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Need advice please


Waited to last minute to replace my oil heater which is over 40-50 yrs old and it's starting to get cold here in NJ.

I'm going to gas and need a new boiler and water heater. I have 3 zones,

but adding a 4th for the coming addition to my ranch. I'm moving it

from where it is next to chimney to front of house where the gas line

comes in ... maybe about 15 ft. I'd like to vent out the front of the

house because the chimney will be gone with addition. The current home

is 1800 sq ft and adding another 1000 sq ft within a few months. Will

eventually have 3 bathrooms.

My first quote for $--k came from HVAC company offering a Buderus 96%

high efficency 160kBTU plus 79 gallon water tank. Not sure why the tank

was so big, everyone else said 40 gallon enough.

2nd came from another HVAC company, this time it was Peerless Purefire

210k BTU plus 40 gal water tank. He said I needed the bigger unit with

the addition. $--. Major difference from 1st quote.

Then a plumber said Crown Boiler Bimini and Amatrol Tank for $-- and

that high efficiency is NOT the way to go, it's a waste of money and

hard to get parts and that I'll never get my money back. He won't give

me a written quote or written guarantee because he's "old school".

Finally another plumber offered Williamson Boiler w/Storage Tank

127,000 BTU's Direct Vent Boiler and storage tank for $--- and also

offered a tankless Navien for $14k plus and said it was the best way to


-- My head is spinning. I need to get this project done, I have 3 little

kids and it's getting cold but I don't want to make a bad choice.

Can someone please help me with the truth about high-efficiency or not

.. is it worth it? More than one person has said no ... that 85% is just

fine. And what are the best boiler brands?

I currently have a WEIL-MCLAIN that has lasted 40 plus years but someone

said they're not good now. I see awful reviews on Buderus and I hear

you can't get parts.

And what about heat exchangers? Stainless steel the best? Does it matter? What should I look for and what should I really worry about.

Thanks in advance for your help.


  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,517

    What type of radiators do you have?

    How do you heat your hot water now?

    Where on earth did these guys get the boiler sizes?

    Look into heat loss calcs.

    No pricing allowed.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    Saw this in the Steam forum first....

    FIRST...has anybody done a heat loss on your home? If not, then they are not the right contractor for your job or anybody's job.

    Second, all we install is high efficiency systems. They are worth it in the long run. We always use a boiler with a fire-tube design like TRIANGLE TUBE, LOCHINVAR, or the HTP Elite series.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • HeatingQuestionsHeatingQuestions Member Posts: 4
    Answers ..

    Hi, thx so much for feedback.

    I have baseboard heat.  The water is heated by a 40 gal tank, thru my existing gas line. When we lost power it still seemed to work.

    Boiler sizes .. not sure where they chose them from.  I gave everyone approx. measurements of house and I have read about the heat loss calculation but no one offered to do that or even mentioned it.

    Everyone had something different to say which is why I'm so confused. The HVAC guys were all about high-efficiency but the plumbers said they were not worth it. By high efficiency I mean 90 plus.  the plumbers said the 85plus were high efficiency but there was no need to pay so so much for the 90 plus ones.
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    Where in NJ are you? I can offer you a free heat loss / estimate and give my opinion on the whole matter.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850

    Take J-Star up on his offer. The people who quoted you previously without doing a heat loss should be shown to the door. Those boiler sizes they quoted you on are insane. I would be surprised if the boiler size (after a heat loss is done) even with the future addition comes out to 100,000 BTU,s. One of the biggest problems people come to this site for is over-sized short cycling boilers. Don't get sucked in because your in a hurry. Have it done once and have it done right.

    Just my 2 cents,


    P.S. keep us posted, I would love to hear what your actual heat loss is.
  • RodmanRodman Member Posts: 9

    The first thing that should be done is a heat loss calculation on the home.  This will determine the size of the boiler.  The two quotes you have are ridiculous, and I can tell they came from a sales man, who did not do a heat loss calculation.

    I have a 2,300 sf home in the Chicago area, and I have a 105,000 btu boiler (input value).  More than half the home is un-insulated and we have over 500 square feet of 80 year old windows with leaky storms (no, it is not drafty, and not that bad a situation).  The attic has about 1 foot of fiberglass and cellulose.  I have copper baseboard and plus large radiators in the old part of the home.  My gas bill last year was $1,050 which equates to about a $750 heat portion.  I have a 40 year old Weil Mclain boiler which keeps up to about zero degrees, and then when well below zero, it was 64 degrees in the house.

    You also mentioned high efficiency boilers.  Personally, I think that they are a waste of money, and they are nothing but a problem and they need servicing every year ($300).  What does that do to your thinking??  If I am paying $750 per year, how much do you think you can save paying out $300 every year for service?   Further, you will find a myriad of problems if you search this website relating to high efficiency boilers.  Those problems translate into repair bills that could be as high as $500-900 each. 

    Stick with a Weil Mclain 84 efficient boiler, as they have only a half dozen parts that can go bad.  Problem is, they hardly ever go bad.  You could see a repairman once in the next 20 years.  Learn how to clean out the lower half where the burners are located, and clean it yourself every two years with a vacuum (turn off the electric and gas at the valve next to the boiler.)  If it is working properly, the only other thing you want to check is the height of the flame.  It should be 3/4 to an inch (about).  You can ask Weil what it should be, as they had this in the homeowner's manual for many years.

    You also want to get a spiro-vent to remove air from the system.  This is important for any system.  You should also hear nothing or virtually nothing with either cast iron baseboard or copper baseboard.  Copper expands and contracts on a long run and if it turns a corner at each end, it can cause a ticking sound or even a squeaking sound.  You can get rid of this as there are nylon bushings that go between the piping and the support.  The guy who installed the system, likely made the long run a little too long, and it has no where to expand. In other words, it could be shortened a little when you do the boiler install.

    I would buy two Weil Mclain Cga-3 gas fired boilers with an AFUE of 84%.  If you have any corporation, you can open an account and buy these for less than the boilers you mentioned.  Otherwise, perhaps buy a CGa-5 which is 140,000 btu.  I cannot imagine needing anything more, but have the heat loss calculation done.  Send private message and I can give you a couple of choices in this regard.  You may not even need a boiler that large.  You are being oversold.  With two boilers, you never will be without heat.  I have been living in Weil hot water boiler homes for 25 years, and have always cleaned them myself.  I have never had one fail in all those years, but I did have a Spiro-vent installed in my current house before I could do it myself.

    One other thing, do not insulate your addition with fiberglass, as it has lost up to 50% of its R-value by the time you reach -15f.  Use cellulose or foam and cellulose, or foam (I like closed cell foam).  Cellulose has a flat curve on R-value, regardless of the outdoor temps. 

    You also want to ask yourself if your home is currently heated evenly.  If it is even, you want to put the addition on another zone, as it will have a different heat loss factor.  If you have uneven heat currently, you may want to split what you currently have into two zones.  Your "salesman" talked to you about all of this, correct???  Zones are more critical in a heating season than they are in a cooling season.  In cooling, you are only talking about a 20-30 degree differential between indoor and out, while heating could be 70 degrees or more between indoors and out.  Windows are where you lose a lot of heat.  It would make a huge difference to get an R-value of plus 5, as compared to a conventional thermopane which may be half the R-value.

    Do yourself a favor, and gut it out one more year rather than screw-up, and spend more time on this.  You will save money on installation, and you will likely save on your total operating costs (particularly with age;  cast iron boiler warranties are far longer than high efficiencies, and that should tell you a lot), and you will hardly ever be without heat.  High efficient boilers keep changing and technicians cannot keep up with the changes.  Any one can fix an 84%.
  • HomeOwner1HomeOwner1 Member Posts: 134
    These guys are correct

    The Navien estimate sounds maybe double of what it could potentially be. Suggestion is to get other estimates on combi units, as they could be much cheaper. That unit is the best bang for the buck from our research.

    Heat Loss is a good thing to size. The nice thing about a modulating unit is that it can turn down and run efficiently still at a lower BTU need.

    The Navien is sized based on hot water needs, not heat since it is a combi. It does three baths at the 240 size just fine in our home. We have over 3500 square feet in NJ as well. It needs to be installed correctly though. So heat loss comes into play if you fit within the turn down efficiency envelope cleanly. That unit is a 10 to 1, so it fires down to around 20k. Our heat loss was somewhere around 85 KBTU in a similar age home. The installers indicated you really want to fall into a 5 to 1 ratio though for optimum efficiency. Sounds like this particular unit may be a potential option for you based on these initial inputs. Look for a good installer at a fair price.
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850
    J Star

    J Star, did this person ever contact you?
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    I'm going to say no, as far as I know. But then again, without names or towns, it's hard to say.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
This discussion has been closed.


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