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Thread: Converting oil to gas. Have 10 year Weil Mclain. Would appreciate advice and costs.

  1. #16
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Ok so I took the time to read through the thread and I concur with your assessment. This thread is very close to another on the same subject so it gets confusing but yes, the old 7 section has to go.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  2. #17
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Sawyer View Post
    Ok so I took the time to read through the thread and I concur with your assessment. This thread is very close to another on the same subject so it gets confusing but yes, the old 7 section has to go.
    Hi Tom,

    I would greatly appreciate it if you share your thoughts on a few subjects here - would you mind?

    Thanks in advance for your generous time. If people like you and Dana weren't so very helpful, it would be difficult to get really good info - even from all the hours that I spend reading articles and web forums on these subjects. Like you both I "give back" as well - and am a top-rated expert on ********** for computer networking. It feels good to help people out!

    RE: gas conversion of my old unit. I'm not sad that it doesn't make sense. It is just too bad that it was sized so crazy high to start with. Weil Mclain could have been much nicer and more descriptive with their version of "can't undersize it much". You and Dana really helped me understand WHY it can't be - and I'm so grateful!

    I'd appreciate it if you would chime in with specific thoughts for a new boiler. Are there brands/models that you like? If you don't like some brands/models then I'd appreciate knowing that too.

    Thanks to you two - a Direct Vent Boiler is clearly the best solution. We can use the rear basement wall or side basement wall - about 10' further back than the existing boiler location.

    Would you mind outlining your thoughts on "mod/con vs medium eff boiler"? It doesn't SEEM like the mod/cons would actually save us much - or maybe nothing if they need any yearly pro maintenance. What are your favorite gas boiler brands and models? Are there ones that you don't like? It's always useful to know what to avoid!

    And what about maintenance costs for mid vs mod/con? I have read a LOT of articles and threads all over the place but I can't seem to find too much about yearly maintenance costs for gas boilers and gas mod/cons.

    Lastly - let's say that I'm really interested in an indirect water heater. Does that modify your boiler recommendation? Our water use isn't excessive. 5 people, and 4 showers - no baths. 1.85 gpm showerheads.

    THANKS!!!

  3. #18
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    No, unless you were running something like a spa or a Laundromat where you needed hot water constantly all throughout the day, do not upsize the boiler for water heating. The key, though, is to size the tank for your simultaneous uses.. It typically gets plumbed as a priority zone, so when it does need reheating, it gets the full priority of the boiler. This normally doesn't take all that long, and you shouldn't notice - the thermal mass of the house is typically way more than the short time the house heating is disabled to reheat water in the indirect.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  4. #19
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for chiming in. Yes I do understand that the boiler sizing isn't affected by an indirect water heater. We are JUST 4 showers - and 2 of them are for only Amy and I. One of the heating guys who was here claimed we'd need to add 40K for an indirect. It's very nice to know he is either ignorant or intentionally lying.

    My question at the end RE: indirect was whether this Use Case would change a recommendation at all via "med eff gas boiler" vs "mod/con". Or if it would perhaps affect the recommendation of any particular make/model boiler selections. I was thinking that some makes/models might be especially good choices if I were to also add an indirect water heater - perhaps they are already set-up for this and I wouldn't need to buy extra valves/pumps. That was my thought process for this question. I can see where my intentions could be easily misconstrued - and thank you for getting me to clarify it.

  5. #20
    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    Never add anything for the indirect load. It is an intermittant load and oversizing the boiler by say 40K for what amounts to probably less than an hour of run time daily makes no sense and is wasteful. Boiler controls like the Taco SR and ZR series relays provide for hot water priority which in essense switches all power to the indirect when it calls. A nice feature and it is switchable, honestly I rarely use the feature. A 40 gallon indirect will give you all the hot water you need. As far as boilers go a lot depends on what is available in your area. You want equipment that you can easily get parts for should it break down and while I am a fan of Buderus and Lochnivar if you don't have a local supplier you should probably go with what is available. Condensing versus non? well a lot of that depends on how much radiation you have. If you dont have enough radiation a condensing boiler will rarely if ever actually condense and give you those high efficiency numbers. Most, if not condensing will run between 87 and maybe 92% plus or minus and you are paying a premium for equipment that never reaches its potential. The truth is that unless money is no object you have to trade off between best efficiency and most cost effective.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

  6. #21
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jefferson17 View Post
    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for chiming in. Yes I do understand that the boiler sizing isn't affected by an indirect water heater. We are JUST 4 showers - and 2 of them are for only Amy and I. One of the heating guys who was here claimed we'd need to add 40K for an indirect. It's very nice to know he is either ignorant or intentionally lying.

