Boiler trouble in new house

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Old 10-19-13, 01:02 PM
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Boiler trouble in new house

I just moved and I now have a combi boiler heating and hot water. Previously I have had forced air heat so I am unfamiliar with this type of setup. I've had a couple of problems and in the process of researching I have found some problems with the system. I just bought the house but I believe the boiler was replaced about a year ago. I've attached images to clarify the situation but Im sure you need more information to help, just ask.

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First problem. I turned the heat on and some areas heated up and others didn't. I concluded that I had air locks. This is when I noticed some issues with the configuration. When reading about purging an air lock it said that if you have the old style expansion tank that you shouldn't have air release valve. I have both. What's more odd is that the expansion tank seems to be hooked up so that it's on the cold water side of just the hot water not for radiant heat and therefore would not be used in either. The loop for heat doesn't have an expansion tank but does have an air release valve that was closed and when open doesn't seem to release much air and dribbles water. Also there is no pressure reducing valve.

My second problem is the power vent. It seems to be on way too often and the noise is bothering me. I know there is a post purge cycle that can be 3-5 minutes but the fan is running almost all the time. I've seen the fan turn on when the boiler hasn't turned on. It does turn off but it is infrequent. The controller seems to have a temperature sensor and I thought that could be a factor.

My third problem is the thermostat. Its a new thermostat, not bought by me. I will set the temp to 65 and it keeps running until the temp gauge reads 70+ and I turn it off. Sometime the opposite happens I have it set to 65 and there is no heat and it reads 60 degrees on the thermostat.

Thank you in advance
 
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Old 10-19-13, 02:49 PM
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I don't see the expansion tank in the pictures?
 
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Old 10-19-13, 03:53 PM
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It's in there but not obvious since it's mostly in the rafters. It's red and the arrow points to where it's connected.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 04:37 PM
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OK, I can barely see it.

Is there a drain valve on the tank?

Is the small pipe in this pic the one that leads up to the tank? If so, that valve should NOT be closed!

That tank is not really properly piped at all.



I turned the heat on and some areas heated up and others didn't. I concluded that I had air locks.
That's probably correct.

When reading about purging an air lock it said that if you have the old style expansion tank that you shouldn't have air release valve.
Also correct, but as long as they are closed, it will not cause a problem. Just leave that valve closed for now.

What's more odd is that the expansion tank seems to be hooked up so that it's on the cold water side of just the hot water not for radiant heat and therefore would not be used in either. The loop for heat doesn't have an expansion tank
See comment and picture above regarding the closed valve.

You can NOT run that boiler with that valve closed! OR the other one that is on the same pipe closer to the tank. BOTH of those valves need to be OPEN. This will 'connect' the expansion tank to the boiler itself. If you are at all 'forgetful' hang a tag on both of those valves saying to keep OPEN when boiler is operating. Or take the handles off and hang them on a nail on the wall near the boiler.

Also there is no pressure reducing valve.
I see that... not the end of the world, but it will require that you do due diligence in keeping an eye on the pressure gauge and adding water should it become necessary. The CLOSED valve between the cold domestic supply and the pipe that leads to the expansion tank would be the one to add water to the system.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 04:47 PM
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My second problem is the power vent.
Yes it is... more than you've noted.



How much snow do you get in your area of PA? High enough to cover that vent? Yeah, I think so. I wonder if this system was inspected by building officials at any time... and if they were sober when they inspected it. That vent is WAY too close to the ground.

You had better make plans to keep that vent well clear of any snow cover. If you don't, and the safety controls on the venter go faulty and don't shut down the boiler, you could wake up dead.

It seems to be on way too often and the noise is bothering me. I know there is a post purge cycle that can be 3-5 minutes but the fan is running almost all the time. I've seen the fan turn on when the boiler hasn't turned on. It does turn off but it is infrequent. The controller seems to have a temperature sensor and I thought that could be a factor.
There could well already be a problem with the controls.

Keep in mind that your boiler also produces domestic hot water for the home, so it is being kept warm by the controls 24/7. This means that venter will run a lot, along with the boiler...

Do you have the manual for the 'black box', the HydroStat on the front of the boiler? Have you pushed any buttons to determine where they've got the settings at?
 
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Old 10-19-13, 04:49 PM
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My third problem is the thermostat. Its a new thermostat, not bought by me. I will set the temp to 65 and it keeps running until the temp gauge reads 70+ and I turn it off. Sometime the opposite happens I have it set to 65 and there is no heat and it reads 60 degrees on the thermostat.
What's the make/model of the t'stat?

I take it there is only one in the home? In other words, there are no 'zones' (I don't see any zone valves in the pics, so I think the answer is yes...)
 
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Old 10-19-13, 06:09 PM
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There are two drain valves on the tank. One where it is connected to the boiler and the other is at the other end.

Yes that pipe goes to the tank and I have opened it.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 06:13 PM
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I agree it's two close to the ground. I will have to look at the options I have to move it or protect it.

I understand that the boiler makes domestic hot water so the burner will have to run more often and throughout the year. But why would it go on when the burner isn't on? Just tonight I was in the basement and the fan kicked in but the burner light was off.

I'll grab the manual for the black box and see.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 06:16 PM
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Only one thermostat for heat. I hope to add zones which is why I included some extra photos of some of the valves that go to specific loops. But I figured I should get the boiler functioning properly first.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 06:42 PM
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Ok looked at the black box and found the manual. How do you know the hi and low limit settings and the differentials? Can't seem to find them in any manual.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 08:05 PM
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But why would it go on when the burner isn't on? Just tonight I was in the basement and the fan kicked in but the burner light was off.
That's a good question... one that I don't have an answer for at the moment. I need to review the manual for the venter and controls.

What is the full model of the venter, and any part numbers on those control boxes on the flue pipe?

How do you know the hi and low limit settings and the differentials? Can't seem to find them in any manual.
Yours is the model 3150, is that correct?

Another good question! I've not had opportunity to use the HydroStat myself... but I looked at the manual and I see what you mean. It's not real clear on how to view the settings.

It does say that the settings are displayed on power up.

I THINK that as soon as you adjust one of the small controls it will display the setting as you are changing it.

If it were mine, I would set:

HIGH 180

HIGH DIFF 20

LOW 150

LOW DIFF 20

as a starting point. I might 'tweak' the LOW setting from there. I would try 140 for the LOW and 15 for the LOW DIFF and see if I still had enough hot water. The cooler you can run the LOW and still have adequate hot domestic water, the better, will save fuel. I would not go below 140 on the LOW in any case though.

That TEE shaped valve on the water lines... with the gray knob on it... that is a 'tempering valve' and it should be set to provide 120F hot water to the home.
 
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Old 10-19-13, 09:54 PM
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What is the full model of the venter, and any part numbers on those control boxes on the flue pipe?
Field Controls SWG. Not sure which version but I think the different versions only deal with different size boilers.

The control kit is part CK-62 by Field Controls. it says "For operation with oil-fired systems. Has thermally activated post purge"


Yes the 3150 and your right about the Hi Low settings. It does show at boot and when you turn the knobs. It was at 200 hi 10 diff and 170 (I forget exact number) Low 10 diff.

I set it to 180 / 10 and 160 /10. I would go lower but in the manual it says Limit setting - differential should be more than 150 to avoid flue gas condensation. If it's ok I'll lower it.

Another note I was misreading the pressure gauge and the pressure was low, around 10. I let it cool down and got the pressure up to 18 psi manually since I don't have an automatic pressure regulator.

Side question. What's your thoughts on adding an indirect water heater or switching to a completely separate probably electric water heater?

2nd side question. How fast should a boiler like this cool down? Or how long can it hold heat before it needs to burn again if siting idle?
 
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Old 10-20-13, 10:51 AM
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Only one thermostat for heat.
What is the make/model of the thermostat?

The control kit is part CK-62 by Field Controls. it says "For operation with oil-fired systems. Has thermally activated post purge"
Do you also have the manuals for the venter? If not, download here, and see page 3 for information about the 'post purge kit'.

http://s3.pexsupply.com/manuals/1260..._PROD_FILE.pdf

There is an adjustment.

What I think is happening is that since your boiler is a warm start that the heat from the boiler flue constantly is rising up and tripping the thermostat in the PPC-4 unit. You may have to accept some amount of the venter running while the boiler hasn't fired, and try to find a 'balancing point' between too long a run time, and no stinky flue gas smell in the basement.

The sensor could also be defective...

It was at 200 hi 10 diff and 170 (I forget exact number) Low 10 diff.
That's just crazy hot.

I set it to 180 / 10 and 160 /10. I would go lower but in the manual it says Limit setting - differential should be more than 150 to avoid flue gas condensation. If it's ok I'll lower it.
There's no harm increasing the HIGH DIFF to at least 20F.

I think Field is being overly cautious in their recommendations.

Oil fired flue gas condensation occurs at 115F

Hate to break this to ya... but you've already got some condensation going on.

See that white streaking on the flue pipes?





Guess what that is?

Common problem with power venters... in order to keep the draft across the burner in the proper range, the barometric damper has to open wide and pulls lots of cool room air in, which in turn dilutes the flue gases temperature way low. I'm sure all of the condensation is occuring above the barometric damper.

If I'm right, when the burner is firing, you won't be able to touch the flue pipe below the damper, yet above the damper will be lukewarm to the touch.

There really isn't much that you can do about it except do due diligence in inspecting the flue pipes often and replacing as needed... OR having an INSULATED chimney installed and lose the power venter...

Just because you have condensation in the flue pipes does NOT mean that you have the same inside the boiler. You COULD, but it would be from a different cause... that being low temperature return water.

Unless your system is designed so badly that you have PROLONGED return temperature water below 115-120, there won't be a problem inside the boiler. (for benefit of future readers, this is an OIL fired system. GAS FIRED flue gas condensation temperature is around 135-140F)

A 180 HIGH limit with a 20 DIFF is FINE. My personal system is running a 30 HIGH DIFF with NO PROBLEMS. The larger diff will allow for longer burn cycles, but LESS OF THEM. Less chance of boiler 'short cycling', a good thing.

On the LOW side, remember that when the boiler is firing on the LOW limit, there is NO CIRCULATION in the heating system. There is NO RETURN WATER coming back to the boiler. It's only heating the water in the boiler itself. There is very little danger of condensation in the boiler in this scenario. I would revise Fields' 'fear factor' of 150 down to 130, and that is being conservative!

If you set the LOW to 150 with a DIFF of 20, you should not have a problem with condensation inside the boiler. You WILL still ALWAYS have the problem in the flue pipe no matter what you do. It's the nature of a power vented beast.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 11:17 AM
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Another note I was misreading the pressure gauge and the pressure was low, around 10. I let it cool down and got the pressure up to 18 psi manually since I don't have an automatic pressure regulator.
18 PSI is a bit on the high side for a cold fill. Keep your eye on the pressure, if it goes close to 30 PSI when it heats up you are on the verge of the pressure relief valve opening. For a normal two story home, 12 PSI is sufficient.

Have you read these:

This first one doesn't completely apply because you don't have this type of expansion tank, but the principles are there. In other words, if your cold fill pressure is correct, and your hot pressure approaches or exceeds 30 PSI, you will need to service your expansion tank.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...sion-tank.html

This one is important too, we need to know ACCURATELY what the pressure in the system is.

http://www.doityourself.com/forum/bo...ure-gauge.html
 
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Old 10-20-13, 11:20 AM
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What is the make/model of the thermostat?
Honeywell t87k1007 - old fashioned looking model set to 3 CPH


I'll make the hi low adjustments and see.


I might have another clue too. I couldn't figure out why it was getting so hot when the thermostat was so low. The radiators were getting hot or at least warm and the pump was off. Could this be a problem with the flo-check valve and gravity flow? I have a Taco 222 if that matters.

If this is failing would this explain why the heater drops temp really fast?

Also would this trigger the high temp setting? With no call for heat and the temp dropping bellow the low threshold I notice that it heats back to the high temp setting not the low temp setting.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 11:25 AM
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Side question. What's your thoughts on adding an indirect water heater or switching to a completely separate probably electric water heater?
Either will save you some fuel. Indirects are pricey to install and would be a rather long payback. Depending on your hot water usage and electric cost, an electric might cost 35-40 a month to run. Cheaper to install, but you would need an electrician to run an electric line... all things to consider. Compare these things to how much oil you burn during the summer just to keep the boiler hot for domestic hot water use...

2nd side question. How fast should a boiler like this cool down? Or how long can it hold heat before it needs to burn again if siting idle?
That's hard to answer. I don't have a definite answer. It depends on whether or not domestic hot water is being used. The question should have added to it: "With NO domestic hot water use"

I dunno... an hour? two?

This also has to do with the LOW DIFF setting. The wider the setting, the longer between cycles.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 11:34 AM
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Could this be a problem with the flo-check valve and gravity flow?
Yes, it certainly could.

http://s3.pexsupply.com/manuals/1346..._PROD_FILE.pdf

I can never remember which way is open or closed on these valves. I THINK that CLOCKWISE is CLOSED. Check the knob on top.

If this is failing would this explain why the heater looses temp really fast?
Yes, it's one reason.

Also would this trigger the high temp setting? With no call for heat and the temp dropping bellow the low threshold I notice that it heats back to the high temp setting not the low temp setting.
No... something wrong there. It could be a situation I call 'heat soak' though. After the burner fires, there is a lot of heat in the cast iron which will transfer to the water after the burner stops firing.

Check and make sure that the BURNER actually doesn't STOP FIRING at the LOW setting, and then the temperature continues to climb afterward. That is common and normal. (and perhaps another reason to set the LOW setting lower.)
 
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Old 10-20-13, 11:59 AM
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Check and make sure that the BURNER actually doesn't STOP FIRING at the LOW setting, and then the temperature continues to climb afterward. That is common and normal. (and perhaps another reason to set the LOW setting lower.)
Checked it. It does stop heating at 150.

I dunno... an hour? two?
Mine seems to be 15-20 minutes but that's a guess I'll do a more scientific test.

18 PSI is a bit on the high side for a cold fill. Keep your eye on the pressure, if it goes close to 30 PSI when it heats up you are on the verge of the pressure relief valve opening. For a normal two story home, 12 PSI is sufficient.
Seems to max out at 20psi

I opened the boxes for the power vent and I found what I think is the OIL FIRED SECONDARY SAFETY SWITCH bypassed.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 12:02 PM
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I can never remember which way is open or closed on these valves. I THINK that CLOCKWISE is CLOSED. Check the knob on top.
It's tight clockwise. If I turn it counter clockwise, which is tough, I get a leak from the knob. Also the knob is on the side, does that matter?
 
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Old 10-20-13, 12:44 PM
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Also the knob is on the side, does that matter?
Uhhhmmmm.... yeah...

Seriously?

Who installed that? Bozo the Plumber?

I must have looked right past that when I was checking out your pics, but there it is, in plain sight...

That type of valve will NEVER work properly if not installed horizontally with the stem UP.

It works on the principle of a weighted disc that gets pushed up when the pump runs.

That needs to be changed.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 12:50 PM
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Seems to max out at 20psi
So you are saying 18 PSI cold, and 20 PSI at 180?

I question the gauge accuracy if that's the case. I would expect to see at least 5-6 PSI change from cold to hot.

I opened the boxes for the power vent and I found what I think is the OIL FIRED SECONDARY SAFETY SWITCH bypassed.
Wow... I'm never at a loss for being amazed at why people do what they do.

OK, granted that it's a 'secondary' safety... the main safety is on the pressure switch on the CK-62 box, but it's still just plain dumbazz and irresponsible for someone to do that.

That should be repaired.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 12:51 PM
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Mine seems to be 15-20 minutes but that's a guess I'll do a more scientific test.
That will change dramatically once the flow-check is properly installed.
 
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Old 10-20-13, 01:19 PM
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I think I have my marching orders from here on out. At least I know what to tell the repair person, check everything the last guy was useless. Now I just need to find a good one since I just moved.

Thank you NJ Trooper.

Where is the "Buy you a beer button" to thank you for your effort?
 
