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Do I need a new furnace / boiler?

mfb137
mfb137 Member Posts: 4
Okay, I am going to be completely honest, I am here because I have NO idea what I am doing or talking about, but I think I may need a new furnace or boiler.  I don't even know what to actually call the thing!  I have an oil unit (approx 20 years old) and the home is heated via hot water baseboard registers.  I will look for the unit name and model tonight and repost them here later. 

Basically, the unit heats the house fine, but <strong>seems</strong> to use more oil every year, despite that fact that this year has been an especially mild winter in Pennsylvania.  The unit also heats our hot water and as soon as the weather gets cold, the unit can not maintain hot water for more than a few minutes.  Why do I seem to have hot water for heat, but not for hot water? 

In the summer, you can take a very long steaming hot shower, in the fall, winter, and early spring you have about 2 minutes of hot water in the morning only.  No matter how long you wait for it to "reheat" it never becomes hot again until the first shower of the following day. 

I know this must sound crazy, because the 4 different contractors that have looked at this and charged me over the last 3 years all look at me like I have 3 heads when I explain this.  They typically clean the unit and find something to replace like the aquastat or some other thing that "is not working properly" and $300-$400 later they bid me farewell and I still don't have hot water.  Most of them have told me I need to replace the unit but I am reluctant to trust that and purchase one from the contractors that have been to my house because they can't seem to tell me what the problem is.  So if I do have to replace it, then I am left with the overwhelming task of finding out what to replace it with.  I need to know what I need and I need to know what I am purchasing.  Is anyone here willing to take this on and give me some advice?  Please let me know what other information you would need from me...I will try to find out whatever I can. I can't go another winter without hot water, so I want to make this decision by August 2012.

Comments

  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    Have

    you ever had enough hot water for showers and such in the winter?
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    how

    about some pic's of your boiler and the pipe's around the boiler itself..
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    sounds like

    a bad tankless heater, or maybe a very old gravity fed storage tank. I had this years ago. It was a copper tank plumbed to convect by gravity. It would take a day to recover it's 30 gallons of hot water. This was from the 1930's. Probably not your case though. We need pics and info to resolve this
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,434
    edited February 2012
    You really need...

    A hydronics professional to come in, completely evaluate the entire system, answer all your questions, offer a number of options, and do a complete heat loss of your home to properly size a new boiler.

    Where at iin PA are you?
    steve
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    The

    coil is probably scaled up, and should be flushed. That might take care of the immediate hot water problems,providing it worked correctly at one time.
  • Mac_R
    Mac_R Member Posts: 117
    A few things that are possibly happening.

    First thing is the hot water. 

    The reason you have hot water for heating and not domestic use. 

    I am assuming that you have a tankless coil. 

    Reason one is the coil could need replaced.  Some places flush them with acid.  I have never subscribed to that method.  To much to go wrong.  If you don't flush the system enough when you are done your customer takes an acid shower.  Plus I have never seen it work for more than two years.  Just replace the coil.

    Reason two.  When it is cold outside your house takes more heat out of the water in the baseboards bringing back relatively cold water cooling the boiler down to the point it can't produce hot water.  That is why you need a bypass line for tankless coil systems. 



    If you have a tankless coil that produces hot water then yes you need a new system.  It is that simple.  By going with a new system that uses an indirect water heater, low mass boiler, outdoor reset, with a delta T circulator your savings will be well worth it.  I have seen 50-80% savings.  Where in PA are you?
  • mfb137
    mfb137 Member Posts: 4
    Yes, tankless coil.

    Thank you all for your responses there is a lot of great information here for me already.  One guy that came out suggested the acid flush but then said acid could end up in our drinking water.  Otherwise he recommended replacing the coil and I think the cost for that was around $1500-$1800. I live near Harrisburg, PA.  I take some photos tomorrow.  Yes we had plenty of hot water...plenty of scalding hot water for 9 years prior to this.  House was built in the late 60s and the furnace was replaced in the late 80s.
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 377
    odd...

    It is odd that the boiler provides sufficient hot water in the summer, but not in the winter. That makes me think of two things:



    1. The water from the main or well is considerably colder in the winter and can't pick up enough heat in the tankless coil... possibly from calcium deposits.



    2. Any chance you have a zone calling for heat while you are in the shower and the boiler temperature drops quickly?



    When you are taking pictures, please note the current settings in the aquastat and take a picture of the wiring.
  • mfb137
    mfb137 Member Posts: 4
    Boiler Photos

    Here are some photos.  Please let me know if I have missed anything.
  • hotpipe
    hotpipe Member Posts: 24
    no mixing valve=dangerous

    A new coil is most likely your best bet, and there most definitely should be a mixing valve, a code requirement almost everywhere. The control of how your zones are run also may be a factor. But coils do get old an the performance does degrade. We used to acid clean them, but too many untrained and unqualified accidents made it an insurance liability.
    Don't blame me, I voted for the old war hero and the business expert!!!!
  • hotpipe
    hotpipe Member Posts: 24
    you know what i would do?

    It's called a System 2000 and a Triangle Tube indirect. :)
    Don't blame me, I voted for the old war hero and the business expert!!!!
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    I would

    eliminate the coil all together, and have an indirect installed, maintain little to no temp, add ODR, and now you got something. A new boiler would be great, but I don't want to be the one to spend your money. The indirect will solve your hot water issue. If the heat is working fine, and the boiler is holding water, get some more time out of it. If you were thinking System 2000, the plate heat exchanger and aquabank is a better package.
  • mfb137
    mfb137 Member Posts: 4
    Aquastat

    Here is a photo of the aquastat, which seems to have condensation inside it. 

    So a system 2000 is an indirect water heater?  What is ODR?

    So if I understand correctly, the best options are scrap it and replace everything or add an indirect water heater and a mixing valve?
  • hotpipe
    hotpipe Member Posts: 24
    that is a temperature/pressure guage

    The grey box below it is your aquastat. The guages are relatively cheap and tend to need replacement . ODR is outdoor reset, the ability for the system to raise or lower the temperature delivered to your radiation based on the current outdoor temps. Hotter on the coldest days, not so hot on mild days.

    The System 2000 is a complete heating system, and can be had with an indirect h/w tank or with a plate exchanged and a storage tank. Just one of many options but one I have a lot of experience and faith in. Get a stainless chimney liner though.
    Don't blame me, I voted for the old war hero and the business expert!!!!
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    at minimum

    have a flow restrictor and a mixing valve installed. If you are able, having an indirect installed would over time save you in oil consumption. It would also give you all the hot shower's/tub's you would want...
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    New Boiler:

    Because my heritage can be traced to the Northern British Isles, I'd rum it until the pigs in the iron were squealing. It looks good in the photos. But no mixing hot water extender valve on the tankless.

    In-directs are nice with the coil in the tank and all that new piping and wiring. My heritage comes into play for me because I use a 50 gallon electric hot water heater as an indirect and leave the coil in the boiler where it is always in contact with that nice hot water.  Put the new tank right next to the boiler and pipe the hot and cold water from the house through the water heater. Full pressure don't you know. Replace the bottom drain with a 3/4" long brass nipple and tee and add a bronze circulator like  Taco 006B or ST (Stainless Steel). Pipe that to the cold inlet on the tank-less and pipe the outlet to the cold water inlet on the top of the water heater. Put a check valve above the circulator if you like. Connect the power through the bottom thermostat on the water heater and set it for 125 degrees, Use a third world power cord (A cord whip) with the neutral connected to the white wire of the pump and the black/power as a switch leg through the thermostat. Fill with water. Drop the boiler temperature on the boiler to 160 or 170 degrees on the High Limit and lower the Low Limit or Operating to 140 and take a shower.

    I have installed these as booster heaters for gas water heaters that weren't big enough to fill a whirlpool to high performance oil fired water heaters as storage tanks. Its not that I am cheap, but why would I abandon a perfectly good indirect coil to go put and buy a tank with a coil in it. When I already have a tank with a coil in it.

    The concept is simple. Some may not understand it. But I installed one 15 or 20 years ago. The house was sold a few times. A plumber friend had to go there because the tank let go. He dragged along a new Indirect to replace it with. When he looked at the piping around the boiler, and realized that it was a 2+ day job to re-pipe the near boiler piping just to change the water heater, he asked me to show him how I did it. I explained it and drew him a sketch. He still didn't understand it. So, I showed him. He was blown away at the simplicity of it and how easy it worked. It will make hot water off an extension cord.

    You will be convinced to put an indirect in.

    OBTW, the electric hot water part is not connected electrically to any power source. It doesn't heat water with electricity.

    And anyone with a problem with it, remember, when I built this house in 2000, the builder hired a good plumbing company to do the plumbing and heating. I told them what I wanted for a hot water storage tank. They bought a John Wood Dedicated Storage Tank. Not the electric that I wanted that cost less money. They piped it up as per the John Wood Instructions. I changed it to my way. It works better. It leaked last Spring and I replaced it with an A.O Smith electric "regular" height water heater. It is the same tank that John Woods sells as a storage tank for a lot more money. The only difference is that the elements are plugged with a 1" threaded plug and the A.O. Smith has elements. Which I don't use.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Boiler Piping:

    OBTW,

    That's a nicely piped boiler. Whomever did that knew what they were doing. That 3/4" copper line that runs off a tee on the supply of the boiler into the system and into the return after the circulator is a recirculation line to help with internal circulation of the boiler. If there was a fitting in the back of the boiler it is better there but the thought was there. Good intentions. Some of those dry base boilers are tough to get good circulation. The installer must have known something. 
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    edited March 2012
    Five

    gallon pail, four gallons of cheap vinegar and a transfer pump.Let it cycle all day while you go to other jobs.The worst that happens is the water smells like vinegar for a day or two. I'd almost bet, that the combustion chamber hasn't been cleaned in years.
  • Paul48
    Paul48 Member Posts: 4,470
    mfb

    Have you ever watched while the boiler was cleaned? Have you seen them take the burner off ( the thing that says Beckett on it)?
  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Have you seen them take the burner off ( the thing that says Beckett on it)?

    I had an oil burner (GE) that had its original burner replaced by a Beckett around 1980. They cleaned the boiler then. In the almost 30 years after that, though I had it serviced every year, they cleaned the inside of the boiler only once. The lifted chunks of stuff out of the combustion chamber, and then vacuumed it out.



    Betcha that was not often enough. They only did it because they could not get the flame to be the right color. The nearest they got to combustion testing was to drill a hole in the  vent pipe and put a thermometer in. They told me the efficiency (60 some percent. They did that only once. Betcha that was not good enough either.
  • billtwocase
    billtwocase Member Posts: 2,385
    judging from that leak above the circ

    both sides of that coil is probably in tough shape. Looks like you have a lot of lime in your water, a lot.  Running anything thru the domestic side of the coil doesn't always bring a coil back to life. The heating water side, in most cases, is subject to more impurities than the domestic side. I have pulled more of them out to steam clean them so there can be heat transfer. 
This discussion has been closed.