Weil-McLain Ultra 80 series 2 Boiler failed Sunday

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by alternety, Jan 3, 2013.

  1. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    My Weil-McLain Ultra 80 series 2 boiler suffered a fairly catastrophic failure in the heat exchanger last Sunday. Gurgling in the radiant system alerted me to it. Antifreeze pouring out of condensate drain (terrible fumes from antifreeze). It is now Thursday and I have made no progress in getting it repaired. I could use some assistance in several areas. It is getting nippy in here. No hot water is rather a bummer as well. Dirty dishes accumulating, we could really use showers.

    Original contractor - competent one man shop - returns mid next week.
    I have tried the alternate my contractor recommended. They have no one available with suitable skills.
    Boiler is about 7 years old. I have been trying to contact manufacturer. So far progress is slow. We have exchanged emails about serial numbers after a day of voice mail boxes on their end, but a couple of hours ago I asked for help by email. No response yet. And they on Central time.
    No actual progress has been made in actually getting parts and fixing it. Wife entertaining the idea of a more useful husband. Orchids NOT happy. WM web site shows closest certified installer in BC.
    I spent a bunch of time and effort interviewing potential contractors for the install. Random calling of heating contractors and taking their word for the fact that they know what they are doing in not appealing.

    Issues. Complicated by having no idea what WM will consider warranty work. Given the labor and parts involved, would it be a reasonable thing to simply replace the boiler? Requires a much lower skill level to re-plumb a complete unit than taking the core of the boiler apart for replacement. If anyone can answer this part it would be a serious help. I have to decide boiler/heat exchanger before anything can proceed. Any knowledge of what WM will cover would also be of real utility in this decision process. This assumes I will not get a prompt and satisfactory response from WM; but it is being rather slow and we are cold.

    I have lost what I believe is a significant amount of antifreeze. I don't want to just add some from a different brand to a 7 year old batch. So, I believe the system also needs to be drained, flushed, and refilled. Short term, if necessary, I can just add water after a repair and isolate the loops with a potential for freezing. Then original the contractor can deal with antifreeze.

    I am in Anacortes. I need someone competent to deal with this in a timely fashion.
  2. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    Current status. WM rep says they will cover the heat exchanger. Will not cover the antifreeze ( I seem to remember it took about 25 gallons). I am trying to get the heat exchanger kit. Words like 2 weeks have been uttered.
  3. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,314
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    And it's cold this week. Time to pick up some electric space heaters.

    Did you see where Washington State is now requiring Carbon Monoxide detectors?

    I changed the title to the thread, now there are some links at the bottom of the page to look at.
  4. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    Thank you Terry. I appreciate the title change. As soon as I pressed the button I realized my title sucked but edit won't change it.

    I have one new heater in the room with all glass and tropical plants. It is keeping things above 60. One upstairs in the great room that has most of the orchids. Keeping the upstairs above 60 mostly with the assistance of sunlight. 20' ceiling in great room so most of the heat is up there. Office with computer keeps it around 70 with sunlight. When designing the place I thought about a backup for HVAC failure. No place that a fireplace worked and a spare electric water heater seemed excessive. Wrong. What I would like to have is one of those outside fast burn wood boilers tied to the radiant system via a storage tank.

    I have 2 new CO monitors sitting here. My problem with them has always been that the levels for alarm specified in the last revision of the standard for home alarms I looked at (a number of years ago) do not alarm at low enough levels. You are not required to retrofit, but I figured - why not. I have not used the stove for heat so far, but I have considered it with a CO monitor fairly nearby.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,272
    Location:
    New England
    I had my boiler replaced 4-5 years ago (not sure now), but at the time, the Ultra was on my short list (I ended up with a Buderus). The installer at the time said he would no longer install the Ultra because of heat exchanger problems. Now, they may have resolved that issue, as this was awhile ago, but yours is in the timeframe when he made the statement.
  6. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    I finally believe I have repair parts on order. Days spent waiting for returns on phone calls and emails. No real sense of urgency. I believe I will have parts late Wednesday. Original contractor back in town about the same time.

    Regarding the boiler parts. The replacement for my Series 2 boiler is the Series 3 component. They claim to have fixed the "being eaten through" problem with the new components.

