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Williamson-Thermoflo GWA 105 problems

WardWeathers
WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
edited January 2018 in Gas Heating
Greetings,
I have done a search here and done as much reading as I can, and am a bit stuck/unsure how to proceed.
About 5 years ago, a Williamson-Thermoflo GWA 105 boiler was installed for this 1940s vintage 1000 square foot house with hot water baseboard. The house is poorly insulated. Prior to conversion to gas, the old oil boiler was able to heat the house. The unit was heating contractor installed.

The "new" gas system performs ok when the outside temperatures aren't too bad, i.e. above freezing. But when it is sub freezing, as it is now in the Northeast, the heating system cannot keep up, to the point that we've got cold fingers and are dressed for the outdoors, indoors. The boiler has "functioned" this way on the coldest of days more or less since installation, and I think it has to do with the boiler itself. Original heating contractor's service department failed at figuring the problem out long ago.

The boiler setpoint is at 180 deg F. The Economy knob is set to min, because we have trouble keeping heat in the house.

When the outside temperature isn't too cold, the boiler fires up and heats water to 180 deg F, cuts out and lets the circulator pump the hot water until supply temperature drops to 140 deg F, then fires up again. That is, it seems to operate as it should when the heat load is minimal.

When the outside temperature is cold, as it is now (18 deg F now, single digits in the last couple of days), the boiler fires up at seemingly random water temperatures, and maybe heats to the setpoint but more likely doesn't. It will frequently get stuck in something I call limp mode, running between 120 to 140 F. Often it short cycles, firing up but then shutting off immediately or close to it. Thats not enough to get this place out of the lower 50s. I have tried setting the setpoint lower, setting it higher, but it doesn't seem to help.

Tstat is an old Honeywell set high enough that the call for heat LED on the boiler is always lit, and the circulator always pumping.

If I baby-sit the boiler during limp mode, I can crank the setpoint one way or another to cause the limit circuit to be met, and get the boiler to start, though it might or might not get to the setpoint without repeating this a few times. Sometimes it will seem to work for a while, (operating above 140 deg F is what I mean by work), but if you stop watching it, it misbehaves.

Last year or so we had a heating tech from a different company than the original installer come out. He was kind of stumped and threw a temp sensor at it, though I don't think the temp sensor resistance values were out of range per the manual and pointed that out to him. Of course after he replaced it anyway as a first step; we had mild weather so it seemed to be working fine, until the next cold snap, when it didn't.

Now we've got prolonged cold weather and the boiler's having trouble keeping it 50 degrees in here. I have checked the resistance values of the temp sensor and they jive with what the manual says.

There are no flashing LEDs on the controller.

For brief troubleshooting purposes only, I also did the following for long enough to eliminate these components as the cause of the problem:
* jumpered the Spill switch. Problem continued, so re-established as-found connection to spill switch to preserve function of this important safety device. I has guessed this part might be the cause, as the chimney doesn't have a cap.
* jumpered the rollout switch. Problem continued, so re-established as-found connection to rollout switch to preserve function of this important safety device.

So, according to the trouble shooting flowchart of the manual, the next thing to replace is the controller, p/n 381-330-014WT, the Model # 1135-601 controller. So far, the only quasi-local place I have found to have it, won't sell it to me because I am a private party and not a mechanical contractor. But it's cold, and the place I think will have it and sell it to me has a constant busy signal, probably because they are wicked busy. And most searches online list it as "discontinued", though I think I may have found one place that has it.

Does anyone have some guidance for me? I'm just about ready to take a gamble on buying the controller online, but I thought I would look for a little wisdom before I do something like this. Money's tight, but we are cold.

Thanks in advance, and sorry for the long-winded post but I am trying to relay as much info as I can.
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Comments

  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    One more piece of info in case anybody is reading this thread: the circulator pump is a Taco 007-F5, and it is mounted vertically. I noticed in a different thread here that someone noted that some circulator pumps should be mounted horizontally, so I checked the instructions for this circulator pump on Taco's site. Sure enough, Taco recommends horizontal orientation, though says vertical orientation is ok if pressure is greater than 20PSI.

    I'm pretty surprised that the original installer put the pump in that orientation since they are an old Rhode Island company that started installing oil burning boilers back in the 50s or so and are pretty experienced.

