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About to join the boiler crowd..advice appreciated

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by WireNut, May 31, 2013.

  1. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2013
    Messages:
    79
    Loc:
    Kingston, NY
    Hi all -

    I've been mulling over buying a new wood stove or boiler for a couple of years now as my current wood stove is simply an iron box with a pipe out the back...no baffles and tons of wasted heat. I found out my bank was having a loan "sale" this month, so I applied and got the financing....and I just bought the last carbon steel e140 from Alternate Heating Systems had in stock (or so I was told) at a significant discount.

    I've read countless thread on here and other forums, but finally decided to register and make a post to see if anyone had some specific advice or hints for me. I'll give you a little back story and some pictures to illustrate my questions.

    My house is approx. 1,600 square feet between two levels. It's a farmhouse built in the 1920's, and is insulated like one. I recently replaced all of the windows (36 in total) as they were the old wood and weight style that were most likely put in when the house was built. I have zero insulation in the walls and don't want to get them insulated just yet as I'd like to run new pipes to the 2nd floor in addition to replacing all of the old BX electrical wire to both floors, and blown in insulation would just get in the way of this. Here is the general layout of my house:

    First Floor
    Visio-Proper 1st.jpg
    Second Floor:
    Visio-Proper 2nd.jpg

    My house has the old style "big iron" radiators, with the ones in the living room and dining room being 10 or 12 feet long. I've always had issues with the radiators heating the house evenly, with the far end of the house (top of drawings) receiving less heat. I have a single zone for all of my heating. Here is a line diagram showing the layout of the heating pipes in the basement, it's a very rough sketch and not to scale, but when combined with the above it will give you an idea of which rooms come off at which point in the runs:
    Visio-Basement Line.jpg

    I'm getting ahead of myself here, please excuse the poor organization of my writing. I'd like to cut the heating system up into zones during this project. Would it be reasonable to Cut the 1st floor into the following 3 zones?

    1. Kitchen (has two radiators and is cold when wood stove is not running)
    2. Dining Room and Living Room - They share a large wide open doorway, and also house the stairway to the upstairs
    3. Bedroom 4 and Bathroom 1 - Bedroom 4 has frequent heating trouble similar to the kitchen. There is a door that can close these areas off form the Dining Room/Stairway, so I thought a zone of their own would be a good idea
    The upstairs I would like to put on a single zone so as not to overburden myself with costs on this project, although it would be great if I could put 2 zones for a reasonable cost. Is a single zone upstairs a better idea, or would I benefit from a second zone? If 2 zones would be worth it, how should I zone the upstairs?
    I have a few main goals in this project.
    I want to decommission the wood stove in my basement. It's inefficient, the chimney needs to be re-pointed and has no cap, it's messy and located right next to my laundry area, is too much labor to move the wood into the basement, and finally can't hold a fire for more then 8 hours....which is a pain when you are AT work for 8 hours, longer if you count the commute. Because of some of those points, I don't want to locate the wood boiler in my basement.
    So I have a detached garage. The garage would be a great place for the wood boiler, it's near the wood, less of a fire risk, don't care if it gets dirty, and I already have to go into it every day to get my car out and go to work. I have a 240V/50A service to the garage and a 1 1/4" low voltage conduit already installed so I'm all set for power and data. The issue I'm going to have is with running the pex lines from the garage to the house. I have two options, as you can see in the picture below. Option 1 is in dirt, but is a longer run, with about 75' of underground and another 25 to 30 feet indoor. Option 2 takes the "direct" path, but will require cutting and patching a 30 to 35 foot section of the driveway. I'm not a super skilled backhoe operator, so I'd guess the patch will be as wide as the trench I need plus 50% at least.
    Visio-Exterior-small.jpg

