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Old 02-11-2020, 08:54 AM   #1
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Monitoring a Hydronic Heating System?

I am finally installing a new diesel heating system which will be installed in parallel with my current heat pumps. It consists of an Olympia 105 Boiler and 3 zones With Real fan units, an everhot system and water tank loop. The unit will be controlled by a Nest thermostat with solenoids to turn off heating loops in the case of just wanting hot water.
Has anyone done more advanced monitoring of a system like this? I am thinking about the following but open to ideas. I use Maretron for most monitoring.
1. Pressure (monitored on the hot side manifold)
2. Output temp (monitored on the hot side manifold)
3. (Three) Return temp (monitored on each return leg right before the return manifold)
4. Run/Power Indicators on the pump/boiler and solenoids.

Anything Iím missing or you would do differently?
Thanks
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:26 AM   #2
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When I was setting up my Connecticut home's "hydronic" heating system for unattended use for the winter months when we are in Florida, the HVAC contractor recommended a low water shutdown in addition to the presumably code mandated fire shutdown above it.

He said that all hydronic systems leak and if the water level dropped too far (Our potable water was shut down and drained. Normally the city water pressure would make up any leakage.) the boiler's burner could melt the internals and cause a fire. All it took was a simple level sensor wired to the burner shutdown.

So I would add a fire shutdown to mitigate a catastrophic situation and a low water shutdown to prevent the fire. These are not just monitors as they automatically shut the burner down without human intervention.

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Old 02-11-2020, 09:38 AM   #3
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AC
Sounds like a decent system. I like your choice of Real heat exchangers. Do you have an engine coolant HXer to heat the coolant when cruising to allow the boiler to remain off but rest of hydronic system on?

Regarding your four questions. To me, items 2 and 3 are well addressed by correct placement of aquastats. Since these, in conjunction with thermostats, control the on off of the HXers and the cycling of the boiler I'm hard pressed to see the need for coolant temperature monitoring. You could always use an IR gun to assess if a temperature sensor or two would yield useful data.

Regarding pressure, it may prove useful to assess pump health or aging coolant. Is your pump variable speed? If not, pressure is just data with no control available. Then the question as to where do you install the pressure sensor? My pump never wore out but after 12 years I replaced it "just in case" and now have a running takeout spare. Coolant aging, maybe a change every 5 years or so much like engine coolant on a time basis.

My Hurricane has a fault description monitor by the boiler (another could be mounted elsewhere) as well as a status gauge as to boiler on off, cycling and system off. My Hurricane is better monitored than the three ACs and furnaces I have in my dirt home which utilize nothing more than a standard Honeywell unit.

Bottom line, possibly be conservative and start out with standard setup as per Olympia and installer recommendations. You can always add stuff later if the need arises. Often, additional monitors and instrumentation are the weak, frustrating or puzzling points.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:18 AM   #4
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I think the system has both fire and low fluid shut downs but will check.

Sunchaser,
Normally I’d agree but the installer was saying draining the system is a pain to add anything and my biggest concern is remote monitoring since I’ll use this when it’s super cold or to heat it up before I arrive for the weekend.
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Old 02-11-2020, 10:55 AM   #5
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I think the system has both fire and low fluid shut downs but will check.

Sunchaser,
Normally Iíd agree but the installer was saying draining the system is a pain to add anything and my biggest concern is remote monitoring since Iíll use this when itís super cold or to heat it up before I arrive for the weekend.
There are some really neat marine remote sensing systems out there. Did you have a specific one in mind? I've a friend who keeps his vessel in Petersburg AK and monitors his critical data from the SE US. Regarding your heating system, temperature monitors and flow on/off sensing can be externally mounted.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:15 AM   #6
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I'm using Maretron with the cloud monitoring but also a separate linux box that scrapes n2k data and puts it in a time series db, that tends to be the most immediate in terms of alerts on the system.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:15 AM   #7
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There are some really neat marine remote sensing systems out there. Did you have a specific one in mind? I've a friend who keeps his vessel in Petersburg AK and monitors his critical data from the SE US. Regarding your heating system, temperature monitors and flow on/off sensing can be externally mounted.
Do you have some examples of external monitoring options?
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Old 02-12-2020, 07:52 AM   #8
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A really large accumulator might add make up water / antifreeze mix if you actually have a fluid loss over time.
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Old 02-12-2020, 08:15 AM   #9
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I'm in the process of building my second Olympia-based, real heater-base system, and can share what I'm doing differently. The changes aren't necessarily because there was a problem with the first system, but I can't help myself trying to make improvements. I'll mention where I think there is something that will really matter to you, but otherwise just take it for general consideration and entertainment.


