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Old 10-10-2012, 06:54 PM   #1
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


Hi,

I'm new to the forum, but have benefited several times from reading existing threads.

I just joined up - because I need to learn a method to locate a broken heat wire or lead to my radiant ceiling heat system. It is 220/240V, and each room is a separate "zone" with its own thermostat. Thermostats are labeled "Swan" on the faceplate, so that is the brand I suppose of the whole setup.

The house was built by my Father in 1968, and other then one or two thermostats going out has been problem-free.

Does anyone know a method to locate the exact point of the break? I want to minimize ceiling damage and locate it precisely before digging in.

Thanks!

JH/Ft Wayne, IN, USA

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Old 10-10-2012, 07:23 PM   #2
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


can you access the unit in the ceiling,and your talking about one side or both sides of 240V and radient is electric heat? or is it a 24V control stat wire... do you have a digital meter to ring out wires...or just to check for 240V single phase?

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Old 10-12-2012, 06:05 PM   #3
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


Are you sure there's a break? If it's been running without issue since '68 and there are no obvious cracks in the ceiling, it's entirely possible that element is just ...done! Line voltage elements (compred to low voltage) are similar to light bulbs in that, they work for a period of time and then they stop working.

You will need a megohmeter to be sure. You're looking for a reading of 20 megohms or higher.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:43 PM   #4
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


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Originally Posted by warmsmeallup View Post
Are you sure there's a break? If it's been running without issue since '68 and there are no obvious cracks in the ceiling, it's entirely possible that element is just ...done! Line voltage elements (compred to low voltage) are similar to light bulbs in that, they work for a period of time and then they stop working.

You will need a megohmeter to be sure. You're looking for a reading of 20 megohms or higher.
There are obvious cracks - we're having some settling issues with a slab/basement interface.

The only other zone that has ever been trouble was directly under a bath - after a couple of minor leaks it went dead years ago.

I'm thinking that smart money would invest in a radiant rug, but I hate losing the efficiency of the 220/240 system. What is the correct voltage, BTW?

Is it 220 or 240 in a well-wired modern home?

Anyone ever hear of an old RV trick of using an AM radio tuned to cancel another nearby radio, then connecting the antenna of one radio to the suspect wire? Supposedly the interference is a very localized field and you can find breaks that way.

I figured there must be some tool that does this, is there? Something that traces the wire thru the 1/8" of plaster and then indicates where the signal stops?

Last edited by imautoparts; 10-12-2012 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 10-12-2012, 06:53 PM   #5
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


Remove one line from the breaker. Wirenut it and use a non contact voltage sensor to follow the wire as far as you can around the room. Make sure the stat is working. You should be able to find a break but I'd look at the stat first and not the wire. They don't break very easily. 120/240 would be the proper voltage but 110/220 works for most people also. Set up to accept PM's

Last edited by deverson; 10-12-2012 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 10-13-2012, 11:34 AM   #6
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


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Set up to accept PM's
Not sure about what you mean by "set up to accept PM's" I do have notification and email allowed on my preferences.
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Old 10-13-2012, 12:08 PM   #7
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


I tried to send aPM and it said you didn't accept tthem. sorry
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Old 10-13-2012, 05:00 PM   #8
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


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I tried to send aPM and it said you didn't accept tthem. sorry
His post count isn't high enough yet for the PM function to en able for him.
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Old 10-14-2012, 11:02 AM   #9
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


Quote:
Originally Posted by deverson View Post
Remove one line from the breaker. Wirenut it and use a non contact voltage sensor to follow the wire as far as you can around the room. Make sure the stat is working. You should be able to find a break but I'd look at the stat first and not the wire. They don't break very easily. 120/240 would be the proper voltage but 110/220 works for most people also. Set up to accept PM's
Line voltage systems consist of two elements in a single (sometimes sheilded) wire (unless it's a single conductor MI cable). Doing this procedure won't get him any results since both leads are crimped at the end creating a cotrolled short. If either lead is cut, the other will still run the signal to the end. The other won't take the current at all.

