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Lochinvar Armor water heating boilers............

Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
Anyone having HX issues with them?

We had a 9 month old AWN199 spring a leak in the HX on Christmas day (naturally) . It provides DHW for a 1500 head dairy farm and of course had to replaced immediately so we swapped out the whole boiler. (Thanks to the guys from Etna Supply here in Michigan for meeting us at their shop at 10PM Christmas evening).

Drew brought the failed unit back this morning and while he was there another contractor at the counter became very interested in the conversation. Seems he was there for the same reason and started giving the poor dude behind the counter all kinds of crap for supposedly telling him they hadn't had any failiures at all with the Knight or Armor HX's.

Just makes me scratch my head a little because we have a number of these out there in high demand commercial and agricultural applications. If we are getting ourselves into trouble I want to know.

Couple notes about the job the failed boiler was on. It maintains a 750 gallon holding tank at 170-175*. All incoming water is softened to 5 grains hardness or less. The unit would "perk" every once in a while causing the whole thing to vibrate and shake for a couple minutes and then not do it again for a long period of time. Like weeks. We flushed and high pressure purged it several times thinking there was something restricting flow in one or more of the HX sections. Never got anything out of it nor did it make the perking go away. Lochinvar tech service went through all the installation parameters and burner set up with me and was very helpful but in the end with all the combustion specs and flow rates spot on, it still perked. Had to be some kind of restriction in the HX right from the get go IMHO.


  • seabee570seabee570 Posts: 89Member

    I my years as a building engineer,I have seen problems with using softened make-up water for a water heater.Are us sure that this did not have an efffect on this heater.I was under the impression that many water heater manufacturers do not want softned water going into thier heaters.I had a new building that a lined tank was destroyed in a matter of months because of the use of softned water.
  • seabee570seabee570 Posts: 89Member

    went to the lochinvar website,and under water chemistry,it states,under 5 grains is no good,causing agressive deterioration when heated? is the water that bad? it states that it can have water up to 25 grains,and solids of 350 ppm.I think that if it is continually under 5 grains,you may have problems in the future.the key is under 5 grains=no good.good luck
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    < 5 grains

    I'm going to verify that figure with my own test kit. Going on info supplied by the plumber that installed the softener.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Posts: 5,843Member

    the particular stainless steel that Gianonni utilizes doesn't like chlorides. Like sodium chlorides... Or magnesium chlorides...

    Soft water CAN be some nasty stuff. Have seen it destroy whole DHW systems in hotels before. It LOVES to eat copper when circulated continuously.

    Lochinvar is a good company. Hopefully they will help you out of the jam.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • SpeyFitterSpeyFitter Posts: 421Member
    Which S/S?


    Which stainless steel does Giannoni use? I thought the grade of stainless steel they used was dependant on which manufacturer they were building their heat exchangers for? And I thought the S/S for Lochinvar was 316 L ?

    Class 'A' Gas Fitter - Certified Hydronic Systems Designer - Journeyman Plumber
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Posts: 5,843Member
    Not sure for sure....

    Scott, there are over 150 different types of stainless steel on the market. And to think i use to think SS was all the same...

    Knowing Lochinvar the way I do, I am sure that they have taken some action to avoid issues with their product, but it is still my limited understanding that all stainless steel is subject to chloride stress cracking, some more than others. But again, that is based on my limited internet research and the input of a former Wallie who was an expert in heat exchanger designs and SS.

    Time ( and Steve E) will tell.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    edited January 2010
    My own water test

    As follows:

    PH 7.4, hardness in grains per gallon 12, no discernible tannin,  copper, or manganese. That's all my kit will do. Anyone see a red flag there?

    Boiler is in a well ventilated mechanical room and is of course sealed combustion so airborne contaminants within the building are not an issue.

    No word yet from Lochinvar but I am really curious as to what happened with this thing. Couldn't get a good look at it to see if we had a pinhole or a crack but there were two distinct locations that it was leaking from.
  • seabee570seabee570 Posts: 89Member
    test results

    it seems ok,but you need to check at different times to see if the softner is putting out below 5 grains of hardness on a regular i said before,soft water destroyed a lined tank in a few months,very agressive when heated...good luck keep us posted
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    edited January 2010
    Variation in the softener?

    I'm no expert on water softeners but I do know that this one is a demand regeneration type that monitors the number of gallons run through and cycles accordingly. I wouldn't think that there could be a whole lot of variation in that type of unit. It is commercial sized and rated for 200 GPM flow rate. The brine tank hold 1200 pounds of salt.

    Checking at different times on different days is a good suggestion and I will do that if for nothing else than my own curiosity.

  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member

    The Lochinvar rep is coming out Friday to check our installation. I'll keep you posted. Subsequent water test have all yielded the same results as posted above. 
  • eluv8eluv8 Posts: 174Member
    Lochinvar Failure

    I would agree it sounds like you had an issue from the beginning if you were hearing noise from the heat exchanger. Running at 175 does not leave you much room for any irregularities in the heat exchanger or restrictions without causing flashing in the heat exchanger. I am guessing that boiler runs almost non stop just to keep the storage tank up to temperature. thats a large tank for a 199.
  • eluv8eluv8 Posts: 174Member
    Lochinvar Failure

    Any Updates on the Failure.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Still waiting

    As of todays date I have heard nothing back from Lochinvar on this. The last I did hear was that the unit was going to be shipped back to Tennessee for analysis. The rep saw nothing wrong with the install whatsoever and couldn't pinpoint anything that would have caused the failure on site.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member

    The 199 does just fine due to the nature of the use.  The system washes three times (8 hour shift) per day with a dump of about 450 gallons through a 15 minute time period. The boiler can just sit there and chew on it for as long as needed. We see a firing rate of 100% and then it will begin to modulate down as it gets closer to the 175* tank setpoint.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    No news

    Talked with the Lochinvar rep yesterday. Evidently the distributor has not forwarded the unit back to Lochinvar yet.  ............Makes me wonder if I made a mistake bringing it back to them. Shoulda just loaded it in the van and drove to Lebanon myself at this rate.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Well, now it's June........

    Lochinvar says they have issued a credit for half the amount the distributor charged me for the replacement as of 2 months ago but as of this date I have not received it. Looks like I'm hung out to dry on this one.

    In addition, I just got back from a different job site with the same Armor/holding tank setup and it too has failed in the same manner as the first one. Pinhole in the HX from what I can see. The unit was installed in late November 09. 

    Has anyone else had HX failures with these things? I'm really wondering what the deal is with them.
  • gerry gillgerry gill Posts: 2,951Member
    oh, that just sucks..

    i'm actually really disallutioned with the performance of the mod cons in general..i've actually gone back to offering cast iron less than a two year span i've had part failures on munchkins, knights, trinitys, and triangle tube...if it isn't the blower, its the gas valve, or the ignitor, or the one that cost us eight hours of running around to procure, the wire to the gas valve of a knight boiler..we have to put our businessman hats on first and look at what these warranty issues do to OUR profits...and sell equipment accordingly..i've come to believe that just because its new and improved doesn't mean its going to hang in there in the real world..but i certainly feel your pain..but man that sucks..

    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    edited June 2010
    Not quite a heating boiler........

    Both of these failed units are direct firing a Lochinvar Storage tank for domestic hot water use so it's a little different application. That being said, I have experienced some of the same problems on M/C boilers in heating applications as you describe. Not the least being that if we do  have a part breakdown the distributor has to order it in from somewhere which usually leads to the expense of hooking up some type of emergency heat for the customer.

    Needless to say I revised some quotes I had out with Lochinvar equipment and changed brand of boiler to Viessmann. Over the long haul I have had outstanding support and excellent product reliability with that brand far more than any other. One quote was for 4 KBN399 Knights and we went with the WB2B Vitodens. There was about $6,000 difference in final price but the customer went for it after I described the issues I was/am having with the Armor and warranty backing. (In fairness to Lochinvar the warranty issue seems to be at the distributor level for the most part.)

     The fact that the HX seems to be less than well suited for the intended purpose certainly influences selecting this product for water heating applications again. That really disappoints me as they work incredibly well for this purpose and are very efficient. Some customers have reported a 20% drop in fuel costs for water heating but hey......if it only last 6-9 months it's not really a good value in the final analysis.