- I agree with Sunchaser that measuring loop temp, especially in multiple places, is really more of a design verification exercise rather than on going monitoring. So I definitely wouldn't install multiple sensors. However I do plan to install one on the supply side manifold. I don't think there is huge value in it, but I plan to anyway. I'm also curious to see how the loop temp holds up when running off engine heat, but that is arguably a one-time design verification check.


- I will install a pressure sensor, and recommend it, mostly to monitor for leaks. Even if the system has a shut down, which I agree it should, I want to know when a leak is happening, not after it has happened. I agree that leaks can and probably will develop at times over the life of the system, but those are faults that should be corrected. A properly operating system should lose no fluid. None, zip, zilch, nada. If it is losing some, I want to know right away.


- Setting up to run off waste engine heat while underway is a wonderful thing, so I highly recommend it if at all practical.


- My last system has no automatic zone valves, so hot water circulated through all the loops whenever the circulator was running. There were manual valves so I could shut off everything except the HW in the summer, but it was manual. Up to a point I think this approach is fine, but on the new system I am building it the way a home system is done with automatic zone valves that are responsive to the thermostats. This better directs the heat where you want it, when you want it. It may be overkill, but I did it anyway. But this was prompted by a particular issue, so read on....


- I encountered an interesting phenomenon on my last system, and it's what prompted me to use zone valves on the new system. One loop ran through the HW tank to head domestic hot water from the boiler. That was all good. However when at dock and on shore power, I used the electric HW heat. Now if the heat demand from the living space was light, the boiler would cool down between runs, and when it would start up, the water flowing through the HW heater would actually draw heat out of the HW tank rather than put heat in. The electric HW would kick on, and I was effectively heating the boat with electric, at least to some degree. So at a minimum I wanted a zone valve to only direct water through the HW tank when there was actually a call for heat from it. This whole thing wasn't the end of the world, but I decided to improve on it in the next system.


- I am planning on monitoring the burner on/off time in one way or another. They may have changed it, but on the last SureWire control box the hour meter ran whenever there was power to the system, not burner run time. So it measured breaker-on time, which was always, and totally useless. This time I want a meter that counts burner run time. That's what drives maintenance, so that's what I want to monitor. Now the new SureWire box is quite different, and I don't know yet whether the hour meter function has changed, but I'm not using the SureWire box, so haven't pursued it. A call to them would probably answer the question. I plan to either install an hour meter, or monitor and count run time with Maretron.



- On a refit it might not be an option, but I have insulated my PEX heating loops. And many people prefer not to insulate them because they indirectly bring heat to other parts of the boat. A friend is building an identical boat to mine (as much as any two Nordhavn's are the same - not) and he has elected not to insulate. So people go both ways.


- Many boats, like my last one, are built with a header tank to maintain water pressure. This time around I am building a closed system with an expansion tank, as you would build a home system. This eliminates the need for a tank at the highest point in the system, and gives a little more control over pressure.


- For monitoring, I think room temp is the most important thing to monitor. That will tell you whether the heat is working, or if you have a problem that needs to be tended to right away. I left our heat on all the time, just as I do at home. When we were away from the boat I just turned the temp down. That protected against freezing, and left a more approachable boat when we returned.
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Old 02-12-2020, 09:29 AM   #10
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Do you have some examples of external monitoring options?
There are many sources of external monitoring of small pipe flows and temperature. Grainger has many aqua stat choices. Or go to Keyence for flow switches and Kele for temperature monitoring using Q strap mini or the strap on Precon sensor. Our circulating pump is positive displacement so flow on off is more important to us than volume.

As TT mentioned in his post, there are several ways to hook up and modulate the use of hydronic for water heating and utilizing off engine heat. Since we have twins, we use one engine for heating the hot water tank and the other, utilizing a plate heat exchanger, for heating the hydronic system when underway. We have no need to plumb the hydronic system into the hot water tank but the option is always there.

After 13 years of operation the various aqua-stat performance has been flawless. The only leaks we've had in our system have been with the ITR HXers, which were picked up by monitoring paper towels placed under the units.
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Old 02-12-2020, 12:47 PM   #11
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I have been using a product from BAYweb. It's a web enabled thermostat with additional digital inputs and outputs. All temperature and operation of the boiler is available through a web portal, just keep the boat network connected to the Internet. It also supports X10 and wireless sensors, so I have a motion alarm and companion way switch. Also, I put in an AC coil relay to give dry contact open when shore power is disconnected. It can notify through text or email.


Bonus, no recurring charges for the web portal, and I have a digital thermostat for the furnace. I installed in 2011 and it works great. It's marketed as HVAC cloud control for buildings. The cloud portal has graphs and operation details, along with alarm events. It works well for the remote monitoring part and is handy from down below when I can use the phone to turn down the heat. I only have one zone. Check it out...



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Old 02-12-2020, 12:49 PM   #12
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I'm in the process of building my second Olympia-based, real heater-base system, and can share what I'm doing differently. The changes aren't necessarily because there was a problem with the first system, but I can't help myself trying to make improvements. I'll mention where I think there is something that will really matter to you, but otherwise just take it for general consideration and entertainment.
Very helpful, thank you! A few comments.

1. I too will be using the engine to heat the loop so like the idea of a monitor for temp there (plus im a bit of a nerd when it comes to monitoring stuff), the time series db I store my n2k sentences in makes it really interesting to try and understand correlations and later build in custom monitoring... just no time for that now.

2. I won't have automatic zone valves but will have solenoids on each zone so I can control them however I choose, for now its just going to be switches in the salon next to the Nest. Each Real heat exchanger will use a 12v temperature fan controller versus the standard high/low/off switch, this should allow me to hold more precise temp in each cabin.

3. Very interesting on the hot water issue with electric heating the system, ill keep that in mind. I have heat pumps as well so it would be rare that im on shore power, using this system versus the CruisAirs.

4. Love the idea of actual boiler fire time, will ask the installer today.

5. Im confused on Expansion tank versus Header Tank. I have an expansion tank being installed but the installer still wanted it as the highest point in the system. Is there some other type of expansion tank?

6. Agree on room temp, I have a TMP100 which will be dedicated to all the staterooms, just need to take the time to install it.

Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2020, 01:17 PM   #13
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..............


5. Im confused on Expansion tank versus Header Tank. I have an expansion tank being installed but the installer still wanted it as the highest point in the system. Is there some other type of expansion tank?

.............
I've had an Olympia boiler with expansion tank and Hurricane system with a header tank, both systems the tanks were at a low point below the air handlers.

On the Olympia system the installer used Spirovent automatic air bleeders on the outlet side of the boiler at the top of the expansion tank as well as manual bleed valves at each air handler. There was room on that boat for make up tank and pump to keep the system topped up.

On the Hurricane system the installer used Caleffi automatic air vents at high points. If the lines went down from an air handler then back up to the next it got a Caleffi. In addition to the expansion tank there is an overflow bottle similar to the overflow bottle in a car or truck.

The Caleffis take more fiddling to get the air out, opening the manual valve. Both take a while as in multiple startups with full cool downs to get all of the air out. But once cleared out are trouble free.

Installation manuals will say never put the expansion tank or the header tank at a low point but it works. The Olympia system worked for many years without trouble. The Hurricane installation is relatively new but as far as air in the system is fine. There are other issues related to the quality of the Hurricane and the installation work but that's another story.
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Old 02-12-2020, 03:32 PM   #14
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I've had an Olympia boiler with expansion tank and Hurricane system with a header tank, both systems the tanks were at a low point below the air handlers.

On the Olympia system the installer used Spirovent automatic air bleeders on the outlet side of the boiler at the top of the expansion tank as well as manual bleed valves at each air handler. There was room on that boat for make up tank and pump to keep the system topped up.

On the Hurricane system the installer used Caleffi automatic air vents at high points. If the lines went down from an air handler then back up to the next it got a Caleffi. In addition to the expansion tank there is an overflow bottle similar to the overflow bottle in a car or truck.

The Caleffis take more fiddling to get the air out, opening the manual valve. Both take a while as in multiple startups with full cool downs to get all of the air out. But once cleared out are trouble free.

Installation manuals will say never put the expansion tank or the header tank at a low point but it works. The Olympia system worked for many years without trouble. The Hurricane installation is relatively new but as far as air in the system is fine. There are other issues related to the quality of the Hurricane and the installation work but that's another story.

To expound on the difference, when I refer to an "expansion" tank, I mean a tank with air air bladder that gets pre-charged with air. The hydronic glycol is then pressurized to partly fill the tank, squishing the air bladder a bit. Glycol expansion then just squishes the bladder a bit more. It's just like an expansion tank or accumulator in a water system.


What Sure Marine sells doesn't contain a bladder and doesn't get pre-charged in any way. It's just a tank partly filled with glycol up high somewhere. System pressure at the boiler is whatever the head of the tank is. A tank 10' above the boiler will give about 5 psi of pressure, where a bladder expansion tank will run around 15 psi. The header tank may have a pressure cap like on a radiator (mine did) and it might pressurize a bit as the glycol expands, but the baseline pressure will be the head of the tank.


I didn't have any problems with the header tank on my last system, but didn't want to have to plumb up to the fly bridge for a header tank. And with a zoned system, you need to be sure everything is open to the tank on one end of the loop or the other so it can expand. It was simpler to just install a pressurized expansion tank next to the boiler.
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Old 02-12-2020, 03:37 PM   #15
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What are the solenoid valves that you are using?


For zone valves, I'm using Taco Sentry valves. They nominally work off 24VAC, but confirmed with Taco that they would work fine off 24VDC as well, though it's not a tested and supported use. I rigged up a test and ran one through 7600 cycles and it worked fine, so that's what I'm doing. Otherwise a 120V to 24V transformer is needed. This way my control system and fans are all 24VDC, and only the circulator and boiler itself are 120VAC.
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Old 02-12-2020, 03:55 PM   #16
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Can't add much from a boating standpoint, but as far as zone solenoid vavles, here are a couple of points:

They are likely to need to be replaced.
They are likely to leak over their life at the shaft seal.

As a result:

Mount them in an area where they are easily worked on and the leak won't damage anything. While it might require a great deal more piping, all of them should be located together in the mechanical room with a manifold configuration.

Also, they should be setup with a double block and bleed. Simply, a valve before and after to isolate and unions or flanges to facilitate removal and replacement. Ideally, a shaft seal failure can then be isolated to allow the system to still be utilized, and flanges or unions to facilitate a quick replacement with an already setup spare. While all of this will significantly increase plumbing costs, it greatly enhances overall system reliability by being able to isolate a failure point.

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Old 02-12-2020, 09:43 PM   #17
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twistedtree I agree with your definition of an expansion tank. A tank with an air bladder. They serve as a 'buffer' to handle expansion and contraction as the glycol expands and contracts.

To clarify so we're all speaking the same language. As used in a heating system.

Header tank.
A header tank doesn't have an air bladder and will very likely have a radiator style cap and works best with an overflow bottle. As the glycol heats up and expands the radiator cap spills the overflow into the overflow bottle. As the glycol cools and contracts the excess is sucked back into the header tank. Very like your car or truck's radiator and overflow bottle.

A properly set up hydronic system needs an expansion tank or header tank or both. Ideally they should be the highest point in the system to capture entrained air. But if not and you are very careful about filling, bleeding and maintaining the system you can put the expansion tank and or header tank lower in the system. Spirovent or Caleffi type automatic air vents help with this.

Air handler.
An air handler is the kind of thing Sure Marine or ITR Hurricane sells. It has a copper coil the glycol flows through with fins and a fan. It used to heat the room.

Heat exchanger.

A heat exchanger can be a shell and tube exchnger or flat plate exchanger. It may be used to capture waste heat from the engine for use in the hydronic sytem. Or to heat the domestic water heater, best to not have engine ethylene glycol near potable water.

And of course we've all seen variations on the above....
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Old 02-12-2020, 10:06 PM   #18
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twistedtree I agree with your definition of an expansion tank. A tank with an air bladder. They serve as a 'buffer' to handle expansion and contraction as the glycol expands and contracts.

To clarify so we're all speaking the same language. As used in a heating system.

Header tank.
A header tank doesn't have an air bladder and will very likely have a radiator style cap and works best with an overflow bottle. As the glycol heats up and expands the radiator cap spills the overflow into the overflow bottle. As the glycol cools and contracts the excess is sucked back into the header tank. Very like your car or truck's radiator and overflow bottle.

A properly set up hydronic system needs an expansion tank or header tank or both. Ideally they should be the highest point in the system to capture entrained air. But if not and you are very careful about filling, bleeding and maintaining the system you can put the expansion tank and or header tank lower in the system. Spirovent or Caleffi type automatic air vents help with this.

Air handler.
An air handler is the kind of thing Sure Marine or ITR Hurricane sells. It has a copper coil the glycol flows through with fins and a fan. It used to heat the room.

Heat exchanger.

A heat exchanger can be a shell and tube exchnger or flat plate exchanger. It may be used to capture waste heat from the engine for use in the hydronic sytem. Or to heat the domestic water heater, best to not have engine ethylene glycol near potable water.

And of course we've all seen variations on the above....

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Old 02-13-2020, 11:12 AM   #19
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Very helpful. Have not yet decided on the solenoid valves, im using some basic 12v ones from Amazon (about 50 bucks each) on my water system for things like water maker flush without issues but they likely have less than 100 cycles on them so far and replacing is easy.

OC, good call on the valves on both sides of the solenoid!

TT, what specific expansion tank are you using? I like that idea much better. Any maintenance needed?

AC
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Old 02-13-2020, 11:24 AM   #20
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Do you have some examples of external monitoring options?
The photo is real time. I am 120 miles from my boat.
I monitor all critical systems, and control heating either automatically or manually.

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