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How to Choose Between 3 Proposed Boilers

GregoryMontrealOuest Member Posts: 2
edited August 2018 in THE MAIN WALL
I live in Montreal, Quebec in a 1915 three floor (plus mezzanine and basement) home in which we need to replace the boiler this fall.

I have received the following three boiler model suggestions from three different plumbing companies and I am wondering what the best option is:

1. Viessmann Vitodens 100 combi model B1KA125 (Viessman boilers make many top 5 five boilers lists in Canada, however, consumer reports don't seem great and I can't find reviews for this specific model).

2. IBC HC 20-125 (From what I understand, these boilers are a bit less common in Canada but there is a market for them and they are good but there might be an issue gettings parts if necessary).

3. Lochinvar Noble Fir Tube Combi (This company does not make any top 5 lists and has mostly bad reivews).

Thank you in advance for helping us make this decision!


  • xmorganx
    xmorganx Member Posts: 23
    Danny is absolutely right. Full disclaimer: you live in our territory so there’s a good chance my company was one of the three and I could take an educated guess at who the two others were. (And no, I did not go look in the files to check).
    This being said, I would really not recommend a combi for your type of house unless you’re only two people. Mo West houses of that age are generally not very well insulated and have, shall we say creative plumbing. They also tend to have generously sized mechanical rooms. I’m aware that it’s more of an upfront cost, but I would go with a condensing boiler plus an indirect tank- they’re more reliable in really cold weather. In terms of the brands/ models you mentioned (and, very important, their local reps, therefore access to support and parts)
    The Vitodens series were one of the earlier ones to come out here. Not a bad machine, but they can be finicky. I personally hate the programming on them, but maybe that’s just me.
    I don’t love the IBC HC series. They’re a pain to pipe and to program. To be fair I have a personal vendetta against integrated circulators. Good guarantee however, and because they’re Canadian the price point remains reasonable no matter the exchange rate. I far prefer the SL series, which is probably what you would take if you went with an indirect and with IBC. Don’t worry about parts- easily available. IBC is a very control oriented company, but hopefully they will soon listen to my many many emails and make the few little changes that would make them a bit more plumber-friendly. These changes would affect me as an installer, not you as an end user.
    Lastly the Lochinvar. I’ve never installed the Noble series because we switched to IBC before they came out. I am very fond of the WHN’s however. I have one at home. We installed tons of them until the rise of the US dollar (and their refusal to offer a 10 year warranty) kind of priced them out of the residential market. Lochinvar are definitely the most user friendly of the three, quoique as a general rule you will only ever have to adjust your thermostat.
    Don’t hesitate if you have any more questions.
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,448
    If it were me I would install a properly sized IBC HC w/ an indirect water heater.... it is a solid simple design. 1.6 million out in the field and not 1 heat exchanger failure.
    Only 4 moving parts. I have +/- 30 out there.
    The control is simple yet effective.
    I have never had a problem piping it.
  • GBart
    GBart Member Posts: 746
    eenie meenie,,.....
  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 998
    I know your area very well. I do a few high end residential, but mainly larger buildings. Did any of the three measure your house? What do they propose for hot water? Combination boilers and instant hot water, do not work in Quebec. At the end of January, the water is at 34F.

    As for the boilers proposed:

    Viessman are finicky to program. There are no parts in Montreal. They come from Waterloo.

    IBC has a copper/aluminium heat exchanger. It is not ideal when compared to stainless steel. They are assembled in Vancouver.

    Lochinvar is a good make and parts are available in Montreal. Don't take the combi.

    HTP makes good units and similar to Lochinvar. They made boilers for others. Parts are available jus off of Decarie near the 40. Except for one this past winter that HTP has us replace for a larger unit due to excessive hot water consumption, we install and forget about them.
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,658
    I've installed Viessmann boilers for over 25 years. They're reliable and have good tech service support. I'd use either the 222F cabinet model (instead of the Combi100), which can make more DHW and works with up to 21/2 baths, as long as you don't have a soaking tub. Othewise, the Vitodens 200 and a 53g Indirect tank for a separate boiler. The experience of the installer with the products is important, as mentioned above.
  • GregoryMontrealOuest
    To summarize all of your comments:
    1. Choose your installer wisely
    2. Combi is not suitable if >2 people in the house
    3. Online reviews do not paint the right picture (see #1)
    4. Many of you are suggesting that a better option is a Condensing Boiler + indirect heater
    Here are a few additional details about us/our setup:
    • Winters are bad here! For those of you who don't know, I'm sure it'll put a lot of stress on the boiler with temperatures oscillating between 20F and -40F for about 4 months :s
    • We are 2 living here (for now ;) ) and have 1 shower + 1 shower in our pipeline of renovations
    • We have natural gas
    • Our house has rad
    Before I move on to questions - thank you all for giving such insightful answers, this blog is really great!

