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reluctant contractor, or scam artist?

jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
Four years ago, in 2007, my old boiler died, and I had a new Viessmann installed at considerable expense by a local heating company.  The old boiler kept the house warm, with water temp set at 200F.  We soon learned that the new German Viessmann would only make 167F, thus would not keep the house above 65F at zero outside.  Our building inspector refused to sign off on the permit for this reason.  The company owner, who seems to be honest, has repeatedly promised to make this problem right by installing new higher output baseboards, but has experienced hard economy in the last few years.  Recently, he refuses to answer my emails and phone calls. I need to get this resolved soon.  What do the experts recommend I do to make this happen?


  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    The resolution would vary by state.

    There are many of us that have been hit by these difficult times.  We can empathize with the contractor.  Your recourse can vary by state.

    What state are you in?
  • jaykennedy
    jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
    house is in michigan

    house is in michigan
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    No Scams:

    I feel for both your pains. No one told your contractor that there could be a problem like you are having.

    I doubt that your contractor did all his heat loss calculations and such like I and some others here do. I don't get a lot of nice jobs because I would have been higher because I would have been aware of the problem you are encountering. There are ways and better ways to solve your problem. There is a company, Smith's Environmental that makes really nice stuff. They make a really nice toe kick heater and the best fan assisted floor blower assembly I have ever seen. They also make a copper baseboard unit/system that looks like regular copper baseboard but has two 3/4" copper tubes running through it and has almost twice the output of regular copper fin tube baseboard. If you are using fin tube baseboard, you can replace what you have, with this product. It will almost double your output. And the 167 degree water will heat your house to what you want.

    I saw this product at the March, PHCC-MA Trade Show.
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,314
    I am just curious

    is it the load is too large for the boiler or the baseboard is too small for the heat load. I can not think of a good answer to this for all parties involved. You may need to bring in a third party to fix the issue then work out who pays for what. You could get a consultation first from a contractor from Dan's list up top. Pay the person to do the heat loss and figure what the heat emitters are capable of doing. The installing contractor may simply not have the resources to fix the problem. The sad thing is ,without discussing pricing as we do not do that here EVER, you may have got what you paid for but not what you thought you were getting. Heat boy said it first and best I am just paraphrasing him.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • jaykennedy
    jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
    reluctant contractor, or scam artist?

    Wil these fit in standard baseboard height and width?
  • jaykennedy
    jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
    reluctant contractor, or scam artist?

    Wil these fit in standard baseboard height and width?
  • jaykennedy
    jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
    re:I am just curious

    Contractor recommended new boiler would easily heat house. BTU output was sufficient, the European code just won't allow boiler to get hot enough. I had no savvy as to this detail, just trusted him to know his stuff, after 20 years in business.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited April 2011
    Low heat:

    I wonder what temperature your heating system was designed for. I have always designed to 180 degrees and then rounded off to the next highest level . In other words, if the room needed 7.2' of radiation, I always installed 8'. Not many designed for 200 degrees.

    But you need an experienced pro. I would be checking what temperature you have going out and the temperature coming back. Because it is now Spring, it is now harder to do a real time operation. But you need a real heat loss calculation. Someone who knows what to look for with the things that really trip you up. Like soffett vents and recessed ceiling lights.

    The only houses I have ever seen that didn't heat  were houses that had excessive infiltration. When that was fixed, things were fine.

    Where do you live?

    What kind and model of boiler is this? Gas or oil?
  • Seem to recall

    a similar situation.  This house had a Peerless boiler that worked off a 180 degree setpoint.  It was radiant heat with tubing in concrete.  The house had 10' ceilings with all glass exterior walls and skylights; no insulation and built 20' off the ground.

    The Vitodens was the wrong boiler because of that 167 degree max.  We finally installed a summer-winter switch.  The winter mode jumpered "external heat demand" for 167 degree setpoint and the summer switch removed the jumper for outdoor reset.

    That was the best we could do and it satisfied the owner.  If it didn't, we would have had to install a different boiler. 
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • heatboy
    heatboy Member Posts: 1,468
    This is very simple......

    someone needs to do a room by room heat loss and measure the amount of radiation in each room.  You will then know what water temperatures are required. 

     So. you haven't actually tried to heat the house with the new boiler?

    How does the inspector know it won't heat the house?  Did he do the calculations?

    The Radiant Whisperer

    "The laws of physics will outweigh the laws of ecomomics every time."
  • jaykennedy
    jaykennedy Member Posts: 6
    answer to recent posts

    To add more facts, the new natural gas fired Viessmann was installed directly in replacement of the old boiler, with one new additional radiator in the family room .  The house is in Northern Michigan, and was built about 40 years ago. The old boiler would keep house above 70F  when temps were below zero. No change in house insulation or windows, but improvements have been made in caulking, weatherstripping, etc.  The problem seems clear that the new boiler just can't deliver enough delta T to the existing baseboards.  We have now endured 4 winter seasons having to add supplemental electric heaters to keep warm.  The heating system is still not to code, which was the original contract. 

    What do you experts recommend we do to get action from this guy?
  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557

    Not saying this is your situation, but we had a customer with a similar problem a few years ago. we put in a boiler with max temp of 175°. The house would not get over 62°. I have no idea what the original boiler was set to.

    I found most of the radiators with a build up of dust and dog hair on the bottom of the fins. Not a lot, but some. I vacuumed a 1' section, and you could feel a real difference in the amount of heat coming off the radiator. I also found a kick heater in the kitchen with a failed thermostat on it, wouldn't bring the fan on. I fixed the kick heater and the customer vacuumed the radiators. Problem solved.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,897
    Sounds to me...

    reading the various posts, that your contractor got booby-trapped by the low maximum temperature of the Viessmann.  Just running some very quick numbers cobbled up from the various posts, if we assume that the old boiler get the house to a bit over 70, and the new one can get the house to about 62, then if one does a bit of arithmetic one comes to the conclusion that the old boiler was running a setpoint of around 180.  More or less.  If it was running 200 (first post), it would certainly do it.

    Which also leads to the conclusion that the problem lies in the temperature of the water going to the radiation.

    While it sounds hopelessly counterintuitive, I'd check the delta T and, if it is rather small, I might -- just for the heck of it -- try reducing the flow rate and try to get a larger delta T.  Probably won't help, frankly, but it's a cheap experiment.

    If you can raise the set point, as Alan suggested, that would probably do the trick too, and might not be that expensive (but might have some evil effects on the warranty on the boiler).

    Otherwise... if your April 13th 10:39 post is correct (boiler has enough heat output for the building load) you will have to figure some other way to get that heat output into the building at the lower set point.  Which is to say, more radiation.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,656
    More heat emitters

    Sounds like you need more output from the heat emitters. Running any boiler at 200 degrees to meet design temps is way too inefficient. Radiator design using modulating boilers should be 140.  Changing the existing baseboard to high output BB usually adds 250-300 BTU's per foot, depending upon brand and water temps.  If the baseboard was installed with a separate supply and return, and not in series, it's not that hard to change, and certainly be easier than changing the boiler.  Mod-cons aren't designed to run at 200 degrees, and work best below 140. 

    It's OK to run the boiler at max temp, say to recover an indirect DHW Tank, but not such a good idea for heat emitters.
  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    Seen this before.

    We had an old contractor up here that ran his heat emitter numbers at 190 deg F.  He only installed old beasts and ran the temps up there.  A colleague of mine did an emitter footage measurement for a swap out instead of a heat loss and got burned bad.  He put in a boiler that was about 15K too small under design conditions.

    This is a prime example of why a true heat loss is absolutely necessary every time.
  • Steve Whitbeck
    Steve Whitbeck Member Posts: 669
    Not enough heat

    Best solution would be to lower the amount of heat loss of the house.

    How much insulation is in the attic?  Is the baseboard installed properly?

    I have seen where the fintube was installed with the closed sides on top and bottom instead of on the vertical sides. I had to turn every one of them. gas bills dropped a LOT.

    If you can still get the same baseboard as what you have it would be easy to just add a couple of feet to each room.

    doing a heat loss on a 35 year old house is a good idea but it is still just an educated guess. You can't know for sure how something was built unless you cut into it.
  • Sal Santamaura
    Sal Santamaura Member Posts: 526
    Interesting product.

