Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top 50 Albums of 2005

BIG thanks to Crystal who helped me produce this list.

50 - Minus Story – “No Rest For Ghosts” – Drawn out songs are featured on this album from Oklahomans, the Minus Story. Ghosts is patient and calm with haunting vocals.
Track to try: “Hold On”

49 - Youth Group – Skeleton Jar - There is a lot of buzz from indie recording artists like Ben Gibbard over Skeleton Jar. At times the hype is justified, but overall this record lacks the consistency required to call is a great album. Certainly worthy of a listen, but hopefully the glimpses of brilliance are signs of things to come and we can expect some solid work from these guys in the future.
Track to Try: “Shadowland”

48 - Tullycraft - Disenchanted Hearts Unite - Disenchanted Hearts Unite is fun, fast paced, instantly catchy pop music from the UK.
Track to try: “Every Little Thing”

47 - Sigur Ros – Takk - More of the same from the Icelandic band. If you like them a whole lot, you’re probably going to like this a whole lot. If you think they’re kinda boring you’ll probably think the same here. If you’re like me and like them, but not as much as everyone else likes them, well you get the picture.
Track to try: “Glosoli”

46 - Doves – Some Cities - The Doves mix samples and rock music on this their third full length studio recording. Fans of Coldplay might like this if they are looking for something a little less boring.
Track to try: “Walk in Fire”

45 - Black Mountain - Black Mountain - A mix of classic and modern rock, Black Mountain uses big scaled sound and a good blend of fast and slow to fill their debut album.
Track to try: “Don't Run Our Hearts Around”

44 - The Fiery Furnaces - EP - Though Rehearsing My Choir disappointed many fans, EP was released in early 2005 filled with more of what has made the Fiery Furnaces a success up to this point. And at over 40 minutes it’s longer than most LP’s.
Track to try: “Single Again”

43 - Wolf Parade – Apologies to Queen Mary - One of the most hyped albums of the past year. Although this is a good album, with talk of it being the album of the year this could just have easily been called Apologies to Those Who Bought the Hype.
Track to try: “Modern World”

42 – Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins - Weird as always, Of Montreal play psychedelic Beatles-esque pop music. So if you’re into that sort of thing you’ll probably like this album.
Track to try: “Wraith Pinned to the Mist”

41 - Radar Brothers - The Fallen Leaf Pages - The Radar Brothers are a poor mans Grandaddy, complete with electronic accompaniments with acoustic rhythms.
Track to try: “Papillion”

40 - 13 & God - 13 & God - A collaboration between indie rock band the Notwist and hip hop artists Themselves. 13 & God blend both genres together to make an album fans of either can enjoy.
Track to try: “Ghostwork”

39 – Cocorosie - Open Season - Female freak folk sisters enlist the help of Devandra Banhart and Antony of Antony and the Johnsons to make this their second album. Noah’s arc is filled with the sisters’ eerie vocals and more than a few oddly selected samples.
Track to try: “South 2Nd”

38 – Angels of Light – Sings Other People - One of two releases this year for Michael Gira’s post-Swans band, the Angels of Light. Gira’s Johnny Cash like voice is enough to warrant a listen to this.
Track to try: “Lena’s Song”

37 - Electrelane – Axes - Some of the songs on Axes feature vocals by their female lead singer, while most are purely instrumentals. I prefer the instrumental tracks, while the singing, and the girls voice I cold do without.
Track to try: “Two For Joy”

36 - Stars - Set Yourself on Fire - This has been a good year for this Canadian pop band. They’ve gained popularity in both indie and mainstream media outlets with this solid release.
Track to try: “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”

35 - New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - A.C. Newman follows up his 2004 solo album with another record from the New Pornographers. Most of the stuff on here sounds just like the stuff on his solo album, but that’s not at all a bad thing.
Track to try: “Use It”

34 - Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene - In the past I’ve been somewhat critical of BSS, but I find this album to be very original and entertaining. I still can’t say I enjoy their live show though.
Track to try: “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)”

33 - Head of Femur - Hysterical Stars - Chicago based Head of Femur use guitars, strings, and horns to make their brand of cut and paste music, though not necessarily in that order.
Track to try: “Manhattan”

32 – British Sea Power – Open Season - On The Decline Of, British Sea Powers debut album, I thought they did a good job of borrowing the Pixies sound and putting their own spin on it. On Open Season they’ve changed gears to a calmer more retro brand of indie rock.
Track to try: “Please Stand Up”

31 - Matt Pond PA - Several Arrows Later - The PA stands for Pennsylvania in case you were wondering. I know I was. Matt Pond is beat up pretty ruthlessly by a lot of indie fans. Personally I find his brand of acoustic pop pretty entertaining.
Track to try: “Halloween”

30 - Deerhoof - The Runners Four - Deerhoof can be a hard listen to over extended periods of time. Their arrangements are often abrasive and Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals are less than conventional. However, Runners Four is easily their catchiest and most accessible album to date.
Track to try: “Twin Killers”

29 - Iron & Wine and Calexico - In the Reins EP / Iron & Wine – Woman King EP - So Sam Beam walks into a bar and the bartender asks him, “Why the long beard?” Bad indie jokes aside these are two great EPs from Beam and together I say they’re enough to qualify for this list. Both are much more dynamic and up beat than Iron and Wine’s past endeavors.
Track to try: “16, Maybe Less”

28 - Amandine – This is Where Our Hearts Collide - Who says that Americana music has to come from America? This Swedish band plays it to perfection on their debut.
Track to try: “For All The Marbles”

27 - Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness - A year after being forced to change his name due to copyright infringement, the artist formally known as Manitoba is back with what I consider to be the electronica album of the year.
Track to try: “Yeti”

26 - Konono No. 1 - Congotronics - Originating somewhere between between Congo and Angola, Konono use homemade instruments from car parts and microphones from magnets to give us an album that ends up sounding something like modern electronic music. Probably the most unlikely album of the year.
Track to try: “Masikulu”

25 - Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger - Sounds a lot like Franz Fernidad but maybe a little more retro and little less dancy. A very solid debut effort.
Track to try: “Apply Some Pressure”

24 - Shining - In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster - Norwegian big band jazz, Shining uses a surprisingly small number of instrumentals to create their huge sound. This is one of the most original albums of the year.
Track to try: “Goretex Weather Report”

23 - The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree - This is my first experience with this band and I like what I hear. The Mountain Goats tell tales of broken people, violence, anger and fear. One of the most intriguing albums of 2005.
Track to try: “This Year”

22 - Fruit Bats - Spelled in Bones - Acoustic driven pop music from Chicago natives the Fruit Bats. Be careful though, fruit bats have been known to carry the Ebola virus.
Track to try: “The Earthquake of ‘73”

21 – Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll - It's tough to be funny in music without being labeled a parody act. Ben Folds does it, and now Art Brut does it too. I've laughed out loud at least once in every song on this album I think. I'm certainly not a big fan of this type of music but this album is just too good to ignore.
Track to try: “Good Weekend”

20 – Akron/Family – Akron/Family - Akron/Family are my favorite new band of the year. They like to use everything they can get their hands on to make music and seem to have a lot of fun in the process.
Track to try: “On the Water”

19 - The Decemberists - Picaresque - The Decemberists exploded into the mainstream in 2005 behind the strength of Picaresque, easily their most complete album.
Track to try: “We Both Go Down Together”

18 - The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers - Four piece UK band featuring a pair of brother/sister duets. The Magic Numbers are a beautiful blend of 60’s rock, vocal harmonies, and modern pop.
Track to try: “Mornings Eleven”

17 - Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth - Former Pavement front man and sometimes member of the Silver Jews (including guitar on Tanglewood Numbers) returns with his best solo album yet. Lots of squishy keyboards and over drive guitars. Yum(?)
Track to try: “Pencil Rot”

16 - Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers - The first Silver Jews release since David Berman’s attempted suicide last year. Tanglewood Numbers is maybe a step down for some fans who expect deep lyrics from Berman, but the music in these songs does a great job framing Berman’s voice.
Track to try: “I'm Getting Back (into Getting Back into You)”