    The current operating pressure of this unit is right at 20 PSI. The GWA manual says the cold fill pressure is typically around 12 PSI, but doesn't seem to give typical operating pressure. The pressure/temp gauge has the red line set at 30 PSI, though I watched the repair tech we had in last set it there (the original installation team didn't set the red line...) . I don't really know what the proper at-temp operating pressure is for this system and/or if the pressure is too close to Taco's spec for the circulator.
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
    Well, silence is an answer of sorts!

    With a blizzard coming today, I felt I had to act. I did manage to find a new control module, which I purchased. After making note of where everything was connected, I removed the electrical connections, pulled the three mounting screws to pull the old module, and mounted and connected the new one.

    What a difference! The thing heats like it should have from new! Shame on the installation contractor for not taking our concerns about the boiler seriously when we complained after installation, and shame on us for not pushing back more. Apparently this Williamson-Thermoflo GWA 105 had a bad controller straight from the factory.

    And, though it makes no sense to me, the boiler is now quieter in operation. It used to have a whine which is gone with the new controller.

    NEEDHEATNOW
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,310
    i would write a letter to the manufacturer telling them of your problems that have existed since the boiler was new and ask them for their comment.

    It may not do much good but it will make you feel better.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Tom_133
    Tom_133 Member Posts: 824
    There are no other controls on the system? Tekmar outdoor reset? anything?

    The board could be the problem, thats a tough one though to buy and try to have it not work. Did you call tech support? Hows your gas pressure when it gets really cold? Thats probably where I would start.

    I had that in Aspen Co, natural gas. Pilots wouldn't stay lit when snowmelt was on. Went to the regulator that feeds the whole complex and the thing was iced up. Nothing came up to temp in those conditions
    Tom
    Montpelier Vt
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2018
    BobC's idea to write a letter is interesting, though I don't know that I gain anything out of it. Surely their engineers are monitoring how many of the replacement controllers they are selling. I sincerely doubt they'll make any amends.

    Tom, there is not an Outdoor Boiler Reset, nor any other controls.

    The controller module was certainly the problem. After replacing the controller, the boiler works like a champ. It heats the water to the set point, and has a very minor subtractive differential in this extreme cold we are having. We're not going to be able to heat the house to 75 deg F in this cold, windy weather, but finally the boiler is doing what it is supposed to do. The thing behaves like a different machine entirely. I don't think I would buy another Williamson-Thermoflo given the QC issue, but at least it is working now.

    One thing is for sure: I would not use the same contractor again, only because they dismissed our concerns. A contractor is the customer's advocate, after all.
  • John Mills_5
    John Mills_5 Member Posts: 935
    Who made the board? That would be a 3rd party not the boiler manufacturer. These new controls are rather complicated plus they let the boiler get rather cool before bringing the burner back on again. Couple complicated with cheap since equipment manufacturers have to keep costs down for cheap homeowners and nothing holds up these days :/
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    That's a great question. The board is marked HSCI, which I guess is Honeywell based on a quick search.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,145
    Then it's a Honeywell problem Williamson boilers are made by Weil McLain and they are fine. Your contractor is an idiot. Bell Simons has branches in Providence and have access to Williamson boilers. They usually don't sell to homeowners though. Google Williamson and call them. Maybe you can get a new board for a spare
    SuperTech
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    EBEBRATT-Ed. thanks for your response. I'm casually asking around with friends trying to find a competent contractor for the future.

    There are several Bell Simons around here as you note and I did find them by looking on the Williamson-Thermoflo website, thankfully. I may give Williamson a call as you suggest to see if they will push this controller back to Honeywell.

    It might well be Honeywell's fault (after all they made the controller), but Williamson (Weil-McLain) selected it/integrated it into their system. Honeywell spins the board, Williamson packages it into the plastic front end, maybe a cursory operational test of the complete system (?) and out the door it goes for "field testing".

    This boiler is full of Honeywell parts.
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11

    Who made the board? That would be a 3rd party not the boiler manufacturer. These new controls are rather complicated plus they let the boiler get rather cool before bringing the burner back on again. Couple complicated with cheap since equipment manufacturers have to keep costs down for cheap homeowners and nothing holds up these days :/

    That doesn't sound inexpensive for the homeowner in the long run, but it does sound cheap!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,145
    @WardWeathers unfortunately it seems from your post that the problem existed since the original installation so you probably out of luck
  • mfspieg
    mfspieg Member Posts: 1
    I also had a defective control board for Williamson's boiler model 1135-601. Make that 2 control boards. The replacement failed after 2 weeks!

