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Are Burnham boilers reliable? Other ideas for oil heating?

GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
Hello everyone,

I'm at the end of my rope getting estimates to replace oil burner (forced hot water heat and baseboard heating) and trying to figure this out myself. No background with furnaces and this is huge investment for us. We were told we needed to replace boiler (Slant-Finn, probably 20 or more years old). Have had 3 estimates. Two were for Burnham Boilers, V8H series with no info on other brands. Other company recommended Crown, but one oil guy said that was bottom of the barrel and they install in "tenement houses"...

One company strongly recommended the Burnham MPO IQ Series, with separate water tank and outdoor reset. We don't 'use much water and seems hard to justify extra couple thou for that fancy model, though of course it's nice to know it's very efficient. One child at college and just the two of us. I am also nervous about any Burnham cuz saw on internet there is a class-action suit against them for cracked blocks. Also seems like lots of companies are pushing Burnham, so just trying to understand if this IS or IS NOT a good boiler to trust. I'll go with most reliable one that is reasonably priced and lean toward one without water tank (more economical and like I said, we just don't use a ton of hot water). I would love a consumer reports article on all of them, and THAT I would trust. Just don't want any hassles for another 20 years...

Any suggestions? I live near Granby, CT and would love to hear anyone's opinions of which models are most reliable, and whether you agree we could go with tankless to save $.

THANKS for any help!


  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,383
    edited August 2012
    The MPO is a very nice boiler

    and I wouldn't hesitate to install one. It is a "three-pass" design which is much easier to service than the usual type with vertical flueways and pins to absorb the heat.

    With that said, the MPO isn't the only three-pass model out there. Biasi, Buderus, Crown, Slant/Fin, Solaia, Weil-McLain and others all offer three-pass boilers. All of these are fairly comparable efficiency-wise. We have installed quite a few Solaias, but would not hesitate to use one of the others if it was the proper thing to do.

    Burnham did have some issues with their V-7 and V-8 series boilers. This is one reason they came out with the MPO and its steam-heating brother, the MegaSteam. Both are vastly superior to the V-8 series- the V-8 is a pin-type boiler.

    There is nothing wrong with Crown boilers- that company is owned by the same people who own Burnham.

    Three questions: First, which model Slant/Fin do you have now, and why do they say it needs replacing?

    Second, is natural gas available?

    Third, have you tried the Find a Contractor page of this site?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    Burnham Boiler reliable?

    Thank you kindly for your helpful reply!  To answers your questions, we have a Slant/Finn Liberty Model L-30-P. Not sure the age. We've been here for 15 years (and it wasn't new then). We were told during an annual cleaning by our oil company earlier this year, that our burner needed replacing (not sure how they came to that conclusion). Later, we had loud pipe banging going on, and had our plumber look at. He turned off the pipe-refilling valve (not sure of exact name) which stopped the banging but caused alot of water to leak out from the front circular panel where the copper pipes are coming out. For the entire summer, we've had the valve shut off, to prevent more flooding. That panel is very rusted. Plumber said "coil is gone" and he didn't dare try to get in there as rust is bad and he suspects bolts will break off. That's my best regarding what's going on. Hot water is struggling a bit now when we take showers. Since it's summer, we haven't tried heat. We do not have gas in our area. No, didn't try finding a contractor at this site. I am at the point where I'd like to decide which boilers to consider, and then re-ask those who have come out if they can provide that. But I'm open to your suggestions. Just don't want "pot luck"contractors who have their one pet boiler they far, no one has quoted me exactly what I want... Our oil company quoted the MPO-IQ with a Burnham Alliance indirect-fired water heater/tank, which we don't think we need due to our low hot water usage (and adds considerable $). Is there any reason we could not simply get the MPO-IQ without the water heater? Also, what is a good warranty? Interestingly, our oil company provided only a one year parts and labor, but another company (a tad pricier) was offering a 5 year on parts and labor (for same Burnham boiler). Is it worth paying more with a new boiler to have a longer warranty?  Thanks again!!    

