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Homeowner dealing with a cracked Burnham KV83

notsponsible Member Posts: 5
edited January 2020 in THE MAIN WALL
This is a follow-up from a post I made at the end of December about how my oil company replaced a leaking pressure relief valve with a plug on my hot water system. You can view that original post here (along with photos): https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/178463/need-advice-on-recent-work-done-by-boiler-service-company#latest

To recap, I have a Burnham KV83 boiler that was manufactured 11/2004. The unit handles my baseboard heat and my hot water. It has run fine until last December when the unit shut off and would not turn back on. The oil company came out and removed an electronic damper from the system claiming it was the cause of the failure and that it was not needed. Two weeks after that the boiler shut off again and the company came out and changed the oil filter and fired it back up. After that a pressure relief valve on the hot water plumbing began to leak so they came out again and replaced the valve with a plug.

So now for the update, about two weeks ago I noticed that I was hearing running water in my baseboard pipes which was a new issue. At first I figured that maybe the air got into the baseboard while the oil company was troubleshooting the leaking pressure relief valve on the hot water system. I wasn’t home at the time so I had no idea what they actually did. I called the oil company and asked to speak to someone about the plug they installed and the sounds of running water through my baseboard but I didn’t receive a response. A day or two ago we noticed water coming up from the floorboards surrounding the boiler. I checked the plumbing and didn’t find a leak but I called the oil company and told them I need someone to come asap to take a look. The technician who came was the same guy they sent last time who installed the plug on the hot water pipes. He removes the cover to the boiler system to find a crack on the cast iron block which is running horizontally and is a little under an inch long.

The guy tells me a few things:
1. This crack is caused by a manufacturers defect in the cast iron block.
2. The plug he installed on the hot water plumbing could not have caused this crack.
3. The old pressure relief valve on the hot water plumbing was not necessary since excess pressure gets released every time we run a faucet.
4. The crack cannot be repaired and the boiler needs to be replaced, of course my contract doesn’t even cover the labor for a boiler replacement, yet alone the cost of the boiler itself since this the oil company did not cause this issue.
Coincidentally I have been gathering estimates to replace the boiler and switch over to natural gas that was recently run down my street last year. I’ve received two estimates so far from two local plumbers, one was to install a Viessmann B1KA125 and the other was a few thousand more to install a Bosch Greenstar ZWB42-3. Both estimates seem a bit high to me but they include abandoning the original oil tank, running the gas line about 15 feet, capping off the original chimney, installing a vent directly out the side of the house, and of course installing a new boiler and connecting up two baseboard zones.
My problem is that I need a new boiler today and both plumbers estimated that it would take 4-6 months for the township to approve the plans and move ahead. They also cautioned that since the town repaved my roads after the gas line was installed that I may be prevented from breaking through to connect into the main line, in which case that could delay me by a few years. According to both plumbers I won’t know if that scenario will play out until after we submit the application to National Grid.
So what are my options right now to get me through the winter? I did some reading online and I see that sometimes people get the cast iron block welded though the guy from my oil company said that would cost thousands. Unfortunately I don’t know how to weld but I am pretty good with a soldering iron for as much good as that would do me. I’ve also read of some homeowners patching with JB weld which can hold in an emergency, though I’m not sure I would get a few months out of that solution. Right now the serviceman from the oil company told me to just lay towels down and that he will talk with his supervisor about possible solutions. He said that there is a treatment we can do to attempt to seal the crack from the inside but he said many companies refuse to do it since it can cause problems with the plumbing down the road and he is new with this company (but 25 years experienced) and is not sure if they would do such a thing.
I am pretty much at a loss. I don’t like coincidences but don’t have enough knowledge about hydronics to know if my service company mishandled the system which eventually led to the damage and to be clear, I'm not looking to place any blame. I’m not sure if over pressurization of the hot water system could somehow cause the front of the block to crack or if both are symptoms of a different problem. Right now the timing just sucks since I planned on doing this replacement over the summer once the natural gas line was run to the house. I’m considering going ahead with one of these estimates for a gas boiler and directing them to install above ground propane tanks outside, just on the other side of the boiler and piping them to a new gas boiler. I’m not sure how expensive the tanks would be but I really don’t want to buy another oil system at this point. Besides, my entire rationale for switching to natural gas was to abandon my in ground oil tank because god knows how long that thing could hold up, if it hasn’t developed a leak already. Any ideas?


    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,887
    First please remove the pricing from your post.

    The Burnham V8 has a history of block issues.
    No, plugging where the domestic relief valve was on the tankless coil didn't cause the leak.
    I've read of guys here using JB weld but I don't have firsthand experience.
    Pumping in boiler seal will clog up the system and coat the tankless coil causing insufficient hot water.

    If your mind is set on switching to gas, go the propane route for now, and convert to natural gas when its available.

