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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    Default Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Hello,

    Hopefully this is a easy question with a simple solution.

    I recently bought and moved into my new home, a ranch built in 1955. It has a single-zone forced hot water heating system. Due to oil costs, I have been keeping the house relatively cool (~58 degrees), so I haven't been paying too much attention to the temperature. However, this morning my freezing girlfriend finally noticed that the spare bedroom was the only room actually being heated - the fins and pipes in the master bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom were all cold to the touch. I cranked the heat up for a while and it did not improve. The pipes in the basement are hot everywhere in the run, but when I go upstairs to the corresponding ones, those same pipes are cold to the touch. The strange thing is, the spare bedroom has the heaters farthest from the boiler. The previous owner had a new oil tank installed right before we closed because the old one had a leak; I'm not sure if this would have had any effect or not.

    So, any thoughts on why the hot water is passing right by all these other heaters for the farthest one in the loops? Any help is appreciated, I'm really hoping this is a DIY problem and I don't have to pay a plumber or the oil company.

    Thanks,
    Ray

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    4

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Thanks for the reply, I'll check out that page and see if I can figure something out.

    To answer your questions, I did not cold-fire the system myself; the boiler is always on, as it is our hot water source as well (tankless heater). The boiler is fairly new (9-10 years old) relative to the house. The system was inspected and signed off prior to me taking possession of the house, but I do not know that they checked the baseboards for functionality as it was not really cold yet (we closed about 5 weeks before we actually moved in and needed heat).

    I'll go see what I can figure out now and get back here later, thanks again.

    Oh yeah, I did fail to mention that a couple of the heaters have a run of pipe that extends up well past the fins with a valve or plug at the top. I unscrewed one to see if there was water in it; it hissed but no water came out. I then replaced it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    443

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Ray,

    The fact that you "opened one of the plugs above the baseboard, and it hissed", and no water came out, indicates that the baseboard pipes are filled with air instead of water.

    This is often because the expansion tank near the boiler is "waterlogged", or inoperative.

    But it could also be caused by a misadjusted reducing valve.

    This should be relatively easy to fix once the exact cause of the problem is found.

    The expansion tank could be either an old-style long green tank about 4'long propped between the basement floor joists, or the newer, smaller pressurized expansion tank that looks like the 20 lb. propane tanks used for barbecue grilles.

    You should try "bleeding" all and any bleed valves you see at the end of the baseboards to try & get all the air out.

    You should also GET SOME WATER SQUIRTING OUT after the air is vented.

    If you don't hear air, then see water, check the gauge on the boiler; the "pressure" or "altitude" needle should read ~12 psi.

    When you turn the thermostat up to call for heat, you should hear the circulator pump come on within 5 minutes of boiler operation.

    With the newer circulator pumps, you have to place the blade of a large screwdriver on the housing of the pump & place your ear on the plastic handle to hear the pump turning.

    The temperature gauge should read ~180 degrees & you should still have hot water in the faucet taps and shower.

    Please post back.

    Photos if possible.
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 11-19-2007 at 02:07 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    4

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Well it is definitely air in the system causing it. I bled most of the baseaboards and they started working right away. Unfortunately, the coin valve is stuck on the last one I need to do, so I cannot bleed it until I buy a new one. And I have a feeling replacing the valve is just going to introduce more air into the system, which means I will have to start over. But oh well, at least now I know.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    443

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Good job Ray!

    Glad you found the problem so quickly.

    Yes, I would definitely get another bleed valve, if just to have a spare.

    I've seen them at HD and Lowes for ~$1

    They have a universal 3/8" base that screws into the brass, copper or steel base fitting.

    Try to work with the one you have on there now.

    It's rare that they would not open for you.

    If you're using a coin, switch to a good-sized screwdriver for more leverage.

    If the bleed valve in question is inside the steel housing of the baseboard, remove the end cover and any other parts that will give you more leverage.

    Apply some penetrating oil on the part and use the screwdriver and turn counterclockwise to try and loosen the bleeder.

    If it becomes necessary to remove the bleeder, you will have to shut down the boiler, shut off the incoming fresh water supply into the boiler, and remove about a gallon of water from the drain faucet at the base of the boiler.

