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Getting into mod/con business

Good afternoon to all. I am (finally) considering getting into the mod/con installation and service business. Obviously, manufacturer's training is a must. I have a few basic questions (I am sure that many more will follow).

1. The bulk of my work is in Queens and Nassau county. Which makes and models have readily accessible replacement parts in this area? I can't have a situation where parts go bad and it takes a few days or more to get replacement parts.

2. Which mod cons are best in terms of durability, ease of installation and service, customer service, warranty length and coverage, ease in getting warranty honored, etc?


  • SnowmeltSnowmelt Member Posts: 750
    Go with

    What ever your supply house has. Weil McClain , peerless , Utica, crown, navian triangler tube, veisman .
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,478
    Triangle Tube

    I like the Triangle Tube boilers.The fire tube exchanger is a workhorse They have good training and support. The warrantee is an easy process. They make a service parts kit that works for all models.

    I am not in New York.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Mad DogMad Dog Member Posts: 3,171
    Triangle Tube............

    Great product, parts readily avail. reps are out to help you. Mad Dog
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.

    I haven't had much time to give this topic much thought. As soon as I have time to clear my head,I will come back with some more intelligent questions. Just a few basic questions.

    1. I have read online all sorts of horror stories. Various parts breaking resulting in expensive repairs and long delays in getting heat back on. Repeat lockouts. Savings not being as high as advertised. Warrenty problems. Etc. Are these stories the norm are the exception? Are they result of manufacturing defects or poor installations?

    2. What water quality issues are relevant to mod/cons? Hard water,acidic water etc?

    3. Some of the areas that I service have unpredictable gas pressures (particularly during extreme cold spells). What effect will that have on the mod/cons?

    4. Does the condensing factor result in significant savings on hi temp systems? I understand that the modulation factor will result in significant savings on all systems. An outdoor reset will bring the condensing factor into play during the warmer parts of the heating system. However, are those savings enough to justify the extra expense of condensing boilers? Would modulation without condensing be a better option on hi temp systems?

  • SnowmeltSnowmelt Member Posts: 750
    Before we go further

    What you have to do is go to a few classes, I am in field 16 years in June, 11 by myself and every day I learn something new.

    With that being said I would go to taco websight and go to there webinars........

    Or go to a supply house and take condensing boil classes

    Just way to much info to be learn from writing back and forth.

    If you read the original post, you will see that I referenced the need for training. That is a given. The drawback of manufacturer's training is that everyone is trying to push their product. I am looking for independent and unbiased opinions from the experts out in the field. Nuff said.
  • Harvey RamerHarvey Ramer Member Posts: 1,911
    4 Big ones that will kill a ModCon

    Short cycling.

    Improper venting.

    Inadequate flow through the heat exchanger.

    Poor water quality.

    There are obviously some more pitfalls, but most of the failures I see are a result of one of the above.


    PS. I also am a fan of Triangle Tube and the Fire Tube HX.
    Ramer Mechanical
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    edited July 2014
    Steam Dr

    I'm in your market and could arrange for a nice sit down with Viessmann as soon as this upcoming week. I know that the VitoMobile will be touring your market the week of 7/14. Factory is in RI and all training is free. The next round of classed for Vitodens is at the end of the month. Just click on the link for registration and seminar schedule.

    Viessmann is serviced in your market by a Factory Rep not a rep agency so your relationship is direct with the factory and the wholesaler. Generally, Viessmann isn't sold on the "sales pitch" but rather from the technical side. Its a system approach not just a boiler approach. Feel free to drop me an email if you'd like.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • hot rodhot rod Member Posts: 7,014
    here is a course

    that will be right up your alley. Roy will present a generic and in-depth mod con class. he does a great job explaining combustion in everyman language. Online courses make it very easy to learn.

    Plenty of other great classes at this school also.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • RichRich Member Posts: 2,224
    Taco training

    is the best you will receive without them pushing their product , yes they will tell you how their product can help in certain situations but  I assure you that it is APPLICATION based in whole . It si very reasonably priced and they will make hotel accomodations for you and ground transportation is provided . I hate manufacturer training for probably the same reasons as you and this is where you want to go . Try their site also at the Flopro neighborhood and go to Taco University , you will gain real insight to fluid based systems application without a manufacturer telling you why their product is the best . Have no idea what your current knowledge is but even for guys that know a bit you will gain much knowledge . 
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC 732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey , Eastern Pa .
    Consultation , Design & Installation
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited July 2014
    Selling & installing mod/con boilers

    you are about to embark on a relationship with a manufacturer that will last a decade or more.  Even if you decide to change horses in six months, you will still own the boilers you installed before you changed your mind.  You are smart to be asking about this before you jump into something.

    Like several others here, I have had great experiences with both Triangle Tube and Viessmann.  Quality products, quality training, and they will be there for you when/if the going gets tough.  Rinnai sells a good product and has comprehensive training, but the price makes them a tough sell, at least in our market.  Lochinvar has very flexible onboard controls but has become somewhat of a commodity around here.

    Modern modulating/condensing boilers only perform as advertised when they are properly applied, sized, installed, and commissioned.  They do not tolerate fools. In a sane world, these products would only be sold to qualified installers.  The unfortunate reality of our distribution system here in the US will quickly give any manufacturer who tries that the kiss of death.  The better manufacturers provide incentives to their trained installers (sometimes in the form of extended warranties) to try and give them an edge over the trunk slammers who buy their products out of distribution.
    Basic question

    All advise has been well taken. This is a business that I do not want to jump into unless I am 110% confident of my competence and 110% confident t that I am giving the customer the best bang for the buck.

    I really need to backtrack to a more basic question. Are mod/cons worth it? After factoring in the additional installation cost, the additional maintenance costs, the additional repair costs, the shorter boiler lifespan, possible water treatment costs etc, are mod/cons are worthwhile investment?

    This is not meant as an attack question. This is a "I really need to know " question. This is the question that all of my customers will be asking me. I cant install these boilers (or any other product) unless I am sure that the answer is YES!

    Most of my customers are in residential, older, uninsulated homes with heat loads maxing out around 200 mbtu.

    All opinions, advise and insights are greatly appreciated.
  • SnowmeltSnowmelt Member Posts: 750

    Here is what I think your looking for.........

    From your statement, if your home is uninsulated, dollar for dollar, dime for dime, apple to Apple, for investment purposes your way better off if you upgrade the insulation, install better windows, just add outdoor reset and either a bumble bee taco or a delta tee circulator. With doing these things you mostly save 15% as low to and as high as 25%.

    So answer would be no.

    On other hand, if a costumer already or going to do the upgrade and same time replace the boiler. The chimney has to be relined anyway because it has cracks or they switching from oil to gas.

    The answer would be yes it's worth it.

    If you give me a private email I will give you my number, I see your in NY which is just around the corner from me.
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Do the math

    because it's different for each region and even for individual utilities.  Out here NG currently costs under 70 cents per therm including fees and taxes.  With our short heating season and assuming a 15 year life on the mod/con, it's a tough sell for smaller houses -- but a no-brainer for commercial projects.  OTOH for customers on LPG, even a 60k design day load usually justifies one.
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    There's A Lot

    Of misconception here. Let's start with the let's compare AFUE to AFUE to come up with savings. Simply cannot do that alone. I know its a number that can be easily plugged into a formula but its also an unfair equation.

    When we talk about comparing a traditional pin-style boiler vs a condensing boiler we aren't being fair with our terminology. We should be comparing a FIXED Rate boiler vs a modulating boiler. Similar to when we compare a fixed speed pump to a variable speed pump.

    The other factor that is always left when I see these AFUE equations and the one rarely talked about is condensate. We know the Fixed Rate Boiler isn't able to capture condensate. Heck we protect them from it. So in a condensing boiler, for every one gallon of condensate we do capture (roughly 8,000 btu/hr) we've turned lost energy (btu/hr) from the fixed rate boiler to usable engery that the consumer paid for. This has to be a factor when comparing.

