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Gas Boiler Needs Replacing need advice

pcgirl54

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We have a big old house with a mix of 9 radiators and the baseboard and use gas heat. We do not have FHW or FHA so we need a hot water boiler system. We have just learned yesterday that our 27 yr old Sears heating system is not repairable as it is rusted through per the gas company. We wisely have an annual contract for repairs with the gas company. We have 4 zones but should have 5 as the main house is on just 1 zone. We heat 2 1/2 levels.

Let me also say I understand that a new system is a plus when we sell the home. We are not old enough to retire but we plan to sell in 2 yrs or less and move to a warmer climate before the 401k, banks and house market tanked anyway. I am trying to keep a sense of humor.

I do not want to spend thousands redoing basement pipes and have learned replacing the system does not include the circulators. Within the last 5 yrs I think they have all been replaced. Our heating bill is always very high even though we keep the house on a frigid 60-64 and I am always very cold. We have all new windows.

I have been told that the amount of water (per a gas company person)that needs to recirculate through many large pipes to smaller pipes and then through the current boiler is about 10x the normal amount of water needed. This he said is why our heating bill is abnormal. Thinking about amount of water in each radiator alone made sense but I have owned a smaller home with radiators and no baseboard and it was not nearly as costly to heat as this one.

I currently spend about $3600 to heat this house plus another $150 for a 1/2 cord of wood in the kitchen. So $3750.

There are boilers that are 85-90% efficient with rebates of $500-$1000(90% eff). I am not sure how the rebates work. I also do not know if it is justifiable to install a 90% eff boiler taking into account the cost of the unit less the rebate VS any annual savings in heating the home for a 5% more efficient boiler.

Weil McLain is the brand name mentioned by the gas company. One plumber who came yesterday mentioned Budherus and my brother used Lennox. I do not know costs yet.

We have never has to replace a boiler in any of the houses we have owned. Gas company is quoting roughly 5k. Dh has called 2 other plumbers on the gas company recommended list.

We need some good advice on your experiences and do's and don'ts since this is a homeowner first and we plan to sell in 2 years.

Since we have an old house one plumber told us that our chimney where the boiler now vents is not likely lined nor likely in perfect shape so that may be an issue too. Fumes can be vented out of the wall now and he can use a type of pvc or some type of metal.

While we need a plumber.....

We rent our hot water tank from the gas co at a rate of $10-13 a month for 16 yrs. So we have spent about 2k in hindsight. If it breaks they replace it. I wondered about tankless hot water or indirect water systems for cold climates.

Thanks to all.
 
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Kal

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In this housing market it may be impossible to sell the house unless the heating system functions properly. This isn't a situation where a new system is a PLUS and would enhance the sale, but rather a requirement before the sale can occur. As a minimum the total cost of upgrading the heating system will be deducted from the purchase price. In that case my guess is it will be less costly to do it now, than have a speculative cost deducted from the sale. The repair price developed during the pre-sale inspection certainly won't be a low ball number.
 

TerriJ

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I wish you lived in Iowa, my son does this type of work.
 

vacationhopeful

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Several thoughts:
You will need to line the chimney with a metal liner - NJ requires this at the time you get a permit to replace a furance if the chimney has age on it or has had multiple fuel sources. The price is based upon several factors (height, flue size, if it has to be "packed out", angle/pitch of top of roof, etc) and the chimney has to be cleaned (swept) before hand. This adds more money onto your boiler replacement.

However, IF you get a HIGH EFFICIENCY furnace with a thru the wall venting system, you don't use the old chimney and you won't have to line it. As does the on demand HOT WATER heaters - which a good friend loves.

As for your large, big pipes carrying your hot water around ... yep, I have that problem also. Big cost in labor, but even a bigger cost in copper. Don't know enough about PEX (PEC?) plastic piping, but if it will handle the heat ...it would save in both labor and material cost until you get to connecting to your radiators and baseboards. As for me, it is in a 1929 brick 8 unit apartment building --- not a lot I can do about it accept be nice to my fuel oil dealer.:shrug:
 

pcgirl54

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I am not sellling now and the boiler cannot be repaired. This all happened yesterday.

I was in real estate for 10 yrs in very bad market similar to this one. It does matter that the major things have been done to a buyer, a lender, appraiser, home inspector and insurance company and it does add to the resale value of the home and plus makes it more saleable. We have updated the electric service,roof,replaced 30 windows and many other things. Now it will be a new boiler and hopefully a kitchen remodel next year.


What I do not want to do is spend more money than needed especially with the current economy. If a 90% eff boiler is not a dramatic energy saver over an 85% one taking into account any rebates than there is no need pay more since this boiler replacement is unexpected.

And since a plumber will be here I figured to ask about tankless water heaters.

We are waiting on callbacks for appts so we can get price quotes and input on how many BTUs are needed to heat this home vs the 180k boiler we have now.

Thanks to all who have posted so far...............
 

Kal

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Look carefully at the high-efficiency furnace. If you will be in the house for a long time, the pay-back period MIGHT work. Otherwise it makes no sense for the current homeowner. In addition, when you get above 90% efficiency you start to get into serious water condensate issues. The furnace indeed vents laterally, but you need to perform significantly more routine maintenance because of condensate. In cold weather climates there could also be a situation where the condensate freezes as it exits the home. This could cause the vent pipe to become plugged.

It sounds like the 85% furnace would be ideal for a short-term homeowner.
 

PigsDad

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I disagree, Kal. In the OP's situation, she has a large old house that is very inefficient due to the large water distribution pipes and most likely poor insulation. It sounds like that is the classic case where a high-efficient system would pay off quickly. Think about it -- if a high-efficient system reduces your heating bill 15% over a standard system, the dollar amount represented by that 15% in an inefficient house is much more than in a new, efficient house. That makes the payback much faster. A good friend of mine has worked in HVAC for 20 years, and he has heard of paybacks in some situations of less than a year. Sometimes the price difference between an 85% and 90+% system isn't that much, and given that she would not have to re-do her chimney, that would be more of a plus.

And as for the water condensation issue, I would not worry too much about that. The only time that is an issue is when the system is not installed properly. For example, some installers have tried to use the same chase, through the attic and roof, for the exhaust. Then you run into problems because the exhaust goes through a significant length of unheated space. If you run it directly out of the house from the basement, you do not run into that problem. I have had HE systems in Colorado in a couple of houses and have never had a problem, and I'm guessing that we are just as cold, if not colder in the winter as in Mass.

Of course, this is all just my opinion. It would be best to discuss this with a good local HVAC contractor.

Kurt
 
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Kal

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I agree that the new furnace will be significantly more efficient than the existing unit. The 85% furnace will in itself make a considerable savings on energy costs. So all we're comparing is the difference between the 85% furnace and the 90% furnace and that's 5%. So if the annual heating bill is only $2000 that represents a savings of $100 per year with the HE furnace. In my arithmetic the pay-back period in spending an additional $2,000-4,000 for the HE furnace will be considerably longer than 1 year.

In order to get >90% efficiency the furnace WILL have a moist exhaust gas. That means condensation becomes an issue. The ONLY way to keep condensate from flowing back into the furnace is to have a continuous downward slope in the exhaust duct. Routing the exhaust out the chimney is very unwise. Even then the water must be managed. As a minimum this will require much more frequent maintenance than annually. That in itself represents a cost which lengthens the pay back period.
 

PigsDad

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In order to get >90% efficiency the furnace WILL have a moist exhaust gas. That means condensation becomes an issue. The ONLY way to keep condensate from flowing back into the furnace is to have a continuous downward slope in the exhaust duct. Routing the exhaust out the chimney is very unwise. Even then the water must be managed. As a minimum this will require much more frequent maintenance than annually. That in itself represents a cost which lengthens the pay back period.
Actually, in the two systems I had installed (both 94% HE furnaces), the exhaust is sloped back to the furnace (sloped up to the outside). Then there is a small trap just before it goes into the furnace where the water drains into a tube, and it is routed to the floor drain. If the exhaust was sloped down to outside, then you would have water dripping at the end of your exhaust pipe, causing a mess outside.

No additional maintenance is needed for HE furnaces -- I usually have mine checked annually like any other furnace.

And for payback time, a 94% vs. an 85% could make a significant difference in the monthly bills. And remember that the OP would most likely have to have their chimney lined or repaired if going w/ a standard furnace, and that may not be cheap.

Again to the OP -- I would not write off a HE system just because you may be moving in a few years. At least talk to your local HVAC guy who will have information on what works well in your local area.

Kurt
 

pcgirl54

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Condensation is an issue

Adding a bit more info from DH-

The gas company and a plumber came yesterday and said we have a condensation issue likely caused by the large volume of water that flows through the pipes and it seems we also had a leak in the boiler which rusted the burners and that rusted the bracket subsystem that holds the burners. It would not hold together if they took it apart any further. Lucky that this was not in the middle of winter and we have 2-4 weeks before it gets colder. It is inoperable now.

Our house is about 140-150 years old. At some point in time before we owned it there was blown in insulation which probably has settled to zero value today. Grandmas' stand up massive attic the size of the main part of the house. Typical New England colonial. There are four levels to this house and two 1st level additions. There is a heated finished basement plus bath/laundry room and walled off but next to that is an unheated unfinished cellar with stone and cement exterior walls.That is where the boiler and water heater are. In the summer I have to have a dehumidifier in the finished basement. We do not ever get water in the basement.

If we vent the HE rated boiler out the side of the house then we save on the cost of lining the chimney with a double flue and the chimney inspection.

Currently both the standard water heater and boiler vent thru the unlined chimney. The current MA code, per the plumber, is you cannot vent either in an unlined chimney and you must have a double flue even if they both use gas.

I do not have estimates yet but that likely equates buying the HE boiler. I learned that the HE boilers are 85 eff and up.

Still so much more to learn and then there are the estimates to get and finding out the proper size boiler to heat this old house.
 

Kal

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Obviously there are two key factors - short term owner and chimney. Since you plan on selling the house soon, I wouldn't even consider any potential pay-back savings. You won't be in the home long enough to benefit. However, the chimney probably is the controlling issue.

I would compare the lowest price HE unit to the lowest price 85% unit with a minimum cost chimney exhaust. Don't get wrapped up in the sales pitch for high efficiency units. The real numbers don't work in the near term.
 
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