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The Joy of Owning a House

February 1, 2014
Posted at 4:21 pm

I live on the northeast coast of the US and have been experiencing that cold blast of arctic air just like everyone else around these parts. This morning I awoke to find my breath fogging the air in front of my face.

So, into the basement I go, only to find that the basement was warm! I go to my boiler, and it reads 140°F, just as I would expect it to. I started checking the lead out pipes and they're all hot. Seriously puzzled, I go back up and find that all but one of the radiators are cold! (Hot water heat, cast iron radiators)

The fact that the pipes were hot told me the circulating pump was working. I had pressure at the kitchen sink, so the supply lines were working, and hot water came out.

Scratching my head, I thought the only thing it could be was the pump. Now, you would think with it being Superbowl Weekend, the DIYs would be home getting ready to party. Not so! They were all at the supply house getting bathroom fixtures and massive quantities of pipe fittings! When it was finally my turn, I told the counter guy I needed a Taco pump, and because I was flying on caffeine, I told him why. And he started asking questions.

Now, I'm a man (go figure) and I began to resent his apparent disregard for my manly skills of troubleshooting.

Then he said, "Is there water flow through the pressure reducing valve?" I guess he could tell from the dumb look on my face that I had no idea what he was talking about. And trust me, I felt very dumb at that point.

Did you know that there is a control valve for the water supply to the boiler? And that it doesn't have to be anywhere near the boiler to work? Makes sense in retrospect, but I had no clue.

He convinced me to buy the valve for less than a third of what the pump would have cost me and told me they were open 'til four on Saturdays. He instructed me on how to test the valve, saying the surest sign of trouble was the lack of the sound of running water at the boiler. I got home and found the blasted valve nestled in the floor joists overhead. I tested the valve, done simply by disconnecting the copper pipe from the outflow of the valve and looking for water. {Sigh} A bare trickle of water. And the bypass bail didn't change it.

It took me thirty minutes to change the valve, remembering to use teflon tape on the threads of the connectors. It's gonna take me all day to bleed the air out of the system. Rats.

Oh yeah, the one thing he asked me that really frosted my biscuit was what the pressure at the boiler was, and I didn't know: I hadn't checked. He told me it should read twelve psi. The purpose of the pressure reducing valve is to reduce the common house pressure of fifty-five psi to twelve. When I got home and looked ... one psi. Oh man.

I can still see my breath, and it's gonna be a while before I can turn the boiler on again. It's been four hours now and the system is still filling. I'm going to take a cold shower now. I feel grungy.

I'd really like to know where all the missing water went.