    My question at the end RE: indirect was whether this Use Case would change a recommendation at all via "med eff gas boiler" vs "mod/con". Or if it would perhaps affect the recommendation of any particular make/model boiler selections. I was thinking that some makes/models might be especially good choices if I were to also add an indirect water heater - perhaps they are already set-up for this and I wouldn't need to buy extra valves/pumps. That was my thought process for this question. I can see where my intentions could be easily misconstrued - and thank you for getting me to clarify it.
    See my comments regarding boosting showering capacity vs. indirect sizing on your other thread.

    Words to live by:

    Never ascribe malice to that which could be explained by ignorance or stupidity.

    There's a wealth of ignorance about this stuff in the heetin' ''n' plummin' biz. Back in the day it was common to size the boiler for the peak water heating load, to hell with the average operating efficiency, which is how a lot of older homes ended up with boilers 3-5x oversized for the heat load, but we don't need to repeat those mistakes if we know better.

  7. #22
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for chiming in! It is so great to have access to you, Dana and the others here and benefit from your knowledge and experience!

    >> Never add anything for the indirect load. It is an intermittent load and over-sizing the boiler by say 40K for what amounts to probably less than an hour of run time daily makes no sense and is wasteful.

    Understood. And that makes perfect sense. Apparently, the heating guys who have come out here either don't know that - or they were being dishonest w/ me. Which? Take your pick

    >> Boiler controls like the Taco SR and ZR series relays provide for hot water priority which in essence switches all power to the indirect when it calls. A nice feature and it is switchable, honestly I rarely use the feature.

    Perhaps some of the boilers have this type of feature integrated? It's nice to hear that it may not even be all that necessary, even if available. The house won't exactly get cold in the 10-15 min that it takes to recover an indirect.

    >> A 40 gallon indirect will give you all the hot water you need.

    I hear you. If a 50 gallon isn't much more money I'd probably do that, if only to feel better about having an extra 10 gallons on hand.

    >> As far as boilers go a lot depends on what is available in your area. You want equipment that you can easily get parts for should it break down and while I am a fan of Buderus and Lochnivar if you don't have a local supplier you should probably go with what is available.

    We are on the NJ border about 25 miles North of Philly and 50-60 miles from NYC. So I would hope that all major brands would have pretty good availability out our way. Buderus, Burnham, Triangle Tube and Peerless are on our short list. Dana seems to like the Burnham ESC series and I do like the notion of having some reliable cast iron. I keep reading and reading about condensing wall mounts and I'm not getting a real warm and fuzzy.

    >> Condensing versus non? well a lot of that depends on how much radiation you have. If you dont have enough radiation a condensing boiler will rarely if ever actually condense and give you those high efficiency numbers. Most, if not condensing will run between 87 and maybe 92% plus or minus and you are paying a premium for equipment that never reaches its potential. The truth is that unless money is no object you have to trade off between best efficiency and most cost effective.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "depends on how much radiation you have". The 2 active zones are all old cast iron radiators. Some of these are pretty big. We have a 3rd zone w/ baseboards for the rear addition - but that zone is drained out entirely - and we are just using heat pumps there. Does that help to allow you to provide any thoughts?

    We're not overly concerned with 84/85 vs 92% efficiency. Our first focus would be Reliablility, less maintenance and long-life, rather than upfront cost of the gear.

    Thanks!

    Jeff

  8. #23
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    A 40-50 gallon hot water heater isn't going to support 4 simultaneous showers + other loads for very long on it's own with only 60K of burner outut underneath it. With drainwater heat recovery 60 gallons could do OK though.

