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Replace oil boiler or just install heat pumps?

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Just purchased a new to me house that was built in 85'. House has an original Burnham oil boiler with Carlin burner - FHW baseboards, and domestic coil for DHW. Live in central Maine (cold winters :) I have a chunk of money set aside for energy efficiency/improvements. New windows/doors and upgraded insulation have been done by previous homeowner. While the boiler still works, it is fairly inefficient (last tested at 74.5%). Before I spend the money on something else, I am thinking I would like to replace/upgrade the boiler.

Let me say, at my last house (which was fairly new), I had a primo Buderus condensing unit with indirect SuperStor setup burning propane (natural gas is not available where I am). Nice as it was, LP is almost always more expensive than fuel oil in my area, which negated any real savings that the extra efficiency the Buderus offered. As such, I am not entertaining a conversion to LP for this house (and again, gas is not available). I have explored biomass, geothermal, and solar but they are all unrealistically expensive (even with rebates).

So I have basically narrowed it down to either simply replacing the current setup with a higher efficiency oil boiler and an indirect setup for DHW - or - keeping it and installing a minisplit system (Mitsubishi HyperHeat) and getting rid of tankless coil and going with hybrid heat pump.

I have had three different heating contractors out to the house and have received wildly different recommendations from each of them - e.g. the plumber who dabbles in heat pumps says replace the boiler, the contractor who specializes in green building says heat pumps all the way. I have been spending a lot of time on this forum as of late in trying to guide my decision and there are clearly a LOT of knowledgeable folks here who might be able to give me some better insight/guidance. Thank you so much for any feed back you may have.

Comments

  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    You should start by ranking your criteria for this conversation. You have comfort, efficiency, cost of install, cost of ownership, ROI, etc. Think of all of these items and rank them in order of importance. Hint, if you are considering heat pump I would expect comfort to be lower on the list (IMHO). If you post that you will get more concise responses, without that you tend to get what you are already getting....wildly different recommendations.

    That being said I would never, ever, ever recommend heat pumps in the climate you live. Maybe if you want them for shoulder seasons, but in the dead of winter you would still need the boiler in my opinion.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    kcoppNew England SteamWorksdelta T
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
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    Heat pumps have no business as a primary heating source in Maine. PERIOD. Even the invertor style such as a Mitsubishi or a Daikin. They are great for shoulder seasons and milder climates. Also for AC if you need it in Maine...

    Weatherseal and upgrade your building envelope for the highest returns. Install a new high efficiency oil boiler and run a ODR curve on the system. Heat Pump water heaters are great as long as you don't need tremendous amounts of water. If you have room, try to go with an 80 gallon and run it on heat pump mode only.
  • njtommy
    njtommy Member Posts: 1,105
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    There is no better heat then hydronic in my op. Me personally I would do (depending on lay out of the house) a combination of they two and do a ducted air handler Mitsubishi hyper heat with a hot water coil in the duct from a oil boiler or LP. Then do an indirect tank for DHW or even tankless unit of some sort. In the areas depending on zoneing and layout of house keep the baseboard and install mini splits. The Mitsubishi units can use a Honeywell t-stat so staging between the mini split and baseboard shouldn't be a problem at all.
  • sammymandy9
    sammymandy9 Member Posts: 6
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    My apologies, I was a little long winded. My priorities are mostly centered around cost savings long term. I plan to be in this house long-term. I remember paying nearly $4/gallon for fuel oil not that long ago and suspect I will see that again before my kids are out of school.

    I wish biomass options were more affordable or that natural gas was available where I am, but it seems I will be burning oil for the foreseeable future. You do get to the heart of my questions though. I keep getting/reading conflicting information about heat pumps. Some swear by them (even in my climate) and say it should be my first priority and then others say I will only see a real benefit in the shoulder seasons. Cant seem to find the truth.
  • sammymandy9
    sammymandy9 Member Posts: 6
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    Please forgive my ignorance, but what is an ODR curve?
    Robert O'Brien
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
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    You found the truth here. Most of us do both HVAC and Hydronics.

    One thing to consider. If you would install a woody biomass system and use it as your primary heat source, you wouldn't need to replace the oil boiler based on low efficiency alone. The oil boiler would become a backup heat source and wouldn't run often. The system can be set up to switch seamlessly between the two.
    delta T
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
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    ODR curve is (outdoor reset curve). It varies the supply water temperature based on outdoor air temperature. The colder it gets, the hotter it makes the water, and vice versa. It works really well and is more efficient and more comfy.
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Just as a basic point of reference, no one on this site is trying to sell you anything or take any of your money. Take that into consideration when reading the recommendations.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Also, what size house are we talking about here? It's a decent basic point of reference for the conversation. Oil boilers only go so small....
    Have any of the contractors talked about or done a heat loss calculation on your house?
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • sammymandy9
    sammymandy9 Member Posts: 6
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    "Just as a basic point of reference, no one on this site is trying to sell you anything or take any of your money. Take that into consideration when reading the recommendations."

    That is very much why I posted :)

    Harvey Ramer - I have been exploring biomass options. Got two quotes for indoor pellet boiler systems which were two to three times the price of a high quality oil boiler replacement. Space considerations for fuel storage (very limited space in my basement) also make this option less viable. I know there are some outdoor cordwood/pellet boilers that tie in to your existing boiler system, but can't seem to locate much in my area. There is one distributor in my area for Central Boiler Maxim systems, but they seem to get flamed everywhere I look.
  • sammymandy9
    sammymandy9 Member Posts: 6
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    1900 sq. ft. colonial with three zones.

    I asked all three contractors that I have had out so far about if they were going to do a heat loss calc. and/or how they were going to appropriately size the heating system.

    Contractor #1 - measured my baseboards, said that was sufficient (I know it isn't). Proposes to install Buderus G115 with 50 gal. indirect and outdoor reset.

    Contractor #2 - Stated he would do a heat loss calculation and appeared to take all of the necessary measurements (but no blower door tests or any other measurements recommended). Haven't heard back from him yet. He installs nine different brands of boilers and hasn't yet suggested to me which one he suggests).

    Contractor #3 - Spent five minutes looking at my system and gave me a price on the spot for a Biasi w/40 gallon indirect. Didn't ask me ANYTHING about my house, size, etc. Said he has years of experience and 'just knows".

    I reached out to a fourth contractor and asked him up front how he would determine how to size a new boiler for me. He gave me a response similar to contractor #3, so I didn;t even bother having him come out.
  • njtommy
    njtommy Member Posts: 1,105
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    Check out Woodmaster boilers or Hawken boilers.

    http://www.woodmaster.com
    https://hawkenenergy.com

    I liked the Hawken boiler, but the salesmen in my area lacked a lot info and experience. My Dad installed a Woodmaster out door wood boiler is he very happy with it. The he has holds about 200 gallons of water so having to add mass inside isn't a problem.
    I know some of the central boilers hold a lot more water. You will read a lot of mixed reviews about central boiler.
    sammymandy9
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    @Aaron_in_Maine might service your area? Figured I would tag to get them to perhaps chime in on this.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    Aaron_in_Maine
  • Harvey Ramer
    Harvey Ramer Member Posts: 2,239
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    I don't know how much you have to lay out for an initial install, but take a look at Econoburn. An Econoburn coupled with a thermal storage tank is a high efficient excellent system. I have done several and they are great. I'm sure they would ship one right up to your house.
  • Aaron_in_Maine
    Aaron_in_Maine Member Posts: 315
    edited September 2016
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    Depending on where you live I might be able to help. I do everything mini split heat pumps and oil, propane and natural gas. The only thing I don't do is solid fuel/wood.
    Aaron Hamilton Heating
    ahheating@ yahoo.com
    (207)229-7717
  • sammymandy9
    sammymandy9 Member Posts: 6
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    I'm in Auburn. I'd love to chat. Sammymandy9@gmail.com
  • Aaron_in_Maine
    Aaron_in_Maine Member Posts: 315
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    I'll send you a email.
    Aaron Hamilton Heating
    ahheating@ yahoo.com
    (207)229-7717
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,682
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    I'm a bit confused and I'm hoping one of the pro's can comment.
    The OP said his 1980s Burnham last tested at 74% efficiency?

    I'm fairly certain my neighbors 1920s Redlfash converted coal boiler tested at 78 or 79% with a Carlin oil burner and baffles in the passages. Unless I'm confusing something, it happens. @Steamhead has worked on such boilers, perhaps he can tell me if my memory is off.

    Why would a 1980s Burnham test so low if it's clean and setup properly!?
    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
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,737
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    Is it clean and set up properly? That's probably your answer Chris. I thought it seemed low when I read it too. My parents oil burner from 1977 tested at 79% until it died in 2010.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
    delta T
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,838
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    What model Burnham?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting