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Ondol Floor and Water Boiler Heating Information Thread
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bassexpander



Joined: 13 Sep 2007
Location: Someplace you'd rather be.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:33 am    Post subject: Ondol Floor and Water Boiler Heating Information Thread Reply with quote

Korean buildings often utilize a gas boiler system to heat water for the tap, as well as for a system of pipes below the floor (called Ondol) which warms the house. If your ondol boiler breaks down, you can lose hot water, as well as floor heat during winter time. The ondol floor heating system is slow to gain/lose heat, due to the water in the system either cooling or heating up. It doesn't instantly warm the floor up, and can take an hour or more to heat up a cold house from a cold start.

I've lived in Korea for several years, and when winter rolls around, I have to turn on the Ondol floor heating. I cross my fingers and hope that it will work, and that I won't have to call my boss (or in this case, the sometimes slow university General Admin. office) to come fix it when they have time. In the past, both myself and my coworkers have experienced a night with no heat and no hot water. Every place I've lived, except for in a new apartment building, I've had issues/problems with heating at least one time during the winter. I know that I am not alone. That is why I want to pass on what I've learned about these things to newbees, and others who know more can add the same.

This is what my new Ondol thermostat control looks like. It has a big on/off button, as well as buttons to control the temperature manually, a setting for automatic (I have to chose the limits) and for when I'm away from the house. There is also a round button (middle) to turn the tap/bath water heating on or off:


(Pic 1)

My old ondol boiler recently died, and they replaced my boiler with a new Kiturami brand system (Rinnai is another popular brand of boiler). The new thermostat is digital, and looks quite ugly on my wall because it's smaller than the old one. I've got to find some kind of plate to cover up the bare spot. My last thermostat was an older dial-type.

My old boiler was replaced because the tank inside had rusted-out, and was leaking water. Here is what the new boiler unit looks like. There is an identical one next to it for my downstairs neighbor's apartment:


(Pic 2)

On this boiler unit, you will find some essential controls, such as a water tank level meter:


(Pic 3)

You will also find a valve for adding water to the system (make sure it says water, and not gas). On my old boiler, the front of the case had to be removed to find this. On my new boiler, it is located on the bottom:


(Pic 4)

If you are not sure where your boiler is, look for exhaust pipes like this on the outside of your building. Chances are, it will be very close to these pipes:


(Pic 5)


Somewhere inside your building or apartment, you will also find this contraption of water tubes and valves (the big water faucet on top is for emptying water from the system). This is the control system:


(Pic 6)


Each butterfly valve can be turned on or off. On is when the fins are straight up and down. Off is when the fins are parallel to the floor. In this picture, the first valve is closed (off). The second is open (on). Turning these on and off will help you control which rooms in your apartment (or parts of rooms) are getting heat:


(Pic 7)


Generally, my ondol boiler system worked fine, however at the beginning of the year, I often encountered troubles. In nearly every case, all that was required was for them to add water to the system until the water meter read a normal level. I suppose that water was lost from the system over the summer, due to evaporation or something. If your ondol suddenly quits working during the winter, first check to make sure your drunk friends didn't turn off your butterfly valves (pic 6) as a joke. Second, look on the ondol boiler unit (pic 2) for a "RESET" switch somewhere. If you have one, try pushing it, and see if that solves the problem. If it doesn't, or only causes it to run temporarily, you may need water. Check the water meter (pic 3) to see if the boiler tank is full or not. If it's not, find your water valve and try adding some slowly until the meter is in the middle of the normal zone (green on mine). Turn your ondol heat up, and see if this begins to warm the pipes and the floor in the next 30 minutes or so. I found that if the system is empty, I sometimes had to add water twice. Don't overfill.

If your ondol is not firing-up, it could be that your gas is off, or that a pilot light blew out or something. If the reset switch doesn't correct this, and the above information doesn't work, then you should call your building maintenance person (or in my case, the school's general administration).

If anyone else can think to add/correct what I've written, please do so.


For more information about the history of the Ondol system, see here:

http://ald.net/~roden/korea/album/ondol.htm


Last edited by bassexpander on Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:52 am; edited 1 time in total
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bassexpander



Joined: 13 Sep 2007
Location: Someplace you'd rather be.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a second post, I'd also like to tell you about something newbees often learn eventually, but wish they had known sooner. When taking a shower, it is common for the boiler to only heat the water up to a less-than-hot temperature. This makes for a rather joyless shower experience.

