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Vitodens 200 and Other Circuit Card Life? Also, I'm "Perry" from 2006-2008 (or so time-frame)

PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
I would like to thank everyone up front who is still around from back then for the wonderful support that was provided many years ago (and I helped back in areas of my expertise - and posted under the name "Perry" back then - not sure why I could not resurrect that name now). Also, to thank those providing similar support to people now.

After researching I installed a Vitodens 200 6-24 in my 1950's house with a cast iron baseboard monoflow T system; and I installed a transformer based surge protector (there are likely pictures in an old post if it still exists). Installed in October 2006; and I'm one of those guys where the gas company changed the meter because it had to be broke, and then wouldn't believe the new meter or my story until they inspected my new boiler. :)

A simple summary over the last 12.5 years is that since then it has performed well (once programmed right - I had to change the reset curve and enable hot water at night) as long as there were regular cleanings and drain trap/drain neutralizer maintenance, I missed cleaning one year and it failed due to a plugged boiler (which cleaned up). My fault!

One area of concern was that the fan started vibrating some years ago which started vibrating the cover - and progressively got worse. I could manage the cover vibrations by various means up to this winter when I just remove it.

I now have the 1st real failure: Code 04 which is Fan or the LGM 29 Card.

Last November along with the vibration I noticed that the ignition transformer tabs had broken (from the vibration and I taped it in approximate place suspended with electrical tape). I also ordered the replacement ignition transformer kit, and a new fan; but, did not install as the boiler was still running and it was a cold winter and the house and pipes could freeze if things went really wrong.

So today; after seeing the fault code and looking up that it was either the Fan or the LGM 29 card; I changed the Fan (cleaned everything up nice too, checked other things). I did not install the ignition transformer mod kit as I did not wish to complicate things at this stage (lets get the boiler running first). I know that most heating contractors cringe at homeowners doing their own work. Please hold your criticism for now: I was a skilled instrument and electronics technician before becoming an engineer; and there not a heating contractor in this area who has a clue about this boiler (not even the one who installed it - their one and only Viessmann on a T&M job for me); and we've paid professionals to stumble for 2 hours using the technical manuals I have in my house before they would agree to let me progress with what I know about the boiler - and then I solved the problem in about 30 minutes - and my wife still asks why we I even called them). I know the boiler. I know the programming. I am a technician, my work quality is high... and most of you would likely hire me as a technician if I could show you that I had any formal training in home heating systems and I wanted that kind of work (I can also solder copper pipe decently). I understand that I am the rare homeowner in this regard. But, we do exist.

Still Code 04 so its the LGM 29 card, and I'll have a cold house with no hot water until next week sometime (but it won't freeze now).

My question is should I also change the VR20 card at this time - just from a preventive maintenance standpoint (as I can be gone on trips during the winter). What is the history of circuit card longevity in boilers? Please provide your experience. Also, I've picked up some indications from other sources that the VR20 card fails more often than the LGM 29. What are the professionals who service the Vitodens seeing?

Also, here is the other reason I ask: Other than infant death, electronic circuits and circuit cards fail almost always for 2 reasons: Voltage surges which commonly kills transistors and shortens the life of many other components; and aging capacitors. I stopped the voltage surges from ever hitting the boiler up front. But capacitors age.

The typical life of a capacitor is 10-15 years unless specifically designed for long life using special long life capacitors (either large or costly - or both). Even if a circuit card sits in a box unused for 15 years... some of its capacitors may have degraded to the point that the circuit board will not work properly. Industries that run long life equipment (Power Plants, Metal Mills, etc) all have programs that systematically replace capacitors on many circuit boards because there are no real advantages in replacing the older control systems (and the modern ones also have the capacitor aging issue).

Now it is possible that Viessmann did design for very high capacitor life... It's also that I got a good life out of one of my original control cards. That is why I was asking about your folks experience with circuit board life in boilers..

Thanks for your patience in my writing a longer post than necessary to just as the base question. I thought you would like the background.



  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,835
    I remember you, Perry- good to hear from you again.

    I think you're right- at least get the VR20 card so you'll have it if it dies on you.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,525
    @PerryHolzman ,

    You have probably already thought of this but the card may have some oxidation on the contacts but I am on up on the Viessmann. Pulling it in and out a few times or some spray contact cleaner ay get you going
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    I tried removing the connectors, cleaning everything, and putting it back together.