    I think I have finally come to the point that if I can't install a Viessmann M/C boiler, I'm just going to walk away from the job. It's not worth the hassle to provide field testing for other manufacturers at my expense.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,669Member
    It's not the soft water

    per say.

    What I've been told by a commercial water treatment specialist is the chlorides left behind from the back wash cycle. If too much brine is pulled in or not flushed out adequately, that is what can attack the stainless.

    This company deals with water treatment for food processing companies and deals exclusively with stainless steel piping, tanks, HX, etc.

    Many of the stainless steel boilers and tanks list an acceptable level for chlorides, as the do hardness.

    Velocity, of course, but high flows with aggressive water give you a double whammy.

    This has been an issue with copper tube batch heaters also. they are only as good as the fluid they stomach, be it closed or open loop.

    I suppose you would check that level right after the final rinse cycle on the softener.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Leo_GLeo_G Posts: 89Member

    yep, feel your pain. Had a Munchy 2 years ago that had pinholes from, we think, rusty water, as the black iron had some weeps. Was fortunate to get the new one under warranty. Owner would not go for the added expense of a HX. Though they live in the richest city in B.C.

    Only Viessman, and IBC for me now!

    Have learnt my lesson and am getting to old to be working on weekends for free.
  • HenryHenry Posts: 914Member
    KBN & AWN

    We have installed hundreds of Knights and a numbr of Armour. Some school boards had specified other similar units and after all the hickups, have gone back to Lochinvar. On natural gas, the Knights are very clean. My techs complain about openning them as all the previous ones were clean!

    You mentioned perking. We have discovered that not all HX have the same flow restriction. We have had several installations that we had to change to a higher head pump. One prime example was a two KBN500 installed as  per spec with the same pipe lenghts and number of fittings. One would hit the high limit and perked (made steam). We had to change to a higher head pump and it cured the problem.

    The local agent for Lochinvar here provides fantastic support when there are issues. It is unfortunate that your local agent does not provide the same.

  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Could be Hot Rod but.........

    The interesting thing about this second one is that there is no softener on the system. The water source is new as well as everything else in the facility circa early 2008. From what the soap supplier to this farm tells me the water checks out very good. No iron, hardness is less the 10 Grains and TDS is far below Lochinvar's spec. Obviously there would be no chlorides present. The pump doing circulation duty between the boiler and tank is the one Lochinvar sent with the system when purchased and temp rise has always been within 15-18*. Lochinvar could use our piping as an illustration of how to do it in their manual, there is nothing wrong there.

    I'd really like to find out what exactly is going on with these as it makes for a highly efficient water heating system for these large dairy farm applications we run into around here.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    edited June 2010
    That may be a clue

    That variation in pump requirement gets to what may be part of the issue with these. I have a hunch that the Giannoni HX in the AWN's may have some inconsistency in either the wall thickness of the stainless or the cross section of the individual loops. I don't know, just guessing at this point but I have a notion to cut this one apart myself and find out given that warranty is probably not forthcoming. 

    As you mentioned Henry, they are very clean on natural gas and that makes me wonder too as both of these are running LP gas. It would be informative to determine if the failure is coming from the water side or the fire side of the HX.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,669Member
    The line use to be..

    "It ain't our fault, and you need a bigger pump" When copper boilers starter to squirm and make noise.

    A small, very small layer of hardness on heat exchanger limits the HX efficiency and could cause them to rattle.

    A company in Denver makes a solution to keep the hardness in suspension and from coating the inner wall of the HX tube.

    Noise indicates poor heat exchange, poor heat exchange = overheating = breakdown of the HX.

    It could be you are chasing different problem with similar symptoms, from job to job?

    The CDA Copper Development Association on has a lot of data on tube failures and causes. I'm sure it would be about the same for stainless.

    Years ago entire subdivisions and town were having pin hole issues on brand new copper piping. it was a water quality issue from new wells. O2, Co2, TDS, a bunch of factors lined up to create a "perfect storm" Reeves Journal covered this for years.

    Maybe the boiler with indirect, or separate plate or T&S heat exchanger is a better route? At least in these cases.

    Where's Perry, he knows forensic metallurgy well, especially stainless.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    edited June 2010
    Yah! I'd like to talk with Perry about this.

