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Side arm stopped working

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by easternbob, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    Anyone have any ideas why my side arm would stop working?
    To start off I have bled water from the bottom of the tank several times now. There was some lime but did seem like a ton of it. I have somewhat hard water (we do not have a water softner thought) so I know to do this on a reg. basis. Usually when the water isn't as warm as normal I know to bleed some off to clear things out.
    Well bleeding did not work this time, so I thought maybe something was stuck so I hooked up my compressor and shot air in from the drain valve (I closed the cold water coming in and open one hot water tap) and that didn't help. Also bled off some water from the P&T valve thinking maybe the blockage was at the top.
    We do not have a mixing valve (yes I know danger, by it's just me and my wife so we know...) so that is not the problem.
    Any ideas thoughts? Do not want to cut it off unless I have to as you can imagine.
    Thanks.

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  2. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Is hot water circulating through the A (boiler) side?

    Maybe an airlock there?
  3. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    No air lock, the boiler water is circutating fine the house is heating perfectly.
  4. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    Even if the house is heating, there could be air in your sidearm that could stop that part from circulating. Is it hot going into it on the boiler side? And out the bottom?

    How old is the sidearm? They are pretty simple - if your boiler side is flowing, and there's no spots for an air bubble to get trapped on your DHW side, there must be a blockage on the DHW side.
  5. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    The way I have it plumbed the boiler water goes thur the sidearm before it goes to my primary/secondary loops so I must be bubble free since I'm getting heat to the house zones.
    Three and a half seasons so far.
    Was working great a few weeks maybe a month ago and now..............
    I know they are simple which worries me that it is clogged inside. Hoping someone has a magic solution to the problem.
  6. Clarkbug

    Clarkbug Minister of Fire

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    If you have hard water I guess its possible that there is scale in the sidearm itself. When you blew air through the heater, it sounds like it was just through the system in your house. I dont know the fittings you have on it (probably not many), but can you try to flush it as it sits? You may have to pull it off and flush it that way...
  7. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    If draining the sidearm has worked to raise your water temperature in the past then lime or calcium would, more than likely be your problem this time. This isn't one of those multi tube sidearms is it? If there is going to be a build-up of minerals, it is going to occur right there where the heating in happening.

    I was having components in my system that were getting fouled and sticking until I installed a unit that basically eliminates scale and mineral build-up. I didn't want a regular ion exchange softener because I didn't want the sodium in my water so I went with this unit. http://www.nuvoh2o.com/ It didn't appear to change the look or feel of my water. The only thing I noticed was that the sinks and tub stayed cleaner longer. I haven't had one problem due to minerals since I installed it about 14 months ago.
  8. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    This is ugly but it works. Watch out!!! If it gets loose it goes for the eyes!!!

    Resized flat plate.jpg
  9. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    The side arm is right on the side of the hotwater heater (I will try to get a pic of it in the next day or so). I have a couple ball valves to isolate the sidearm but when I was blowing water into the system I could not force it thru the side arm alone. I assume most of the air when straight into the bottom of the water tank since that was a straight shot from the drain valve.
    Fred61 so you like this water "softener"? Some people try to tell me that unless it has salt it doesn't work. I don't want the salt or the slippery felling so I have put up with our somewhat hard water. But if this kind of system would help clean out the limed up pipes that would be great and if the shower would stay a little cleaner that would also be a big benefit.
  10. Fred61

    Fred61 Minister of Fire

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    It works great! As I said, I haven't had a single problem with mineral deposits since I installed it. I don't have slimy, slippery water. The cartridge is a cylinder with a cake of citric acid that slowly dissolves as water is run through it. Oh yea, the stainless dishwasher interior is still shedding a coating of lime or calcium.
    I installed a 1 micron filter upstream from the Nuvo unit which seems to reduce iron.
  11. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    Does anyone know of a bladder or plug I could temp install in isolate the sidearm from my hotwater tank? What I'm thinking is if I could insert a plug into the 3/4" pipe say between the tank and my sidearm after I remove the PT valve I could then force air down my side arm and see if there was a blockage there. I thought I've seen bladders that are used for testing pvc pipe but bigger diameters used on the waste side of the system. Really trying to avoid tearing the whole thing apart.
  12. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    Here's a few pics of how my sidearm is plumbed in.
    Is there such a thing as a 3/4" copper 'Y'? I was thinking if I cut a Y into above the sidearm and below the T (which feeds the PT valve) I could plug it and when I needed I could use it like a clean out to ram something down inside so the scale would fall to the bottom and get flushed out. Part of my issue is I don't have any shut off between the tank and the T's so I can't force water or air thur the sidearm, which might help to clean it out.
    IMG_1202.JPG IMG_1191.JPG IMG_1194.JPG IMG_1195.JPG
  13. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    I think it's time to cut it right out to check it out & clean it, & plumb it back in with some more valves & boiler drains for future flushing. It shouldn't be that bad a job (relatively speaking) with a couple of unions or couplings.
    mikefrommaine likes this.
  14. rwh442

    rwh442 Member

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    Bob,

    Funny you said it worked great for 3.5 seasons. That's how long mine lasted. The hot water was awesome too.

    Year four I notice minimal hot water heating. Tried flushing and water did come out. Still no hot water. Flushed each year prior also.

    Took the sidearm off this summer (year 5). The top AND bottom at the unions were completely plugged with calcium deposits on the DHW side. Yes, I have hard water too and no softener.

    I plumbed the boiler supply directly to the water to air HX in the furnace. The sidearm, valves etc are in the attic now. Without a softener it's pointless for me.
  15. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    Well I was looking at unions today. planning how to cut it out.
    rwh442 well you're probably right about what I'm going to find. Did you try cleaning it out with vinegar? If I can get a few more years I might be willing to live with a every three year clean out.
  16. Jim Post

    Jim Post Member

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    Do you get water out of the T&P drain if you open that valve? When my sidearm wasn't heating well it was air bound and opening the t&p valve cleared the line and allowed the hot water to circulate through the water heater.
    Just a thought...Hope it helps. Good luck!
  17. rwh442

    rwh442 Member

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    I think you either need to treat the water like Fred61 or a water softener OR have a small (taco 006?) pump on the DHW loop side of the sidearm. Once I saw how bad mine was that was enough for me.
  18. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    I thinking about putting a cross into my system ( http://www.plumbingsupply.com/images/brass-fitting-cross.jpg ) directly above my sidearm with a plug on the top, going to the right will be my PT valve and to the left will the the water tank. My thinking is this way I can take the plug out and run some sort of snake or small metal rod down thru the inside of the sidearm and clear out the lime and then when I open the drain valve at the bottom that will flush out the junk.
    JP When I opened my PT valve I got water immediately, no air lock issue there. If only it could be that easy.
    Bob
  19. maple1

    maple1 Minister of Fire

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    If you cut out & re-plumb now with boiler drains & valves for easy flushing (once you get things cleaned out or whatever is wrong now fixed), and flush once a year or so with something like CLR (or other suitable cleaner) and say a cheap drill pump - would that keep things clear in the future?
  20. easternbob

    easternbob Member

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    Was thinking about that... Not sure I'll use CLR but rather I think I would use vinegar (since it's portable water and all) just have to figure out how to isolate the sidearm from the hot water tank so I don't have to buy 50 gals of vinegar. I have the issue of there is not a lot of space for valves. Might do something temp like a balloon or bladder to isolate at the bottom while I fill it up with vinegar.

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