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Joined on September 13, 2010

Last Post on August 1, 2014

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@ July 19, 2014 3:10 PM in Silicone steam pipe through floor?

High Temp. RTV is used regularly on automobile engines. They run really hot. Hotter than your average residential low pressure steam system.

Auto Vents:

@ July 19, 2014 3:03 PM in Constantly purging air in hydronic system

If you have this type of air vent on emitters at the top of the system, it absolutely will not vent air if the system is full and only water is there. If the system goes negative, this type of valve will absolutely let air into the system, and you will never know it. The one I have the most experience with is the Taco #417-3. Taco has re-done their web site and the only thing I can find is this PDF and there is one on page 2. If you have one of these on a system, and you don't have adequate pressure, it will add air into the system.

Line It:

@ July 19, 2014 2:39 PM in Do I need a chimney liner?

There's no question it needs to be lined.

Its more important to decide if it can even qualify to be lined. Anyone can line it. But can it be lined, and it still be a legal chimney/flue?
I was a mason's helper/mason before I was a carpenter, before I was a plumber. I know how to mix mortar in a mortar box with a mortar hoe and how much water to add to the mix without it turning to soup.

Higher Pressures:

@ July 18, 2014 10:52 AM in Constantly purging air in hydronic system

Yu don't need to check the pressure at the top of the system. Just maintain adequate pressure in the system. If the pressure gauge on the boiler is reading less than 10#, either the fill valve isn't filling, or the gauge is bad.
Do you understand what happens to a underwater diver when he/she dives below the surface? The oxygen and Nitrogen in the blood get compressed by the increasing pressure of the surrounding water. The bubbles become smaller and smaller the deeper you go. When you arise to the surface, the compressed gasses expand when  the pressure drops. Causing "The Bends" which is just air bubbles forming in different places in the body. The higher the pressure, the more the higher pressure will hold the air in compressed and absorbed suspension.
The same thing happened to the passengers and crew of the two Malaysian Airliners. The cabin pressure is maintained at about 8,000' by using high pressure compressed air from 35,000 feet and heated by the friction of the compressed air between the first compressor stages of the engine. There isn't air/oxygen at 35,000' but if you can compress enough 35.000' air to equal 8,000'.or sea level, the later stages of the engine that burn the actual fuel for thrust, will be happy. When you get into a jet passenger aircraft, your body is set for Sea Level atmospheric pressure. You become uncomfortable when you take off and you finally become comfortable. Once you get past the 8,000' or whatever elevation the crew decides they want to maintain the aircraft. If the aircraft is flying at 35,000' and rapidly decompresses, the compressed air in the body will rapidly expand. Especially in the lungs.  When the aircraft drops below the set cabin pressure, all air starts to compress to the actual altitude.

You MUST keep the pressure at the top of the system at a high enough pressure to keep from forming air bubbles. The pressure keeps gasses compressed and trapped.

Fill Valves:

@ July 17, 2014 11:24 PM in Constantly purging air in hydronic system

If you buy a Watts S1156Fbrass fill valve only, it is possible that it is a direct replacement. The union on the fill/inlet side may be the same union. If not, you will have to change just the copper union part. Because the adapter is on with Teflon tape, it will screw right off.
If the pressure gauge says 10#, it doesn't have enough pressure. You have a auto vent on the second floor. When the system is off, and not running for hours or overnight, check the pressure on the top floor. If when you open the top floor vent, water will squirt out, if it doesn't, the system pressure isn't high enough.

All lined up:

@ July 17, 2014 10:14 AM in Do I need a chimney liner?

Thanks. It would appear to me that the existing chimney is so close to being at the limit, that it is not code. There's not a lot of calculated difference in a 3 sided chimney and a 4 sided chimney,, heat loss wise. In Massachusetts, a building permit and a gas permit would be required because you are modifying the vent. Inspectors are supposed to condemn such a chimney because they banned 3 sided chimneys because you can't warm them up.
The re-liners just go by the size they can get in, not whether it is legal now to do so by the connected load.
And as far as putting in a 7" X 11" oval liner down that 40+' chimney? I'll be in the cellar, pulling on the chain to get it down, if it will come down. Someone else can feed it down from that height. And I'll watch while someone hammers into the wall to get the SS liner into the room. I just LOVE good entertainment. You'd have to stage that chimney. If the low bid was just going to set a ladder against the chimney, a 40' ladder is too short. And the leverage might knock it over.
I'd be Power Sidewall Venting the whole thing. A whole lot cheaper.

