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Installing the Heating System: Main Mistakes
Print 2007-12-01 13:07  

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 So, you are through with repairing your home, laying new pipes and installing new heaters. And of course, you hope that all the actions taken and material costs covered will guarantee you a comfortable well-being during the winter. However, it’s not until the heating season starts that you find out whether your heating system operates properly.

Unfortunately, all the problems related to design shortcomings, low-quality materials or unskilled installation will come to the surface later. Furthermore, while the design mistakes or the low quality of the materials used can be detected before the work has started, to control the process of installation itself is not an easy task at all. To be sure about the quality, you need to be a pro and watch the whole process of installing your heaters.
Nevertheless, most typical shortcomings that eventually lead to more serious problems can be revealed and prevented quite easily. This article presents a short overview of the main mistakes typically made when mounting a heating system.

Calculation and selection
The installation or modernization of a heating system starts with a well-designed project. It should be mentioned that an apartment with the central heating offers quite limited possibilities for transformation of the existing heating system. What you can do is only replace your pipes and install more energy-efficient and better-looking heaters.
A private house or a cottage gives much more freedom to those wishing to modify the whole heating system. Correspondingly, you should take creation of the heating project very seriously. In fact, the project has to be prepared before you start to build the house.
First of all, depending on the area of the future building, as well as its floorplan, the height of its ceilings and the type and thickness of its walls, the necessary power of the boiler is determined and the most appropriate fuel (gas, electricity, diesel fuel, etc.) is chosen. The next step involves developing the schemes for the pipes layout and distribution, the arrangement and type of the heaters, etc.
It is on that stage already that a number of mistakes can made that are ready to become big problems. Heating systems are known to be based on heat carrier circulation that can be either natural or forced. In systems with natural circulation the heat carrier (water or special antifreeze) circulates in pipes and heating appliances due to the density difference in different sections of the pipeline. In systems with forced circulation water is moved through pipes and heaters by recirculation pumps. Both these types have certain distinctive features that affect the design of the whole system and the choice for component parts.
First of all, the system with natural circulation does without a pump and thus requires no electricity. However, because of its structural peculiarities it can be applied only in small one- or two-floor houses with an area not exceeding 100-150 square metres. Besides, this dated system can only be controlled by increasing or decreasing the power of the boiler. Furthermore, to secure its proper operation, more expensive pipes with a large cross-section (no less than 50 mm) are typically used. As a result, the general cost of the materials almost doubles.
Besides, there is one more aspect that needs to be takes into account when dealing with a natural circulation system. As a rule, such systems require an open expansion tank to be installed to allow for thermal expansion of the heat carrier. The heat carrier makes a direct contact with the air and gets saturated with oxygen. As a result, steel pipes and heaters become subject to corrosion. For this reason, only heavy cast-iron heaters that are generally resistant to temperature drops and oxygen influence are safe to use in a natural circulation system. So, you can forget about modern and energy-efficient heaters if opting for natural circulation.
Systems with recirculation pumps that are becoming more popular today allow using pipes with a lower cross-section, being thus more “cost-effective”. As a rule, they are of a closed type and use expansion tanks with a membrane, so the heat carrier does not come into contact with air. This allows using a wide range of contemporary heating appliances, such as bi-metallic and aluminum heaters, steel panel and tubular heaters, etc.

Potential installation problems
As it was stated above, installation drawbacks come into surface later. Problems occur at the worst time – during the heating season. As a rule, they result in the leakage of the heat carrier and decrease the system’s work efficiency, causing the house not to receive enough heat. However, this can be prevented if you consider the essential mistakes that installers might make when mounting your heating system.

The “wrong tool” mistake
One of the most widespread problems associated with heater installation is that installers either do not have the right tools or the tools they use are of a poor quality. The essential tools used to install a heating system are an adjustable spanner and a common alligator wrench. However, this set of tools is not sufficient for modern systems. The “ideal” kit of an installer should include the following tools: the adjustable spanner, the alligator wrench of a good quality, a special spanner for reinforced-plastic pipes, a special ring spanner. The problem is that high-quality tools of Swedish and German brands are quite expensive, so some installers prefer to use cheaper ones. However, they are often of a lower quality, e.g. cheap alligator wrenches can be made of soft steel, which makes them sensitive to high loads and prone to breaking. As a result, the installer might prefer not to tighten up threaded joints firmly seeking not to break his tool. Sooner or later this will result in heat carrier leakage, and, possibly, in the system failure.
Moreover, attaching a thermostat to the radiator requires more sophisticated tools too, so if the installer uses just an alligator wrench to perform this task, there is a risk that one fine day the joint will fail to withstand the pressure and leakage will occur.

The “right angle” mistake

Another common misconception that many customers and installers have is that heaters should be installed strictly horizontally. Indeed, how can it be any other way? However, it turns out that heaters should be installed with a slight inclination. Otherwise, the air gradually accumulates in heaters, requiring to be expelled manually through a special air valve. However, people tend to forget to do that, and eventually the power of the heating appliance slightly decreases.

The “wrong sealant” mistake

Pipe connections, especially the threaded ones, require sealing. Until recently, flax was widely used as a sealant. Nowadays flax threads are still used, though very seldom. The most popular sealants today are thermal-resistant silicone and a special Teflon thread seal.
To seal threaded connections, inexperienced or careless installers sometimes use materials that have been designed for a different purpose. For example, they often choose a relatively inexpensive silicone sealant for plastic windows, which is designed for different temperatures. Though such a connection might look normal, when the heating system is turned on, the sealant will not endure the high temperature. This might lead to the leakage of the heat carrier and even to the system’s breakdown.

The “wrong carrier” mistake

In many cases autonomous heating systems utilize heat carriers that do not freeze in negative temperatures. However, using antifreeze sets a range of specific technical requirements. Thus, there are special requirements for sealants and gaskets in that case: for example, common rubber gaskets for cast-iron heaters can “expand” and lose their properties if exposed to ethylene glycol antifreeze. This usually results in the heat carrier leakage.

Summing up, those planning to install or modernize the heating systems in their houses should not select the component parts and materials thoroughly, but also find a good contractor for installation. Stay away from non-professionals; otherwise you’ll have to pay twice later to keep your home warm.
Find more about heating here

Categories: Heating, Heating System Installation, Radiators, Installation , Utility engineering


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