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Life expediency for a Burnham residential boiler?

Jakek Member Posts: 55
Here's a mid-summer question: I have a 1989 mid-size Burnham gas boiler (Independence?) for a single family house I recently bought. The two previous owners have been religious about yearly servicing and biweekly LWCO blow-downs plus occasionally draining a few pints until it runs clean. People look at the boiler and are surprised it's 30. When I got the house the pressure was on the high side (~4psi) but it's since been replaced by vaporstat which is set for as low as it will go -- about 10oz. The heating system seems to run fairly well although I feel like the risers (which I assume are original) seem a bit undersized for some radiators.

I had a plumber in for a estimate for another project who noticed the boiler and gave a bit of a hard sell to replace it now, claiming there's a $2k incentive available if replaced when functional. Given the fact the system runs OK I'm disinclined to spend the $$$$ to replace a functional boiler.

So my question to the experts: Is there any reason to think the boiler is at or nearing the end of it's life? And/or, should I replace the MM float type LWCO now (it's well beyond 10 years old) even if it tests fine?

I suspect it should be skimmed which is on my project list.


  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542
    My Burnham is 36 years old and still running fine. The newer Burnhams have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years but the older ones seem to run well past that. Clearly something changed in the 90's. In any case, I have no intentions of replacing mine until it leaks. Heck, it may still have more life in it than the new ones. As for the MM#67 LWCO, if you take it apart and scrape it out and check the float to make sure it isn't water logged and the switch works fine, it probably is good to go. I replaced mine at about 25 years, just because.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,701
    Did you replace the float type with a probe type, @Fred ? Is that something that would be recommended generally?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • Fred
    Fred Member Posts: 8,542

    Did you replace the float type with a probe type, @Fred ? Is that something that would be recommended generally?

    No, I replaced my float type with another MM67. My boiler doesn't have a spare tapping, in the right location for the probe. The MM67 is tapped into a Tee off of the sight glass.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512

    What @Fred said. If it's working good keep running it
  • Koan
    Koan Member Posts: 439
    I have the original MM67 on my 50 year old American Standard gas boiler. the float failed about 3 years ago, so I overhauled it with a new float and quarter turn blow down valve. It took a few hours to clean it all out but it still works fine.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,621
    Does this boiler have a Powerpile gas valve system? If so do not get rid of it until you have to. The powerpile systems gives you heat when there is a power failure.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,569
    You might consider having a true steam pro look at it. If it has signs of combustion side condensation or deterioration or if there is excess sludge buildup internally, it might be worth being proactive and replacing it on "your terms". If you end up replacing in an emergency, you wont get the rebate and will likely pay top dollar for the replacement.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,941
    The old adage; "If it ain't broke, dont fix it."
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
    There are risks either way. I'm sticking with mine and it is now at 63 years. It very well might have more years left in it than a brand new one...might not. A good friend in the commercial boiler supply business tells me he'd take the bet that it will outlast a new one. The boiler is obviously very happy. I accept the risk that I may have a failure at exactly the wrong time.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • Jakek
    Jakek Member Posts: 55
    @Zman How would one determine if there is excess sludge build up internally? What would be an indication of combustion side condensation?

    FWIW, I only need to drain a pint or two before it runs clear. There's no wet return in this system. The Honeywell gas regulator/ignitor was replaced recently.

    Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm sticking with my gut feeling that there's no need to consider replacement now. Unlike the boiler, there's no question the house's roof is going to need to be replaced soon. :neutral:
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512
    When I started in 73' the only boilers we replaced were 40 years or older. It was common to see boilers 50 years old and older still running.

    Now, were replacing boiler that are 10 years old. True some of this is due to installation errors and yes the old boilers were more forgiving.
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    I’ve inspected a few hot water boilers from the early 60’s or late 50’s with the big heavy cast iron burners. Can’t remember the model name, but there were chugging along, not a leak in sight, Flames looked nice and even.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,569
    One of the steam guys could tell you the best way to inspect the steam chamber
    On the combustion side, look for dandruff around the burners, any corrosion, or signs of leak.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • mzjenks
    mzjenks Member Posts: 1
    Yeah, something other than you have to replace blah blah blah..
    My house was built in 1977 I have a 4-22A. We bought the house in 08. I have done maintenance every year. And our local maintenance service come out when something isn't right. You get used to sertain sounds. I have had a tech tell us they don't build these like they used to. Take care and it should last long time. Have had pump, bladder, and just had the gas valve replaced more for prevention. With "energy efficient " parts can't go wrong.. new thermostat.. she is a good ol girl... in Central Illinois so we have a few cold days.