Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Noisy Boiler fix Bell & Gossett

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No Heat in One Room/ Cold Room

Here's a quick fix for no heat in one room, just run a new line to it. Many times for one reason or another you have a cold room, either the line is clogged via a union, an elbow, or shut off valve, and no matter how many times you try to fix it you just can't get hot water to the radiator.  To circumvent troubleshootimg and save yourself hours of agony of taking the system apart, only for your fix to not yield heat, just run a new line to the radiator, tap into the old line just before the pipe turns cold with a Tee, and cap the old line for leakage. 

First you have to plan your route, visualizing exactly where and how the lines to the radiator will be run.  Next measure the length of pipes, and calculate how many elbows, unions, tees, couplers, etc you'll need to get from the radiator to the basement to the designated point where you will tap into the existing line (hint, always buy more than you need, you can return the extras).  And guess what, you don't have to tap into the same line you're replacing, you could tap the line anywhere that's more feasable for your new line, just remember to cap the old line.  By the way, All these techniques are described in the book No Heat On The Second Floor... finding cold spots, tapping into lines, capping lines, running new pipes etc. pictures and all. Drill a couple of holes to fit your new pipes next to the wall at the location of the cold radiator and run your new pipes. 

If you're having problems envisioning running the lines behind the walls, don't.  I've renovated many a Victorian, and every one of them had visible 3/4-1 1/2 inch exposed heating pipes displayed next to the wall, or up the back stairs, visible for all to see, and adding to the charm of a Victorian home.  It's only with modern construction that we're obsessed with hiding heating pipes behind walls because what would your guests think.  Well guess what, if you're more worried about your guest's thoughts than providing heat to a cold spot, you're going to continue to have heating issues. 

All you have to do to make the new heating pipes go away is just paint them, this way it fades right into the background, and out of sight.  Copper, Black Pipe, it doesn't matter, just paint it.  And for a little kicker, if the room is a big room, add another radiator to the room while you're at it.  Who said you have to keep the heating plan of the builder, or the former owner if it doesn't work for you.  Just upgrade the heat by adding two new heating lines instead of one.  And to boot, adding a new line won't add to your gas bill because once you turn on the boiler, it doesn't matter how many radiators you have attached, the gas just heats the water in all the pipes the same.  You'll be so happy with your new heat that you will wonder why you didn't think of this solution before.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Installing Cast Iron Radiators (Hot Water System)

Installing cast iron radiators is a cinch, as long as the fittings are already in place.  Converting from baseboard or forced air to cast iron requires a little more planning, but is none the less easy once you know how. 

The first thing you have to do when buying a used cast iron radiator is to ask if the radiator was  pressurized, otherwise you'll be returning it to the seller. 

A used radiator usually comes with the threaded openings capped, or fitted with old fittings.  Be sure to buy radiators  with two separate threaded openings for inflow and outflow,  if there's only one opening doing double duty for both inflow and outflow, your cast iron radiator won't be efficient, and only the bottom of the radiator will get hot.  Get the plumbing supply store to break two caps or fittings open without cutting the threading as breaking the caps yourself will require a chisel and a lot of muscle.  Doing it yourself, you might ruin the threading and render the radiator useless.  New cast iron radiators are ready to install with inflow and outflow threaded openings uncapped.

Get the fittings you need from the plumbing supply store you'll need to install the radiator, and or convert from baseboard: 

Shutoff valve, reducers, tees, union, elbows, couplers, you've got to match the pipe size to fit the radiator you're installing.  Copper, or black pipes are mostly interchangeable, but try to stay apples to apples unless you can't find a part. 

If your pipe size is 3/4", you can use 3/4" pipe or use a 3/4"x 1" reducer/bushing to make the fitting larger to increase the water flow to the radiator, but all the fittings after that point has to be a 1" fitting.

If you're replacing a cast iron radiator of equal length, all you have to do is match the connections you remove with the one you're installing.  If you're replacing a 6' baseboard unit with a 2' cast iron radiator, you've got to figure out how to make up the difference to get the radiator to fit in your desired space.  Every fitting is customizable so you'll be able to add a combination of pipe length, union, coupler, and or elbow to fit your desired location.  Copper is easiest as you're cutting pipe to fit, black pipe comes in 1/2" nipples  to 10' sections, so you can mix and match combinations until you achieve your desired fit.

Once you're ready to connect the radiator to the pipes, you'll need to first prepare the radiator opening to accept the pipes by connecting a reducer(s) to both radiator openings. The inflow and return threaded openings are normally 2" so depending on what the diameter of your connecting pipe, you'll have to use a   2"x1 1/2", a 1 1/2"x1", and finally, a 1"x3/4" reducer to go from 2' to 3/4" or some combination that gets you to your pipe size.

Connecting the radiator is easy, you'll need
1) Pipe sealant
2) Teflon tape
3) (2) Wrenches,
4) Union
5) Radiator spud wrench

To connect all pipes follow the steps below:
1) Shut off the water from the main
2) Clean all threading with a clean cloth
3) Spread pipe sealant on female threading (prevents leaks)
4) Use teflon tape to cover male fittings, be generous, you can also use gas teflon because its thicker, and you won't use as much.
5) Spread pipe sealant on top of teflon tape on male fitting (overkill but effective).
6) Connect using wrench to tighten (don't over tighten)
7) Adjust the height by using shims if necessary
8) Repeat steps to connect all fittings to radiator and pipe

Connecting radiator to pipe (black pipe)
1) Connect reducers (bushing) to radiator.
2) Disconnect shutoff valve stem from the body.
3) Insert stem into reducer on radiator and tighten using radiator spud wrench.
4) Connect shutoff valve body to pipe via female threading using 2 wrench (one to hold steady and one to tighten).
5) Connect shutoff valve to stem using wrench.
6) Connect the radiator return valve to the return pipe on opposite side of the radiator
7) Connect radiator return valve to reducer on the return side of the radiator.
7) If no radiator return valve, connect return fitting to pipe using a union.

To connect the radiator using copper, all steps are the same except you will connect the fittings to the pipe by sweating (soldering). Purchase copper fittings with one male or female threaded ends and one sweat end.  Always cconnect the threaded ends first then sweat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fix the Heat Pt 2, Installing Cast Iron Radiators.

Recently, I purchased a house in foreclosure that was in pretty bad shape. Every copper pipe had been stolen from the street main to the drain, the bank removed the windows, stored them in the house, and had boarded up the window frames for security purposes. That being said, the house was still being vandalized while it was in contract as the banks contractor left a window frame unsecured, and windows, moldings, fixtures, pipes, you name it were being stolen by the former owner.

In all, 15 oversized windows were stolen, every bathroom needed to be re-done as the pipes and the fixtures were stolen, not to mention the kitchen fixtures and cabinets, but that's another story.

Bottom line, there was a lot of work to be done, initial estimates for the plumbing labor started at a bait and switch $8k and quickly rocketed to $30k, not including the cost of the copper pipes, connecting the radiators, boiler, water heater or the fixtures, just to run the lines.

Long story short, I decided to do the plumbing myself using the methods described in the book No Heat On The Second Floor. The book actually wasn't written for my application, but sweating is sweating, and after filling in the blanks by asking questions, finding out my local plumbing codes, and using my imagination, I could visualize installing the system from the main feed, to the boiler, to the water heater, radiators, faucets, showers, toilets, washer hookup, kitchen, everything.

The first thing I had to do was to connect the main water line to the hot water boiler and the boiler (furnace), then run the cold water line out to a toilet and sink for a working bathroom.  Dry fit first, then sweat the connections, ground the electrical panel to the main shutoff valve on both  my side and the street side, then secure the copper pipes to the ceiling according to code.  I had to finish up by running all new copper pipes, install the radiators, and test the heat before the onset of winter.