    Exact same problem: when it was very cold outside, boiler repeatedly shut off at 140 degrees, even tho its thermostat is set to 180. My contractor said he knows of 2 other failures, just in our immediate area. I called W-T, and a tech there told me they get a few returned boards every month; they all fail the same way. It was first marketed around 2012 or '13, but to his knowledge no fix has been applied. The manufacturer of the board - according to him - was UTI (United Technologies inc). I'd love to wring their neck for not fixing what is obviously a common failure mode.

    Upon my 2nd, now warrantee, replacement, I again called W-T with my contractor. This time we got a tech who knew nothing of the problem, but logged our failure for their infrequent reports sent to marketing/sales/etc. So, dear Internet Readers with the same control board failures, I urge you to call Williamson-Thermoflo. Make UTI or Honeywell to fix the underlying problem!!
    SuperTech
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    @mfspieg Thank you for sharing your experience with these problematic Williamson-Thermoflo boiler controllers. When I was originally searching for the control board, google searches of the part number seemed to indicate it was a UTI part. However as I noted above, when I opened the defective module up looking for a UTI mark, I found it marked HSCI instead.

    Another Wall user messaged me to tell me they had the same problem with their Williamson Thermoflo boiler. And in my search trying to figure out the problem, I found others complaining of the same symptoms on other websites. I think this problem is quite common.

    I wonder whether a call or a letter to Williamson Thermoflo would be a more effective a way to let them know my displeasure with their product. Again, they know how many of these boards are failing, since they're selling the replacements. They simply have to have an engineer monitoring this on their end. It is clear to me that they know about the problem already. They need to know that their customers are upset about it. If this is a manufacturing defect, I think they're on the hook to make their customers whole.

  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,145
    Call them. It can't hurt you have nothing to loose. But I wouldn't expect anything. Manufacturers seldom admit their wrong
    CanuckerSuperTech
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,310
    They know you have little recourse, legal wrangling takes a lot of money and if you don't win the case it's all on your dime.

    Talk to them and if they won't deal I would tell them in writing that you will be sure to never use them or their subcontractors again. It's poor satisfaction but better than nothing.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    edited January 2019
    Received another private message today asking if the Williamson-Thermoflo GWA 105 was still working properly after I replaced the control module roughly one year ago. Answer: Yup. The boiler still works properly, even in the cold snap we have going on now. Replacing the control module solved the problem long term.

    From the sounds of the message to me, there is yet another person out there in the cold due to a faulty control module.
  • jazzmatazz21
    jazzmatazz21 Member Posts: 1
    Ward I am having the same issue with my Williamson currently, and today the power light actually went out. I don’t know much about these things, but wanted to try and fix on my own. Is the control module the box where all the wires plug into, and if so what model did you replace it with/ where did you buy it? Thank you in advance!
  • Stars
    Stars Member Posts: 1
    edited March 2019
    Ugh... I have the same problem with 2 of my control modules that broke this winter. Wonder where did op purchased your control module? :neutral:
  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 1,792
    > @Stars said:
    > Ugh... I have the same problem with 2 of my control modules that broke this winter. Wonder where did op purchased your control module? :neutral:

    Try Bell Simons.
    Starsstarlogicflat_twin
  • Sklaren14
    Sklaren14 Member Posts: 2
    I know this was posted some time ago, but I'm curious to know what diameter was the pipes that was going to the baseboard?
  • Sklaren14
    Sklaren14 Member Posts: 2
    I realized that when the temperature dropped to 24 degrees my boiler cannot keep up. I have 1/2 in pex pipe that going to my baseboard.
  • anngvt
    anngvt Member Posts: 3
    Same boiler, two years of issues and we don't know enough about heating systems to have a clue. Our installer replaced the control board last year and it worked fine for the rest of the heating season. They tested our thermostat and said it's fine and not to replace it as it's the old mercury type and they're pretty much fail-proof.

    We had it cleaned again in October and when we had a cold night with single digits, it wouldn't kick on. The flame light blinks. Our HVAC installer said it has to be the regulator outside is freezing up. We had to wait two weeks for our propane company's one technician to be available. He replaced the regulator, added methanol, and had them drain and fill us with new propane. In that time though, we had a warm up putting temps in the 40s/50s.

    Nine days later, it hit 10F last night and no heat from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. this morning. We called our HVAC guy who said it has to still be moisture in the tank and regulator as only the flame light is indicating an error. He told us we had to call our propane company so we did that while he was here. He talked to that technician and left.

    At 1 am., the technician finally came out. It happened to start working again while he was here, so he knows we're not imagining things. The propane technician said you can't get moisture in the tank as it's pressurized and the regulator is fine. There was no frost build-up on it, he heard propane flowing through the regulator, and he said it can't freeze and then unfreeze by itself when it's 5 degrees outside. He said our HVAC guy is full of ... telling us that it's moisture in the propane tank and regulator. He said there is clearly something wrong on the boiler, but he couldn't see anything wrong.

    Meanwhile, we have an 1,100 sq. ft. older home that is usually right at 68/70 when the temperature is over 10 outside, but the minute we hit 10 degrees, that flame light blinks and we have no heat. I'm sick of emergency technician bills and not having people really be able to diagnose the issue and find a solution. If anyone has any idea on what we need to push for next, we could use the advice.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,150
    How big is the propane tank? Is it vertical or lying on its side? And what is the demand of your boiler? When cold temperature problems hit with LP, sometimes it is simply that the tank isn't big enough to evaporate the LP fast enough, and the gas pressure drops and the boiler won't light off.

    Have your gas company verify that the tank is properly matched to the demand.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • anngvt
    anngvt Member Posts: 3
    Thanks. We have two 120-lb vertical tanks with only the boiler and clothes dryer using propane. We have a heat pump water heater (electric) and stove/oven is also electric. Typically, when it's at its coldest in Vermont, the gauges drop a total of 3% per day. The house is pretty tight with new windows and doors a year before the new boiler, so at most we use 500 gallons per winter. That's why our HVAC guy insisted they should drain the tanks, add methanol, replace the regulator, and put in all new propane. He thought since we'd gone from April to November without needing a fill-up, it could be the propane was a summer fuel, but Amerigas insists they only use winterized propane in our area and that our HVAC guy doesn't know what he's talking about.

    I am going to ask about the tank size and see if they say anything. I'll let you know what they say.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,150
    105,000 BTUh input. I'm going to bet that those two vertical tanks are too small, even if the regulators and piping are perfectly matched so they really operate in parallel. By the charts available to me you should have a 500 gallon tank.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • anngvt
    anngvt Member Posts: 3
    They claim that it's not our set up, that a boiler and gas dryer that's used twice a week is not overwhelming the tanks at all per their charts, especially not when this house has been on two tanks since we moved here 27 years ago and the only changes have been ditching the gas water heater for a heat pump and upgrading from the old boiler to the new high-efficiency one. The neighbor's house has the a similar boiler apparently and a gas oven/stove, gas dryer, and gas fireplace and she's not having issues, so they are convinced it's our boiler causing the problem. It was warmer last night so we had no issues. All we can keep doing is reporting it when it does dip into the teens and single digits.
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11
    Unfortunately, I need to update this thread.

    The Williamson-Thermoflo boiler's replacement control module installed in January 2018 stopped working properly. The control module did not quite make it three years without failing, and now is a hunk of junk. The fault behavior was exactly the same as that of the first control module, described by me above.

    I replaced the control module yesterday, and the boiler is back to working.

    (There were a few questions addressed to me that I am just now seeing. Better late than never? Answers: A. The control module is a black box with electrical wires from all of the sensors, valve, etc. connected to it and is labeled with its part number, 381-330-014WT. Check the manual if you have doubts... B. I'll echo SuperTech and say try Bell Simons. C. Our system has 1/2" pipe to baseboard.)
  • NEEDHEATNOW
    NEEDHEATNOW Member Posts: 4
    My boiler has the same exact issue. I ordered the substitute replacement part from Supplyhouse.com. SKU: 381-330-026
    Brand: Weil-McLain. I hope this fixes the issue!
  • WardWeathers
    WardWeathers Member Posts: 11

    My boiler has the same exact issue. I ordered the substitute replacement part from Supplyhouse.com. SKU: 381-330-026
    Brand: Weil-McLain. I hope this fixes the issue!

    That controller looks the same (from memory, don't have board in front of me), with the addition of the LED display. How did you determine that this is a direct replacement?
    NEEDHEATNOW
  • NEEDHEATNOW
    NEEDHEATNOW Member Posts: 4
    edited December 2020
    "That controller looks the same (from memory, don't have board in front of me), with the addition of the LED display. How did you determine that this is a direct replacement?

    WardWeathers: Strictly from the Supplyhouse website. I also called them and they "verified" this is a direct plug and play replacement. That being said, we will see. I like that it has the upgraded LED temperature on the board so you can compare it with the analog one on the boiler. My boiler is the GWA-105-N-T.
    It's scheduled to be delivered today so I'll report back in a few days and update this thread on how it went.

