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Line Chimeny or Buy New Boiler?

bode
bode Member Posts: 7
edited February 2017 in Gas Heating
Hoping someone can offer guidance.

Purchased a house (1248 sq ft) that was built in 1950. The heating system is forced hot water that uses the baseboard radiators. Currently has a Vaillant Model No. F70-W-30 PP oil fired boiler that was converted to natural gas using a Wayne conversion burner. The original Vaillant boiler is at least 20/25 years old. The Wayne conversion burner was installed sometime between 2000 and 2006. It seems to run a lot and the temperature gauge seems to stay at 130 degrees. Isn’t that too low? A 20/25 year old boiler seems old to me – how long do these things last?? It seems to be using a lot of gas – 530 MCF in 30 days. The monthly bill seems extremely high to me.

Called a local HVAC company that does chimney cleaning to come out to inspect and clean the chimney just because I figured it hadn’t been done in years. They came back down and told us there are a number of issues with the chimney – mainly that there is no liner and there are cracks and spalling. They did take photos of the damage. We were told that a chimney liner should have been installed when the oil boiler was converted to gas and that it is not up to code. Not sure why one wasn’t installed when the conversion was done. It is a brick chimney. Is it true that it should be lined?

My thought is that we just forget about lining the chimney altogether and purchase a new direct vent boiler. One reputable HVAC company suggested a Utica UB90-100V boiler. He did a heat loss calculation etc. and seemed to be knowledgeable. It is a condensing boiler – are those good to use with baseboard radiators? Is Utica a decent brand – I don’t see much in the way of reviews. Is there a certain type/brand of boiler we should be looking at specifically for baseboard radiators?

Any help greatly appreciated - thanks!

Comments

  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 935
    Sounds legit on the chimney. No liner in a brick chimney is asking for trouble.

    The Utica is an old condensing but not modulating boiler. Utica is part of ECR which includes Dunkirk, a very popular name. Good boiler. But 100,000 for a 1248 sq ft home sounds absolutely nuts. Ought to heat a house 3 times that size. If you go super efficient boiler get one that is modulating as well to adjust to the needs of the house. And find someone who can size it RIGHT.

    Condensing boilers are best with low temp radiation like old radiators. There certainly would be savings over your old boiler even with baseboard but would be out of condensing temps in cooler weather.
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    bode said:

    It seems to be using a lot of gas – 530 MCF in 30 days. The monthly bill seems extremely high to me.

    I hope that's a typo and you meant CCF... but yeah even 530 CCF is insane per month for that size house.
    bode said:

    Purchased a house (1248 sq ft) that was built in 1950.

    1)What was the heatloss the contractor came up with?
    2)How many total feet of baseboard do you have - don't measure covers measure how much of the pipe is finned element

    Personally, after researching Utica when it was quoted to me last year in a proposal I passed, and would recommend all my family and friends do the same. You should also be looking at mod-cons so you can modulate down to low fire in the shoulder seasons when the heat loss is lower. Whether a condensing boiler gains you any efficiency depends on how low you can run water supply which is determined by your heatloss and radiation (baseboard) capacity.
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7
    Thank you for the reply John. It is a very small house. Unfinished basement and an unfinished attic. I am going to have a few more people come out. The gentleman who did the measurements and recommended the Utica told us we need 46,200 BTUs. Maybe I should ask him if there is a smaller boiler?? We do have some insulation issues to deal with as well - all that is in the attic is the original rockwool (?) between the floor joists. Nothing on the walls or roof.(!)

  • Brewbeer
    Brewbeer Member Posts: 616
    Are your radiators cast iron or fin tube?
    Hydronics inspired homeowner with self-designed high efficiency low temperature baseboard system and professionally installed mod-con boiler with indirect DHW. My system design thread: http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/154385
    System Photo: https://us.v-cdn.net/5021738/uploads/FileUpload/79/451e1f19a1e5b345e0951fbe1ff6ca.jpg
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7
    Brewbeer said:

    Are your radiators cast iron or fin tube?

    They are fin tube.
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7

    bode said:

    It seems to be using a lot of gas – 530 MCF in 30 days. The monthly bill seems extremely high to me.

    I hope that's a typo and you meant CCF... but yeah even 530 CCF is insane per month for that size house.
    bode said:

    Purchased a house (1248 sq ft) that was built in 1950.

    1)What was the heatloss the contractor came up with?
    2)How many total feet of baseboard do you have - don't measure covers measure how much of the pipe is finned element

    Personally, after researching Utica when it was quoted to me last year in a proposal I passed, and would recommend all my family and friends do the same. You should also be looking at mod-cons so you can modulate down to low fire in the shoulder seasons when the heat loss is lower. Whether a condensing boiler gains you any efficiency depends on how low you can run water supply which is determined by your heatloss and radiation (baseboard) capacity.
    Ok, looking at the bill again it has an actual reading of 530 for February and 503 for January and then states Total MCF used for 33 days 27. Sorry to be confusing - I don't understand this stuff - LOL.

    Not sure if he did a heat loss - he took measurements of the rooms/baseboards and told us we need about 46,200 BTUs I will have to measure the baseboards - I am not sure.

    Thanks for the information ion Utica. We are in no real hurry to make this purchase - just want to be prepared for next year so we do have time to research. EXCEPT - I am completely freaked out about the unlined chimney now!!
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    bode said:

    Not sure if he did a heat loss - he took measurements of the rooms/baseboards and told us we need about 46,200 BTUs I will have to measure the baseboards - I am not sure.

    I'll assume the 46200 is his heatloss calc, 1950 house with poor insulation 1200-1300 sf I can see that being in the ballpark. I'd recommend you do one yourself or get some others for comparison. Mod-cons can be a great fit for finned baseboard provided there is more of it than the heatloss requires. The more radiation capacity (BTU's) you have above the heatloss the lower water temps you can supply which gets you into condensing mode and nets the higher efficiency of the unit. If you can condense for 2/3 of the heating season it's probably worth it. Post back with how much baseboard you have.

    270 CCF month is still ridiculously high usage for that size house unless its really leaky or...doesn't have windows? :P My in-laws are heating a 1800sq ft 1920's farmhouse to 70 degrees using only 120-130 CCF/month.
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7



    270 CCF month is still ridiculously high usage for that size house unless its really leaky or...doesn't have windows? :P My in-laws are heating a 1800sq ft 1920's farmhouse to 70 degrees using only 120-130 CCF/month.

    There are windows - a few have been upgraded but most are original. All have storm windows on them and I really don't feel any air coming in at all. I talked to the gas company because I thought maybe something was wrong with the meter and was told that it was probably due to the conversion of an oil burner to natural gas. Not sure if that is accurate but that's what they told me. The guy ont he phone said I heat my 2000 square foot house with natural gas and
    I don't use this much . . . We do need to seal up the attic but honestly I think it mainly has something to do with this old boiler/conversion. Something just seems not right :/

    Have another company coming out tomorrow. Fingers crossed he knows what he is doing . . .
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    edited February 2017
    I'm willing to bet the burner is not working properly, or the internal baffles are gone, or both. If that's the Wayne P250 or P265, it is a very poor match for that boiler to begin with. The blowers on these burners can't generate much static air pressure, which is needed to move air through these boilers. This is why they went to the Beckett AF-II oil burner after first using the AFG, since the AF-II can generate more static pressure.

    Vaillants also had "flue turbulators", which are baffles installed in the flue passages between the firebox and the upper part of the boiler. If these are missing, the stack temperature will be very high, since the heat will just shoot up these passages and out into the chimney. This raises the boiler's fuel consumption and reduces its output. I find many of these boilers are missing baffles- don't get me started on why some alleged oil techs remove them.

    We've converted a couple Vaillants using Carlin EZ-Gas burners, which can generate enough static air pressure to fire that boiler properly. With the baffles in place, they run well. You can get replacement baffles from "Parts To Your Door".

    As for re-lining the chimney as opposed to installing a direct-vent boiler- I'd line the chimney. Using a direct-vent boiler adds moving parts which invariably break down. A chimney has no moving parts, and once it has a stainless-steel liner, should continue to work long after we're gone.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 935
    edited February 2017
    50K 90% boiler has output of around 45K. Might be a morning a year where it drops a couple of degrees but overall, that would be a good size for a 46K heat loss. The Manual J has some "fudge" in it anyway. But you sure don't need 90K output to heat a house with 46K loss. That poor sucker will short cycle something fierce. Even a mod con that grossly oversized would be nuts.

