LARGER VIEW of a heating boiler cad cell relay switchGuide to Heating System Boiler Zone Valve Controls
How to install,wire, troubleshoot or repair a zone valve
     

  • ZONE VALVES, HEATING - CONTENTS: Zone Valves on hot water heating systems: zone valve types, zone valve installation, zone valve wiring, & zone valve troubleshooting & repair. What is a motorized zone valve on a hot water heating system? How do heating zone valves work, how do we inspect, repair, install them?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about zone valves on hot water heating systems: installation, diagnosis, repair advice
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Zone valves on hot water heating systems:

What is a zone valve, how do they work.

How do I choose & install a zone valve, how do I wire up a zone valve, and how do I troubleshoot, repair or replace a zone valve?

This article series answers most questions about Heating System Boiler Controls on central heating systems to aid in troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs.

The photo above shows a a bank of six zone valves controlling heat distribution in a large home.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.

Explanation of Zone Valves on Heating Boilers - Controlling Hot Water Heat

Honeywell heating zone valveArticle Contents:

Our photo at left shows a Honeywell (TM) zone valve installation.

Heating water piping in a building, particularly where hot water baseboard heat is used, may be divided into separate heating zones (different floors, or different areas on a single floor) to permit more detailed control of heat distribution in a building.

The control of heating water through these different heating zones may be accomplished by use of zone valves (one per heating zone or area or "loop" of heating piping) which in turn are connected to individual thermostats.

When the thermostat calls for heat in a particular building area, the thermostat switch causes the zone valve to open, to permit hot water to flow through that zone.

Zone valve

Other brands of zone valves such as those made by Flair (TM) (problem prone), and White Rodgers work similarly but their wiring may be slightly different. Wiring details for the yellow Flair Zone-A-Trol valve shown above are given
at ZONE VALVE WIRING

In all cases, when the zone valve is fully open, an "end switch" inside the valve tells the heating system's circulator to begin operating, causing hot water to flow through the zone.

Heating zone valve with cover off

Typically heating systems using zone valves will have two or more zone valves (usually but not always located close to the heating boiler) and a single circulator pump (usually located on the return end of the hot water piping close to the heating boiler).

But if you see a zone valve with the cover off (photo at left) that may be a clue that the valve has been having problems with jamming or sticking - someone left the cover off to try to keep the valve a little cooler.

Good installation details install a zone valve on the return side of the heating piping loop where it will be exposed to lower and thus less stressful temperatures.

Zone Valve Defects to Watch For

Zone Valve manual control lever (C) Daniel Friedman
  • Zone valve does not work - jammed, stuck, does not open in response to call for heat at that zone. Provided the wiring and thermostat are correct and operating, if no hot water flows past the valve on a call for heat (feel the pipes for heat) it may be jammed and need replacement

    Our photo (left) shows the manual control valve in its "automatic" or normal position on a Honeywell™ heating zone control valve.

    See ZONE VALVE LIFE Affected by Boiler Water Chemistry below
  • Zone valves installed on the hot side or boiler-out side of the heating piping loop, exposing the valve to higher and more stressful temperatures
  • Zone valve with covers off - may indicate overheating and jamming
  • Zone valve with its manual lever left in the manual "on" position - may indicate that the valve does not work - this zone is forced into "always on" status. In our photo above, that notch at the left end of the zone valve control lever will "lock" the valve in the open position. In normal, not-locked-open operation, the lever will move from left to right in the horizontal slot as the zone valve motor opens (lever to left) or closes (lever to right) the valve.

LARGER VIEW of a heating boiler cad cell relay switchStuck Zone Valves: Older models of some zone valves such as these Flair™ valves are perhaps more likely to be "stuck" either open (you'll have heat in that zone) or shut (that zone won't heat).

  • Uneven zone heat distribution among multiple zone-valve controlled heating zones:

    Because heating zone piping and zone size or zone area heat loss may vary widely within an individual building, if we cannot regulate the hot water flow in individual zones we may find that when more than one of the thermostats are calling for heat at once, some building areas may be too cold while others may be too warm.

    The heating system installer or service technician addresses this heat imbalance by fine-tuning the volume or the rate at which heating water is delivered to different building areas. She or he does this by installing and adjusting manual or automatic zone balancing valves or zone flow control valves of various types.