    Modulation Rate - While that fixed rate boiler is stomping on the gas peddle in late Oct, Nov,Dec then again in Mar, Apr our condensing boiler is just cruising along like as if you turned on cruise control in your car. It's reacting to the hills. As we we head up one she gives us more btu/hr as we coast down, she lighten's up on the btu/hr. Where's that in the AFUE equation?

    Now onto the maintenance argument...Why is it that as consumers we're ok with heading down to our local jiffy lubes or fav local garage 4 times a year for an oil change but as soon as the word preventative maintenance is used with a condensing boiler , the sky opens up and falls on us? Come on, the consumer wants longevity and that comes at the same price tag as his 4 oil changes a year. Heck, people throw cars out like they are candy for god sake. - The consumer didn't create this argument. The trade created it against themselves and now the consumer reads it and then uses against them! Its the trade shooting themselves in the foot!

    I could go on and on with this subject, but let's digest some of this for a bit...Happy Monday!
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    So What Is

    70% of 100,00 btu/hr = 70,000 btu/hr used

    90% of 30,000 btu/hr = 27,000 btu/hr used

    So where does that extra gap of 43,000 btu/hr you used an I didn't come into the equation?
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    edited July 2014
    Sure I do

    The structures heat loss changes every day. I'm a smart modulating boiler I can adapt to it. You're a fixed rate boiler - You don't stop firing until you make high limit.

    Does all your created energy (btu/hr) go on a coffee break and wait for the horn to blow to get back to work?
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    It Could Be Said

    That that dumb fixed speed primary/boiler pump is the reason for short cycling not the actual condensing boiler itself. Could also be said that's the reason most condensing boiler don't condense.

    There is no Coffee Break.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • NYplumberNYplumber Member Posts: 482
    Way Off

    You are WAY off the mark. The difference i$ not proportional to the efficiency rating. Designed and implemented correctly there is more savings. Installing a mod con is not necessarily done for payback, its also for comfort, and for some its about the environment.
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    Let's say that the average mod/con does only save $300-400 per year. The cost of my mod/con install versus a conventional boiler is maybe $2500. So the payback on cost difference is about 6.5 years. That seems VERY smart to me. Plus, each future install will be cheaper than the original one; venting and piping being salvaged for the next boiler.

    Combustion efficiency may only be 20% better, but modulating can add another 30-50% in fuel usage reduction.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    I lose you when you say that a mod/con can't reduce fuel consumption by 50%. How is that impossible? I can turn the boiler off completely, and it will save 100% fuel.
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    I so want

    To get into this debate more but you're stuck on AFUE. How many conventional fixed rate boilers do you know that run 140 supply 120 return constantly? The test is flawed which in turn makes your argument flawed.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    The Big V

    I wonder how Viessmann can tote 108% efficiency with their Mod/Cons with return water temps below 90ish Hmmm.

    You really have to think about the modulation, smart boiler/system pumping, system, and boiler loop deltas, RWT, Radiation being used. Those are all huge components of over all efficiencies. I say OVER ALL efficiency because AFUE just does not apply its a half a$$ benchmark that people try to apply to everything in the boiler line up. Remember the goal is to make the SYSTEM more efficient not just the boiler. Talk seasonal efficiencies.

    Im just rying to get through the new math.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    edited July 2014
    Second to last sentence

    In my last post I meant to type "seasonal SYSTEM efficiency". Because in the end with any boiler it is just one component of the whole hydronics system. But most mod/cons have built in components that enhance the total system.

    Thats why AFUE needs to be dropped from this debate as Chris stated. The systen plays a big tole in how much actual savings will be achieved by any boiler.
  • ChrisChris Member Posts: 3,056
    Home Run

    Gordy hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth on a 2 strike count for the win. Here's the Viessmann chart Gordy refer's to.