    This is not the easiest thing to do on a mid 2000 Vitodens (I understand the newer version is simpler). You cannot just access and pull the card. You have to disassemble the control cabinet - piece by piece; and then remove the connectors from the board prior to being able to remove the LGM 29 board - if you need to (held in by 5 screws) - if you need to (I did not remove the LGM 29 card; but did remove the VR20 card which plugs into the LGM 29 and can be changed a lot easier and I believe with less disassembly). But, everything got cleaned (board and connectors) and unplugged and plugged more than once.

    I also cleaned the connectors at the new Fan and rang down the wires (I wonder where that term came from - perhaps in the early days before VOM's they used a circuit with a bell) to verify that the wiring harness was good between the Fan and the LGM 29 Control Board: All is sat.

    Still Fault Code 04

    So, its a new control card (unless both the old Fan and new Fan were defective with the same failure).

    Note: along with my above concern about the type and expected life of the capacitors... I do wonder if all the boiler vibration from the fan may have caused an early failure of the control board as well... Somethings I will probably never know.

    Have a great Sunday, and Easter for those who celebrate it.

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,525

    sounds like you have done all you can, I figured you would have done that. It's what I hate about the new equipment. At a certain point it comes down to being a parts changer which I hate but have no choice
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    Update on repairing my Vitodens 200 6-24. I am apparently the rare recipient of a bad new Boiler control card. So after installing the new card the boiler never started and I got Fault Code 14 (no flame detection). Understandable as there was no ignition either...

    Anyway, since I had the parts on hand: I installed the new ignition transformer upgrade kit (requires running new wires and a new plug # 156 to the control board as there is now some kind of booster transformer). I installed my new ignition electrodes, and the new flame sensor rod. I rang down all the wires for those components to ensure the wiring harness was good... Still no attempted boiler start (only thing that starts is the water pump) and Fault Code 14. Also verified gas supply pressure (7.5 in H20), normal based on past readings.

    I had contacted the now retired Viessmann area rep who had helped me select and helped the local heating vendor install the boiler in 2006 for advice. He asked me to validate that the polarity was correct on the incoming power (plug 40). It was.

    It was this morning before I had the time to talk to Viessmann technical service; who will talk with homeowners if they are respectful and seem knowledgeable. They provided some additional information to validate some of my observations and confirmed I had done the right troubleshooting; had me verify the dip switch settings (I have pictures of that); and had me install the original card to see if I still got the original fault code 04 (I did).

    The direction from Viessmann was then to contact the supplier for warrantee replacement as fault code 14 should not appear until after the boiler attempts to fire - not before, and there had to be something wrong with the card. They also explained how the warrantee replacement process worked - and that my parts supplier would likely handle everything once I returned the card.

    I had kept the parts supplier up to date on all my issues and progress starting the day I received and installed the new card - and it did not work. That consisted of a detailed list of every step on what I had done; and my discussions with Viessmann and the retired area Viessmann rep when they occurred. They had suggested I contact Viessmann for technical assistance, not knowing that I already had.

    They provided a Return Authorization within 2 hours of my emailing the request this morning, and the bad new card has now been shipped back to them for replacement. Due to shipping it will of course be mid next week before I have a replacement new card. I'm so fortunate this failure occurred this time of year... and you have all lived though bad new cards and everything that goes into troubleshooting and getting another new one (especially when you don't have multiple cards because its not the normal boiler you support - and I'm in a small town and the nearest part warehouse with any Vitodens parts is about 100 miles away - and they might not have this card in stock either).

    I have been going though some of the post between about 2009 and now; and do not understand the people who do not claim that Viessmann does not step up to the plate and help homeowners out. They do. Also, I chose a recognized Heating Contractor parts supplier many of you in a certain state would recognize - and perhaps use yourself (and not just someone off of Amazon, etc. who might be a bit cheaper); and they have no difficulty with replacing a bad card from a homeowner once the appropriate verifications were done.

    I'll let you all know when I get it working again.

    Have a great weekend,

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,525
    That's my issue with the newer equipment....parts availability.

    Also most technicians are not as knowledgeable as @PerryHolzman .

    We installed a Viessmann this was on a college campus. Ran 3 years with no issue. On the original call the tech said bad board. This was on New Years weekend, no tech support available...no parts available. The college insisted on heat so a rental boiler was brought in, holes knocked in walls 3 or 4 guys worked New Years Eve.

    They got the board and installed it......not the problem. Another tech went.......bad gas pressure switch.

    I am no great shakes on the newer equipment myself. But I would have tried jumping every safety to try and find the problem and in this case I would have.

    So it's two things. techs who no nothing and parts availability.

    Gotta be a better way. Some companies don't like training. They pay for the training and pay the guy to go to the training. Now the new smart guy gets a better offer and jumps ship
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,621
    @PerryHolzman What is your location?
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234

    @EBEBRATT-Ed: I agree with you that there are some issues with the newer equipment in regards to knowledge and parts support - and longevity. In the case of the earlier Vitodens 200 the boiler card also controls the hot water as well as there is a solenoid as part of the boiler itself to switch the heating water circuit to a hot water heater coil inside a Vitocell hot water tank. I also installed a low loss header supplied by Viessmann as well so some of the temperature sensors are on it. Toss in an external power supply module as well to supply the needed voltage, and it has an expansion board installed within it to control the household water circuit pump.

    Not to mention that its a jig saw puzzle just to open up and close the controller enclosure to get to the circuit boards (requiring 3 different screw drivers to do so).

    Every boiler mfr seems to have taken different approaches in those days. I understand that the next generation simplified some things... although things are not as simple as they were up to the 1980's (or as inefficient either).

    It's a huge dilemma for a heating contractor... and a homeowner for what to do. Is a heating contractor going to install enough of a specific "type" of boiler to be able to maintain fully trained techs and to make it worthwhile to have a good stash of spare parts... a decade + down the road.

    What about the homeowner who want's a specific system for a reason... and mistakenly believes that adequate service will be available long term...

    Very few homeowners have my level of knowledge and expertise about boilers and controls (I spent most of my adult life in the US Navy and working with Large Industrial and Power Plant boilers and their controls and systems: I could design the permissive and lockout logic and control algorithms needed for a boiler; and I know what to look for when a boiler does not fire... (I really learned that on a 275 MW power plant boiler that had a one of a kind "custom" burner logic control system that was not very reliable - think about 150 ft square x 15 stories tall).

    Alternately, very few contractors or homeowners can afford to have a stockpile of parts for a specific boiler; and then there is no warranty on a bad part that has been sitting on the shelf for years... (how many parts are adequate to keep a boiler or any system in service for decades?).

    While Viessmann has assured me that I will always be able to get parts (even if they have to be custom manufactured in Germany and take months to get). At what cost not just money but time - especially time during the heating season.

    How many boilers get replaced because that is faster than figuring out what is wrong with the old one and getting parts? Replacement might even be cheaper than taking the time to troubleshoot and get the parts. We all know that replacing a boiler and repiping the connections to the heating system and now a water heater tank is not a cheap option (and even the Viessmann concentric exhaust and inlet air system is not cheap to replace - as it snakes up to the first floor and then outside the side of the house).

    Rental boilers or alternate portable electrical generators with electrical heating is not cheap either... (and may not prevent the pipes from freezing in the outer walls in the worst weather). Note that in about 2010 I installed a pure sine wave output UPS supply for my boiler that will keep the boiler and circ pump running for at least 2 days in the winter in the event of a power outage (its been used a time or two for less than a day). That does not help if the boiler itself breaks down.

    I have to admit that I have done a lot of thinking about was it worth it... or should I have just installed a modern cast iron boiler in 2006. The Vitodens with water heating was twice the money to install if I had kept it where it was, and in my case 3 times as I moved the Vitodens 200 to an outer wall instead of in the center of the basement (which frees up the center of the basement and allows future tear-out of the chimney).

    I'm not sure I'd advise a normal homeowner to do the same today (although back in 2006 I was very excited and positive about mod-con boilers in concept, and am very very glad I chose the Viessmann Vitodens as all the other ones being offered at the time would likely have needed replacement years ago as they were not long term reliable - often with fundamental components like the heat exchanger itself).

    @TimMcElwain: Two Rivers, Wisconsin. To the best of my knowledge (based on a discussion with the Viessman area rep in December 2018) there is a company in Milwaukee with likely some of the parts for my boiler in stock - although they may have been there since the mid 2000's. I did talk to the Viessmann rep for that company and he also told me that there is a heating contractor perhaps 20 miles away that just recently installed 2 of the newer Vitodens 200 and were looking to do more of them.

