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Too many options - need help

MattMatt Member Posts: 15

I am in the process of getting estimates to onvert from oil to gas heat in my home.  I have gotten 3 estimates and 3 different options.  Can someone recommend one over another.  here are the scenarions:

1- Burnham furncae with indirect vent hot water heater

2- Burnham furnace with direct vent hot water heater

3- Navien furnace combo hot water heat

Is either burnahm or Navien better?  I would think having a separate hot water heater is best in order to shut off the furnace in warm weather.  Or does that matter with the igh efficieny furnaces now?  I currently do that with my oil heat.

Thanks for any help or recommendations!


  • Paul48Paul48 Member Posts: 4,256
    Heat Loss

    What were the results of the heat loss, that must be done to properly size the equipment? Regardless of which manufacturer you choose.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    A little more info would help a lot.

    First do you know an approximate size, has anyone done a heat loss calc yet?{dont make any choices until one is done?

    How many sq ft is the house? What part of the country are you located in? Whats your budget look like?
  • HomeOwner1HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    We are happy with our Navien

    There are a ton of options.

    We chose to go with with Navien CH-240 for our 3750 square foot home. We have three bathrooms, large jetted tub, etc. It works great. The limitation on this unit is you may not be able to run more than 2 or 3 showers at a time during the coldest days of the year. Pressure is great, gas bills are low and does just as nice a job heating the house as our old boiler.

    The outdoor sensor is optional extra, so make sure to ask for it. It modulates the unit so it does not have to work as hard on warmer days.

    Also, we use the well water settings and use the advanced controls to set the domestic water temp to 130 degrees. You can also raise the main loop temp higher based on your needs.

    As well, when the installer puts it in, monoflow T's are recommended for the input and returns to the loops.

    A lot of guys on this forum are dead set against this unit and will argue it is not a boiler, or is inferior quality. All I can say, it that our personal experience and observations are different. It is indeed a boiler and works great. It also is very efficient based on our gas bill now. As well, it is about half the price of the other boilers out there and saves you on the need to install a separate water heater or indirect tank.
  • MattMatt Member Posts: 15

    We haven't done any heat loss calculations.  Only thing I was asked was the square footage of the house (1800)...
  • MattMatt Member Posts: 15
    edited March 2013

    We haven't done any heat loss calculations.  Only thing I was asked was the square footage of the house (1800)...

    We live on Long Island...
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited March 2013

    OK, 1800 sq feet on long island, your heatloss is 38,298 BTU's , thats a joke... my point being you can not know what unit to install with out first getting a heatloss calc done... anyway that number should be close...

    But just for fun lets say you need under 50K which should be about rite...

    I would look into a Weil McLain CGs3 with a rinnai Tankless RU98I or RU80I depending on your dhw needs... Install the boiler direct vent, with an ODR control like the hydrostat, and some delta t circulators...

    With a smaller heat load like you will end up having I would go cast iron boiler with a separate water heater... You will get the most for your money, the unit will last longer than anything you hang on the wall, and the efficiency will be just as good as any other unit available...
  • R ManninoR Mannino Member Posts: 422
    edited March 2013
    38,000 BTU's

    is probably closer than you think! I'm with Heatpro, high efficiency equipment is nice, but with the current price of natural gas simple can put you better off in the long run. You'd be surprised how reasonable it is to install standard efficiency equipment on Long Island.
  • MattMatt Member Posts: 15
    some estimates...

    So a direct vent hot water heater?  I was being told the indirect hot water heater is the way to go with a new setup.  Any benefits/cons of the setup?  I know it won't run with the power out but how often does that happen? 
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    what size

    boiler did each propose?  You still need to have a heat loss calc done, but we can at least tell you if they're in the ballpark.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited March 2013

    OK, the best bet is usually buying what the contractor you trust is selling, its a bad position to put yourself in as the "learning job", where the contractor charges you a little extra because he doesn't ussually do that type of install and ontop of that he learns how to install it on your house, maybe making a few mistakes on the way...

    I would recommend a Rinnai condensing tankless unit for DHW, either an ru98 or ru80, they last a long time, 12 year warranty should get 20+ if you take care of it, thats longer than any tank you are going to buy, plus it allows you to shut the boiler down all non-heating season long... And they save you some money, plus rebates are available...

    If its not an option, I would need to know your heat loss to make a boiler recommendation and then see if a priority control and indirect will match its maximum output... We will also need to know your DHW needs, which is easy to equate- just add up what you use at once in gpm...

    Don't let anyone install a boiler until you have a basic heatloss calc done, they should be able to do it themselves... or you yourself.... but it needs to be done, or you are beginning the race facing the wrong direction from the start...
  • MattMatt Member Posts: 15
    no heat loss calc

    have had 5 different plumbers from LIPA's own list come for the proposals and not one mentioned anything about a heat loss calculation.

    Most were using the Burnham  ES2 and one was using the ESC i believe were the 2.  Don;t have any of the paperwork with me at work...
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    Well I would start asking contractors to do a heat loss...

    I install Weil mcLain CGs, CGi, CGt when the loads are under 70K or so, and when they are above that Buderus kicks in... And also for the higher btu loads Mod/Cons are also an option... But for DHW, no matter what boiler I install I like to see an on demand tankless...
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    I still don't get it. Why is everybody convincing people not to buy high efficiency equipment?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    J, not everybody

    but when the heat loss doesn't warrant the added expense its not responsible to mislead a customer into thinking it is a good investment...

    Think of it this way, you drive 5 miles a day and the hybrid engine lasts 10 years before it rots out, is it worth spending an extra $15k on a hybrid that gates 40mpg vs a normal car that lasts twice as long and gets 10% less mpg , No... because you will never save the cost difference, now if you drive 150 miles per day its worth it...