    I do like indirects for being bulletproof but in high temp applications where the domestic water needs to be north of 175-180* a direct fired unit keeps boiler temps below the steam level. A direct fired unit will also keep things in condensing mode for at least 50% of the recovery cycle. I don't know.......maybe that last 5-7% of efficiency is not worth it.

    Another interesting variable on this particular job is that we do have a plate HX preheating the domestic water via wood boiler input prior to the point where it dumps into the Lochinvar part of the system. We have had no issues with plugging there whatsoever.
  • hot_rodhot_rod Posts: 11,669Member
    Is the plate HX

    sized large enough to provide "instant" DHW if you tie the Lochinvar to that.

    I know the industry is moving to tankless. But I think running all sorts of water directly to the "fired" HX will present problems down the road. I think moving that unknown (water quality) to a tank or HX other than the boiler makes more sense.

    They build tanks with a variety of coatings to deal with a variety of water, stainless, stainless/ Ti blends, glass, cement, epoxy, etc

    Sorry about the hassle, just when you though you had seen it all....

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Instant on...........

    No. The system flow out of the tank during the wash cycle is around 50GPM so an instant on would have to be a few million btu's plus be capable of 180* water at that flow rate.

    Correction on the plate HX. I forgot how I set this thing up.........

    As designed the water flow comes from cold supply through 2-100 gallon heat recovery tanks (refrigerant driven) then into a 120 gallon SS Superstore indirect with wood boiler water circulating through the internal coil on the tank. Water temp is usually around 130-150* depending on the wood boiler temp.  From there the water goes to the Lochinvar 250 gallon storage tank where the AWN199 brings it up to required temp of 175-180*.  The plate HX is on the floor heat side of the system isolating the antifreezed infloor from the rest of the heat emitters.
  • Steve WhitbeckSteve Whitbeck Posts: 669Member

    I have seen some of the same failures on Viessman that are happening to the gianonni boilers. 

    gas valves, pressure switches and heard they lost a heat exchanger here recently.
  • tim smithtim smith Posts: 2,282Member
    Regarding failure of heat exchanger

    How bout this possibility, any chance that the combustion air coming from outside is compromised. I thought that maybe because of the off gassing of waste and or cleaning agents in the air may be creating chlorides or ?? in combustion side and the failure is occuring from the condensate? Just a thought. The air is quite interesting around a dairy.
  • Leo_GLeo_G Posts: 89Member

    love the phrase "off gassing".   :)
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Ah yes........

    We enjoy our dairy aire. Pun intended.

    One of my daughters came in the house on the first beautiful day this spring and said something to this effect.........

    "What a gorgeous day! The birds are singing, the snow is gone, the flowers are blooming and the smell of cow **** is everywhere." 

    One of the minor costs associated with living in dairy farm country. :)

    As to combustion air, the location is about as isolated as you can get on a 1200 cow farm and the intake/exhaust termination is roughly 10' above grade.
  • tim smithtim smith Posts: 2,282Member
    Re: contaminated combustion air

    Steve, take some of the condensate and have check it for ph etc and then check with a mettalurgist or Lochinvar on the durability of the stainless with the levels you find.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member
    Excellent idea Tim

    As soon as i get the replacement HX here and installed I will do that. 

    Just for everyone's info, the Lochinvar rep came to the job site with me yesterday and his water test showed the same as mine. Hardness was 11 grains, TDS was about 17o and PH of incoming water is 7.5. There is no detectable iron or manganese in the water. All well within Lochinvar's spec.
  • tim smithtim smith Posts: 2,282Member
    Re: Giannoni heat exchangers & Lochinvar

    Steve, read the post here on UK review of Giannoni heat exchanger. Good read on what may come down the pike.
  • Steve Ebels_3Steve Ebels_3 Posts: 1,290Member

    Where is here Tim? 
  • SpeyFitterSpeyFitter Posts: 421Member
    This forum Steve

    Hey Steve, the Giannoni heat exchanger review is in this forum in another thread I started yesterday titled "UK Giannoni heat exchanger review." Have a look.
    Class 'A' Gas Fitter - Certified Hydronic Systems Designer - Journeyman Plumber
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