    If you are familiar with the area you will know that there are (were) 2 nuclear power plants in the area. I have worked at both as a full time employee. I have also worked at 3 largely coal fired power plants in the region prior to that, a paper mill in NY, and served 5 years in the US Navy in steam propulsion. I transitioned from maintenance to instruments and controls and then became an Engineer (with an effective minor in controls); and have spent much of my life helping to troubleshoot and repair controls and related equipment it controlled; and then specialized in heat exchangers as I had more knowledge about them than anyone else when a problem occurred.

    Toss in that as a teenager I was helping the local heating contractor clean, repair, and replace coal fired furnaces and boilers and their controls (the old motor driven timers for furnaces, and pressure switches and low water level lockouts, etc. for boilers). I understand most of the old steam systems.

    Have a great weekend,

    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,525
    You described the dilemma better than I could. I like the Mod Cons but on a pure dollars situation Mod cons cost more and more expensive to install, parts expense and availability, lack of technician knowledge, manufacturers changing and updating, obsolete models, equipment longjevity versus the amount of fuel saved. Just not sure they add up.
  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
    With circuit boards as a last ditch effort you can try to bake them. This reflows the solder joints.

    I have personally done this to my wife's Dell laptop motherboard 6 or 7 times. 385 for 15 minutes.
  • Alan (California Radiant) Forbes
    Hey, there Perry. Nice to see you again, but sorry for your dilemma.

    I have a few of the older Viessmann WB2 and VB2 that we installed and now service and I think all them have ignition transformer tabs that have broken off. Remove the cover and the transformer is just hanging there. Bad design.

    By now, you have a case number with Viessmann and don't have to qualify yourself every time you call.

    I myself enjoy the hobbyists and amateurs that are here on The Wall. They are often more enthusiastic, have more time and have a different perspective than the pros. I learn a LOT from them.

    I admire your fortitude and patience, but it might be time for a new boiler, no?
    8.33 lbs./gal. x 60 min./hr. x 20°ΔT = 10,000 BTU's/hour

    Two btu per sq ft for degree difference for a slab
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    @EBEBRATT-Ed & @Alan Forbes

    I'm still convinced that the right mod-cons do add up in the right situation. But, it is not the obvious retrofit that many of us thought 12-13 years ago. Reviewing some of the posts here on The Wall during recent years indicates that is not an original observation by me.

    Alan: You are right that I now have a Viessmann Case Number for the life of me or my boiler.

    As for the design of the WB2 series. Viessmann actually got a lot of things right... a lot more than any of the other Mfrs of that era. The base HX is solid and likely has an almost infinite life if properly cleaned every year (you need to get something between the tubes and clear the passageways - note there are "spacing bumps" periodically so you can only clean several inches at once. Although, it should not be that hard to replace the HX (and Viessmann tells me they have them in stock).

    I note that in the pictures I have seen of the newer designs that the ignition transformer is much more robustly supported.

    Hopefully the replacement Fan has better bearings and inherent balance than the original and will last longer. But, even then - it takes years for the vibration to really get bad so there is plenty of warning; and it's not difficult to change (a bit time consuming if you take your time and clean up reused parts).

    As for a new boiler... Who says spending that kind of money will provide a more reliable and cheaper to maintain boiler; and do I want to go back to the center of the basement where the chimney is for a cast iron boiler? Who says I would have gotten hot water faster either - assuming that the circuit card had not been bad? Who says that a new boiler might not have a bad controller or other part that needs replacing right away.

    Lots of questions, few answers.

    What I have told my wife is it's probably cheapest to maintain the existing boiler as long as I can get parts and can do my own service.

    I believe that I'll be much more likely better served by spending a fraction of the cost for a new boiler by rigging an emergency heating system using used portable generators (it would take about a 200 amp service to replace my boiler on a -20F day, and I only have a 100 amp service and 1/3 to 1/2 of that needs to be available for other things. I'm sure I can find 3 or 4 barely used generators for sale that will easily do the trick (including spares in case one will not start). Heavy duty power cords can be fabricated or purchased and electric heaters are cheap; which can then be located thought the house (the kitchen already has the electric range).

    The tricky part is to rig an emergency power switch to power the circ pump for the house and a modest electric heater strapped to the iron loop pipe to keep the pipes in the wall from freezing in the coldest weather (my walls have 2" of rockwool insulation in them). I'd like to have this just on a switch - and maybe just a cord that plugs into my cloths dryer receptacle. Anyway, I've got all summer and who knows how long to figure it out. Money is tight though... But... I can start to accumulate things as they appear on Criags list and other places.

    You all have a great day, and thanks for your advice and caring.

    I'll let you know what happens when I get the replacement card.

