Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Suggestions for frustrated and confused homeowner

cannibalflea Member Posts: 7
Hi all,

I'm new to the site but have been reading through the posts here with great interest. I live in a half-duplex house in Vancouver, Canada. The house is about five years old. Both the heating and hot water system are electric and cost a fortune to run. The mechanical room in the house is a mess of tangled tubes that seemed to have been thrown together with the hope that somehow it will all work. Since the very beginning, the basement radiant heating has been non-functional. Repeated calls to the builder resulted in visits from "the plumber" who proceeded to add more pipes connecting outlets and inlets every which way which solved nothing. The plumber got electrocuted the last time so I just gave up and lived without heat in the basement.

The water tank has been slowly leaking water from the relief valve since the last visit and the pan underneath now shows sign of rust which I find very troubling. I have been searching for a solution to get rid of the mess in my mechanical room and have a tidy, organized system that functions well and can be maintained.

I have talked to a number of HVAC companies here and they have all recommended that I put in a Navien tankless heater. However, from the posts here it seems that Navien might not be the best choice. One of the contractors recommended Navien's combination boiler (CH-240 ASME) which he said could meet both hot water and heating needs. I am skeptical that this would be true and wanted some expert opinion. I would like to be able to run at least two showers simultaneously. What do you think, is this do-able with a combination boiler system? Should I stay away from Navien?

As you can see from the image I posted of the mechanical room it is very cramped and that is why a combination boiler really appeals to me. However, I am open to other suggestions.

The thing that really frustrates me is that when dealing with the companies, I am always passed to the sales people who seem to have little idea about what is going to happen on the install day. I can't find a company which will actually send the designer/installer to either tell me how the whole system would go together or prepare a design which I can actually see before installation. Everyone just says that they know what they are doing. What really scares me that most of these guys don't actually think the existing job is that bad. So I am wondering if anyone here knows of a good company (in Vancouver area) which will take the time to understand what I want, tell me exactly what they are going to do to clean everything up and then install everything in a neat and organized way in the existing space.

Sorry for the long post.



  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,833
    What did you

    Do with the body of the electrocuted plumber?
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    I agree with you

    That looks terrrible, who ever did, did just that, they just "did it" not much planning, not much time invested, no discipline for straight, plumb, and flush, and not much pride in the finished product...

    Electric is a tough sell, while its 100% efficient, the energy is expensive...

    So I have a couple questions for you....

    you had to see this one coming- What is your heatloss?

    What do you have available for fuel, oil, propane, natural gas?

    Where are you budget wise {not really allowed to talk money, but just something like" tight" to "money is not an issue"....

    Now just to give you some insight before I get your replys..

    I personally do NOT like Navian combis , their tankless water heaters are decent, but the combi unit is just that, a tankles water heater with a built in circulator and 3 way valve... I am in the service industry and have seen these fail and they are kind of new to the maret, for us to already be seeing a countable amount of failures... That being said some people like them, Homeowner1 on this forum loves his, and I'm sure will chime in here soon enough, but his is still new, I think he will be singing a different song in 5 years when he is replacing it, but that is just my oppinion, someone has to like them because they are still in business....

    Now I would most likely be trying to sell you a TT solo 60 and a Rinnai ru98i tankless water heater. I like separate DHW and space heating equipment for a bunch of reasons, which you can look up my posts and find the one where I explain it in depth if you like...

    This will get everything off the floor, I would try to mount the boiler on that back wall and then mount all your heating piping on the right and under it, then I would try to mount the water heater on the left wall. But there are a lot of things that need to be considered that can not be seen in the picture...

    That all being said you need to find a good installer, with my company I am the salesman and system designer, I also install but have more help that installs the systems I sell and design too.... Im not sure how things work in Canada but it works for me down here, maybe you can find someone out there... I also dont know what equipment is readily available to you...
  • knotgrumpy
    knotgrumpy Member Posts: 211

    Is criminal.  The 'plumber' deserved what he got.  Sort of joking there...
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,573
    The rest of the story...

    First off that is one horrible install. The kindergarteners should absolutely have their recess taken away.

    Other thoughts:

    What are your other energy options? Electricity is only 100% eff at the point of use. With plant inefficiencies and line loss it is more like 30%.

    What do you pay for energy?

    How is the rest of the install?

    Does the tubing have an o2 barrier?

    How long are the tubing loops?

    Are the slabs insulated?

    You need to have a heat loss done.

    I would hate to see you spend a ton of money to make boiler room right to find out the rest of the system is junk.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited May 2013
    Finding a Pro

    Hi- I should probably first state that I’m a homeowner and since I have a steam system know more about steam that I do hot water. Having lived in Vancouver and still having cousins that live in Victoria and Vancouver, I can understand your dilemma. It’s getting harder and harder to find competent people.

