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Gas-Fired Steam Boilers

I'm switching from oil to gas and trying to compile a list of gas-fired steam boiler manufacturers. So far I've found Crown, Dunkirk, Lennox, New Yorker, Peerless, Slant/Fin, Smith, U.S. Boiler, and Weil-McLain. Am I missing any?

I need an AFUE greater than or equal to 82% to satisfy the requirements for a heating program in Massachusetts. That knocks out Lennox, New Yorker, and Slant/Fin in the sizes I'm looking at.

I'm leaning toward a tankless insert for hot water, so I think that knocks out everyone except Slant/Fin and Weil-McLain. Slant/Fin was knocked out because of AFUE, so only Weil-McLain is left. Having only one choice makes things easier, I guess.

Is a tankless insert really that bad? It's only an interim solution, mostly just to keep costs lower right now. Would I be that much better off with an indirect? I'd still be firing the boiler in the summer, which is wasteful. Is a tank the best option? I think it was consumer reports that said standalone tankless heaters weren't worth it because they won't pay for themselves within their expected lifetimes.

Of the manufacturers I listed, are there any to stay away from? Is there really any leader or are they all truly the same in the hands of a competent installer?


  • nicholas bonham-carternicholas bonham-carter Posts: 6,482
    edited October 2013
    boiler efficiency ratings

    Wouldn't a gas-fired wet-base Smith be rated above 82%?

    It could be down fired more easily than an atmospheric, if the rating was too high for your application.--NBC/
  • Different Fuel, Different Efficiency?

    Does changing the fuel change the efficiency? The Smith Series 8 has an AFUE of 84.7% for oil. Does it change with a gas burner installed? I don't know if the state would allow me to get an oil boiler with a gas gun in this program. I can try to find out.
  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 1,801
    edited October 2013

    We need to rid ourselves of this longstanding idea that it's "inefficient" to run a boiler in the summer, especially when it's to heat an insulated holding/indirect tank.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,336
    Smith G8

    My Smith G8 with the Carlin EZ-Gas power burner is running at 84.1%and I know some run above 85%.  A wet based boiler is going to be more efficient than an atmospheric boiler because the water surrounds the flame.

    Be warned that some of these setups are noisier than their oil fired counterparts.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • AFUE

    Who certifies the AFUE of an oil-fired boiler that has a third-party gas gun in it? Is AFUE determined by the boiler, by the burner, or a combination of the two? If I buy an 84% oil boiler and put a gas gun in it, is it still 84%?
  • Assumptions

    I just assumed it was more cost effective to run a smallish water heater compared to a largeish boiler in the summer. Is that not true? What do you think the best hot water option is for a residential application with modest hot water use? I'm thinking of two hot showers in the morning (not at the same time), a bath for the little kids every couple of days, a load of dishes every other day, and maybe a load of laundry per day.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,336
    I don't know

    but I know the efficiencies I see reported by people who have installed them seems to run between 83 and 86% on the Smith G8 and reported savings on fuel savings seems to confirm this.

    Between replacing my 16 year old Burnham v75 and switching to gas I saved 51% with the gas fired Smith G8-3 compared to the oil fired v75. The 84.1% was the efficiency I took off the combustion analyzer a few weeks ago.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • G-8

    It looks like G-8 with the EZ Gas is a standard option:

    I don't see AFUE rating though. Anyone have them handy? The Mass Save program has to approve the equipment prior to install, so a combustion analyzer doesn't help, unfortunately.
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,336
    I thought about an indirect

    when I had the Smith G8 installed last year. My hot water use is less than yours so I couldn't see the worth in installing an indirect. Between the tank and the bronze pump you're talking a substantial investment. In the summer my gas bill is laughably small so I decided to stick with my 40 gallon gas fired HWT and haven't looked back. 

    If your hot water heater is serving your needs now just do yourself a favor and have the anode rod replaced every few years.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • No Water Heater

    My current water heater is a tankless coil in my Utica Starfire 3 oil-fired boiler. When I switch to gas, I either need to get a Weil-McLain EG with a tankless insert (the only manufacturer that offers it in gas with the required efficiency) or an indirect or a separate tankless or a separate tank. The Smith G-8 with the gas gun and a tankless insert is an option too, assuming I can get official AFUE numbers.
  • JohnNYJohnNY Posts: 1,801

    I'm not sure what you mean by "the best" since reading through your many previous posts, it seems you're looking for validation for doing the cheapest thing possible while disparaging as ignorant the professionals who've come to your home via this site.

    I've answered your question in another thread.

    You've done your research as well as anyone could be expected. Good luck with whatever you choose.
  • Sorry