    If you don't do this, a gusher of water will come out when you remove the bleed valve at the baseboard.

    Older bleed valves take a 9/16" open box wrench counterclockwise; newer bleed valves take a 716" open box wrench also counterclockwise.

    Once the bleed valve is replaced, you will have to re-open the water supply valve & bleed the baseboards of all air again, then turn the boiler back on.
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 11-19-2007 at 03:18 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
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    4

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    ***, thanks for all the info Jack.

    Nah, the old one was so gunked up it might never have come unstuck,; I didn't feel like messing around with WD-40 and whatnot. I bought a new one at a nearby plumbing supply store (mistake) for $5 and change. Guess I should have gone to Lowe's but whatever, lesson learned cheaply enough. There was no gush of water when I took the old one off, likely because the pipe was so filled with air. Anyway, I put the new one on, re-bled all the baseboards, and voila now I have heat. Now that it works again I can't believe I didn't notice it wasn't working for 2 weeks, ha.

    Thanks for the replies, very appreciated.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    4

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    i have been having this problem for the better part of a week now. i can hear trickling noises in my heating pipes. i looked at the ends of my baseboards for bleed valves, but i didn't see any. the temp/pressure gauge on my boiler reads an altitude of ~5. i bought and installed a new thermostat to try and solve the problem of the heat not coming on, but obviously it didn't work.

    the boiler is an old american standard boiler, and there are two pipes that run out of it. one leads to the basement heat and is always hot, and the other leads through the circulating pump and is now cold. it also divides into a left pipe for the second floor and a right pipe for the first floor. both of these branches have what i assume to be valves i can open or close to control the amount of water going through the pipes, and they also have fill/drain valves.

    please advise. my grandma has to walk around in three layers of clothing just to stay comfortable in the house

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    443

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Froman:

    The psi reading of 5 psi on the boiler gauge is too low; it should be 12-15 psi.

    It means there's not enough water getting up to the piping and convectors (radiators or baseboard); it could also mean there is too much air in the pipes.

    But try a "quick fix" first; try to find the WATER INLET VALVE (also known as a pressure reducing valve) near the boiler; this allows water from your house water supply to enter the boiler.

    The Bell-Gossett site below has a picture of this valve, click onto "homeowner" at the top of the page; then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click onto "valves"; then click onto "pressure reducing valve"; you will find several photos of the water inlet/pressure reducing valve; the "dual" models are probably what you have; they have a little square handle or large lever that "quick fills" the boiler with water; the little screw at the top is to fine-tune the psi for the boiler gauge to keep it at 15 psi.


    Many of these valves have a "quick fill" handle that you can simply press momentarily to allow some water into the boiler piping system; you will hear water flowing, and notice the psi needle on the boiler gauge go up beyond its present 5 psi.

    These valves also have a screw-type device at the top; if you insert a screwdriver and turn the screw clockwise you can get a psi rise in the psi needle on the gauge; but try the "quick fill" handle first.

    Try to fill the system until you see 15 psi on the boiler gauge; if you happen to fill it too much, there is a picture of an "asme relief valve" that is also on your system, that has a long tube going down to the floor; place a bucket under this tube and press the handle to open the relief valve until the boiler gauge once again reads 15 psi.

    If these methods don't get heat to the radiators, you will have to follow the procedure below to bleed air out of the system.

    If you could post some photos of the components near your boiler, and the valves on the pipes you mentioned, it would be very helpful.



    The valves in the cellar you describe sound like they are part of a "purging station"; this is a method of venting the air out of the pipes on systems that don't have bleeder valves at the baseboard/radiators.

    The procedure is to temporarily shut off the boiler; if you have the older steel expansion tank propped up between the floor joists above the boiler, shut off the valve on the pipe going to it, and use a short length of garden hose to completely drain the wate from the tank.

    Attach a short length of garden hose to one of the faucet-like valve attachments, and put the other end in a large bucket to catch the water.

    Shut off the piping run to either the 1st or 2nd floor (purge air out of one floor at a time); open the valve to the other floor, and hit the "fast-fill" lever on the water inlet valve near the boiler, so the water can replace the air in the pipes.