    The deal with the newer c.i. Burnhams is that they come with the heat-purge controls and cool return-water boiler protection already installed. The basic boiler underneath it all is pretty antiquated, but well-tested. You can get the same performance out of any number of other cast-iron boilers, but you'd have to design and plumb in the boiler protection and add the heat purge controls. Some consider them little more than dressed up pigs with a lip-gloss finish (which they kinda are), but from a system design & installation simplicity point of view it's a pretty good package, more forgiving than mod-cons. If the fuel were $2-3/gallon propane rather than $1/therm gas the mod-con would pay off in short years. Without the prospect of truly huge fuel price inflation it's hard to push too hard in that direct. I expect we'll see prices climb to an inflation adjusted $1.50/therm in PA over then next decade, but I don't quite see how it'll hit $2 for sustained periods at this point in gas-exploration/production history. (cood b rong, offen am.)

    That said, given that your radiation was even able to take a 240 MBH boiler's output, it's probably enough to be in condensing mode 100% of the time now that your heat load is under 60MBH. It was probably designed with some margin for the home's heat load on day 1, a period of coal-fired boilers and people sleeping with the windows cracked to mitigate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you took the time to measure up all the rads and come up with a square feet of equivalent direct radiation number it's pretty easy to come up with the average water temperature requirements that delivers 50-60K from that radiation. It's very likely to be under 120F, in which case you'll beat 95% with almost anybody's mod-con.

  9. #24
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dana View Post
    See my comments regarding boosting showering capacity vs. indirect sizing on your other thread.

    Words to live by: Never ascribe malice to that which could be explained by ignorance or stupidity.

    There's a wealth of ignorance about this stuff in the heetin' ''n' plummin' biz. Back in the day it was common to size the boiler for the peak water heating load, to hell with the average operating efficiency, which is how a lot of older homes ended up with boilers 3-5x oversized for the heat load, but we don't need to repeat those mistakes if we know better.
    I'll look for the shower boost piece - there's a lot of info and I'm very grateful to have it!

    I don't think that the one guy was intentionally trying to mislead me. I try and go by "trust but verify". Most people are reasonably honest, but they "know what they know". Same in my industry.

    But ... some people aren't honest (shocking, I know). A different guy was out here from Harris Fuel. He specs out all the jobs for the local office with 20 techs. They sold the 240K gear 10 years ago to the prior owner, and had her on the hook for all her oil fills as well! He also said that an indirect's load would need to be added in. In his case ... I'd bet that he did know better, and they benefit from selling oil, not just equip installs - and they charge .25-40 more per gallon than I paid via COD from other places.

    Jeff

  10. #25
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Hi Dana,

    >> A 40-50 gallon hot water heater isn't going to support 4 simultaneous showers + other loads for very long on it's own with only 60K of burner outut underneath it. With drainwater heat recovery 60 gallons could do OK though.

    Gotcha! It would be pretty rare for us to have more than 2 simultaneous showers. This time of year if I shower immediately after Amy, I'm happy the whole time. Our current 50 electric mostly keeps up with all of us, especially May-Oct. In the winter with the colder incoming water it honestly can struggle here and there - and 1 person might have more of a warm but not hot shower. I'd really like to avoid that possibility.

    I do savvy that a 40 indirect has much better recovery times than a 50 electric. But it's hard to put my head around what that really means. A fair number of people are saying that a 40 indirect would take care of us. I think that you might have voiced this? The 50 indirects don't seem to cost much more than the 40s. Honstly I would FEEL better having it, even if I knew 100% that it was 10 gallons that we didn't need.

    What are your favorite Indirect Water Heaters?


    Thanks for mentioning Drainwater heater recovery. It's very cool. I looked into it 2 months back but we can't do it here. Too much of our piping is inaccessible and about 50' from the boiler.


    >> The deal with the newer c.i. Burnhams is that they come with the heat-purge controls and cool return-water boiler protection already installed. The basic boiler underneath it all is pretty antiquated, but well-tested. You can get the same performance out of any number of other cast-iron boilers, but you'd have to design and plumb in the boiler protection and add the heat purge controls. Some consider them little more than dressed up pigs with a lip-gloss finish (which they kinda are), but from a system design & installation simplicity point of view it's a pretty good package, more forgiving than mod-cons.

    Dana - that Burnham ESC3 sounds SO GOOD. I like that combo of "tried and true cast iron with new tech on top of it" and direct venting through the rear basement wall. I've asked my plumber friend to get a price on one of those through his local distributors. Is this model also "pre-configured" (sorry for my lack of proper hvac-speak) for adding an indirect?

    THANKS!!!

    Jeff

  11. #26
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    A 40 gallon indirect would be fine if it's just 2 showers at a time. With drainwater heat recovery and the 60K output of a ESC3 you could pretty much run 2 simultaneous showers all day long.

