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Replacing a Snowman

AlexT Member Posts: 23
So I went to have an energy audit done on my 2-family Boston area home. They tested my unit for CO and it passed with flying colors. Unfortunately, they also tested my tenant's old snowman in the basement and it flunked the test. They called out the gas company, who proceeded to check it out and order it shut down. So now I'm on the hook for a new boiler :-( [Attached a photo of the gas-converted coal monster if you're curious. It actually worked just fine, though very inefficiently of course.]

The guy I'm going to use seems pretty knowledgeable and took one of Dan's courses in the past. He has a contract with the following in it:

- Provide and install burnham IN4 boiler with electronic ignition

- Install boiler with steel pipe and cast iron fittings

-Include 2" IPS ball valve on header [note: this was at my request based on TLASH]

- Install 1/2" copper ball valve with copper supply to boiler

- Galvanized vent into chimney

I was going to ask them to add the following line items:

- Install near boiler plumbing meeting or exceeding manufacturer's recommendations

- Include valve at mud leg to allow debris to be flushed

- Tapping on return for main vent with Gorton #2 air vent

- Boiler skimming

Anything else I'm missing? I have all of Dan's books but I loaned them to a friend and haven't been able to double-check the contract recommendations in there.




  • AlexT
    AlexT Member Posts: 23
    Oh yeah

    There's a ton of asbestos on that thing. Actually he put that in the original quote, I just didn't include it in the writeup.
  • Patrick_North
    Patrick_North Member Posts: 249
    Header specs and sizing

    Is the boiler sized appropriately? Worth double checking. We replaced our boiler two years ago, and if I was doing it again today I'd have asked for more explicit plans on how the guy planned to pipe the header. This is a critical componnt as I'm sure you understand, and there's room for "interpretation." Not knowing your installer from Adam, I'd urge you not to expect him to "exceed manufacturer specs" without being so directed, and it's worth a talk to ensure that he meets those minimum specs as you expect.

    I believe Burnham includes a drop header option in their I/O manual. Why not make it part of the contract? Lots of excellent pix of dropped headers on the Wall to help you familiarize yourself. Also, it looks like the second boiler riser is considered optional on the IN4 (does it even have a second tapping?), but this is worth adding to the contract. Drier steam is more efficient steam.

    Last thought- you might not get the installer to spend the time on a good skimming, but insist on combustion alanysis to ensure a clean, safe burn!

    Good luck,

  • moneypitfeeder
    moneypitfeeder Member Posts: 249

    Other than the old boiler, have you found what else could be causing the inefficiency? My concern would be spending good money to replace something that was only masking all the other problems. Is this a 2 pipe or 1 pipe system? Does it have traps or vents at each radiator? Both of these can cause issues. I would want to have a complete look at all the components and any failed traps (2-pipe) or gunked up or mis-sized vents (1 pipe) replaced as well. I would also want to look into the wet return (if you have one) to know if it is partially or completely blocked. I'm sure if you post more pictures of the system and a little more info the pros here can give you tons of advice as to what you need to have in writing. Best of luck !
    steam newbie
  • AlexT
    AlexT Member Posts: 23
    edited June 2011
    I would love to repair it

    Yes, actually this unit is still functional and heats the tenant's unit quite well. That said It's clearly inefficient and it keeps the basement warm and toasty when it's running. You should feel the exhaust vent when it's running because it gets super hot.

    It's a one-pipe system, and as far as I know everything is in good working order. ti's quite simple and only heats a 1100 sq/ft 1st floor apartment. There are no buried return lines or anything. There is no main venting really, but this boiler heats and cools down so slowly that isn't a problem. Of course the new unit will need some real main venting. I only need to replace the thing because the gas company condemned the stupid thing.

    Another option the plumber suggested was another gas burner conversion. But the company that makes them (Economite) doesn't recommend using their unit on a boiler of this type. It would need some 110v wiring (it's millivolt wiring right now), asbestos would have to be abated, and the carbon buildup on the unit has to be removed to get it into compliance. Then on top of that, there is no guarantee that it will be in the correct CO range to get the energy efficiency rebate I need.

    Also trying to get the CO mixture back into a safe range isn't possible as the gas valve has no adjustment settings. Also I can keep the "coal chute" door as a souvenir for my workshop :-)
  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,322
    Do the polar bears a favor

    get rid of the snow man. I know it is not your fuel bill you will be saving but you could take the savings, cut it in half and add that half to the rent to give you a reasonable pay back on changing out the boiler.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • moneypitfeeder
    moneypitfeeder Member Posts: 249
    little misunderstanding

    I was certainly not suggesting you keep the boiler, I just thought you might want to include in your quote anything else that might need addressed, i.e. proper placement and correct vents at the rads etc. It still sounds like you have a competent pro who has already written a better contract than some I've seen.
    steam newbie
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