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Thread: Baseboard Heater Issue

  1. #1
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Default Baseboard Heater Issue

    Hi everyone,

    I have the old style baseboard heaters in my house in rooms that I have not remodeled yet:



    They had the old bleeder valves so I installed new ones: Honeywell YHFV180s (the gold round air bleeder in the picture). Anyway, I have always had problems with this one particular heater - the inlet pipe is very hot, the radiator / fins and outlet pipe are not.

    I was hoping the new valve would resolve the issue but it did not. My only guess is that there is some sort of internal blockage that is preventing the hot water from circulating. Eventually I will replace it with the modern baseboard, but I was wondering if there is anything I could do to clean it out?

    The interesting thing is I will get air and eventually water from where the bleeder valve screws in, however it is not hot. I don't understand how that is the case so hopefully someone has an idea.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    What are the supply pipes made of? If galvanized steel or black iron, it could be plugged up with rust, blocking flow. On a closed system, they can last a very long time, but only if you don't have leaks and need to keep adding water. New water adds oxygen, and that leads to rust. Is there an on/off valve for that heater? The valve could be plugged.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    The initial piping from the boiler is copper, that goes into the main circuit of cast (black) iron which goes around the house, the radiators are piped to the cast iron via copper:



    In the boiler room where I can access the cast iron pipes they are very hot. Each radiator is connected by two pipes to the cast iron - an "in" and an "out". The issue seems limited to this radiator - the "in" pipe is very hot both from the cast iron main and directly under where it goes into the fins. The "out" pipe is not hot at all. However, the cast iron pipe that it connects to is.

    I wonder if that is blocked?

    No on / off valve for the radiator.

  4. #4
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Sounds like that radiator may be blocked.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #5
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    That's what I'm thinking. Do you know of a way to clear it? I was thinking some kind of pipe cleaner rod and flushing it. Tapping on the radiator did not shake it loose.

  6. #6
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    I am not familiar with that "venturi tee" on the outlet, but from its appearance it could be in backwards, and if I had installed the system it would have been on the feed to the radiator. Are you sure the water is circulating in the direction you are indicating?

  7. #7
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    I am fairly certain of the water direction. On the boiler there is a red valve that says "Flow Master" with an arrow pointing the way I have indicated. That pipe goes into the cast iron which wraps around and then comes to that last radiator, which then goes back into the boiler (I'll snap a pic tonight).

    Regarding the "venturi tee", I am not sure if these are actual valves. When I have replaced other radiators there was no restriction of flow. Instead, I think it is just a regular tee that allows water to flow in either direction. The purpose being just to allow copper to connect to the cast iron (I suppose).

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    No, it is a "restrictor tee" to force water to be diverted to the radiator, if it is installed correctly, it would create resistance to force water up through the plain to to the radiator, and then return to the main past the "restrictor/venturi". IF the item is in reverse then there is NOTHING to force the water into the radiator, since the return is coming back upstream of the restriction which puts it at the same "pressure" as the feed side. If that device is a venturi tee, as it appears to be then when installed in the proper direction besides diverting water to the radiator, the flow would also help "suck" the water through it. There should be a curved arrow on the side of it showing the water coming in from the branch and then flowing to one end of it.

  9. #9
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    HJ, just so I am clear to which picture are you referring? I am assuming the one from underneath, yes?

    I do not know if it is installed correctly - my house was built in the 50s and I have had this issue since I moved in 8 years ago. Ideally I would like to replace the entire unit but I am looking to fix it as is for now - what would be the best way to approach that?

    Thanks..

  10. #10
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    First, check the T to see if it is installed properly. If it was backwards, it may never have worked. If it is installed properly, you might have to take the radiator out and see if you can see any restriction. I'm not sure of the best way (if there is one!) to clean it out if you do determine there is an obstruction. I might just be easier to replace that one with something newer with the same heat output. Without something to force water into the radiator, a simple, straight T would just have the water bypass that radiator entirely. The risers might get warm from conduction, but not because water is flowing through it.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  11. #11
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Quote; I do not know if it is installed correctly

    LOOK at it, or send a picture showing the arrow on its side, and/or the name on the tee. Right now, I cannot find that fitting without a manufacturer's name, so I cannot tell which way it SHOULD be installed, although from its ourward appearance I would expect it to be backwards, but would have to know what it looks like on the inside to be sure.

  12. #12
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Sorry hj!

    I stand corrected, it is a valve... I noticed the arrow indicators on one of the other valves and realized that the arrows on this one were behind it:

    This is a picture from the back side of what is posted above:




    So the valve is INSTALLED correctly. To add more info, everything seems to be flowing in the correct direction.

    Here is the main pipe from the boiler with the red valve I referred to above:



    Which goes into the cast iron pipe, runs all around the house, then comes back to the last radiator (the one not working) and ultimately to this device that seems to circulate the water:



    So everything is pointed in the right direction. As mentioned, the radiator "in" pipe is very hot and the outlet is cold so I can only think of one of three things:

    1) The radiator is clogged (although it is still getting water)
    2) The valve is busted
    3) The copper pipe from the valve to the radiator is clogged

    In the picture above I showed how the water is hot on the pipe that is down stream from the valve - does that add any further information with which I can make a determination? I am petrified to mess with the cast iron valve as I see that ending up with me replacing the entire pipe and gutting every wall it runs through. Is it as hard as I think?

    The other option to replace the radiator is doable although I do not know where I would get something this length (about 3') which will output as much heat; not to mention eventually I will rip out the entire unit. Although some heat is better than none.

    Thoughts?

  13. #13
    Network Engineer rmelo99's Avatar
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    They do sell replacement units like yours in various lengths, I think in 1ft increments. So I don't think replacing it would be a problem.It's not something you would get at the Big Orange store, will prob have to get it from a plumbing house and might need to be ordered.

    Now if you have the skills to replace it with a new one then you should have no problem cutting out that old one and doing some troubleshooting.

    I would say since your risers up to it are copper you should be able to cut it out pretty easy and solder it back in place if you find the problem.

    Now this all means that you will need to drain that loop and then refill it/purge air/etc..

  14. #14
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    rmelo - thanks. I can do the radiator replacement but it would be a lot of work. That is on the back side of my house which has a 2 foot overhang which is only about a foot high. That means I have to be super-stretch to get it from the bottom. If I was gutting the room without the floor it wouldn't be an issue, but it is very difficult to get from the bottom. I suppose I could get it from the top as the radiator pipes are sticking up a few inches from the floor.

    That assumes that the valve is in working condition. I would hate to go through that trouble only to find it is the cast iron valve!

  15. #15
    Network Engineer rmelo99's Avatar
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    Looking at your pic from the basement that you marked up in/out I think you have plenty of room to cut into the copper just above the tees.

    If I've ruled out all other options here's what I would do.

    cut the copper pipe as clean as possible leaving a 1-1.5" of pipe to reattach to above the tees.

    Then I would test for blockages in the radiator with air then water by going from the in pipe to the out pipe and the reverse.

    Depending on the results there you can also assess the tees to see if they are functioning. I would rig a piece of straight pipe from one tee to the other in the basement. Then refill and test the pipe to see if it gets hot.

    That would I think give you a better feel for if the tees are working as expected.

    You should be able to reattach the radiator with some copper couplers right there in the basement.


    I'm no pro so my methods might not be the same approach others may take, but I've worked on my fair share of boilers that I know the moving parts and what I stated above would be my approach given the info that you shared with us about the problem

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