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Knucklehead? Yes or No??? RE: Boiler Replacement

Thank you all for the comments so far on the other discussion I started.

Getting bids for new boiler...

Ok, so new day, new contractor. The contractor that came today has recommended that we start by cleaning the old boiler first and see how that goes before deciding if the boiler needs to be replaced.

After much discussion about replacing the boiler, he just kept saying how good condition the boiler was in and the piping was in. No corrosion was his point (except one small area on wet return), he realized it was piped wrong. The boiler is 1966, and i don't think it's ever been cleaned. I know the drain valve is completely clogged from an issue we had previously with the boiler. When i had the company that the previous owner had servicing the boiler, when i had them come out all they did was service the burner. When i asked about the boiler..."oh we don't do that". The previous owner was here for 50 something years, probably using the same service tech company.

In general what he had to say made a lot of sense. But I had already mentally determined that it needs to be replaced, but now he has me thinking twice.

Basically his proposal was cut off the piping where the drain is and reconfigure with new drain. Flushing the system out before rebuilding it. And take the cover off and clean around the sections. Clean the water gauge glass.

If i choose to, the next step up would be to rebuild the riser/header, but he says it would be expensive (whatever that means). It would have to all be rebuilt if i got a new boiler anyways though. Says it should have a hartford loop but recommends not doing it, i think he was saying this because at that point it would be so much work, you just replace the boiler and do all new.

What do you think? Does he sound good, or is he a knucklehead??? Can i trust this 1966 boiler to keep going another 10-20 years? Oh, he also said that new boilers, the way they are built today probably wouldn't outlast the current one. Just don't build things today like they use too! he says.


  • FredFred Posts: 7,874Member
    He doesn't sound like a knucklehead. As a matter of fact he makes some decent points/observations. Normally a boiler doesn't need to be replaced if it doesn't leak and a leak in the wet return piping is a fairly simple fix.
    Having said that, if the near boiler piping (Header/risers/etc) needs to be redone and there is no Hartford loop AND the boiler is already 50+ years old, I'd say do the job right and get a new one installed, with all the piping changes and be done with it, with peace of mind that it won't start leaking on a cold December night.
    He's probably right that that boiler will outlive any of the new ones, but it already has by 3 or 4 times. How much life does he think it might have?
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    Thanks Fred. He said 20 years first, but then when repeating himself later he said he would bet at least 10 years.
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    He also asked us why we wanted to replace it, was there anything wrong with it. Basically our answer is peace of mind and an assuming that it will save us money by being more efficient. We have pretty cold winters here an don't want to be stuck replacing a boiler mid winter. We use 200-250 gal per month for a 1800 SF home, no idea what the average is. We do supplement with wood, about 3 cord a year.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member
    edited August 7

    The guy sounds solid to me. But I would base my decision on your financial situation. If your old boiler isn't leaking it will probably last a few years longer. Most of the time (but not always) boilers start to leak slowly and give you some warning and catastrophic failures are less likely.

    So your choice is to replace it now or, hang with the repaired old boiler and budget for a new one. Get a few quotes and see what you think.

    And a new boiler is likely not much more efficient than a 1966 boiler. Make sure your venting is up to snuff. Flush the returns. This is a way of prepping for the new boiler instead of doing everything all at once. How old is your oil tank?
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,045Member
    What make and model is your present boiler? What burner is on it? Post pics..................
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    Thanks steamhead. Here is a link to my first post (about 3 years ago), it has lots of photos linked in it.

    EBEBRATT-Ed - I have no idea, but it appears to be in good condition. We do pay extra for Tank Saver from the oil company, some kind of additive they put in the oil I'm guessing.
  • SteamheadSteamhead Posts: 13,045Member
    Oh, that one. Looks a bit older than 1966- is there any asbestos insulation under the jacket?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    "Reducing our country's energy consumption, one system at a time"
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Baltimore, MD (USA) and consulting anywhere.
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    The 1966 date was found on the hot water coil plate. They guy today did say something about it looking like it was converted from coal. Something about the oversize opening, looks like they put a new door on it. I didn't pay much attention as i was convinced they replaced the boiler in 1966, assuming that's when they went to oil vs. coal and replaced the boiler. But maybe they converted it. The house (we were told, by realtor) was built 1920, is it possible this is the original boiler?!! That would be kind of amazing if it was.
  • gennadygennady Posts: 740Member
    Near boiler piping is wrong, missing hartford loop. Looks like this boiler was built before EPA change boiler requirements. So standby losses are higher compared to new boilers. I would correct near boiler piping and leave boiler alone. Unless you have extra cash to spend.
    Gennady Tsakh

    Absolute Mechanical Co. Inc.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Posts: 729Member

    The 1966 date was found on the hot water coil plate.

    Could be the plate was replaced in 1966 :sweat_smile:
    1 pipe Utica 112 in Cedar Grove, NJ, 1913 coal > oil > NG
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member
    That's an HB Smith model 1100 or a similar Smith boiler. They made several versions I believe yours is an 1100. They also made an 1100 lo-set without the cast iron base and combustion chamber.

