Boiler Replacement

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  #1  
Old 09-05-05, 07:15 PM
Plantatree
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Boiler Replacement

I have an approximately 44 year old National US gas hot water boiler. I bought the house 2 years ago and the thing has worked fine and hasn't given me any problems. This is my first house with this type of heating and have been extremely happy with it.

From what I have gathered from this site a boiler usually lasts 20 to 40 years, so it appears my is coming to the end of its life. I have started thinking about replacing it and want to make sure I make the right choice before I do. It seems the old boilers are about 50 percent efficient while the newer condenser models are in the range of 80 to 90. I would think I could save a bit on my gas bills if I get a new model. My house is about 1800 square feet and the boiler is 154000 BTU.

Please confirm if my information appears to be correct and that it is a good idea to think about getting a new boiler. What is a good brrand to go with? The local contractors that I have looked into carry Weil, Lenox and Carrier. Are these good realiable brands? I have seen one comment stating to stay away from Weil and a recommendation for Buderus, and Viessmann. Also, should I go with the newer condensing units? These aren't unproven technology are they?

Thanks
 
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  #2  
Old 09-06-05, 05:19 AM
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Boiler replacement

A good boiler should last 40+ years. I know nothing about Carrier or Lennox boilers & am not a fan Weil. Buderus & Viessmann are excellent pieces of equipment. Condensing technology is well proven. Before replacing the boiler, do or have done a Manual J heat loss calculation.
 
  #3  
Old 09-06-05, 06:02 AM
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Wink

Might also go to http://www.slantfin.com It will have some info on boilers you can look at .

ED
 
  #4  
Old 09-06-05, 06:05 PM
Plantatree
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So, at 44 years am I pushing my luck or could it go for another 5 years or more? Also, what happens when a boiler dies? Does it just stop working or does it flood your basement? Do they usually give you a warning before they go?

What exactly is a Manual J heat loss calculation? Do they just measure your house or is it more involved than that? I have someone coming out tomorrow to take a look at my setup and give me an estimate for a replacement. Both places I called today install a couple models, but they both seem to recommend Weil. Why do you not recommend Weil? Thanks for all of your help.
 
  #5  
Old 09-07-05, 05:57 PM
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Replacement boiler

My reason for disliking (sp?) Weil is I've had problems with leaks & getting Weil to honor the warranty.

When a boiler "dies" it can flood the basement or you could have a small leak (usually the case). Sometimes there is a warning, especially in the case of small leaks & sometimes (rarely) there is a catastrophic failure where the boiler just opens up.

To do a full & proper Manual J it often takes a couple of hours just measuring doors, windows, walls, etc. Then the data is usually plugged into a program which will give a room by room & total heat loss & heat gain (for A/C). For about $50 you can download & run the program here: http://hvaccomputer.com
 
  #6  
Old 09-20-05, 06:58 PM
Plantatree
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I have gotten 3 estimates to replace the boiler and the prices are all over the place. Two of the installers use Weil and the other uses Burnham. Does anyone have any information on these two companies. I would especially be interested in quality of product, problem areas or concerns, efficiencies, etc. If you had to pick between those 2 which would it be?
 
  #7  
Old 09-20-05, 07:35 PM
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Boiler Brands

As I said before, I am not a fan of Weil-McLain. Many contractors swear by them. Burnham makes a very good product but like every other manufacturer, some of their lines are better than others. If you can provide model numbers from all of your quotes, I might be able to better answer your question.
 
  #8  
Old 09-20-05, 07:49 PM
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The Burnham is the Series 2 #204 Electronic Ignition.
The Weil is the CGa-4 Standing Pilot or Electronic Ignition.

The efficiencies are from 80 to 84. Is it worth going with the electronic ignition to get the better efficiency? I hate to spend this kind of money and have problems years from now. The boiler I have now appears to be built like a tank and from its age it appears to be doing quite well. I would hope a new boiler would cut my gas bills and last for a very long time.
 
  #9  
Old 09-20-05, 08:20 PM
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Boiler

If the boiler is installed in a place where it is subject to condensation, such as a basement without humidity control, I suggest a standing pilot. The standing pilot does, no doubt, use more gas but that little bit of heat helps to keep the boiler flueways dry. If humidity is not a problem, certainly go for the electronic ignition.
My beef with Weil-McLain is their use of "elastomeric seals" (aka, rubber "O" rings) between the sections. I have had trouble with them leaking.
The Burnham sections are joined with metal (cast iron?) push nipples.
If it were my house & given the above choices, I would go Burnham. Just my own personal opinion.
 
  #10  
Old 09-23-05, 08:25 AM
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Cool Boiler Replacement

I'm also looking at a boiler replacement, very similar conditions to Plantatree. Given my situation, looking at a modulating/condensing boiler and interested in your thoughts of that. Munchkin? Burnham? Viessner?
Additionally looking at indirect DHW in conjunction with the boiler replacement.
Thanks
 
  #11  
Old 09-23-05, 01:42 PM
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Can't emphasize enough the importance of getting a heating calculation (Manual J type). Many installers will simply replace old boiler with similar size new. If the building has been upgraded in re insulation, windows, etc - this is a MUST!

The type of emitters is also important (baseboard, CI radiators, panels, floor radiant, etc) in determining type of boilers and control strategy. I replaced my 65 yr old HW boiler w/ sidearm DHW coil for a condensing, modulating boiler w/ IDWH (OA reset, low loss header, constant circ). Have already seen about a 35% usage. I went Viessmann - but you definitely pay a premium. Buderus, Weil, and HTP (Munchkin) all have condensing boilers. I think more important is the experience of the installer - especially with the condensers.

BTW - The original poster's boiler output seemed prett high for an 1800 sq. ft. house. I have a 40 yr old Cape with minimal wall insulation and my heat load was 62000 Btu/h with 7000 HDD and -10 F design.
 
  #12  
Old 09-23-05, 06:02 PM
Plantatree
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Two of the installers went around the house and measured all of the baseboard elements and calculated the replacement btu needed. They both came up with under 100,000 btu. They said this is very common with older installations. They suggested going with a 105,000 btu unit. One of the installers didn't do any measurements but came up with the same size boiler recommendation. I wasn't very happy with him but he is the one that installs the Burnam boilers. He also is the one that installs Goodman AC and his price was almost the same as the guy that installs Trane. I am starting to lean towards the Weil boiler and Trane AC.

I would like to go with the condensing boilers but the prices are almost double the cast iron boilers. And with the AC thrown into the installation the price is getting up there fast. I figure the newer unit is way better than what I have now and I should also save quit a bit with the new AC too.
 
  #13  
Old 09-26-05, 06:36 AM
Pat S
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Measuring the emitters is only valid for steam systems - but if you told them that you can keep the house warm on design days than I guess that is better than the other "rule of thumb" estimates. How about the AC - that also needs a fairly complex cooling calculation?

My research tells me that the condensing/modulating will be effective even with your high temp. BB. Afterall, how many days are you actually at design conditions and need 180 F HW. You definitely get savings from the boiler operating at condensing temps (return HW @ or < 140 F) and the OA reset is crucial to optimizing those conditions - but the ability of these boilers to modulate to the load is often overlooked as (IMHO) an equally effective way to gain savings. With the historical increases in fuel prices - your payback on a c/m boiler will probably be shorter than you think. They are pricey though - so a good option is to go with a standard C/I boiler with OA reset (Tekmar, etc) and primary/secondary piping for boiler protection. Going with an IDWH is a no-brainer.

BTW - I assume you have NG for fuel - condensing, modulating oil-fired boilers are not available.
 
  #14  
Old 09-27-05, 04:08 PM
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Guessing at size

Anything short of a Manual J is little better than a WAG.
 
  #15  
Old 09-28-05, 07:29 AM
Pat S
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Wag

I absolutely agree with Grady. I personally escorted contractors to the door that said they didn't need to do a heat loss calc. on my boiler job.

One of the benefits of the condensing/modulating boilers is that they modulate the burner to adjust for the load - this makes the accuracy of the heat loss calc. less important as long as the system can meet the load on a design day.

As I stated before - ultimately what is most important is the quality of the installation/installer, and the practice of performing a Man J heat loss is one way to distinguish a competent contractor from someone less desireable. The most advanced system in the world won't perform satisfactorily if it is the wrong one for your application and hacked in.
 
  #16  
Old 10-07-05, 04:30 PM
Plantatree
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I just had my boiler replaced today with a new cast iron Burnam boiler. I ended up going with the model with an electronic ignition instead of the standing pilot. Now I have a few general questions.

The installers installed a cross over pipe between the output and input to the boiler with a valve control to adjust how much crosses over. My previous system didn't have this arrangement. The installer said that I should keep the valve slightly open to allow for some hot water to mix with the warm return water to ensure that the return water never gets too cold. Was this a good idea? If so should I just leave the valve slightly cracked?

What temperature should I keep the water? My old system was set to 190F. The installers suggested setting the temp at 160F. Does this sound like a good setting? Also, what does everyone do with their boilers during the summer? Do you set the temp to a low setting or do you turn the boiler off completely? It seems some people say it is better to keep the boiler on all year to reduce the amount of expansion and contracting.

Lastly my setup now has a bladder expansion tank with an automatic air vent. All of my zones are working and I can't hear any water running or anything. Will the automatic vent remove all of the air from the system or is it necessary to bleed the air out of the lines in the rooms?
 
  #17  
Old 10-07-05, 04:42 PM
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Plantatree

Ideally, they would have installed a thermostatic by-pass but since they didn't, the return water to the boiler should not drop below 120. Adjust the "crossover valve" to maintain at least 120 at the inlet to the boiler.

As far as the temperature, I suggest a high limit setting of 180.
There is a 99+% chance your boiler is a cold start, no need to turn it off in the summer.

If you have heat & no air sounds, leave it alone. One of the worst things you can do to a boiler is to introduce fresh water, which is exactly what you are doing when you purge.
 
  #18  
Old 10-07-05, 05:16 PM
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Looks like you are right about the cold start. I just went down to take a look at the boiler and the temperature was down to 90F or so. It isn't that cold out right now and the system hasn't fired up since earlier when they were testing the system. I thought this boiler would have been like my old one and maintained a steady temperature at all times. So, basically the system cools down until a zone calls for heat? How quickly does the thing heat up from room temperature? I am still amazed at how much smaller this new boiler is. My old one was a monster compared to this thing.

As for the return temperature, what is the best method for monitoring? Do they sell a gauge that can be attached to the outside of the copper pipe? Speaking of return temp and my paragraph above, what happens when the system fires up from a cold state? The return temp would surely be lower than 120F. Does it not matter since the boiler temperature is still low? Are you really more worried about the difference in temp between the output and input?

Thanks for all of your help. I am hoping to see a nice drop in my gas bills with this new unit.
 
  #19  
Old 10-08-05, 07:07 AM
Plantatree
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I have a strange problem now. I woke up this morning and turned on the heat to each of the zones. The thermostats kicked on, the boiler fired up and the pump started, but no heat was going to the zones. The service guy was playing around with the Taco zone valves by manually opening them. I had to go around and manually flip the switch on each one of them to get water moving. I have never had to do this before. Is there something wrong with the way he wired up the boiler and zone valves?

There also seems to be a bunch of air in the system. I can hear water flowing in the basement and the automatic air removal system on the expansion tank occasionally pulls air out of the lines. All of my zones heated up fine except for my upstairs zone. It has been running for the past couple hours and it isn't heating up very fast. Does this mean there is air in the lines? What is the best procedure for clearing air from the system? I have manual bleeders on each of the baseboards and the automatic bleeder on the expansion tank.
 
  #20  
Old 10-08-05, 08:14 AM
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New Boiler

Don't mess with it. Call the installer back. Initial problems are not unusual & are one reason there is markup on equipment. If you mess with it, the installer can deny any warranty, claiming you fouled something up.
Since they installed a bypass loop, I presume you have a system with a large water volume, such as cast iron radiators. If this is indeed the case, insist they install a thermostatic bypass valve. I have seen boilers destroyed by a sudden inrush of cold water into a hot boiler. Some boilers use an aquastat in the return to shut down circulation until the temperature of the return water comes up.
 

Last edited by Grady; 10-08-05 at 09:04 AM.
  #21  
Old 10-08-05, 08:32 AM
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I don't have cast iron radiators, just the normal copper baseboard setup with little fins around the pipes. I will ask them about the bypass setup when they come back to fix the zone valve problem.
 
  #22  
Old 10-11-05, 10:33 PM
wishful
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hickman loop ???

My landlord is replaceing the old bolier with a much smaller, more efficiant (?) one after the old bolier broke. It's gas feed steam heat. The directions say something vauge (with nothing more then that) about a hickman loop ?
He's installed it without one as it only has a small picture to go by plus he can't find a reason it won't run without that loop and the old furnace didn't have that..
Any ideas would be most appreciated.

Thanks for whatever anyone can inform me on..."a nervous tenant"
 

Last edited by wishful; 10-11-05 at 10:34 PM. Reason: left out information
  #23  
Old 10-12-05, 05:10 PM
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Hickman Loop?

I am not familiar with a Hickman loop. Are you sure it was not a Hartford Loop?
 
  #24  
Old 10-13-05, 06:26 AM
swong
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PeerLess, Weil-McClain, Burnham, etc

Plantatree- congratulations on purchase of your home and unless you have one of those huge dinsaur sized gas or steam fired boilers I would run your old system until it dies. All boilers gas or steam have efficiencies of 80-86% tops and these are for the wet based designs. If you are considering a new boiler for ugrading purposes just make sure you perform your "due diligence" and get the thickest castings, avoiding steel plate designs. If you do it right your replacment will last your lifetime so don't skimp as it will surely bite you in the xxx down the road. I've installed Burnham, Peerless, and Weil-mCClain and they are all top notice but like everything you get a dud ocassionally. If you email me I can send you some pics of my latest Burnham install...a joy to behold... ********.net
 

Last edited by mattison; 10-28-05 at 04:31 AM. Reason: Sorry no e-mail in the open forum. Use the pm feature to make contact.
  #25  
Old 10-25-05, 02:04 PM
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Planatree, congrats on the house and new heating system

We're in a similiar situation and would really appreciate some input from everyone here.

We just bought a house built in 1940, it has a Burnham cast iron boiler, original to the house. At some point, the coal/wood (not sure which) burning boiler was converted by adding a motor to run off oil. The previous home owners were contemplating on upgrading it due to heating cost. Now that the house is ours, it's our dilemma to deal with.

With the increase cost in fuel, we definitely want to upgrade to get more efficiency. The oil company that has been servicing this house since the beginning said that we would save at least 45% off our oil bills alone.

That said, I grew up with gas stove and heat and would really like to convert to gas. Since the NG prices are going up as well, we will be doing a fuel calculation to see if it is worth while for the conversion. It really would be nice to be cooking on gas fire instead of electric range... another topic all together!

Here's the issue, first, I've been having a real hard time getting people to come in and give us quotes (yes, busy season, I know, but still). The one person that came in, ran up and down the stairs a few times, didn't do any measurements, but looked around, and gave us a quote using the following boiler:

Burnham gas fired hot water boiler
P207 series II
198000 input
163000 output
142000 IBR

I have no idea what all those numbers mean, I asked him for the BTU and that's what I got back.... Can someone explain?

From what I can gather from this thread alone (and many others on this site), it seems big for our little 2-story cape (1300 sq ft), though we have lots and lots of windows... can someone tell me if the above boiler seem to be the right size?

Now that I've read about the man J heat loss calculation, we will get on that this week and see if we can come up with some numbers.

I have a few other HVAC contractors that are willing to give me quotes if I give them the info from the first quote... should I be concerned about this?

Lastly, if I don't see "thermostatic bypass valve" listed on the quote, is there any other way it could be listed? Sorry if this is a silly question, I just want to make sure we get set up correctly...

Thank you in advance for any help/suggestion!

Cheers!
 
  #26  
Old 10-25-05, 03:20 PM
CapeMaui
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Heat Loss Calc

According to the Hydronic Explorer from Slant/Fin, the heat loss BTU/hr for the house is only about 50,000, does this seem right? Just to reiterate the house info:

2-story cape, about 1300 sq. ft.
unheated enclosed, partially finished basement
attic w/insulated floors
setting for the software:
indoor temp: 76 F
outdoor temp: 20 F
Water temp: 180 F

So going with a Burnham, does that mean we should go with a P204 or P205 instead of a P207? Would there be a big price difference for that?

Thanks for all of your help!
 
  #27  
Old 10-25-05, 03:36 PM
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CapeMaui

To answer your question about btu: All three numbers he gave you (input, output, & IBR) relate to btu's. Input is exactly that. Output is probably the Dept of Energy's output rating. IBR is the industry output rating. DOE figures the heat lost thru the jacket & piping is really going toward heating the house (maybe, maybe not). IBR considers these losses to be lost heat as would be the case if the boiler were installed in a ventilated mechanical room.

My knee jerk reaction would be that this is an awfully large boiler for a 1300 sq. ft. cape.
 
  #28  
Old 10-25-05, 03:41 PM
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Load calc.

Without knowing where you are, a 20 outdoor design temperature sounds high. Here in Delaware, most contractors design on 0. The vast majority of the time, this is oversizing a bit but once in a while it does get to -10.
 
  #29  
Old 10-25-05, 05:05 PM
CapeMaui
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Thanks so much Grady! We're in Fairfield, Connecticut. I looked up the average lows for the city and it seems to be in the 20's... But you're right, we do get really bad winter days.

Just re-ran the figures with -10 degree as the outdoor temp, 76,000 BTU/hr. Based on that figure, what size Burnham would you suggest? And would there be a price difference with the P207?

Thanks again!
 
  #30  
Old 10-25-05, 05:20 PM
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P-20x ?

I find numbers like 20(x) PI & 20(x) PV but no P-20(x). What Series boiler are you looking at? I find Series 2, Series 2h, & Series 2PV.
 
  #31  
Old 10-25-05, 07:30 PM
CapeMaui
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Hi Grady,

It's a series II, 207 (my installer calls it P207, series II, so I assume it's the same?) You can see the rating info here:
http://www.burnham.com/ratings/2b.cfm
http://www.burnham.com/residential/51110.cfm

I hope this helps. What do you think of the size? Should we go smaller? Would there be a big price difference?

Thank you again so much for your help!! I hope to hire the HVAC person this week with the right size

Cheers!
 
  #32  
Old 10-26-05, 06:58 PM
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Boiler size

Based on your calculations of a heat loss of 76,000 btu/hr., the 205 would be more than enough. According to one catalog I have, the 207 is about 25-30% more than the 205. Labor would still be the same. With the "P" suffix, my catalog shows this to be a propane fired boiler. If this is true, be sure to check LP prices & compare to oil before making a decision. In my area, LP & oil are just about the same price per gallon. This makes LP almost 50% more expensive than oil for a given number of btu's. This is because oil has about 139,000 btu/gallon & LP has about 90,000 btu/gallon.
 
  #33  
Old 10-27-05, 09:51 PM
CapeMaui
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Thanks so much Grady! Would've posted a reply last night except work got really busy.

I think our heat guy miss quoted as the boiler should be for natural gas, not propane, I'll make sure he orders the right one.

I brought up the fact that the heat loss calc showed that the house is only about 76k btu/hr, yet the boiler he's recommending is much bigger. His reason, as he explained it, was that the house has a lot of large cast iron radiators, which holds a lot more water than a smaller boiler would hold. If he goes with a smaller one, the boiler would be constantly running... he said that one of the most common complaints he gets from people who had boilers put in by other people is precisely this. That's why he's recommending the 207 instead of smaller.

I'm not sure if our recessed radiator is any bigger than the other ones I've seen, but I do agree that we have quite a few. Even the one in the entry way is as big if not a bit bigger than the one in the DR; LR has 2, and we pretty much have a decent size one in every livable room, including the bth. Does his explanation make any sense?

Then I asked him about thermostatic bypass valve, how the temp for the return water to the boiler is regulated. He said that since the gas boiler starts cold, it doesn't matter if the return water is cold. That this would only be a concern for oil boiler as it stays warm at all times. Therefore, I don't need a thermostatic bypass valve... Is this correct?

It looks like we'll be going with this company eventhough they're recommending a boiler that seems too big... we have not been able to get any other HVAC person to honor their appts with us to show up and give us an estimate!! I'm sure they're really busy, especially with this season, however, this kind of practice just seem really unprofessional to me, or am I just over-reacting? I don't feel comfortable forking over hard earned money to a company that won't show up when they say they would, I can't help but wonder what kind of after-service we would be looking at...

Thanks again, I really appreciate you help with this process!!
 
  #34  
Old 10-28-05, 06:20 PM
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New Boiler

If you want to split the difference in the two boilers, why not go with the 206? There is a saying in the trade: "Bigger is better, better profit for the installer, better profit for the utility company" Take it for what its worth. Cold start, smold start, it should have a thermostatic by-pass.
I don't know (or remember as the case may be) where you are but right now, the only installation work we are taking is emergency change outs. This is not the time of year to be shopping for a new boiler unless you absolutely have to. In my area, people have had six months to get new equipment installed or get their equipment serviced & my philosophy is: "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."
 
  #35  
Old 10-28-05, 09:21 PM
CapeMaui
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Hi Grady,

Thanks for your input. I will talk to him again and ask him to definitely install a thermostatic bypass with the new boiler.

We're in CT and somehow, all the HVAC people are up to armpits with work. I understand that most people now are doing either emergency work or work that they have planned for months. I can assure you that what we're going through is not due to poor planning on our part as we actually just bought the house and haven't even moved in yet. Unfortunately, the boiler system cannot wait. We had contractors lined up (or so we thought) for the day we closed. We didn't have the 6 months that most people had to plan the boiler system change nor did we have access to the house to allow the HVAC contractors in to have a look.

Regardless if work is of an emergency nature though, I just felt that if they make an appt, they should either keep it or cancel it, not tell me that they can't make it when I'm calling them, after I've been waiting for 30 minutes in an empty house for them. Then if I'm lucky enough that they show up, it took another week of chasing them down to get an estimate.

Sorry for the vent, I know not every contractor is like some of the ones I've encountered, nor is it just with the HVAC contractors. The persone we're going with did keep his appt, got back to us when he said he would, and took the time to explain things to us (eventhough we'll need to discuss his recommendation with him).

Thanks again and wish us luck!
 
  #36  
Old 10-29-05, 12:45 PM
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Frustration

I completely understand your frustration. You really are in a tough spot. Tell you what, I'll forgive your vent if you forgive mine.
If I can be of any help, feel free to ask.
 
  #37  
Old 11-21-05, 12:59 PM
CapeMaui
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Hi Grady,

Just wanted to post and let you know that we go the new boiler and indirect HW heater and we love it! The house stays nice and warm and we have nice hot water

Thank you again for all of your help! I was a pain to my HVAC guy, but at least we felt better as an educated consumer.

Thanks again!

p.s. feel free to vent any time, I know the frustration can go both ways!
 
  #38  
Old 11-21-05, 04:21 PM
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New Boiler

I'm glad you are comfortable & happy (they kind of go hand in hand). Often contractors are set in thier ways & don't keep up with technology (somewhat guilty of that myself) & when a homeowner knows more than they do the contractor can get defensive. If he is good, he will learn from the experience.
 
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