Long & Short:

@ July 17, 2014 9:49 AM in How Long

Just for thoughts because I know not about such things.
If the HX for the lake cooled water was in the return duct, before the AH, which I am assuming is a heat/AC AH, the A-Coil would provide some restriction (bad) but could collect condensation if it was forming from the cooler air stream (good). But my main point is that if you get sufficient cooling from the lake in the Spring and fall, you may not even need to run the normal AC because the lake might give you enough cooling BTU's. You could cool the whole building with the lake. How cool (no pun intended) would that be?  People put hot air duct boosters from wood stoves to heat. Why not the same with cold air?
If there are no records, trot/row out on the lake now and find out the surface temperature at the top of the lake and the bottom of the kale. It will be colder at the bottom at this time of year. In a month or so, the water temperature will be rapidly cooling. It is still colder at the bottom. When ice forms and the entire lake is covered with ice, the bottom of the lake will be 39 degrees. If it isn't, the lake isn't on the earth we live on. If you or someone does all this, you can have a pretty good idea of the amount of available cooling water in the lake loop.
If you can pull it off, they will gather at your feet for your words of wisdom after reading about your accomplishments in some Green Technology magazine.

Trust me. The Greenie Weenies have dreams at night to have the chance at a job with a big lake beside it to play with.


@ July 17, 2014 9:09 AM in Constantly purging air in hydronic system

Three years ago, you brought this up. It was suggested that you didn't have enough pressure in the system. You found that there was a "leaking" auto vent on the second floor because the floor/rug was wet. You changed the vent and the problem went away.
But you still have air. Did you increase the system pressure to a pressure that when the system is cold, that you get water squirting out of the second floor vent? Because if you didn't raise the pressure, you just put a band aid on the infection. The Infection is the lack of system pressure and the bladder/expansion probably not having enough pre-charge pressure. That Watts 1156F is as useless as boobs on a chicken. Air isn't going in through the valve, because the valve probably barely passes water. If it was disconnected, I doubt it would pass water. Or little water. That is a cast iron valve because it is painted the same color as the top. If it was a brass body valve, the body would be bare brass color. The top would be painted the same color as yours. There is a stainless steel screen on the outlet side of the valve, Because the valve is cast iron, and both ends are connected with copper tube, the screen plugs solid with iron particles. I'm not even sure that Watts sells those CI 1156's anymore. I think a lot of boilers died because of them and they did a GM key thingy. They just dropped the price of the brass valve to the CI one and the brass valve was the only valve available. Replace it with a Watts 9-11 with the backflow. Then, no one can ever suggest that water is coming in from the street with air and contaminating your system. The only possible way that can happen is of your system has a massive water leak.
In my experience, I have never seen an old cast iron Watts 1156 that would pass water.

You can doo all the expensive and time consuming work and change the fill valve, and the problem will go away. You can change the valve and the same thing will go away. And you can go to the beach instead.
I have NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER HAD AIR APPEAR IN A SYSTEM ever IN MY LIFE, once I filled a system. As long as the system pressure was maintained high enough with the system cold, the expansion was properly sized and not too small. That #30 Extrol might need to be changed to a #60 or have a #60 added somewhere. If that is a cold start boiler/system, there isn't enough expansion room. Don't ever believe what the pressure reads on the Tridicator gauge unless you have proven it with a gauge of known accuracy. Just because it might read 15# doesn't mean it does.

Flue Size:

@ July 16, 2014 9:21 PM in Do I need a chimney liner?

I don't have any books since I moved, but I didn't know anyone (including myself) who knew how to properly size a flue/chimney for a gas appliance until I did my Comm of MA Continuing Ed class that discussed it. I doubt seriously that chimney liner "specialists" can do it properly.
From what is posted for the two boilers and an estimate that the gas storage hot water heater is about 36,000 BTU's, the total input into the flue is 221,000+/- BTU's. It is an 8" X 12" clay flue tile. I estimate the chimney to be at least 40' high.
You sit on the committees. Can you properly vent 221,000 BTU's in a 40', 8" X 12" chimney? A SS corrugated liner will at best, be 6" X 10". Can you legally (to code) vent the three appliances (total 221,000 BTU's into that sized liner?
My experience with a chimney like that is that it will look OK at the bottom and top. It is the middle that is bad and all deteriorated. If you run a chimney cleaning brush down the flue, all you will get when the brush is in the middle is sand. From the failed liner from acid corrosion.  
Just asking. Its not my house and in Florida, if it has a chimney, its fake.

Montana Water:

@ July 16, 2014 8:57 PM in GEO COOLING

If you are considering Geo-Thermal in Montana, be sure you consider the quality of the ground water, Some areas of Montana have some serious ground water quality issues that can severely effect the heat transfer abilities of the HX'ers.

Trap Debris:

@ July 16, 2014 8:50 PM in Trap on 4" sewer main in basement

Who'd a thunk.

I've been asked to open traps to look for lost earrings,  engagement and wedding rings. I've found them too.

Livin' In The Third World:

@ July 16, 2014 10:50 AM in How Long

That may be so.
I had a electronic thermometer with three test leads. You could test three things at once. Just not all at once. Where I worked, having Shade Tree mechanical abilities could be a must. I once had some ME/Rep tell me that I was incapable of changing the shaft seal on a booster pump. But he would come down with a mechanic (2 people) and change it. Minimum charge of 8 hours at $150.00 each, plus the part. I told him that unless he was born before 1943, I had probably been changing pump seals before he knew what a pump was. I changed it in 2 hours.
Engineers were the same.
In some varying form, I would have put a garden hose into a 5 gallon bucket, with my handy pump pumping in to the PE lake loop. With a 5 gallon bucket on the outlet. I would time the filling of the 5 gallon outlet bucket and determine how many GPM/GPH it was filling the bucket and computed how many # of water flowed into the bucket. I would have measured the sill cock water temperature going into the first bucket and the temperature of the water coming out of the lake to determine the differential. A third world calculation to figure out how many cooling BTU's are available. You could probably cool and de-humidify the building with the lake water for a large part of the year. Its my experience with engineers that if you have done your homework well, the engineer will take your figures, agree with your methodology, and get someone else to do the job so they can get a big cut out of the job. Leaving you watching someone else make a mess out of what you had carefully planned.

That Rep/ME? He had installed the booster pump system. The street pressure in the building going in to the pumps was 67#. It was boosted up to 135#. The whole potable water system in the public building was running at 135#, no matter what was run. The pumps were installed without a service by-pass so you could take the whole system out of the loop. With the pumps turned off, there was no pressure drop in the building and it still maintained over 60# flowing pressure THROUGH THE RESTRICTION OF THE PUMPS.
Those of us who learned to keep our tools out of the hot sun and in the shade of the tree, would never do that. That's not even code.


@ July 16, 2014 10:13 AM in Ecodrain gets US building code approval

2" Type DWV Copper? It weighs 1.07# per foot. Maximum code length for an unvented shower drain is 6' developed. A scrap dealer might give you $20 to $ 25 for it. But how much $$$ savings are you going to get from mixing 120 degree water into a shower valve that mixes it down to 106* and goes down the drain at about the same temperature as a body fluid.
The manufacturer can make any claim they want. I'd just like to see actual repeatable test results. In installed field applications.
Take that same $$$ and insulate all the hot water lines. New flow restricted shower heads. There's money well spent.


@ July 16, 2014 9:26 AM in need help and ideas with tiny home floor

Sounds like a lot of money to spend on a throw away trailer.

Asking for help:

@ July 15, 2014 11:24 PM in Bouncing Gas Pressure

If you are pointing at me, sometimes in the REAL world, you get in situations where you've exhausted all hope of help, and they have basically left you to your own devices. Someone once said that the best bilge pump for a sinking boat is a guy, up to his knees in water with a 5 gallon bucket. When you are given a situation to resolve, and nothing resolves it, and everyone you ask has no solutions, where do you turn? You turn to yourself. By that time, it is hoped that you have enough experience to know that you have to turn off pressure to any and all appliances.
You do what you have to do. Or you tell them to call someone else. "Someone else" may know less than you. But they will never call "someone else" being you ever again. In this case, you or I aren't there. We can't use that intuition we develop with experience. If you have a supply issue, the supplier will deny with their dying breath that there is anything wrong with their supply. Until you overwhelmingly prove they are wrong.
"Water in the air that I could put into the gas line and cause rust?" I have an air dryer that I can quick connect to my compressor. You can't have water vapor in the air when you use a paint spray gun. Water specks in the finish paint. If there is a water trap pocket, where did it come from?
Some times in life, all the fancy tools don't solve it and you have to do like the old dead guys did. However they could.
As a plumber, someone once said that no matter how old you got, you still need a shovel in the truck. Because you will need it. Even "Old Man Bartlett" in his 80's needs  one and uses it.
Or like my old dead boss said, when you get to this level, you're supposed to know what you are doing.


@ July 15, 2014 8:46 PM in Do I need a chimney liner?

Before you get too carried away, I'm quite sure that whomever installed the second boiler didn't properly size the chimney flue and the total of the three appliances can't be vented into that flue. And when they install the liner, they will reduce the size and venting capacity of the chimney. That MIGHT be a 20" X 20" chimney with a 12" tile. If no tile, it will be a 12" round corrugated liner. That looks to be like a 40' chimney. Remember, part of the function and size is for the flue to get hot and stay hot in a certain period of time. If the 3 or 4 sided chimney is too long, it won't get hot and that is why it is illegal.
Me personally, I quake at the thought of patching the place where the chimney was if you take it down. Someone will always know where it was, no matter how hard you play with the stucco. If the appliances are all gas, the gas code is very specific about venting into masonry chimneys. Someone may not know and tell you that you are fine. Someone else might come along and tell you that it can't be done. Just because some chimney liner installer says it can be done, doesn't mean he is correct. I'd be sure that all the AHJ's bless it 3 times before I went ahead. Massachusetts made 3 sided and long 4 sided chimneys illegal for upgrades. Flues can be too small AND too BIG.

