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Old 10-12-2011, 03:48 PM   #1
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need a new boiler


Hey folks.

We have an 8 year old Munchkin 140M. When it works it is great. But in the past 5 years we have put nearly $400-500 per year in service calls and parts into the thing. Last service call was $231 and the tech told me what part he thought was the culprit, telling me, "quite frankly, you can buy the part online and install it your self for a lot less money than my company will charge for another service call."

So I paid $47 for the part and installed it myself.

Boiler still won't work. It throws several error codes. We've addressed each one and still nothing.

So I'm thinking it's time to toss in the towel and spend some money on a new boiler. Cost of a new boiler will hopefully make up for the costs of repeated service calls...

Looking for suggestions on a new unit.

Would like a 92-95% AFUE modulating/condensing in the 140-175 range.

Thanks for any suggestions--Bill

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Old 10-12-2011, 06:36 PM   #2
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Just a suggestion; If you have standard 3/4 fin tube radiators (better known as baseboard radiators),measure the fin tube (not the cover ,just the fin tube).
Then take the number of total feet and multiply by 650 and the result will be the size output the new boiler has to be.
For example say you end up with a total of 167 feet of fin tube.You multiply that by 650 and you need 108,550 btu out put which would be like a 125,000 boiler (input)@90 %
If you have an indirect water heater just make sure you have a piority relay and you won't have to worry about that load.
One thing I am very high on with boilers are one,the Spirovent" air eliminator as nothing is even close to it and an outdooor reset that adjusts the water temp to outdoor conditions.
Good luck.

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Old 10-12-2011, 07:03 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply REP. Should have stated in my first post that this is a 130 year old house with big brass radiators in each room. Had a couple estimates for the instalation of the Munchkin and everyone recommended the 140 size.

The Spirovent looks interesting. Will have to look at it further. Also the outdoor reset. Our current boiler dosen't have this, but I've come across it in my research lately. Looks to be a good feature.

In hind site, I think we got a lemon on the Munchkin, but it's too late to do anything about it.

Bill
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:20 PM   #4
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I thought Munchkin made a decent boiler. your problems are exactly why I got a conventional boiler. With everything that can go wrong with the electronics of a modcon boiler, all it takes is one service call and all your savings from using less energy are in the tech's pocket.
My suggestion is either get a new tech or dumb it down and get a conventional boiler and put the difference between the price of boilers into tightening up your house with insulation or better windows, whatever.
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:48 PM   #5
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Yeah, we thought Munchkin made a good boiler, based on research we did 9 years ago.

They are off the market now, and recent reviews on the web are very negative about long term durability.

As far as getting a new tech, most places around here (Pittsburgh) don't have a clue about the brand.

The house is a real fixer-upper, not very air-tight or energy efficient at the present time. Figure a mod/con will save quite a bit of money on the gas bill, but I see your logic about a conventional system.

Gotta do some research...

Thanks--Bill
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Old 10-13-2011, 05:13 AM   #6
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Check into Weil mclain Ultra.
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Old 10-13-2011, 11:51 AM   #7
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Whatever you do, do not buy anything but a cast iron boiler. I have been looking at this for over one year, and looked at everything. I have even been doing the work on my own system, so I can learn.

The main reason boiler manufacturers went higher tech is the government. After a number of years doing Modcons, Burnham and Weil Mclain both say that in the long run, your total operating costs will probably be less with a cast iron boiler. You have to dig around on their websites to find their comments.

I have been lucky that I have had an engineer from one of these big companies helping me. They are not supposed to do this. And because I have two small baseboard zones, the engineer has explained how a buffer tank will keep the boiler from over cycling.

An 80% cast iron boiler also works most efficiently with large radiator systems. This is true because there is a lot of water in these radiators which keep the boiler from over cycling.

If you have nothing but large radiators, all you need is a properly sized 80-85% rated cast iron boiler. If you boiler is inside your heated envelope, such as in the basement, there is only two features that I would consider. When a boiler runs, it uses a lot of air. This creates a vacuum causing the cold outside air to be pulled into the house. Installers would rather talk about boiler efficiency and talk you into a modcon, so they don't have to lug the cast iron into the house. Both Weil and Burnham sell cast iron boilers that draw air directly into the firebox (Burnham has an SVG), and then vent to the outside, which can be done through the wall if possible. This alone could save you 5-15% on your gas bill. Modcons do this, but they will break the bank and leave you without heat. I live in Chicago area, and most installers do not know what they are doing.

