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Weil-McLain Boiler in Contract, but they brought Camus Dynaflame

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sfetter
sfetter Member Posts: 4
edited September 2022 in THE MAIN WALL
I'm handling an HVAC replacement project at our church, replacing a bunch of 60+ year old equipment, including a natural gas fired 750k BTU boiler for hot water heat. The contract specified a Weil-McLain LGB-7-W, but what showed up was a Camus Hydronics Dynaflame DF-750. Weil-McLain has a reputation. I've never heard of Camus...there's little on the web, but from what I see the company has only been around 22 years or so. There are snipits here and there, but not enough information to give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

So, I'm looking for a consultant/professional to provide an assessment of the two units and recommend whether we accept the Camus boiler or not. If there's somebody on here with experience with these (good or bad) I'd appreciate hearing from you as well.

I don't really want to make them rip it out and start over (this was supposed to be a 3-4 week project, and we're coming up on 4 months) but I also don't want to get stuck with a maintenance nightmare. What came out of there was a Bryant boiler that never had to be touched - and if it wasn't for the fact that it had to come out (in pieces) in order to get to the air handlers that we had to replace, it would probably still be there.

We're in Arlington, Virginia, right outside of DC if that matters.

Thanks in advance....

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,840
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    The Weil Mclain is a conventional cast iron boiler, the Dynaflame is a water tube boiler. The Weil is a simple, not super efficient but very durable boiler. The Dynaflame is more complicated and less rugged. How was the new boiler sized? It is somewhat unusual that the old boiler isn't oversized so usually the correct boiler is smaller than the old boiler.
    sfetter
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,675
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    Did you ask them why they provided something else? It might be as simple as the Weil-McLain being 40 weeks out (IDK about W-M, but some of our equip. is that far away). Should've explained it to you beforehand, though.
    sfetter
  • sfetter
    sfetter Member Posts: 4
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    The new one was sized based on the Bryant that was in there, which was 750k in and 600k out.

    The story I got (3rd-hand, admittedly) was that they couldn't get the Weil-McLain in time. I find that hard to believe, as at the outset we were told something like 3-4 weeks on the boiler. The contract was signed July or August a year ago. At the start, we were told that the air handlers were not going to show up until late November 2021. We didn't want to disable the heat going into winter, so it was put off until this May. That gave them something like 9 months to get their hands on the boiler. We didn't know about the substitution until they furnished a final equipment list a few weeks ago. By that time the Camus was 90% installed, piping done.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    They shouldn't have done that without telling you, but -- if you didn't specify, in you original contract with them, that they would use the Weil-McClain and only the Weil-McClain, you have no standing to force a change -- so live with it. I don't have any trouble at all with their explanation. It is likely that they didn't start to source the boiler until they got the go ahead on the job this May -- carrying expensive inventory so that maybe the job will go someday is not a good way to do business.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • sfetter
    sfetter Member Posts: 4
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    We handed them a lot of $$ as a down-payment back when the contract was signed, about 5x the equipment cost. Because of access how the existing equipment was configured, pretty much had to do the whole job at once. Getting to the mechanical room involves a 5' x 3' door way up a ladder or a 4' x 4' roof hatch and that's it. So, no way to deal with the air handlers with the boiler there, and vice-versa. The intent was to do it last fall, but the holdup was the lead time on the air handlers and the whole job had to wait. It was more of a logistics deal as opposed to final approval.

    There is language in the contract that said we got to approve the equipment, and there was a bunch of discussion about that before signed pieces of paper and $$ changed hands. I did find it amusing that Carrier (doing this job) specified a Weils-McLain boiler, and the other bid from Johnson Controls used a Bryant boiler - the latter being a Carrier product.

    Anyway, we'll see. Thanks for all the input...
  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 1,075
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    @sfetter

    This is a pretty big no-no if the bid required approval of alternate equipment, it is kind of up to what the original bid documents said, what the actual quote from the contractor said, and what you both agreed to (the "contract" if there is one). Based on the models of both they are not similar products, I think this most definitely deserves a discussion with the contractor at a bare minimum. If the original request for bid required approval, and had the usual language that "any problem arising from voluntary alternate bidding will be paid for by installer" I would say you need to stick to your guns on this. I can't tell you how many jobs I lose every year because a job requires a particular brand or "approved equal", we all play by that rule and the contractor knows better.
    mattmia2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    Technically, @GGross is correct: If your contract specified that the boiler would be a Weil-McClain LGB-7-W, then that's what you should have. If, on the other hand, it specified a boiler with a particular performance (something like "Weil-McClain LGB-7-W or equal"), the contractor is free to substitute. If there was a clause saying that you had to approve a substitution, then you do have the right to turn down a substitution. It all depends on the contract language. I might also point out -- from the standpoint of someone who has written many many specifications with the phrase "approved equal" in them -- that that phrase carries an implication that the individual judging equality is knowledgeable in the field in question, and also carries the implication that "equal" means "at least equal in performance". You may find, if you wish to "stick to your guns" that you need to hire an expert -- registered engineer or architect -- to prove that the substitution is not equal in performance.

    I might point out, however, that there is a downside to sticking to your rights as you perceive them: if the boiler you insist on is on a 4 month backorder, there isn't anything you can do about it except shiver -- and hope that the contractor can slot your job in when the boiler does become available (he isn't going to schedule you until he knows he can get the equipment; it doesn't work that way). If labour and other costs have risen by then -- and they will have -- and you force the contractor to abide by the original quote, he likely will -- but you won't have made any friends.

    I cannot and will not tell you how to resolve this problem. I will, however, suggest that perhaps it might be wise to step back a bit and decide whether you want a specific piece of equipment and nothing else -- or if you want the job done and your building warm.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
    edited September 2022
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    And another comment: I note that apparently the new boiler is in, or at least partly installed. There will be a sizable expense (as well as a wait) involved if you force the contractor to take it out and install the specific widget you want. Again, I cannot and will not tell you how to resolve the problem -- but I will say that it would be advisable to hire a lawyer to look at the original contract language, as well as any correspondence involving the work to date, as the contractor is likely to want some compensation for the additional work involved (particularly in view of the fact that there may be a question as to when you did or should have become aware of the substitution, and whether your failure to act at that time implied acceptance) and, unless you are on very cordial terms with him or her, you are likely to wind up with a legal battle on your hands. You might win. You might not. Just sayin'.

    (Full disclosure of personal view and previous practice in the event of a dispute which couldn't be resolved amicably: I would (and have in the past) returned the client's deposit, less the retail cost of material left on site, and quit the job).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,752
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    Camus is a Canadian product I think. I was only involved with 1 job in a jail that had 3 or 4 of them. Nothing but trouble in my opinion.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    Camus is a Canadian product I think. I was only involved with 1 job in a jail that had 3 or 4 of them. Nothing but trouble in my opinion.

    All the more reason to stay on good, frie ndly terms with the contractor!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,387
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    sfetter said:

    Getting to the mechanical room involves a 5' x 3' door way up a ladder or a 4' x 4' roof hatch

    This may be why you got the Camus. The WM either didn't fit, or would have a required a crane rental.

    I DIY.
    mattmia2
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,911
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    WMno57 said:
    Getting to the mechanical room involves a 5' x 3' door way up a ladder or a 4' x 4' roof hatch
    This may be why you got the Camus. The WM either didn't fit, or would have a required a crane rental.
    That’s the contractors problem and not a reason for changing without notification!
    JohnNY
  • Tinman
    Tinman Member Posts: 2,808
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    I don’t like this at all. If I ever did something like this, I’d feel like I put my entire reputation on the line. If the contract specified a Weil, you should get a Weil unless a change order was submitted, signed, and approved. I did a lot of work at churches where they’d have to raise money over a long period of time to undertake a project like this. 