    BC, let me tell you a little about Viessmann. If anything they are conservative in what they publish. They always have been.
    "The bitter taste of a poor installation remains much longer than the sweet taste of the lowest price."
  • RobGRobG Member Posts: 1,850

    This debate is proceeding from a gentleman who believes that using a water heater with a flat plate HE and a stainless pump for his heat and domestic hot water is the best way to go because a modcon or even a cast iron or steel boiler would be a rip-off. Who needs an H-Stamp? Boilers were only created to rip of the consumer! It's not like that continuously running water heater will scale up at the bottom plummeting the efficiency because of the constant fresh make up water. He's an engineer, he knows best! Why don't you guys just accept that he is smarter than everyone else? I do.  :0)

    To the original poster. Yes, there is a market for modcon's. Just make sure to do your research. Find a wholesaler and rep firm that are good to deal with and get the technical training. If properly maintained they will pay for themselves and then some. Just get comfortable with the the product. I had a rep take me out to a couple of light commercial jobs to see the installations to get and idea of the different scenarios (they were just boiler rooms that he had access to). Those were the days of the Pulse combustion boilers. I'm glad the industry has worked out the bugs :) 

    Good luck, do your homework and you will do well.



  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    Real-world savings

    > I'm speaking of the actual AFUE, which is not easily determined for a system.

    > The actual AFUE is the only way of comparing the efficiency of one system to another system

    AFUE is a computed value, and as many have mentioned here, not a particularly useful one.  The real-world annual energy savings is quite simple to compute, but it does require a couple of months of winter fuel usage.  Calculate the number of BTUs consumed and divide those by the number of heating degree days and you get something resembling the truth.  In my world the truth is a savings of 40% or better using the math I just described.  We tell customers to expect "at least 30%" and have yet to miss our mark.  When replacing older, oversized, improperly controlled systems we frequently see savings as high as 70%.
  • Robert O'BrienRobert O'Brien Member Posts: 2,932
    Got this email in the spring


    I finally had a chance to calculate the savings after switching from oil to gas the other day. With the new system you installed I saved 56% compared to the previous year. Even better, I got my gas bill today and after finally taking a meter reading (they have been estimating my usage since February) they just credited my account $349. So the saving ends up being a bit better than 56% - I didn't update my calculations yet.

    I just thought I would pass that info along as you asked the last time you were here and I think that the savings are very impressive.

    Thanks once again for all of your help with the system.


    This isn't a mod/con,it's an 85% CI gas boiler. It replaced an old oil steel boiler and John Wood oil fired HWH.It's also not corrected for degree days and 2013-2014 winter was much colder than the prior year,so the savings is well over 60% of which only 37% can be attributed to the fuel cost differential.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • R ManninoR Mannino Member Posts: 422
    Happy Customers

    are great! With or without Mod/Cons there is so much room for improvement there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Do Mod/ Cons work, yes they will save 50% percent over existing gas equipment even with a less than perfect application. But I only know what I am told by the customers, so what do I know?

    You forgot the before shot chief.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    The new math

    I was alluding to was not from boiler manufacturers. It was some previous posts. A well designed envelope with tight radiant tube spacing, and lower room set point can achieve those efficiencies....easily.

    Most on the wall do more than change a boiler out. They also try to hone the total system with in budget restraints, and existing infrastructure. Remember most of the time the boiler was way oversized. If the installer is lucky, and the owner upgraded the envelope then the radiation will be oversized IF sized correctly for the old envelope. Those two things are huge compliments to savings of a correctly installed, and sized boiler. throw in modulation, lower water temps ODR. smart circ technology it gets better.

    Sorry BC I just can not agree with you.
  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356
    edited July 2014

    > You don't agree that the calculation for efficiency for one system as compared to another system is based on the AFUE?


    > Or you don't agree that a mod-con's efficiency is typically 90%?


    > Or you don't agree that a new conventional system efficiency is typically 70%?

