The Glitch

A picture is worth 1,000 words, and since I don’t have room for 1,000 words, here’s a picture rife with details that need correcting. This installation greeted my friend Harvey Youker, who got the SOS (Save Our System) call from a frustrated homeowner.

Can you spot at least five details that are either incorrect or which you would do differently?

The Fix

Here’s my list of corrections or changes:

1. Wet rotor circulators should be mounted with their shafts oriented horizontally. This reduces axial thrust loads on their bushings. The two circulators above the boiler don’t respect this protocol.

2. While you’re looking at those two inverted circulators, consider the fact that they are mounted directly above the electronics controlling the boiler. It should always be wires above water, not water above wires.

3. While you’re looking at wires, consider the whirly-twirly cables connecting the zone valves. Is this just holiday motif, or was the installer moonlighting as a stylist at the local hair salon? Whatever the case, this is not professional work.

4. The use of exposed NM electrical cable to wire the circulators doesn’t meet the National Electrical Code.

5. There’s a circulator (black) behind the boiler that is pumping directly toward the expansion tank (seen hanging from the air separator). Other than pumping toward (rather than away from) the expansion tank, this circulator appears to be there to “help” the zone circulators in each of the three distribution branches. This is not a defined method of hydronic piping and those circulators are far from being hydraulically separated.

6. There’s a zone valve connected to, well, nothing, at the end of the upper header. It is, however, wired. I wonder what control action activates that valve? Maybe it’s an electrically operated pressure-relief valve …

7. Why are there check valves on just two of the three distribution circuits? I have no clue.

8. There should be isolation flanges on all the circulators. That detail will likely be better appreciated when those inverted circulators start failing.

9. Compounding the design errors, the overall piping quality of this installation is nothing to be very proud of. Think: plumb, level, minimizing bends and offsets, and minimizing mixed piping materials.

10. This installer could have saved time using modern purging valves rather than the double tee/hose bib/ball valve assemblies seen at the return header.

11. That’s a long length of unsupported AL29-4C vent pipe, and it’s routed through space that is probably going to subject it to numerous collisions with people and other objects within the garage.