  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,383
    I'd first try to get the coil out

    and if the bolts break, consider your options. I believe Slant/Fin used stainless bolts on those coils, which would increase your chance of success. The Slant/Fin Liberty series boilers were pretty well made, and their current Intrepid series uses the same cast-iron block. But, it's still a pin-type boiler.

    The indirect tank proposed with the MPO is actually a much better way to go. Your current setup means the boiler has to stay hot all the time to heat the coil, which is rather wasteful. With an indirect, the boiler only fires when the indirect (or the house) calls for heat, so you only burn oil when you need to.

    And the indirect can be used with any boiler- even with your Liberty.

    Regarding the warranty issue, the good guys will usually give a longer warranty.

    Another question- did anyone measure up all the rooms to determine their heat loss, and size the boiler from that figure? I bet at least some of them didn't, and you don't want to go with their proposals.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    Burnham or Buderus?

    My plumber seemed very discouraged about trying to get coil out and honestly, after months of efforts researching, we're ready to go ahead and replace.

    Only one contractor of 3 (our oil company, who offered quotes on two Burnhams, one was the MPO-IQ) measured the rooms when they came. (Problem with this company is only a one year warranty and not sure they finance...but haven't really asked yet.)

    The other 2 contractors DID NOT measure--said they would measure after we signed the contract. Does that seem off to you? I guess it's a time thing...they'd rather not invest time if we're not going with them but I wonder if they can quote properly if they don't contractor said "there are only 2 sizes anyway" as if it didn't matter...with these 2 folks, they only offered quotes on ONE was a Burnham (not a 3 pass, it was V8H) and other gave us quote on Crown.

    I am really leaning toward a 3 pass design, as most info on net seems to favor this design for energy efficiency and ease of cleaning (I assume they are related? if easier to clean then is cleaned better and is therefore more efficient??).

    My plumber who is very good didn't seem familiar with the term "3 pass" and now I'm nervous he's never worked on them (and he's a seasoned fellow)...he says he's not much into "newfangled technology" but I read this is not new technology, was used in commercial and is only newer to residential placement, correct? We use both our oil company for annual maintenance (a contract) and this guy when we have more complex probs...and we spend way too much money on this old system...but now I'm worried I need to match my new boiler with my plumber...

    Any opinions on Buderus? If I have a contract with an oil company and they prefer Burnham (and I assume their technicians are trained in installing and servicing certain models, or they wouldn't just push Burnham?) and if we install a Buderus, are we going to be sucking air when they can't service it properly? Is this a weird boiler in any way cuz it's made in Germany? Will it be in any way hard to service for those familiar with more American brands?

    I just don't understand how to get it all to come together...I'd love to find a contractor who could tell me about a variety of 3 pass designs that he/she? you...but we are in CT. So if you have any clues how I could use this site to find THAT kind of honest person who isn't pushing one specific boiler,  I'd love to know...

    Best to you...thanks for your help!
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,939
    edited August 2012
    Triple pass

    Triple pass is the only way to go,fuel savings in the 25-35% range will more than make the investment worthwhile. You need an indirect or separate water heater,triple pass boilers are not designed for tankless coils,a major part of what makes them more efficient. I prefer Buderus,Biasi or Viessmann but you really can't go wrong with any new triple pass,as long as it's properly installed
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    Triple Pass Boiler continued

    Thank you for this response.

    I thought we'd save a couple thou by going tankless (2 adults at home, one kid at college) but seems like an almost universal endorsement of triple-pass boilers by the HVAC online community. Is Buderus going to be much more expensive, being German-made? Will I have a hard time getting it serviced or are most oil companies familiar with how this operates? (We have maintenance plan with our oil company.) Is there a comparable but less expensive American boiler you'd recommend? My plumber likes Weil-McLain they make triple pass? Many thanks to you folks who know so much!! I'd love to decide on a brand or two and then find an HVAC person in CT...if you know of one, please let me know!
  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    HVAC CT contractors on this site?

    I used the Contractor Search on this site and within 30 miles of my home (in rural area) it brought up only one contractor, pretty far away in Mass.

    Any ideas of how to find a good HVAC contractor like you guys? I'd love to talk with a Buderus dealer, just for info/pricing.

  • BobCBobC Member Posts: 4,457
    30 miles

    i'd call that guy who is 30 miles away because a lot of contractors are willing to travel, I've had people tell me they would be glad to do my boiler and they are almost 90 miles away.

    The key with any boiler is it has to be done right so it's efficient and it lasts a long time. The best boiler in the world will have a short life if it's not installed right. A couple of thousand sounds like a lot right now but not so much if the setup lasts 20 or 30 years.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Charlie from wmassCharlie from wmass Member Posts: 3,925
    Yes Weil McLain does make a three pass

    it is the Ultra model of boiler. Buderus is easy for parts as the parts that do go are readily available. The Buderus is also competitive in cost, we do not speak specific costs on this forum.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    Burnham MPO is our choice

    We're going with the Burnham MPO with water tank. Never had a tank before and though it was expensive, we hope the energy savings will make up for it. Got a slightly discounted price for paying cash, so that was cool. And since our regular oil company also recommended this same boiler, we know they can service it. We should have plenty of hot water for the two of us here...maybe we won't have to adjust water temp constantly now, which has been a problem for our showers. This contractor also has a 5 year warranty.Our oil company (offering same boiler) provided only a ONE year warranty...we've got to hope we never have to use the word for 15 years, but you never know, so all in all, we're happy. Thanks to all of you awesome people for your excellent guidance!
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    New Steamer

    When the work is completed be sure to post photos of the job.

  • GreenRayGirlGreenRayGirl Member Posts: 7
    Replacing Clay Liner with Stainless for Burnham MPO: Furnace before Liner?

    I'll be sure to post photos when done.

    Turns out we also need a new liner for the furnace chimney. Ours is old clay liner, pieces falling off, house built in 1950's...I assume this is a "must do" from all I've read on this website about condensation issues with newer, higher efficiencey boilers which can deteriorate clay or masonry chimneys? We're in shock that we have another big (expensive) job to do when we thought the boiler was already out of the park. Should we get furnace in first then get liner fit to it? Any opinions on who to get on this kind of job? Is CSIA certification important? Some offer free inspections, others charge...those who charge apply to final cost. We got one estimate and almost fainted. Please tell me we are doing the right thing by this additional, several K investment...if you know a reliable and reasonable chimney professional in CT, let me know!
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 1,506
    You should....

    And the contractor will probably insist, to do the boiler and the liner together. Depending on your local code, the contractor usually does the liner too.

    Is there an option to power vent?
  • DianeGemDianeGem Member Posts: 1
    Burnham Boiler Failure

    I have a Commecial V9 / V11 Five year old Boiler that failed in December of 2011. I have been getting a real runaround from Burnham, have been told it failed due to road salt intrusion, old radiators, improper service, and other nonsense. I have had a service contract on the furnace since I had it installed. They are only offering me $1,200.00 on a credit towards another furnace or to replace the old block but I have to pay for the install, and balance on the furnace. The furnace must come completely apart to repair it and will cost nearly as much as a new one. Quite frankly, I do not have ANY confidence left in this company or its products and would prefer to put some other furnace in. And, the tradesmen in my area seem to be scared sh**less of them which makes me very suspicious. I'd steer clear of Burnham if I were you!
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Could someone define what "Road Salt Intrusion" is?

    Possibly road salt run-off contaminating the ground water, the owner has a well, uses a lot of water in his steam boiler and gets a high sodium make up water?

    That s new to me.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Member Posts: 11,383
    What type of failure

    was involved? Did it crack, or rot out above the waterline?

    Sometimes it's not strictly the boiler's fault................
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
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