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Boiler repair vs replace - New Jersey

jskudera Member Posts: 4
edited May 2021 in Domestic Hot Water
Hi all.

I live in NJ and have a 1.5 bath 1,600 sq foot house. 3 zones for hot water baseboard heating and 1 zone for indirect hot water tank. Current Burnham furnace is 21 years old, unsure the age of 36 gallon indirect Weil-McLain. Currently just my wife and I, but we have a newborn coming any day now. Have to make a decision between doing some repairs on the furnace or replacing it outright. If I replace it outright, then I need to decide if I'm going with a traditional boiler/indirect or a combi. Current pain point is that we avoid back to back showers because we start losing hot water in the shower.

Current repairs needed on the boiler:

Zone circulator, Zone switch (currently do not have), isolated/ball valve for one zone, fill valve/backflow preventer.

Repairs are estimated at about $.

I plan to be in this house for 5-6 more years. I know if I just do repairs, buyers will hit me with end of life and want a credit at closing. So I'm leaning towards just replacing it unless someone convinces me otherwise.

So then the question comes down to - boiler/indirect vs combi. 2 HVAC people said 100% boiler/indirect, 2 others said combi is the way to go as long as it's installed correctly, the 5th HVAC person was in the middle and had no real preference. I was recommended the Navien NCB-240 from one and the NTI FTVN150C from the other. The people against the combi all said the maintenance on these are expensive and they are not reliable.

Ultimately I have three choices:

Do the $ repairs, hope the furnace/indirect last 5-6 more years and just give concession (if requested) at time of sale

Replace with furnace/indirect

Replace with combi

Any and all input will be greatly appreciated so I can finally make a decision...thank you!


  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,953
    please edit to remove prices.

    If the system is well maintained and leak free so that the boiler doesn't see fresh water it can last many decades.

    If you aren't making enough hot water i would put my money in replacing the indirect with a larger indirect sized to your current and future needs. The boiler is good until it leaks. That can be 10 or 50 years depending on the installation, maintenance, and some amount of luck.
    Erin Holohan Haskell
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,380
    Keep what you have. If the boiler isn't leaking, as has been said it may last many more years. The items you mention needing repair or replacement are -- or should be -- a minor expense.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 421
    You might be in this house a lot longer than you think, and the repairs you mentioned are minor. I would fix the existing system.

    Something is not right with your indirect water heater if it can't handle two showers. Not piped property, controls not setup right, etc. I had the same water heater in my house and it was doing the same thing. Turns out the installer never hooked up the end switch on the zone relay to the boiler aquastat, so the boiler just maintained the low limit setting while the indirect was calling for heat. It was a 5 minute fix with a short length of thermostat wire.
    CanuckerSTEVEusaPAEdTheHeaterManrick in Alaska
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,213
    What model Burnham boiler do you have?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,217
    If you do decide to go the boiler replacement route make sure a Heatloss analysis is done of the house. Personally I would stay away from a wall hung combi since they tend to be way oversized on the heating side and will definitely short cycle.

  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,217
    Where in NJ are you located?
  • jskudera
    jskudera Member Posts: 4
    Thank you all for your comments, questions and suggestions! Will try to clarify a few things and answer some of the questions.

    I live in North Brunswick, NJ
    Burnham model number is 206PVNI-T2
    Indirect is Weil-McLain GOLD PLUS 40

    To clarify - the zone switch I referenced is a priority zone switch. I do notice in the winter the hot water runs out a lot faster since it's pulling all 4 zones at once.

    Also, the primary reason this even became an issue is that I called a HVAC company to check out the boiler because when the heat was turned off, the zone upstairs in the bedrooms were still giving off heat from the baseboard. Found out that the valve was stuck open and it had to be closed manually or else when the furnace would heat up for hot water, that hot water would go upstairs as well.

    The repairs I am being told I need said it is /possible/ that it could contribute to the hot water not being consistent due to the pressure in the boiler. I have no idea how true or possible this is.

    I've taken some photos to show the setup and some additional specifics.

    Total setup: https://ibb.co/xY21k7t
    Boiler setup: https://ibb.co/MpkkKJx
    Boiler sticker: https://ibb.co/7WkdwcM
    Boiler gauge: https://ibb.co/wS49VSv
    Indirect setup: https://ibb.co/RPVrM1q
    Indirect sticker: https://ibb.co/WHh141G

    I'm now convinced to keep the setup but correct the issue(s) once I understand exactly what they are in totality.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,953
    The incoming cold water temp in winter is usually significantly colder so the amount of hot water a system can produce is significantly less. If there isn't a relay or a zone control set up to give it dhw priority then the zones calling will also reduce capacity.

    If the manual valve is shut off for the zone that is stuck open then that can't be reducing dhw capacity. The indirect coil could be scaled on either side and reduce capacity. You could reach a lower temp steady state with a 40 gal indirect and a ~150,000 btu/hr boiler if you take long, hot showers with a higher flow shower head. A mixing valve and running the tank at a higher temp could possible fix that.
  • Brent H.
    Brent H. Member Posts: 119
    The piping to the indirect looks like it may be undersized but one of the pros on here can confirm.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 5,777
    I think you're in @EzzyT country. I'd hire him (if he's available) to give it a look over and make the best recommendations.
    I agree with the others that something may not be right with the indirect, it's related piping/components or control strategy. All can be tested.
    I'm not a fan of 1600 sq ft. and 3 zones, but that's something that could be addressed if you're doing a total system replacement.

    As far as how long you're going to be there, my feeling is get the best you can afford to give you the most comfort and domestic hot water. We all have customers trying to get 'one more year' out of equipment...for years and years. I had a customer limp along with a steamer for 5 years, wasting way too much oil, because he was moving in 'a year or 2'. He ended up having someone else replace the boiler at a 'cheaper price', and is still in the house another 10 years later. All that time he could've replaced the boiler, and saved (recouped) all that money.
    Another consideration...right now the real estate market is hot. People overbidding, cash sales, as-is, no inspections, etc. That will change again. And someone is either going to knock your price way down because of your old equipment, or make you replace it.
    So, if you can afford it, do it now, for yourself. Enjoy the comfort, savings, and probably endless hot water of a properly sized, properly installed/commissioned equipment. And it will probably help you on the re-sale.
  • jskudera
    jskudera Member Posts: 4
    mattmia2 said:

    If the manual valve is shut off for the zone that is stuck open then that can't be reducing dhw capacity.

    The manual valve was just recently closed (within last 2 weeks), so I'm not entirely sure how much of an impact this made.

  • jskudera
    jskudera Member Posts: 4

    I think you're in @EzzyT country. I'd hire him (if he's available) to give it a look over and make the best recommendations.
    I agree with the others that something may not be right with the indirect, it's related piping/components or control strategy. All can be tested.
    I'm not a fan of 1600 sq ft. and 3 zones, but that's something that could be addressed if you're doing a total system replacement.

    As far as how long you're going to be there, my feeling is get the best you can afford to give you the most comfort and domestic hot water.

    I'm in a split level, so I have 3 floors that each have a thermostat (2 levels - heat only, 1 level - heat & AC). In terms of how long we're staying, 5-6 years is very realistic for us. We are expanding our family (first child due any day now) and our goal is our "forever" home before this child reaches first grade.

    Would love to see if @EzzyT is available - he's about an hour from me but I'd definitely pay whatever travel fees there would be. I'm having a difficult time finding someone extremely well versed in boilers.

  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,217
    @jskudera your in my service area. You can reach me at 2018878856

    mattmia2CanuckerSTEVEusaPAErin Holohan Haskell
  • JimP
    JimP Member Posts: 47
    I agree that the indirect should work better than it is. I'd have someone check that the boiler water temp is good for your water output needs, make sure that the priority zone control is turned on and working and be sure that each zone can't circulate when off.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 5,953
    There are a number of things that might not be right with the indirect, it may be an iterative process to figure out how far you need to go.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 3,547
    edited May 2021
    I can't believe that no one here offered you congratulations on your upcoming new addition!!!

    So, as far as the best way to get more hot water,
    1. Increase the size of the boiler piping from the boiler to the indirect
    2. change the DHW zone valve to a faster-acting valve. That model TACO valve can be very slow opening... add the time to pre-purge the boiler... and the ignition cycle, the tank is more than 1/2 used up before there is a flame in the boiler.
    3. have the controls upgraded to allow the DHW priority over the space heating zones.

    Any one of those will items will increase the amount of available DHW. All three will give you unlimited (almost) hot water.

    Stay away from the combi. In your situation, you may be at the end-of-life of the combi when you get ready to sell your home in 5 to 10 years. The Burnham boiler you have will outlast any combi available today.


    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey.
    Services first oil burner at age 16
    P/T trainer for EH-CC.org
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 873
    One hing I may suggest is that you set the priority to the Hot water maker and reset the boiler aquastat to 180 degrees. It takes 50,000 BTUH to get one gallon of hot water at a 100 degree rise in the cold water inlet. On a real cold winter the domestic water can be as low as 40 degrees. At a 100 degree rise tat will give you 140 degree hot water,

    In mild weather or the summer months the inlet cold water temperature could be 55 degrees, that will give you 155 degree water,

    Both of these temperatures are scalding. A high quality mixing valve is needed and should be set some where around 115 degrees. The mixing valve will give you a longer run of hot water. Additionally, install water savings shower heads 1 1/2 to gallon per minute heads will also extend the run of hot water.

    Burnham boilers used for water heating can last 50 plus years, do the minor repairs and clean up the combustion side of the boiler and have the service tek do all combustion efficiency tests and provide the results in writing.

    I needed the boiler can be replaced when you are more financially able.

    Congratulations on your new addition, save your money now and put toward the baby.

  • EzzyT
    EzzyT Member Posts: 1,217
    edited May 2021
    @jskudera reached out to me and I took a look of set up at his home.
    There a bunch of things that would need to be addressed to get mechanical room somewhat correct.
    The two most important issues are the near boiler piping is all wrong. The flue piping termination can’t be corrected with this boiler along with there is zero combustion/make up air in this mechanical besides if homeowner opens a window or door. The is grossly oversized too.
    The best approach would be to replace the boiler with a direct vented boiler.
    Erin Holohan Haskellrick in Alaska