Ask Me Anything • Licensed Master Plumber

Heynj said:

The other day I was cutting through a Summit side street and saw a first - well-digging equipment working in the yard of a new McMansion (that happened to replace a Victorian I always thought was gorgeous, but that’s another topic). I was so curious I stopped to ask - they were putting in a geothermal heating and cooling system. 

Nice if you've got the space for it. And the money. 


The contractor who had subcontracted the well-diggers said, “The cost upfront is huge, but you’ll never pay a utility bill as long as you own the house.” Which, of course, doesn’t sound even close to accurate, as you’re still going to need electricity (and water and possibly gas), but I understood what he meant. 


My problem with ground source heat pumps is that I think that up front installation cost may end up never being recouped as air source heat pumps continue to improve and become more efficient.  


Heynj said:

The contractor who had subcontracted the well-diggers said, “The cost upfront is huge, but you’ll never pay a utility bill as long as you own the house.” Which, of course, doesn’t sound even close to accurate, as you’re still going to need electricity (and water and possibly gas), but I understood what he meant. 

If it's a new build, maybe solar could offset some if not all of the cost of electricity? 


Furnace stopped working,  water level is fine - there's a green light.  Other then that it seems dead. 

It’s a converted gas heater.


These part are warm.


called PSE&G they gave us a 4pm-8pm range.  They couldn't book us in the 12-4 range because appointments needed to be made 4 hours in advance.


Is the pilot light on?


good luck with that-why is always the worst time to breakdown!

if you need a place to warm up-let me know


MP, do I remember you posting that routinely flushing (or draining) your boiler doesn’t make a difference?


jeffl said:

MP, do I remember you posting that routinely flushing (or draining) your boiler doesn’t make a difference?

It depends on what type of low water cut off you've got. You must flush the float type, but not the probe type. 


jamie said:

Furnace stopped working,  water level is fine - there's a green light.  Other then that it seems dead. 

bIt’s a converted gas heater.

See if there's a carbon monoxide "spill switch" screwed in and wired to the flue piping. It would be near the barometric damper. If it's there, push the little reset button between the two connected wires. Stand back and take a better picture if you can.


I don't see that switch.  I had a friend stop by to try and diagnose.  It appears that the blower fan wasn't turning at all.  It's attempting to, but just heating up, maybe turning a few millimeters on attempt.  Cannot spin it at all manually, at least not easily.  

Ordered a new motor that was very challenging to track down, found it here:

https://controlscentral.com/eCatalog.aspx?SearchID=5&q=60172002&ViewType=2

Hopefully it arrives today.


I woke up today and delivery was changed to Monday due to severe storm conditions.

Amazingly, it made it's way through.  It's installed and we're back in business!

Thanks to everyone's offers to help me out through this predicament.


jamie said:

I woke up today and delivery was changed to Monday due to severe storm conditions.

Amazingly, it made it's way through.  It's installed and we're back in business!

Thanks to everyone's offers to help me out through this predicament.

Is there any way to lubricate the fan? It looks like a completely sealed unit. I’m thinking the shaft just got dried out and started sticking, reason why you could hardly spin it by hand. 
thank goodness you got it fixed, cause Monday/ Tuesday will be very cold. 


Ruh roh    Not a clue how to know which one I have, but that’s not your job to explain it to me.    I’ll play it safe and flush it    

master_plvmber said:

jeffl said:

MP, do I remember you posting that routinely flushing (or draining) your boiler doesn’t make a difference?

It depends on what type of low water cut off you've got. You must flush the float type, but not the probe type. 


jeffl said:

You could stand back, take a pic of the boiler and post it here if you'd like. I'll let you know what you've got there.


master_plvmber said:

jeffl said:

You could stand back, take a pic of the boiler and post it here if you'd like. I'll let you know what you've got there.

you’re the best!   Thanks.  


That's an odd setup you got there but you do have a probe-type low water cutoff which requires only annual maintenance. You've also got a pressure regulating, device called a pressuretrol, that is set too high. I'm guessing you're not having the boiler serviced every year or surely someone would have caught that. If you're inclined to reply again to this thread, please do so with a pic from farther away from the boiler. Like 10 feet away to include a floor-to-ceiling view. 


master_plvmber said:

That's an odd setup you got there but you do have a probe-type low water cutoff which requires only annual maintenance. You've also got a pressure regulating, device called a pressuretrol, that is set too high. I'm guessing you're not having the boiler serviced every year or surely someone would have caught that. If you're inclined to reply again to this thread, please do so with a pic from farther away from the boiler. Like 10 feet away to include a floor-to-ceiling view. 

better?   Time for me to get you over here?


Wow, Jeff. That boiler was installed by someone who has no idea how to install steam boiler piping. I guess keep cleaning it and wait for it to die one day. The piping can then be redone by someone who knows how to read an installation manual. 

Sorry for my tone here, but that's just awful. 


Who's next? 


Not sure if forced air falls within your purview? My forced air uses gas for the heat. The unit is probably close to 20 years old. I am guessing that is getting near its expected lifespan. The heat and AC work well in terms of temp control. 

The only issue is the fan is starting to rattle/vibrate a bit. Any fix for this, or something we just to deal with until the unit is replaced? Or is that the primary indication that it needs to be replaced?  (It works so well otherwise that I'm hesitant to get a new unit unless it's really necessary).


sprout said:

Not sure if forced air falls within your purview? My forced air uses gas for the heat. The unit is probably close to 20 years old. I am guessing that is getting near its expected lifespan. The heat and AC work well in terms of temp control. 

The only issue is the fan is starting to rattle/vibrate a bit. Any fix for this, or something we just to deal with until the unit is replaced? Or is that the primary indication that it needs to be replaced?  (It works so well otherwise that I'm hesitant to get a new unit unless it's really necessary).

Just take the front panel off and try to shim the fan with some slivers of cardboard. If you can't, then have your service company replace the fan. You're right though. It's not my specialty. Someone else may have a better suggestion. 


sprout said:

Not sure if forced air falls within your purview? My forced air uses gas for the heat. The unit is probably close to 20 years old. I am guessing that is getting near its expected lifespan. The heat and AC work well in terms of temp control. 

The only issue is the fan is starting to rattle/vibrate a bit. Any fix for this, or something we just to deal with until the unit is replaced? Or is that the primary indication that it needs to be replaced?  (It works so well otherwise that I'm hesitant to get a new unit unless it's really necessary).

some fans have a port to oil the bearings. Have someone check it. Sounds like the bearings are wearing out from the lack of lubricant. 


master_plvmber said:

Wow, Jeff. That boiler was installed by someone who has no idea how to install steam boiler piping. I guess keep cleaning it and wait for it to die one day. The piping can then be redone by someone who knows how to read an installation manual. 

Sorry for my tone here, but that's just awful. 

Who's next? 

No point to the "header" that connects the two risers, right?  Must make for some wet steam.


jimmurphy said:

master_plvmber said:

Wow, Jeff. That boiler was installed by someone who has no idea how to install steam boiler piping. I guess keep cleaning it and wait for it to die one day. The piping can then be redone by someone who knows how to read an installation manual. 

Sorry for my tone here, but that's just awful. 

Who's next? 

No point to the "header" that connects the two risers, right?  Must make for some wet steam.

Right. Paying to produce wet steam that condenses before it can get to the radiators. Not cool. The piping is also too small and not properly arranged to get the steam out of the boiler and into the system, so there is always going to be a short-cycling issue which puts undue strain on the boiler's electrical components. 
The installer, and I have no idea who that is, needs to be called back make that boiler right. 


Hi MP,  I have a pressure/volume question.  I have a manifold distribution system in my house, mostly home runs but I ganged the hots to each bathroom.  When I installed my aquasana while house system the nerd in me wanted proof that it would not affect my water pressure, so I installed pressure gauges on each side of the system.  There is no drop, but I was stunned to see my pressure was over 90 psi.  I then installed a reduction valve after the meter and cranked it down to about 70 psi, where it has been for a couple of years.  Now, here's my question.  When I run multiple fixtures I do get a noticable pressure drop.  Is there any way to have the house input psi ramp up when needed to maintain flow at each fixture, but drop as things turn off to prevent overly high pressure at just one fixture?  I realize that the limiting factor would then be the tankless water heater on the hot side keeping things hot enough, but that would be a separate issue .  Or is my idea of pressure vs volume completely wrong?  I run 3/4" pex from the meter to the manifold, and the home runs are 1/2" pex.


Hi MP,

I have a Weil-McClain steam heating system that had annual maintenance done in the fall. There is a second floor radiator that until January would get hotter than most of the other radiators in the house. In January my son, because he didn't like the hissing of the vent, turned the vent upside down. Coincidently or not, the radiator stopped getting as hot. I figured he somehow ruined the vent so I got a new Morton D vent. The radiator still didn't get very hot, although you could hear air being pushed through the vent when the furnace was making steam. Anyway, yesterday I disconnected the radiator from the steam pipe completely and left the value wide open. No air or steam seems to be coming out. Could the run from the main steam pipe to the valve somehow have gotten blocked? The beginning for the run off the main pipe in the basement is getting a little warm but not as hot as the main pipe or the pipes to other radiators. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

Keith


KeithMeyer said:

Hi MP,

I have a Weil-McClain steam heating system that had annual maintenance done in the fall. There is a second floor radiator that until January would get hotter than most of the other radiators in the house. In January my son, because he didn't like the hissing of the vent, turned the vent upside down. Coincidently or not, the radiator stopped getting as hot. I figured he somehow ruined the vent so I got a new Morton D vent. The radiator still didn't get very hot, although you could hear air being pushed through the vent when the furnace was making steam. Anyway, yesterday I disconnected the radiator from the steam pipe completely and left the value wide open. No air or steam seems to be coming out. Could the run from the main steam pipe to the valve somehow have gotten blocked? The beginning for the run off the main pipe in the basement is getting a little warm but not as hot as the main pipe or the pipes to other radiators. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

Keith

It's surprising but it happens a lot. You would think disconnecting the radiator would create a geyser of steam but it doesn't always happen that way. Frequently, the cold metal of the other radiators creates the draw for the moving steam more so than the open valve. There are several reasons your formerly hot radiator could be staying cool. Look on YouTube for instructions on how to "clock your gas meter" first. Make sure that when the boiler runs, it's getting all the fuel it requires to heat the system. This is a frequent problem in our area, though not related to your son fiddling with the air vent. I'm willing to bet that's just a coincidence. 


master_plvmber said:

It's surprising but it happens a lot. You would think disconnecting the radiator would create a geyser of steam but it doesn't always happen that way. Frequently, the cold metal of the other radiators creates the draw for the moving steam more so than the open valve. There are several reasons your formerly hot radiator could be staying cool. Look on YouTube for instructions on how to "clock your gas meter" first. Make sure that when the boiler runs, it's getting all the fuel it requires to heat the system. This is a frequent problem in our area, though not related to your son fiddling with the air vent. I'm willing to bet that's just a coincidence. 

Thank for the reply. I'm not sure why "clock your gas meter" be useful in my situation as the furnace is certainly producing a lot of steam, as all the other radiators in the house are getting hot. I'm pretty sure that the branch from the main pipe to the radiator has no horizontal places where water could pool and block the steam (there is a 4 ft angled pipe in the basement this comes off the main pipe, then I think there is just an "L" joint and the rest of the branch is vertical up to the radiator valve). Have you ever heard of something blocking a vertical pipe or an "L" joint?


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