    Questions to members who answered
    @Danny Scully
    • Concretely - how do you choose the right installer?? What questions do we ask them?
    • (hi neighbour!) Our home is relatively well insulated.
    • Is there a reason why an installer would recommend a combi vs. a condensing boiler or another? Is it the price point? trying to understand why they all recommended a combi...
    • You seem to have a sweet spot for IBC and Lochinvar, do you think these are the best for our region? weather? who are the best installers for these around here?
    • Duly noted, we will do our due dil - do you have anybody in mind in the Montreal region?
    • Impressive stats for the IBC HCs + indirect water heater
    • What's your take on integrated circulators?
    • Do you recommend the SL series?
    • Are your IBCs located in the North East?
    • Can't play games with Canadian winters! Do you really feel these are all equivalent?
    • None of them measured except 1 who visited all of our floors
    • I guess the combi's not a good choice for our winters...why are they all offering combis then in your opinion?
    • It seems that there's a consensus with respect to Viessman's finickiness??!
    • None of the suppliers suggested the HTP, which model do you recommend for our setup?
    @Paul Pollets
    • Thanks for the suggestion!
    • Not a fan about Combis either?
    • Do you know any installers in Montreal
    Thanks again everyone! Looking forward to your answers!
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,448
    I am in NH about 4 1/2 hours south of you.
    Integrated circulators are fine if you can get to them.
    In the HC & DC it is bottom right. 4 bolts and its replaceable.
    The SL is a nice boiler. I have a few in the field.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,399
    Look at the onsite contractor locator.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Danny Scully
    Danny Scully Member Posts: 1,430
    @GregoryMontrealOuest, ultimately there is always a gamble involved. Nothing is “concrete”. Having said that, however, there are some basic things to look for. Obviously you want them to be licensed and insured. Another thing which I think is big is your interaction during their site visit. Did you particularly like or dislike any of them? When I estimate jobs I like to interact with my customers on some kind of personal level, in addition to asking all the obvious questions, taking measurements, etc. Did any of the estimators try to connect with you personally? Some final advise, never chose a contractor who didn’t perform a heat loss, or at the very least offer to perform one.
  • xmorganx
    xmorganx Member Posts: 23
    Hi again,
    As for your general questions: You need to understand how competitive the replacement market is in Montreal. I would say all three started with the combi knowing the competition would and that proposing an indirect in such a borderline situation (more on that in a moment) would automatically price them out. The sad truth of the matter is that most home owners only really care about the price and have only the vaguest of notions about how the mechanics of their house work. By the same token, we cannot afford to do a proper heat loss calculation on every replacement job. When I'm installing a new system (piping, radiant floor, new rads, the whole kit) I'll take the time to properly calculate, but on a replacement we measure from outside and use a correction factor based on the age of the house and the level of renovation, if any. I've done a few comparisons (where just for fun, I did the real heat loss and compared to the rule of thumb) and on older houses it's actually not far off.
    Back to the domestic hot water: combis in Quebec can be ok in small condos where 1-everything is close and 2- space is at a premium. You have enough house to potentially have 3 bathrooms. If your family expands, or if you sell, you will be happier with the indirect. Technically, just 2 people with 1 shower a combi would be ok, but you're right on the edge of having issues.
    I like the Lochinvar and the IBC largely because they're what I'm the most familiar with. Nobody proposed brands I really dislike. Both are popular here and have good local representatives, which means parts are easily available and if there are issues we can get someone from the company on site quickly and not go through the rigmarole of trying to coordinate long-distance cell phone conferences. They are certainly not the only 2 good boiler brands, but they are certainly among the most installed in Montreal, which means there's a large base of qualified installers and service techs who know them well. (The IBC SL series have stainless steel exchangers, not aluminium, the HC are some sort of alloy; Lochinvar WHN are stainless also).
    In terms of contractors, I don't think I can ethically just give you a list, especially considering that we probably bid on your project. Keep in mind that unless it's a really small company, the person who came to do the estimate will not be part of the team that will install. All companies (mine included) have certain installers who are better than others. A few things to look at:
    1- Are they a PCGM (Partenaire certifié Gaz Métro)? Not a be all end all, but the PCGM s have to deal with a whole bunch of extra external standards from Énergir. It also gives you one more person to complain to if there's an issue. The list is on the Énergir (formerly Gaz Met) website.
    2- Do they offer after sales service and 24 hour emergency service? All boilers require maintenance, and while very few companies offer fixed-price service plans, the good ones all do maintenance also.
    3- If you call during normal business hours (generally 7-12 and 13-17) does a real person answer?
    4- What were the proposals re: evacuation and air intake? Nix anyone who said they would use the room air. Sending the evacuation through the wall is the least expensive but also the least good ( sometimes we have no choice, ie: if your existing chimney is common with a fireplace or neighbour, if your existing chimney is not in the mechanical room or if your existing chimney would require a crane to access up top). If possible, the ideal is to use your existing masonry chimney as a pipe shaft for the new exhaust and air intake pipes, sending them to the roof. Exhaust through the roof and air through a sidewall is also fine. All four options (even the dreaded room air) are legal, however, so you can get some sort of an idea from that.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,483
    To best answer you question it would be good to know the heat load, or approx square footage go your home.

    Two of us in a home with under 50K heat load and a Lochinvar Nobel combi110.

    I did add a 6 gallon buffer just to help with a small bathroom zone.

    No problem with DHW output and short cycling in our much milder climate SW Missouri has not been a problem.

    The top line Combis have plenty of control function to all but eliminate mild day short cycles. ramp delay, outdoor reset for example. If you have cast iron rads, they helps with adding some mass to the system.

    I suspect you see more and more Combis on the market not just for tight spaces, but they do work well and are cost effective.

    If three companies offered combis, they must have good experience with them in your market and application?

    I think you might do some number crunching regarding your loads to get a better picture.

    If you want to try yourself, here is a simple to use load calc ap.


    I'd say the actual installers not the company per say helps make or break a top quality installation. Some contractors will show you past installation pics and have testimonials from past customers in your area.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream