up inside the boiler where it was warm and toasty and gnawed on the red and white rubber tubes for the draft prover switch. That took me a few to find that one.
Today, it is a Munchkin. Lets see them meeces get inside there.


@ November 13, 2011 9:20 AM in Tee-ing in a Radiator: Wondering about restriction

You have to work with what you work with. If a Direct Return is what you have to work with, then you don't have much choice. I decided long ago that if a unit has 1/2" connections but needs 3/4" to get the rated output, to pipe 3/4" to the units. The more 1/2" in the loop, the more flow restriction.
Whenever I add anything to an existing system, I always do it as a new zone. That way, I don't fall victim to someone Else's bad piping practices. Piping practices from years ago that I learned are no longer true. Like 15,000 BTU to a 1/2" pipe and 35,000 BTU's to a 3/4" pipe. No longer apply. But when I see 50' of baseboard  series looped with 3/4" PEX (5/8" ID) and it isn't heating properly, I know why it isn't working properly when it is cold. And I see a 40 degree drop in temperature.
You sound like you really know what you are doing. Just don't fall into the trap that the last guy knew what he was doing.
With the increase in "Green Builders" installing "Green Systems" bought from Internet Supply Houses, and not working, you may own someone Else's mistake.
Being a Plumber and Heater, I've been in a lot of new houses being built where there was no place to put plumbing. They designed a house where you basically can't put plumbing in it? How do you run a 3" PVC soil stack to the second floor when there are only 2X4 partitions and the one that is supposed to line up is 2" off and no one wants to pad out the wall. Or, the only place to run a full sized soil/vent stack has a heating duct run in it?  3" PVC needs a minimum of a 4" hole. "Oh can't you put that coupling above the plate so we can get the Sheetrock around it? If you leave that coupling there the sheet rocker will bend the Sheetrock around the coupling and there will be a bump in the wall." Like that's MY fault.
I just worried about the connection of 1/2"X1/2"X1/2" Tees connecting units. It sounds like you have another house like I am only too familiar with where some designer NOT A LICENSED ARCHITECT, has designed their dream (your nightmare) and expects YOU, for very short money, to make their dream come true. And they want you to be the lowest bidder too.

I know you do:

@ November 13, 2011 7:44 AM in System Losing Water

>>Ice, I know how a back flow should be installed, but there are knuckleheads out there in the contracting, and the inspection community, who knows what the installation history is for this system?!--NBC
I just wrote a reply to this and it was deleeted from the note.
Happens all the time. It must not have been relevent.


@ November 13, 2011 7:17 AM in Need help with hot water system

Don't bother looking for covers. I've only seen a few of those types around. That company is long out of business or changed the design. They also had a flat front cover that didn't go to the top and had a stamped. louvered grill that the cover hooked on.  Most today have rounded front covers at the top. Very few have the straight top like you have. If you had the "normal" type, it would have been a difficult carpenter project to make them nice looking.
I suggest cutting out the bottom like the one in the picture. Those are nice covers. If skilled, you could radius the bottoms like what is in the picture. The sheet metal inside is a really great idea. Bring it down to the bottom of the element or just below it and bring it up to a place that is high up on the grill. If there is a space of more than 1/4" between the metal on the grill and the element, make a wooden filler strip and cover the wood with true aluminum duct tape. NOT the cloth type.
Go for it. You will be amazed at how much better they will work.


@ November 13, 2011 7:01 AM in Need help with hot water system

There is a major part of your problem. The air is restricted at the bottom. They are usually cut away at the bottom allowing a free flow of air through the unit. Then, there is an amount of radiation of the metal getting hot and radiating out into the room. The free flow of air is important because as the cooler air enters the fin space and the heat is given off, the air expands and accelerates. Making more air come out than goes in if you understand what I mean. The metal cover must be in close contact in the front so as not allow the air to go AROUND the element but THROUGH the element.
I've seen a lot of creative carpenters make beautiful cabinets around radiators and completely screw up the heat emitting value of the emitter. Because they didn't understand how they work and the owner wants them covered.
Measure the height from floor to the top of the cabinet, the distance from left to right and the distance from the back of the metal cabinet and the front of the element for all the convector cabinets. We can tell you how much they are supposed to be putting out by design. I'm quite sure that there is more than enough radiation in the house to keep it warm.

Radiator Teeing:

@ November 13, 2011 6:37 AM in Tee-ing in a Radiator: Wondering about restriction

First of all, if what you are saying is that you are using a direct return AND TRV's, you may or will end up with a very unbalanced system that could be extremely hard to balance. And you running a lot of 1/2" and 3/4" PEX (and using 1/2" PEX in place of 3/4" for piping convenience) may end up in you trying to overcome your problems with a bigger circulator, like the current fix-all of bad designs, the Taco 010 or equivalent. With a direct return, first out, first back, the water takes the easiest route back home. With a reverse return, first out, last back, the pressure is always equal in every circuit.
Hydronic piping is hard to screw up. Mostly, it is forgiving and will take a lot of abuse. When you really step over the line, it can really be a problem.
Its like the old story about little boys and girls and what they say about little boys. "When they are good, they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are awful."