Replacing oil furnace/boiler

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  #1  
Old 05-07-07, 11:29 AM
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Replacing oil furnace/boiler

I have to admit I'm not even sure if it's technically a boiler or a furnace. Anyway, we own in a split level ranch in northern Vermont and have a furnace that is a contractor oil furnace that came with the house when it was built in 1987. We've been in the house almost 2 years. It's our first house. It seems to be getting to the point where fixing the furnace would cost more in the long run than just replacing it. It gives hot water on demand and our oil tank is inside the house.

Ideally we'd like to replace it with something that's high efficiency (last test for ours was 75% and sending air up the chimney at 674 degrees), also has hot water on demand and is something that could take biofuels. And I don't even know if this is possible, but if it's one that could be converted to gas should natural gas ever come our way, that would be lovely as well. I am guessing there isn't an oil furnace that would let us do the yearly cleanings.

We've gotten 3 quotes so far. All within the $6-$7K range. They're for a Weil-McLean (I don't know what system), an EK System 2000 and a 3rd that my husband missed the name of. All seem to have about the same efficiency and same warranty. The WM guy claims getting a System 2000 would put you under the contractor for life. And the System 2000 guy claims nothing else is better. Although my husband didn't get all the details the 3rd guy seemed significantly less pushy than the other 2.

Are either of them right? Is the price range too high? Is cast iron better or worse than steel? We don't mind investing in a good system since we plan to be there for at least the life of the new furnace but we don't want to be taken to the cleaners. I guess I'm really mainly looking for a context to sort out our best options. TIA
 

Last edited by latenac; 05-07-07 at 11:30 AM. Reason: grammar
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Old 05-07-07, 05:24 PM
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I don't know about the cost of the furnaces(I just fix them, I don't do estimates. If I did, I would probably be richer right now ). The Weil-McLain furnaces are usually pretty good. I haven't had too many problems with them. I dont know about the EK System 2000. Never seen one. On their site they are trying to tell you that cast iron is out dated and steel is the way to go. Well, I don't know about their steel furnaces but as a general rule, a cast iron furnace will outlive a steel furnace. A cast iron furnace is able to extract more heat out of the fire too because of the way the heat exchanger is designed. I don't know what EK's insides look like. It might be created to extract more. Just make sure the EK uses standard Beckett(or Carlin) burner parts of you might have a problem if it breaks down. A few people around my area have fancy furnaces but they get in trouble if it breaks down because no one has the parts in stock for it. A Peerless furnace and Burnham are good furnaces too.

What was your reason for changing to gas if it comes in your area?

As for your furnace being a boiler or a furnace: you have both.
A furnace is just something that heats up water. But to be technical, you have a boilerm even tho it don't actually 'boil' the water. If they did, it would be making some awful noise.
 
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Old 05-07-07, 05:34 PM
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Wink

Might go to http://warmair.net and compare fuel cost for where you live
 
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Old 05-07-07, 05:51 PM
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Replacing Boiler

The first thing which should be done, long before choosing a boiler brand, is to do or have done a heat loss calculation called a manual J. There are some good ones available online for free. The most popular is Slant Fin Corps' HE2 (hydronic explorer). You can read more about it here:
http://slantfin.com/heat-loss-software.html

Nearly any modern oil burner will handle up to B20 biofuel. For your domestic hot water I strongly suggest an indirect water heater.

The Weil-McLain guy was not telling you the whole truth. The System 2000 does use some parts only available from Energy Kinetics but as far as I know, EK will sell to any contractor. The down side is: Hardly anyone except a System 2000 dealer stocks these specialty parts.
 
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Old 05-08-07, 07:01 AM
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Thanks for all of your help.

I've done the calculations for heating costs. It's why we're sticking with heating oil rather than converting to propane now. Efficiency per gallon is higher with oil and it's cheaper per gallon in general. I'd like to switch to gas mainly for environmental reasons. And also I'm originally from the midwest where gas was the norm. I just personally prefer it.

The System 2000 guy said one of the advantages of it over cast iron is that it sits up high not on the floor so it's not absorbing the cold from the concrete in our basement and thus taking longer to get warm air to us. Is that something to be concerned about at all?

I do think we have minimal heat loss. We go through under 800 gallons of oil/winter for a 1900 sq ft house for two winters now. We're planning on adding some insulation in the attic b/c of footprints in the current insulation. We had a slight ice dam problem this spring but I find myself wondering if part of the reason we had it is b/c the air going up the chiminey is so hot it's melting what's under the snow and then as it gets to the eaves it's refreezing. Not that it won't happen when the heat is only 300 degrees going out but 674 can't help.

Thanks again for your help. At least for replacing the furnace we know it's really a matter of course for it. It's 20 years old, it's costing more to fix it than we really should be sinking into a old furnace, etc. The former owners of our house fancied themselves diyers so we've had to undo a lot of things, the latest being the entire mud room b/c the former owners didn't want to bother to dig too deep to put in the supports so for 2 months every winter the front door doesn't open. Lack of insulation under the mudroom floor isn't helping heat loss either. *sigh* Anyway, thanks for the info.
 
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Old 05-08-07, 04:01 PM
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System 2000 guy

That guy is blowing smoke. Sits high off the floor so it's not absorbing cold from the concrete??? C'mon, give me a break. Nearly everybody puts their boilers up on blocks (at least 4") & it has nothing to do with heat transfer. It is to make installation & service easier as well as giving you some cushion should the basement get water in it. By the way, cold does not travel to a warmer object. Heat travels to cold. You might be surprised at how small a boiler you might need once the heat loss calculation is done.
 
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Old 05-12-07, 05:39 AM
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Yes the cold cannot be absorbed by the floor and the yellow color reflects dangerous gamma radiation that is generated by the combustion of BioFuel. I guess when the truth doesn't sound good enough, make something up. I have used hundreds of System 2000s since 1988 and I have yet to have an unhappy customer. Not a 1. I can say without any humor at all that the satisfaction of the customer is more dependant on the installation than the unit. If you take a good unit and install it BY THE BOOK, you will never have to set an extra plate at the dinner table for the service person or think about converting the spare bedroom to a tech hotel. Sure, things break down and malfunction even when they are installed correctly, but the ratio is about 98 to 2 for things that work correctly when installed with attention to every detail. I have repaired many systems that I did not install and those customers were ready to kill the installer because they could not solve the problem. If they knew how to solve it, they never would have created it in the first place when they installed the system. I ust replied to a thread over in 'heat pump' about 'installing boxes'. There is way more to to installing a 'system' than a bunch of boxes. Sure there are 'boxes' but they are all made by different manufacturers and made to be installed a certain way. So if you install it 'almost' the way the kneepads (instructions) say, it will work 'almost' as good as you expect. Most Energy Kinetics dealers have been through Energy Kinetics training. They actually have a manual with piping diagrams and wiring diagrams and configuration diagrams. Other manufacturers send instructions with the unit, but who has time to read them during a replacement? EK dealers may seem like a cult but only because we believe in the system. We don't all lie either. Keep doing homework and asking questions and if you need any coaching by phone, I can PM you my number.

Ken
 
 

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