    See CHECK VALVES, HEATING SYSTEM for details.

  • Zone valve is leaking - leaky zone valves will stop working soon and need replacement. Example:

    Norby said: (2/1/2014)

    I have a zone valve dripping and when the thermostat turns on the zone valve spins and won't stop on open. It will close when the thermostat shuts off. If I disconnect the wiring and leave the zone valve open will it only pump water thru that zone when another zone is open and making the pump run?

    Reply: Norby,

    When a zone valve is dripping from the solder or sweat connections it may be possible to repair it - but that'll usually require draining water out of the zone piping first. If the valve is dripping from the valve assembly or motor it's shot and needs replacement.

    If the valve spins but doesn't open I suspect the motor shaft is broken - in which case it might be possible to open the valve using the manual latch if your model has one. IN that case if the circulator runs hot water will circulate. You can know that the valve is open if hot water is felt in the pipe on the output side of the zone valve.

5 Simple Zone Valve Diagnostic Steps

  1. Mechanically-stuck zone valve motors. If your zone valve has a manual override lever you can test the valve to see if it will open and shut. (Our Honeywell zone valve photo above shows this mechanical lever. The Flair zone valves at left do not have this feature). If the valve can be operated mechanically but does not operate in response to the thermostat we suspect that there is
  2. A bad zone valve drive motor - the valve is not mechanically stuck but the zone motor won't operate the valve. Time for a new zone valve.
  3. Faulty zone valve wiring connections or thermostatic control. Watch out: different brands of zone valves may require different wiring hook-ups and a mix of zone valve brands can lead to some head-scratching in figuring out proper wiring. I can't give a general solution to this problem as we need to look at the wiring diagram. But yes, the problem can be solved.
  4. No electrical power to the zone valve unit or to the thermostat that controls it
  5. Air-bound hydronic heating system: if the zone valve appears to operate properly but heat never arrives in the zone it controls, check that the system circulator pump (CIRCULATOR PUMPS & RELAYS) is working (pump motor hums & moves, pipes get hot on both sides of the circulator inlet and outlet). If the circulator pump is spinning and the zone valve is open,
    see AIRBOUND HEAT SYSTEM REPAIR by WATER FEED VALVE.

While going through the detailed sequence in the operation of the heating boiler, watch for and inspect the condition of the heating boiler controls and safety devices (as required by ASHI 9.1.A.3 automatic safety controls).

Zone Valve Life Affected by Boiler Water Chemistry

Watch out: for boiler water chemical conditions that could contribute to zone valve failure. These include highly-corrosive water, improper pH, and water with a high oxygen content.

[The Honeywell Honeywell V8043 series zone valve is ] suitable for glycol/water mix up to 50:50 use in closed hydronic systems. Not for use with oxygenated water, potable water or steam.

Use this valve in hydronic systems which DO NOT contain dissolved oxygen in the system water. The dissolved oxygen, which is found in systems that have a frequent source of make-up water, causes the rubber plug inside the valve to deteriorate and eventually fail.  - Honeywell V8043D zone valve instructions [PDF]

Zone Valves on Indirect-Fired Domestic Hot Water Heaters

Indirect fired hot water heater schematicIndirect fired hot water heaters, in some designs, use a heating coil located in the bottom of the hot water tank to heat the domestic hot water (used for washing and bathing).

A typical design will include a thermostat on the water heater that will cause hot water from a physically separate heating boiler to circulate through the heating coil located in the bottom of the indirect-fired water heater.

A separate loop of piping conducts water from a nearby heating boiler, through the coil in the bottom of the indirect fired water heater tank (thus transferring heat to water in the water heater tank), and back to the heating boiler.

Sketch (left) courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

The water temperature inside the indirect fired water heater tank is sensed by a thermostatic control that causes the hot water tank's contents to be re-heated as needed, typically by turning on a circulator pump that moves hot water from the separate heating boiler through the coil in the bottom of the water heater.

While typical indirect water heaters use a heating loop encompassing a circulator pump and check valve, some systems may use a zone valve in this piping loop that first opens to let hot water flow though the piping loop (boiler to water heater coil and back to boiler), and second, when the valve has opened, it turns on a circulator pump to cause water movement.

This arrangement (or a simple check valve) prevents water in the hot water tank from being heated by the boiler when it is not needed (circulating by convection, for example).