    First of all I would suggest that you investigate the price differences between electricity and natural gas as it would seem to me cost wise that natural gas might be a better way to go. If you consider gas, this be sure to check that you have the proper size gas lines (to support gas heating) connected to your home and if an upgrade is necessary, whether you or the gas company pays for it.

     Finding a good heating pro - Rather than looking for a plumber in the plumbing section of the yellow pages I would try a heating supply/specialty company for possible leads to a good heating pro. There is a big plumbing heating supply company in B.C. called EMCO  http://www.emcobc.ca/   and they might be able to recommend someone to you.

    My cousin in Victoria has a boiler made by a B.C. company,  IBC Boiler  http://ibcboiler.com/

    You might want to contact them and ask for reference to a local heating pro that installs their boilers. I don’t know much about this unit but was impressed by what I saw when I was visiting my cousin last fall.

    - Rod



  • rich67
    rich67 Member Posts: 21
    Is that black pipe

    coming down the back wall?
  • HomeOwner1
    HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    I own one

    Yes, we have a newer one. It heats a home a bit over 3500 sq ft with no issue and runs 3 showers on a cold winter day without issue here in New Jersey.

    As folks say, time will tell on the reliability, but the unit is very inexpensive and the build quality was rated well by our installers. The folks that install the newer ones swear by them. You could buy two of these units for the same price you would pay for one Triangle Tube combi or other brand. They say the earlier ones on the market were rushed to production and had issues years back. They eliminated the copper heat exchanger residential version and only sell the stainless ASME commecial version as their only combi option now, which has better materials. We hear those early ones were really bad.

    Ours is running fine. This was the only combi system we could find on the market that would satisfy our heating and hot water needs. The Triangle Tube was close but the hot water part was not enough. So for us, it was this or a much more expensive indirect tank with separate boiler options. This option was about a third of the price compared to a Weil Mclain boiler and Indirect tank install based on quotes we received.

    We are happy is all I can say. Runs fine and much more efficient than we expected.

    Heatpro is correct though, if you truly are looking for a never touch it reliable unit, then a large traditional cast iron natural gas boiler may do that. It just would not be nearly as efficient and would take up much more space. They say those old designs last around 30 years. They sell ones that also have a hot water coil built in, but that means you have to even run that big cast iron boiler all summer long as well for hot water. The Navien came in around the same price as quotes we received for this cast iron option, which was a deciding factor for us.

    One thing we learned, make sure your installer has done Naviens before. They are a bit different and require attention to detail during the install. When installed correct, ours runs like a champ.

    Good luck.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,573
    Do it right

    The Triangle Tube may be twice as much as the Navien. Are you thinking that TT is just hungry for profits? I think it is built that much better. In my opinion companies building cheap condensing units are doing the industry a major disservice. All condensing boilers do NOT increase maintenance costs and have shorter service lives. Poorly made and/or installed units do.

    You get what you pay for, so don't complain when the cheap one doesn't work. I would be pretty sure that pictures from the original post were not the work of the high bidder?

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • HomeOwner1
    HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    Budget is often a factor

    We were on a budget, which swayed our choice. The quotes we received were the same price as putting in an 83% Cast iron boiler. So, given only those two options for our budget, this was a clear winner for our circumstances.

    I agree, if we double the budget available to us and the Triangle Tube met our performance requirements, we would have chosen the Triangle Tube. They look like nice units.
  • zacmobile
    zacmobile Member Posts: 211

    I live in the in interior of BC but unfortunately I don't know of any good installers in Van proper. I know how hard it can be to find someone who knows what they are doing but they are out there, you'll just have to be vigilant.

    As for equipment I will vouch for The Triangle Tube, very nice boiler & very reliable. I have a preference for Viessmann myself, I have had very few problems with them at all, I have an older Vitodens 200 with an indirect water heater in my own place that has given me zero issues in almost 8 years of continuous service. They have an office in Langley, you may want to hit them up for installer recommendations.
  • cannibalflea
    cannibalflea Member Posts: 7
    Some more info

    heatpro thanks for the reply. In response to your questions:

    What is your heatloss? 

    Unfortunately I haven't calculated this yet. I am looking online to

    learn how to do this. Unfortunately none of the people (I've got more

    than a dozen quotes) ever asked this or said that they need to have this

    done which makes me feel very nervous. I am going to do it as soon as


    What do you have available for fuel, oil, propane, natural gas?

    The only other fuel choice I have is natural gas. When the house was

    built they had put in a gas water heater. However, the exhaust vent

    wasn't considered in the original plan so they had to place outside the

    wall. The Realtor told the builder that this looks ugly and makes the

    house less attractive so they ripped it all out and went with an

    electric water heater. So there is a natural gas line in the mechanical

    room. As far as other fuel types, I don't think I have the space to

    accommodate the tanks.