    I believe the 1966 date. That would be correct for that vintage boiler. That has not been coal converted. That looks like original 1966 to me. The burner has been changed.

    They did make a older version the model 15 that was made in the 40s &50s that was similar and could be coal fired. But the clean out doors etc. on yours indicate it has always been oil fired. The 15 had different doors.

    the were all good boilers

  • GWGW Posts: 3,416Member
    Am I the only one that finds it odd that we have a means to discuss and make a general judgement if someone is a “knucklehead” or not? Seems less than flattering to an industry already having popularity and social concerns.

    If you want a new boiler, get a new boiler.

    That’s like going to the car dealership and the sales guy talks you into keeping your old ride. Not the end of the world, and I guess one would be inclined to land some unflattering names on such a person
    Gary Wilson
    Wilson Services, Inc
    Northampton, MA
    [email protected]
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member
    I looked for my old Smith manuals but now I remember throwing them out as they got wet in a flood.

    Those boilers had a large steam push nipples which really made them as though they had an internal header. That is why they worked so well with what loos like less than optimal piping. They should have put swing joints on the steam and return headers though. As I recall Smith didn't call for a equalizer back then.

    If it was mine I would keep running it
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    @EBEBRATT-Ed Thank you for taking the time to look that up.

    Not sure what swing joints are though?

    I went down and measured the height of the header from the center of the glass. To the bottom of the header pipe it looks to be about 13", pretty far from the 24" requirement.

    I'm still in limbo of what to do, but I'm leaning toward having him clean and inspect the inside and then make a decision. If it looks good then make a decision if its worth it to make some small improvements to the piping. (raise the header and make it offset and make it so the pipe isn't between the two risers, maybe add the equalizer?)

    Part of the concern of whether he was a knucklehead was his professionalism, for lack of a better word. Seems kind of fly by night, No business card, doesn't have a business name, just some guy with a truck (no lettering). His appearance didn't help either, but I know you can't judge a book by its cover. But he is an older gentlemen wearing baggy pants like a rapper and a shirt with cutoff sleeves, balding slicked back hair and smelling like cigarettes. Talks really hyper like too. Just really not the best first impression, but he seems to know what he is talking about and that's what matters. I am just worried about the "what if" something goes wrong, he'll disappear into the night never to be seen again!LOL

    It's really hard to find contractors up here, I've been trying for 2 years to find someone and have had only 2 contractors so far look at it, my options are limited.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member
    I would not re-pipe it. just fix what is leaking or needs cleaning. You have a 53 year old boiler I would keep running it as is as long as you don't have excessive knocking, water level is stable and it heats reasonably well.

    Not worth re-piping unless you change the boiler
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    @EBEBRATT-Ed you got me thinking so i went down and looked through all the papers hanging by the boiler, mostly burn service tags, and i found the manual buried underneath. Doesn't appear to show how they want it piped though. But still interesting. Also, found the permit to operate oil burning equipment from the state fire marshal dated 1967.
  • Steve_in_NHSteve_in_NH Posts: 60Member
    I scanned the manuals...
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member
    If you look on page 2 of the instructions you will see the top steam push nipple is 5" in diameter. That effectively gives the boiler a 5" internal header. This is why it will work with piping that is less than optimal. You will not find that in a "modern" boiler.

    Water passages are quite large which gives the steam space to disengage from the water
  • BobCBobC Posts: 4,965Member
    I agree with Ed, with a large steam chest the header becomes a little less important. As long as it heats well I would get it cleaned out and inspected and consider spending money on tightening up the house so it retains more of the heat you are paying for.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • mikeg2015mikeg2015 Posts: 800Member

    If you look on page 2 of the instructions you will see the top steam push nipple is 5" in diameter. That effectively gives the boiler a 5" internal header. This is why it will work with piping that is less than optimal. You will not find that in a "modern" boiler.

    Water passages are quite large which gives the steam space to disengage from the water

    You bring a great point. My old 1983 HB Smith had no equalizer, one tapping used (manual called or using two) and was oversized but ran under 1oz and was quiet after I sped up the venting.

    Replaced the boiler with a smaller one with a nice big drop header and equalizer. Probably needs some more skimming but run at 2-3oz now ad needle bounces around. Just have no steam chest at all like the old beast. But should save fuel as flue temps are lower, heats up faster with a smaller burner and doesn’t have 2” of sediment in the bottom.

    Had gaskets instead of posing nipples but only two very small leak I saw signs of after 35+ years.

    New boiler is like 5 gallons, 200k BTU, old one was I think almost 20 gallons 350k BTU.

    ...OT, but I’m now technically undersized, but the steam so far is filling the header first, and radiators seem to be starting to heat up evenly from the short time i ran it.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,853Member

    Don't forget the boiler has a pick up factor of 1.33 which can be used to some extent. If the pping is cold and the boiler is cold on a cold start you will probably see some surginng and it may trip the low water cutoff until the piping gets warm.

    as the boiler starts to steam some steam leaves the boiler and when it contacts the cold piping it condenses immediately putting the system in a vacuum which can pul lsome wter out of the boiler. Basically for a brief time your condensing steam faster than you can make it and the water level can be unstable
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