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What's a good res. steam boiler?

GW
GW Member Posts: 4,676
I was reading through the wet head site the other night; is there a "better" brand for residential steam boilers? I never paid attention to the "wideness" factor of the boiler castings, but it does make sense. Also I never really paid attention to the (I forget the term) steam capacity, or in other words the length of time the boiler will produce steam before it drops on low water. It also made sense to go with a boiler with top taps instead of side taps.

I've used Peerless, Utica, W/M, and Smith in the past, but I really want to hear some comments on what's best.

Thanks, Gary

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Gary Wilson
Wilson Services, Inc
Northampton, MA
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Comments

  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    If

    you ask 5 people you'll get 5 different answers. I prefer Peerless.

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  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,676
    boiler

    I was hoping for a little more than an opinion. I'm hoping someone out there has some facts, thanks,

    Gary

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  • I'm a

    I'm a Weil Mclain boiler guy ( not being paid to say it) NEVER had problem with the rubber gaskets, easy to knock down and reassemable on job site, love them top 3" tappings. Easy acess to burner, easy to skim . Low profile to achieive the 28" `A` dimisason(sp).. Maybe the ISH show will change my mind...
  • Joseph Kerr
    Joseph Kerr Member Posts: 7
    New Burnham

    If you have time, I'd wait and check out the new Burnham 3 pass-steam that is due to be out next month. I would imagine they would have it at ISH NA, If it's anything like the MPO it should be worth the wait!
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    That's my point

    there are no substantial differences. It's all opinion,except for the forthcoming Burnham 3 pass. That will separate Burnham from the pack.

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  • Tom Woodman
    Tom Woodman Member Posts: 15
    What's your favorite

    Say, Gary, you've sure used a bunch of brands. I'd like to hear your favorite!
  • GW
    GW Member Posts: 4,676
    I guess

    I guess I misphrades myself. I wasn't asking what color you like, or what company drives you crazy, but it was more technical; how much steam area and how much water there is before lwco. Thanks, Gary

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  • Boilerpro_5
    Boilerpro_5 Member Posts: 407
    Oh, I disagree

    There are substancial differences between different steamers. My experience is with atmospheric gas types only, but here is what I see.

    Quality of steam out of the tapping: not just off the header. This is effected by surface steaming area, height of tappings, steam chamber space, size of tappings,any special baffling on the castings, water quality and routing of steam in the castings.
    Tolerance of variation of water levels: Does a high waterline cause lots of carryover?
    Warm up time: Mainly effected by water volume, this effects real world efficiency in the shoulder seasons and on overradiated systems.
    Ease of installation: Will a single smaller tapping on some boilers outperform using both tapping on others...I have found that the answer is yes, on some boilers.
    Ease of cleaning and maintenance: A biggee in my eyes since this tends to greatly effect the life and efficeincy of the boiler.
    Quality of casting materials: Pure cast iron tends to be stronger than cast iron that has alot of additives to cause it to flow into molds easier(learned this doing some study of grand piano manufacturing)
    Quality control and responses to defects: Are pinholes in castings just peaned over leaving a thin spot in the wall or are the defective castings remelted? On hot water I would not consider this as big of an issue, on steam, with wall wear a normal part of operation, its a big issue.
    As above wall thickness: All other things being equal (which is impossible) thicker walls should give longer life, but potentially lower efficiency.
    Size of tappings: Not as important as it may seem when looking at the bigger picture.
    Operating water volume: Overall volume really doesn't matter here, other than high water volume boilers will tend to be less efficient in the shoulder seasons.
    Heating surface loading: Boilers that put alot of heat into a small water side surface are probably much more susceptible to liming, etc really cutting down efficiency.
    that means they need much better maintenance. I suspect that for most units there is not much difference here anymore.
    Control Quality: Are the cheapest pressuretrols used with exposed wiring? Is the control layout compatible with the variety of thermostats out there without creating potential problems.
    Support: Tech service. Corporate support when serious problems arise.
    Fireside issues: Are boilers properly set up from factory and are there issues with light off etc.

    Parts and repairs: Are repairs simple to perform and are parts avialable in general and are they available as individual parts or only as assemblies.

    My own experience has been as follows, but just remember, companies are always changing, so some bad can now be good and vice versa.

    Burnham: Independences are my only real experience (also with various hot water units). Pretty much with the Pack on many items, some general issues with factory setups on particular boilers, but gas train much better than average. These boilers are Heavy, meaning they probably have substanical castings. I would say for controls, they are the absolute leader...commercial grade pressuretrols with all wiring neatly encased in metallic conduit and electrical boxes. Corporate response seems good, I suspect this is due to Glenn Stanton. General quality of units is excellent. Two tappings should be used, if possible, making piping more expensive and complex.

    Weil- Mclain: EG's The large tappings are great and the large size of these boilers probably help them make really good steam right out of the tapping. I believe this because I have only seen afew in 12 years piped or sized properly, yet the systems still worked. However, a high percentage seem to fail in less than 17 years, typically leaking at gaskets and/ or rotted out castings. However, with the evidence of the large number of low grade installers putting in Weils in my area (incorrect piping), failure of the gaskets is probably related to incorrect assembly. However, the high percentage rotted castings seem more related to poor casting material and quality. Large water volume probably hurts efficiency in most systems, but there firing efficiency seems higher than most. Also, they may have rather low heat loading, since the boilers are so big phycially. A single 3 inch tapping can cover most typical home sizes, making piping somewhat easier than using two tappings, however 3 inch is alot more work. Also no need to order assemblies, because indiviual parts are available. However if you are unlucky, the unit will need parts when the factory is closed mid winter and then you wait 2 weeks. Gas trains seem good, and factory setup seems to be improving. Factory tech support good, Corporate maybe good too. Lots of old E series out there from early 60's cranking away, but pretty inefficient, it seems.

    Dunkirk: I've done alot of these, steam and hot water. With the pack in general, Need to use both 2 1/2 inch tapping on most boilers for decent steam quality. Assembly quality a little below average. Gas train slightly below average with nat gas, propane can have serious light off problems. Good tech support, very poor corporate support and response to serious problems. Wiring and controls slightly below average, with the potential for serious problems when connecting to modern thermostats if you are not careful...it is easy to bypass operating and safety controls when wiring some thermostats to the boiler. Side tappings do make it possible to inspect and rinse the castings which all manufaturers recommend, but make it impossible to do without removing the supply piping (never figured this one out). I've come across some pretty old Pennco's thare are still cranking away with almost no maintenance and poor piping.
    The bigger D247 is an old design, and quite good in the smaller sizes I've used it for, combustion efficiency seems a little low, but steam quality very good, and uneffected by water line, I've run the water line right into the outlet piping and still no carryover... 4 inch piping though.

    Hydrotherm: Only have one of these, but have dealt with the water units too. Very good steam quality with the single tapping, even though this particular installation problably helped, only 200,000 input with a 4 foot riser. Very nice efficiency. Generally poor assembly quality, parts are only avialable as packages and repairs can be very difficult in the combustion area. Many combustion related problems including poor lightoff, high CO (many units), and flame burning in burner tubes. Factory support at the bottom, having also had experince with their RBI branch. Plant also closes down midwinter...no parts or boilers.

    Slantfin: I've down 4 of these (2- 2 mod commercial steam units)
    Single 2 1/2 inch tappings make very clean steam (somehow) defying conventional wisdom.(2 units are 250 input)with almost no carryover to header. Low water content for quicker response, however, touchy about water lines, get too high you have carryover. Very easy to keep water clean... never had any this easy to get spotlessly clean so quick after install. Gas train good, needed to adjust primary air on all units due to burner fluting. Burners are a pain in the neck to remove due to retaining clips flying everywhere, but otherwise easy. Lighter weight makes easier install, but maybe thinner castings? than some others. Firing efficiency typical, but with very clean steam due to easy to clean waterside, probably better than average in real life. As to support, with Noel around, and being one of the best around with steam, and being surrounded with some more of the best, support is very good. Haven't had any major problems so corporate is unknown.

    So that's MY story, and I'm sticking to it.



    Boilerpro









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