The other thing you want to consider is called an outdoor reset, or an ODR. This has a sensor outside that is tied to the system inside. An ODR raises the temperature to the system as the temperature goes down.

The other consideration is the temperature of the water returning to the boiler (cast irons want 140f designed into the system to avoid boiler shock and to prevent condensation forming in the flue). I currently have a 35 year old cast iron 80%. There is no control for this on my system, yet it works fine, and their is no condensation. That is how forgiving these cast irons are. It would be helpful to hydraulically separate the the boiler from this system side (a matter of piping near the boiler, now with two circulators) or doing a bypass where a small amount of the water coming out of the boiler is returned to keep the temp at 140 or so.

One warning in all of this. Most heating salesmen will come to your house and size your boiler to the size and number of large radiators (it is the total square feet of radiation). This is the lazy way, and it will be wrong. These older houses all have excess heating capacity in their radiators. In my case both my large radiators and baseboards (done 1929, added to in 1975) are oversized by 40%. YOU DO NOT WANT A BOILER THAT IS OVERSIZED BY 40%.

If you want, I can post a two page document, that you can figure your own heat loss calculations to double check any heating contractor. Just remember, run the other way if the salesman starts counting and measuring your radiators. Any questions, just ask. And google U S. Boiler for Burnham and did through their website.
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Old 10-13-2011, 12:10 PM   #8
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Modcons, if you are dumb enough to buy one, are for in-floor heat. With that said, I would still not buy one. I would use a buffer tank and protect the boiler from low return temperatures.

If you can wait on the boiler, you want 12" of insulation in your attic, you want to consider insulating your walls, and you want to close up all of the air leaks.

I have been in this house for twelve years, and have done all the work on my heating system. I have spent a fair amount of time fixing air leaks, and even with all of this, I missed one big one.

Prior to last heating system Grundfos gave me one of their ALPHA circulators to try. It worked great the first year. I fired up the boiler a couple of weeks ago, and one zone was not getting heat. At first, I thought it was the zone valve, but it turned out to be the pump was not functioning correctly. I got a new pump. I cleaned the upper part of the boiler (the cast iron). This was the first time since new probably. I pulled all of the burners out and cleaned them and vacuumed the bottom of the boiler, and put it together again. You want to know what I have missed all this time? Never even thought about it. My boiler has a 6" vent. It is attached to a reducer, which increases the size to 8." However, the thimble (or hole in the chimney, in this case, ceramic) is 9" or more, making for a space around the boiler vent of almost an inch. All these years, and this has been open. Particularly when the boiler is running the draft up the chimney increases, drawing heated air out of the house. It is like leaving your fireplace damper open.

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Old 10-14-2011, 04:27 AM   #9
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While mod/cons excel at radiant heat. Thinking they are only for radiant heat is incorrect. On average my customers save 29% over a cast iron conventional boiler. Some of my commercial customers save enough that they could change out the boiler every 7 years, and still be ahead in money. Peoper set up is required.
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Old 10-14-2011, 08:02 PM   #10
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You're telling everyone that you save your customers 29% is meaningless. System design is more important than the boiler. I just cleaned my 35 year old Weil Mclain, and I am going to save 29% because the bright blue part of the flame was 1.5 inches, and not the 1/4 to 1/2" the manual says it should be. It was "roaring." All those dollars up the chimney.

I would also rather trust Burnham, now U. S. Boiler, as they now say that the over-all cost of owning a cast iron boiler is less than a modcon. This will especially be true when someone has very large radiators, and not in-floor heat. Are you going to argue with them? I guess, like you and I, they are also tired of all the U. S. government bull sh%t. Who, really, is our government?

You can buy an 85% efficient cast iron boiler that knocks the socks of the modcon tin cans. It is like my 1983 Mercedes 240D, as in diesel (cast iron, by the way), that weighs about 50% more than a Prius and gets 30 MPG. It has no $3,000 battery to replace, it has no electronics, only cast iron. This car is 30 years old, and like the boiler in my house, and it will go another 30 years, more. And now, at 30 years of age, it will be around long after any Prius built in the last 5 years. If you want heat or A/C, what happens to the mileage in a Prius? Unlike a cast iron boiler, I only recently paid 1/3 the cost of a Prius. Go figure. And, it is a Mercedes!

System design has advanced tremendously in the last 30 years, to the point that you can buy a 85% cast iron boiler with sealed combustion, plus a buffer tank, plus a Taco 4 way mixing valve with outdoor reset that will rival the efficiency of a modcon at 2/3rds the price on parts cost, and it last a lifetime with about a quarter or less the maintenance. It will falter less than a quarter of the number of times of the stainless steel tin cans, and it won't be the boiler, but a circulator or the like, which is easy to replace. Next winter when you are sitting there with no heat because there was a system lockout, a computer board failure ($900 part), or any one of the hundreds of reasons modcons stop working (there are only a handfull of failure points on the 85% cast iron), I will be thinking of you. Not really, because technicians in the offices of boiler manufacturers would rather have cast iron.

If you are an "old technician," I am sorry because I only have one boiler, one buffer tank to drag down my 7 dorothy door steps.

I LOVE CAST IRON.
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Old 10-14-2011, 10:41 PM   #11
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I like Burnham too. Of course they say cast iron is better. Since that is their bread and butter. but they don't mention their V7 series too much, since it had a high failure rate, with sections cracking. And the V8, had almost as many problems of sections cracking. And their warranty is part/core/block only. No labor allowance or replacing it(I changed out a lot of those failed boilers).

A properly sized mod/con doesn't need a wasteful buffer tank. And when you add all that buffer tank and taco 4 way mixing valve and add an outdoor reset, your at the price of a mod/con, and still don't have the same savings.

The Weil mcLain ultra is a cast aluminum block. Holds up much better then the others stainless steel heat exchangers.

Saving my customers 29% is a lot, since their cast iron fuel hogs were killing them with high heating bills.

As long as your happy with you cast iron boiler, fine. But many others like the greater savings they get with their mod/cons. And know they wouldn't be saving near as much with cast iron.
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Old 10-15-2011, 11:13 AM   #12
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I have a feeling that some of the manufacturers tried doing their castings in China. When that did not work, they took it up again. It wouldn't surprise me with the lemons. I don't know where the parts are made, but it seems that most boilers are assembled here. I wish I knew.

You should reconsider the buffer tank because you guys out east like to zone every room plus the closets. Even if your boiler modulates all the way down to 25,000 btus, it over-cycles with small zones and low water content pex. If you have only 1, 2, or 3 small zones on at one time in the collar months of the heating season, your boiler, at 25,000 btus is outproducing your demand. Here is a guy right in your back yard: www.heat-flo.com Look at the buffer tanks, and find the sizing calculator, and it will show the benefit.

I am looking at the Ultra while I am writing this. I did not know that the Ultra had a heavy aluminum heat exchanger. Are any of the pipes in the boiler plastic? The vent on the right looks like PVC, and from my own point of view, plastics don't hold up with heat. I also see the annual maintenance. Whether I did this or someone else did it, it is going to cost $250-300 each season. With an annual gas bill of $1,500, right there is a savings of 20%, or don't you count stuff like that? In the hour it would take me to drive to the distributor, I can clean the burners in the 80%. And, even though the manual says to do it annually, you can check the burner when you start it and check to see if it needs cleaning. You probably can go five years between cleaning. My boiler is undersized, so I am trying to eek out a little more from it.

I think you guys in the northeast have your little cult going, and you all take pride in your work. It shows in the pictures I see online. Come to Chicago, and you can meet your Eastern Block counterparts. Finding someone around here that can deal an 80% is difficult let alone a modcon with its computer, and complexity. Think about this going forward. When you build or service an 80%, you have a gas valve, a thermocouple, a high-limit switch, a relay for the circulator (not in the cabinet) and a transformer. It mattered or matters little who built them because they all use the exact same technology. For the last 20 years, the manufacturers have been using our home to experiment with their new-fangled contraptions. And, do you know what? They are all built differently. They function differently. How many different variations have we seen on a modcon, and how many different manufacturers are there? Hundreds...so when Boris, Yani or Jilvenus walks through your door, he will be downstairs scratching his head trying to figure out what to do. If you guys from PA all use a Triangle Tube, that improves your situation, but not mine. I used to have some apartments, and when I rennovated one without a permit, I had no way to vent the second furnace, so I bought a 90% that I vented through the wall. Two years, and every year after, the thing broke once per year. The first "technician," who I suppose you could call a hill-billy scratched his head for almost an hour. Since I have to wait for these guys, I jumped in so I would not waste any more of my time. I took the manual from my "technician," and called the company's tech department (they used to take calls more easily), and discussed the situation on the telephone. He told us what part to get, and it was done, finally.