    So, based on the experience of others, what do you think would be a better plan? Which do you think has more potential for foul-ups? I like the longer outdoor run since I won't have to patch the driveway and prefer the boiler position closer to the center of the garage as the pitch of the roof will realistically require the chimney pipe to go up 2 feet over the peak no matter where on the roof it is (garage is only 20' wide, so horizontal distance of 10' on the chimney would put me at the peak anyhow and I'd rather have less protrusion of the chimney over putting supports for a 10 foot chimney stack).
    Next, I'm wondering how I should penetrate my foundation. I'm planning to run 2 @ 1" pex for supply and 2 @ 1" pex for return since I have the tools for 1" pex but nothing larger. Because I have high water in my area, and my basement frequently takes on water during heavy rain, I'd rather not penetrate the foundation below ground. If I penetrate above ground, what insulation procedures should I take? Should I build a cinder block box around the pex and fill it with foam and/or other insulation to prevent freezing?
    On the Garage side, the garage sits on a slab, so I could come up through the floor, however it's an unheated garage, the sets of carriage doors don't even close tightly so there is airflow into and out of the space. This makes me think it may be better to come up outside and build an insulate box there as well. What are people's thoughts on this?
    I have tons more questions, many of them will go into zoning, controls, heat storage tank (open storage, departing between EPDM rubber and Permaflex for water retention), links to parts and products I'd like opinions on, and other fun stuff. I do ramble, sorry about that.
    I appreciate anyone's input, and like constructive criticism since it helps me get it right the first time!
    TL:DR
    1. Based on the drawings above, how should I rezone my house?
    2. Based on above drawing, should I take the short route across the driveway or the long route that requires less driveway cutting for my exterior PEX run?
    3. How should I bring my PEX above ground to penetrate my foundation, and how should I insulate it?
    4. Should I come up through the slab in the unheated garage, or should I come through the exterior wall similar to the house?

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  2. paragonbuilders

    paragonbuilders New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2013
    Messages:
    21
    Loc:
    Norwich, CT
    Hey wire nut,
    Welcome.
    I'm no plumbing and heating expert so ill leave those questions to them.
    In answer to question 2, I would definitely avoid the driveway, but super insulate it.

    I regards to insulating your house, when your ready, do some research. Insulating companies will push the cellulose but it is a really bad idea. These old houses with no insulation have no vapor barrier. So what happens is the moisture makes its way through the wall into the cellulose which is super absorbent. Then the sills start rotting. And the bugs come, they love moisture. That's why so many old houses that stood for a couple hundred years with no problems, then when energy costs soared they were insulated with blown in, and now we have a lot of compromised homes.
    Also the payback is often about 20 years which is not worth it.

    The only way to properly insulate is to open up the walls and insulate with a vapor barrier on the inside. A lot of work.

    Most of your heat loss is through your ceilings and via air infiltration. If you can access your attic and super insulate it, with a vapor barrier, and tighten up the walls using a smoke test or other methods it can make a big difference.

    Check out this link. http://bobyapp.com/blog/2009/06/myths-about-insulating-old-house-walls.

    I've got a old farmhouse built in 1700. It's a work in progress.
  3. Congrats, and welcome.

    Are you planning storage? From what I've read here it might be a good idea with a carbon steel wood gun.

    Your radiators were probably sized with lower supply temps in mind. If you have 180 degree water going to the radiators that could explain rooms overheating. Storage and CI rads are a great combination. I'd consider home running pex to each radiator, TRV's and a single alpha pump.

    I don't have underground lines but if I did I try for the shortest run possible.

    Good luck, and pics?
    Floydian and BoilerMan like this.
  4. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2013
    Messages:
    79
    Loc:
    Kingston, NY
    Thanks guys.

    I will be doing insulation in the future, just not yet. I have some blown in cellulose already (came with the house) basically any place the roof intersects the living space (attic floor, and inside closets that touch the attic or outside walls). I will be removing that when I insulate and most likely replacing it with fiberglass rolls.

    I was considering having a local contractor do blown in in my living space as he does blown in fiberglass. Does anyone have any thoughts on that? I love the vapor barrier idea, but that would require removing all of my siding and wood on the outside of the house, then insulating and putting the vapor barrier, and then reinstalling. I think that's a bit above my price range.

    Mike - I am planning storage. I'm looking to build an open storage tank using Permaflex to waterproof a plywood tank similar to: http://new.lucubration.com/articles/hotpi-raspberry-pi-based-home-heating-management-storage-tank I will most likely be going with a 4x4x8 tank, which should give me 900 gallons or so. I was originally going to go with a 8 x 8 x 4 tank, but I'm worried about the weight of the water, so i'll build 1 tank and if I need another I can always do it halfway through the winter since it's an indoor project.

    I had never seen Thermostatic Radiator Valves before. Those look great! Do you know if they make them with a solenoid similar to a zone valve? If so, I may be able to avoid a huge cost of redoing the plumbing in the basement.