    Wiel-McLain rep says they will cover the cost of parts. But not shipping (expensive since I ordered expedited shipping). They will also not cover the cost of replacing the antifreeze. Their view is that even though the hole in their known faulty boiler has caused the expense, it is not covered in their warranty. Well I suppose one out of two is not bad. Not happy, but better than nothing. I seem to remember (could be wrong) that my system took about 25 gallons of antifreeze at $20/gallon. Plus labor to drain, clean, rinse, refill.

    No showers and dirty dishes are getting old.
  7. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Why the antifreeze? In Anacortes, WA?

    There may be a good rationale for using antifreeze in a heating system in the Alaskan interior, but it's nothing but an expensive, efficiency-robbing PITA in your climate. Even on the coldest cold-snap week of the year the outdoor temps will get above freezing more than once, and unless you open all the windows & doors it'll stay 10s of degrees warmer inside than out, even without electric space heaters.

    I live in a cooler climate than yours and wouldn't DREAM of putting anti-freeze in my heating system (despite having gone for 10 days without power after an ice storm in December 2008, where it got down to +10F overnight for 3 days straight.) About the only people who use anti-freeze in their systems in my area have radiant loops under their driveways & walkways for snow/ice melting purposes.
  8. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

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    671
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    Because several loops are outside. A split system seemed excessive at the time.
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,272
    Location:
    New England
    My original HVAC unit was entirely outside, and required antifreeze. That unit is long since gone. Sounds like you may have a snow-melt or sunroom application that may expect freezing. The actual heat transfer is better with pure water, and to save a lot of antifreeze and the periodic maintenance/replacement issues to keep the pH in check, it might be worth looking into a heat exchanger and separating things.
  10. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    AS I said, I considered that during initial design. I did not feel the extra effort and complexity was justifiable. Having lived with it for some years, I am going to rethink that. One factor is the cost of antifreeze; something I did not consider initially (before I knew it was $20/cal). It is also going to be a pain in the butt to disposes of the old stuff. It is also inconvenient to make repairs because you loose antifreeze and can't just add water forever. I also have a clogged pipe in at least one room. I need to deal with that during this exercise. We are coming up on 1.5 weeks of no heat or hot water. The readers of entrails on the TV are predicting significantly colder weather mid week.

    I am not generally concerned about transfer capacity. It does not take much energy moving around to heat things. I have an 80 KBTU boiler and it does not spend a lot of time running. But water would be better.

    Something else I did know at the beginning; the antifreeze really stinks. Take a valve off at a manifold and it will be bad. I had a bad reaction to the smell when the boiler was spewing it out the condensate drain. After I get the boiler running, I am going to go over the design with my contractor (whom I believe is competent) about some issues that have come up over the years. First I WANT HEAT AND A SHOWER.

    Anyone have any information on what water quality must be to deal with the WM boiler? Like limits on dissolved solids, Ph, stc.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  11. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    In most of western WA most of the stuff coming out of taps is pretty clean, and nothing of concern for running in a closed loop heating system. (Some well water east of the Cascades can be pretty hard though- I've tasted water so hard you practically needed to chew before swallowing/gagging from private wells in Soap Lake/Ephrata/Quincy area.) I can't imagine even well-water in Anacortes have water quality issues worth treating for heating systems.
  12. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

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    671
    Location:
    Washington
    I would still like to find a list of criteria. My well is not necessarily typical. It is into 250' of essentially solid rock. Fractures after hydrofracting linking natural fractures are the water source. The majority of wells, even on this island, access more normal aquifer structures. Generally speaking, what I have seen so far, most small systems do not need treatment. I just want to be more convinced I am in the "most".

    On the bright side, I still don't have to do anything because by parts (expedited order and shipping) are still not here and no word so far on where they are or when I will be getting them. This is getting really really annoying. Does anyone know of sources for the parts; preferably relatively nearby?
  13. Dana

    Dana In the trades

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    Apparently the aluminum heat exchangers are very acid-sensitive, and need to be run at PH between 7 & 8.5 (a pale hint to the alkaline side of dead-neutral) according to the "Boiler Water" notes on page 5 of the manual..

    The same verbiage appears on page 4 of the manual for the series 3.

