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He's Baaack - Propress and Choosing a replacement condensing hydronic boiler

Harold Member Posts: 232
Some of you might remember and excruciatingly long thread about 10 years ago.

Short precis: Home hydronic system (moderately large). System done with ProPress. Every joint in the system using ProPress allowed the excretion of black and green stains to occur. Manufacturer refused to correct. Much arguments ensued.

AS the world turns. Here is a "progress report". All joints look like crap, but they don't drip on the floor. Hence not supported by the manufacture. Their view is it nothing hits the floor; it ain't leaking.

New info. The boiler installed was a Weil-Mclain Ultra 105. Good boiler. Did what it was supposed to do. I was confidante that, expect for really ugly piping (which I believe will be a significant price reduction when selling the house), everything was good. Silly me.

Just before Christmas, in an usual cold spell, my boiler herniated; massively. Core had been eaten through. You can imagine getting parts and support until after New Years. Turned out that the WM recommended antifreeze (CryoTek) that was installed, was seriously faulty. CryoTek specifically (in their specifications and warranty) said it was made for Aluminum components. It was recommended by WM. Specifically targeted to Aluminum cores. It ate the core. Back to CryoTek (who had issued a recall); no notice from anyone. CryoTek had been bought, so they were no longer responsible for any crap products that had destroyed your boiler. Gee I hate lawyers and anti-human laws.

Now WM made a heroic effort to get me a new boiler core at no cost to me. Outstanding customer support. And they really tried hard to get it done. Excellent attitude. I absolutely can not hold them responsible for another companies serious screw up.

I now knew the antifreeze was toxic to all the metal in the system. The original contractor came over (at no cost) and helped me flush the system. This was tricky, because there were circuits that could not tolerate exposure to freezing temperatures; so they had to be flushed and left empty. Which is, of course, why there was an antifreeze. That was harder to flush. Later (read: when it was warmer), I flushed the whole system again. From the first purge, I have 5 55-gallon drums full of defective antifreeze sitting in the yard with no reasonable way to get rid of it. I have put air vents in each barrel to try to use summer heat to evaporate the water and make it easier to get rid of the antifreeze. Not working particularly well.

Let us move on up to last week. Went to the utility room to do a check on things. I do that periodically. No pressure in the hydronic system. That explained some strange noises in the system. Which is why I chose that point in time to check the system. Immediately got a flashlight and surveyed all of the basement ceilings for evidence of water damage. Nothing. I had turned off the hydronic system. The boiler had not run for several hours. There was water dripping from the condensate pipe from the boiler. Without restarting the boiler, I brought the pressure up to normal. A day or so later; it was at zero again. Ergo, core two had now been penetrated. Not a happy camper.

SO, we get to the point. WM makes two similar boilers at this point. One is the direct successor of the 105 I have installed. This configuration matches my (seriously ugly) piping. The new version is essentially what I have, but with a coating on the Aluminum core to prevent water borne things from eating it. This may have been a serial improvement. I really don't understand the fascination of destroying Aluminum cores; but what do I know.

Their other product is the ECO-110 boiler. This has a stainless steel core. It also has a significantly improved computer system (apparently, also on the Ultra).

The major (I think) difference in replacing the boiler itself is essentially the core. There is another consideration. The Ultra pretty much uses all of the pipe positions of the original Ultra. This means essentially zero messing with piping.

The ECO-110 has significantly different piping connection locations. But it has a Stainless Steel core. I am not comfortable with the possible track record to the Aluminum protective coating. Performance is pretty much the same. The difference in piping will cause a very significant cost to re-pipe. Re-piping, would be an opportunity to justify removing all of the ProPress connections. It will be very expensive. But it would make the utility room appearance not to suck so much. I also have no idea what the condition of the circulators may be from the antifreeze.

OK - QUESTION - you knew I would get here.

Which one? I really would like some cogent answers.

Rational responses welcomed. Crazy tangential discussions; not so much. Please do not go back the the 10 year old issues and reactivate them. I have provided a synopsis.


  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 386
    Trying to be positive, I would suggest installing something besides an aluminum boiler in your home. Yes it will cost you more upfront, but what happens when the next aluminum block fails and they no longer make that block (or a replacement). In addition, I'm guessing that the labor to replace the block is not free.

    On another note, I am not certain but I suspect all anti-freeze can cause problems to boilers, piping, circulators, etc. if not flushed and replaced on a regular basis.
    delta TDan Foley
  • delta T
    delta T Member Posts: 852
    somewhat tangential, but is there any possibility of making the freeze prone areas freeze proof by adding insulation, or something else? If you can get away from using antifreeze it will be better....

    If not well I would second Scott, I think you will have better luck with a SS boiler than an aluminum one. While I understand Aluminum has nice thermal properties and there are plenty of good reasons to make a boiler out of Aluminum, in my experience they have more trouble, and are more maintenance heavy (and over time costly) than a SS boiler. The efficiency gains do not out weigh this detriment in my eyes. Glycol in an aluminum boiler (even the aluminum safe stuff) is just asking for trouble.
    SuperTechDan Foley
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,788
    Did you test the ph or tds of the glycol?
    Keep in mind that the majority of the fluid in the system is water which is normally tap water. The problem could be related to your water.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Steve Minnichdelta TDan Foley
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997
    go stainless but also maintain what goes in it. I have a system we have to flush every year. You do what you have to, protect the big part...
  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,659
    Failure of aluminum blocks is not at all uncommon. I condemned 5 this past winter with dime size holes. A manufacturer could give me a freebie and I wouldn't install it for one of my customers.

    Go SS and test the water, annually test the glycol, have the system properly cleaned by an experienced, competent boiler company every year.

    Piping modifications should be way down the list of priorities when choosing the proper boiler replacement.
    Steve Minnich
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    [email protected]
    Rich_49delta TDan Foley
  • Steve Minnich
    Steve Minnich Member Posts: 2,659
    Clear, logical, convincing = cogent.
    Steve Minnich
    Minnich Hydronic Consulting & Design, LLC
    [email protected]
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    Quick note on some questions from above:

    Antifreeze. It was a bad batch. Recalled by the manufacturer. Recommended specifically for Aluminum heat exchangers. Specified by Weil-Mclean. It ate Aluminum.

    Insulation. The system does not have antifreeze in it. I purged all circuits and then isolated the ones needing antifreeze and blew out the water. Locations: water to air exchanger for range hood in non-insulated attic, embedded tubing in greenhouse, garage floors.

    Ph = 8 from well.

    Now, onward.

    My gut is also on the SS. I came back here to get opinions from experts. Thanks.

    Are there any other boilers I should consider? With a bit of "why this one". If WM will be willing to do something nice on the price of a replacement, I will go that way. I like their boilers (except the incontinence their cores seem to suffer from). Diapers are not enough.

    A useless aside - I once went out to evaluate a high power transmitter. They were serious final amplifier tubes and used water cooling. There was a little dike around each tube consisting of feminine hygiene pads. But I don't think I will consider that approach.

    I am currently evaluating the amount of re-piping this will involve to the ECO-110. I will change some things I did not care for in the original installation. More isolation and drain points, getting rid of a device that should not have been installed, replacing some circulators with Taco variable speed units. They have very clever pumps.

    A small aside (not useless): One of the valves in a distribution manifold has failed. Not the motor. It is always on and makes my wife's office very uncomfortable. It is a Roth manifold. It was obsolete before I got them. I believe this is the part. I talked to Roth and searched the Internet, to no avail. If anyone knows where I can get a couple of these it would be most appreciated.

    I believe I hear the tinkle of a beer reaching the perfect temperature.

    Thanks everyone.

  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    A Google search for defective Cryo-tek 100 Al shows no results. Hercules still owns it.

    All glycol MUST be checked annually for proper pH, percentage glycol, reserve alkalinity and corrosion inhibitor levels. WM has specific chemicals that are required to be used in their boilers to protect the heat exchanger. Stainless steel will also fail if fluids are not properly maintained.

