Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Dan Holohans Heating Help Newsletters Page 2

What color is your radiator? I recently came across this circular sent out by the US Department of Commerce's National Bureau of Standards on July 19, 1935. It's fascinating stuff and I thought you might want to keep it on file. Here 'tis. Painting of Steam and Hot Water Radiators For a number of years this subject has received considerable attention from the public, and it is apparent that the essential facts have not always been understood. The object of this note is to supply the more important facts in the case. It will appear that as far as their effect on the performance of radiators is concerned, paints fall into two classes. First, those in which the pigment consists of small flakes of metal, such as the aluminum and bronze paints, most commonly used for painting radiators, which produce a metallic appearance and will be called metallic paints. Second, the white and colored paints, in which the pigment consists not of the metals but of oxides or other compounds of the metals. Thus white lead paints, or those containing compounds of zinc or other metals, will be called non-metallic paints. These non-metallic paints are obtainable in practically all colors, including white and black, while the metallic paints have the color of the metal or alloy of which the flakes are composed. We will state at the outset the principal conclusion, which will be explained in more detail later, that the last coat of paint on a radiator is the only one that has an appreciable effect. And that a radiator coated with metallic paint will emit less heat, under otherwise identical conditions, than a similar radiator coated with non-metallic paint. In order to obtain the same amount of heat from the two radiators just considered the temperature of the one painted with metallic paint must be somewhat higher. Under these conditions, exactly the same amount of heat is being supplied to the two radiators. And since neither the boiler efficiency nor the heat wasted in the pipe lines is appreciably affected by small changes in radiator temperatures, practically the same amount of fuel is required to supply the heat in each case. In other words, while it may be desirable for various reasons to avoid the use of metallic paints on radiators, no appreciable saving in fuel will result from the use of non-metallic rather than metallic paints. The purpose of a heating system is to maintain the rooms in a house at some temperature higher than that prevailing out of doors. The heat that is developed by burning fuel is transferred to the rooms by means of the radiators. A radiator neither creates nor destroys heat and a large radiator, while it can put more heat into a room than a small one, must be supplied with all of the heat it puts in. In the sense that they ultimately transfer all the heat supplied into the room, all radiators are 100% efficient. The word "efficiency" is, however, used in other ways, and it is now customary to use it on all possible occasions, but it is hardly correct to say that putting metallic paint on a radiator reduces its efficiency when the effect is merely to reduce its capacity. The size of the radiators in a house can only affect the fuel required for heating by increasing or decreasing the heat wasted in transmission from boiler to radiator and that lost up the chimney. Only when the radiators are so small as to render the whole heating plant ineffective is an appreciable saving of fuel to be expected by installing larger radiators. After these preliminary explanations, we may proceed to consider the kind of effects that may be obtained by the use of various kinds of paint. The heat emitted from a radiator is removed in two ways. First, the air streaming past the radiator and rising from it is heated and carries the heat to other parts of the room. Second, the hot surface of the radiator emits heat by radiation just as the glowing electric and gas heaters do. Most types of steam and hot water radiators emit less than half their heat by radiation and evidently the name "radiator" although universally used is not a particularly appropriate one. To take concrete case, a particular sectional cast iron radiator, if painted with any non-metallic paint, might transfer into the room 180 Btu per hour for each square foot of its surface, if supplied with the necessary amount of heat from a boiler. The burning of one pound of good coal produces about 12,000 Btu, and if the coal is used in a domestic heating plant, perhaps half of this, or 6,000 Btu, might finally be transferred from the radiators into, the rooms. Most of the other half of the heat produced is inevitably lost via the chimney. The area of one section of a cast iron radiator is about two square feet for the smaller sections, and up to seven or eight square feet for the larger sections, so that a 10-section radiator would have a surface area between 20 and 80 square feet. Of the 180 Btu per hour transferred, about 2/3 or 120 Btu would go to heating the air that passes over the radiator. The 120 Btu transferred directly