See INDIRECT-FIRED WATER HEATERS for details.

Number of Heating Zones: How can I determine how many heating zones I have?

I took a look at the boiler. I see the 5 zones going off the outbound pipe, but I only see 2 converging back to the intake. Do you think that means the zones are not all individual loops? - Lisa

Reply:

Most likely you have

5 individual room thermostats
5 individual heating zones
5 loops of hot water heating piping leaving the boiler (one at each zone valve)

but at some convenient locations the installer joined several of those individual zones into one of two return lines - that's why you see just two hydronic heat (hot water) lines returning to the boiler.

You can still drain and turn off 3 of the zones but you'll need a plumber to find the END of each of the loops you want to turn off - right where it joins a common return line. There s/he will install a drain and control valve. It may be necessary to add air bleeder or air purge valves to permit draining of individual heating zones.
See AIR BLEED VALVE INSTALLATION

The risks of turning off heat completely, besides my previous warning about not getting all the water out, are that you freeze up plumbing somewhere. If the zones do NOT heat any rooms with plumbing you may be ok.

An alternative, and the one that I use, is to keep all 5 zones working, but set the thermostats for the three unused areas to a lower than usual temperature, just high enough to avoid freeze-ups - say 45 °F. You'll save significantly just by dropping the thermostat set temperature.

In an unfamiliar home I might try dropping the thermostat set temperature gradually in very cold weather, double-checking to see just how cold the room gets. You'll want the zones to run occasionally to protect against freezing.

Finally, for freeze protection advice for the building, see WINTERIZE A BUILDING ( a link I'll add at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article )

Heating Zone Valves: Normally-Closed vs Normally-Open Designs & Applications

Reader Question: do you advise swapping out Honeywell V8043D 5080 normally-open zone valves that keep failing?

Honeywell V8043D series zone valve Dennis B. Hoff said: (2/3/3014)

We have a hot water boiler with 7 normally open Honeywell zone valves. They are mounted on the hot side of the boiler. We have problems with the valve motors quitting (after about a year) and have to be replaced.

Would it be better to have normally closed valves instead of the normally open ones? They would only require power when heat is called for and may not heat up as much. Your advice would be appreciated. We live in a area with long cold winters.

Reply:

Dennis, I don't know. I'm not aware of temperature-tolerance differences among the two valve descriptions you cite, and am confused by the query: in my limited experience a heating zone valve is opened or closed by the room thermostat. On a call for heat the zone valve opens. When the call for heat stops, the valve closes to stop circulating hot water.

However if you are going to the trouble of rearranging or re-sweating zone valves at a hot water heating boiler, I'd see if it were possible to put the valves on the return side of the boiler - cooler water temperatures there may improve zone valve life.

If you give us the zone valve brand and model we can research further. - Daniel

Follow-up:

Zone valves we are using are a Honeywell V8043D 5080 normally open (held open by spring pressure) When room temperature is reached the thermostat applies power to the valve and it closes, cutting off fluid flow. In the normally closed valve the valve remains closed by spring pressure and opens when the thermostat apples power to it, allowing fluid flow.

When room temp. Is reached the thermostat cuts off power and the valve closes (by spring pressure) cutting off fluid flow. There are also specific thermostats required for each type of valve.
The valves cannot be moved to return lines without a lot of work. I hope this helps. I do not have the part number for the normally closed valve handy. - Dennis

Reply:

Thanks Dennis, indeed you are perfectly correct: the HONEYWELL V8043D zone valve [PDF installation instructions] is a "normally open" valve while the Honeywell V8043C, F, or G models are "normally closed". Quoting from the company's product data:

The V8043 Motorized Zone Valve provides two-position (open-close) control of supply water for baseboard radiation, convectors, fan-coil units, etc. It uses a two-wire, 24-volt conĀ­ trol circuit and requires a SPST thermostat. Integral end-switch models permit the sequencing of auxiliary equipment. Quick Fit actuator provides easy snap on and off connection to the valve assembly.

And I agree you'd need to look at thermostats and wiring if changing the zone valve type as a normally-open zone valve requires a reverse-acting thermostat (as you indicated).

It is possible to simply change the actuator heads from the D model to one of the other models - changing wiring and thermostats as appropriate, leaving the actual valve body installed. A thermostat wired to operate a normally-open zone valve (NO valve) will need to be re-wired if it supports operating a normally-closed (NC) valve. Otherwise the thermostat will need replacement.

Before you would change to a "normally closed" zone valve (which is more common at least in residential installations) we'd want to understand how your heating system was designed to work. The installer surely had a reason for the "normally-open" approach.

Is this a residential building? Are there some special heating needs or applications?

I should add these details about the different Honeywell V8043 zone valves:

  • The F and G models of this zone valve include an end-switch to permit switching auxiliary equipment such as a water circulating pump.
  • Honeywell V8043D - normally OPEN (your valve) PN 4000396014 has NO END SWITCH - the installation presumes that the thermostat or other control is activating the circulator pump. This is the only one of the four models in this series that is a normally-open zone valve.
  • Honeywell V8043D - normally CLOSED PN 4000396013 has an end-switch that will be used to activate a circulator or circulator relay.
  • The Honeywell V8043F has these same features. It's safer to refer to the F model but I found it listed both ways. It pays to read the specs.
  • Honeywell V8043C - PN 40003916011 normally closed, also has no end-switch.

Honeywell V8043G - PN 40003916012 normally closed has as an end-switch.,

You can obtain the installation guide and ask questions of Honeywell at 1 (877) 663 0316

And about using a normally-open vs normally-closed zone valve: it depends on the application; for example some hot water applications require the valve to be normally open.

Some writers opine that in some buildings we install a normally-open zone control so that " ... in the event of power failure or malfunction the suite won't freeze and bust up the plumbing and heating pipes." - which is a bit unclear to me since in a power failure the heat is off and the circulator pump is off too - nothing is circulating. But you could argue that in the event of loss of heat but not loss of power, you'd gain that advantage. - Daniel

Follow-up:

What I understand is with the normally open valve power is required continuously keep the valve closed. I think that this could cause extra heat build up in the motor and cause premature failure along with more power usage. The normally closed valve only uses power to open the valve when heat is called for.The application that we have is residential, but was originally installed when the house was built 29 years ago. It's a good system but we are trying to improve costs and new procedures develop with time. There are no special heating needs or requirements.

Thanks for all of the information it will help us in making a decision. Probably one thermostats at a time. - Dennis

Reply:

Dennis: thanks for the follow-up. keep us posted. As I noted, unless the valve mechanism itself is damaged, you can just change the power head - leaving the actual valve assembly in place. Quoting the product literature:

Easy servicing because the entire powerhead assembly can be replaced without removing valve body from line. Optional accessory fittings can be provided to facilitate convenient removal of the entire zone valve unit. - op cit.

When changing the thermostat, there are some models that can be wired to operate either type of zone valve: normally closed or normally open. An example we're looking at is the Honeywell FocusPro TH6110D programmable thermostat - it's quite versatile.

It's not clear to me that the added heat from the 40VA transformer wiring that powers this zone valve would normally be sufficient to contribute to the product's failure in the field. The temperatures of the circulating hot water are, in my OPINION more likely to be a factor in zone valve life.

Watch out: for conditions that could contribute to zone valve failure.

[The Honeywell Honeywell V8043 series zone valve is ] suitable for glycol/water mix up to 50:50 use in closed hydronic systems. Not for use with oxygenated water, potable water or steam. Use this valve in hydronic systems which DO NOT contain dissolved oxygen in the system water. The dissolved oxygen, which is found in systems that have a frequent source of make-up water, causes the rubber plug inside the valve to deteriorate and eventually fail.  - op cit.

Watch out: however, for wiring errors, short circuits, or a misbehaving low voltage transformer. Those defects could contribute to zone valve failure, as might corrosive or mineral-laden water in more rare cases.

See CHEMICAL TREATMENTS, BOILER

Heating Zone Valve Models & Installation Instructions

Moved to ZONE VALVE WIRING - live link given just below.

 

 

Continue reading at ZONE VALVE WIRING or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see ZONE VALVE DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for help with diagnosing zone valve problems

Or see AIRBOUND HEAT SYSTEM REPAIR by WATER FEED VALVE if your heating zones don't get hot even though the zone valve opens, the circulator runs, and the boiler heats.

Suggested citation for this web page

ZONE VALVES, HEATING at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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