Ottertail Country

Ottertail Country
Ottertail South

September 28, 2008

Nearly done, then I can shut up!!


Good news!
(clark)Kent Gabrielsen, known now as Superman to me, came up Friday to help with the boiler project. This is how the side of the outdoor boiler looked when Kent got here.

After an hour and a half or pipe joining, soldering, wiring, etc., this is how it looks. Ready to go when we get around to filling and firing the boiler!

I'm liking the view out here.....

Then we moved to the basement, where we cut and fit the plastic PEX tubing from the indoor boiler to the valve bank near the water heater, where the outdoor PEX comes into the basement.

Here is the start of cutting and fitting the parts for the "sidearm" heat exchanger, as they are called. It's where the water from the boiler will pass around another tube and heat the domestic water.

Here is Kent finishing up the cutting and fitting of the copper. He is getting every piece cut, prepped and put into place before soldering anything. This also includes the piping that supplies the water heater, which must include a tempering valve so that the domestic water will not be too hot out of the faucet.

The water heater water will now be at approximately the same temp as the boiler, which will be around 180°. The tempering valve will add a small amount of cold water to the hot water as it exits the tank to go to the faucet, making it about 120-130°. Here Kent starts the soldering process on the exchanger. I said to Kent, "It must be nice to look at all those solder joints to be made and not be scared....". He just laughed.

Kent, if you're reading this, please know how much I appreciate the help. You made the last part of this project seem possible. I owe you big time, buddy...

Here is the completed exchanger/tempering valve set up. All the copper in this view is new and none of it leaked..... go figure.

And here it is with a view of the valve bank that will control the whole process. I do need to add about 24" of PEX tubing, there is a fitting near the top of the exchanger with nothing connected to it. I ran out of tubing. It will run from the exchanger to the valve bank.

And here we see the completed indoor boiler with the PEX line in place to bring hot water to the boiler and take the return flow back outside. The valve bank will enable four different water routings:
1) Outdoor boiler heating only the house.
2) Outdoor boiler heating house and domestic water.
3) Outdoor boiler heating only domestic water.
4) Outdoor boiler water circulating into the house
and back out again, no heat to house or domestic water.
That will help keep outdoor boiler and pipes keep from freezing if we are away for a while and cannot fire the outdoor boiler.

Now this part I hate to write about, but in all fairness it should be dealt with. It may cost me my plumbing license however.
The first part of this project that I tackled was the lower portion of piping on the indoor boiler, as in the above photo. I did this all in iron pipe because it seemed like it would be easier than all that soldering (duh). I put it all together, and then did the cutting and fitting of the copper above the boiler with the zone valve, check valves, pump, etc. After Ken Parpart soldered up all the copper, I filled the boiler and discovered some slightly seeping leaks in the pipe thread fittings. Four, to be exact. Two quit leaking after a while, one did not leak when the system is hot, and the other just continued to weep... making me want to weep as well. I thought about leaving it to see if it would rust shut, and when Kent was here we undid the bolts on that flange in the photo and rotated the flange 180° in hopes that the tightening would make the leak stop. It did not.
Saturday we were supposed to have some guests over for kabobs, but we cancelled as I was feeling really poorly Saturday morning. I moped about most of the day, and late afternoon I finally got off the couch and slunk down to the basement to view the blasted leaking pipes. In a flash I decided to disassemble the threaded stuff at the bottom and try to tighten it up. I drained the boiler and started turning wrenches. I thought that as long as I had it apart, I might as well do it up right. I took every fitting loose that had a threaded joint on it (20 joints), cleaned them all up and started re-assembling with good quality pipe dope. By the time I was done, and had put the piping back in place, there was a 5/8" space between flange surfaces. The gasket is 1/8" thick, so that means that I lost 1/2" in the assembly due to each threaded joint being tighter by 1/16" on average!! No wonder it leaked, it wasn't tight enough.... speaking of pipe dope....
What to do now? I spent the evening scheming on how to fix the situation, perhaps I could make a 3/8" stainless spacer at work on Monday, add another gasket??? What a pain.

Sunday morning the answer became clear. The short stubs of pipe that connect things all increase by 1/2" increments in length! So I ran to the hardware and got one 2" long to replace the first one in the stack, which happened to be 1.5" long. I disassembled just the bottom parts, doped up the new part and started putting it back together. Soon I was putting in the gasket and bolts and finishing things up. I filled the boiler, bled the air out of the lines and pressurized it to 15psi. This is higher than it will ever run. NO LEAKING!!. I fired up the boiler and ran it up to temp just to make sure things were going to be working O.K.

So I've got the short PEX tube to install, a drain faucet to replace out at the outdoor boiler (we broke the handle, oops), some pipe insulation underneath, and then we can fill the outside boiler with water and build a fire!

The bees are still hanging around the Sedum. Today there were quite few, but they are almost immobile. You have to watch them a while to see if they are still alive. Not sure how they will get around in the cooler weather, but each time you go by there are either a couple more or less there.

These photos show some clinging to the stalks of the flowers, seemingly unable to move.....

I gotta go, Carlo



Anonymous said...

Gene, I am glad for your sake that your project is almost finished. Is there a hugh hornet's nest in a tree around there like there was a couple years ago???


Anonymous said...

Good grief! I bet you'll be happy to be completely done! :) That's cool that Kent made it up too. Cool pictures as usual. Love you~ Rosie

Anonymous said...

Glad that Clark-Kent was able to help out and everything worked out well!! With these chilly nights, you will be started up that wood furance very soon!!


Carlo said...

No hornet nest in trees, but there is a huge wasp nest on the north side of the house. I forgot about it, I'll have to see if it's still there and I'll give you a photo...