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Why the difference between these 2 boiler bids?

Background: We have a 3100 sqft old house that has had insulation retrofitted, as well as all new double-pane efficient windows and doors. Most of the house is heated with big old cast-iron hot water radiators, but there is a three-room zone 2 (den, laundry room and attached bathroom) heated with baseboard. We generally keep the heat in that zone 2 several degrees lower than in the rest of the house. We frequently get air lock in zone 2 and have to purge to get it going.

We did our own whole-house heat loss and came out at 108K, estimating high on items that we weren't sure about. (In other words, our true number should not be higher and is probably lower.) One of the bidders (not one of the ones I'm going to ask about here) calculated our heat load from radiators, baseboard, etc. at 112K.

We have been getting bids to replace our ancient oil boiler. We have five bids and we are satisfied with that number. After doing a lot of research and getting a recommendation from an independent HVAC consultant, we've decided to go with Energy Kinetics' System 2000. I know there have been some knocks against this system, but we have researched those criticisms and we're comfortable with our choice.

We have two bids on the System 2000, but they are quite different. I would like to describe the two bids, talk about the bidders, and see if anybody has any ideas why there is such a significant bid price differential. For reasons I'll explain below, we have a strong preference for the higher bidder, but we want to understand and feel comfortable with why the bids are different before we pay more.

BIDDER #1 (Let's call him Chet)

Bid price is $1,950 higher than Bidder #2 (I'm not putting in the bid number because apparently that violates the rules of this site)

EK-1 with its 40-gal storage tank. Burner is Beckett model AFG

Replace current zone system with System 2000 zone manager

Honeywell AQ2000 outdoor reset

Two room thermostats, move zone 1 thermostat

In addition to mfg warranties, a 12-month parts/labor warranty

No down payment required

BIDDER #2 (Let's call him Ray)

Bid price is $1,950 lower for EK-1 (burner make not specified)

In addition to mfg warranties, a 12-month parts/labor warranty if we buy our oil from Ray's company.

33% down payment required.

Ray's bid doesn't mention the storage tank, but the company has told us on the phone that it's included. It definitely doesn't include the outdoor reset or the new room thermostats. (We want to move the zone 1 thermostat to a better location and replace it with a digital thermostat.) We think Ray's bid includes the zone manager, but we need to confirm that.


Chet has had his own heating contractor business for many years and is well known and respected. He has excellent reports on Angie's list. Other contractors in the area we've talked to speak very highly of him. The guy who is lining our chimney (who was recommended to us by just about everybody and who is great) said he gets plenty of referrals from both of them and of course he wouldn't say anything bad, but it was clear he was a big fan of Chet's.

We really liked Chet when he came to the house. He was friendly, checked everything out carefully and then sat down and talked with us for nearly an hour, answering all of our questions in a way that was easy for us to understand. He looked at our whole-house heat loss calculation, asked us questions and re-ran all the numbers. I don't remember offhand the number he came up with, but it was under the 108K we had come up with.

Chet is a System 2000 Premium Dealer, which means he has had all their training, has installed at least 20 System 2000s per year and has 24-hour service. Chet told us that he has been recommending the System 2000 since 2006 and he was prompted to study the System 2000 by its energy cost savings, which is critically important here in Maine.

Ray is about 60 and had his own heating contractor business for many years, but he now works for an oil/propane/kerosene supply and heating equipment company. He is a very quiet guy; not unfriendly by any means, but a little shy. He seemed to check everything out fairly carefully. He was here about half an hour. Ray told us he's been installing and servicing the System 2000 for about 15 years. He was not identified to us as a Premium Dealer by Energy Kinetics. He has no reports on Angie's List.


Obviously, one explanation for the bid differential is that Chet's includes the outdoor reset and Ray's doesn't. We have decided we do want the outdoor reset, though we understand that it likely will not save us as much with the System 2000 as with a different boiler system. We assume that Ray would add outdoor reset to his bid if we asked. We know that Chet will take the outdoor reset out of his bid if we want.

We assume that the two new room thermostats we're getting from Chet but not Ray should cause a minimal difference in their bids. I don't know if the installer warranty being conditioned, in Ray's case, with us buying oil from his company has any effect on the bid price. I do know we are not planning to buy oil from his company.

We are meeting with Ray on Monday to talk about his bid and maybe all will be explained then. We did talk to Chet yesterday about the discrepancy and he said he was surprised how low Ray's bid was. He didn't have a bad word to say about Ray. He said it's possible that Ray is not using the primary/secondary piping system he plans to put in that he thinks is a good idea for our setup. I think he may be correct there, since Ray's bid just says: "connect new boiler to supply and return piping." Of course we will ask about that. Bottom line with Chet is that he is standing by his bid, which I respect.


We really feel most comfortable with Chet as a person and a professional. He's enthusiastic and we like the fact that he has a longstanding independent heating business, so that we know his recommendations are based on his own choices, not dictated to him by his employer.