    And no matter what the reason for the change, it should have been documented and communicated to the church. If I was the one getting getting treated like this, I’d find it completely unacceptable. 
    Steve Minnich
    EBEBRATT-EdJohnNYEdTheHeaterMan
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    What we don't know here -- and it is absolutely critical -- is what the contract offered and accepted actually did say. If it specified that Weil-McClain with no "or equal", then yes, that's what they should gotten. If it said something about "approved alternative", then the question will be was an alternate accepted and approved? That can get complicated, and may involve questions of who proposed what to whom when, and what was the response (no response, by the way, if usually equivalent to acceptance). If the contract from the client specified that a new boiler would be installed, and it was the supplier who initially proposed the Weil (something like "and we will include one Weil boiler, with all trimming") then the supplier usually can say that they couldn't get that, but to get you heat will do this instead -- and be perfectly alright.

    So if we keep speculating here, we really don't have that one critical piece of information: what, exactly, did the contract (not the price list or whatever) say.

    The point of my comment here is two fold. First, for prospective customers, if you have your heart set on a specific brand or make of anything, never mind model, that must be set out in the contract for the work. Second, for tradesmen, pay attention to that contract and, if you make a proposal or bid list for the contract, be sure that you include language to allow you to make changes if required and to notify by a specific mechanism the client if changes to that proposal are needed. In particular, for both sides, do not make the common error of assuming that a proposal or bid list in response to the contract has the force of the contract. It doesn't.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • sfetter
    sfetter Member Posts: 4
    edited September 2022
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    First, thanks, everybody for the input. I have two "real" jobs, and neither of them is managing this project.

    To answer a couple of questions...the contract does include the approved equipment list, and on that list is the Weil-McLain boiler down to the model #. Nothing in there about allowing substitutions.

    They did have a crane on site the day everything was delivered, and the boiler was dropped in through the roof hatch as part of that operation.

    I recognize that it's not practical right now to tell them to switch the boilers. The open issue is whether or not the boiler we got is going to hold up as well as the boiler we were supposed to get. Cast iron vs. tube is part of that question, and the fact that we got a copper heat exchanger rather than stainless steel (both were options) is another. So far, I can't find real good answers to either question. The lack of data is concerning; with only 22 years under their belt, Camus doesn't have a long track record. And what I've found is mixed.

    The bottom line is that I have to answer to the management of the church about where their $$ went and what they're getting. They need a comfort level with this. Right now, I don't have a comfort level so that's a problem.

    We're meeting with Carrier tomorrow to go over this...we'll see what happens. I do appreciate everybody's thoughts and the time you've put into this - you folks are gold.

    Thanks again
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    If you -- or the church -- wrote the equipment list with the boiler down to the model number and said something to the effect of "do this", then indeed that is what they should have provided, whether they liked it or not -- or could even get it. On the other hand, if they wrote the equipment list, you are, legally, in a much grayer area.

    Now you mentioned at one point that part of the reason given for the switch was equipment availability. It's very likely that, indeed this was the primary reason. This may actually be considered a force majeure substitution, particularly if the contract had any sort of deadline for finishing and commissioning the job. This, again, puts you into a gray area.

    In fact, if on the one hand you had insisted on a specific bit of equipment, which was unavailable, and on the other insisted on a completion date, which was therefore impossible to meet, your contractor would have had every right to walk off the job and sue you for interference.

    I honestly -- as you may gather -- don't really like the tone of all this, as it has an adversarial feel. Idealy, you or whatever body is managing the church would be able to sit down with the contractor, discuss the pros and cons of the substitution, decide if some adjustment in the contract should be made, and go on from there. The true bottom line is -- does it work? Will it work over time? I might point out that no one will be so foolish as to say that the one would be necessarily better, or better value, than the other.

    Or, you can decide to sue the contractor to have the specified boiler put in, period. This result, in my view, will likely get you the desired boiler, if you have a good enough lawyer, when and if the boiler becomes available and the court renders a judgement. It will not necessarily get you a satisfactory heating system, and it certainly won't get you a functioning arrangement with the contractor. Just sayin'.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    GGross