If you are sure your thermostat's water heating button has been turned on, and the boiler is working to heat the shower water (but it's still not as warm as you'd like) try adjusting the faucet so that not so much water is coming out of the shower head. Sometimes the water flow is too strong for the boiler to "keep up" with heating the water. Luke-warm water can be a result. Turn the faucet down, and it should heat the water up. Yeah, I know.... we all like strong showers, but with these systems, you often need to adjust the water flow to a lower level to allow the system more chance to heat the water.

I am also happy to note that my new boiler has a digital water temperature control (which I have set to its highest setting). I'm pretty happy now. Smile
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Underwaterbob



Joined: 08 Jan 2005
Location: In Cognito

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah. What I can't understand is how my floor can get so hot it almost hurts my feet, yet I can't get my shower better than lukewarm with any pressure at all no matter how much valve and faucet finagling I do.

Korean plumbing irks me to no end.
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mrsquirrel



Joined: 13 Dec 2006

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

^^

OP

You can adjust the water temp on that thermostat. Hold down the top right buttong and it flashes at you and you can then put it up to 85degrees.

Still comes through rather cold though.
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spliff



Joined: 19 Jan 2004
Location: Khon Kaen, Thailand

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OP nice picture of the bottom of the heater, never would have thought that was it...anyhow, my shower is steaming hot. Very Happy
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PEIGUY



Joined: 28 Mar 2004
Location: Omokgyo

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had the same prob for a while with my shower not getting hot enough, like the OP said you just have to adjust your water pressure so that it's not so strong and the water will heat right up.. (usually in the winter this happens I find)..
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spliff



Joined: 19 Jan 2004
Location: Khon Kaen, Thailand

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PEIGUY wrote:
(usually in the winter this happens I find)..


An astute observation.
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JustJohn



Joined: 18 Oct 2007
Location: Your computer screen

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mine is different, and confusing. Anyone have the one with the green numbers in the middle, three knobs at the bottom, red button upper right and green button below that?
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Luna



Joined: 22 Feb 2007
Location: seoul suburbs

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I live in an offictel. I wish my water pressure was better - is there any hope for me? I was thinking if I could find those water valves I might not know which one is for my apartment...
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Colorado



Joined: 18 Jan 2006
Location: Public School with too much time on my hands.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JustJohn wrote:
Mine is different, and confusing. Anyone have the one with the green numbers in the middle, three knobs at the bottom, red button upper right and green button below that?


Mine is like that. Red button is on, of course. Use the green button in summer, when you want to heat your water and not your floor. One knob is for air temperature, another for water temperature. I forget what the third one is for.
Sorry I'm not much help. I use an electric space heater most of the time and an electric matress pad at night.
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dogshed



Joined: 28 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For valves the standard is usually that it is on when the handle is parallel
to the pipe and off when the handle is perpendicular to the pipe.

This rule works regardless of the relationship of the pipe to the floor.
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dogshed



Joined: 28 Apr 2006

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a thread where some nice person explained to me how my controller
works. http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewtopic.php?t=69817&highlight=thermostat

If you do a search for thermostat or ondol you will get some more
threads and you might get lucky and find your controller or at
least be able to translate yours.
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schwa



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: Yap

PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a heads-up to ondol-newbs browsing this thread. If your boiler is semi-exposed to the elements (on the verandah etc) & at risk of freezing during a cold snap -- dont leave it off for days at a time.

Frozen pipes arent fun & you'll likely be liable for repair costs.

Theres an "away" button (wae-chul in korean, sorry no hangeul on my keyboard) that maintains a minimal temp to prevent freeze-up.
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eamo



Joined: 08 Mar 2003
Location: Shepherd's Bush, 1964.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

schwa wrote:
Just a heads-up to ondol-newbs browsing this thread. If your boiler is semi-exposed to the elements (on the verandah etc) & at risk of freezing during a cold snap -- dont leave it off for days at a time.

Frozen pipes arent fun & you'll likely be liable for repair costs.

Theres an "away" button (wae-chul in korean, sorry no hangeul on my keyboard) that maintains a minimal temp to prevent freeze-up.


Indeed.
It's seen as the occupiers duty to stop the exposed pipes from freezing in the middle of Winter.

Try to use the "away" button. If you can't work out how to do that then just turn down the temperature to minimum when you go out to work or away for a few days.

The small cost of running your heating at minimum is well worth it to avoid frozen pipes, then burst pipes, then no water or heating for days, then big repair bill.
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merkurix



Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Location: Not far from the deep end.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know OP, considering the type of apartment you showed us you live in over at the "Post Pics of Your Place" thread, that's a pretty modern-looking boiler they've installed. At least you got heat. Could be worse. Wink
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