  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    Success: I have installed the warranty replacement control board and the boiler fired on 1st attempt. Heated the hot water, and is now in the process of heating the house. With the new fan installed there is no boiler vibration and the boiler is "like new" very quite.

    The reason for the delay in installing the replacement control board is that I spent 8 1/2 days 24/7 with my mom for her final days, and got home yesterday AM after being up all night (and went to bed). The replacement board arrived as scheduled. I was not home.

    As for cost... This was the 1st failure and replacement parts in 12.5 years. I replaced the vibrating fan, installed an ignition transformer modification kit, installed new electrodes and flame sensor rod (as part of troubleshooting as I had them - and I left them in), and installed a new main control board. That cost me (shipping included) about 1/3 of the cost in parts of the quote to replace my boiler with a similar non-condensing cast iron boiler to the original in my house, at the central basement location, in 2006 (likely 1/4 the cost of replacing my mod-con in its current location using a heating contractor).

    Had I involved a knowledgeable heating contractor who knew the boiler and could do what I did as fast - it would have been about twice that cost - assuming that the original new control board was good. Likely another 1/6th or 1/3 in cost for all the troubleshooting that went on in regards to the bad control board (ringing down wires, time on the phone with Viessmann, etc.).

    Thus the dilemma on modern mod-con boilers. Had a heating contractor been involved --- a replacement cast iron boiler might have been about the same price (had I kept a cast iron boiler); and a replacement mod con boiler would only have likely been another 25% more. In my opinion, boilers should not be a 10+ year replacement item. They should last 20+ years without question (and 30-40 should be achievable given their cost).

    I'm very happy that I am knowledgeable and skilled enough to be able to maintain my own boiler.

    You all have a great weekend and future,

  • flat_twin
    flat_twin Member Posts: 350
    I enjoyed reading your 12 year modcon experience. I'm 3 years into it with a very simple firetube modcon. With good maintenance (by this retired telco tech) and good water, hoping for 20+ years.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,525

    For the average homeowner or technician I don't see mod-cons being cost effective. For someone such as yourself or a technician who is famalier with that pc of equipment it's different. A few parts and the aggravating down time eats up any saved fuel pretty fast. From a strictly business or $$$ stand point ...I think it's tough to make it work.

    Sorry about your mom.
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234

    Thank you on my mom. A life fully lived and if most people did a tenth of what she did to help other people after she retired the world would be a vastly better place.

    Ultimately, I agree that a mod con is often not the best long term economical option. Due to my wife's questions I was looking at my records from 2006. I was quoted an 83% efficient cast iron boiler installed in the same place as the old one - and using the existing chimney at about 1/2 of the contractors final installed cost of my Vitodens 6-24 with external SS 42 gallon hot water tank and low loss header to interface with my monoflow T cast iron baseboard system.

    At the time my water heater was showing signs of end of life as well; and it would have cost more to replace it; and by moving things from the center of the basement to the wall I freed up a lot of area. The overall cost of the project was higher than the contractor's invoice because I had separately done modifications to the basement to support the move to a wall hung boiler and relocate the laundry as it was at the best place to locate the wall hung boiler.

    I'm not sure that the efficiency gains of about 13% economically outway the cost of the change and expensive parts after 12.5 years. However, I did free up a large area in the center of the basement - which I see as having value; and I no longer have to worry about a future chimney relining and other repairs.

    Of course now It only makes sense to me to stay with a similar boiler because everything is set up for it (the piping changes were not cheap to move the boiler to the wall and pipe in the hot water tank).

    For now, I'm convinced the cheapest option is to keep repairing it. However, as you mention someone not as skilled or knowledgeable as I could likely not do that.

    Have a great spring,

  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    This was the 1st failure and replacement parts in 12.5 years.

    My (W-M Ultra-3) was installed April 2009, so it is just over 10 years old. They also put in a W-M (Triangle Tube) indirect hot water heater. The only failures have been two Taco 007 circulators that got very noisy, and the hydrostat in the Indirect that failed calling for heat. No problems at all with the boiler. I do have it serviced every year.

    If I remember correctly, Taco replaced one of those circulators for free as a courtesy. And W-M replaced the control board as a courtesy. The board failure was due to an error by the original installer; it got drowned by a water leak. This was not the fault of W-M, but they did not want me to run with the board that had been drowned -- even though it worked just fine after it was dried out. I know why they wanted it replaced, but it was really nice of them to pick up the cost, since it was not their fault.