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Need to drain my boiler to make a repair. No bleeder valves in baseboard heat?

Hello friends. I'm a new homeowner getting to all the repairs, saving the hardest for last. I have a boiler with baseboard heating. I noticed one day that a ball valve was leaking. It turns out that the valve handle has broken off from the ball inside the valve body and I mean to replace this.

Now to my questions:

My system has no bleeder valves after inspecting all of the baseboard radiators. I can't isolate this part of the system to make the repair. The best I can do is isolate every other zone.

1) Should I just drain and flush the entire system? Is this good practice? The house is 10 years old and this probably hasn't been done. There is no AF in the lines, and even if there is, nothing is in danger of freezing so I don't care. Should I? As far as I can tell, everything is copper. Do I need to add any sort of anti-oxidation stuff?

2) How do I drain the system completely without bleeder valves? Do I even need to drain the system completely or is it okay for there to be water in the line as long as it is several feet from where I intend to solder?

3) Once drained and fixed (hopefully) how should I go about refilling the system? I assume one zone at a time with a hose hooked up to the outlet on the return side and just run water through each loop like mad to get the air out?? This will still leave a pocket of air on the other side of the spigot after I shut it off. Will this make it back up into the loop and cause problems or will the pump be enough to move the air bubbles through to the air vent?

I've watched a million videos and none of them seem to match my scenario


Re: Need to drain my boiler to make a repair. No bleeder valves in baseboard heat?


I can sympathize with your impulse to save some $$$ by not calling in a hydronic (hot water) repair person, and after reading your post several times, it's obvious that you know some things about your hot water heating system & are well on your way to learning more as time passes.

However, after reading your post, I think it would be a wise decision to call in a heating repair person for several reasons: a) not only will the system be repaired without causing more serious problems, such as flooding the boiler room/cellar, or introducing entrapped air in the system that will make the baseboards create a noise racket, and b) you will be able to resolve the very valid questions you now have about your heating system---which is the MAIN reason to have someone come in!----believe me you can pump this guy for loads of info & answer all the many important questions you list in your post: for example, it would depend on your geographical location (and how cold it gets in January/Feb.) as to whether you should add a 10% non-toxic anti-freeze solution in your system, called propylene glycol---in many cases PG addition is not necessary; but if you experience near-zero or sub-zero winter temps in your location, or if you are subject to frequent electric power outages, and don't have a portable generator, then it WOULD be advisable---it's always advisable for homeowners who have a HW heating system to at least have one or two portable electric heaters, or propane heaters, or kerosene heaters---electric heaters have the advantage of not emitting any toxic byproducts into the living area---the big "achilles' heel" (vulnerable spot) of HW heating is that if you lose electric power in bitterly cold weather, & there is no propylene glycol in the piping, the heating pipes will freeze, then burst (often inside the walls, where they're hard to get at) and CREATE A REAL EXPENSIVE MESS to clean up & repair to restore heat to the building; that's why a few portable heaters or a portable generator is important to have in an emergency; alternatives to portable heaters would be a wood-burning stove, or a fireplace; if you're lucky enough to have a natural gas line or propane coming into the house, they have some types of gas burners that don't require any electricity to run.

As far as the baseboard bleed valves go, the older hw systems tend to have bleed valves on the baseboard; YOUR system may operate like the one on the youtube videos below--some radiant HW heat systems also use this method & place a barrel or large bucket near the boiler to play the return end of the hose until all the visible bubbles disappear---the existing copper piping will route the new water to all parts of the system--in any event, this issue alone is well-worth calling someone in to get straight exactly the type of near-boiler piping arrangement you have, & what is the quickest way to refill the system--each boiler can have its own piping system that's slightly different from the ones on the You Tube videos---therefore, it's hard to determine without being in your cellar exactly what the defective on/off valve you have controls---one of the YouTube videos spends an inordinate amount of time talking about the EXPANSION TANK, which is not relevant to draining for air removal, or your valve repair issue.

Depending on WHERE the broken ball valve is located (please post some photos to this site if you can) is another issue, quite often this is the water supply valve from the HOUSE SUPPLY (which is often at 60 or 70 psi pressure) if so, you would HAVE TO MAKE SURE you TURN OFF this high pressure water line at the MAIN SHUTOFF VALVE located elsewhere in the basement before doing any work on it---again, a good reason to call someone in!---at the boiler piping diagram site below (tubih) scroll down to the L.E.S. Boiler Diagram--the small 1/2" pipe on the right side of the boiler (house water supply) is the high pressure one of 70 psi---all the rest of the system runs on a much lower 12 psi.

If you don't have a reliable heating technician you've used before, you'll have to do some "detective work" to find a good one that will do quality work at a low price---try calling nearby relatives & friends as the best way to find a good heating tech; you can also Google "Best hot water heating repair person in (your city/state)"---this can be surprisingly effective, and it costs nothing; also contact the Better Business Bureau for some good referrals (free of charge); there is a good referral source at Angie's List (but they charge a membership fee)---if you have any relatives or friends who belong to AL, by all means call them to help you in your search.

Hope this helps.


Re: Need to drain my boiler to make a repair. No bleeder valves in baseboard heat?

I agree with von_steuben, also this person can teach you how to maintain you system as you will need some one from time to time .


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