Best boiler setup?

Discussion in 'Boiler Forum' started by ArcticCircle, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. ArcticCircle

    ArcticCircle New Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    Anchorage AK
    Complete boiler newbie here...... I just bought a house and it's a complete fixer upper, including trashing the old boiler and water heater.

    Alaska has an energy rebate going on but requires a 90% or higher effieciency boiler. I've gotten quotes from anywhere from $10K to $12.5K for a Weil-McClain Ultra 105 and matching sidearm water heater. I'm having a hard time dumping that kind of money into a heating system. What can you guys recommend for a kick ass heating system that won't cost me an arm and a leg.

    However, there is something to be said for picking up the phone and my house is warm in 2 days. Plus paying for a more efficient boiler will pay off in the long run.

    What should I do!?! Thanks for all input.
  2. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Jun 22, 2009
    Red Seal Journeyman Plumber & Licensed Gas Fitter
    Penticton, BC
    I would say that it is money you probably won't regret spending 5 years from now.

    As to going with an high efficiency boiler or not is really entirely dependent upon your system. If your system is doing domestic hot water and you're running higher temps through the boiler (150+) you probably aren't going to see much of an efficiency boost out of a condensing boiler to justify the cost of them vs a much cheaper natural draft boiler. You really need to have condensing flue gases to see the 93%+ efficiencies out of the HE boilers.

    Hydronic heating is not a cheap heating system to install that's for sure. They parts are generally expensive as are the appliances and the labour to install them can be quite intensive. But once the system is up and running and you're enjoying the lovely heat you get from a hydronic system you're going to be loving it!!!
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
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  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    When I had mine installed, I looked at the Weil-McCain and I preferred the Buderus unit. The dealer I dealt with sold both, both were about the same price, but he'd had more problems with the Weil-McCain. This was a few years ago, so there may have been changes in the interim. It also makes a difference on what you can get and is easily serviced (although they don't need much) locally. That's about the price I would expect depending on how far he has to travel, and shipping of these things would likely make them more expensive in AK. Mine cost me ove $9k, but I also got a decent rebate from the gas company.
  5. juror58

    juror58 New Member

    Jan 23, 2010
    Central NY State
    Something to consider since you live in the great frozen north: if something on an HE boiler fails it could be days before the part can be obtained and the boiler returned to service. Also, replacing one of these parts can negate all the savings gained from the higher efficiency for a long tme. Example: I have a Peerless HE boiler with an id fan. The fan died after about five years. Although I live in a metropolitan area, no one (not even the two vendors who sell Peerless) had it in stock. It took a week to get a new one. (I could have driven to Boyertown, PA and picked it up faster myself.) Adjust the delivery time accordingly for your location. Fortunately this happened in the summer.

    The replacement fan was about $300 and I installed it myself. I am guessing having it "professionally" installed would have added another $100 or more to the bill. A replacement control module was about $75 when it went. The boiler will not run without either of these.

    At the time I installed the boiler it cost me $1,200 on the loading dock. A natural draft unit was $800. I purchased the former because I was replacing an HE boiler and the chimney had already been capped off. I did the installation myself.

    All in all, the higher initial cost of the HE boiler combined with the extra moving parts which can and did fail was no saving. I figured the fan alone cost me about 10 years of saving based on the difference in efficiency of the two boilers. (I also use the boiler for DHW)

    Unless you have a backup source of heat (i.e. A wood stove) the lack of a boiler in the winter could be inconvenient, indeed. I would look hard at the difference in prices and your payback times. I'm not saying the HE is bad deal, but don't just take the word of the salesman/contractor. Crunch some numbers yourself.

    Another practical point to consider since you bought a "fixer upper." Consider valving off the supply and return lines of all your zones, with a provision for draining each zone, at the time you have the system installed. That way as you renovate you won't have to drain the whole system as you work on one area of the house (and you will have hot water for a shower at the end of the day). A bit more expense at the beginning, but well worth it down the road. I did this when I installed my system and am glad I did.
  6. Lightwave

    Lightwave New Member

    Aug 20, 2007
    Vancouver, BC
    Go for a modulating & condensing boiler. While you won't get the most benefit from a condensing boiler unless your water return temperatures are in the region of 50C/120F, you'll get all the benefits of modulation regardless of your return temperatures.

    Don't consider a condensing boiler without modulation support.

    Something else to consider, given the possibility of replacing the entire heating system, is switching to a heat pump. For two examples, ground source heat pumps can operate low temperature radiators and Hallowell makes an air to air heat pump that can provide forced air heat year-round even in your climate. Both of these options would be very expensive to install but would cut your heating bills at least in half compared to even the most efficient boiler.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2010
  7. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Jul 30, 2008
    Tech. Instructor
    S. Maine
    I'm gonna throw a wrench in the mod con boiler argument. when you take the cost of the unit and the installation into consideration, the payback period for mod con boilers is considerably longer than it is for conventional high efficiency units. the NORA web site has a nifty tool that allows you to compare operating costs of any unit against each other. The results are eye opening.
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