    Bad luck has a way of finding its way into your life... Sorry.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
    Dan FoleyZmanRich_49
  • flat_twin
    flat_twin Member Posts: 290
    edited April 2018
    Zero problems with our Eco 110 in two heating seasons plus making domestic hot water. Our municipal water is within spec and we added Sentinel X100 treatment per WM recommendation.
    Pages 75-76
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    It is rather irrelevant you can not find references to the Cryo-Tek problem. It was not widely published. I have a PDF about the problem. I will try to attach it. I can't find my copy of the Cryo-Tex recall at the moment. But the material was recalled, compensation defined. But not honored.

    What I have stated in terms of a response from Cryo-Tek are accurate. Not desiring a dual of honor; trust me. Why would I make it up.
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    It appears I can not edit a post here. After I posted I went back to look at recent posts. SO:

    Yeah - not sorry. What I have posted regarding Cryo-Tek is absolutely true. I still have the containers with the recalled product IDs. I seriously resent your apparent attitude that I am some how falsifying the situation. Or simply incompetent to deal with should be relatively trivial issues. WM acknowledged there was a problem. Cryo-tek responded as I have described. And there was a recall (which Cryo-Tek [after publishing it] failed to honor).

    Your input is quite offensive to me. Why would I make this up? What advantage about anything would I achieve by lying?

    Because you can't find something on the internet, does not make me a liar.

    And I really did not need your lecture!
  • Mark Eatherton
    Mark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,837
    For the record, I didn't call you a liar. I didn't even imply it. You called yourself a liar.

    Also, I didn't "lecture" you. I pointed out the obvious. If you don't like the advice I gave you, ignore it and go somewhere else to find people that will jump on your band wagon and agree with your premises. You stirred the pot with your original post about failures of the fitting system, which as memory serves me went no where.

    I don't like individuals publicly trashing manufacturers without proof of proper maintenance and operation. Read your owners manual. It (fluid maintenance) is required. I think the boiler manufacturer has treated you more fairly than I would have. If you have no proof of proper fluid and boiler maintenance, then in my book, you have no valid claims.

    We have a LOT of people who frequent this site, from manufacturer all the way to the end users, and I recall NO mention of a Cryo-Tek recall. If I am wrong, I will gladly admit it, but something this big is hard to slip through the cracks without someone mentioning it.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
    ZmanRich_49Dan FoleySteve Minnich
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,788
    "Your input is quite offensive to me. Why would I make this up? What advantage about anything would I achieve by lying?"
    "Rational responses welcomed. Crazy tangential discussions; not so much"

    @Harold , Why did you post on Heating Help?
    You obviously already know all you need to.

    If you don't want people to comment about your water issues, don't post info about them.

    You can edit when logged in by clicking the setting symbol that appears when you move the curser over the top right corner of your post

    In reading the "recall notice", it notes that there have been issues with some aluminum installations. They did not recall an entire product line, they simply changed their recommendation regarding aluminum boilers due to reported issues.

    Given that you had another very unusual issue with the press fittings, I think it would be worth your while to look into the possibility that your tap water is part of the problem. As Mark tried to explain (you do need his lecture) , it is also imperative to monitor the chemistry of the glycol mix in the boiler (why would anyone make that up).

    If you intend to fill the new system with tap water and glycol, it would be advisable to have that water thoroughly tested. Sometimes it is simpler to fill with off site water or to use a premix glycol solution.

    As for the issues you want to talk about:

    I don't have experience with the boilers you are considering but stainless has a much better track record than aluminum.

    Roth is still in business, they would be the best place to start looking.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    SuperTechRich_49Dan FoleySteve Minnich
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    I am posting here because of the expertise available. My objective, though probably poorly highlighted, is to see if anyone has had any experience with the WM SS in the ECO and newer coated Aluminum heat exchanger in the Ultra 4.

    I confused the issue by updating what has happened to the system over the years. I thought it might be interesting for anyone that had participated in the original crazy long thread. My mistake. It redirected attention from the actual question.