Enough with the plumbing lessons, anyway I was running out of time to complete the plumbing as winter approached, the frames were still boarded up, and the windows were still on the floor.  I made a choice to install the radiators, connect the heat, and not install the windows simply because a well heated house can overcome drafty windows, but not vice-versa.  The house had been converted from forced air to baseboard and I was now installing cast iron radiators.

Because the house's interior was enormous, I installed massive three foot tall, thirteen section radiators in all the rooms and two each in rooms over three hundred feet.  I had just finished  installing the heat by the time winter rolled around, and had not gotten a chance to install the windows, but guess what, the house was warm in spite of the boarded up windows, because the cast iron radiators provided great heat, especially in the rooms with the two 13 footers.  It was so hot, it became unbearable and I had to lower the thermostat  to 70.

So remember this, when you choose to use cast iron radiators, buy and install the thirteen section, three footer monsters, and use two in oversized rooms. The little two foot cast iron radiators won't give you enough heat to stand alone, you'll probably need four to six of them in oversized rooms.  And fix the heat first before you fix the windows, a house that has poor heat and air tight windows will still be an icebox, just Google "No Heat On the Second Floor."  Conversely a house with a properly running heating system and drafty windows will still be warm, just not efficient

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fix the Heat, Not the Windows. Part 1

It's now spring and soon the sound of new construction will fill the air, jig saws, power drills, nailers, demolition, reconstruction.  A lot of homeowners fresh off a frigid house this winter with No Heat On The Second Floor have vowed to fix their heat by changing their windows.  Double paned, triple paned, they are convinced that replacing their windows is the solution to their heating problem.  Those window manufacturers do a great job advertising that their windows will make your drafty, cold house air tight while lowering your overall heating bill.

Well here are two realities that say different: 

A neighbor of mine in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn NY opted to replace her windows as the solution to her drafty house, falling for the trap/promise that new windows are the end all to your drafty, cold house.  She owned a Victorian as did I, with  over 50 oversized windows to be replaced at roughly $1,000 each from Marvin windows, a $50,000+ renovation.  She opted instead for off the rack windows($300-500 per), and re- framed her oversized window frames to fit the new windows which were almost as expensive as the custom Marvins'.  Her bill including installation was $40,000+, not to mention ruining her Victorians original appeal and value.

How to fire your plumber: No heat on the second floor
My solution to remedy the 100+ year old Victorian I'd just bought with about 100 oversized windows was ten boxes of clear, siliconized caulk @ $24 per box (the white caulk cracks after a year) and replacing the corroded pipes and fittings in my heating system using the techniques described in the book No Heat on the Second Floor for about $500.00. 


My neighbor raved about her new windows, it was after all, summer time and she was so excited to experience the winter with her new windows.   By the time winter rolled around, she experienced the same problems she had before, a drafty, cold house with no heat upstairs. 

What she didn't know is that the savings from installing new windows is so miniscule ($100-200 per year, or $16 per month on your gas bill) that it doesn't justify the tens of thousands that you shell out up front, not to mention that you're heating problem wasn't addressed and your pipes and second floor will still be cold.

In addition, most contractors cut corners on most simple installations by not caulking window frames, doors, roofs, moldings, you name it.  In many cases, the result is the same drafty windows that you were trying to fix in the first place.  Good luck getting contractors to properly caulk, more often than not, they'll install  while you're not around and tell you he did when he didn't.   

Anyway my neighbor complained incessantly about her expensive drafty new windows that were supposed to solve her heating issues, worst of all she didn't notice any reduction in her monthly gas bill.

My solution, cost less than $1,000, my house was so hot, we kept the windows cracked at night; no draft, no spiders, silverfish, centipedes, flies, fruit flies etc. winter or summer and I preserved the original windows of my Victorian and its value.

So before you replace your drafty windows to fix your heating problems, consider an inexpensive remedy of a couple boxes of caulk and replacing your corroded pipes as an alternative this summer.  For the cost of two windows, you'll fix your heat, your draft, and your bug problems, not to mention you'll keep tens of thousands in the bank, out of the window manufacturers, and your contractors pockets, and best of all, not tied up in your house's equity.