15 - The Boy Least Likely To - The Best Part Ever - Debut album from UK base The Boy Least Likely To is also the first released on the bands own label. In other words, it’s been a busy year for the band. The Best Part Ever is unique and fun pop music for people who like such things.
Track to try: “I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star”

14 - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Pitchfork’s darlings of 2005 are indeed good, but in all honesty I have a hard time enduring this guy’s voice for extended periods of time. Still, it’s a good album and worthy of a large portion of the praise it’s received.
Track to try: “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth”

13 - Aqueduct - I Sold Gold - Seattle based David Terry makes homemade songs with keyboards and a drum machine saturated with catchy melodies and clever lyrics. If your drunken college roommate made an album it might sound something like this, only good. (This blog does not condone under aged drinking)
Track to try: “Frantic”

12 - Broken Family Band - Welcome Home Loser - It’s hard to imagine British alt-country getting any better than this. This album fits perfectly in an Arkansas trailer park, or for when you’re feeling a little less than clean.
Track to try: “Where the Hell is My Baby”

11 – Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning - Say what you want about Oberst’s past, I’ll probably even agree with you. But Wide Awake is his most complete album to date, and catapulted him into mainstream media play lists.
Track to try: “At The Bottom Of Everything”

10 – Spoon – Gimmie Fiction Probably the most surprising record of the year for me, not being a fan of Spoon or their brand of guitar rock. But Gimmie Fiction brings me back to Being There era Wilco and attempts to restore my faith in indie rock.
Track to try: “Sister Jack”

9 – M. Ward - Transistor Radio - There’s a soothing effect in M. Ward’s voice that blends to perfection with his finger picked guitar arrangements. Transistor Radio is Ward’s fourth full length studio recording, and also his best yet.
Track to try: “Big Boat”

8 – Animal Collective – Feels - Everybody’s favorite reason to hate me is back with a great new album nobody will get. Just ->_<- that much less good than Sung Tongs for those of you keeping score at home.
Track to try: “Purple Bottle”

7 – Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners - I cast this album aside almost instantly as run of the mill indie pop college radio fodder. However, after a few listens I learned it was actually really, really, really good indie pop college radio fodder. The Lucksmiths feature a drummer who sings, and who doesn’t like a drummer who sings really?
Track to try: “The Music From Next Door”

6 - Akron/Family & Angels of Light - Akron/Family & Angels of Light split LP - As a general rule I wouldn’t include a split album this high on an album of the year list, but the fact is that I’ve enjoyed this as much as any album this year. Akron offers a melting pot of sounds blended into a group of songs that flow almost seamlessly from one to the next, and Angels of Light do more of what they always do; write great songs and allow you to listen to Michael Gira’s voice. What more could you ask for?
Track to try: Akron: “Moment”
Track to try: Angels: “I Pity the Poor Imigrant”

5 – Dr. Dog - Easy Beats - Easy Beats earned Dr. Dog a contract with Rough Trade and the reasons are obvious. Hook after hook and oodles of harmonized vocals fill there tracks, and combined with it’s low-fi sound give it a classic rock feel without the bitter after taste.
Track to try: “The Pretender”

4 - Architecture in Helsinki - In Case we Die - Fiery Furnaces style cut and paste songs with more pop and less pretense. Easily the most fun album of the year, but the short attention span does tend to annoy some people I guess. Still I like them though so there. (and OMG two Australian bands in the top ten?)
Track to try: “It's 5!”

3 - Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy - It appears Will Sheff’s voice is probably just put offish enough to keep them from diving into the mainstream as other indie artists have plunged in the last few years. However, Black Sheep Boy is complete with the knock your feet from under you, have you curled up in the corner before tearing your heart out lyrics Okkervil’s dedicated fan base has come to expect from the band.
Track to try: “Black”

2- Andrew Bird – Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs - The fact that this album couldn’t crack Pitchfork’s top 50 is just plain stupid. One of the most quotable albums of the year, packed with Bird’s sweet violin skills and the best whistler you may ever here. Bird does a fantastic job of leaving the concepts on this album open, allowing it’s interpretation open for unpacking months after the first listen.
Track to try: “Fake Palindrones”

1 - Sufjan Steven - Sufjan Stevens Invites You to: Come on Feel the Illinoise! - The most obvious selection for Album of the Year since Wilco’s YHF. In a sub par year for albums overall Stevens makes an epic track list that stands head and (broad) shoulders above everything else. File this under instant classic.
Track to try: “Come on Feel the Ilinoise!”

Friday, December 23, 2005

Need I say more?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Does the Fun Never End?

I returned home from work Tuesday nite to find my nice new shiny pump installed and ready to go. I could barely wait to try it out, but first I had to fill up all my pipes and the tank with water since I drained it all out last nite. I opened up the valve for the city water and was immediately disheartened to find a pretty heavy leak in an old flex pipe line.

Will the madness never end?

Argh! Well I called up Mr. Plumber Man and asked him (kindly) what kind of job is it where you leave the job site with a leaking pipe? Admittedly, the pipe was ripe for a leak being as it’s old and corroded, but how about a phone call asking if I’d like to pay the 50 dollars to fix it instead of just leaving it for a customer to come home to! He told me that his guy hadn’t mentioned it to him, but that the guy only took an hour and a half to install the pump, and replace the drain valve that was stuck so he was sending me a $55 refund check.

Well that was all well and good but here I was with a significant leak in my system which was going to prevent me from getting enough pressure in my system to heat my home. According to Steve (My HVAC guy) I didn’t need this line that was leaking. It was just a bypass line to transfer water from the drain to the intake. Most systems, he told me, have this line turned off. So I decided to take one final trip to the Home Depot to get a couple of 1/2” pipe plugs. I picked them up for 77 cents each and brought them home to close off the lines and seal my system once again.

To get things started I drained the tank again. This time I had the luxury of using the drain valve that the plumber so kindly installed for me. The flex line kind of broke in two as I unscrewed each end. It really was a decroded piece of crap, to quote my good friend Napoleon.

A new working pump is a nice thing to come home to!

A leaking flex pipe is a terrible thing to come home to!!!

Not so bad though, a quick trip to Home Depot for a couple of plugs and that problem is solved.

What good is a broken pipe? No good at all!

So anyway, did the madness ever end? Was my family ever reunited?

Yes. Yes we were. (Though it’s still pretty cold in here. These pipes take a while to heat up this big old house!)

Merry Christmas Everybody! Or something.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Almost There

Well, I've figured out everything that's wrong with our boiler. As I showed in my last post I changed the pressure relief valve, which sealed my system. That allowed me to further diagnosis what the problem was. After I turned on the boiler the tank started to heat up just as it's suppose to, so I knew the burner and tank were all doing their jobs. It took about 10 minutes for the temperature in the tank to reach a toasty 190 degrees. I thought everything was running smooth, and mostly it was. I went upstairs to check the radiators and found that they were still cold; this was pretty understandable though since it takes a while for all the water in the system to heat up. I decided to bleed the radiators upstairs to make sure they weren't filled with air, blocking the hot water from getting upstairs.

Sure enough, probably because of the work I was doing downstairs, the radiators were pretty full of air. I went back downstairs to check how the boiler was doing. Everything was stable, temperature at about 190, pressure at about 14 lbs. One thing I noticed though was that the pipes about 8 feet away from the boiler were still very cold. This had me somewhat concerned because I already had concerns that the circulation pump was broken. Sure enough, it didn't take long for the boiler to start to overheat. At about 200 degrees the new relief valve I just put in started to open up and drip out. Then at about 205 it started to gush hot steaming water until I turned the boiler off.

This told me two things. First, my aquastat is shot. The aquastat is the little dial that sets the temperature on your hot water heater, or in this case my boiler. If it was doing it's job, it would have shut off the burner on my boiler when it started to get too hot, say about 190 degrees. However, mine just kept on firing up the burners, heating up the water more and more until the relief valve had to open up to keep the water from getting too hot and ruining the boiler.

Second, and most importantly, the reason the water in the tank kept getting hotter and hotter is because the pump was, sadly, broken. This was preventing the hot water in the tank from getting pumped out into my pipes, which ultimately heat my house.

So I decided to turn to my good friend Internet for help. I googled the part number I found stamped on the side of the aquastat, and to my surprise one entry came up on Google. That was for a auction out of Rhode Island that was selling a new, out of the box aquastat that I needed. One that hasn’t been made in years. Apparently the guy is a gas technician who just has a bunch of old parts lying around. I grabbed that right away and turned my sights on the pump.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any type of part number on the pump, let alone a manufacturer. The only thing I could think of doing is posting a picture on the heating forum I had joined to see if one of their pros could identify it. Sure enough one of them came back and informed me that I have a B & G 100 series pump. They’re easy to find, too. A quick search on Google and I found that I could get the motor and the bearing assembly for about $240.00.

Not too bad, but I was a little weary of spending that much money without getting a professional to look at the system and see if that was really what was wrong. So Monday morning I called Tessendorf Mechanical and asked them to take a look at the boiler. The service tech came out early Monday and called me after looking at the system. He agreed that the pump was bad, and gave me a price of $400 dollars to change it. The price included all of the parts and 2 hours labor. I asked him if I could save myself some money if I drained the system myself and removed the old pump.

The deal we came up with is that I would leave him a check in the morning for the 400 dollars. Then, depending on how long it actually took his guy to replace the pump, he would send me a credit check. I accepted the offer in good faith and set out tonite to make the service techs job as easy as possible.

First I isolated the boiler by shutting off all of the valves I could find leading up to the tank. There were some pipes that didn’t have shut off valves, so I knew I would have to drain them as well. After I drained the expansion tank I hooked up a hose on the boiler drain and tried to open it up. Unfortunately, the drain hadn’t been opened since Jimmy Carter was President, and it was stuck. I pulled out a pipe wrench and tried to turn the dial with that. It worked, but the dial just spun and no water came out. The drain was busted.

Our busted boiler drain valve. Doesn’t anything work on this boiler?!?!

This was terribly disappointing because not only because I couldn’t drain the system, but now I needed to replace the drain. And since the guy was coming tomorrow morning and needed the system drained to do his job, I would have to pay him to do both! Frantically, Crystal and I jumped in the car looking for a Home Depot or Lowes that was open past 9pm. Thankfully we found a Lowes in Algonquin that was still open. I picked up a 1” ball valve and headed back.

I took off the old valve and water started gushing out. As quickly as possible, I tried to put the new valve on so I would have control of the water flow. But, the valve didn’t fit. They were both 1”, but apparently they didn’t use the same threads in 1975 when my boiler was built. So we had to quickly come up with a new plan. I decided to just run the shop-vac hose right under the open drain and suck all the water right into the shop-vac. This worked quite well and we were able to drain the system with a pretty minimal mess of water on the floor.

Then I turned my sights on the pump:

This is the old pump still in place.

The first step was to disconnect to wring that powered the pump.

A couple of screws and a couple of wire nuts and the power is off.

Next were the four bolts that held the motor to the return pipe.

Other than a reaching around some tight corners, these bolts came off with ease.

And with that the motor was free.

This is the source of all my problems. It’s a heavy guy, too.

The last step was to support the pipe that was now hanging with the motor removed. I cut a 2x4 to the length I needed and propped it between the pipes to support the upper one.

A completed removal ready for the professional to come in and do his job quickly.

Given how easy it was to remove the motor, I almost wish I had done the installation myself. But, the fact is that I miss my family and I wouldn’t be able to get a motor until Friday at the earliest and Tessondorf will be able to install his in morning.

Total cost up till now: $11
New aquastat (yet to be installed but not necessary to get heat: $18
New pump, installed: $400 (minus credit for the time I saved)

By Tuesday nite, I should have heat.

And a family again.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pressure Relief Valve

Everything I'd done up until this morning had just been bleeding the lines and messing with shut off valves in the system. Today I performed my first operation on the boiler itself. Since I was able to regulate the pressure and temp of the water yesterday, I set out this morning to fix the leak in the system. Water was coming out of the relief valve at a drip rate, even with no pressure in the system, so I knew the valve was bad.

The pressure relief valve is the thingie on the right with the 'L' shaped pipe sticking out of it. Notice the bucket under the pipe? That's what I've been dumping every hour and a half.

I had to use a pipe wrench with a pipe attached to it to get enough torque to pry the pipe off of the valve. Once that was off the valve itself came off pretty easy. Even though I had isolated the boiler and relieved all of the pressure in the tank, a lot of water still came gushing out when I got the valve off. I quickly grabbed the new one and screwed it on to cap that off.

This is the old valve. Bad valve! Bad!

The new valve doing it's job. Thank you very much.

I suppose I could have replaced the little "L" pipe that the valve lets out to seeing as it's all cruddy, but given out current financial situation and the fact that I don't know how much I'll have to spend to get everything running I'm just going to use the old one.

So that's it. Pressure relief valve is replaced and I now have a nice "tight" system. No leaks. Time to fill up the system with water and turn the boiler back on. Cross your fingers!

Success! Notice the bucket is now gone.

Total cost so far to fix boiler: $11

4 8 15 16 23 42

Last night I had to set my alarm every 90 minutes to wake up and dump out the bucket of water that my releif valve is draining to. It was kinda like Lost, except I wasn't on an island. And I didn't actually have to put a code in a computer. And it's cold. There's probably some other things it wasn't as well, but I think you get the point.

So? What's going on with the heat you ask!

Well, I've had the boiler on since last nite around 6pm. It's not fixed though, not by any stretch of the imagination. For one thing it's still leaking a gallon of water an hour. For another, and this is probably the most important thing, the house is still cold. Really cold, actually. Since it's been on the temperature in the house has gone from 53 to 60 degrees. This is nice, but I think it's actually colder than that upstairs because the radiators up there are still ice cold. Which makes me think the circulation pump is busted something bad, but I'm not a service tech so that's just a silly guess.

I did get a reply on the heating forum I posted on yesterday:

I'll try to start at the beginning......

you must have a tight system, so replace the water that is being lost and correct the leak. I believe that the pressure relief has failed since it has not stopped dripping. So you need a new one. Also, I really don't believe your pressure gauge is accurate anymore due to the extreme difference in pressures that you related. So, you need a new one. These two things will allow you to start to find out "What happened?". Since you have drained the expansion tank twice and it refilled and caused the relief to pop it's leaking and is bad. So you need a new one. This may be the cause of all of the trouble. Replace it with a diaphram type tank. Then begin with filling the system to 12# cold, vent the upper floor radiators and start up the boiler. Check for water flow from the pump by noting any temperature rise thru the boiler and system. The pressure should raise to 18-22 # at 190 and you may still have to bleed the areas that don't warm up, making sure to maintain water pressure at the correct coresponding temperature. If the pump is not working the temp will rise in the boiler rapidly but the aquastat should trip it out before the relief valve will open. If not, you will need a new one. I'm at a loss to explain why you would have full city water pressure on the system before, but it must be regulated down or turned off and filled manualy. I found one like this last month the gauge was spun around, the safety did not work and the old hydralic gas valve was stuck and the house was at 90 degrees! I told them..... you guessed it.... you need a new one! I hope this helps. You don't need a complete new one but you need some good maintenance, bad.Best Regards

I really don't understand a lot of the the things he said, but the gist of it is that I'm screwed I think. Not totally screwed though, just mostly screwed. So kewl!

I'm going to change the releif valve this morning because I'm pretty sure it needs to be done and if a guy comes out to fix the boiler he'll probably charge me $150 just to change that, in addition to whatever repairs need to be done, and I think I saw them at Home Depot for 30 bucks or so. He also wants me to replace the pressure gauge, but I don't know where to get one of those yet. I'll have to check with my friend Internet, he knows where to get everything.

The good news is that my bedroom is heated to a nice toasty 80 degrees or so, some yay! for me!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Winter Wonder Land

I posted this on a heating forum I joined yesterday:

I have hot water heat with a boiler, base board heaters, and a few old radiators. Yesterday, my wife called me and told me there was a bunch of water all over our basement floor and the boiler was banging. I told her to turn off the boiler and I left work. When I got home, I found that the pressure relief valve was dripping, but there was a LOT of water on the floor, more than from just a few drops.