    Or you can look into an Energy Kinetics EK-1 Frontier. A very highly efficient oil boiler that's easily convertible to gas.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
    The crack may or may not have anything to do with the plug on the pressure relief valve. You'd have a hard time proving it did; they'd have a hard time proving it didn't. I'm not sure that investing in lawyers is a good way to spend money (unless, of course, one has to... but that's a different story).

    The service man's comment that the extra pressure is released when you open a faucet is, perhaps, true enough so far as it goes. It's also baloney.

    You do need to replace the boiler. Burnhams do crack -- so do most other makes from time to time. Is it a manufacturing defect? Not really, not after all this time. All that said, and with the hassles on gas and your plans, I would suggest that you consider a new boiler, properly sized, which will run on oil but which can be converted to gas when -- and if -- you can do so. There are a number of good ones. I also suggest you don't have it done by your oil company and it's tame crew. That cap still bothers me. Look on "Find a Contractor" above to see if there is someone nearby or just tell us where you are. We may know someone nearby.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • notsponsible
    notsponsible Member Posts: 5
    To be clear, I'm not interested in perusing legal action against the oil company. As I said I don't have the expertise to defend such an argument one way or another and am not convinced the pressure relief valve caused this. I am curious if both the leaking pressure valve and the new crack on the block are both symptoms of a larger problem going on in the system. I suspect something had to have happened back in December when the electronic damper failed since that was the first problem this boiler has ever had documented since it was installed.

    I'm open to recommendations for boilers that can work on both oil and gas. Of course I want the most efficiency I can get. I mentioned Energy Kinetics to the serviceman and he seemed surprised I knew of the name (I was quoted a System 2000 by another company back when I bought the house 5 years ago). I was told by the serviceman that not many companies know how to properly handle such a system and that it would be very expensive to maintain and repair. I was browsing the EK website last night but didn't see the Frontier however the Resolute sounded like a good fit. Are there any others? Ideally something that is multifuel, efficient, with a simple design that most contractors can handle (though I'm not sure if multifuel and simple can coexist.)

    Looking toward the future I could go with propane tanks and a gas boiler. The gas line is in front of my house so one day I'll be able to connect to it, whether it be in 4 months or 4 years.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 17,000
    edited January 2020
    You could also install an oil-fired boiler such as a Solaia or Energy Kinetics model that could be converted to gas when the time comes.

    I'd think twice about venting a boiler out the sidewall. You'd need to be above the highest recorded snow accumulation in your area, and far enough away from windows, doors etc that exhaust gases couldn't be drawn back into the house. Also, sidewall venting adds moving parts which always seem to break down on the coldest night of the year.

    Where are you located?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • notsponsible
    notsponsible Member Posts: 5
    Steamhead, I live in the metro New York City area on Long Island.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,635
    A number of good folks. Try @Danny Scully or @JohnNY .
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Mainiac
    Mainiac Member Posts: 12
    I feel your pain. My Burnham V7 cracked at the end of October. It was original to the house which I had built in 1993. I had a hard time getting estimates in a timely manner since the heating season was starting and the installers were very busy. I did manage to get three quotes within five days. Two were for a Buderus G115 with Indirect Tank and one was for the System 2000.

    I really liked everything I had read about the System 2000 and was impressed with EK's customer service so I went with them. It took a couple weeks to get on the install schedule but I've been loving it every since. I'm keeping my house much warmer than in previous winters and using even a little less oil. When my Burnham was running I'd could pretty much hear in anywhere in the house and the System 2000 is very quiet and I can only hear it when I'm practically directly above it.

    If you want figures on what my quote was feel free to send me a PM.
  • Roger
    Roger Member Posts: 344
    Thank you for such fine comments about Energy Kinetics @HVACNUT and @Maniac . For reference, our heat and hot water systems save the most in the shoulder seasons, or spring, summer, and fall when cast iron boilers waste the most energy in the off cycle because they finish hot and/or maintain temperature for hot water.

    System 2000 is also the Frontier boiler - I'm glad @notsponsible mentioned that was not clear and we'll address that concern.

    I'll chime in on the comment we sometimes hear service people say about "not many companies know how to properly handle such a system and that it would be very expensive to maintain and repair." We build our boilers with industry standard components and offer live tech support to heating professionals. If any heating pro is struggling, call us at 800 323-2066 and we'll get them going quickly. You can even put our boiler into a conventional operating mode (service board mode) so techs not familiar with it can service it just like a conventional boiler. For the few components that are not industry standard, there are quick and easy ways to run emergency heat without them, and we carry a deep inventory of parts so they are readily available. Our Energy Manager controls have a lifetime protection plan that applies to all systems, not just the original purchaser and prices are posted on our website.

    Our spiral boilers are also proven 30 year designs - we've been in business since 1979 and I hear from original owners with our first boilers that are still going strong. Our Accel CS firetube gas boiler is also a 30 year design (it's our design made here, built to address issues we identified with typical mod cons), although it hasn't been 30 years to prove it yet.

    Sorry, not trying to hijack this thread, although I felt like I should contribute with some additional information to help clarify a few points.

    Energy Kinetics, Inc.