    Your question about fuel source brings up

    an issue which was also brought up by others. That is to make sure I

    have the proper supply of gas for all the appliances. I have a gas range

    as well as a gas fireplace. Unfortunately, none of the companies I

    called took the time to calculate the total fuel requirement for the

    house. Some said that we need to change the meter while others said that

    everything is fine and that we can even put in two tankless units.

    After reading the posts here and the installation manual for the Navien

    water heater, I've figured out that things are not so easy.


    looked at all my appliance manuals and added up the total requirement

    of all appliances to be 280,000 Btu/h. I called the gas company and they

    told me with my current setup I have a capacity of 300,000 Btu/h (the

    meter is Sensus R-275 which I guess means that gas here is 1090

    Btu/ft^3). The pressure is low pressure. The regulator before the meter

    is an American Meter Company model 1213B2 and based on what I read on

    it, it seems the outlet pressure is 5" to 9" w.c. All my gas lines are

    behind walls but based on a plan of the house, I think that the longest

    section of my gas pipes is about 60'. I can't verify the pipe diameter

    everywhere but at the termination in the mechanical room I've got a 1/2"

    steel pipe. I'm not sure what is the pipe schedule. Although the Navien

    installation manual says that the tankless heater should be first in

    line from the gas meter, this is not possible in my setup. It is last

    after the fireplace and the gas range. Both of these appliances have

    regulators rated for up to 2psi.

    Now I've tried to understand how

    to calculate the delivery capacity at the end of the line but I am

    having difficulty figuring out which table I should use. The difficult

    bit is how to know the pressure drop to use for looking up the right

    table. I just don't understand what is meant by "pressure drop." I

    haven't got access to the Canadian Gas Code at the moment but based on

    the International Fuel Gas Code (which I think applies in some parts of

    US) I was looking at Tables 402.4 (1), (2) and (3). My question is: is

    Table 402.4 (1) and (2) for low pressure residential and Table 402.4 (3)

    for high pressure residential? So if for 60' run on a 1/2" pipe I can't

    get the required capacity, we need to increase the pressure say to 2psi

    and look at Table 402.4 (3) which gives me a capacity of 615 cfh which

    is more than enough?

    Where are you budget wise? The budget

    is tight but if I do something I want to do it right and I am prepared

    to pay for it. The current system was put in by the developer and given

    our circumstances then we had no choice but to take this place. I hate

    walking into that mechanical room and if I had a choice we would have

    walked away. However, as others have said, in Vancouver almost all

    construction is done this badly and the right people are extremely hard

    to find. So the short answer would be I would like to go bit-by-bit and

    make the system right. However, if complete overhaul is the best way,

    I'm prepared to cut from other things to get this right.


    for the extremely long reply. I have also attached a system diagram I've

    made of what we've got in there. I didn't know the plumbing symbols so I

    used actual pictures.
  • cannibalflea
    cannibalflea Member Posts: 7
    Just a drain pipe

    The black pipe is come off of the drain pan underneath the hot water tank and goes into the floor drain. I've posted my best attempt at mapping the system here: http://www.heatinghelp.com/files/posts/18428/current_system_diagram.pdf
  • cannibalflea
    cannibalflea Member Posts: 7
    edited May 2013
    some answers

    Hi Carl and thanks for the reply.

    As I stated in another reply, I don't have many of the answers but I'll do my best:

    - What are your other energy options? I only have natural gas.


    What do you pay for energy? In the winter months (almost 9 months in

    Vancouver) about $200 a month. That is without having heat in the

    basement (the system is not working there) and really being careful for

    the rest of the house since regular usage for a comfortable environment

    could easily cost more than $350 a month.

    - How is the rest of the

    install? It is difficult to say since I didn't see any of it when it was

    exposed but based on the termination at the sinks and faucets, it is

    much the same. One issue has been that the radiant heating system in the

    basement has been non-functional since the beginning so I am really

    worried there is some issue in there that requires digging and I don't

    want to do that.

    - Does the tubing have an o2 barrier? I'm not sure

    what that is, but I'll try to look it up. If you have any info you could

    send my way I would appreciate it.

    - How long are the tubing loops? I

    am assuming you mean for the radiant heating. Since there are no

    plumbing plans for the house (the plans are six sheets with bare minimum

    of architectural and structural details, which to my surprise is "good"

    for Vancouver according to the city inspectors).

    - Are the slabs

    insulated? I don't know the answer to that either. This is actually

    making it difficult to the heat loss calcs since there are so many

    parameters which I don't know about.

