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Old boiler on home purchase inspection

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bjs317
bjs317 Member Posts: 2
Very very new to the world of homeownership, thanks for your patience and help.

Inspection on approximately 45 year old Colonial I intend to buy in Connecticut shows that the boiler (although functioning fine) is 45 years old (original boiler!).

It is a cast iron, Utica brand boiler.

What would you do?

Replace immediately? Wait a bit?

OIl? Natural gas?

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  • jesmed1
    jesmed1 Member Posts: 575
    edited September 2023
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    bjs317 said:

    Very very new to the world of homeownership, thanks for your patience and help.

    Inspection on approximately 45 year old Colonial I intend to buy in Connecticut shows that the boiler (although functioning fine) is 45 years old (original boiler!).

    It is a cast iron, Utica brand boiler.

    What would you do?

    Replace immediately? Wait a bit?

    OIl? Natural gas?

    I'm not an expert, just a semi-informed homeowner in a similar situation. We're in the Boston suburbs and are looking at converting to natural gas. We live in an old 4-unit condo building that has two 25-yr-old oil boilers. I looked at our heating oil bills for the past 10 years and found that we would have saved about $13,000 over those 10 years if we had been using natural gas instead of oil.

    Check with your local gas company to find out what the current gas rates are. Here in MA, National Grid's rate is about $1.71 per therm (100,000 BTU). Since a gallon of oil has around 140,000 BTU, divide the cost of a gallon of oil by 1.4 to find the cost per 100,000 BTU. For us, heating oil is now $4.30/gallon, which gives us $3.07 per 100,000 BTU.

    So the fuel cost comparison between gas and oil for us is $1.71 vs. $3.07 for the same 100,000 BTU's.

    Then you can ask the seller to provide you with last years' heating bills, and figure out how many gallons of oil they burned and the equivalent cost of gas. You'll then be able to figure annual savings from gas vs. oil.

    Then there are a number of cost factors to consider. Obvious is the cost of the gas boiler vs. the cost of the oil boiler. Do you a want high efficiency "condensing" gas boiler, that gets a little more heat out of the gas by cooling the water vapor in the exhaust to the point that the vapor condenses and turns to liquid? Those are more expensive. And you may have to pay to remove your old oil tanks and get your chimney lined. (If you use a high-efficiency condensing gas boiler, the exhaust can go out a plain PVC pipe through the side of the house, instead of going up the chimney, in which case you wouldn't need a chimney liner.)

    Another factor is whether you already have gas piped into the house for cooking, etc.

    In short, many cost/logistics factors to consider, beyond the fuel costs. One option we're considering is removing the oil burners from our existing boilers and replacing them with Carlin EZ gas conversion burners. Since your boiler is still working (though maybe not for long), you might consider that option. A gas conversion burner installation should be cheaper than an entirely new gas boiler. Then when your old boiler kicks the bucket, you can get a new boiler that will work with the gas conversion burner.

    The key is going to be to find an HVAC contractor who isn't crazy busy and won't give you a ridiculous price quote because he doesn't need the work. Find someone who will give you a fair assessment of your options and reasonable price quotes. Google reviews are usually a good way to find out who the good guys are.

    Also, (very important): get the fuel consumption records from the previous owner for at least one full season. Then have a knowledgeable professional do a heat loss calculation on the house. You'll likely find that the existing boiler is oversized for the house, because so many boilers get replaced using rules-of-thumb that end up oversizing the equipment, making it more expensive to install and less efficient. Whatever you do, do NOT allow anyone to install a new boiler unless they've done a heat loss calculation. By doing my own heat loss calculations (four different ways to cross-check!) I've found our existing boilers have 4x the needed heating capacity. So if someone replaces the boilers with new ones having the same heating capacity, the mistake gets continued, and you pay for an unnecessarily large boiler.
    Alan (California Radiant) ForbesMikeAmann
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,390
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    That boiler might give many more years of service. My Weil McLain is 75 years old. Originally Oil. Converted to gas about 50 years ago.
    I DIY.
    MikeAmannMad Dog_2
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,390
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    If you post a picture, we can give you more information.
    I DIY.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,554
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    If it isn't leaking keep it. As to oil or gas... well, if you have access to natural gas, it usually is a bit cheaper. Whether it's enough cheaper to warrant the cost of switching is another question. Where I am located -- northwestern Connecticut -- it simply isn't available, and even if it were the money saved wouldn't pay for the switch (we use oil).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    MikeAmannMad Dog_2
  • jesmed1
    jesmed1 Member Posts: 575
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    Agree with the others to keep the boiler until it breaks. But do your research now, including a heat loss calculation on the house so you know what size boiler to install when this one breaks. Do your research about replacement options and get informed. Then have a plan ready for what you want to do when the boiler fails. If you wait until it fails to do your research, it's too late, because it will take time to learn about the various options, and if it's in the middle of the heating season, you're at the mercy of your heating company, and you'll buy whatever they want to sell you.
    Mad Dog_2
  • clammy
    clammy Member Posts: 3,113
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    At 45 years old it will need replacement sooner then later and unless you received some discount on the old heating system in anticipation of it sooner or later end of life you will be paying for it all out of your pocket . If it oil I would gather at that age it most likely has a low rpm burner or over the years it has been replaced w a newer hi rpm burner which usually is not the best match up for a older boiler due to wide flue pass yield u a higher stack temp and lower eff and that type of boiler I highly doubt can be baffled . Another thought is if your on oil is the tank above ground or is it buried? If you have an opt for natural gas it would certainly be the way I would head and look at for in the future being oil will never get cheaper and also possibly oil tank issue in the future . At 45 years old that boiler owes no one a thing including you . The result of leaving it will be fuel cost and operating a boiler that most likely way past it’s retirement and who knows if it’s ever had a good combustion side clean no less the boiler flushed of mud and debrie from 45 years of operation . If you search on line you should be able to get the original specs for that boiler and it eff which will most likely be quite low is comparison to a new boiler of the same manufactures .
    None of this is meant to be mean spirited it just telling the truth about old boilers and home owner who are purchasing older homes and how everybody on the selling end including the home inspectors say everything great until the winter comes and you find out everything is not so sweet . I figure it this way unless your driving a 45 year old car and are happy w it and it’s issues then live with it and be prepared to get it done at the least convenient time then let it rest ,other wise get some quotes and look into the cost of replacement and or replacement and conversion to gas and not to shock you don’t listen to realtors or home inspector about prices they are clueless and generally base there price on using a non lic contractor who works for nothing and does crap for quality work . I know this to be all to true being I ve seen this more times then I care to remember . As always everything that can be seen in the home is excellent it’s what cannot be seen by neighbors that usually ancient garbage and left for someone else to pay for replacement most likely you so thread careful and don’t take realtors or home inspectors word as gospel it ain’t it just a sales pitch .
    Just telling the truth
    Peace and good luck clammy
    R.A. Calmbacher L.L.C. HVAC
    NJ Master HVAC Lic.
    Mahwah, NJ
    Specializing in steam and hydronic heating
    Mad Dog_2Ironman
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,386
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    Is this a steam or hot water boiler?

    Some pics would really be helpful.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.