  • SWEISWEI Member Posts: 7,356

    I'm quite satisfied with BTUs per degree-day (along with a per-square-foot modifier with which to compare disparate buildings.)
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    edited July 2014

    As Kurt said earlier the true formula for an equal comparison to any home any systems fuel usage, and performance.

    BTUS per HDD per SF. Very easy to calculate, and a very accurate indicator of how a total system including the envelope is performing.

    You can calc it daily, hourly, monthly, yearly. before an install, and after an install.

    you can compare your usage to your neighbors usage even though their set point is 72*, and yours is 65*.. It does not care if its 20* or -20*. It does not care if they have a forced air furnace, and you have whatever...In my opinion it is really the only true total system perfrmance bench mark worthy of any salt.

    If you use it before, and after a heating system overhaul its going to give you the most accurate savings percentage.

    Edit: No assumptions needed. Just the facts.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    Having a hard time

    Figuring out your beef?

    Is it you dont believe boilers achieve stated performance?

    You think mod/cons are a waste of money?

    Most everyone is pretty comfortable with their understanding of how the savings can be reeped by any type of installed new boiler. So where are you going with all this exactly?
  • NYplumberNYplumber Member Posts: 482
    Dry vs Wet

    I have seen a graph of dry base boilers vs wet base boilers that illustrated time on one axis and efficiency on the other axis. The wet base power burner boiler achieved higher efficiency quicker due to drying up the flu at a faster rate. Add that thought when comparing conventional dry base boilers to condensing equipment.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    All assumptions

    When your doing it any which way the only proof is the installed equipment compared to the old that was there.

    The installer has the responsibility to steer the prospective customer in the right direction of equipment selection. Understanding the present installed system will give that installer a good idea of what the best choice will be for equipment, and what may be saved.

    In their past experience of what was achieved With marrying certain boilers with given emitters is where claimed savings can be made.

    So,as far as trying to decide whether a conventional boiler, or a mod/con fits is a little of what the consumer wants, and what the installer feels will be the best choice. Either way there will be savings usually.

    As far as savings of 50% in new conventional verses new mod/con I don't believe anyone would make such a claim. In the end all the consumer will know is what they are saving from existing to new what ever was existing.

    I still think that modulation and condensing still out weighs fixed output burners. This is where the afue fails for good comparison. It's just converting % of fuel converted to usable energy not how that energy is efficiently used.
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    In the end

    The focus should be on which equipment will use the least amount of energy coming out of the meter. That makes the efficiency difference from high to mid a mute point, and maintenance costs.

    In Italy a mandatory yearly boiler inspection is 150 euro so they have that added in.

    There will and should come a day when there won't be a choice mid or high efficiency.
  • RichRich Member Posts: 2,224
    Math and Equipment

    are funny things . There is no choice with math , it is what it is . You can choose equipment and method of install .  BC , how bout this calculation for the sake of argument .  !00K mod con and 100K cast iron boiler . Price difference 500.00 . If I can make the mod con not short cycle , give it mass and modulate it , would there then be a CLEAR and CONCISE winner ?  You guys all chew on that for the day and I'll be back tonight .
    You didn't get what you didn't pay for and it will never be what you thought it would .
    Langans Plumbing & Heating LLC 732-751-1560
    Serving most of New Jersey , Eastern Pa .
    Consultation , Design & Installation
    Rich McGrath 732-581-3833
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,104
    Frame of mind

    So I see trying to make a system as efficient as possible when the opportunity presents itself means nothing to you. That's fine to each their own.

    As far as the auto industry your right but if the boat is sinking you have to patch the holes before you start to bail little ones count to, but your farther ahead to start with the big ones so talk to government on that.

    But if everyone has the what's in it for me attitude Dino juice will be gone for the future generations.
  • JStarJStar Member Posts: 2,668

    ...this threads going to be deleted, too.

    Maybe just keep the first couple of posts?
    - Joe Starosielec
    [email protected]
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