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.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Noisy boiler pump, repair or replace? Bell and Gossett pumps.

Here's a tip for all DIYers who put in seemingly unlimited time equity in fixing noisy, or malfunctioning circulation pumps, don't try to fix it... just replace the pump with a new one.  It not only will save you time in trying to diagnose the problem, taking the pump apart, replacing the faulty part, then re-assembling the unit, all of which could cause you hours if not days, or months of staring at the unit and planning your next move to fix the problem, especially if you don't know what the problem is.

Case in point, all last year, my pump was making more noise than a choo choo train, clakety clak, clakety clak, so much noise that I could hear it at 5:00 in the morning from my second floor bedroom in my sleep when the timer kicked in.  It was so loud, that it would wake up the entire house every morning.  It had to be fixed, I tried spraying it with WD40, replacing the coupler, cleaning the unit, disassembling the pump, cleaning the shaft, and reassembling the pump more times than I care to remember, nothing worked.  It stopped temporarily, then resumed the racket after a couple of weeks.

I spent day after day stubbornly trying to fix my 20 year old B&G series 100 pump, the problem essentially was old age,  and I refused to pony up $279 for a brand new B&G Series 100 pump, or $150 for a used one.  I spent the end of Spring 2011 trying to fix my pump, and regrettably, caused my wife and kids to freeze until the Summer.

My problem was the Allen wrench screw securing the coupler to the motor was rusted and  an Allen wrench was useless as the screw head was worn.  On top of that, the shaft was loose, and unstable that caused the coupler to scrape against the chassis accounting for the noise.  Long story short, I had a lot of work to do. 

I went to the plumbing supply store to find a used part, and the advice I got was priceless, the owner said just buy the new one, stop trying to save the old one.  He told me that the major difference between the homeowners, and the plumbers was that the plumbers replace the unit because of  time vs money, they really don't want to come back to your house to fix something they already fixed, so they'll have you buy a new unit. Meanwhile DIYers will spend months trying to troubleshoot, and fix the broken unit, mostly because you don't value your time as much.  Think about it, you spend hours, days, even months stubbornly troubleshooting, fixing a problem instead of just buying a new part for a couple of hundred bucks.  So ask much is your time worth, is your time worth more than a hundred bucks give or take to replace the unit vs. the hours, days, or months of brain racking, internet searching, troubleshooting, dissecting, disassembling,  reassembling, not to mention freezing, if it is your decision will be academic. 

Since my pump was rusted, I couldn't remove the coupler, nor the shaft which screws were also rusted.  I decided to not purchase a new B&G series 100 for $279-309.00, nor a used pump for $150, and inherit someone elses' headache.  My solution was purchasing the new B&G Series 100 Front Seal Bearing Assembly (the front half of the pump) for $100.  At $100 it's a real bargain and once you install it to your existing motor, it's like buying a brand new pump, because it comes with all the fittings intact.  All you'll have do is attach a new coupler. 

The motor of the series 100 is an iron horse that doesn't fail easily.  If it ever does, it's because the wire leads have become detached from the soldier which can be easily reattached.  If your motor fails, a used motor ($60) will work just as well as a new motor ($100) because its main function is power, just on and off.

In one motion, all my pump issues were solved, no drilling out the rusted Allen screw, no clakety clak of the coupler hitting the chassis, no replacing the shaft, no temporary noise fix, no more troubleshooting.  It was like someone snapped their fingers and I awoke from my stupor/daze  and by buying the front bearings assembly, all I had to do was install it, not to mention that I got my weekends and nights back, and my family had heat again, not a bunch of excuses/reasons why it wasn't working.  

So remember,  if your pump is making clanging noise, rusted screws, can't replace the shaft, the coupler, or any other part, no matter what the issue, do yourself a favor, just buy a new Front Seal Bearing Assembly, install it, and stop spending all your free time in your basement battling your busted pump as if your time were worth nothing.

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