Baseboard BTU’s

April 25, 2011 by

Often we are asked how many BTU’s are in a foot of baseboard heating.

To answer this, the following must be considered:  is the baseboard heating system electric, steam or water?  For this post we limit it to hot water baseboard.

Finding (1) the temperature and rate of the water passing through the baseboard, (2) the size of the copper tube and (3) the specifications of the baseboard from the manufacturer will provide a more precise answer.

We sell Argo Low Trim II baseboard which can produce 570 BTU/hr at a water temperature of 180 degrees, at a pump rate of 1 gal per minute.   You can find this information at Argo’s website for Low Trim II.

This amount of BTU’s per foot, combined with a heat loss calculation, can determine how many feet of baseboard are needed to heat a room. Heat loss calculation is a complicated number to determine.  It involves knowing the average outside winter temperature, how the room is insulated, square footage of the room, and number of windows and doors.  There are heat loss software programs that are used to input all the variables to get a result of  BTU’s required to heat a room or house.   One can use a rough estimate of 50 BTUs/hr per square foot.  Keep in mind that a rough estimate is just that, an estimate.

An example is that if you have a room that is 20 x 24 and are trying to determine the amount of baseboard, a rough estimate of BTU’s required would be (24×20)  *50 BTU’s/hr = 24000. The number of baseboard feet would be 2400 / 570, or 42 ft of Argo baseboard.

Baseboard is often installed under windows. Can you guess why?  Look for future posts to get the answer.

Links that provide more information:

  • Article containing more complexities of answering the same question:
  • Interesting conversation regarding baseboard BTU’s –

I just had city water installed and now my water heater leaks out of my relief valve!

April 25, 2011 by

You just had city water installed, and now your hot water tank is leaking out of the relief valve!  The following information will provide steps to help you solve the problem.

The first rule to remember is that as water is heated, it will expand.  Before getting city water you likely had a pump and cold water expansion tank in your house.  As the water heater did its job, the expanded water would push back the line into the expansion tank.

It is common after installing city water to have no expansion tank and a check valve installed in the new waterline.  When the hot water tank heats water, the expanded water has nowhere to go, thus building excess pressure and blowing it out of your water heater relief valve.

Expansion tank

Wilkins Expansion tank – item 41-300

The solution is to install a small expansion tank on the cold water line above your water heater.

We carry an expansion tank for hot water. It is our item # 41-300, a Zurn XT-8.  A tee fitting is required for the cold water line to go to a ¾ “ female pipe thread to accept the tank threads.  You will need enough room for the tank to hang.  It is advisable to have some support for the water line as well,  to avoid putting undo strain on it, causing it to break and create another problem.

relief valve

Relief valve

You may also want to replace the relief valve, our item 41-274, on your water heater as it may still drip after being opened by high pressure a few times.

Good article on expansion tanks from a code point of view:

Here is a link to Zurn’s installation document. for the XT expansion tank.

Can I damage my pump if I run out of water?

April 14, 2011 by

 If I run out of water, can it damage my pump?


Submersible pumps are more susceptible to damage than jet pumps.  Pumps are cooled and lubricated by the water flowing through them.  The impellers of a submersible pump will quickly begin to melt and fuse together when the water level drops below the intake screen of the pump.  Running without water even one time can cause the pump to lock up or seriously degrade the pump’s performance.  A jet pump may run quite awhile without damage but they can also overheat.  The impeller, diffuser, shaft seal or motor could be ruined.  Because this type of damage is not from a defect in the pump, it is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

A low cut-off pressure switch will prevent damage in most situations but is not foolproof.  A better solution is to install an electric pump protection control.  The pressure switch turns off the pump when there is a drop in water pressure below 20psi.  The pump protector controls sense a drop in electric current as the load on the pump drops when the well goes “dry”.

The low water pressure switch is suitable as a little insurance for a well that doesn’t typically have a problem with water level.  We highly recommend the pump protector for low-producing wells.  If your pressure switch drops out, you will have to wait several minutes or more for the water level to recover, and then hold the lever on the side of the switch up until the pressure increases above 20psi.  The pump control is not only more reliable, it is also much more convenient.  The control has an adjustable timer which can be set from two minutes to an hour or more.  After the preset time, the control automatically restarts the pump.  It sure beats getting out of the shower soaking wet and trudging to the basement to lift the arm on the pressure switch!



Losing Water Pressure?

April 14, 2011 by

I am losing water pressure, how do I find the cause?