    OK. I felt attacked by the comment about having not found any record. And once again a statement is made that that never happened. I have been quite clear that Cryotek recalled a batch of antifreeze. I had the recall notice somewhere. They instruct any unopened containers of a specific batch be returned. None may remain in inventory. WM also sent a notification to contractors. I was there! I have one of the containers here with the batch numbers on them. I all feels very much like a recall to me. How would you feel if very skilled people persisted is telling you - it ain't true?

    I have also made it perfectly clear that WM has been very supportive. As was the contractor.

    Again my update at the start refocuses people on water. I do generally understand water quality and Ph, general behavior of Glycol, additives and maintenance. Not with any depth. I bought a testing kit to check the installed Glycol. I honestly do not remember what the results were, but I thought they were OK at the time.

    There was a confluence of exposed Aluminum and a problematic antifreeze. Old history. WM Aluminum cores now have a coating on them for protection.

    And my only question is which boiler to choose. SS will be much more expensive because of re-piping. Coated or SS. I am reluctant to have Aluminum in the house again. But some evaluation about the current system is all I really want. Sorry that I upset anyone.
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 386
    We have not installed a WM ECO (yet). Based on the history with aluminum blocks (coated or not) I am surprised your still considering using one. I understand no one wants to spend extra money these days, but in your case I think it may be time to bite the bullet and move on. Perhaps upgrade boiler, piping and replace all of the PP fittings that have been leaking? I'm hopeful that with a competent installer the system can be made to run better and more reliably than ever. With a little luck all you will have to do is regular maintenance for the next ten years or so.

    I'm not suggesting your heating system has been problematic since it was installed, but there have been some serious issues that most systems won't see in their lifetime. Oh, I agree W/M has been generous with offering replacement aluminum blocks since they started failing, but let's be honest, no one wants to have to replace a boiler block, period.
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 6,788
    Perhaps someone will weigh in on the ECO model.

    I live in an area which has seen high failure rates with aluminum boilers. Some straight water, other glycol systems. I would not consider aluminum in my area. Others on this site have had great success with aluminum.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    Mark EathertonRich_49Dan Foley
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    A correction. I keep using the wrong name for the WM boiler. The product line is Evergreen. The ECO is a wall mounted unit. Not the one I am interested in. The correct one I have been referring to is the EVG 110.
  • Harold
    Harold Member Posts: 232
    As Scott said a couple of posts up; I am biting the bullet. Need to move on. Fall is coming and I need heat for that event.

    I have settled on the WM EVG 110 boiler. It is a SS core, with more smarts that my current version. WM has a newer version of the Ultra model I currently have with the coated Al core But I want the SS and I believe it will require some repiping. Unlike the existing boiler, the EVG 110 has pipes coming out the side, and the current boiler spacing is a bit short of a comfortable clearance to the wall and aligning to existing piping. I would like all of the copper in the system that "didn't " leak to be replaced. If I ever need to use the circuits in any of the areas exposed to freezing, I just can not trust the joints to "not" leak again.

    The system is run by multiple old (369, 262 ) Tekmar controllers. The EVG seems to do a significant number of the functions currently done by the Tekmar equipment. I would entertain updating the Tekmar equipment if it makes sense (question for the contractor I find).

    I also have a valve in a manifold that will not close. The 2 upstairs manifolds are Roth. I have talked to Roth tech support and they have explained that they are way to old to get replacement parts. I have searched online without success. I don't know if there are parts from other manufacturers that would fit. Once again the shadow of the antifreeze hovers over me. I have no way of determining how much damage there may remain in the system. Replacing the manifolds is also a possibility. Or repopulate valves if there is an alternative.

    I also want to replace the main circulator pump with a smart pump. I am using much less (maybe 30 - 40% max) than the full system as designed. So that fixed speed pump is effectively way over sized for our normal heat demand. Taco Veridian and Grundfos Magna3 are prospects. It is not clear if the Magna3 is actually available.

    I am located near Burlington, Washington. I need a hydronic contractor that can deal with all of the devices and work described above. I tried the contractor search without results. If anyone has some recommendations I would appreciate you letting me know. You can send me a message here if you wish.
  • Dan Foley
    Dan Foley Member Posts: 1,243
    I did not read the entire thread, just this last post. If you are near Seattle, Paul Pollets is your man.