    Same thing with high eff. boilers, they don't last as long, they initially cost more, and you only save 10% {if its condensing all the time which will not be the case} over a cast iron boiler {Im comparing apples to apples, a direct vented, ODR, cast iron vs a mod con with the same controls}...

    Plus add to this mod cons are not made to cater to the smaller homes yet, they just don't make sense for properties with small loads... I also don't like them for houses with a lot of small zones, I am in the middle of a job installing 2 CGs boiilers for a 5100sq ft house, that has a zone for every room {12 zones}, he was interested in a mod.con but when I was the only contractor to do a heat loss and explain how a dozen tiny zones was going to short cycle a mod con, he had no problem giving me the job... The big seller for him was the longevity math though, if you do the math, these mod cons have to last a long time to make you a profit, and if they are not going to make you a profit, why bother...
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    How is a cast iron boiler free from short cycling with small zones?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    it works..

    I am installing 2 small gas boilers, with a multi boiler control, and ODR. I have done this install many times with as many as 3 small boilers for residentials.. You have the storage of the boilers to work off, and 2 boilers is still cheaper than installing a solo 175....

    I did a system in the beginning of january- 2 small gas fired boilers with an indirect, and that house also had a lot of zones {the customer complained about short cycleing of his older system}, I believe it was 16 zones after the basement and garage were factored in, I know a lot of contractors that installed systems like this {me included}, when someone builds a big house and wants a nice system the first thing you would mention was zoning, how about a t-stat in every room, so when your not using them you can shut them down, ect, ect, ect... The problem with this is, that room that is set down to 60 calls for 25 seconds at a time... Well an ODR helps that a lot... But storage is what makes the difference, with a mod con you dont have much storage so you get very short cycles and the boiler will run every time that stat calls...{I know, add a storage/buffer tank and circulate heat through it rite?, no, you are adding a tank that is going to last 7 years to the heating system for no reason but to make the wrong boiler work better}

    But anyway, I had 11 very small zones and a few good sized zones, and with the twins and multi boiler control with ODR, the boilers dont short cycle...

    When the zone calls it circulates the stored water for a few minutes, it kicks boiler 1 on and then if boiler 1 is still running after 10 minutes{or how ever long you set it} it kicks boiler 2 on and runs until the zone is satisfied... If not setup properly, you will get short times on boiler 2, but if you set them correctly with the ODR, you will not have any issues... The best part is the boilers are going to last a LONG time, plus you are never with out heat, if one boiler goes down, the second is there for backup....
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,938

    How many gallons of oil do you use annually? The heat loss can be determined from that,we're on LI alos
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  • tom3holertom3holer Member Posts: 45

    One thing to remember even though the hybrid costs more, with the rebates the gas company is giving away now its actually cheaper than the "normal" car.

  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2013
    Rebates aren't all that high compared to...

    what the equipment costs, just for example say I install a direct vented Weil McLain CGs3 with ODR and one delta t circ for $4350 a solo 60 mod con with the similar install will start at almost $8000 almost double, rebates are not normally that high.... These are not real prices just for examples, I am much more expensive than that :)

    Also keep in mind I believe the fed rebates were 1 time only $1500 max for all energy upgrades, in other words -doors, insulation, boilers, windows, water heaters, ect... and it is 1 time only so you can not get it every year, just once...

    now your local utilities are a different story although I don't see as many as in previous years, I got a fax the other day it said something about $15 rebate for programable tstat, $475 for high efficiency furnace, ect not that attractive to me....
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,938

    Pricing rule?
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  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    just examples

    I said for example, them aren't real prices, just examples.... Round numbers for the sake of argument, thats all...
  • tom3holertom3holer Member Posts: 45

    Currently here in Ma. they are offering a $1500 rebate for a 95% or greater installation of a boiler. An Alpine 80 is bout $3000. With the rebate the cost is $1500. I do realize installation costs are a bit higher but still seems like worth looking into.

  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    It's an Old School Argument

    There is no way on God's good earth that you can tell me a fixed btu/hr piece of equipment is burning less fuel and will provide the comfort a condensing boiler will. Never mind the less emission in the air we breath.

    The btu/hr of a condensing boiler is not just based off outdoor reset. The temp rise or delta-t plays a very big role in the boiler deciding where she needs to fire to. Most of the time she sits in low fire which is down in the 30,000 btu/hr range or even less depending on the min btu/hr output of the boiler. Now start measuring condensate, for every 1 gallon you just saved 8,000 btu/hr. We haven't even talked about jacket and stack loss. What you are saying is it's ok to give some of your hard earned money to the utliity company. To heck with that condensing boiler I want to spend on myself, the utility company needs my money.

    Get off the AFUE label. It's a lie. If cast iron 80% was the greatest thing since slice bread the rest of the world would be on it. A condensing boiler will last just as long as a cast iron boiler. I've seen cast iron boilers fail in 5-10 years and plenty of them. The difference is technology is changing and we won't be stuck with 1950's technology for 50 years like we were in the past.

    Who says the boiler has to pay itself back 100%? Does your car? Flat Screen? Fridge? Stove? Heck how about the cell phone you toss every few years? The 100 percent argument is fake. I'd don't want the utility company getting any of my money if I can help it. If I do have to give some up I want to give them the least I can. Rather spend my money on me!
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2013

    they don't have to pay for themselves 100% no one is saying that, but they have to pay for the price difference otherwise why bother, and with small heatlosses say 35K BTU's, it won't happen. I did 168 installs last year {well the company I own did :) and I see these things run and I see what people spend on fuel, as well as myself, I own a lot of rental property and obviously maintain them my self, and I have everything in them from mod/cons to gas coal steam boilers {I actually removed the last steam boiler a few months back}... and I can tell you first hand {because I pay them bills} a properly sized cast iron gas boiler {house with 35K btu loss} is just as efficient as a good mod/con... GB142-24 vs WM CGs3 {direct vented, ODR, and delta t circs} in a small new england cape... I had the WM in there for a while and switched it out for the GB when we moved the boiler to the first floor to use the entire basement for storage... I was curious to see the difference and the bills never changed, the math showed degree day for degree day the useage was almost identical...

    And sure I have seen cast iron boilers fail inside 10 years too, but none that I installed, I have NEVER had to change a cast iron Buderus or Weil McLain that I installed that was under 10 years old {not an exageration, NEVER!! and we install A LOT of them}... NOW, for mod cons, I have found pleanty of faulty mod cons before 3 years!!!! Weil McLain ultras after a few years {Ill never install another one}, burnhams a few years old and need an HE, we just put an HE in a Utica mod/con that was less than 2 years old.... I can not count how many don't last 10 years!!!! So sure some may last a real long time, but most of them wont, where on the cast iron side its the opposite, and there are A LOT more cast iron boilers out there than mod cons... So you have to take that into consideration to, for every mod con you see you see 15 cast irons..

    I don't want to argue, cast iron vs mod con, but I have seen it with my own money, when you are in a small heat load, you will lose with a mod con...

    And NOT looking for a 100% payback, just figure in the initial cost over a mod cons cost {installed} and try to get back the difference.... It wont happen, not a big deal, you are rite its your money, and you would rather spend it on your self, I would rather keep it in my pocket than spend it on a boiler.....

    Also I have a mod con in the house I live in, 4000+ sq ft living space almost 5000 sq ft heated, and if I didnt do the labor myself, it would never pay for the cost difference.... My boiler install would be $KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK vs a cast iron boiler would have been $KKKKKK, lol.... and I need a good amount of btus, I have a 175 solo installed now and its maybe 10K btu oversized...
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056

    Who says? I want the Mercedes why does it have to pay itself over the Honda? It's an old school argument. I want to give the utility company as least of a monthly payment as I can. It's not up to you to decide that for me and it's not up to you to tell me I need 100% payback on the additional cost. It's up to you to tell me what my expected savings is and then let me make the decision. Don't try and talk me out of it. It's my money not yours and if I want to give it to you, take it! Your not being dishonest or not giving me what I paid for.

    I find it hard to believe that you have not had one Weil hinge crack. That's like saying I've installed hundreds of Burnham V7's and never had an issue. If true then someone is looking out for you. All mfgs of cast iron boilers have had their issues.

    Since we can't talk price here I cannot fully give you my rebuttal to your stance. It's your stance and I respect that just don't feel your logic is correct. There is also more as you know then just replacing the boiler.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    I never said

    I won't sell the customer what they want, I do a lot of mod cons, But when I go to a sales call and the customer has a smaller house with a smaller load {under 50K} than I always tell them the truth, mod/cons are nice, but you will never see your extra investment back over a properly sized cast iron boiler...

    I am glad people are starting to take pride in their home mechanical systems, until 4 years ago, I NEVER installed a unit exposed in a living space, sure I put cheap closet furnaces in, but never a boiler in someones kitchen built into the cabinets like a stove, and now I have done it more times than I can count. I am doing a new construction job rite now, they are getting a rinnai and a gb142 installed in their master bedroom master bath next to their washer and dryer, I actually just emailed their cabinet maker the dimensions, he is building customer cabinets where the 2 units will have their faces exposed.... That is something you will not do with a cast iron boiler... BUT on the other hand, Im thinking the water heaeter is going to last 15-20 years and the boiler maybe 20, then the stuff available is going to be different shapes and sizes so when its time to replace them, you need to get a cabinet maker in there to.... This is the reason I went with the GB, I have been using them a lot longer than the TT's so I felt more comfortable with it in this install... all of which I explained to the home owner...

    As far as no cracked weil mclains, that is the gods honest truth, NEVER had a bad one... {I don't install their oil units just some of the gas units, like the cgs, cgi, cgt {great little boiler, gas with a tankless, works good}... I'm not a fan of the Oil golds and don't like the ultras, just the cg's.... They work well, I have A LOT of them out there, people are happy with them... For oil I use Buderus if there is no tankless, if they need a coil, Starfire 3, slantfin, depends on what and where... For mod cons, I like the GB's and I have just recently started with the Triangle Tube solos, I am so far impressed with them, for tankless on demands I use Rinnai, and thats pretty much what I sell, this gives me a relationship with just a handfull of companies, I know all of the guys {I have a big cookout for the business guys once a year, and they ALL show up} so this helps when there is an issue...

    So I don't deprive my customers of the mercedes, I give them the choices, and I like when the checks clear and that sound the credit card makes going through the machine, boilers have given me and my family a very comfortable life. But in my eyes, if your fuel bills are $2000 a year and a mod con costs you $4K more you wasted your money... I don't need to say it in any fancy way, like I said I did the test in my own property, small heat loads don't make sense..

    Think of it this way, you drive 10 miles a day and buy a hybrid, the hybrid costs $10K more than the normal car, the hybrid gets 50mpg the normal car gets 40mpg, over 5 years you save $365 in fuel costs, this means you lost $9635 buying the hybrid, not to mention the maintenance is higher and not as many people know how to fix them... Now if you drive 300 miles per day it makes a little more sense....

    And I know all about our carbon footprint, I recycle, my wife is a vegan {vegan parents so since she was born} and we don't waste anything, she makes our laundry detergent and hangs clothes all over the place every Saturday just not to run the dryer, and she has a hybrid, lol....

    Chris, I see where you are coming from, and I see this with a lot of the "younger techs" not sure how old you are, but a lot of the younger guys love this stuff and push it hard. But the truth is, its not for everyone... I don't practice what I preach because I have a mod con in my house, but it hardly ever runs, I use heat pumps when the outside is over 50 degrees, I use coal when the outside is under 20 degrees, and oil when ever its in the tank{I get it for free from my cleanings, tank swaps, gas conversions, pump outs, ect.. so I use it when its there}, so my propane mod/con hardly kicks on {I use a rinnai for DHW}. I do have a lot of propane devices though, pool heater {but this year it will be a heat pump, if I get time to swap it over}, fireplaces, genny, stoves, smokers, grills, ect. So its hard for me to tell how much fuel I use to heat my house, I have 5K sq ft heated and this year I used about 5/8 ton of coal, $2600 in electricity {thats year round A/C lights, pool pumps, everything}, 200 gallons of oil, and $800 of propane {thats again everything}..

    I forgot where I was going with this, its 10:30 pm I've been up since 4 am and I'm waiting for my last tech out to call in "all clear" on a night "no heat" call, so I'm over tired.... Thanks for listening, lol....

    I enjoy the debate Chris, and I'm sure you are a very smart tech and do good work for your customers, but next time you pull up to a house with a small heat loss, maybe you will think about this conversation and just throw the idea out there... Because I can promise you, if it was my truck pulling up after you or if I had just left, the customer would be buying a cast iron boiler, lol.... jk ;)
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668
    High eff.

    We're also forgetting a very important factor here.

    Mod/cons are a lot more eco-friendly and a whole lot safer than cast iron boilers. Natural draft chimneys are a thing of the past.

    The reason that manufacturers aren't making boilers for small loads is because the industry is stubborn, and most guys don't do the proper heat loss, and won't install a mod/con. The industry is setting itself back. It's so much easier to put 100mbtuh into every home. And with a cast iron boiler, it will be very forgiving, and probably work for decades. It'll just cost more to operate in the long run.

    And the excuse that mod/cons don't last as long is just garbage. With proper maintenance, they'll last as long as any other appliance. The reason they fail early is bad design, bad installation, and bad maintenance. It's a human problem. Again, blame the industry.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2013

    I have to disagree J-, there are a lot of 7 year old mod/cons in the junk pile... And I didn't say anything about chimney vented boilers, If you read my posts I always recommend direct venting, hence the CGs....

    We haven't seen a truly trouble/maintenance free mod con yet, Im sure one will prove its self one day. I used the GB's for a long time but they are not with out their faults and need annual service, I liked the TT design when they first came out years ago, but the controls ended up being a lot of problems, the early lochs, htp's, and ultras all problematic.. Now sure there are people that had good luck and a lot can be blamed on the install, but the fact of the matter is, these problems are few and far between for cast iron boilers...

    And lets not forget all of the mod/cons need annual service {or should have it}, when on the other hand the cast iron boiler can go with out service for 20 years... So do the math, $200 a year service call, to come and descale, change gaskets, check combustion, ect... X 20 years is $4000, what did you save???? You lost....

    If you say there is a mod/con out there that you can trust to run "UNTOUCHED" for 20 years, you are either delirious or not telling the truth... This is why they are NOT as reliable or long lasting as a "good" cast iron unit....

    Heres my point.... a house with a 38K BTU heat loss, I install a direct vented, WM CGs3 with an ODR and delta t circ. the boiler fires over 86% combustion eff., it is properly sized, electronic ignition and direct vented with outside intake, an ODR and Delta circ make it have nice long run times, the boiler can work with out service until something breaks, no annual service needed.... install costs 1/2 of what a mod/con costs with less expensive and easier to find parts than any mod/con, and lets not forget any tech can walk in and figure it out without spending hours talking to tech support....

    Im not doubting mod/cons are the future, they certainly are... Someone is going to see the need and make a nice bullet proof simple, externally controlled work horse But rite now, with lower heat losses a cast iron boiler makes more sense... I would love to see a company make a nice 98% 40K BTU mod/con that mods down to 5K with a self cleaning ss HE that can go 10 years without maintenance, that can use a widely available proven generic control {like cast iron boilers}, {just a standard plug in control with std sensors that are all plug and play, so you can stock 1 temp sensor, 1 flow sensor, 1 control for most mod cons}... It would also be nice to be able to tune each zones range, so if you had 3 zones, 1 is 6K BTU, 1 is 18K and 1 is 12K the boiler will know and set its flow, temp, and burner for the task instantly...

    Now if you just need to have the newest fanciest unit out, and when you have company over for dinner take them for a tour through your boiler room, than yes get the mod/con, they are impressive looking, but don't kid yourself into thinking you are saving all kinds of money, because you will be lucky to break even... And I have a lot of mod/cons in my own properties, Im not arguing they don't work, just if you are trying to save as much money as possible, put it in the bank, not in your boiler...
  • alotlikeearlalotlikeearl Member Posts: 68
    Could not agree more!

    I could not agree more heatpro.  I'm in Roanoke, VA area and we have about 4300 degree days.  I will offer and sell modcons but I always let my customer know the economic reality that they will not get a positive return on their investment.
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,532
    So do the math.

    "So do the math, $200 a year service call, to come and descale, change

    gaskets, check combustion, ect... X 20 years is $4000, what did you

    save???? You lost...."

    I may have lost, but not by much. When I had my old GE boiler (from the early 1950s), I had a contract for annual service, and a priority for emergency service, and a small discount for parts. That was around $200/year. But I needed a new HV transformer every few years until the solid state ones came out. And a new vent pipe from time to time (I ran it at about 140F and so it condensed. The boiler did not seem to mind, but the vent pipes did).

    Now I have a gas-fired mod-con and a service contract from another company. I have a 3-year contract and it is $199/year.. Under the old contract, the tech came out, changed the oil filter and the nozzel, looked at the color of the flame, and I looked to see that steam but no black stuff came out of the chimney. That was the combustion test. 15 minutes at my house, and their office and yard was well under a mile from here.