to the air would not be increased or decreased by repainting the radiator. The remaining 60 Btu not carried off by the air is emitted as radiant energy. The amount of radiant energy which can be emitted per hour by the hot surface is dependent upon the kind of paint used for the last coat. It was assumed that the radiator was painted with non-metallic paint. If it be repainted with a metallic paint, such as aluminum or bronze, it will no longer be able to radiate 60 Btu per hour, but may be able to radiate only 30 Btu, so that instead of transferring 180 Btu to the room per hour, it can now transfer only 150 Btu. The coat of aluminum or bronze paint is not an insulating covering like a covering of magnesia or asbestos, but it has a similar effect, although for an entirely different reason. The resulting reduction in heat emission is entirely due to the reduction in the radiating power of the exposed surface, rather than to the insignificant insulating value of the thin layer of paint. It is therefore evident that undercoats of paint, regardless of kind, have no significant effect on the performance of the radiator, except in the practically impossible case where the paint was thick enough to act as an insulating covering. In repainting a radiator, it is therefore unnecessary to remove the old paint. The effect of adding the metallic paint is equivalent to removing 1/6 of the radiator, or nearly 17%, or as if one section out of six had been removed. Thus, a radiator of five sections painted with white or colored paint should be about as effective as another of six sections of the same kind painted with metallic paint since each would transfer the same amount of heat to the room to provided the necessary amount of heat were supplied to each. In the following applications, the numerical values given above will be used as if they were exact, but it must be understood that they are merely representative and would not apply exactly to any particular case except by chance. The effect of painting on the capacity of a radiator depends upon the size and design of the radiator. The reduction in capacity produced by the application of aluminum paint is less for large radiators than for small ones, especially so in the case of large radiators having many columns or tubes per section. In a large tubular type radiator having seven tubes per section, more than three-quarters of the heat is carried away by the air directly and painting with aluminum consequently reduces the capacity of the radiator only about 10%. If only the visible portions of a radiator are painted with aluminum paint, the reduction in capacity is also obviously less than if the entire surface is covered. Application 1: Suppose a house in which all the radiators are painted with aluminum paint, and that the radiator in one room is found to be too small, so that when the other rooms are warm enough, this one is too cold. If the radiator in this room is painted with non-metallic paint, either white or colored, the heat emitted by it can be increased from 10 to 20% without affecting conditions in the other rooms, although it will be necessary to burn more fuel to supply the additional heat in the one room. If the increase is sufficient, the expense of installing a radiator may thus be avoided. Similarly, it is possible, by using bronze or aluminum paint on radiators in rooms which are overheated, and colored or white paints in rooms not sufficiently heated, to improve conditions without going to the expense of installing new radiators of larger or smaller sizes. Application 2: In installing radiators in a new house, somewhat smaller radiators may be installed if they are to be painted with colored paints, rather than bronze or aluminum paints. Application 3: If the radiators on a hot water system are painted with metallic paint and are all too small, so that the water must be kept hotter than it is desired in order to heat the house, they may be repainted with non-metallic paint, and it should, then be possible to heat the house with the water in. the system not quite so hot. There will be no noticeable saving of fuel. Application 4: Since basements usually over-heated so that much of the heat supplied there is wasted, some economy can be effected by painting the heater and pipes, with metallic paint. This cannot, however, serve as anything more than a poor substitute for a covering of good insulating material about inch thick; which is capable of making an appreciable saving in the coal bill. The insulating material will remain effective for years, while the paint becomes ineffective if covered with dust. Application 5: If a radiator is situated next to an outside wall, as most of them are, it is evident that the heat supplied directly to this wall is more or less wasted. Some slight economy may be obtained, therefore, by using metallic paint on the side facing the wall and non-metallic paint on the visible portions. The gain is not large enough to be important, but on the other hand, in putting non-metallic paint over metallic, it is not worth while to go to the trouble of repainting' the side next the wall.

More Heating Help

Steam Trap Retrofit? Don't Predict the Payback! The building management agent looked at me the way a cop would look at a con man. "You can't tell me how much we're going to save?" he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "We should spend all this money and go to all this trouble without knowing the payback?" He shook his head again. "This is not something I can sell to the board," he said finally, and we left it like that for a year. The following winter I was back in his office, and we were having the same conversation. The steam traps on most of the radiators were still shot - worse than ever, in fact, now that another winter had passed. The fuel bills continued to climb, and the water hammer had done away with the need for alarm clocks in the tenants' apartments. "How much will we save if we replace all the steam traps," he, like a single-minded lawyer, asked again. "I can't say," I insisted. "Why not?" "Too many variables in a building such as this," I explained again. "There has to be a way to put a dollar amount on it," he insisted. "We tried to do that in the Seventies. It didn't work." He shook his head in disgust, and again we left it like that for a year. This went on for four years before they finally decided they couldn't stand the water hammer and the exorbitant fuel bills anymore. They changed the steam traps and solved most of their heating problems. They also saved money, but I was glad I hadn't given them a dollar amount. I had no way of knowing what would happen in this building, or any other steam heated building. I wasn't always this way, though. During the oil embargo of the early Seventies, just about everyone involved in the energy business in New York City jumped either on the replacement window or radiator steam trap bandwagon. The window people had better luck at predicting the future. Which is not to say that the steam trap people didn't try their luck with the old crystal ball. I remember very well those incredible payback predictions. It was so easy to do in those days! We'd just looked at the size of an orifice in a typical thermostatic steam trap and figure the blow-through at five-psi steam pressure. Then we'd equate the wasted steam to the high rates the Utility charged for city steam and there you had it! With a half-inch thermostatic radiator trap, the payback period was about a week. It was even less (something like 48 hours) if you used replacement parts and kept the old trap bodies in place. If you acted quickly enough, the Utility wound up owing you money. The trouble was the people in the building never saw that rapid payback, and when they didn't, they got angry. Many of us looked really dumb in those days. You see these blue-sky predictions assumed the wasted steam would pass through the orifice and out to the atmosphere. But that's not what happens in a steam heating system. Oh, the steam passes through the orifice, all right - if it can get that far into the system. But once past the orifice, it doesn't go out into the atmosphere; it enters a return line. And once it gets there, it pressurizes that return and traps the air in the nearby radiators before they have a chance to get warm. With air trapped in their radiators, many people in the building wind up with no heat. They complain to the superintendent, and he, of course, raises the steam pressure. That compresses the trapped air in the radiators and mains, and drives the steam a bit further into the system. Seeing these wondrous results, the super then raises the pressure even higher. The people who were getting heat before now get even more heat. They respond by opening the windows. And even after a contractor fixes the steam traps, it's very difficult to break these folks of their fresh air habit. And that's one reason why you shouldn't predict a payback period for steam trap replacement in a steam-heated building. People who don't pay the heating bills live in these buildings. They should have the work done, of course. There's no question about that. If it's a steam heating system, someone has to watch over the traps. Just don't try to predict how much they'll save. Instead, explain the importance of good distribution and how the system works. Let the savings, whatever they are, be a surprise. Ever think about the variables in an old steam-heated building? For instance, how does the air get out of the system? Once it works its way through your repaired traps, can the air escape? Have you walked through the building and looked at all the piping? If you were air, could you get out? If there are main vents, are they working? If the escape route for the air is the vent on the condensate pump's receiver, is there a water leg before the receiver? Air can't work its way though that water once the contractor has fixed the traps. If there's a central controller operating the steam system, what signals it to turn the boiler on and off? Is it a pressuretrol? If it is, and if the air can't get out, the pressuretrol won't get a true reading. The superintendent will probably have the controller running on a longer-than-necessary cycle. He'll consider this normal and necessary - even after the contractor has fixed the steam traps. How can you predict savings when this is going on Does the central controller run off a thermistor instead of a pressuretrol? If so, is the thermistor in the right place? Can you even find it out there in the building? Will the contractor do the trap replacement work during the summer or the winter? That's a fair question, isn't it? You probably know the answer already. They'll most likely do the work during the winter because in the summer, they're too busy working on the air-conditioning. If they do the work during the winter, make sure the contractor isolates complete risers before replacing the traps. Steam in a return will water hammer a new trap to death overnight. So how can you predict savings if your new traps might blow out in less than 24 hours? I've seen this happen so often. It's difficult to work on one riser at a time in cooperative apartment or office buildings. To do it properly, the contractor has to make several trips back to the same apartment or office. People get annoyed. That's why the contractor winds up doing the trap in the living room, the trap in the bedroom and the trap in the kitchen all on the same day. That night, steam from the upper, yet-to-be-fixed radiators, pays a visit and blows up your payback prediction along with the elements in the new traps. Are the returns in the building double trapped? Someone may have installed a master trap at the condensate pump to protect it from steam and keep it from cavitating. Once the contractor repairs the radiator traps and the end-of-main and riser-drip F&T traps that master trap has to go. It had no business being there in the first place, and now there's not nearly enough differential pressure to open it. Condensate will back up into the new traps, and water hammer will pay another visit. You wind up with egg on your face and your payback prediction will not come true. So when they ask how much they'll save, tell them . . . it depends.

Still More Heating Help

How that steam boiler got to be so big There was a time in America when people were afraid of the air that they found inside their homes, and with good reason. Many of these people lived in tenements, and they were stacked upon each other like so much cordwood. There was little ventilation, and, even less medical attention. There was also a widespread belief that the indoor air was poisoned because so many people were breathing their body toxins into it. In 1918, when central heating was in its infancy, there was a flu pandemic that killed 40 million people. We were afraid of the air in those days - and for good reason. People were afraid of the air in their homes. They weren't about to close their windows, so the early engineers who sized those first steam boilers and radiators had to put in units that would warm the building with the windows open. When the wealthier people who lived in single-family homes made the leap from fireplaces to central heating systems they chose either steam or gravity hot water heat because that was the best that was available. They also chose coal as a fuel because that was the fuel that just about everyone used in those days. When I look in my old engineering texts, I see that the Dead Men were concerned about who was going to make the coal fire. On most days, the woman of the house made the coal fire because the man of the house was out working. The early engineers wrote books in which they warned the installers to put in boilers that would have at least 75% more firebox capacity than necessary to heat the home just in case the man made a mistake with his fire on the weekend. So we had boilers that could heat the building on the coldest day of the year with the windows open, and we added 75% to the size of the firebox because of the husbands. And that's the way it was until the 1930s. At that time, there was labor strife in the coal-mining regions. There was also a huge oil strike in Texas, and that made the price of oil was very attractive to most Americans. Many, many people decided to convert from coal to oil. And the people who did the conversions were the oil people. They'd take those old coal-fired boilers, remove the grates, and add a burner. The challenge, though, was that there has never been a reliable conversion factor from coal to oil because the heating value of coal varies quite a bit. The rule of thumb was to use so many gallons per hour based on the grate area in square feet. That seemed safe, and it worked. So the oil people did this, and they also oversized a bit - just to be sure. So we had boilers that could heat the building on the coldest day of the year with the windows open, and to this, we added 75% to size of the firebox to accommodate the husbands, and then we added another 50% or so for the coal-to-oil conversion. And these boilers lasted for many more years. In 1973, the OPEC Cartel shut off America's oil supply. We sat on long lines at the gas stations, waiting for a few precious gallons and checking the other guy's license plate number to make sure it wasn't an odd number if the date on the calendar was an even number. And many of those old boilers served their final days because few could afford to operate those behemoths anymore. A lot of those old coal-to-oil conversions became oil-to-gas conversions. Now, how do you suppose most contractors sized the boiler for the gas conversion? Right! They used the rating of the oil burner, and then added a bit - just to be sure. And besides, the boilers that came along after 1973 were so much smaller than the boilers of yesteryear, that this made the gas-conversion contractor nervous. He added a section or two to make sure he had enough water volume. He didn't want to get stung by a boiler that went off on low water. So we had boilers that could heat the building on the coldest day of the year with the windows open. To this, we added 75% to the size of the firebox for the husbands, another 50% for the oil dealer, and a good 30% on top of that for the gas-conversion contractor And that's how we got where we got. And those boilers are now 25 years old and many of them are failing because they're attached to ancient and leaky piping systems. Which brings me to you. It's now your turn to replace those old boilers. So how are you going to size it? Are you going to read what's on the label and give 'em what they've got adding make another 25% or so. Just in case. Think about where that's going to put you. Or are you going to do the right thing? And if you want to know what the right this is . . . . . . treat yourself to a copy of The Lost Art of Steam Heating. It's available in the Books & More section of www.HeatingHelp.com. And here's a great deal for you. If you place an order for The Lost Art of Steam Heating, The Lost Art of Steam Heating Companion, or A Pocketful of Steam Problems - with solutions before noon (EST) on January 11, we'll pick up the shipping and handling! If your order is for $50 or more, we'll also include a free "Century of Pride" mouse pad (valued at ten bucks). And if your order is for $100 or more, we'll take an additional 10% off the price and pick up the shipping and handling on the whole works. How's that?

And Still More Heating Help

Radiator Stories You May Not Have Heard The guy was wearing clean Docker slacks, a wrinkle-free, red golf shirt and boat shoes. He didn't fit in with the plumbers and heating contractors who were waiting their turn to be helped. The two countermen worked as quickly as they could. Each leaned over a metal order box and wrote down what the contractors needed that day. This wholesaler hadn't gone for computers yet. These guys liked to do things the old-fashioned way. Another contractor walked in. The countermen looked up and shouted, "Jeez, look who's here! Hey, make sure the cash drawer is locked." The contractor answered with a disparaging remark about the counterman's heritage, and everyone laughed. Even the homeowner in the clean Dockers smiled. The new contractor cut ahead of the homeowner, by saying, "Excuse me," and pointing to the sign over the counter that read, WE SERVE THE TRADE FIRST. The homeowner didn't seem to mind. He patiently waited his turn. Finally, one of the countermen asked the guy what he wanted. "I need a new radiator," the homeowner explained, producing a Polaroid photo from his shirt pocket. "Here's a picture of what the old one looked like." "You still got this one?" the counterman asked, staring at the photo, which showed a freestanding, cast-iron radiator from the Thirties. "No, we threw that one away," the homeowner explained. "Oh," the counterman said as he counted the sections on the old radiator with the tip of his pen. "You have a one-pipe steam system, right?" "Yeah, I think so." "Do you remember how high this radiator was?" "Thirty-two inches from the floor to the top," the homeowner said, proud of himself for being smart enough to have taken that measurement. "I also have all the other dimensions," he said. "Hang onto them," the counterman answered as he flipped through a four-foot-thick catalog on a metal stand. "I don't think I'll need them." The counterman tapped some numbers into a calculator, and then gave the homeowner the current price for a replacement cast-iron radiator. The homeowner stared to gag. "Are you nuts?" he shouted. "That's what they cost," the counterman said with a shrug. "But that's a lot!" the homeowner sputtered. "You think so?" The counterman shrugged again. "Maybe you can fix the old one?" "No. I told you we threw that one away." "How come?" the counterman asked. "Was it leaking?" "No, it wasn't leaking," the home owner said with annoyance. "It just wouldn't get hot all the way across. I told you that!" "Maybe you should have changed the air vent instead of the whole radiator?" the counterman suggested. Good one, eh? And the best part is, it's a true story! Here's another one. A contractor called to ask me about another cast-iron radiator. "I'm looking at the charts in your Golden Rules of Hydronic Heating book," he said, "and I think this radiator is much too small for the room that it's in." "How big is the radiator?" I asked. "According to the book, the radiator is good for 35 square feet." "Well, let's see," I said. "Thirty-five square feet EDR is equal to 8,400 BTUH when you're using low-pressure steam. What's the heat loss of the room that it's in?" "I don't know." "Well, how big is the room?" "It's ten-by-ten," he said. "How much heat loss can you have in a ten-by-ten-foot room?" I asked. "Are there a lot of windows?" "No," he said. "It's just a bedroom. It's got one window. Regular size." "Are there rooms next to this bedroom?" "Yeah." "Are they heated?" "Yeah, they are." "Is there a heated space above and below this room? "Above there is. Below is just the basement, and that's not heated all the time. "Is this bedroom we're talking about cold?" I asked. "No, it heats okay." "Then what makes you think the radiator in the room is too small?" "Well, according to the charts, it's only good for 35 square feet, but the room that it's in is ten-by-ten." "So?" "So the room is a hundred square feet! Ten by ten right? This radiator's only good for 35 square feet. It should be at least three times bigger than it is to heat this room, right?" "Wait a minute," I said. "You think the square foot EDR rating of the radiator has something to do with the square foot area of the floor?" "Yeah. I mean. . . doesn't it?" "No." He started to laugh. "Do you know how many years I've been sizing radiators that way?" "Too many?" "I guess so," he admitted, and laughed again. There is a power in the way we are taught to do things when we are young that is unbelievably strong. That power can reach across the generations, and scramble our brains. An engineer called yesterday to say his client needed more heat in a certain space that was currently being heated with copper-fin-tube baseboard convectors. He was going to specify cast-iron baseboard to replace the copper. I asked why and he said, "So the client can have more heat, of course! But I can't lay my hands on the right catalogs. Maybe you can. Do you know how much more heat cast-iron baseboard puts out?" "Compared to copper-fin-tube?" I asked. "Yes," he said. "What temperature water are you going to use?" I asked. "The average water temperature will be 170 degrees," he said. I looked it up and told him that he could expect to get about 540 BTUH per linear foot from the copper fin-tube convectors. The cast-iron