    When the air bubbles disappear from the bucket being filled, all the air is out of the pipe & you can release the "quick fill" handle on the water inlet fill valve.

    Once this is done for the 2nd floor, close the valve to the 2nd floor piping, and open the one for the 1st floor piping, and repeat the same "air purging process for the 1st floor.

    When done, make sure you open the valves on the piping going to both floors; also the valve going to the expansion tank, and turn the boiler back on.

    The site below shows you what a water inlet valve looks like (they are also known as pressure reducing valves); click onto "Homeowner" at the top ofthe page, then scroll down & click onto "valves", then click onto "pressure reducing valves".


    http://www.bellgossett.com
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 01-18-2008 at 07:24 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    jack,

    i followed your directions as best i could, but the pressure gauge does not hold a reading anywhere past 10 on the outside black numbered portion of the gauge reading. i also noticed that my "quick fill" valve (if i identified it correctly) is hissing and leaking air and some fluid whether it is open or closed. about a month ago, i bled the system of air and filled it using hose connected to the ports by the first and second floor valves and that was the last time i had heat in the house.

    i've included some pictures to see whether or not i've identified the components you mentioned correctly.













    please advise me on the next step. i'm hoping it has nothing to do with replacing that valve by pressure reducing/water inlet valve...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: Baseboard Heaters not Heating

    Froman:

    Thanks for the very clear & instructive photos.

    It looks like the system has lost a lot of water & is going to need some work somewhere along the line.

    You state that the psi gauge "can't hold more than 10 psi" and the "inlet valve starts hissing air and leaks water".

    This indicates that you have some water leaks in the piping; are you saying you got the gauge up to 10 psi, and then it dropped back down to 4 or 5 psi???

    The leaks will have to be addressed before you can fill the system.

    Since the psi needle on the gauge is reading only 4 or 5 psi, it means you have very little, if any, water in the baseboard/piping.

    Because of the corroded condition (the green deposit indicates past leaks) of the water inlet valve (next to the reducing valve) & the "leaks" you mentioned, it might be best to concentrate on getting 15 psi of water into the system so you can get some heat right away.

    The ITT pressure reducing valve in the photo does not have a "quick fill" handle, and the green-coated water supply valve stem is corroded/frozen either in the shut or open position (if the system leaks water when you refill it, you may be able to shut off the water supply, either at the boiler, or at the main house shutoff, and replace the graphite packing in this valve).

    Are you handy, & have you soldered copper tubing in the past??

    I couldn't make out from the photo if the ARROW at the base of the reducing valve is pointing toward the BOILER SIDE of the system (as it should).

    You mentioned "ports for the 1st and 2nd floor pipes"; could you post a phote of these "port valves" (I assume this is the only way to get air out of the system).

    You might try adjusting the TOP SCREW OR KNOB of the pressure reducing valve clockwise to see if you can get any water into the boiler using THAT method.

    If you can't get any water into the boiler via the reducing vavle, it would be easiest to attach a hose to the BOILER DRAIN VALVE, and get water in that way.

    I notice in one of the photos that there is already a hose connected to the drain valve.

    What is the purpose of this hose, and have you used it in the past to add water to the boiler??

    In any event, to get 15 psi of water into the boiler thru the drain valve, attach one end of a garden hose to an outside faucet, or any faucet that will take the female hose fitting; attach the other end to the boiler drain fitting; you may have to use a 4' washing machine hose as an adapter to go from the male garden hose fitting to the boiler drain valve fitting.

    Leave the boiler drain faucet closed momentarily and turn the garden hose faucet on.

    Tighten any garden hose connections that are leaking; then SLOWLY open the boiler drain valve, and watch the boiler gauge; you want to allow cold water into the boiler gradually at first, so you don't shock the cast iron sections.

    When the boiler gauge reads 15 psi, shut off the boiler drain valve.

    If some of the fittings around the pressure reducing valve start to leak (as noted in your previous post), you will have to place a bucket under them and replace the leaking fittings yourself (or try to replace the stem packing), or call for a service tech to do it.

    Please post back to advise how the procedure goes.
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 01-20-2008 at 09:26 AM.

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