    Has anyone used one of these heat exhchangers? http://www.outdoorfurnacesupply.com...ries-155-000-btu-pool-spa-heat-exchanger.html
    Not necessarily that exact model, but that style of heat exchanger? With the price of 60' of 1" copper tube sitting around $500, I'm wondering what I should do in my storage tank for heat exchange. These look clean, and I could easily control where return/supply water went in the storage tank. I would need to add a calculator to the tank side of each.... But I wanted to see if anyone had any experience before I jumped into anything.

    I will take pics....but my garage and current boiler room are a mess....of course I have excuses for it....but still. :)
  5. paragonbuilders

    paragonbuilders New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Norwich, CT
    Cellulose is a better product than blown fiberglass, but neither is good for your home without a vapor barrier. And the vapor barrier needs to be on the heated side of the wall, on the inside of the insulation.
    Dan
    BoilerMan likes this.
  6. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Northern Maine
    If I ever have a wall apart to reinsulate or run new wire, I use Roxul. It is hands down the best insulation I've ever used. Better R value for a given thickness than anything else, and much less irritating to the skin. A bit dusty, and about 1.5X the price of fiberglass, but well worth is IMHO.

    TS
    infinitymike likes this.
  7. paragonbuilders

    paragonbuilders New Member

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    Loc:
    Norwich, CT
    Interesting. I never thought that firewool (roxul) could be used as insulation. Always used it where fire stops were required. Thanks for that boilerman!
    Bottom line is the wall needs to be opened up to insulate it properly without problems down the road. Blown in should be reserved for attics, when other better options aren't doable.
    BoilerMan likes this.
  8. BoilerMan

    BoilerMan Minister of Fire

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    Northern Maine
    If I were to build new again, I'd use Roxul (along with Dow Tuff-R) in all the walls. I put some 3.5" stuff in a 2x4 petition between bedrooms for the kids and you'd swear it's a double wall with lethe and plaster on it by the way it blocks sound alone. The stuff is so dense, and fills the cavity so well, like I said once you've used it, you'll never go back.

    TS
  9. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

    Joined:
    May 30, 2013
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    79
    Loc:
    Kingston, NY
    So I snapped a couple of picture of my boiler. It's messy. Long story short, I lost an aquastat in the middle of winter on a Saturday. The only place open didn't have a replacement for mine in the vertical model, but did in the horizontal. So, I have to rewire it to be able to fit the electrical connections in the case. And the Pex will be changed, it's in a "temporary" for 3 years configuration.

    IMG_20130604_052631.jpg IMG_20130604_052648.jpg

    I have to measure the pipes, but it looks like I have 1.5" copper coming out of the boiler, but then it goes into a 2 or 3" supply and return. The size of the supply/return decreases after each radiator, with the big boys in the Living and Dining room having 1.25" supply and return lines, the medium sized ones with 1" supply and return lines, and the smaller ones with 3/4".

    So I've done a bit of reading and it sounds like my best bet is to rip out all of the old galvanized piping. The question is, should I replumb with Pex? It looks like I lose about 45% of my flow with pex according to this chart: http://s3.pexsupply.com/manuals/1322593642270/68976_PROD_FILE.pdf

    The basics of the redesign of the system I'm looking to do is the following:
    Plumbing.jpg

    I still have to measure to be sure on the exact current sizes for each radiator, but I believe I have them right. What I'm wondering, since I'm going to turn 1 zone into 5 zones using zone valves, do I need to worry about the restrictive flow on the pex, or because I'll only be feeding a couple of radiators at a time should the higher pressure of the pump be fine with the more restrictive PEX fittings? I will plumb the Dining and Living rooms with copper since they're close to the boiler room (Living room right on top, dining room within 20 total feet of pipe).
  10. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Southwestern VA
    Agreed! I love this Euro type of control though I am using it with infloor(check out the link in my signature) . A TRV on each radiator gives you a non electric thermostat in each room. Also consider constant circulation with an Alpha (or similar ECM circ) for unmatched comfort. A mixing valve with outdoor reset would be a nice way to maximize your storage. This varies the supply temp based on the outside temp. and as you make efficiency improvement to your house your supply temp can drop making your storage capacity larger.

    Noah
  11. Check this out.

    Attached Files:

  12. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    I agree ,just watched a video of THis old house doing blown in cellulose from the outside, no mention of vapor barrior.
  13. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    One problem with a vapor barrier is half the year its on the wrong side of the wall.
  14. Floydian

    Floydian Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Southwestern VA
    Very true.

