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Gas Power Burner+Hydronics

Smith19 Member Posts: 95
Hi All,

I'm pondering about installing a powerflame x4 micro burner or a Carlin EZ fire on a Buderus 115ws, and am wondering if this would be efficient with hydronics vs. steam. I currently do not have a hydronic system and will be converting from hot air to hydronic soon. It's seems obvious that a condensing boiler like a weil mcclain ultra or lochinvar knight would be ideal, but would using a gas power burner on a cast iron hydronic boiler be a good thing or a bad thing?

Thanks very much


  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,991
    A lot depends on the job

    the thing to remember about condensing boilers is they can't use a standard chimney, so you'll need to find a proper and safe place to exhaust them. This involves maintaining enough clearance from windows and doors, and enough height so the maximum recorded snow accumulation in your area won't block the exhaust and air intake.

    That Buderus is a nice boiler, and will give good efficiency while still using a chimney. The Carlin EZ-Gas burner runs well in these boilers, in my experience, and I've heard good things about the Riello gas burner in them too.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Smith19
    Smith19 Member Posts: 95

    What have you heard about the Power flame X4?
  • SteaminDemon
    SteaminDemon Member Posts: 3
    Four questions in one

    You've got  a lot going on in this question. I'll see if I can sort it out. First of all, hydronic heating systems can be very efficient. They also offer superior comfort due to the fact that heating with water, rather than air, is usually a lot more even - that is, the temperature swings between the call for heat and the shutdown of  the heating cycle, are smaller and further apart. Water acts like a thermal battery, holding heat a long time and slowly releasing it to the living area. One of the most comfortable types of hydronic systems is the under the floor , radiant system. This system heats the floor, warming your feet first, a very pleasant feeling. Often, the thermostat can be set lower while still maintaining a great comfort level. And that saves fuel. Next best, in my mind, are the "old fashioned" cast iron radiators. I have them and love them. They are slow to heat up but they seem to stay hot forever. The heat circulates up the colder outside walls and around the room, mixing well and creating a comfortable living area.

    So, how do we get this water nice and hot? By using a water boiler or water heating device. Condensing boilers are the most efficient type. Their heat exchangers are larger and they are carefully engineered to remove every last possible BTU of heat from the flame before allowing the exhaust gas out the "stack". The exhaust gases are so cool that moisture vapors in the stream, condense back into their liquid state, thus their  name - condensing boilers. These exhaust gases are so cool, they don't rise up a conventional chimney. Instead, they are blower assisted and need to be piped directly out a sidewall.

    But, in order to get this desired high level of thermal efficiency, each manufacturer spends many hours in his testing lab, designing and redesigning his burner / combustion chamber combination, to get just the right gas flow to scrub every last bit of heat out of that flame, while still meeting strict emissions standards. IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE TO RETROFIT A BURNER OF YOUR CHOICE TO A CAREFULLY ENGINEERED BOILER SYSTEM AND EXPECT TO COME CLOSE TO AN ACCEPTABLE COMBUSTION CONDITION. Almost all boilers can successfully burn either oil or gas fuel but either must be burned through the burner that the manufacturer designed for it.

    Finally, steam can also be used for heating, in a similar fashion to a hot water system. The advantage is that steam can carry 1000 times more heat per pound of water than can hot water. So if you need to transport large quantities of heat from the boiler to a distant location, steam is the answer. It is typically used in industrial and commercial applications, where large amounts of heat must be delivered to distant points. However, steam is hot! It burns skin. And, a lot more expensive equipment is required to produce and transport steam safely. Ii is not smart to use steam in most residential heating applications.

    I hope this answers some of your questions and helps to sort things out.
  • Smith19
    Smith19 Member Posts: 95
    power burner and hydronics

    SteaminDemon, Thank you for your explanation. I greatly understand all these types of systems, and have studied the possible improvements of condensing boilers for years. My question was more about the x4 on any type of oil fired boiler. I understand it's best for steam, and not as efficient with hydronic, but I take it that it's pointless to have a retrofitted boiler with a power gas burner for hydronic when you can throw in a fancy condensing boiler. But here's another thought: does anyone know if the Buderus 115ws can do steam? Buderus didn't have much info on it.

    Thanks very much
  • SteaminDemon
    SteaminDemon Member Posts: 3
    Further thoughts.....

    I'm just getting ready to spec. out our first X4 burner for a new steam generator we're building, so I don't have any hands on experience yet. However, one of our customers has retrofitted an X4 onto one of our older industrial water heaters, which was originally shipped out with an oil burner, and it worked out really well for him. His reason for installing the X4 was that he needed to switch from oil fired to LPG fired. Again, it worked fine. Because....

    Our designs use a large fire chamber area. Its really important to download the X4 installation / op. manual and study the page on required combustion chamber sizes before deciding to use the X4. (Same applies to any other burner you might choose instead.)

    I don't think anyone has to rip out an existing conventional boiler, water or steam, just to install a new condensing design. In my house, I'm still using a 40+ year old water boiler, but it has been well maintained and I've installed a new refractory combustion chamber, reduced the firing rate substantially (low rate continuous firing is, theoretically, the most efficient condition for a non-condensing boiler) and am using an efficient Beckett Flame Lock burner. Even though efficiency is still less than a new condensing boiler, my upgrades produce some great efficiency figures and I'm saving the cost of a new installation. Its a trade off.

    Finally, I don't know the specifics of Buderus relative to producing steam, but I urge extreme caution. Steam is dangerous. There is high heat and extreme stored energy in steam. If you make a mistake, sometimes you don't get a second chance. And, many of the controls, valves, safeties, etc. would have to be changed. If you did all that, your efficiency would DROP way down anyway. A steam boiler requires a lot more internal heat exchanger surface area than does a water boiler. All in all, it doesn't make sense. A well designed hydronic heating system can win an efficiency contest with steam any day.
  • SteaminDemon
    SteaminDemon Member Posts: 3
    Just had another thought........

    I'd be surprised if your homeowners insurance would squawk about installing a new hydronic system in you residence (better check anyway) but, I'd be really nervous about installing a steam system unless it was designed by a licensed heating engineer. I imagine they would jump on a chance to deny any claim resulting from an accident caused by an improperly installed system. Be careful.
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