Zone Split - Hot Water

Hi Folks:
I've gotten plenty of good food for thought here recently, so I thought I would post another question.
My split level home [27 years old, mine for 18 months] has hot water baseboard heating in two zones, upstairs and downstairs.
For some reason, the upstairs zone is split in two - a large pipe [about 1"] leaves the boiler and passes unused through the centre of the house to the far end of the house where it splits into two pipes [about 3/4"], each of which goes to either side of the house for use in the baseboards before emptying back into the return side of the boiler.
Now, two of my brothers have brand new homes of approximately the same size as mine, both with hot water baseboards in two zones, upstairs and downstairs. Their upstairs lines are simply single pipes that go down one side of the upstairs and return on the other side.
Question - any insight as to why they would have gone with this split-version for piping my upstairs? The large pipe goes right under my kitchen and main living area in the middle of the house, and while there is no air in the system, it does give off a humming noise of sorts when the hot water is rushing towards the splitting point. If it is doable, I might consider eliminating this larger pipe and simply going with the outside lines. That would allow the hot water to go directly to the North side of my home first where it tends to be cooler [I'm on the east coast of Canada].
Thanks in advance for any input - I know nothing, so please feel free to explain in the simplest of terms!!!
Dave
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Dave Gallant) wrote:

I have a house with hot-water boiler heat that the previous owners did a lot of rather peculiar things to as far as piping goes, so I can identify with your head-scratching. Consequently, I'm inclined to think this perhaps-odd setup was the result of two different instances. In other words, one of the pipes existed originally and they found some reason years later to need or want a second to be added. Contractors will do absolutely nutso, dangerous, redundant, or useless if someone's willing to pay them to do it. Or maybe it was just a heating DIY project. Who knows? People live with worse things in their houses.
BTW, what exactly do you mean by that 1" pipe coming off the boiler being "unused"? If that pipe is pumping live, hot water up to those twin 3/4" pipes, it's not exactly being "unused," is it?
All in all, if it's doing what it should do without bordering on being inefficient, consider leaving it be -- unless maybe you just like spending money or are incredibly anal about things nobody actually ever sees.
AJS
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(Dave Gallant) wrote:

Sorry, I should have explained that a little better - by "unused", I mean that it passes through the house to the far end without any baseboards coming off it until it splits to the smaller pipes.
Dave
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Dave, If you want to have a controllable system upstairs, you might consider putting in two zone valves in your basement on the return lines near your furnace. You will also have to have two thermostats positioned properly upstairs (mounted on the inside walls) along with the appropriate wiring to the zone valves downstairs. When the North side cools down, the Northern thermostat will call for heat while the Southern thermostat remains satisfied. Therefore you can have a balanced system with no cold spots or hot spots. Just a uniform temperature thoroughout the upstairs. This could save you energy (called money) and have comfort at the same time. Originally, I had one thermostat (in 1967) that was satisfied by the heat generated by the sun pouring in from the South side of the house. The North side was being hit by the North wind (It was 0 to 10 degrees F here in Western NY) for about 2 or 3 days straight. The water line on the North wall of an upstairs bedroom froze and you know the rest of the story. We were in Acapulco, Mexico enjoying ourselves at the time. When we got home, surprise. About $3000 in damage and water damage was not allowed by my insurance company. And $3000 back then probably equates to $25,000 now. I now have four thermostats in the same house. Cooler temps in the bedrooms, warmer temps in the family room watching TV, etc. etc. I also have insurance that will cover pipe breakage. Tough way to learn about house insurance. Anyway good luck and I hope this helps you. PS- Spent some time this past summer in Scotia, PEI, NB and enjoyed some Newfie suds. Great country!!!! PPS- The individual that built your house put some thought into it. I prefer this situation that you have rather than your brothers.

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The single zone fed in or near the middle was done during a day when quality workmanship still meant something. Either somewhere near where the 1" pipe T's off to 2 3/4 pipes there should be balancing valves, if not, they're in the return lines near the boiler.
Also - having that one zone split into 2 zones may have been an option offered by the builder - so every home was piped the same way, but only those who opted for the additional zone got the extra pump or zone valves and the additional thermostat, but the plumbing remained essencially the same.
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Sounds to me like you have a better thought out system than your brothers. You have 2 hot water paths in your upstairs, and the water probably can heat the last 2 rooms (1 on each 'side') at a lower initial supply temp than a single pipe, single loop system can. Sounds like you had the better heating guy at construction.
Tim S.

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That would make sense for the original owner [he built it], I suppose. The two rooms at the end of the separate paths [before returning to the boiler] are both bedrooms. Problem is that one of the bedrooms is now used by my wife as an office, and it is on the North side of the house.
So on a cold day with North wind which is from December to March here, it gets a double-wammy of the outside cold and from being at the far end of the hot water line. Also, the thermostat is located on a wall outside of this room. The room tends to be the coldest in the house, and this affects the thermostat. On a bitterly cold day, I have to shut the door to this room or the thermostat will run all day.
DG

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The hot water cools as it heats each room, with the water being a little cooler for each successive room. This setup sounds like a good way to reduce this effect, running two parallel heating loops..
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Should I be concerned as to the direction of the flow? Would it not be better for the flow to go through the baseboards first, and then join at the far end of the house at the 1" common pipe before returning to the boiler?
Thanks again,
DG
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