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Boiler Replacement Selection Help

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Stoobie
Stoobie Member Posts: 2
edited February 24 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi,
New to the forum and new to homeownership looking to get some advice on how to evaluate quotes from different contractors and maybe some general advice on the boilers themselves.
I've got quotes from four companies to replace our 13 year old boiler after the heat exchanger sprung a leak. 2nd owner on the boiler so no warranty unfortunately.

Company 1. Original installer for our Weil-Mclain Ultra. They are a medium-sized company with a fairly well-known name in the area. We've used them for night-time repair callouts for our heating system and their techs have all been good. Decent reviews online. Only once was the repair tech fairly new and inexperienced which cost us some money due to the extra time needed. Estimator was professional, knowledgeable and seemed confident in the work that needed to be done and gave us a few different options.

Company 2. Smaller company with less reviews overall, but a similar score. I've heard mixed reviews from people I know, but don't have any personal experience. Estimator was the most personable and probably the owner (forgot to ask). Spent the most time on-site and asked plenty of questions. He gave a couple of options as well. Their quote was about 20% higher than Company 1 using the same boiler options. This is apparently including a 5% discount on spring installs.

Company 3. Smallest company of all the quotes, but has great reviews from online and from a family member as well. Owner came to give the estimate and was professional and asked plenty of questions. He seemed confident in the work that needed to be done. Only gave one option for a boiler (Rinnai i-series) and is the lowest priced quote at about 20% less than Company 1.

Company 4. Largest company in the area with decent reviews overall. Only red flag is a streak of negative reviews over the last 6 months. No personal experience with this company though. The estimator was the quickest to arrive and look everything over. In and out in under 5 minutes which seemed odd after all of the other estimates, but maybe the larger volume of work they do factors in there. He was professional, but seemed fairly indifferent. He had no concerns with the work that needs to be done. Provided one option which was the same price as Company 1. Oddly though they quoted us for the largest boiler in the group. All others were about 105-120 and theirs was 150.

Boiler time. Other than some basic spec comparisons online I can't really come up with much of a difference between these. I've been told the contractor is more important than the equipment so I'm not as concerned here, but I hope to avoid any lemons if possible. I don't do a lot of DIY stuff, but I have become comfortable with cleaning off gunked up ignitors as the extent of my experience. I don't plan to do any repair or troubleshooting myself moving forward if I can so maybe considerations can be made for ease of maintenance/repair and the warranty that is attached to these options.

Our house is 3000sq ft w/ baseboard heat, 2 zones, a water heater, and 1 garage heater loop. Boiler options below:
Weil-Mclain Ultra 105
IBC SL 115
IBC VX 110
Rinnai i120SN
Navien NHB-150

Sorry for the wall of text. I appreciate any feedback or advice. I'm trying to do my best here dealing with a fairly large expense!

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,310
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    I'll only make two comments. Well, three. First, the company you know and have worked with has a lot to be said for it -- they know you as well, and it is likely that if you are a good customer they will want to continue the relationship. Second, I'd not pay too much attention to on-line reviews, and I would evaluate the written comments in them very carefully to see if the comment matches the overall review in tone and feel, or if it reflects some aspect of the work or equipment which may reflect a real -- but irrelevant problem or advantage. Third, trust yourself...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Stoobie
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
    edited February 24
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    How did each company determine what size you need?
    The only correct way is to determine that size with some sort of load calculation. If the estimator selected the new heater based on the old heater, then you should look elsewhere.

    Most heating systems that were put in homes in the 1920s, after the Spanish Flu were way oversized, During the depression, people had less money so operating your heater with the windows open seemed wasteful, in the 1940, many homes were starting to convert from coal to gas and oil heat and the method of sizing the heaters were based on the earlier oversized heaters. So many of those heaters were oversized and inefficient. As time went on in the 50's and 60's most heaters were replaced based on using the same size or maybe a little larger than the one that was being replaced. eventually some homes ended up with third and fourth heaters that were so oversized that they short-cycled inefficiently...

    In the 1970s OPEC fuel shortages caused the price of energy, like gas and oil to double every 5 years or so, until we reached the millennium. Now fuel costs are making smart contractors think about what size heater is actually needed for the home. So, if your contractor has just selected the size based on the previous heater, then you probably want to look for another contractor.


    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    Stoobie
  • Kickstand55
    Kickstand55 Member Posts: 110
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    The boilers you have listed do require low mineral content and neutral to high pH water. Please do the research. They also require proper servicing annually. See the manufacturers data on this.
    I will say, most companies in my area do not service these units properly. Why? As a plumbing and heating contractor in New Hampshire, I have been to service many boilers similar to these with service tags attached, but no signs of disassembly or attention to water quality. This is the reason they don't last very long. Not trying to bash anyone. I want consumers to know what they're getting for their money.
    Ask the contractor questions after you read product installation and operation literature. It's usually available online via the manufacturer's website.
    Please do your research.
    If you have any more questions, come back to this site. Let us know what you find.
    Stoobie
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,147
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    Any scope of work? The system should be cleaned and flushed as part of the new installation, have that spelled out. It is an important step that is often ignored.
    Regardless of the type or brand of boiler, water quality is important. All boiler manuals now have a water spec.

    You know enough to ask for, in writing, how they will install and setup the boiler. I’d add a combustion analysis report to the scope of work also.

    What about DHW?

    When you make a decision, download the manual for the boiler, read through the control settings, have them walk you through the operation of the control so you can fine tune as necessary.

    A heat load calc would confirm sizing, every one of those will modulate down to 10- 15,000 btu/ hr. The 150 seems a bit large compared to others. If the load came in under 60,000 or so, an 80k boiler would be the correct one
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Stoobie
  • Stoobie
    Stoobie Member Posts: 2
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    Thanks for the responses everyone! I really appreciate it.

    @hot_rod As far as what was discussed this is just a direct replacement of the boiler and whatever other components they felt needed to be swapped which are spelled out in their quotes (Backflow preventer, fill valve, expansion tank, etc.). All of the zone valves, pumps, piping and vents in the system looked good as well as the indirect fired hot water heater so they will be reused. Condensate neutralizer was recently swapped within the last year or two.

    We are on city water so I'm not sure what considerations need to be made for that as far as a water test goes, but none of the 4 different companies mentioned it. My guess would be it is common knowledge in our area that things are good there. Still worth an ask though!

    I probably did make a lot of assumptions as to what they would be doing so I'll look to get more things in writing about what to expect as far as the flush and combustion analysis.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,147
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    With stainless boilers, watch the chloride level, The manual has the water spec. Your city website may post water quality info. My town puts it in the mail newsletter once a year.
    Areas where they dump a lot of chlorides on the roads for snow and ice removal tend to have high chloride levels in the public water. Aluminum boilers have a tight ph spec
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream