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Buderus GB142-30 failure. No More Condensing Boilers For Me

fosterdl Member Posts: 21
So here's my story. 13 years ago on advice from our service tech, we installed a Buderus GB142-30 and converted it to use LPG (propane). We were also told that these units were virtually maintenance free. and it was for about two years. It then started throwing error codes and finally quit. So out came our tech and low and behold, the heat exchanger was completely plugged with something resembling light gray lava. They had never seen this before, so they started scrapping and chipping away at it in an attempt to clean it. OK, problem solved right? Wrong! this had gone on one or twice a year since then, but by cleaning that often, the need for chipping away was eliminated and finally after 11 years they found out that you could use mineral oil to clean the exchanger. This is in addition to numerous ionization electrodes and several motor issues. About a month ago we noticed a brown deposit in the sink where the condensate drains. It looked like sand, but you couldn't pick it up and it wasn't a "solid" material. First I thought it was yeast from cleaning out my homebrew bottles, but then I put a Cool Whip can under the pipe and this material collected in it. Again with the tech and low and behold, there's a hole in my heat exchanger I assume from all those years of scraping and chipping away, each time removing a bit more of the aluminum exchanger. The brown material was the iron in our water. They finally admitted what I had suspected all along, that the propane was leaving "ash" behind during combustion and that propane was probably not the way to go with the Buderus. So now 13 years later I'm looking at a new boiler because the cost of a heat exchanger (if you can even find one) is astronomical. I'm thinking about switching back to a cast iron floor unit and have been looking at the Utica SVB-5. The first boiler we had was a Utica oil fired unit that lasted over 30 years plus it's a local company. Any thoughts on the Utica SVB-5?


  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    The first mistake was when they said it was "virtually maintenance free." If I were looking for LP and decent savings I'd look at the Weil Mclain GV90 plus. But in defense of the Buderus, if it was never set up properly and allowed to run that way for a couple years it never stood a chance..I have some that get serviced yearly and run excellent..
    HVACNUT1MatthiasIronmandelta T
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 13,437
    If anything the maintenance on a condensing boiler is probably more important than a standard boiler
  • RomanP
    RomanP Member Posts: 102
    edited May 2018
    Installed a couple of those. No issues. One in 2011

    Actually replaced ignition assembly
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,119
    Please listen to yourself: everything you've said describes the incompetency of your contractor, yet you blame the boiler?
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,618
    Aluminum HX have been problematic and their issues have been known for years. Without proper setup or yearly maintenance, it's a given that there will be problems. There's no such thing as a "maintenance-free" condensing boiler.
    delta T
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,446
    The Buderus units are plagued with similar problems in my area. I suspect that the issue is a combination of local water, improper commissioning (no combustion analysis) and lack of maintenance. They are also by design, less forgiving to sub standard conditions.

    Your decision to never buy another condensing boiler because of this, is a little like not buying another fuel efficient car just because the last one you bought was in the shop often.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • newagedawn
    newagedawn Member Posts: 586
    edited May 2018
    time for a new service co., not a boiler, altho you need a boiler, why a 5 section boiler? how big is your house? how many btu?????????
    "The bitter taste of a poor install lasts far longer than the JOY of the lowest price"
  • delta T
    delta T Member Posts: 883
    Any service tech or installer who tells you that a boiler is maintenance free needs to be shown the door. You don't expect to be able to run your car for 50000 miles with no oil changes, tire rotations or similar maintenance right? its no different with a boiler. ALL boilers (yes even cast iron ones) need regular maintenance.

    Also, make sure your new installer does a proper heat loss to size the new boiler. If he/she just looks at what size boiler was there to start with, or if they just size up the radiators, or if 'they have been doing this for 40 years and just know', please show them the door.

    The GB142 is not a bad boiler, its not great either. There are much better condensing boilers out there that if sized correctly, installed correctly, and maintained correctly will last just fine.
  • D107
    D107 Member Posts: 1,832
    edited May 2018
    HO here. I've seen at least two major mod-con manufacturers promote their boilers as 'virtually maintenance free'. They're not doing themselves or their customers any favors. Of course the contractors should know better. Though there seems to be a trend to design boilers that are easier to clean than they were twenty years ago.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,988
    The whole "gas equipment doesn't need maintenance" thing is a lot older than condensing boilers. It was one of the gas utilities' slogans that was used to get people to convert from oil to gas.

    It's now pretty well known that, unlike cast-iron boilers, condensing boilers need specific maintenance. But still we hear that "gas equipment doesn't need maintenance".

    Pay particular attention to water quality in your area. Have the water tested. It may be that cast-iron is your best choice given how your local water is.

    The W-M GV-90+ mentioned above has a cast-iron main block and a secondary heat exchanger in which condensing occurs. The latter is mounted outside the boiler jacket and is a lot easier to replace than the GB142's HX. This may be your best choice if you want to stay with a condensing boiler.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Bart Vaio
    Bart Vaio Member Posts: 56
    Did you read your own post? Boiler is fine, for sure more maintenance than some other designs but mineral oil and yearly heat exchanger mantence have been a manufacturer guideline from day one. Just because your installer doesn't want to maintain his installation don't blame the boiler.
    Jean-David Beyer
  • Steve Thompson (Taco)
    Steve Thompson (Taco) Member Posts: 203
    Hmmm. This got me thinking (not a great thing on Friday - pre Captain Morgan). What does "maintenance free" actually mean?

    Example: Our industry has ECM circs that are technically maintenance free - in other words nothing to oil, no couplings to inspect, some do not even have replacement parts available. Heck, 50 years ago the Taco Perfecta they had window in the front of the circ to see if the shaft was turning (now some use the stupid magnet spinny thing - I say stupid as it does NOT mean the shaft is spinning)! Typically when these circs pack up the entire unit is replaced. Hence I could and should call these "maintenance free".

    However in theory you could perform annual maintenance service by taking the circ apart and cleaning the rotor and sleeve bearings (assuming the rotor can be removed from the cartridge). Or wipe the outside of the circ off, bleed air off assuming it has an air vent screw. This is rarely done and shouldn't be necessary as long as THE SYSTEM is maintained (cause systems are NOT maintenance free).

    BTW, if it ain't broke don't fix it sometimes rules the day - let's not start taking these things apart OK? Some have ceramic shafts and other things that can break or become misaligned.

    Let's talk about a device that has a pile of more complexities than a circulator - a condensing boiler. Maintenance free? Technically doubtful - assuming annual tune ups would maintain the efficiency and safety of the boiler. Would the checkup include inspecting the inside of the HX - doubtful. But the manufacturer might be referring to the fact that his boiler has no stuff that needs to be maintained (oiled bearings, flame rods/spark igniters, electronic draft dampers - etc). A case could be made that local codes requiring LWCO blowdown and relief valves checked would cover the "maintenance" of safety devices (I'm sure codes are always followed - riiiight).

    My opinion for what it's worth, system issues that cause equipment to fail is not the responsibility of the manufacturer as long as his product is applicable for that particular system/application, is installed by qualified personnel (sadly hard to keep on top of this one) and publishes system limitations of his product (no-ferrous circs for open systems for example). However the manufacturer is responsible to help diagnose the cause of the failure (assuming he has the chance and is asked) so once fixed the problem has gone away.

    Technically, very little if anything is truly "maintenance free" (AKA, if I do something to the thing it will last longer). But from a marketing standpoint it could be suggested some stuff is maintenance free - depends where you stand.

    Have a great weekend folks - I'm off to a meeting with The Captain!
  • fosterdl
    fosterdl Member Posts: 21
    Thanks to all for the great input and points well taken.