    But if you really need to run 4 showers concurrently it takes more tank than that- a LOT more if you have people who like long showers.

    Adding an indirect is not a function of the boiler's plumbing- the heat exchanger on the indirect is just another heating zone, usually with it's own pump. But you need to use a zone controller that can be configured with a "priority" zone, which suppresses the pumps/valves driving heat to the other zones when the priority zone is called. With the indirect calling for heat you'd really like to take 100% of the boiler's output for the water heater. While this means you won't be actively heating the house whenever the water heater needs the heat, you'll never even notice the pause on the heating system unless she decides to take a 3 hour shower on the coldest morning of the year. :-)

    The output of the ESC2 is about 2-3x what the heating elements of a 50 gallon electric tank delivers, which means the recovery time is cut by more than half. It's enough output to run a single 1.85gpm shower endlessly at your anticipated incoming water temps, so there is literally no waiting ever with just the two of you showering serially. The problem only comes when you have 4 showers running concurrently for any length of time.

    BTW: On the drainwater heat recovery units, EFI's wholesale price is the cheapest I've seen in the US, and anybody can get that price by opening up an account, which can be done over the phone with a credit card. Renewability, the manufacturer also sells direct, but at full retail, which is substantially more.) The biggest one that fits (both diameter and length) is the right one- the marginal cost uptick of the bigger units is smaller than the bigger uptick in performance. I installed a 4" x 48" in my house for showering capacity reasons because it was the largest that fit, and it does the trick! A 3" x 60" has about the same performance, but they make 4" x versions in some very long lengths. EFI only carries a select subset of what's available, but it's a reasonable subset. HomeDepot retails them in a number of lengths, but are often "internet only", you'd have to have it shipped, and the price/performance isn't quite as good. To compare apples to apples Natural Resources Canada maintains a list showing the efficiency of third-party tested units at 2.5gpm flow here.

  12. #27
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    >> A 40 gallon indirect would be fine if it's just 2 showers at a time. With drainwater heat recovery and the 60K output of a ESC3 you could pretty much run 2 simultaneous showers all day long.

    (Shhhhh!) She'll HEAR YOU!

    >> Adding an indirect is not a function of the boiler's plumbing- the heat exchanger on the indirect is just another heating zone, usually with it's own pump. But you need to use a zone controller that can be configured with a "priority" zone, which suppresses the pumps/valves driving heat to the other zones when the priority zone is called. With the indirect calling for heat you'd really like to take 100% of the boiler's output for the water heater.


    Dana - I do get the basic notion of "the indirect gets priority". But I'm having a tough time grasping "the stuff that needs to be installed to make that happen".
    Assuming an ESC3 as the boiler - would you please be so kind to outline this - that would get through my thick skull?


    >> While this means you won't be actively heating the house whenever the water heater needs the heat, you'll never even notice the pause on the heating system unless she decides to take a 3 hour shower on the coldest morning of the year. :-)

    Very clear - thanks! Piece of mind is nice - a hot shower ... priceless!


    >> The output of the ESC2 is about 2-3x what the heating elements of a 50 gallon electric tank delivers, which means the recovery time is cut by more than half. It's enough output to run a single 1.85gpm shower endlessly at your anticipated incoming water temps, so there is literally no waiting ever with just the two of you showering serially.

    That will be just GREAT! Perfect!


    >> BTW: On the drainwater heat recovery units, EFI's wholesale price is the cheapest I've seen in the US, and anybody can get that price by opening up an account, which can be done over the phone with a credit card.

    Perhaps this should be posted in a new thread, for others to find? I can't do it but others will be able to take advantage.

  13. #28
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Hi Dana and Tom,

    Here's some stuff I've found on US Boiler / Burnham. Interestingly they are based right here in PA. So I would have to believe that it would be easy to get parts etc. But their BBB rating isn't great and they aren't accredited.

    Most of the bad reviews are from products other than their ESC series - I guess that serious is pretty new, so maybe we won't know anything about their reliability for a while to come. Do I have reason to be nervous about the ESC3 or what warranty I'll actually get from them - if something happens?

    For us, Reliability is the single most important thing. Thanks!

