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Burnham Boilers - ES2

There have been a couple negative comments recently about Burnham boilers. One comment speculated that their products will not last even 20 years. This concerns me as I have a Burnham ES-27 boiler installed in 2010 and I was kind of expecting it to last more than 20 years. The boiler it replaced lasted 56 years by the way.

I chose the Burnham ES2 because it has a simple design and is built using what seem to me to be tried and true manufacturing practices. There have been a few issues over the years but I've been able to deal with all of them in a timely fashion.

If you are still reading then I have a couple of questions.

First, if there are any of you out there that install and service this model I would love to hear about your experiences. I just want to be prepared down the line - if the lifetime of these boilers is indeed only 20 years. Does anyone from Burnham (US Boiler) read this website?

Second, if there are any of you out there that do work in the western suburbs of Chicago, I would be interested in hearing from you. Although I have done all my own work on my heating system, I am at the point where I would consider having a professional I can count on for regular maintenance and any repair work that might come up.

Thanks much,
Eric Peterson

Comments

  • DanInNaperville
    DanInNaperville Member Posts: 42
    FWIW, my 34 year old Burnham Series 2 is doing just fine. I think it's not very different from the boiler you're looking at. And it's a way less than optimal installation, too. (pumping towards, not away - single circulator for 5 zones and no boiler loop. Mixed in-slab radiant and baseboard means it regularly gets slammed with very cold return temps. It really shouldn't work, but it's great, even on very cold days. If the only zone calling for heat is the garage, then 140 to 200 (it has an outdoor setback) is going out and 55 to 60 is returning.
    In theory it should have cracked or blown up decades ago but it just keeps chugging along. When I bought the house, 5 years ago, I figured I'd have to replace the boiler right away because it was so old, but it's been trouble free.
    I'd thought the boiler was making noise, at first, but it turned out to be supply/return pipes expanding and contracting as they heated or cooled.
  • EricPeterson
    EricPeterson Member Posts: 211
    OK no responses so I'll go first with my experiences with the Burnham ES2.
    Actually someone just responded while I was typing this but here goes:
    1. 2010-October: installed ES2-7 purchased from SupplyHouse, replacement boiler for 3-zone house with converted gravity system.
    2. 2015-April: boiler not responding to call for heat. Logic board working and reporting a failed ignition. Pilot assembly at fault (mechanical separation). Able to repair with copper wire. Ordered replacement
    3. 2018-December: boiler not responding to call for heat. Logic board working and reporting idle status. Connectivity issue with one of TT terminals through option board. Able to repair with jumper. Ordered replacement wiring harness.
    4. 2019-November: boiler not responding to call for heat, Logic board dark. Failed transformer on logic board. Replacement transformer also blew. Fixed by isolating zone valves from TT terminals using a relay.
    5. 2020-February: boiler not responding to call for heat. Logic board reporting "soft lockout" Status code=13". Unable to find anything wrong, boiler started working without any changes.
    In summary, there have been just three component failures (pilot assembly, option board, transformer overload / failure). This to me does not seem terribly excessive over an 11-year period - but what do I know, I'm just a homeowner and not a contractor. But the fundamental performance of the boiler has been rock solid. It does a fine job of keeping our house comfortable.

    I followed the Burnham wiring instructions for using multiple zone valves (White Rodgers) but for some reason over time this resulted in an overload of the logic board transformer. It turned out that the connectivity issue was not due to the wiring harness but to a failed circuit trace on the option board - I view this as a precursor to the transformer overload. My circuit isolation means that the logic board transformer has no external load as the relay provides a simple contact closure.

    From examination of the Burnham parts list against what SupplyHouse sells, it seems that many original components have been been upgraded, in some cases twice. I cannot tell if these upgrades are because of a defect with the original part. Since Burnham will only talk to contractors and I am not one, I cannot get any information from them. I'm now in the situation where some of my backup parts are obsolete - do does this mean I should scrap them and upgrade to the newest version?

    So you pros out there, if you have the time, I would be interested in your comments on this boiler, particularly anyone who has thrown shade on Burnham.

    Thanks for reading,
    Eric Peterson



  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,346
    Burnahm's are not popular in my area. Some say i't due to chlorides in the water. Burnham must have had the best prices a few years back because a lot of then were installed around here in the 90s & 2000s.

    Are they worse than any other CI boiler? I don't know but some contractors will not install them especially on steam and the hot water boilers have a higher failure rate as well.

    A lot of schools I used to service have or had burnhams and most did not make 20 years.

    But other boiler MFGs have had there issues as well, just not as many

    But what are you going to do? You have one and it only makes sense to run it until it quits.

    A boiler properly maintained will usually not fail suddenly (my discussion is limited to the Cast Iron Sections only) they usually start leaking but will continue to run until a replacement can be had.


    Nothing lasts forever

    So plan on replacing it at some point. It could run 30-40 years

    Check "find a contractor" on this site
    EricPeterson
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,736
    Nothing wrong with the ES2 series as long as it's installed correctly. As @DanInNaperville says, it (like the Series 3) is an evolution of the basic Series 2, which is a good design.

    The Independence and V8 steam boilers are the ones that have had issues. Hopefully the new SteamMax will be better, as the MegaSteam has been. But a gas-fired MegaSteam would offer the best efficiency.

    You did the right thing installing an isolation relay to separate the zone valve transformer from the boiler transformer. That's what I would have done. Far better to keep the two isolated since they don't always play nice with each other.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    EricPetersoncross_skier
  • EricPeterson
    EricPeterson Member Posts: 211
    Steamhead said:

    Nothing wrong with the ES2 series as long as it's installed correctly. As @DanInNaperville says, it (like the Series 3) is an evolution of the basic Series 2, which is a good design.

    The Independence and V8 steam boilers are the ones that have had issues. Hopefully the new SteamMax will be better, as the MegaSteam has been. But a gas-fired MegaSteam would offer the best efficiency.

    You did the right thing installing an isolation relay to separate the zone valve transformer from the boiler transformer. That's what I would have done. Far better to keep the two isolated since they don't always play nice with each other.

    That's reassuring about the ES2 / Series 2 - the "tried and true" cast iron heat design was a primary reason for choosing this model. As long as that's reliable, I feel I can handle the control issues and the piping. At least I've been able to do so in the 35 years we've lived in this house. I prefer simple designs. Installation was done per the Burnham documentation and knowledge gained from this forum, so I believe it has been correctly installed.

    I am going to look into finding a contractor so I am not tied to the house for the entire winter. I would be happy to pay someone to do regular maintenance if I could count on them if there was ever a problem when I was away in the winter.

    Eric Peterson
    Naperville, IL