    I'd probably get a good, properly sized cast iron boiler and line the chimney. LOTS!!!!! to go wrong with mod cons, cast iron boilers are super reliable and with fin tube radiation, lots less savings than with low temp radiation and a condensing boiler.
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7
    edited February 2017
    Steamhead, the conversion burner is a Wayne p250. We had another company come out and he confirmed that the burner is not working correctly. The temp never goes above 130 degrees. He took some photos and did some research and told us that the boiler is undersized. He has suggested a new boiler. That is fine with us but today one of his staff called to set up install and my husband asked if the quote was for a direct vent boiler and she said she didn't think so. Now waiting for the owner to call to discuss. While I don't know anything about this stuff and I am driving my husband crazy reading about it on the Internet to me it seems dumb to pay to reline the chimney when we can just get a direct vent boiler. Am I looking at this all wrong?

    Looking at the bill for last month we used 27 mcf which is 27,000 cubic feet of gas for a 1200 square feet house. That's seems CRAZY. Something definitely wrong so I hope we can get answers soon. I want to get this taken care of before next year. It hasn't even been that cold this year!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    A direct vent boiler costs more than one that uses a chimney. The actual difference will depend on the brand. Plus, the fan and associated safety switches are more mechanical parts that will need service at some point.

    Then there's the additional labor needed to punch through the sidewall and run the vent pipe.

    I don't see much if any savings by going direct-vent.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    bode said:

    That is fine with us but today one of his staff called to set up install and my husband asked if the quote was for a direct vent boiler and she said she didn't think so. Now waiting for the owner to call to discuss. While I don't know anything about this stuff and I am driving my husband crazy reading about it on the Internet to me it seems dumb to pay to reline the chimney when we can just get a direct vent boiler. Am I looking at this all wrong? !

    No you're not looking at this wrong, you're correctly looking at competing options so you can make the best choice for your particular situation. It's shocking to me that you got a call about scheduling an install and you hadn't even gotten various estimates outlining your options and signed a contract yet? What kind of company operates that way? Scary...

    Here's what every homeowner should do when sourcing heating work:

    Get quotes from more than one company and ask them each for at least a couple of different options, i.e. atmospheric v. direct vent if you have multiple options available in your home

    Have them explain why they are recommending a particular solution and how many of those installations have they done. Do they have customer references you can contact that will speak to their customer service levels and competence?

    A good installer will tailor a solution to your specific environment, there is no "one solution fits all" and remember people on the internet aren't in a position to assess your specific environment so take comments like "I don't see much if any savings by going direct-vent." with a very large grain of salt.

    For instance, both myself and my in-laws went through this process last year and we each went different routes. We both had atmospheric boilers venting through masonry chimneys. I did not need my chimney lined and was able to simply replace one CI boiler with a new one. The in-laws needed their chimney lined as well as a new boiler and when the estimates came back it turned out the cost of lining the chimney in addition to the CI boiler put the cost in the same range as a direct vent mod-con high efficiency boiler when the HE equipment rebates were factored in. Added to that the fuel savings of the mod-con and the clear winner in their situation was the mod-con. A condensing boiler may or may not be appropriate for your home, that would depend on the actual heat loss and radiation capacity which is something installers should be using as the basis to select the best options to present to you in their quotes. There is no one size fits all answer. Get all the data before making a decision because when you don't you usually regret it. That's my best advice, do with it what you will. :smile:
    Solid_Fuel_ManHatterasguy
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863

    take comments like "I don't see much if any savings by going direct-vent." with a very large grain of salt.

    The OP wanted to compare the relative costs of direct-vent vs. lining the chimney. This is a question that professionals get asked all the time, and most of us do our best to make sure that ALL the costs are factored in. This includes the additional cost of a direct-vent or mod-con boiler as opposed to a chimney-vented one, the additional cost to install it and the additional and more-complicated service it will require.

    This last is one of the most important factors, and it's why we prefer chimney venting. The more complicated a piece of equipment is, the greater the chance it will break down. And when it does, guess who gets the angry phone call? And the even angrier response when we have to tell the customer that the part they need is two weeks away, which happens frequently with mod-cons? We've had to do this, on equipment installed by others, and it's not fun. It's not practical to stock every part for every mod-con or direct-vent boiler out there. They're all different, and the parts for one almost never fit any of the others. But a chimney has no moving parts.

    For instance, both myself and my in-laws went through this process last year and we each went different routes.

    From this, I conclude that you are not a heating contractor. You don't get those no-heat calls. Is this correct?

    I would assume the OP posted on this board for the professional opinions available here. This is one reason the board is as good as it is. In general, professional heating contractors know what to install and how to install it so they don't get angry customers calling them when their systems break down. So it might be best to consider that.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    HVACNUTJim_RHatterasguy
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 4,214
    > @Steamhead said:
    > I'm willing to bet the burner is not working properly, or the internal baffles are gone, or both. If that's the Wayne P250 or P265, it is a very poor match for that boiler to begin with. The blowers on these burners can't generate much static air pressure, which is needed to move air through these boilers. This is why they went to the Beckett AF-II oil burner after first using the AFG, since the AF-II can generate more static pressure.
    >
    > Vaillants also had "flue turbulators", which are baffles installed in the flue passages between the firebox and the upper part of the boiler. If these are missing, the stack temperature will be very high, since the heat will just shoot up these passages and out into the chimney. This raises the boiler's fuel consumption and reduces its output. I find many of these boilers are missing baffles- don't get me started on why some alleged oil techs remove them.
    >
    > We've converted a couple Vaillants using Carlin EZ-Gas burners, which can generate enough static air pressure to fire that boiler properly. With the baffles in place, they run well. You can get replacement baffles from "Parts To Your Door".
    >
    > As for re-lining the chimney as opposed to installing a direct-vent boiler- I'd line the chimney. Using a direct-vent boiler adds moving parts which invariably break down. A chimney has no moving parts, and once it has a stainless-steel liner, should continue to work long after we're gone.

    That's what I find when I open a Valiant, baffles shoved down in the jacket.
    I was taught not to measure the fin tube because you don't know if baseboard was added or removed, or if there too much or too little installed from day one. And its all relative. 30 series S/F, 610 BTU's at 190 degrees per linear foot, adjust your limit (with the proper circulator) to achieve your needs. Obviously more baseboard will lower your return temp, but I don't think it'll be enough to condense. Maybe with a storage tank and draw colder return water off the bottom.
    A gas boiler with an exterior chimney is definitely a no no. Even an interior, without a Terra cotta liner is pushing it.
    You could go with a mod con, but your not going to see the steady state efficiency they're designed for. I would research a quality (in my useless opinion, Buderus, Peerless, Weil McLain) atmospheric boiler with an indirect water heater, outdoor reset and a stainless chimney liner.
    Most service trucks will carry replacement parts for an atmospheric as opposed to a mod con where you might have to stick it out until a part is ordered and shipped.
  • bode
    bode Member Posts: 7
    Thanks for the comments everyone. I am going to stop by the latest company that was over to get a written quote and see what he is recommending. I know that it is NOT direct vent and that he will line the chimney.

    Steamhead I just noticed that you are only about an hour 45 minutes from me - feel like taking a drive? :p
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863
    Sure! Send me a PM through the board with your information and I'll get in touch. To do that, click on the icon to the left of my name. On the next screen, click Message and fill in the form, then send it.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • gschallert
    gschallert Member Posts: 170
    Steamhead said:

    This last is one of the most important factors, and it's why we prefer chimney venting.

    It appears to me you're attempting to speak for the entire heating industry with the use of "we" as if heating professionals were a monolith with uniform preferences and practices. I don't accept that and in my part of the country I can support it with the fact that most of the installers around my area recommend direct venting when possible over having to bring older chimneys up to code. Not a single one of the companies came back with a recommendation for me to stay with atmospheric CI despite having been asked to factor in me having a code compliant chimney for venting. Every single one of them wanted to sell me a HE direct vented replacement boiler. While you may personally believe chimney venting is always preferred, and there may be many who agree with you, I don't think you can support the assertion that all heating professionals do.
    Steamhead said:

    I would assume the OP posted on this board for the professional opinions available here.

    In other words, sit down and shut up because I'm just a female homeowner? Thanks for sharing your thoughts but I think I'll persist until such a time as the admins of this site tell me non-industry professionals are not welcome here or that it's somehow a bad thing to advise users looking for help to do their homework and to question or challenge generalities.
    Hatterasguyj a_2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,165
    Oh dear. Relax. First off, the Wall is made up of a wide range of individuals -- from very very experienced and skilled professionals through experienced and very handy folks -- perhaps such as myself -- through somewhat less experienced but enthusiastic to learn homeowners and handy people to people who genuinely don't know very much about their heating systems but are seeking advice. Not all of these people are men although, in the way of the world, a majority are. No one pays much attention to that.