    The new contractor comes with a helper, they spend about  1 1/2 hours opening up the heat exchanger, cleaning it, cleaning the condensate trap, replacing the igniter, putting it all back together, checking the pH and X-100 concentration in the boiler, combustion testing with a digital analyzer that he seems to pretty-well know how to use, ...I.e., he seems to know what he is doing and does it. The only thing he will not do is check the pressure relief valve and the P/T valve on the indirect.

    It seems an annual service contract around here costs about the same for gas mod-cons and oil regular boilers. The GE is not a cast iron boiler. It seems to be sheet steel. In spite of the fact I ran it condensing for over 20 years, it did not rust out. It did not even leak as far as I can tell.

    In any case, I would have an annual service no matter what kind of boiler or furnace I had.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    I wasn't talking about service contracts {which, you will most of the time lose, I know this because I sell them, and I am still in business} For example ---Out of 840 sc's sold last year 4 of them went over their initial CFC {cost for coverage} the others averaged 15% {that means 836X$200-15%=profit which means $140,000 paid for "peace of mind" ...

    "In any case, I would have an annual service no matter what kind of boiler or furnace I had."

    With oil, this is a must but with a gas cast iron direct vent boiler, you need nothing every year, no cleaning, no checking, no calling for service unless it is broken... You can not ignore $4000 saved over 20 years when the boiler only costs that.... Maybe I think differently, I have been in business for myself since I was just over 20 years old and tend to think of the end game, the final cost is the most important number... Add up initial costs, maintenance costs{for the amount of years it will last}, minus the fuel savings...
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,532
    Homeowner losing on service contracts...

    Of course, I have never looked at the books of my service contractors. I suspect you are right about the old oil contractor's making a good profit because $200/year for 15 minutes work, and 10 minutes driving time each way and the price of an oil filter and nozzle, and disposal should not come to $200. But he does have overhead, insurance, profit, ... to pay, so it my not have been a complete ripoff.

    But my present contractor does that same price for my gas mod-con where he gets 1 1/2 hours labor for a technician and 1 1/2 hours for a helper, a W-M maintenance kit for my Ultra that includes a lot of gaskets, an igniter, and  a big tube of X-100 water treatment. Plus a much longer drive each way. I do not know what he pays his employees, what his office costs (rent, taxes, licenses, secretarial, insurance, wear and tear on combustion analyzers, etc.) come to, and add in a reasonable profit, but it seems to me that could easily eat up $200. So I imagine he is not ripping me off.

    Now when I replaced the 60 year old oil burning boiler with a gas burning mod-con, I could have saved some money by getting a conventional gas boiler. And maybe I would have the nerve to have it serviced every 2 or 3 years instead of every year. For me, peace of mind is worth something. And your pointing out how much I may be paying for that could, in principle, get me to change my mind about that contract. For example, if I knew I was going to die in the next few years, I might chance it and do no maintenance. I suppose each customer has a different dollar value he is willing to pay for peace of mind. In my case, I guess I am willing to pay it.

    So as I see it, I am not paying any more for maintenance than I used to. True, I could have paid less by getting a conventional gas boiler.

    I wonder if you would be making 85% profit on most service contracts if, without changing your prices, all your customers changed over to mod-cons (whether it made sense for them to do it). I suppose you would either have to raise your prices, or make much less profit. And if you had to take a loss, you would pretty soon stop doing that.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    "I wonder if you would be making 85% profit on most service contracts if, without changing your prices, all your customers changed over to mod-cons (whether it made sense for them to do it). I suppose you would either have to raise your prices, or make much less profit. And if you had to take a loss, you would pretty soon stop doing that."

    You are kind of making my point here... The ultra NEEDS annual service, with out it that boiler wont last 3 years... Where a WM CGs needs no annual service, it will work the same wether I go there and wipe the dust off the jacket for $200 or not. I understand where you are coming from you like planning an afternoon to meet the tech there and writing him a check, maybe give him and his helper a couple bottles of water and BS about how everything has been working, I get that, I go for annual check ups at the dr's and pay my co-pay even though Im not sick... But for the people that are looking to keep as much of their money as they can, they should add it all up, because the point of buying a high eff. boiler is to save MONEY {and the environment of course, as some have pointed it out, where the truth of the matter is you could stop heating all the homes in the us and it wouldn't make a dent in the pollution or fuel problems, not saying that is not a good place to start, but if you are worried about the planet get a geothermal/solar system, or donate the savings to someone that can't afford a gas bioler}. So when the truth behind the curtain is, a mod con will cost you more than a conventional ever did...

    If you don't want to admit it that is fine, I understand, you pay $10K for a boiler you want to know you did the rite thing, and if it works and is properly maintained and you dont go to sleep cold, thats all that matter to me that is worth 100K....
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,517
    A couple cents more...

    This is a good dialog.

    I have to agree there are installs in moderate climates and existing structures with difficult conditions where high efficiency doesn't make sense.

    For people in zone 5 and less the number will never work.


    As much as I respect you, I can't get my head around installing 2 water heating appliances. It just seems like twice the venting and twice the maintenance.

    If you are going to install a high efficiency flue why not install a mod/con and an indirect. WIN, WIN!

    I believe that given the sort cycling nature of tankless heaters, they achieve an overall, real world efficiency of no more than 80%. They require far more maintenance than a firetubeHX mod/con with an indirect.

    On the heating side,I have never seen a mod/con that did not save a real world 25% over non condensing. The secret is in the turndown ratio. Correctly installed they just don't short cycle.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,532
    You are kind of making my point here...

    I do not mind making your point. I do not think I am disagreeing with you anyway.

    "The ultra NEEDS annual

    service, with out it that boiler wont last 3 years..."

    You might be right. But I am not sure. On the other hand, I do not propose to skip the annual service to find out. I have watched what happens when it is serviced. I even supply the torque wrench to tighten the front of the heat exchanger back on the rest of it because the techy never brings one. And I used to drive cars with aluminum cylinder heads, and they suffered greatly if you tighten them by guess and by golly. The first year, there was a little bit of what appeared to be aluminum in the condensate trap, but not since. The tech took a sample and had it analyzed. It was not much and may have been left-overs from original machining. Cleaning the heat exchanger does not result in much debris being removed. I do not know how long it would last without service, but it might go more. I expect the efficiency would go down first, and perhaps by observing the stack temperature at the exhaust of the heat exchanger you could tell when it really needed cleaning. But I do not propose to do that.

    "Where a WM CGs

    needs no annual service, it will work the same wether I go there and

    wipe the dust off the jacket for $200 or not."

    Well you are the professional and I am not. But I imagine the thing should be checked and adjusted a bit each year in case the gremlins cause the efficiency to go down. And if one waits for the homeowner to notice the decrease in efficiency, it may be a bit late. But I do not know.

    "I understand where you

    are coming from you like planning an afternoon to meet the tech there

    and writing him a check, maybe give him and his helper a couple bottles

    of water and BS about how everything has been working,"

    Not exactly, but not worth more time.

    " I get that, I go

    for annual check ups at the dr's and pay my co-pay even though Im not

    sick... But for the people that are looking to keep as much of their

    money as they can, they should add it all up, because the point of

    buying a high eff. boiler is to save MONEY "

    One of the points, surely. You are right: purchasers of expensive (either up front, or long-term total cost of ownership) items should add it all up. But we also know what happens to those who add it all up, go with the lowest bidder, and are then disappointed. Like my grandmother who got the lowest bidder to paint her kitchen. He used outdoor point, because he had some on hand. Whatta mess!

    "{and the environment of

    course, as some have pointed it out, where the truth of the matter is

    you could stop heating all the homes in the us and it wouldn't make a

    dent in the pollution or fuel problems, not saying that is not a good

    place to start, but if you are worried about the planet get a

    geothermal/solar system, or donate the savings to someone that can't

    afford a gas bioler}. So when the truth behind the curtain is, a mod

    con will cost you more than a conventional ever did... "

    Well mine is costing me about half of what the old boiler did. But that is unfair, I admit, since the old oil boiler from 1950, even if it was running at its original maximum efficiency, would not be that great and it was burning $4/gallon fuel oil, and the new one was probably running near its original efficiency on $1.24/therm natural gas. And I could probably get even more efficiency if I could have gotten a 40,000 BTU/hour Ultra instead of the 80,000 size. On the other hand, when heating the large zone (radiant slab), it does condense all the time, and when doing the small baseboard zone, it does not condense all the time, but it does a lot of the time. It even condenses a little bit on the warm-up for the indirect, but it probably does not matter much. But for that, no matter what it does, it is cheaper than the electric water heater I had before.

    "If you don't want to admit it that is fine, I understand, you pay $10K

    for a boiler you want to know you did the rite thing,"

    I suppose everybody does. And I do not think I will know that to a high degree of accuracy unless the aluminum heat exchanger rots out too soon, in which case I will know I did not do the right thing. I am finishing my fourth season with this thing and it does have much greater comfort, but that is due to the outdoor reset that controls the burner modulation more than the condensing.

    "and if it works

    and is properly maintained and you dont go to sleep cold, thats all that

    matter to me that is worth 100K...."

    I went to sleep cold one week when the power went off here for 6 1/2 days. Fortunately that was due to Sandy, and while it got very cold outside, it did not go below freezing outside. It did get down to 58F inside and I did not like that. I also did not like no hot water for showers and laundry, and no cooking (electric stove) and no refrigerator and grocery stores all closed. Natural gas backup generator on order as I type this. Waiting for building permit that is waiting for approval from the zoning board.
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2013

    OK, I will let you on on why I like 2 devices....

    But First lets talk about the bad....

    You will need to vent 2 appliances, this takes an extra hole for the Rinnai tankless, just one more hole, but in some installs its is tough to find a spot, but I have yet to run into a house where I couldn't make it work, some houses are simple {like mine, my basement has 2 walls above ground level}, and I notice with nicer larger homes, it is very workable, with some of the older smaller homes, it gets tough...

    Next is cost, it may cost a little more for the tankless over an indirect, BUT normally if you don't need a ton of venting, its almost the same cost... The materials are rite inline....

    Tankless water heaters also have their faults{cold water sandwich and it takes a few more seconds to get water to the faucet me and my family don't mind either}, as do indirects {high water temps to make up for replenish losses, running out of hot water, floor space, ect.}.....

    Now for the good things....

    First is the tankless itself...

    -You NEVER run out of hot water.

    -When you are not using hot water the unit is not burning fuel.

    -Fuel savings you can not argue with the facts, My indirect with the gb was using more lp than my Rinnai {this is in my own home}, all summer, and it was properly installed with an 80 ga phase 3 running low temps...

    -control, the tankless offers exceptional control, I have a control at my laundry, at my kitchen sink and next to my master baths jet tub, that offer a bunch of features, tub fill, intercom, temp control, priority, ect...

    -Mount anywhere, in a closet, basement, kitchen, laundry room, ect... saves floor space...

    -low temps, I set my tankless at 110 in the summer and 115 in the winter, just throw the shower on full hot and jump in, no mixing it down to keep the skin on your back in tact.

    -plus there are more reasons to go tankless....

    now, the reasons why it makes more sense to have separate units..

    First is sizing- if you don't have to worry about the btus to make DHW you can size the boiler for the heat loss with no exceptions... This is a factor in smaller loads...

    -control, if you have a low temp radiant system you don't have to worry about running 2 separate temps and ramping your boiler to 180 for dhw...

    -Longevity, running your boiler year round makes no sense, I am a firm believer in the less you use it the longer it lasts. When I install a system, I want that boiler running as little as possible {season wise, Im not talking about short cycling}, for example to me a great entry level system {and I sell a lot of these, almost every new construction I get} is..

    {example will be a house with an 50K BTU heat loss, 2 floors, heat a/c}

    1-TT solo 60 mod con

    2-First co hydro airs {say a couple of 3tons}

    2-armstrong heat pumps

    1 rinnai ru98i condensing tankless...

    This system IMO will be the most bang for the customers buck, the hydro airs easily give up the low return temps you want, with long run times, and the Boiler will not run until the ODT is under 47* until then the heat pumps will easily and efficiently, also helping with the boiler being oversized most of the year.... Meanwhile the tankless takes care of the DHW needs, totally separate... Your boiler will last a VERY long time, your heating bills will be low, and the comfort should be top rate... I love hydronic heating, and radiant is a great option that I always try to sell, but when you are installing DW for the cooling anyway, it just makes sense to go hot coil {radiant gets expensive fast but would be my preference}...

    So with a system like this, your boiler will see {depending your climate} 3 months of use.. I also like to talk the home owners into a coal stove instead of a fireplace for an aux. heat source... In my house, I use the heatpumps when its warm, and when its really cold I use the coal furnace, so my boiler sees very little use, and will last a long time because of this... When I pulled my GB off the wall to put the TT solo 175 up, it looked BRAND NEW inside, the boiler was up there a while and looked like it was new, I only swapped to the tt because I believe in using what I sell and we are switching from gb's to TT's so my house was first... We have since done over 20 of them, they are nice units...

    Anyway, that is where I stand, I know a lot of people don't like tankless units, but the facts are, they have been in use all over the world for over 30 years. Rinnai units last a long time and their support is top notch... I only use their tanklesses, I stock them in my shop 4 different models, in stock!!! I like the condensing units, the ru80i and 98i are very nice, my house has 4 full bathrooms + and the 98 works wonders... Its nice to just throw the shower on full hot, I also use the low flow high sierra heads {which helps costs, plus I am well/septic so the less water the better}...

    As far as maintenance I have some old Rinnais out there, and I have one in one of my rental properties that I installed 7+ years ago {r53, lol} and I never descaled it once, it has city water with no filter system and never gave as much as a hiccup... {knock on wood, the tenants are going to call me tonight lol}...

    I offer my customers a descale kit, {$129-}which is a 5 gallon bucket, 1 ga. of white vinegar {so they know what to buy}, a small wayne sub. pump, 2 hoses, a small magnetic white board and marker {to write the dew date} and a laminated copy of instructions I made with pictures... I tell them to do it once a year with city water, twice with well... And I don't get many service calls, and almost none before 5 years... They rarely break, but I install them by the book {if not better, I have a few tricks ;) } I test the water, I install filters, and make sure the units are taken care of...

    So IMHO, I see a properly maintained tankless lasting just as long if not longer than an indirect, and for those that say "but you don't have to do anything to an indirect" well you have to run the boiler for it to work, and you need to service that... The savings are not debatable, its not a myth, lol. A condensing tankless uses less fuel than an indirect with a mod con...

    If you doubt it, get the efficiency tester out, run my solo 175 with a phase 3 50ga indirect at 170* the efficiency is lowest when running for DHW, because the temp is higher and return isnt really cold enough, and when the delta circ slows down the flow to open up the delta it can't modulate low enough.... But with my RU98i, that thing starts condensing as soon as it fires up, the water coming in is 45* going out 115* and I can run the showers in all 4 baths at once, FOREVER... try that with an indirect/mod con...

    Now don't get me wrong, I install a lot of indirects, and they have there place, but I prefer to install a tankless and shut the heating system down in the summer.....

    Zman, I'm not trying to convert you bud, lol.. Im just showing you my thought process, I explain it to customers all day long, I do more selling than wrench turning lately, so I answer all types of questions, I can not count the times, I took a deposit on a tankless then the customer called me and said "I looked online, and people say bad things about them" where I reply "look, come over to my house and take a shower, I am not going anywhere, if you are unhappy with the unit, Ill take it down and put something else in, if it breaks in 5 years, I fix it for free" I have yet to have anyone have me take one down, all them units, and not one complaint!!! And my customers complain about everything, I just got off the phone with one, Supposingly my brand new 2013 GMC 2500 leaked oil on her driveway {truck is parked inside every night, doesnt leak anything}, I sent my mechanic by and he said there is a dozen spots on the driveway, so unless my tech parked and moved the truck 12 times in a 30 minute service call, its not from us, but from her, BUT, I called her back and said I will have the driveway seal coated when the weather warms up, just give me a call in the summer, chances are she won't call, if she does I will have it sealed... The cost of doing business...

    But anyway, i got off track, the tanklesses are nice units, sure nothing is perfect, but I don't think that when all the units I installed are ready to be replaced in another 10 years any of them customers are going for a tank.... I know I will never use a tank again.. ALthough I am installing a hybrid in my house to use for the summer.... AO smith, the rebates in CT pay for the unit..

    Zman, Im not sure where you are in the country, but 25% savings is a tough promis to make customers, sure when I switch someone from a 50 year old oil fired boiler to a gas mod/con I may promise the high numbers, but when they already have gas, and you go and say things like 25%, thats how you get in trouble.... Say you have a house that uses $1200 a year in gas, DHW and Heat,{using a modern cast iron boiler and a 40gallon indirect- 25% means they will only have to pay $900 a year after you install a mod con {add the $200 annual service to that and you see the point of my previous argument}...