    There was a comment that provided a video that used this replacement version:





    ethicalpaul
  • NEEDHEATNOW
    NEEDHEATNOW Member Posts: 4
    edited December 2020
    The controller seems to be working well. The new digital display shows the boiler temperature until you rotate it and it shows the boiler set point for a few seconds.
  • Deep
    Deep Member Posts: 3
    I’m having the same issues with the control module. It won’t surpass boiler temp 140F. I noticed when I play with the boiler temp knob, it kicks on the burners and surpasses the 140F to the set high limit of 180F. Then as it winds down it won’t kick back on with the set differential (10 degrees). Won’t turn on after that unless I turn the Temp Knob in any direction. I’ve ordered the Weil-McLain 381-330-026 (same as NEEDHEATNOW). Should be here by 12/22 Tuesday. Will update once installed. 
  • NEEDHEATNOW
    NEEDHEATNOW Member Posts: 4
    Deep said:

    I’m having the same issues with the control module. It won’t surpass boiler temp 140F. I noticed when I play with the boiler temp knob, it kicks on the burners and surpasses the 140F to the set high limit of 180F. Then as it winds down it won’t kick back on with the set differential (10 degrees). Won’t turn on after that unless I turn the Temp Knob in any direction. I’ve ordered the Weil-McLain 381-330-026 (same as NEEDHEATNOW). Should be here by 12/22 Tuesday. Will update once installed. 

    My symptoms were identical to yours - the new board seems to have resolved all of my issues. Good luck and let me know how it worked out for you.
  • Deep
    Deep Member Posts: 3
    @NEEDHEATNOW part came in earlier than expected. I’ll be installing this evening. Will update once installed. Thanks for the response. 
    NEEDHEATNOW
  • Deep
    Deep Member Posts: 3
    UPDATE:

     Successfully replaced the old control module with new Weil-McLain 381-330-026 (same as @NEEDHEATNOW). Monitored it through the operation cycles for about 30mins. Gets to set boiler temp and turns burners off, then turns back on at a 20* differential. Both zones were firing up. Baseboards are hot. Achieved desired boiler temp 185*. Achieved home thermostat 75*. 

    I’ve attached a photo of the new control module, please don’t mind the noob labeling of the wires lol. 

    Thanks for all those who commented here. It really helped me out. 
    SuperTechNEEDHEATNOW
  • BLRTRAUMA
    BLRTRAUMA Member Posts: 1
    Having the exact same problem with my GWI 127-N-T BOILER controller.. I have taken notes here and hope to get me a controller which will work the boiler as it is suppose to. The boiler was installed In May of 2019 and I didn’t notice any problem last winter because the weather was relatively mild.
    Now My circulator constantly runs and the tstat set point is never achieved
  • Dsisson
    Dsisson Member Posts: 65
    I had this exact problem with my GWA-105-N-T boiler. It's at a rental house. The boiler would be working fine, then the next day the tenant would call saying the heat was "off". It wasn't actually off, but the boiler temp would be 130-140, the circulator would be running, and the house wouldn't hit the temp you wanted. I have been tearing my hair out for a couple of weeks trying to get this figured out. The pro's said "it's working fine", because it did seem to be working. You'd turn the main power off and on to the boiler, and it'd work great, for about 12 hours, then dial itself back down to 130. I bought a new board and installed it. The boiler now seems to be hitting 180, cycling down to about 170, and then back up to 180. Fingers crossed that the problem goes away and I don't get another 6 am phone call about "no heat".
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 12,145
    If your having issues its better to start a new thread
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • jimmythegreek
    jimmythegreek Member Posts: 56
    A competent contractor can substitute the control for a different model you are not stuck with that specific control. I install lots of Williamson gas units and I've yet to have a bad control board
  • dcpace78
    dcpace78 Member Posts: 3
    update on my gwa 105 series 2 boiler, i replaced the control board 381-330-014 with board #381-330-026. Williamson tech said it would work but it needed to be modified. but would say how, come to find out it you just need to run a ground wire. the new wire harness that connects to the temp censor will have the 4th wire (green) just wire it to the on\off switch ( white wire) on the side of the furnace. what's nice about the new control board is it has a Didital read out of the temp. its been running for 7 days now without a problem. temp range is 20 digress if you set it on 180 it will run between 160 up to 180