imautoparts: Did you check the tstat yet? What were the resuts?
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Old 10-14-2012, 01:20 PM   #10
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


I just dug out the old digital volt meter and checked it now. As I suspected the thermostat is working properly - The label on the back says:

Thermostat model SW22
22 amp, 125 - 250 Volt AC
Non Inductive, 60 sycle

Swan mfg, Vancouver, Washington

DVM results for the thermostat:

0 ohms when turned up
infinite resistance when turned down
temperature accurate for room temp


The thermostat has just two wires running to it. I can only assume that the heat coil is hardwired into one side, and the t-stat offers either ON or OFF on the other (I don't know whether the t-stat is to ground or to hot)

I'm going to push my luck, put on some rubber gloves and turn the breaker box back on, then test for voltage at the two wires.... here goes....

OK - I have voltage on the black wire
No voltage on the red wire

No voltage registers when I test voltage from the black wire using the red wire as the ground



Breaker back off, then:

I then checked for resistance. I put the DVM on the most sensitive setting (2000K) and got no change from infinite when testing across the two wires

Next I checked continuity to the little metal box the thermostat bolts in to (hoping it is a ground)


Red wire to the wall t stat box - open/infinite (1)
Black wire to the thermostat box - shorted (0 ohms) This is where I get confused. Why would a wire that is DEFINETLY carrying 240 V when the breaker is "on" (I made a small error and a big spark) be showing 0 ohms to ground when off?

This is baffling to me.

Last edited by imautoparts; 10-14-2012 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:09 PM   #11
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


Even if you could figure out the problem, Swan is long gone and no repair parts are available for their system, other than similarly designed thermostats.

At this point, I would strongly advise that you hire a licensed electrician to troubleshoot the issue.
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:34 PM   #12
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


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Even if you could figure out the problem, Swan is long gone and no repair parts are available for their system, other than similarly designed thermostats.

At this point, I would strongly advise that you hire a licensed electrician to troubleshoot the issue.

I'm a retired engineer, familiar with proper handling of high voltage circuits, and owner of a home that has been in our family since 1968. My next door neighbor's house was built by my father in '67 - has the same system and it works flawlessly.

I've tested the thermostats in both rooms that are dead (one died following a ceiling plumbing leak years ago) and discovered that they both work perfectly.

I restore cars as a hobby - and am no stranger to frustration and a steep learning curve.

Thus, I'm asking for help to learn about this type of circuit, and to identify, acquire and use the appropriate remote sensor to find my break.

Right now, my big question is; why does the hot black wire show 0 resistance to ground when my breaker is off? I'm sure this is a pretty simple question...

Once I know that answer, I'll start hunting down procedures for finding the break in my ceiling.

Oh - and BTW - nobody in my community will WORK on these systems, they tell me it is "too hard"
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Old 10-14-2012, 03:54 PM   #13
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


When you read voltage on the black wire, where did you have your other probe.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


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When you read voltage on the black wire, where did you have your other probe.
To the copper ground wire point at the back of the thermostat junction box. It was secured to the box at the time.

When I do the same test to the red wire (which I presume is the feed to the ceiling) I get no reading at all.

When I test resistance for the red wire, it is infinite (1 on the meter) with the probe still clipped to the ground wire. All of my background is automotive, so I'm unsure how to use the amp function on the meter in this type of situation.

Additional info: I went ahead and unwound all the wire from the tstat junction box. The white side of the house main circuit simply loops straight up through a cutout in the tstat box No visible joins or wire nut

Last edited by imautoparts; 10-14-2012 at 04:37 PM.
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Old 10-14-2012, 04:46 PM   #15
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Help! I need to locate a break in my ceiling radiant heat system


If you read 120 volt to ground from black to ground, then it can't be shorted/read 0 ohms.

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