I don't have a strong positive feeling about Ray's bid, though he seemed to be an honest, experienced and competent person. I feel like there must be something missing there. On an apparent apples-to-apples comparison with the bids we received for three-pass cast-iron boilers (all with Reillo burners), his was the lowest. Our other bids were for (1) Buderus G115/34 with a Weil-McLain Gold Plus 40 indirect h/w, (2) Buderus G215/3 with a SuperStor SSU45 h/w and (3) Pensotti DK2-5 with Amtrol CH31-2 h/w. If you delete the outdoor reset from those other bids, they're $300+ more than Ray's bid. One of the Buderus bidders said he could also quote us a System 2000 but when he heard Ray's quote he expressed surprise, said he couldn't come close to it and decided not to include a System 2000 bid. I know somebody's bid has to be the lowest, but everybody seems to assume that the System 2000 will generally be a little more expensive than the kinds of three-pass cast-iron boiler systems we're looking at.

After we meet with Ray, I hope we have an understanding of what underlies the spread between his bid and Chet's. If not, we may call the district sales manager for System 2000 to see if he can give us any helpful information.


Sorry for such a long-winded post, but I wanted to try to put in every potentially relevant thing I could think of.

Does anybody have any comments that can help us figure out what accounts for the difference in Chet's and Ray's bid prices? Any comments on outdoor reset when coupled with the System 2000? How about primary/secondary piping systems in our setup?

Thanks in advance for any insights you may be able to offer.


  • Jim Hankinson
    Jim Hankinson Member Posts: 99
    System 2000 bids

    I won't touch the difference in price between the two bids. I don't know how either dealer prepares them. I will say that using outdoor reset with a System 2000 is generally a waste of time and money unless it's a commercial installation with multiple boilers. In your situation I would recommend piping the cast iron zone as primary/secondary. Because the boiler is low mass the heating zone water temp will vary as the outdoor air temp varies, thus negating the need for ODR. The conventional zone can be piped directly to the boiler headers.

    One of the things that a lot of dealers find if they actually compare systems head to head, is that a complete System 2000 really costs them no more than a conventional boiler with the indirect and fittings necessary for the installation. In some cases it actually costs them a little less.

    All System 2000's include the system manager. No systems are sold without one. Also keep in mind that the system warranty as far as components and the boiler itself is covered by the manufacturer, not the dealer. Any labor, other than a labor allowance for the first 10 years if the boiler itrself leaks, is covered by the installer's warranty.

    Should you find yourself in the position that the installer won't cover the warranty because they don't sell you oil, another dealer will cover it.

    The correct method for sizing replacement boilers is not by calculating the connected load unless it's a steam system. The correct method is to do a heat loss. In your case the figures were pretty close. Either bid should specify an EK-1. The standard burner shipped on an EK-1 is the Beckett AFG.

    I hope that helps you make an informed decision about which dealer to choose.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,269
    One of the rules of the Wall

    is that we don't discuss pricing here. You may have missed that. It's up at the top. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • MelinMaine
    MelinMaine Member Posts: 2
    Not looking for a pricing discussion

    Hello Dan, I was definitely aware that pricing talk is not allowed on this forum. That's why I didn't put in either contractor's bid price.

    What I'm trying to find out is if anybody can help me identify the substantive services/equipment differences between these two bids and how much they matter. I used price in my original post only to indicate that it's clear these two bids aren't apples-to-apples, which is what is prompting my search to find out what they're doing differently. I've been going back and forth between the contractors, but I'm still not there yet. (If contractors used standard proposal formats I wouldn't be doing this. Just one of the things that makes this process frustrating and amazingly time consuming for the homeowner.)

    I definitely am not asking for pricing comments. I'm looking for info like Jim's, where he comments on the outdoor reset and seems to confirm that primary/secondary piping may well be the second major difference between the two proposals. I hope I've made it clear that I'm looking for services/equipment information, not pricing.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,269

    just trying to set the tone for the replies. Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,549
    My opinion

    If those in the know say that outdoor reset is a waste of time with a system 2000 I'd leave it off. Why make the system more complicated than it needs to be?

    If that is the case, why would a company that installs a lot of these systems include it in their bid? Shouldn't they have known that it was a waste, or did they include it in the bid because you insisted that they include it.

    Bottom line is how do you feel about the two companies. Unfortunately you have to judge the companies by the reps you had to the house. They may or may not be a good representative of their respective companies. I would definitely get referrals and call them, then I'd ask around and see what others think of those companies. I have no idea how close the prices will be without the outdoor reset in them.
  • Ken Field
    Ken Field Member Posts: 127
    Ask for photos

    I have been installing System 2000s for over 20 years. No need for the ODR. It will not gain you anything. I might recommend primary/secondary piping for the cast iron radiator zone if it was large enough. It brings ALL the radiator temps back into line as they were designed to be operated. (When it was coal fired gravity circulation). Ask both of these companies for photographs of their installed systems. That can make a big difference in servicability later. And it is an indicator of the type of work they do.

  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,066
    NoOutdoor Reset

    I agree on not putting the boiler on outdoor reset but I would def run 2 heating curves here. A high temp curve for the fin tube and a lower temp curve for the cast iron. Could add a Taco RMB and set a different curve for the cast iron. This would eliminate the pirmary secondary piping (it's done within itself) and it's very easy to wire. There is a very nice video on Taco's web site. Wouldn't hurt to take a look.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • Jim Hankinson
    Jim Hankinson Member Posts: 99
    Boiler bid

    I would not recommend using the RMB with System 2000. It reduces overall system efficiency. Use a simple primary/secondary piping arrangement. RMB is basically an isolated ODR setup.
This discussion has been closed.


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