    Has anyone here used the Smith's Environmental high-output baseboard?  If so, what were your impressions?  Quality?  Durability?  Thanks in advance.
  • CMadatMe
    CMadatMe Member Posts: 3,086

    Starts with a heat loss, heat emitter measurement and calculation of capable output based on max water temp and the flow rate needed of each zone.

    How was this boiler piped? Did the installer use a low loss header, pipe primary secondary or pipe direct? Did he use a low loss header sensor? What Vitodens model boiler is it? What boiler pump did he use? The piping is important. If he used a low loss header but no sensor you could have a significant drop in water temp (10 degrees)  from what temp the boiler is making and what water temp the system is seeing.

    Could you provide pictures of the installation? How is this zoned. Pumps or zone valves? If zone valves what is the system pump? How is the boiler coded. Will only make 165 dependent on the curve. Is the boiler coded for reduced room temp at night?

    There are a lot of questions to be anwser about the installation and boiler setup but the key is the loss and calculation of capable emitter output at design temp.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
    RDSTEAM Member Posts: 134
    seems strange

    i have a 20+yr old WM boiler with a tekmar outdoor reset and I dont even circulate much more than 160 through my loops. maybe there just isnt enough baseboard. my daughters room was a little chilly so I ended up throwing another 3 footer in her room and insulating in the garage under her room and now her room is the warmest in the house. maybe look into getting some insulation in your house, it pays for itself very quickly, especially in michigan.
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,853
    Tricks of the trade....

    Many years ago, I took an IBR class. It covered heat loss, heat gain, etc. At the end of the class, the instructor told us that we could keep our installed costs down by using a higher temperature of water (200 degrees F) to keep the home warm. I suspect your contractor got fiddle faddled by the fickle finger of fate.

    1 He SHOULD have performed a heat loss calculation first, and should have recommended additional insulation wherever possible.

    2. He SHOULD have done a reverse analysis to see what water temperatures he'd need to provide with in order to counter the load.

    Your options, as others have spelled out are pretty limited at this point.

    A. Do additional energy conservation measures to make what you've got work to a higher degree.

    B. Add additional output capacity to counter the load.

    c. Replace the boiler with one that can put out 180 to 200 degree F water (NOT recommended) .

    I think your contractor probably just got sucked into the fray, and assumed it would work. His bad. For those contractors reading this, if the baseboard is narrower than the windows, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. It was probably sized at 200 degree F water temps.

    I'd have a blower door test done ASAP, because infiltration is generally one of the easiest losses to assess and control.

    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.
  • Dave Yates (GrandPAH)
    Dave Yates (GrandPAH) Member Posts: 281
    lost one ywo years ago - revisited

    We lost a bid two years ago in a remote house where copper thieves had ripped out both floors (two zones) of baseboard & basement mains. Figured on running 160F to 180F since they had an oil-fired ON/OFF boiler. Did not get the work.

    Two years later, a call to bid ANYTHING that would use less fuel! Imagine my chagrin to return and discover the 'cheater' had installed lots of dummy-baseboard where once they'd had 'active BB. Running the system at 210F allowed them to cut corners and use half the previous 'active' BB & disguise their cheating by placing empty BB shell between the pre-drilled holes for the previous copper runs now PEX. PEX looked like a spaghetti free-for-all-toss in the basement too.

    The owners had not clue-one that anything was wrong - just that they were in need of a back-yard oil-well!

    Sounds like (tugging my ear) they did this home too! Not sure what was agreed to by both parties here, so I'm not weighing in on either side. I do, however, agree that an accurate heat loss/gain calc is the first step and is a must-have in order to determine the ratio between the existing heat emitters and the individual room they're in for required water temps on a design day. Absent that calc, you might as well be playing pin-the-tail on the donkey.

    200F water temps for any hydronic system is a mortal sin. I'd be looking for ways to get that down to at least 150F (lower would even be better).

    You're at a cross-road & have an opportunity to get it right. Botch this and you'll be draining your wallet from this point off into eternity via annual fuel and electricity usage.       
This discussion has been closed.