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Recommendations for replacing a Lenox Series XEB-4 (GWB81121E)

ntonkinntonkin Member Posts: 128
This natural gas boiler is in our 2nd home which is in Rhinelander, Wisconsin is 20 years old. During the spring annual maintenance, the tech said it needs major repairs . We have always kept the thermostat set at 58 degrees when we were gone because we were advised that setting it lower would shorten the life of the boiler. Well, it seems to have had a short life anyway. I am going to replace it this fall myself and would like some recommendations on what I should replace it with. The house is ~900 sq ft, - one and 3/4 story, fairly well insulated (blown in cellulose) and is over 100 yrs old - - there is only one zone. The Lenox seems to have plenty of capacity as it heats the house up quite quickly and until now, it has presented no issue. I would prefer to have a boiler that I could set the thermostat at around 45 degrees when we are not there and that would have longer life.

Would appreciate any ideas


  • Jamie HallJamie Hall Member Posts: 12,703
    Do a heat loss calculation. That's your first step. That Lenox may indeed have plenty of capacity -- in fact, if may well be too big. But until you know what capacity you actually need, you won't know.

    Second, what kind of radiation do you have In the house? Baseboard? Radiators? That makes a difference, too, not in terms of boiler capacity, but in terms of what temperature do you need to run the water at to heat the house -- and may rule out some types of boilers.

    So far so good.

    Now longevity. The temperature at which you keep the house has almost nothing to do with how long a boiler may -- or may not -- last. There are several factors in longevity. One is what your return water temperatures are like. Most conventional boilers simply do not last well if the return water temperatures are low -- low enough for condensation to take place. Condensing boilers can handle that, though. Second, a boiler run nearly continuously will last longer than one that doesn't -- which is one reason to select a boiler well matched to what you need in terms of heat. Another factor is water chemistry -- ideally you would fill the heating system with good quality water (and, in a vacation home in a cold climate, antifreeze) with corrosion protection and never have to add water again. Reality isn't that way, but the less water you add the better.
    Br. Jamie, osb

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-Mclain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • EdTheHeaterManEdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 480
    edited May 21
    Further observation on that topic. What are the Major Repairs? Boiler section leaking is major! Wires burners and controls are not major unless there are several items failing all at once. That can be caused by oversized equipment. The fact that you can take the building from 50 something to 70 something, in your words: "The Lenox seems to have plenty of capacity as it heats the house up quite quickly" indicates that you have more capacity than you really need.

    when you are not recovering from an unoccupied to an occupied condition, the boiler will operate as a steady temperature within 1 or 2 degrees. The oversized boiler will short cycle. On a design load condition day like maybe near -5°F in January if your building needs 42,000 BTU per hour to maintain 70° inside. If you have a 125,000 BTU boiler @ 80% efficiency there will be near 100,000 BTU output which is over 2x more than you need. So in any given hour, the burners would run for less than 30 minutes. BUT it won't be on for 30 then off for 30.... more like on for 4 and off for 4 minutes. That means the start-up sequence will go on 7 or more times per hour. OR 180 times per day. OR 1000 times per season.

    I believe that everyone here can agree that turning a switch on and off 1000 times a year will cause the switch to fail sooner than a switch that is turned on and off only one time a day. The more times you use it, the more it will have time to wear out and fail.

    Furthermore. The heater is not at peak efficiency until it operates for a few minutes. So if it only operates for a few minutes at a time... it will not be as efficient as one that operates with less capacity for longer run time.

    "Slow and steady wins the race."

    So getting a boiler that is closer to the actual size you need, so it will only cycle less than 1/2 of the time, will benefit you. Rusted burners and corrosion in the steel or cast iron heat exchange surfaces of the boiler may be a result of oversizing. This result is the condensation of flue gasses in the boiler and vent connections near the boiler, and the entire vent system

    We here would like to know the condition of the boiler and what constitutes "Major repairs" Let's address what went wrong with what you have to see if we can keep the same from happening to the replacement boiler in the future.
  • ntonkinntonkin Member Posts: 128
    I'll do another Heat Loss calculation next week when I go down there. The house has baseboard slant/fin type radiators and a small cast iron radiator in the basement.

    As I remember, it was a small leak on the boiler section but I will look at the inspection sheet when I am down there and report everything listed.

    This boiler replaced a Weil McClain HE-4 boiler which I installed in the fall of 1989 when we bought the house. The HE-4 worked well until it was damaged when the basement flooded during exceptionally heavy rains in the summer of 2000.
  • SuperJSuperJ Member Posts: 579
    Unfortunately most residential cast iron boilers don't have the low RWT protection they really need.

    There are a variety of factors that contribute to the premature death of a boiler. You can kill it from the water side with poor water quality. You can kill it from the flame side with poor combustion setup, lack of maintenance and low rwt causing corrosive condensation. And you can kill it with cycling. Every heat cycle expands and contracts the metal you can only do this so many times before things start to deteriorate.
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