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Oil Boiler Safety Risk

My home is heated with an oiler boiler (Emerald by Columbia) distributing hot water to baseboard radiators in 3 zones. See images from different angles. The domestic hot water equipment has been removed/disabled. I don’t know the exact age of the unit but I estimate 20 years or older.
A technician recently performed maintenance on the unit and said that it has a crack on the back wall of the combustion chamber. I tried to capture an image of this below. The technician recommended a new boiler and to have it installed right away because it represents a significant fire hazard. He left with the unit turned off to protect my family’s safety (due to carbon monoxide and fire breaching the outer wall). I don’t know when this crack developed, but no other technician noticed this issue during previous year inspections.
My questions:
1) Does this represent an immediate safety risk, or can I use the boiler while I look for a new unit? The technician recommended a company that will give in a quote today.
2) If I do replace the boiler, what type would be both good quality and value? The technician said cast iron would be best.
3) What is an estimate cost for the boiler and full installation of the unit?
Thanks very much in advance.


  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 563
    As a rule we will not discuss pricing here. Your steel boiler is at the end of its useful life. Could you take a picture of the back of the boiler? It's what's called a dry base boiler meaning there is no water surrounding the combustion chamber. Often a crack in the fiber of the chamber will allow the intense heat from the flame to affect the steel of the boiler and actually burn through to the boiler jacket. The chamber is I think replaceable but as i said earlier that boiler is at the end. You will be much happier with a new high quality boiler.
    You'll want to up grade that fuel line.
  • BoilerNovice
    BoilerNovice Member Posts: 4
    Thanks for the helpful comments. I really appreciate it.
    I dusted off the green jacket and captured new images from each side, see below. Any safety risk in continuing to use it.
    Thinking of a replacement, would another Columbia Emerald be a good choice? The technician recommended a Burnham V8H3 unit. Is that good quality? I was quite surprised by the price, but I will not mention it if that is against the rules.

  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 563
    I don't see any real danger there the boiler looks ok, the chamber is hard to see but from what I can see there doesn't seem to be any big red flags. Have the tech do a combustion test with a digital analyzer. That target wall could be patched for the time being. Burnham is a pretty good boiler. We all have our preferences, mine happens to be Buderus. Get some quotes. The equipment is second to the installer.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,132
    edited November 2017
    Have a proper heat loss performed, and size the boiler correctly. I agree the installer is key.
    I would recommend any triple pass boiler, even the Burnham MPO over the V8.
    I'd also recommend an Energy Kinetics.
    I would put it up on concrete lentils (see signs of water in the basement).
    I would also install a new oil line.
    I would expect to see signs of the jacket overheated, melted, burn holes if the steel chamber was actually cracked-but I'm not there.
    As others have stated, it's probably just the combustion chamber material, which can be replaced, but keep in mind it's either a 11/2 hour job, or most likely, the bolts break and it can turn into an all-day job.
    Price can't be discussed, but you have a nice opportunity to make an inside corner with the steps, and the wall where the chimney is, metal stud/ plywood, & put all your piping and components there. You can also move the boiler closer to the chimney. Would clean up all the hanging pipes, and give you some more room.

    Edit: I would also guess that the burner has never been pulled to clean the chamber.
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,025
    @BoilerNovice , would the company who did the maintenance happen to have the initials B.K.?
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,437
    IF you can get someone qualified to work on your boiler you may not need to replace it. A cleaning, combustion test and inspection by someone that knows what they are doing is the first thing you need. If the combustion chamber is really bad you would have scorched or burn marks on the boiler jacket.

    That being said that is a low end boiler quality wise. If a combustion test doesn't show any safety issues I would run it and budget for it's replacement
  • BoilerNovice
    BoilerNovice Member Posts: 4
    HVACNUT said:

    @BoilerNovice , would the company who did the maintenance happen to have the initials B.K.?

    No, but this type of thing is not unique.

  • BoilerNovice
    BoilerNovice Member Posts: 4
    Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. Comments from @Grallert , @STEVEusaPA and @EBEBRATT-Ed were especially helpful.
    I plan to continue to run the boiler until I can get another inspection. Unfortunately, during the earlier inspection, the technician didn’t change the filter, remove the build-up in the unit or do any diagnostic tests. I am disappointed with the service company and regret signing a service contract.
    If needed, I’ll replace the combustion chamber (Columbia part number 337345) in my Emerald EM-100 boiler. The manufacture said replacement chambers are available (though I have heard otherwise). There are also third-party combustion chambers available from Lynn 1175.
    As @EBEBRATT-Ed said, I’ll start to budget for a new boiler, perhaps within the next 1-2 years.