I switched on the boiler and right away the banging started. About three loud knocks, coming directly from the boiler. I checked the pressure guage it was at about 14/lbs. The water temp was cold since the boiler had been off for a few hours. I let the system start to heat up, and as the water temp reached about 190, the relief valve really opened up, and hot steaming water started poring out instead of dripping. All this time the knocking persisted about every 4-5 minutes.

I shut the boiler off and went upstairs and opened each of the radiators and baseboard vents. There was a small amount of air in each one, but nothing major. Went back down and switched the boiler back on and it got up to 190 and started pouring out water again. Keep in mind the pressure had been at 14-15/lbs. steadily.

Next I isolated the expansion tank and drained it completely. It was full at about 30 gallons, with out a lot of pressure. When it was drained I opened the tank up again and the pressure instantly dropped to about 6/lbs. I thought I had solved my problem and that the tank was just water logged. I turned the boiler back on, hoping everything was okay, but I noticed that the relief valve was still dripping despite the drop in pressure and the cold water. The temp and pressure built in the system until it got to 190 degrees and 14-15/lbs again and the steaming water started pouring out again.

Pretty frustrated I shut the system down for the night and sent my wife and kids to sleep at the in=laws (It's about 5 degrees at night here). After work today, I went to Home Depot and the guy there thought the over heating of the system was caused by the excessive pressure and that I needed to get my pressure down to about 10-12/lbs. He gave me a feed pressure regulator, thinking mine was broken. When I got home I went to look for my existing regulator and found that I don't have one. So I brought that back, thinking that if the system didn't need one up till now then that's not what's causing my problem.

The Home Depot guy agreed with that assessment and gave me some other advice. He told me to again drain the expansion tank, after the tank was empty I was to open it up again and wait for the pressure to start rising. When the pressure got to about 9/lbs. he wanted me to shut off the expansion tank and let the system run cold without the tank to see if the pressure stabilizes.

I did all this, and shut off the tank when it got to about 9/lbs, which took about 10 minutes. However, the second I turned off the tank, the pressure started to shoot up very quickly. When it got to about 14/lbs. again I opened the expansion tank back up and the pressure quickly dropped back down to about 9/lbs. I also noticed when the tank was closed I could hear the city water flowing into the system. This gave me the idea to turn off the cold water intake, so I did.

I've been running the system now for about a half an hour with the intake turned off. The water is no longer boiling out the relief valve because the temp has stabilized at about 185. The pressure is stable at about 10/lbs. However, the relief valve is still dripping. It drips slowly while the water is at about 180, and when it gets to about 185 it pours a little quicker until it cools back down a tad.

The pipes are slowly warming up, and I mean SLOWLY.

A couple of questions:

1) How long can my system run without the city water coming in? It's still leaking from the valve, so I've been opening up the city water as I empty out the bucket to replace what I loose. But I'm not going to let it stay open because then the pressure gets back up to 14-15/lbs.

2) Why is my valve still leaking even if the water temp is 60 degrees and the pressure is at 6/lbs? Do I probably need a new valve?

3) Any idea why this may have happened all of a sudden?

4) What's with the banging coming from the boiler?

5) The pipes on the second floor are still ice cold. Is 10/lbs. of pressure enough to get hot water up there?

6) Could this be a problem with the circulation pump? The banging seams to be coming from it's vicinity, but it's hard to tell.

Yeah, I know that's a lot, but it's been a pretty stressful and scary couple of days. We just got this house about a year and a half a go. The boiler worked fine last winter, now this winter (after the warranty ran out) it's killing me. I have no money, so replacing it is a pretty scary thought, considering I've heard they cost like 5 grand to get done. That would take me months to save.

I really know NOTHING about plumbing/heating. Everything I just typed I wouldn't be able to yesterday morning, but I've been reading like crazy on here and similar forums trying to learn. I'm usually a pretty quick study and I'm not afraid to try and fix things I know nothing about.

So... any ideas?



It's cold in here.