    - You need to have a heat loss

    done. I was trying to this based on the available information. Is there a

    way to actually measure it or have someone come in and measure it? The

    contractors who gave me a quote never even mentioned heat loss

    calculations which leads me to believe they are either so experienced

    that they can estimate in their head or so inexperienced that they don't

    know that this is an important factor. Add to this an uninformed

    homeowner, like me, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

    Thanks again for your time and insights.
  • SWEI
    SWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    More than a dozen quotes and nobody ran a heat loss

    at least borders on being criminal.  Negligent on all counts for sure.

    How did you get to 280k BTU of connected appliance load without NG for space heat?

    Sidewall venting (easy with a condensing boiler) will minimize exterior visual disturbances.
  • HomeOwner1
    HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    Home Heat Loss in our example

    Our home heat loss was only 85k. It was the hot water demand that the unit was sized upon for us. Else, this unit modulates all the way down to 17k to keep efficiency up.

    If you go with the Navien, please request the installer to put in the outside temperature sensor. It does not automatically come in the box for the unit.

    We set our hot water temp to 130 degrees. You will need to calculate the heating "K Curve" setting for your particular area and house. That is important for this unit to get it right, or you will either be less efficient or not be able to heat the house well enough if set too miserly.
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,765
    Re: installers and supplier

    Call this ph # (604) 903-4050

      in north Vancouver.  They are the local Triangle Tube distributor. Ask them who they feel are the most reputable installers in Vancouver. Tell them a little of your saga and I am sure they can help. We are big fans of Triangle tube here in Seattle. Been installing them for 7 years and have take some jobs out that are not much prettier than yours and turned them into a nice boiler room that actually works. Good luck. Tim
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Budget should be the biggest reason not to go navian

    post back in 5-10 years when you are replacing it, and spending the same amount for the cast iron unit you should have bought way before you got your moneys worth...

    You HAVE to factor in much more than combustion efficiency when picking a unit, IMO the most important factor in purchasing a new unit is Fit and second is service costs and service life. This is why I am surprised Navian is still around, for fit, the unit is 200K Btu, so in theory it is too large for 99% of residential properties since to come up with a 199K BTU heatloss you would need a 9K sq foot house with 20 ft ceilings!!! And in a house like that the Navian doesn't have a prayer of keeping up with the DHW loads it would produce...

    So when I first seen them I thought 2 things 1 this is an over priced tnakless water heater with a 3 way valve and plate exchanger incorporated into it and 2 Where would it "FIT"? Maybe a 9K sq foot house with 1 and a half baths? lol...

    Now other contractors see a niche where they can sell these inexpensive units to ill informed customers that will see the "newish style" with the "91% efficiency" and low price tag, do a 4 hour install make a few bucks and never look or go back.... BUT here is the problem, most customers will only get burnt once, they will not come back for more and this is where the industry will suffer, countless "my boiler doesnt work" threads scattered about the internet do a large disservice to us all....

    I am not saying I never installed anything that failed, I am sorry to say I installed a few of the first WM ultras and a few other items that didn't turn out so well like Burnham cast irons from the early 90's, takagi jrs, ect.. But I can tell you this, I made good on every complaint I got, even though you would think it is not my fault the product failed because I did my part by installing it correctly. when it actually is my fault, for not knowing, not testing the unit myself, and installing it with my name behind it when I did not know if it was a good piece of equipment... I install very few "different" machines, I do my homework, I install them in my own houses first, then I make a decision to move it into my customers proposal packets... IMO this is what separates the craigslist capers and a decent contractor...

    I have had customers ask for Navians, and I normally talk them out of them. If they are still adamant about the equipment, which has happened a few times {not just Navian, that has happened once}, I tell them, buy it online, and I will install it for X amount. They save some money and I wish them the best, but let them know they are on their own for service, I will service it but at full rate where I service anything I install for 1/2 rate for the life of the equipment for the original purchaser... but anyway, thats enough about that..
  • heatpro02920
    heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Tim is rite on here..

    TT is the way to go, I am finicky about what I put my name on and I have to say the TT solos ar very nice units, the excellence is also nice if you have the rite situation which I dont think its rite for you...

    When the tts first came out they had some control issues but this new trimax control is one of the nicest I have seen, very well thought out....
  • HomeOwner1
    HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    This Unit is for a 9000 Square Foot House?

    We have three bathrooms running just fine on this unit, with kitchen and laundry room use. We have yet to have an issue with loss of pressure or not enough hot water.

    All of the contractors that came out to the house agreed that either the CH-210 or CH-240 would work fine for our house. They also calculated the heat loss for the home.

    Are you saying that this unit is really built for a 9000 square foot home installation by default? Seems extreme.
This discussion has been closed.