    The BBB link "is what it is". The other two ... I'm thinking they could both just be fake sites. They just don't feel like really legitimate review sites to me. The "heat pump" section doesn't even include fujitsu, mitsubishi or lg

    http://www.bbb.org/washington-dc-eas...er-pa-70001223

    http://www.furnacecompare.com/boilers/burnham/reviews/

    http://www.hvac-for-beginners.com/boiler-ratings.html

    Thanks!

    Jeff
    Last edited by jefferson17; 09-26-2013 at 07:36 PM. Reason: those 'review' sites don't seem all that legitimate

  14. #29
    DIY Member jefferson17's Avatar
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    Dana,

    Well I'll be DAMNED! I got a hold of Slant Fin's heat loss calculator and very carefully went through it.

    With an inside temp of 70 and design temp of 15, I get a heat loss of 55,245. And this is probably still at least a bit high by perhaps 3-5K, since I couldn't tell it effectively about the spray foam in the walls on the 2nd floor or the air sealing and insulating spray foam in the rear addition.

    Wow! What an eye-opener!

    Jeff

  15. #30
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Yep- the real heat loads are a lot lower than most people think they are.

    BTW: I realized that I had not clicked-off the hot-water use selector when I ran the FSA. Re-running it using the ~84% efficiency 150K boiler with the very low standby (but no heat purge) model most similar to (but still substantially smaller than) yours, with 1200 gallons /year usage it came in at 60,000BTU/hr @ +10F, and at 1000 gallons/year it comes in at 49,000BTU/hr @ 10F.

    If I bump the output of that boiler model to 200,000 BTU/hr to make it more closely approximate yours, the 1000g/yr spits out 48K @ 10F 1200g/yr yields 58.6K @ +10F.

    Given those modeled numbers @ +10F, and the fact that the SlantFin tool is saying 55K @ +15F, I'm inclined to believe your heat load is probably well under 50K, closer to 45K @ +15F. You won't be cold with a 70K-in/60K-out boiler even at +5F outdoor temps, but below 0F it might start losing a bit of ground. Assuming a 65F balance point and a 45-50K heat load at 15K thats 900-1K of boiler output required per degree below 65F. But as you continue to knock the load down with air sealing & insulation you will continue to buy margin.

    When stepping down that much in boiler size and with high-mass radiation you can't use really deep overnight temperature setbacks as an economizing strategy. But some of the "learning" thermostats like he Nest figure out when you need the house to be at a certain temp, and calculate the warmup ramps pretty well. It's probably not the first place to spend the money, but they can be pretty nice once you've buttoned up the house and have the new boiler setup dialed in, and would probably save at least 50 therms/year, but probably not 100 unless you're out of the house a lot.

    Complaints about cracked or rusting boilers not getting full warranty treatment after 10+ years of service need to be taken with a grain of salt. Many of those types of issues can be a result of improper installation that may have lacked adequate cool return water protection. Ignition system failures can often be traced to short-cycling due to gross oversizing for the amount of radiation (particularly on multi-zoned systems.) If you look at the negative reviews of any manufacturer's boilers the theme is similar cracked or leaking after x years of service, ignition crapped out in only y ears, but without details about the installation it's hard to say if the fault lies with the manufacturer or the installer. Installer training is often woefully lacking- and folks with plumbing skills aren't automatically hydronic system designers, but often have enough information to be dangerous for getting the full lifespan out of the equipment. It's not uncommon to see a cast iron boiler succumb to condensation from cool return water in 1-2 seasons due to improper system design/installation. But the installer is more likely to blame the manufacturer, replaces the same equipment without changing the system plumbing (charging "labor only") just to have it fail again in 1-2 years, leading the homeowner to launch bitter "lousy manufacturer, went through three boilers in just five years" kinds of complaints. The odds of an established manufacturer's boiler design or quality control being that bad are infinitesimally remote. Odds of something being amiss in the system design or commissioning tweaks are pretty high.

    That's why you will want to plumb in a system by pass loop with ball valves and tweak the return water up to 110F a few minutes into a cold start. Even though the ESC series tolerates 110F return water. It WON'T tolerate 90-100F return water on a regular basis, but it would take awhile for the failure to occur, and you have enough radiation with enough emittance & mass that it's likely that direct-pumped with no radiation bypass you'd be getting a lot of sustained sub-110F return water events during the shoulder seasons, when the radiators can actually cover the load at 110F.

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