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To upgrade or not?

NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
Got a really old heating system, a Burnham V3 which might be circa 1982, at least that's the date on the manual that was in the basement when we bought the place. It's set up to use 1GPH with maybe a 20 year old Beckett AFG. Chamber was replaced a few years ago a day after annual servicing - will never know if they broke something but it doesn't matter. Except for that, it's never let us down. The house is 109 years old, balloon frame construction that's recently had cellulose blown in and is reasonably well sealed per blower door test.



Burning about 500 gallons of fuel a year, at $4 gallon that's $2000. If a new system will save 30%, it'll save $600 year which means it will take almost 12 years at present value to recoup just the $7000 cost of the new system.



Why bother upgrading a clunker? Is it only financially viable for a system that uses a lot more fuel?

Comments

  • RobbieDoRobbieDo Posts: 131Member
    Cost

    Cost isn't the only thing. Have you done a heat loss calculation on the home? This will help a lot to determine the proper sized system you need. Hot air or boiler?
    Rob
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    Response

    It's a small Burnham V3 running a hot water loop with 115 feet of basebard in two zones.  Unless it's exceptionally cold (10F) or windy, one of the zones is usually off, the other runs morning and evening weekdays and all the time weekends.

    I'm also concerned also that a failure of any one of the expensive electronic parts, say in year 9 when it's out of warranty, will set the payback period back significantly further.  I see the vent fan is some $500, the electronic controls $800; and that's just for the parts without labor.  Right now there's a chimney vent and no significant electronics to speak of.



    It's tempting on the surface to upgrade, but I really don't see the benefit. The old cast iron boiler is made like a tank, and as long as it holds water....



    Am I missing something... is upgrading only worthwhile on systems that use a lot more fuel?
  • SLO-115SLO-115 Posts: 196Member
    Stay with what you have

    Your oil consuption is low. That boiler could last another 20years., who knows how we will be heating our homes in the future. Your best bet is to wait till the old girl springs a leak. In the mean time get some prices on changing things out so you have a idea of what things are worth. Everone is pissed as oil is through the roof, it will plane out
  • addadd Posts: 94Member
    i have to

    agree with slow,may-be a service contract with your oil company may help on replacing parts.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,810Member
    Keep it simple

    My 15 year old Burnham V75 steam boiler is working fine and has been very reliable (one service call in 15 years). When it does die I'll replace it with the right size boiler with simple controls. The complexity of some of the very efficient models make me wonder about their long term reliability.



    Steam heating systems can be as simple as anything can be, don't screw it up by adding a lot of unnecessary electronics on top of it.



    I believe a lot of the problems they are having with the reactors in Japan is because they rely on automated systems that don't work without external power. Those systems should have been designed so they could sit forever in a quiescent mode, with no external power for pumps, etc. That means a large convective cooling setup that could dissipate the heat from the reactor.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Ron Jr.Ron Jr. Posts: 536Member
    Keep it simple

    I agree with that . I also agree that cost savings isn't the only thing to consider . The boiler block could probably last another 50 years , but every component connected to it can break down long before that . There's peace of mind knowing everything is brand new and won't fail on the coldest day or week of the year . We recommend changing the whole system out at 25 years . Most people wait till the give up the ghost , like this one . 60+ years old :)



    Outdoor reset could be considered one of those expensive parts that could fail . What I'm really interested in is the newer controls , like Beckett's AquaSmart and Hydrolevel's Fuel Smart Hydrostat that uses actual boiler temperature as it's reset curve . Very easy to tweak or turn the function off if it's not heating the house properly ( compared to some outdoor reset controls ) . I wonder how these control stack up against true OR controls, fule savings-wise .    



    What is making the hot water ? Sounds like you could use the smallest output oil boiler for even more savings . But a heatloss is needed to verify .   
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,810Member
    New is nice

    With a hot water system you have lot more options to control the system than you do with steam. i know what you mean about starting out with everything new, even then I'd try to keep things simple for a small residential system. If push comes to shove it's nice to be able to revert back to a simple go-nogo control system if something fancier gets balky - ask those poor bastards working on that nuke in Japan..



    The EDR rating of My boiler is almost 3 times the radiator sq footage. I've reduced the firing rate to 1.1gal/hr vs the rated 1.65 so that's about as far as i can go down that road. It would probably take 20 years to make it worth my while to replace the boiler unless it dies.



    I guess I could offer to sell steam to the neighbor.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    response

    The "old" parts really aren't an issue. There's a service policy that'll cover most everything, and it's been a pretty darned reliable system.



    Tempting thought now, though, is to switch to gas. With the last delivery at $3.64 I'm starting to think we'd be fools to keep oil if changing to a modern system.



    Gas is in the house. Should we jump?
  • Big EdBig Ed Posts: 1,086Member
    edited March 2011
    Low usage

    Your best investment would be installing an out door reset , you would return your investment in about three years and the control increases the comfort of the home .
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    reply

    That's a good suggestion, thanks.  We did the next best thing awhile back by installing a Beckett HW+. 

    It just seems so counterintuitive on one hand to think that such an aged system is worthwhile keeping.... but on the other hand can't financially justify replacing it with oil, or more recently the appeal of seemingly less expensive to operate gas.

    Something's missing in this picture, but I can't fathom what.  Does upgrading only make sense for one who uses heaps of fuel?
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    reply

    That's a good suggestion, thanks.  We did the next best thing awhile back by installing a Beckett HW+. 

    It just seems so counterintuitive on one hand to think that such an aged system is worthwhile keeping.... but on the other hand can't financially justify replacing it with oil, or more recently the appeal of seemingly less expensive to operate gas.

    Something's missing in this picture, but I can't fathom what.  Does upgrading only make sense for one who uses heaps of fuel?
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    reply

    That's a good suggestion, thanks.  We did the next best thing awhile back by installing a Beckett HW+. 

    It just seems so counterintuitive on one hand to think that such an aged system is worthwhile keeping.... but on the other hand can't financially justify replacing it with oil, or more recently the appeal of seemingly less expensive to operate gas.

    Something's missing in this picture, but I can't fathom what.  Does upgrading only make sense for one who uses heaps of fuel?
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    reply

    That's a good suggestion, thanks.  We did the next best thing awhile back by installing a Beckett HW+. 

    It just seems so counterintuitive on one hand to think that such an aged system is worthwhile keeping.... but on the other hand can't financially justify replacing it with oil, or more recently the appeal of seemingly less expensive to operate gas.

    Something's missing in this picture, but I can't fathom what.  Does upgrading only make sense for one who uses heaps of fuel?
  • NeedtoknowNeedtoknow Posts: 9Member
    reply

    That's a good suggestion, thanks.  We did the next best thing awhile back by installing a Beckett HW+. 

    It just seems so counterintuitive on one hand to think that such an aged system is worthwhile keeping.... but on the other hand can't financially justify replacing it with oil, or more recently the appeal of seemingly less expensive to operate gas.

    Something's missing in this picture, but I can't fathom what.  Does upgrading only make sense for one who uses heaps of fuel?
  • JackJack Posts: 1,028Member
    Another angle

    The way to make oil more efficient is to burn less of it. Look at adding a mini-split heat pump system to the house. You get cooling and dehu as well as excellent cost effective heating. Keep your old system in good running order. You pick the point where you turn on the oil. Depending upon the lay-out of the house, it can offer excellent zone control.



    Given that you have gas in the house ou could also add a Rinnai direct vent wall furnace. either of these gives you a hybrid system. It offers choices in heating. My normal disclaimer is due here. I represent Rinnai as well as a Fujitsu on the mini-split side, so bias noted, but both systems are happily in my home.
  • frankm1960frankm1960 Posts: 13Member
    If it's not broke

    don't fix it... maybe.



    My old (30+yrs) oil fired hydronic system has been steadily going to hellinahandbasket... burner broke so I replaced it..., circulating pump broke replaced it (all in last 7yrs)  and now the boiler just broke (leaking water) and I'm hoping like hell I can patch it so it buys me more time to figure out what system to install. In my locale they've introduced a new rule since my ole system was installed... any new hydronic system has to have a back flow prevention valve installed.... a mere $1000 extra cost (a real quote from someone in my locale)



    So if you got an old system be on the ready to replace components at a moments notice and beware of any new "rules" regarding new installations as well.



    Good luck with what ever you decide.



    PS: my boiler tank appears to be built like a sherman tank as well but the leak is right on a weld/seam, two invisible pinholes about 1" apart... the tank has rusted where it's been leaking but other than that the tank looks new :)
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,810Member
    edited March 2011
    I agree, oil not burned is the best kind

    Jack,



    I retired a couple of years ago and wanted to keep my heating bills reasonable. My quick solution was to keep the hallway doors closed downstairs so the heat would not go upstairs (3 bedrooms) when i was downstairs (living room, dining room, and kitchen) and to use a quartz heater as aux heat in the living room as I read or watched TV after supper. I want to keep my 15 year old Burnham V75 running just as long as I can



    I have also looked into installing a split heat pump system both to use as heat for the shoulder months (keeping the oil burner off) and for cooling on really hot summer days. I actually find I use the AC less now that I've retired because i can keep the windows open in the morning to get the cool breeze. Living a block from Quincy Bay does have it's advantages - at least in the summer.



    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Big EdBig Ed Posts: 1,086Member
    Beckett heat load control / outdoor reset

    The Beckett is better then just a boiler sitting at a high temperature , they measure the load at a given time . But an outdoor reset measures the needed load all the time and is more fine tuned then the load type ...The out door reset would save fuel and increase comfort more then the load type. The out door reset with be a higher price .



    Anything man made can go wrong , the old processors of the 80's were short lived . But I have not notices any major problems with the units installed in the last decade or more ...



    You can set your temperature manually too . All you need an outdoor thermometer and a heat curve chart . It was done that way in the early 1900s when boilers were hands on .
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
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