For the price of a modcon, I can buy 2 small boilers and a 80 gallon buffer tank. I will probably buy one boiler and use my current boiler as a backup. I have to redo all the nearby piping anyway. I know that you can get a lemon of a cast iron, but I think that is less likely since those that tried China, have now backed out, and build everything here. It is interesting how many boiler companies are in PA. I guess they don't like moving cast iron either.

I just roughed out a system design for my home yesterday, so I have attached it. It is based on a buffer tank and the new iSeries 4-way valve from Taco. With a system bypass on the boiler side, I can run my buffer at any temperature that I want. On the system side, the 4-way OUTDOOR RESET VALVE, can modulate just like a modcon. It is a great invention. I can buy an 80 gallon, UNinsulated tank, and use it to heat the finished area of the basement and boiler room. The boiler room is under my family room and has a 60 inch ceiling. My family room has large areas of glass, so heating the floor is a bonus. The 80 gallon buffer has 30+ square feet of radiation, or about half that of any of my large radiators. What I like about my design is that I can experiment with it. I can try different tank temperatures and reset ratios on the 4-way. I can even add some insulation to the tank if I so choose. 20 year life for your modcon, 50 years for my cast iron. Or didn't you notice that the warranties on modcons fall far short of the cast iron warranties.

If you are not familiar with the product, look into Insul-Tarp. It is a great product when you pour a new basement floor. It works far better than 2" of foam board, and brings the floor up to temperature in a third of the time. In my case, when it was -17f two years ago, it was 64 degrees in my basement, at the floor, and I still have not put up the drywall yet. The floor has a neutral feeling to it, even when it is that cold outside, and most of my house only goes into the ground about four feet, so I have 2-3 feet + joist +3-6" of concrete above ground.

You can have your modcon boiler, and I can have my modcon system.
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Old 10-15-2011, 11:36 AM   #13
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Burnham has always done their casting here in the USA. Just a few miles from my house. I've done work in their plant.

In 20 years, a mod/con will have saved enough money to buy several new mod cons.

Your 50 year old cast iron will still be guzzling fuel, and heating the outside.

A 310,000 BTU mod/con can down fire to 64,000. An 80,000 can down fie to to 16,000 BTUs.

New cast iron boilers save the customer money by not having to heat up 100 gallons of water every time the thermostat calls for heat. Adding a buffer tank defeats that. But many won't tell you about that, because then they have to admit that they aren't really doing anything to save money on the annual heating cost. They just pound on the it won't short cycle thought, and get many to fall for it.

I take out 30 plus year old cast iron boilers. And replace them with mod/cons. No buffer tank. And save those people lots of money. So why would I care if a cast iron boiler will last 50 years. When it waste fuel, and cost more to use to heat with.
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Old 10-16-2011, 10:20 AM   #14
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Now that you two have it all figured out and are the best of friends, can we get back to my original question? LOL.

Have four installers coming this week to give estimates. Two work with Buderus equipment and one said he uses Buderus and Weil McLain.

After doing a little research online, I'm looking at these units. Any comments?

Buderus GB142/30 or GB142/45. http://www.buderus.us/products/gashe...plusgb142.html

Weil McLain Ultra Series 3 UG-105 or UG-155. http://www.weil-mclain.com/en/our-pr...ries-3-ue.aspx

The Weil McLain GV90+ also looks interesting. http://www.weil-mclain.com/en/our-pr...-gvplus90.aspx

Thanks-Bill

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Old 10-16-2011, 10:33 AM   #15
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How much do you think you are going to save by installing a 95% efficient boiler?

And, what is your natural gas bill every year?

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Last edited by rickmay; 10-16-2011 at 10:49 AM.
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