    In general, all are welcome here. There are only a few rules -- very few -- that we do abide by; the most important being three: no discussion of prices; no ad hominem discussions; and, fundamentally, honesty.

    I don't think that any of the regular folks here would say -- or think -- " sit down and shut up because I'm just a female homeowner?" to anyone seeking advice, or offering an informed opinion. I presume, on the basis of your remarks, that the initial appearance -- that of a homeowner seeking advice from the men and women on this board -- is incorrect, and that you are as familiar with the practices and conditions in your part of the country as the individual addressed is with the conditions and practices in his part of the country.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,863

    Steamhead said:

    This last is one of the most important factors, and it's why we prefer chimney venting.

    It appears to me you're attempting to speak for the entire heating industry with the use of "we" as if heating professionals were a monolith with uniform preferences and practices. I don't accept that and in my part of the country I can support it with the fact that most of the installers around my area recommend direct venting when possible over having to bring older chimneys up to code. Not a single one of the companies came back with a recommendation for me to stay with atmospheric CI despite having been asked to factor in me having a code compliant chimney for venting. Every single one of them wanted to sell me a HE direct vented replacement boiler. While you may personally believe chimney venting is always preferred, and there may be many who agree with you, I don't think you can support the assertion that all heating professionals do.
    Steamhead said:

    I would assume the OP posted on this board for the professional opinions available here.

    In other words, sit down and shut up because I'm just a female homeowner? Thanks for sharing your thoughts but I think I'll persist until such a time as the admins of this site tell me non-industry professionals are not welcome here or that it's somehow a bad thing to advise users looking for help to do their homework and to question or challenge generalities.
    It would help if you actually read what I posted before making comments like that.

    Read my signature and you'll see that I am part of a company. Since I am not the only member of said company, the term "we" is perfectly acceptable. So, your statement that

    It appears to me you're attempting to speak for the entire heating industry with the use of "we" as if heating professionals were a monolith with uniform preferences and practices.

    is not valid.

    Second, your statement

    In other words, sit down and shut up because I'm just a female homeowner?

    has nothing to do with what I posted. And, nowhere in this thread has anyone referred to female homeowners until you did. Similarly, no one has told you to sit down and shut up.

    Again, it would help if you actually read what you are attempting to respond to.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,796
    I did not see if it's an inside or outside chimney your dealing with....it makes a difference on some applications.
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 1,704

    In general, all are welcome here. There are only a few rules -- very few -- that we do abide by; the most important being three: no discussion of prices; no ad hominem discussions; and, fundamentally, honesty.

    Well said, @Jamie Hall. Let's get this thread back on track. Thank you.
    President
    HeatingHelp.com
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,445
    Old retired guy here, and father of the current owner of this site. Yes to what @Jamie Hall said, and what Erin said.

    And I would trust Steamhead with anything. I'd also trust Joe. Both good men. Both have strong opinions. There is more than one road. Old guys have learned that.
    Retired and loving it.
    cablemanHatterasguySteve Minnich
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,445
    Your opinion. Well known. Stated many times. And now once again. Thanks for sharing your thought.
    Retired and loving it.
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,246
    I'll get back on track.
    If the conversion did work before, and the gas bills haven't been this high until now, what has changed?
    My first thought was when you said it can't get above 130 degrees is, is there a leak? If the piping has an underground portion to it, might there be a pinhole? I would suggest turning off the fill valve and watching the pressure to see if it drops.
    I would want to find the reason the boiler can't get over 130 before I even look at other options.
    Rick
    GordyHilly
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 1,704
    Thank you, Rick.
    President
    HeatingHelp.com
  • Jack
    Jack Member Posts: 1,045
    Not spoken about in this discussion, or I did not pick it up, is the condition of the masonry un-lined chimney. The inspection showed that it was "compromised". If the structure is severely compromised, then by lining it, you may be throwing good money after bad. Look at your first floor and imagine it without the chimney in place. Is that a re-model that would improve the living space. I ask because I removed the chimney in our house when we re-modelled and it really opened up the space. That consideration may change the scope of the project.
    When the gas codes changed in '92 it was written that a gas conversion from oil be lined. The chimney must be cleaned first and the lining installed. This was in the early 90's but I know of one job in Ontario where a gas conversion was done and the chimney not cleaned or lined. The moisture from the gas condensed onto the accumulated soot and basically washed it down the flue. That blocked the vent pipe and led to a CO death of the woman living in the building.