If you are connected to a municipal water company, call them.  If you have your own water source, read on.

If you notice the pump is coming on or the pressure reading on the gauge is dropping when no one is using water, there could be a leak somewhere in your system or a check valve might have failed.  Leaks can be in your house, underground or in the well.

Let’s check the easy things first – leaks in the house.  Look at each toilet in the home.  Lift the tank lid to see if the fill valve is stuck open and pouring water down the overflow tube.  Some fill valves can be taken apart and cleaned while others will have to be replaced.  It could be a bad tank ball or flapper allowing the water to leak from the tank into the bowl.  This will cause the water level to drop in the tank and the fill valve will open to refill the water.  Replace the flapper or ball.  It is also possible that an outside faucet wasn’t turned off completely or the garden hose has developed a leak.

If nothing was leaking inside the house, an outdoor source could be at fault.   Do you have a shut-off valve on the house side of the cold water pressure tank?  If so, turn it off and watch the gauge.  If the pressure is still dropping, the leak is between the tank and the bottom of your well or spring.  The leak could be a cracked fitting, a hole in the pipe, a loose hose clamp, a bad o-ring in the pitless adapter or a bad check valve or foot valve. If the water source is  a spring, replace the foot valve and the fitting.  If you have a well and the well head is underground, start digging.  If you have a well cap above ground, it will be easier to access.  Remove the well cap or well seal.  Listen for water spraying or hissing.  Look down the well with a flashlight for leaks around the pitless adapter.  If you do not see evidence of leaking pipes, you will have to pull the pipe out of the well.  For a single-line jet pump, check the pipe for holes or splits and replace the foot valve and fitting at the bottom of the pipe.  On a two-line jet pump system, check the pipe and pay special attention to the jet assembly (the piece that ties the two lines together).  Look for a hole in the jet assembly and check or replace all of the fittings.  Replace the foot valve.  For a submersible pump, check the pipe and the fitting at the top of the pump.  There is a check valve either just above the pump or built into the head of the pump.  Replace the existing check valve or add a new check valve above the pump.

Check the pressure on the well side again.  For jet pumps you will have to prime them by filling the lines with water.  Jet pumps will not work if there is air in the pipe.  Hopefully, the problem has been solved.  If there is still a loss of pressure you might have a leak underground.  Look for a wet spot in the yard between the house and the well which may indicate a leak.  If there is nothing obvious in the yard, the most likely spot for a leak is at the foundation where the pipe enters the house.  Dig this area first.  The next place to dig is along the outside of the well casing to the point where the pipe attaches to the outside of the pitless adapter.  If both of these areas are dry, the leak is probably somewhere else in the underground pipe.  Other likely areas are under sidewalks or driveways.  You may want to plug the pipe at the well or spring and do an air-pressure check to be sure the leak is definitely underground before digging up and replacing the existing pipe.

Pressure Tank – setting the pressure

April 1, 2011 by

How do I set the air pressure in my pressure tank?

The air pressure in the tank should be set according to the low cut-in point of the pressure switch.  Before setting the pressure, it is important to know what the low pressure cut-in is.  There are two ways to determine this.  The first is to find the pressure rating for the switch you installed. This is valid only if the switch has not been adjusted. If the switch was adjusted, the second method should be used, which involves observing the pressure gauge to see at which point the pressure switch turns on the pump.

view of the bottom of a pressure tank

The pressure switch rating is normally written on a tag that is inside the plastic cap covering the switch.  Typically this can be found on the inside of your pressure switch lid.  Before you remove the lid to see the label, you should shut off the power to the switch at the main circuit panel.  To remove the lid, loosen the screw on the top of the pressure switch cap.   Look inside the cover to read the pressure range. The first number is the low pressure  cut-in  pressure.

label inside pressure switch cover

The label on the left is a 30 – 50 pressure switch. Look under the PSI column:  ON/I is the low pressure cut-in pressure, the OFF/O is the high pressure cut-off pressure.

This is the factory setting of the switch when purchased. However, since the switches have adjustment screws, it is possible the switch settings have been changed.

If the switch has been adjusted or you cannot find the rating on the switch, you need to observe the pressure gauge to see when the switch turns on.  You will need power turned on to do this.   Observe  the pressure gauge as you allow water to run in your sink or washing machine.  As the gauge decreases, make a note of where the pressure is when the pump switch activates the pump. This is the low pressure cut-in point. Continue to watch and note the pressure where the pump switch shuts off.  This is the high pressure cut-off point.

Once you have determined the cut-in pressure you can set the tank pressure.  To do so, shut the power to the switch (and pump) off and completely drain the tank of water.  It is important to drain the tank completely before checking and setting the pressure in the tank. If you do not, the pressure will not be set correctly.

There is a valve stem which is usually on the top of the tank under a plastic cap.  With an air pressure gauge, check the air pressure just as you would on a car tire.  It should read 2 to 3 pounds less than the low pressure cut-in pressure.   If the pressure in the tank is not set correctly,  you may then either add or release air as needed.

If you are using a  30-50 pressure switch, the low pressure cut-in point is 30 psi.  Set the tank pressure at 27 or 28 psi.  Once you have the pressure in the tank set correctly, you can turn the pump back on.  Don’t forget to close the boiler valve you opened to drain the tank.

With Oil Nozzles, size does matter

March 24, 2011 by

Can I Change the Size or Type of My Oil Nozzle?

In general, the oil nozzle recommended by the heater manufacturer should be used.  This can usually be found on a tag on the heater.  The nozzle is rated by GPH (gallons per hour of fuel use), spray angle and spray pattern.  For example, a .60 80 B nozzle will deliver .6 GPH oil use with an 80 degree angle and solid spray.

You may experiment with a smaller GPH nozzle to achieve better fuel economy.  A 1.20 GPH nozzle may be replaced with a 1.10 GPH, etc.  You may also try using a “W” nozzle in place of a hollow (A) or solid (B) spray pattern.  Other changes, especially to the spray angle should be left to an experienced technician.

More information can be found on the links below:

“Total Look at Oil Burner Nozzles”- by Delavan

Oil nozzle size–effect on consumption – Gardenweb discussion group

Nozzle sizes are stamped on the nozzle: – forum

When you purchase oil nozzles from our web site, in order to keep shipping costs low, we ship them using  US Priority mail.  Please provide a valid mailing address when you place you order.

Delavan Adaptrap

March 24, 2011 by

Delavan Adaptrap

When oil continues to drip or ooze after the burner shuts off, try replacing the standard nozzle adapter with a Delavan Adaptrap.  The Adaptrap also helps eliminate erratic spray and flame flutter on burner shut-off due to air in the oil line.

Any time you experience air in the oil line it is a good idea to check for leaks especially around fittings and valves.  Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dab under each fitting to detect any oil present.  Tighten or replace any leaky components.

Can I use PVC Pipe for Air Lines?

March 24, 2011 by

Can I Use PVC Pipe for Air Lines?


PVC pipe should never be used for pressurized air lines.


You might know someone who has PVC air lines in their garage or workshop but it is an accident waiting to happen.  Bump it with a tool or object and it can shatter we tremendous force sending shards of sharp plastic through the room.  The results can be serious injury or even death.

I’m all for saving a buck or two but this isn’t the place to cut corners.  Always use steel pipe for your air lines.

These people agree:

“A section of PVC pipe being used for compressed air exploded … fragment of the pipe flew 60 feet and embedded itself in a roll of paper.” – osha. gov

Delavan Nozzle Line Filter

March 24, 2011 by

Delavan Nozzle Line Filter


Delavan oil line filter

When contaminated oil nozzles are about to drive you over the edge, try adding an inexpensive line filter to your system.  The Delavan nozzle line filter provides four times the straining area and removes particles one-half the size as a standard nozzle strainer.

The 1/8″ filter is easily installed in the nozzle port of the oil pump between the pump and the nozzle.  Line filters can be used on burner applications of 2.00 GPH or less and should be changed at least annually.

A little ditty:

A warm cozy house brings peace of mind,
A well maintained furnace purrs along fine.
But if you awake to an ice cold house,
You’ll be spending the day with one angry spouse.

Noisy Oil Pump Operation

March 24, 2011 by

Noisy Oil Pump Operation

One cause for a noisy pump is a misaligned oil burner coupling.  Try loosening the mounting screws slightly and shift the pump position until the noise is eliminated.  Retighten screws.

oil burner pump couplers

Air in the inlet line can also cause noise.  Check all fittings and connections for leaks.  Tighten or replace any leaky fittings.

A humming noise can be fixed by installing a Silent-Flo anti-hum device.

Anti Hum device

For more information on oil pumps:

Suntec Field service and Trouble Shooting Guide