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Old 10-20-13, 02:40 PM
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Where is the "Buy you a beer button" to thank you for your effort?
Thank you is enough, though I will join you for a cold one right now

If you wish to 'Pay It Forward', I think I saw an appropriate button on this page:

Support VVA
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:20 PM
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The system seems to be working well now the only problem left is I am using a ton of oil. I'm using over 200 gallons a month. I had a lot of insulation done a few months ago and the house has all new windows. It seems like I am using way too much oil even though it's been very cold and it's costing a fortune. I live outside Philadelphia. Any thoughts?
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:39 PM
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Any thoughts?
Always... can't stop it. Same with those voices in my head... alcohol does make them slur their speech a little though.

As a comparison, I'll tell you that since Jan 1st here in central eastern NJ I've burned about 150 gallons. Your temps might be a little colder than mine.

You are also using your boiler for domestic hot water and that is probably accounting for a large part of the extra usage.

Have you had a chance to get that flow check valve mounted properly? That will help as it will keep the hot water in the boiler between heating cycles.

Won't help with the oil usage, but for safety, have you had that safety switch for the damper repaired yet? It's the only thing that will stop your boiler from firing up and dumping flue gas into the home if the damper fails closed. [actually, on second thought, if the damper failed closed, the safety switch in the damper motor housing would also have to fail in a closed condition... somewhat unlikely... but now if squirrels build a nest in your chimney or there is some other blockage, that blocked vent safety switch will become important... quickly!]
 

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Old 02-08-14, 02:52 PM
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There are so many factors to consider, but how well your house is insulated, and how warm you keep your house are two huge factors. Also, it's been a very cold winter here in NE. I realize that PHL is a bit "south" of me (Boston), but we've all been caught up in the now-infamous "polar vortex."

To give you something to compare to, I have a 2500 sq ft house, built in 1994, with decent insulation. I have a cold-start boiler config, with indirect DHW. I keep my house at 68* while we're up, and I set back 4* at night. I've been tracking my oil consumption over many years, including seasonal use. During the winter, I average about 3.8 gal/day, although the recent cold snaps have me averaging a bit higher than that. That gets me 114 gal/month in the coldest months of the year. So, while 200 gal/month may seem high, maybe you have a bigger house, with less insulation, and maybe you keep the thermostat up higher than I do - and for a longer period of time. If you have a warm house, and the outside is quite cold, the warm air is going to try to make a beeline to the outside.

One last thing. A poorly-functioning boiler will burn more oil. With all this said, I am assuming that the boiler has been maintained and is running as efficiently as possible.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:53 PM
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Instead of re-plumbing the check valve the plumber suggested replacing the circulator pump with one that has a check valve built in. That seemed to fix the initial problem. I'll have to double check but I think the safety switch was fixed too.

Hot water can really account for that much? Is there anything else I should look for?

I'm thinking about adding an electric hot water heater for the time of year when I don't need heat. If it's really using that much oil it seems like a good idea.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 02:58 PM
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My house is about the same size and I set the temp almost exactly as you do. It is an older house 1967 I think so it's not as well insulated as yours but I had an insulation contractor come in and do some work in the attic and the basement with a combination of spray foam and blown in insulation. Also the house has all new windows.

The boiler is two years old and was recently cleaned and serviced.

Is your boiler used for hot water too?
 
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Old 02-08-14, 04:15 PM
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Is your boiler used for hot water too?
I have an indirect DWH setup, plumbed as a separate zone.
 
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Old 02-08-14, 05:03 PM
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plumber suggested replacing the circulator pump with one that has a check valve built in
Yes, easier than re-piping the check valve. Hopefully saved ya a little cash there. Good idea!

Hot water can really account for that much?
What you have to keep in mind is that the boiler is staying warm 24/7 even in the absence of a heat call.

What temperature do you have the Low Limit and Low Diff set to? The lower you can run that low limit temp consistent with adequate hot water to the home, the better.

I haven't run the numbers lately, but given the price of oil these days, an electric water heater might be at least a 'break even'. I think my 40 gallon electric costs about $40 a month to run. My electric is about 13 cents / KWH. That's about 10 gallons of oil (at $4 a gallon, I do pay a little less). I'm SURE you use more than 10 gallons a month keeping the boiler warm... probably a lot more.

There's one more small plus to not running the boiler in the summer... your A/C doesn't have to work to get rid of the heat shed by the boiler and flue pipe into the home.
 
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