baseboard would provide him with 550 BTUH per linear foot." "But that's only 10 more BTUH per foot!" he shouted in astonishment. "You must be making a mistake." "Nope," I said. "You can check it out for yourself. Here are the names of the catalogs I'm looking at. Call the manufacturers and ask them to send them to you." "But I should get more output from cast-iron!" he insisted. "That's ridiculous!" "You will get more," I said. "Ten BTUH per linear foot more." "But that's not nearly enough! I wanted more. And I already sold the client on this! Do you know how much cast-iron baseboard costs? Oh, what am I going to do now?" "You could admit you made a mistake; say you're sorry, and start over." "No, I can't do that," he said. "Well, what made you suggest this option without checking?" I asked. "I just figured cast-iron would put out more heat than copper," he said. "Why?" "Because it's heavier?" he said. "Oh." There was once a time when a square foot of radiation meant, literally, one square foot of surface area on the radiator. When they filled the radiator with 1-psi steam, each square foot of surface would pump out 240 BTUH - as long as the air surrounding the radiator was 70 degrees. Make the air cooler, and the radiator would put out more heat. The opposite also was true. Still is. Toward the end of the 19th Century, foundries began to elevate radiator-making to an art form. To increase the surface area, while decreasing the overall size of the radiators, manufacturers began to give their units more nooks and crannies than a beehive. The challenge was how to measure the surface area of these old beauties. The Dead Men solved the problem in a most ingenious way (and ask yourself if you would have been able to figure this one out.) Now, remember what they were trying to do was just measure the outside surface area of the radiator. Not the inside, not how much space it took up - just the outside. So here's how they did it: They got themselves a big vat filled with paint, which they put on a scale. Next, they plugged all the holes in the radiator, hung it from a thick chain, and then slowly lowered it into the paint. They let the radiator sit in the vat for a while - long enough for the paint to find its way into every cast-iron angle, twist and turn. Then they raised the radiator from the vat, letting the excess paint drip off. They weighed the vat again, knowing that the paint that was no longer inside the vat would now be clinging to the outside surface of the radiator! Finally, they'd put that much paint in a can . . . and then they painted the floor with it. The amount of floor surface they could cover with the paint became the square foot EDR rating of the radiator. Pretty cool, eh? As time went by, they figured out how to measure a radiator's output by weighing the condensate that came out of it. After they had this more-modern method worked out, one nostalgic engineer went back and checked it out against the Paint Method. To his delight, the measurements were remarkable similar! It's just that with the Paint Method, they needed really big testing laboratories. There was once a time when a square foot of radiation meant, literally, one square foot of surface area on the radiator. When they filled the radiator with 1-psi steam, each square foot of surface would pump out 240 BTUH - as long as the air surrounding the radiator was 70 degrees. Make the air cooler, and the radiator would put out more heat. The opposite also was true. Still is. Toward the end of the 19th Century, foundries began to elevate radiator-making to an art form. To increase the surface area, while decreasing the overall size of the radiators, manufacturers began to give their units more nooks and crannies than a beehive. The challenge was how to measure the surface area of these old beauties. The Dead Men solved the problem in a most ingenious way (and ask yourself if you would have been able to figure this one out.) Now, remember what they were trying to do was just measure the outside surface area of the radiator. Not the inside, not how much space it took up - just the outside. So here's how they did it: They got themselves a big vat filled with paint, which they put on a scale. Next, they plugged all the holes in the radiator, hung it from a thick chain, and then slowly lowered it into the paint. They let the radiator sit in the vat for a while - long enough for the paint to find its way into every cast-iron angle, twist and turn. Then they raised the radiator from the vat, letting the excess paint drip off. They weighed the vat again, knowing that the paint that was no longer inside the vat would now be clinging to the outside surface of the radiator! Finally, they'd put that much paint in a can . . . and then they painted the floor with it. The amount of floor surface they could cover with the paint became the square foot EDR rating of the radiator. Pretty cool, eh? As time went by, they figured out how to measure a radiator's output by weighing the condensate that came out of it. After they had this more-modern method worked out, one nostalgic engineer went back and checked it out against the Paint Method. To his delight, the measurements were remarkable similar! It's just that with the Paint Method, they needed really big testing laboratories.

The Last Heating Help For This Page.

TEN STEPS TO BECOMING A BETTER TROUBLESHOOTER Let's face it, sooner or later you're going to run into some tough challenges when it comes to heating. Instead of getting frustrated, try these 10 steps: Avoid "Auto" Conclusions Don't try to solve the problem while you're still driving to the job. This one catches a lot of troubleshooters. They figure that this problem job is a lot like some other problem job they looked at. They make up their minds as to what's wrong before they get to the job, and then they set out to prove that their conclusion is correct - even if it's not! Give yourself a chance to poke around. If you're sent to help someone, don't always listen Don't listen to some people, that is. I say this because there will often be some troubled soul on the job who is incredibly frustrated. He wants the problem to go away, but he doesn't really want you to solve it. If you can solve what he can't solve, that means that you're smarter than he is. This bothers him to the extent that he will roll stones in your way. He may tell you half-truths so that at the end of the day he can smile and say, "Hey, even the big shot 'expert' can't solve this one! There's no solution to this problem." Rest assured that there is always an answer. You just may have to get away from that guy to find it. Comprehend the components This is real important because if you don't fully understand how the parts work you're going to have a tough time understanding how they join together to form a system. If you feel weak in some areas (circulators, boilers controls, or whatever) spend some time at the manufacturers' websites. Ask them for catalogs and read as much as you can. Ask questions. Never stop asking questions. Understand the system Once you get the components down pat, start thinking in terms of systems. How do all these parts fit together? What are you trying to achieve? Always try to see the whole works in your mind's eye when you're troubleshooting. Don't focus too much on just one piece of the puzzle. Get out of that boiler room and wander around. Be nosy. Be curious. See the system, not just the symptoms. Speak simply If you take the time to define the problem in simple terms, you'll always have a definite place to come back to when you're wandering through the system. That simple statement may be something like, "The left side of the building gets hotter than the right," or, "When all the zones call, there's not enough heat in the upstairs bedroom." Now ask yourself, "What can cause that?" By verbalizing the problem in a definite way you'll stay on track and be less likely to get lost on technical tangents. A simple statement made up front keeps you focused. Focus on physics High pressure goes to low pressure. Water seeks its own level. Heat goes toward cold. Hot water is lighter than cold water. You learned these things in elementary school, but you might forget them on a problem job if you don't stay focused on basic physics. For instance, look at the location of that circulator and know for sure that the highest pressure it will produce will be at its discharge flange. As the water flows through the system, the pressure will drop until it reaches its lowest point back at the circulator's suction flange. An understanding of a basic physical law such as that will help you figure out why water's traveling down this branch and not the other one. Before you make a decision as to the cause of a problem, ask yourself if it agrees with the Laws of Physics. If it doesn't, keep thinking. Be methodical Make a written or mental checklist of the possible causes of a problem and work your way through the list. Remember, the one potential cause that you decide to skip will probably be the one that's screwing up the job. Life's funny that way. If you'd like to see a good example of this sort of methodical list, go to www.HeatingHelp.com and click on the "Steam Problems?" button. You'll find a big chuck of my book, "A Pocketful of Steam Problems - with solutions!" there. This is the way a methodical troubleshooter thinks. (And if you'd like to own a copy of that book, you'll find it in the "Books & More" section!) Let your mind do the walking Think like air, water, and steam. Visualize your way through the job. Ask yourself what you would do if you were inside the pipes. And remember, as air, water, or steam, you have to follow those basic Laws of Physics. Use your imagination. What would you do when you reach that tee? Visualization is the troubleshooter's most powerful tool. Ask the superintendent This guy has never disappointed me. I always take the time to have a cup of coffee with him, and he always gives me valuable clues. I'll ask him where and when the system bangs, clangs, or knocks. I'll have him tell me who in the building complains the most. I'll ask him what, if anything, he does to make the problem stop temporarily. He'll always give me the clues I need to solve the problem. Yet hardly anyone ever speaks to this guy! Take it to the Wall! Go to www.HeatingHelp.com and ask for other opinions. There's a world of knowledge and experience writing on the Wall. These people constantly impress me with what they know, and how willing they are to share with others. That's what makes the Wall such a special place. You are NEVER alone!

Previous Page----Next Page