    Interactions with the anti-freeze & your water may require adjusting the PH. In general the scaling hardness issues can be ignored in closed systems since once the minerals precipitate out, they're out, and unless you refill the system with more water the scaling is extremely limited. (The constant supply of fresh water in "open" heating systems has scale-up consequences for many DIY tankless HW heater combi setups.)
  14. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    OK, thanks. I knew about the Ph, wondered about other various components in the form of dissolved or suspended solids. Suspended I can discount because there is a filter in front of my water system that filters out particles down to viruses.

    They system has at least, Aluminum, copper, brass, PEX, stainless steel and iron in it. Lots of potential :) for corrosion.
  15. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    While poking about the WM web site I found a document that said a batch of Hercules antifreeze was recalled. It ate things. I had the pH checked when the core was replaced. It is way over 8.5 (yes, basic), which is what the document says indicates a problem and must be replaced. I talked to my installer and it was determined that the antifreeze in my system does appear to be part of the recalled material. WM has been very good about replacing the core.

    I asked the installer to contact Hercules about the recall. The response (after a week of unanswered voice mails) was that it was no longer their problem. The recall program (funding) has ended, they have been bought, the new owners are closing the plant and getting out of this product. Essentially: TS.

    I need to get this stuff out of the system. I am stuck with the following costs/impact:

    Cold and dirty for 2 weeks.
    Personal time spent trying to resolve all of the factors of this premature failure.
    Labor cost for installing the new core.
    Initial cost of defective antifreeze that did not meet minimum fitness for merchantability levels. It was actually destructive. Sort of a taking of funds.
    Contractor cost to drain, clean, and refill the system (water this time). I am having loops that can freeze capped and will reconnect in the future if I actually need to activate those loops.
    Disposal cost. I just spent $100 for 55 gallon drums to contain the fluid. I still have to find a recycler to take the material and pay to transport it to them. Otherwise it must be treated as hazardous waste with all those costs, plus transportation.

    I am not a happy camper. Does anyone have any insight into a way to recover these costs? Any continuing compensation fund. Responsibility on the part of Hercules that can be addressed. Governmental rules/mandates that could force Hercules to make me whole.
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,272
    Location:
    New England
    FWIW, my city's dump lets residents recycle antifreeze. I think they have a max deposit, though. It's mostly setup for recycling automotive antifreeze. You may try calling your local dump - if they won't take it, they may know someone locally who will.
  17. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    I am still working that. Unfortunately I have no way to transport the barrels. But that also must be resolved.
  18. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    My county dump only takes auto antifreeze and only 5 gallons/month. Not useful. A commercial processor will take it. $190/drum and I don't get my drums back.
  19. Failure2Comply

    Failure2Comply New Member

    Messages:
    29
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    Sorry for the issues that you have, Weil McLain makes some great standard boilers. I would NEVER buy any boiler with an aluminum heat exchanger, stainless steel is what I would choose. Those high levels of antifreeze impede your heat transfer and the needed concentrations of propylene glycol costs are just too high.
  20. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    Thanks, I know that now. The Aluminum core appears to be OK in these boilers beginning with the series 3. And Al was the only choice in the WM. I was leery of Al at the time, but was convinced they had it handled. One of the things I thought about was the prevalence of Al engine blocks and antifreeze combinations. I had originally specified another small boiler with SS core, but I did not like the reports of a large number of assorted failures in the field. I also had no idea of the cost of the antifreeze and disposal. There were much more expensive brands, but the WM seemed to be better suited at the time. The problem in the Ultra series 2, as I understand it, was that the condensate was not draining as it should. They have a 15 year warranty and, in my experience, make every effort to honor it quickly if there is a problem. WM and their reps have been quite helpful and with the failure described, did not quibble about it; they just replaced it. They did not even want the core back. Just pictures of the unit. Which saved a bit more hassle. Would I rather it had not happened: you bet.

    I never viewed the lower heat transfer rate of 30% antifreeze as an issue. A bit longer pump run time and the control system controls water temp pretty well based on results in the load areas. In a closed loop (control wise) it just is not really a problem.

    A larger issue is to get a good constant pressure on the loop supply independent of flow so the controllers can get a real and stable reading of how fast a load heats.
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