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clueless homeowner with gas-fired boiler problems

Common business practice should entail at least doing SOMETHING, you wouldn't pay Burger King $5 to tell you they were out of burgers would you? In Utah $75 for nothing is expensive.

My point is that they advertise that they can do boiler work but really don't know what they are dealing with when they show up. I bet you guys could come in and fix my problems in an hour or two. Here they don't even try. And I still have problems!


  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14
    gas-fired boiler problems

    I recently had my 245000 btu gas-fired boiler (Dunkirk) cleaned and checked and a new t-stat installed. three weeks later, the boiler stopped working. the servicing contractor came back out and told me i had flame roll-out that had fried my limit switch. there is lots of soot visible now which was not there previously. this contractor tells me i need a new boiler, that there is serious damage to the heat exchanger and that none of this would have been found by the routine maintenance check and clean. Quote for new Peerless boiler: $6200.
    Contractor #2 agrees I need a new boiler (the current one is only 10yrs old.) and would like to sell me a new dunkirk unit of the same size for $4500. He claims the damage was caused by the deposit of sediment in the heat exchanger due to excessive corrosion in the pipes and poor maintenance.
    Contractor #3 believes the flame roll-out was caused by improper venting. last winter i had the chimney lined. this chimney vents the boiler and two hot water heaters. the liner is 7". this contractor claims that the guy who lined the chimney used too small a liner. he wants to sell me an induced draft boiler by Crown and also believes my current boiler is over-sized. Cost for the 195000 btu boiler: $4700.
    Contractor #3 seems to have the most on the ball. I have done the math on the total radiation currently present in my house, and it does indicate a total load of about 150000btu/hour (output) so the smaller unit seems reasonable. do i need to compensate for my very poorly insulated, ancient house?
    I would appreciate any input about the cause of the flame roll-out, the prospect of cleaning and re-firing my current boiler or the appropriate size for a new boiler.
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909
    I would suggest

    that you try the "Find a Professional" portion of this site.

    I don't know what "serious damage to the heat exchanger" means since it is made of cast iron. It is obviously not burning correctly since it is producing soot. A "clean and check" should have found any problem with draft or combustion IF it was done correctly.

    If the boiler isn't leaking, you shouldn't have to replace it.

    Mark H

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
  • Mitch_4
    Mitch_4 Member Posts: 955
    I agree

    with Mark.

    A routine check should have found it. If it isn't leaking, the Heat exchanger should be fine. If not, I would see about the warranty from Dunkirk as the unit is only 10 years old.

    I would look to the combustion side of things.

    Not sure about your codes as I am in Canada, but from your description, you have 245000 input. Here that would be ok if it was co vented with ONE additional appliance in a 7" liner and the height was a minimum of 30' tall and the other appliance limited to 34000 (small residential HWH). You are co-venting with 2 other units. Sounds too small to me,and likely the reason the roll out tripped.

    Liners are generally corrugated, and suffer a 20% capacity penalty here in Canada.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796
    Start Over

    It is not clear to me whether this is a steam system or a hot water system. If it's hot water, has any contractor performed a honest-to-goodness heat loss calculation? If steam, did anyone go out and measure the steam radiators? If not, start over.

    Get a heat loss/EDR calc done, then see what kind of a boiler is necessary. I doubt that a 245kBTU/hr can be downfired 50% when the flue gases are going into a chimney. So if the lowest number is correct, then it might be most cost effective in the long run to properly install a new boiler. A representative from Dunkirk might also be able to help you. Give them a call and see if they can send someone your way.

    I would also have the pros inspect the chimney and it's liner. It may not be the right size for all the appliances that have been attached to it. You may also want to consider switching to indirect water heaters instead of gas-fired ones with the new boiler. That saves up on the flue requirements.

    I would also insist on having the boiler (or it's replacement) tuned with a combustion analyzer to ensure that it's operating safely and efficiently. A true professional will do that as a matter of course.
  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14
    more info

    thanks for the input!
    this is a hot water system. no contractor since i have owned the building has done an "honest-to-goodness" heat loss calc. what i did was add all the square footage of all the radiators (by using a chart from this site). I got a total of 1000 sq. feet x 150btu/hr at 170degrees gives me 150,000btu net. this makes me think a 195000btu boiler at %82 efficiency should be enough. i understand that the current boiler may not have a cracked heat exchanger, but there is a fairly high cost to clean it out, replace the limit switch and even then, I have not solved my venting problem. There is also no guarantee that it isnt cracked. am i wrong to pursue the option of replacing the boiler with a new draft-induced model?
  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14
    i have tried

    the 'find a professional' area of this site. there is only one recommended pro within a 100 mile radius of me (chicago). i have left a message, but not heard back yet. that's why i'm looking for info here. the contractors i have access to currently all have conflicting views and incomplete analyses of the situation so i'm reluctant to just pick one and hope for the best.
  • terry_5
    terry_5 Member Posts: 92

    i'm on the so side , give me a call 773 447 9575
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,490

    maybe you should have an ad in Find a Professional?
    Retired and loving it.
  • Constantin
    Constantin Member Posts: 3,796

    ... did you confirm that your radiators have to heat to 170°F on a design day, and continuously at that? If not, you might yet want to fire up a heat loss program to determine your heat loss. Your radiators may be oversized, after all.

    You also may want to consider a modulating/condensing boiler, depending on local gas prices, the marginal cost, and the temperatures the system has to maintain on a design day. Even homeowners with baseboard seem to report very favorable gas savings.
  • Guy_6
    Guy_6 Member Posts: 450

    Keep in mind that if this is a venting issue, a new boiler will not solve it (unless you go direct vent). An alternative might be to replace the water heaters with indirect water heaters. You have plenty of boiler, and that would dedicate the single flue to the boiler. As stated above, it's probably not the boiler at fault.
  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14

    the boiler i'm looking at is a draft-induced model. also the cost of two new water heaters plus the cost to clean and repair the old boiler starts to add up. wouldnt i be better off with a new, more efficient boiler that's sized correctly for my house?

    as to the edr calculation, i would love to have a proper heat loss assessment done, but i dont exactly know who to ask.
  • jerry scharf_3
    jerry scharf_3 Member Posts: 419
    A couple basics


    You size steam by the radiator sizes and you size hot water by the heat loss of the building. If you look at the pipe on the upper left of the window, you will see a line for free heat los calcs. The people at Slant/Fin have offered their heat loss calculator free to anyone who comes here. Download the software, measure up your house, take a best guess at the insulation and infiltration, and work out the total loss.

    It will take a couple hours, but it will give you some approximate sense of your loss. The total loss can be compared to the output of your boiler (not 245MBH input) to see how the boiler is sized. You can compare the room losses to the radiator sizes to see how hot the water will need to be to heat the room on the "design day."

    I agree that is sounds like the people who cleaned the unit didn't do a complete job. How about asking them for the records of the combustion analysis, and report back on the draft measurements.

    Looking at indirect water heating may also make sense at the same time.

    good luck,
  • Patchogue Phil_30
    Patchogue Phil_30 Member Posts: 11

    Is it possible that the first contractor that did the cleaning 3 weeks ago messed up something that caused the problems (either by accident or on purpose)?

    Did the unit soot up and have flame rollout BEFORE the initial cleaning/service?
  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14
    heat loss


    thank for that information, it answers a big question for me. since i'm not really interested in re-piping or replacing all these radiators, i was under the impression that the total amount of square footage of existing radiators must dictate a maximum boiler size. it seemed to me that having a boiler sized beyond the capacity of the radiators would do no good. i guess i will try to grind out a heat loss calc on my own, since none of the contractors i have been able to get out here seem qualified to make such an assessment. i still have the issue of venting though. i believe this whole problem was caused by the contractor who lined my chimney with a 7" liner and vented the boiler plus 2 water heaters through it. I feel that this contractor is much more at fault than the maintenance guy who failed to notice the inadequate venting after the fact. does anyone think i should be able to recover some of the cost to fix this problem from the guy who put the liner in my chimney in the first place?
  • John Starcher_4
    John Starcher_4 Member Posts: 794
    Go with.....

    ....a new Trinity or Munchkin boiler, sealed combustion, and add indirect water heater. No more venting issues, and the modulation of the boiler eliminates the oversizing problems.

  • joe bristol
    joe bristol Member Posts: 14

    the professional recommended by this site who is 70miles away and in another state just called me back. he said exactly the same thing. condensing/modulating boiler w/indirect water heater. i think that's what i'll do. the building inspector i just had over here says the venting of all three appliances is completely messed up and that the corrugated chimney liner was installed incorrectly anyway. i guess i really do just have to start over. thank you all for your help with this. if you have any further advice i'm all ears. by the way, i find it pretty incredible that there are this many heating contractors in chicago who seem to have no idea how any of this works.
  • C Greener
    C Greener Member Posts: 5
    If you think it's bad in Chicago...

    ... you should come to Ogden, Utah where the "pro's" will come out to your house, look at your boiler, touch it in a few places, and say "oh, this is bad, and we can't find parts to fix it. if the gas company knew you were running this they would turn off the gas to your house. Do you want us to install a furnace?"

    Yeah, it's that bad. Did I say that they charge $75 for this?
  • jeff_51
    jeff_51 Member Posts: 545

    we get $69.00 just to show up at your door, then the meter starts running, a min of a half hr means 134 bucks minimum charge for us and we are cheap compared to alot around here who get 250 min
  • John_102
    John_102 Member Posts: 119
    Amen, brother!

    I'd happily part with my hard-earned $75 (& multiples thereof) for a competent pro, but I'm really tired of throwing money away.
This discussion has been closed.