    I agree with this as well but I don't agree with the NEED for a vapor barrier when a vapor retardant will do the job. Proper flashing to eliminate the bulk moisture from the outside and a continuous air barrier to eliminate moisture carried by air infiltration/exfiltration through a wall or roof assembly and you have dealt with the biggest moisture issues. Vapor diffusion is a much smaller issue than bulk moisture and moisture carried by air through an assembly. A Class II vapor retardant=less than 1 perm and greater than .1 perms is all you should need in the lower 48(unless you have an indoor pool or spa). This can be achieved with the right latex paint on drywall or smart vapor retardants in a roll like Membrain. This maintains the potential for inward drying as needed.

    Also, interior side poly as a vapor barrier is VERY risky in a house with AC.

    I recommend reading this: http://www.buildingscience.com/docu...rs?topic=resources/vapor_barrier_code_changes

    And these as well:http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/vapor-retarders-and-vapor-barriers
    http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/musings/do-i-need-vapor-retarder

    Noah
  15. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Indoor Moisture problems can stem from inadequate attic and roof ventilation where most of the indoor moisture winds up. It important for the space above the insulation to be able to breath.
  16. infinitymike

    infinitymike Minister of Fire

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    EXCELLENT CHOICE!

    Welcome to the forum and welcome to the WOOD GUN CLUB!
  17. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

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    Thanks.... I'm hoping it was...only took me 3 years to pick a boiler. Lol. Now I'm second guessing every plan I make. Where to put it...how to pipe it....even how to cut the wood. :)
  18. infinitymike

    infinitymike Minister of Fire

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    So like I said welcome to the club:).
    You'll be doing that for a long time. !!!
  19. avc8130

    avc8130 Minister of Fire

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    Put it "in"...pipe it into your system...and cut a lot of wood.

    Pretty easy really. If you do it all yourself, you will have the confidence to modify the setup at a later date.

    ac
  20. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

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    So, a ton of time has passed without much action on my part.....Cutting wood and Trying to keep the basement semi-dry. Now my boiler arrives tomorrow on a tractor trailer.....they won't go into the driveway, so I'm trying to figure out how to get it down to my house....plus my yard is literally a pond, and the basement has water in it (although my pumps are ALMOST keeping up with it). Add that to a busy work day tomorrow where it will be hard to get away to get the boiler from the truck, it's been an interesting month! If the rain keeps up like this, I may have river front property soon! Any advice on moving a boiler down a driveway (100 or 150 feet)? I'm thinking I'll hook up the trailer and drive it out to the back of the tractor trailer, and have him load it on there (there's a lift gate on the tractor trailer). Has anyone tried this before? Can they place a furnace onto a trailer off of a lift gate? I don't think the conduit rolling method will work since I don't have a smooth driveway.

    I'm hoping to have it lowered into the basement with a backhoe, but I'm not quite ready for that since the basement needs to dry out after we went from drought to more then double our average rainfall last month (9.82" of rain in June)..so I may have to store it in the detached garage until it drys out a bit.
  21. arbutus

    arbutus Feeling the Heat

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    Rent a pallet jack and use a couple of pieces of plywood, or find a friend with a tracter/loader and pallet forks.
    Does the wood gun have a lifting eye to lift with the backhoe you mention?
  22. muncybob

    muncybob Minister of Fire

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    We used a large skid-steer and chains to lower the boiler into our basement and and then onto a pallet jack. The legs gave us just barely enough clearance to get the jack under the boiler.Moved it into position fairly easily and carefully "slid" it off the jack and onto the floor.
    I don't envy you moving something that heavy on soft ground!
  23. WireNut

    WireNut New Member

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    The manual said it has a lifting eye, I haven't see it yet to verify that. I'm hoping that if the guy can't put it on my trailer, that I can give him $50 to use his pallet jack to get it down to my garage.


    How wide was your door? My door is 30", and the manual says the unit is 26 inches...so I may have to remove the packaging.

    I really am up in the air....I want to put it in my garage for ease of loading/cleaning/etc, but at the same time it will cost me quite a bit more to put it there between the chimney (already have one in the basement) and the plumbing/insulation for the underground lines.
  24. When my boiler was delivered by freight the driver used his pallet jack to roll it right into the garage without me having to ask.
  25. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    A lift gate isn't much good without a pallet jack - so he should be able to put it wherever a pallet jack will roll. Right onto a trailer might be good, then you can move it around to more places.

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