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Thread: Hot Water heat - Glycol? Other closed-system option?

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    Default Hot Water heat - Glycol? Other closed-system option?

    We purchased a vacation home on Houghton Lake, Michigan that has a Hot Water baseboard heat system. Since we will not live there full-time and may only visit a couple of times during the winter, we're not too thrilled with having to leave the heat "ON" all winter.

    We've been told we should never drain the hot water heat system because it's too difficult for the average homeowner to recharge. I'm probably less than average and am not seeking extra work for myself.

    We'd also like to turn the well pump off when we leave (it's a 300 foot deep well), but since we have to leave the heat on, that's not an option.

    If we could choose to do what we'd like, we would empty the hot water heater and heat system, drain supply lines, anti-freeze all drains and toilets, etc, and turn all of the power off.

    A friend said he thought hot water heat systems could be charged with glycol and that it would then be a freeze proof "closed system." Can anyone point me in the right direction if we can convert the system to a closed-loop, non-freezing system?

    The furnace is new, the heat is transferred through older baseboards, and all of the water is routed through a softener.

    Any other closed-system options or suggestions? Thank you.

    Richard

    Arcadenut@aol.com

  2. #2
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Do a web search for "radiant heat" and see what some engineers, installers or other technicians might advise. Here is one company with some friendly folks:
    http://www.radiantec.com/

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    Like an engineer alternety's Avatar
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    From what you said about the well and softner, it sounds like you are running water through the heating system. Is it really a boiler and isolated water circulating through the system? Your heating system should already be a closed system. All you need is antifreeze of the correct type. You should know the material used in the boiler heat exchanger to pick antifreeze.

    You should never use the water from the heating system as consumable water.

    Never use automobile antifreeze.

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    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    You can use propylene glycol, sometimes called "R/V Antifreeze".

    If you have electricity in the place you could protect it to just maybe 20 F and then use electric heat to keep it above that. Houghton Lake gets pretty cold; probably -20 and occasionally to -30 F. I'm from near Gladwin so have lived through those winters.

    But how are you going to deal with the water softener and the water supply to the furnace? I would consider using electric heat to keep the whole thing above freezing. I would also put in an alarm with a phone dialer to call me if the power goes off for a long time and the temperature goes down too far. You might also want to have a local look in if there is a problem with power loss.

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    Like an engineer alternety's Avatar
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    RV antifreeze does not have the addatives used in boilers and heating systems. It is not generally heated either so I am not sure how any other possible components of the RV fluid would feel about that. I would not do that if it were mine. Even after having to pay for 30 gallons of the correct stuff. Yes that is a lot, and no this is not the diluted stuff.

    Also, glycol carries less heat and is harder to pump. This will probably not be an issue unless heat capacity or pump capacity is currently right at the limit for operation. It would also be a good idea to flush the system with a cleaner before going to antifreeze. You should check the chemistry each year and put more of the antifreeze manufacturer's additives in if necessary.
    Last edited by alternety; 11-11-2007 at 08:03 PM.

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    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    I caretake a place on Fire Island. Now, me, I'm paranoid - so when I close up for the winter, I drain everything.

    I didn't find it complicated to refill in the spring, just time-consuming, because the place has 7 heating zones, plus 3 indirect tanks, and a heat exchanger for the pool... it takes a while to bleed the air out of 11 zones.

    Not rocket science - just a hassle.
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