I've been researching potential new boiler alternatives for my house, located in a suburb near Chicago. The house was built in 1917 and has been a rental for over 10 years since I've owned it, and probably for the past 40 years before that. So there are many problems, due to it's patchwork construction, but I like it. It is a very small house (actually a coach house), but I plan to stay here for at least 10 years, and whatever work I do, I want done correctly, and especially, efficiently.
A few years ago, a thoughtful departing tenant turned off the gas in the dead of winter, which resulted in the bursting 5 of the 6 radiators, which I replaced with used cast iron radiators, one Runtal panel unit, plus several sections of old school WM baseboard...I am a big fan of hydronic heat. In all, I have calculated there is about 55,000 BTUs of load for 800 sq ft of conditioned space (there is another 600 sq ft. in the (currently) unheated basement). It has a ~20 year old Repco 75,000/60,000 standing pilot boiler, which actually works fine. A similar vintage 50 gallon water heater supplies DHW. Last fall, I did a lot of air sealing and blew in 8 bales of the OC attic insulation to achieve about R72 in the ceiling. I have already replaced the entry doors and most of the windows, stuffing in whatever I could in the otherwise uninsulated 2x4 walls.
My motivation to change out my working boiler is multifaceted; first, my chimney is in seriously poor condition...to make it through this winter, I really need to slap on some sealing grout and fashion some sort of guyed supports...in the last 4 - 5 feet, it is visibly leaning. If I replace the boiler/water heater with either a condensing boiler/indirect hot water tank, or a combi unit, I can rip out the chimney entirely, which would also give me some sorely needed space in the kitchen and give new possibilities to finishing a room in the basement. The roof is close to shot, but it should last another year and I don't want want to replace it until I deal with the chimney.
Having worked for European companies for the past 10 years, I have travelled extensively to Germany and Denmark, and I have grown to appreciate the HVAC technology which is standard fare and appropriately sized for relatively modestly sized and highly efficient homes. When researching available ultra high efficiency boilers available in the US, I have been struck by the massiveness of available sizes, even on the smallest units. Having already completed the easiest reductions for heat loss, I plan to continue on that path, such as adding some external insulation prior to installing siding (yet another expensive future project).
So I am now trying to pick the best boiler/DHW solution, in time to take advantage of rebates and energy credits. Given my career is in the renewable energy industry, I am willing to pay the premium for efficiency, and I am a big fan of quality engineering. I have been impressed with Buderus for years, so the GB142 is definitely a unit that is under consideration. Given my Midwest location, it would be a mistake to to not at least consider the WM97+ boiler as well. Both those units appear to have the ability to accommodate an indirect water tank. I have also looked at the Viessmann boilers, since their global sales of boilers is more than 4 times the number of boilers sold in the entire US market. I initially considered the Vitodens 100, but felt it was likely to be oversized for my small, and increasingly efficient house.
However, just the other day, I finally figured out that Viessmann used a funky German model numbering scheme, meaning their 200 series was actually offered with lower output than their 100 series. My new all-time favorite is the Vitodens 222-F B2TA 19, apparently just released for the US market, which is precisely what I have been looking for...their 19 Kw model (12,000 to 67,000 BTU) output, with an integrated 100 liter (26 gal) tank, the perfect size for heating my small house and DHW for my one bathroom, one kitchen sink faucet, one HE dishwasher and one HE clothes washer.
My problem...how do I find someone to install this, and in case there is a problem, service it. And by service, I mean not just shaking your head and saying "I told you not to swap out that solid 80% with your new fangled, fancy pants, over priced German crap". My own brother (a HVAC guy in a neighboring state) is pushing the Weil McLain, mainly because of availability, plus it won't confuse plumbers. But it seems like settling for a Ford Focus, instead of a VW TDI. Both will get you to where you want to go, but I want 50 MPG, even if the VW costs 15% more.
Any suggestions? Does my sizing logic and boiler infatuation seem (at least directionally) correct? Or am I on a collision course that is doomed for disappointment? Anyone aware of an enlightened heating contractor in the Midwest, someone who appreciates and embraces well tested European technology? If I were in New England, I'm feeling like this wouldn't be such a problem...there, I did find one US contractor who specifically mentions the 222-F: http://www.tjsradiantheat.com/heating/viessmann-vitodens-222-f/