    That's not the impression I was trying to give. My complaints about the contractors was that some of them didn't know about different options from the various major manufacturers. Two of them told me something wasn't possible when I knew that actually is. They seemed to only know one line of products from one manufacturer. That was my complaint. I would have been happy to hear they say WHY something wasn't a good idea or why a particular manufacturer is best or should be avoided, and that's what I've been trying to ask here. I obviously am just an amateur and I know enough to realize that I'm not getting the full story from the contractors available to me, so I'm trying to do thte best I can to fill in the gaps so I can be confident that I'm getting the right products for my short- and long-term needs. I need to be able to double check the contractor's work not because I think I'm smarter but because there just don't seem to be real steam pros in my area and I don't want to end up with another all copper setup with a broken Hartford Loop and messed up equalizer like I have now. I didn't mean to disparage the experts and I apologize if that's how it came across. I'm also not looking for the cheapest option. The cheap way out would be to convert my oil burner to gas and just worrying about it. money is obviously a factor though, so I can't just buy the perfect system that'll cover me for the next 20 years. I want the best for me right now with the options to upgrade as my needs change. That's why I want a little extra capacity so I can add new radiators and I ant to be able to go from tankless to tank or indirect as the kids start using more hot water. If tankless is definitely bad for whatever reason, I'd go anothher route. That's what I'm trying to learn.
  • SWEISWEI Posts: 7,356
    Tankless is not "bad"

    but it does have limitations.  It is not the be-all and end-all which many of its proponents would have you believe.  It is perfect for some applications, but usually performs best when paired with at least some storage.
  • EastmanEastman Posts: 782

    When one reports the efficiency from a combustion analyzer, this value is not the combustion efficiency?  Does the stack temperature concur? 
  • Tankless

    To be clear, the tankless option I'm considering now is a tankless insert, not a standalone tankless heater. My concern is that there's only one option for a tankless insert for gas boilers. One option makes things easy, but it may also mean you're sacrificing something. (Smith may be a second option, but only if the AFUE is above 82% and only if I could find a contractor to install it. So far, no one has suggested it as an option).

    Both my showers do 2.5 GPM while my tub does 10 GPM. We only absolutely need one shower at a time, so a tankless insert covers us for now. Running both would be nice, but not necessary in the immediate future. Same with the tub: I'd be nice if we could fill it fast, but the kids only take baths every couple days, so waiting for hot water isn't too annoying.

    If I get the tankless insert now, does that limit me in the future? Can I run tankless for five years and then switch to indirect or will I not have the right tappings? If I switch, is there any problem with having an unused insert in the boiler? Do I need to worry about corrosion?
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,336
    edited October 2013
    The rebates may not be

    as good as they appear to be. In 2008 the gas company contacted me with an offer of wonderful rebates to ease the cost of becoming more efficient. After reviewing the offer I got from them I found the "real" cost of one of their boilers was not a lot better than I could get on my own. You will save a few bucks but you probably won't get what you want.

    I would find the best installer to install a good boiler and make sure he looks at the entire system. If he finds problems, it may cost a bit more to fix them but you should be left with a heating system that works well and heats economically. The rates that the gas company pays for a boiler install pretty much guarantee you are not going to get a quality install.

    When I had the new boiler installed i was retired and tried to make sure the boiler I chose would work well and last for a long time, I knew it would not be inexpensive.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • SteveSteve Posts: 234
    Shower Heads

    You should consider getting a lower flow shower head. I have this one and have been very happy with it.
  • No Rebates

    There are no rebates in Massachusetts for steam boilers unless your current boiler is over 30 years old (mine isn't). The big incentive is a 0% loan for heating and hot water upgrades. To qualify, steam boilers have to have 82% AFUE and the installation has to be preapproved, which is why the Smith with the EZ Gas makes me nervous. I will call Smith tomorrow though. They're based in Massachusetts, I believe, so hopefully they know about the program and can help me out.

    Water heaters are eligible for the loan too and some have rebates, but indirect heaters don't have rebates when connected to steam and tankless inserts don't have rebates at all.

    I'm in a bit of a dead zone as far as the contractors listed on this site. I haven't gotten any of them out to my house. I've talked to a lot of local guys from the yellow pages and had four out so far. I haven't got any quotes back yet, so I have no idea what I'm in for.
  • EastmanEastman Posts: 782
    edited October 2013
    Couldn't you just get

    an instant water heater or hook up a gas range?  I mean, it sounds like you are in a time crunch to avoid a big service fee.  But wouldn't any gas appliance satisfy them?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Posts: 8,026
    edited October 2013

    I don't know real world comparisons between them but I know my small basement stays a whole lot cooler with a power vent 50gal tank water heater than it did with a Burnham V8 with tankless coil installed.

    The amount of heat the boiler gave off vs the power vent 50gal tank was night and day.  My basement is 20 degrees cooler in the summer now not to mention we had hot water for 3 days without electric due to how well the water heater is insulated.  For now I feel a power vented tank water heater or a tankless stand alone unit are the way to go for efficiency.  Using a barely insulated steam boiler to heat a tank just doesn't work in my eyes.

    I may be wrong, but that is my non-professional opinion.

    Now all that said I'm running a Weil-Mclain EG-45 with the damper and electronic ignition and I recall it being rated a 82.9%.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment

    Steam system pictures
    Central air project pictures
  • jumperjumper Posts: 919

    Did you forget this brand? I bought them cheaply in the seventies.
  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Posts: 6,437
    I'm always amazed

    or amused at the contortions folks go through to get the guvmint "freebies" (it's your tax money, hard at work).

    Someone above hit the fundamental problem here, though: to get the credits/rebates/whatevers, the item has to be approved by the state, and they do that using the AFUE figures provided by the manufacturers who test specific equipment combinations under very specific conditions -- which may  or may not apply to your actual situation.

    A good burner man with a well set up boiler should be able to get 84% plus out of it, and maybe better, and it's real.  That does not mean that installation qualifies for anything, though... while a poorly installed and maintained/adjusted boiler rated at, say, 86% may be lucky to be running at 70% in its real world installation, but be eligible for all the rebates and what have you going.

    Weird world...

    End of rant.

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
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