Electric heat baseboard:

@ July 15, 2014 8:33 PM in Electric Baseboard Vs Hydronic Electric Baseboards

Are you sure that the 72" electric heat baseboards are 120 volts? That's unusual. 72" baseboards are usually 240 volts. They should be wired with #12 wire. Where are the thermostats now? On the units or on the wall?
You really sound like you need a qualified electrician to figure out your problems. If you have single pole breakers in the panel for each of the 4 heaters, you have 120 volt heaters. But if they are run as "Home Runs", it is possible you can use the white wire as the other leg of the 240 volts. But you can't have shared neutrals. What is the rating on the rating plate on the heaters? How many Watts/Amps?
If the whole house is electric heat, you can add a boiler and just replace the electric baseboard heaters on the first floor. Just replace the electric with equal length hot water baseboards. DON"T rip out any wooden baseboard. The equivalent FHW baseboard will be greater than the output of the electric baseboard. Leave the 2nd floor electric heat baseboards in place and connected. The first floor will heat the second floor. You can use the electric on the second floor if it gets too cold.
It worked for all the electric heat conversions I did. And you won't have to rip out any walls to run pipes.

Sidewall Power Venting:

@ July 15, 2014 8:16 PM in Looking for a direct vent oil burner -

There may be balanced draft, direct vent oil burners that work. They don't work in all places.
My limited experience is that sidewall power venting was far superior to a chimney that had poor draft characteristics.  If you install a decent properly sized sidewall power venter, it is far better than a leaky 3-sided chimney of a long unlined one. If you are in a location where draft can have extremes, you're better off with a Sidewall Power venter.  At least you will have consistent draft. The ones that have problems are usually not properly set up with analyzers.
Some people are so conservative, they would rather die than change. Yet, they jump to PEX, truly garbage. But it works. Side Wall venting works too. Sometimes. it will be your only option left.  

My intreptation:

@ July 15, 2014 6:14 PM in CO deaths because someone cut off the exhaust:

It was my original interpretation was that no permits were taken out to move the exhaust. I don't know what the regulations are in California building codes are but where I was from, disconnecting gas vents is considered a "modification" and needs a permit and inspection.
That all may be true, but how many times have I seen things taken out and re-installed by unlicensed and untrained workers with out licenses and permits.

Leaking Flashed Chimney's:

@ July 15, 2014 1:00 PM in Do I need a chimney liner?

The only thing harder to stop from leaking is a French Door.
I had a saying I used for years for guys that had French Doors they couldn't stop from leaking.
Jesus Christ was a Carpenter. Even HE couldn't stop a French Door from leaking.
I'd add 3 sided masonry chimneys flashed in to a stucco wall to that list.
Did I read that the house was built in the 1920's? The two sided lead flashings with one side behind the stucco and the other side held against the brick will pull away when the sun hits it. Letting the water in. You live in the Chicago area? In the winter time, it will blow the @$$hat off a cow. Like where I lived in New England.

WHAT IS ????

@ July 15, 2014 12:47 PM in Do I need a chimney liner?

That last picture, showing a section of all fuel pipe going into the chimney, what is that back inside? It looks like a piece of smoke pipe or liner blocking off the lower flue.
You have a 3 sided chimney that turns into a 4 sided chimney. Even if you lined it, I doubt that it could be made legal There's just too much exposed chimney. It is a hack job since the beginning. It looked nice on some architects plan. If you add up the total BTU input of the appliances and then take the size of the flue and length, it is probably an illegal chimney. It must be all gas, You can power vent the equipment through the side wall and leave the chimney. If you are having water issues, the easiest way to solve the water problems around the chimney is to remove it. To me, that chimney is calling out to every rain drop in the area. "Come to me. I'm here". Just by looking at it, I can tell you every place it is leaking. And it is down the whole side(s) of the 3-sided part. The 4 sided part just leaks into the flue and comes out wherever it wants to. I'll bet that there's 10 coats of waterproofing paint already on the chimney.

Pressure Testing with water:

@ July 15, 2014 12:00 PM in How Long

If you try to use water only to pressure test, you run the risk of over pressurization or contraction due to thermal expansion. You're way better off using compressed air for testing. Because water/liquids aren't compressible, I always figured that in Hydraulics, the difference between 0# pressure and 1,000+#, was a drop of liquid. You can compress a gas into a liquid but you can't compress a liquid into a gas. You can only decompress it into a gas.
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