    A good direct vented gas cast iron boiler firing at 86+% {ALL THE TIME} with an ODR, properly sized, using delta t circs is hard to do 25% better, I know this from experience, I am the type that will pull a perfect boiler out of my house just to test another brand, I have tested the method.... The mod con will save some, but not enough to pay for the difference, in some cases it wont may for the maintenance costs... This is the problem...

    Now comparing that mod con to a natural draft, standing pilot, high limit controlled boiler firing 80% sure you will save, I have seen 10% just going from natural draft to direct vent, and some pilots can use $8 a month of gas, but the CGs with an ODR and direct vented gets you away from all of that, so there is less room for promises...

    I hope this makes sense... I like the dialog, and I like discussing this with other pros, because I am open minded and if someone can convince me different I welcome it, obviously I didnt start my career installing gas tanklesses and sealed gas boilers...

    I remember when

    big house = Oil heat,

    A/C = Forced warm air w/ direct fired tank

    no A/C = Baseboard

    2- baths = tankless {and not on demand}

    3+ baths = indirect

    No questions asked, that what was getting put in... around here anyway..
  • EastmanEastman Member Posts: 783
    edited April 2013

    "for example to me a great entry level system {and I sell a lot of these, almost every new construction I get} is..

    {example will be a house with an 50K BTU heat loss, 2 floors, heat a/c}

    1-TT solo 60 mod con

    2-First co hydro airs {say a couple of 3tons}

    2-armstrong heat pumps

    1 rinnai ru98i condensing tankless..."

    Why not a regular duel fuel furnace?  Why bother with the boiler at all?
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    edited April 2013
    Eastman, a simple answer

    COMFORT, I try to sell the furnaces but its a tough sell to the medium end homes that I am putting these systems into. They are 2 story 2000-2500 sq ft homes, and the problem is they don't want the dry air.. I don't care what you put for humidification {there actually are ways to do it, but not cheap} its never rite... The winter air is already dry, now add to that a furnace, I design the systems to run with a 140 or so coil, this works well and keeps the house comfortable...

    I wish I could sell more furnaces {they are fast, easy, and cheap}, but the truth of the matter is, I mostly do them as replacements, new construction seems to stay away from them {unless they are builder homes, then all bets are off, they would have you put a matchbook in each room if they could get away with it...}...

    I lived with a furnace for a week in Oregon, the static electricity could start a brush fire, we had humidifiers running heated water in 4 pots on all the stoves burners, nothing helped, I was dying, my lips were chapped after the first two nights, and my son was getting bloody noses in his sleep.. It was torture.... Could have had something to do with us being dehydrated from all the drinking too, lol we were out there for a wedding....

    So a word to other techs out there, if you are ever selling someone a furnace install, that never had a furnace, warn them, that they produce warm air, and dry it past breathability, lol. I learned this the hard way, I always new furnaces cooked the air, but never new how bad it was, long ago, I installed an oil fired Olsen {I believe} low boy in a couples basement to replace their cracked boiler and baseboard... I did the normal install, hooked it up with a honeywell humidi system {just the basic water whip}, insulated the duct work, ect... Well a week went by and the phone calls started, complaint after complaint, they were used to the baseboard, and the dry air was killing them, so I went and added another humidi to the duct work, next day more calls... So I go turn the limits down a little {figured dont heat up the exchanger so much and turned the fan up a little, figured it wouldn't run as long}.... NO GOOD, so now, Im gonna have to eat this install, they are threatening to get a hotel.... When a friend of mine in the business tells me about the "new" {it was a while back} steam humidifiers, I installed one and they lived with it, but I don't think I ever really satisfied them....

    Dry itchy skin, irritated eyes, static electricity, headaches, nose bleeds, asthma, sore throats, just a few of the problems furnaces cause...

    Carrier and a few others are making good furnaces that are getting better, but IMO if you have a choice between hydroair and a furnace, go with the hydro... The money you spend getting a good humidi and then the energy it takes to run it, you will throw away your energy savings in short order... Also storage is nice when it comes to space heating and even with a hydro air you still get a few gallons of stored energy...
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,517


    Man you sure can type. I appreciate your thorough response. It is always helpful to listen to other peoples though processes. It sound like your approach is working well for you  in your market.

    I think I will always be a "keep it simple" kind of guy. I am in the mountains of Colorado. Our boilers are already working 8 months a year.

    I think you will continue to like Triangle Tube.  I have a property with forced air heat. I think I will try out a Rinnia.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991

    That is one of the boilers I WOULD NOT miss an annual on, when I do yearly services on ultras, I have a bunch of them 500-620 service kits in stock {otherwise you need to order them through the supply houses}, they are cheap {under 40 } come with the x100 tester, 4 gaskets, ignitor, ect... But I also descale the units, the ultras are the reason I used to fill every mod/con with treated Poland spring water... I had some issues with them guys, they did make good on it though...

    But I would not miss a service, not with an ultra... And yes the normal gas boilers and furnaces can go decades with no tuning or cleaning or changing gaskets, just let the boiler do its thing, don't have to fix it if its not broken... You can literally go the life of the boiler with out changing a part, I had a customer that bought their house new in the late 70s {condo} and I replaced the boiler in 2008, they never changed a part or had it cleaned, it was in their garage {under the condo, town home style} and after over 30 years, they noticed it leaking when their gran-daughter accidentally shut the emergency switch, so they called me up, I explained it got cold and would stop leaking when it heated back up ,but they thought it would be a good idea to change it... So I did... with another gas cast iron boiler... But imagine 30 years never changed as much as a pressure relief valve or water feed... I will admit the water in it was dirty, I actually flushed the system before the new one went in, but it was still working...
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