Buying a new boiler or replacing with forced air?

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  #1  
Old 10-07-14, 05:52 PM
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Buying a new boiler or replacing with forced air?

Hello -

As noted in one of my previous posts I have been having some issues with my current boiler. It's from ~1960 and uses natural gas and hot water (no steam). I have it working for the most part but I know it's time for an upgrade soon. I'm trying to plan now so if it breaks in the winter I won't have to make a rush decision.

At first I was just going to replace it with forced air. I could get a new forced air 96% efficiency furnace with all duct work ran for around $9,000. To just replace the boiler, on average, I am being quoted around $5000. Choices include Crown Aruba AWR105 and AWR210, Buderus GC144/5- 132,500 BTU, and Utica MGB/C125- 125,000 BTU input . Honestly I think the guy offering up the AWR210 for $6200 was trying to rip me off since he claimed I needed over 200,000 BTU's while everyone else came in much lower.

The more I read about hot water boilers, the less I want to get rid of mine though; especially since I live in a fairly cold climate. I really want the option to add AC though (for resale value) so adding duct work is tempting. Prices on ductless mini-splits are simply too high right now (for my house I was quoted over $11,000 just for cooling). Am I crazy for trusting someone else to run duct work and cut holes in the nice hardwood floors I re-finished? Any opinions? If I went with one of the boilers listed above what would you recommend (since this is the boilers forum, I assume this will be the preference )

Thanks in advance!
 
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  #2  
Old 10-07-14, 06:04 PM
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You are thinking of resale of your home? Whatever you put into heating and (future) air conditioning probably won't increase overall value all that much. Best to defer any optional expenses.

What are the "issues" with your current boiler? As long as it's not split open, it can likely be repaired economically.
 
  #3  
Old 10-07-14, 06:24 PM
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I'm thinking that all those boilers are probably too big anyway...

he claimed I needed over 200,000 BTU's while everyone else came in much lower.
The guy with the 210 ... NUTS! You could probably heat a SIX THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT home with that!

How many square feet is your home?

If the other guys did not do a heat loss estimate, or offer to do one before sizing the boiler, dismiss them and find someone who WILL, and install the correct size boiler.

Before replacing the boiler, do, or have done, a MANUAL J HEAT LOSS ESTIMATE so that you don't end up with a boiler twice as big as you need.

Any of those boilers would be fine. A boiler is only as good as it's install, so shop carefully!

I agree with Gil... pretty much anything but an eviscerated cast iron carcass of a boiler can be repaired... in some cases it might make sense to replace... newer boilers can be more fuel efficient, but in most cases they will still take a LONG time to 'pay you back'...
 
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Old 10-08-14, 05:13 PM
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Since draining the expansion tank and bleeding air out of each baseboard, things have been better. It leaks about 1/2 a paint tray of water a day now. Before it could fill up a few trays a day.



The boiler is very old (see pic). The PSI is running OK, I think it stays around 12. Doesnt leak all the time though. To "fix" it places want to replace the fill valve, pressure relief valve, and expansion tank. I figured it might just be time for a new one, I really don't even feel comfortable lighting the pilot on this one. Last year the air eliminator piece broke and I was without heat for a full day in the dead middle of winter while the part was located, so I'm thinking just getting a new one all-together is better than replacing all the original parts.

The part of the house that would need heated is 2000 sq ft with a 2000 sq ft basement. I was told I needed around 70k-100k btu realistically. Right now I am leaning toward the Crown Aruba AWR105 unless I decide to stick it out with my current system another year.

Any thoughts on that unit? Thanks again.
 
  #5  
Old 10-08-14, 05:38 PM
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It leaks about 1/2 a paint tray of water a day now.
Leaking from where?

That boiler doesn't really seem really all that old. What makes you think it needs to be replaced?
 
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Old 10-08-14, 06:00 PM
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Show us more pictures, all around the boiler... the expansion tank, everything... and yes, tell us where it's leaking from.

Sounds to me like a hundred bucks worth of parts and you're back in business.
 
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Old 10-08-14, 06:01 PM
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Since draining the expansion tank
Large steel tank in the joists above the boiler?

How do you know you got all the water out of it?
 
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Old 10-08-14, 09:09 PM
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Definitely don't switch to air, you don't gain anything by doing that.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 12:46 AM
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Definitely don't switch to air, you don't gain anything by doing that.
You can gain many things with a forced air system that are impossible with a hydronic system. A properly designed forced air system can be every bit as comfortable as a hydronic system AND it also allows for humidification, dehumidification, air cleaning and cooling; all things that a hydronic system cannot do by itself. Of course the key words here are properly designed along with properly installed, something that applies to few residential systems.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 06:09 AM
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Your points might be correct but I was thinking about it from a cost standpoint. It's a lot of money to install and forced air certainly doesn't save you money. If anything the cost to operate is more.

Plus to be 'properly designed', the cooling vents are supposed to be on the ceiling and the heating vents on the floor. I have only seen this a handful of times.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 08:15 AM
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Very interesting comment, I never thought forced air had anything over hot water. Makes me rethink what I would do If I ever built a new home.

I understand how it dehumid, cleans and cools. How does it Humidfy the air? I remember growing up with a forced air system we would put bowls of water over the vents. Is there some sort of "instrument" that forces humidified air with the heat?
 
  #12  
Old 10-09-14, 08:50 AM
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Hmm I missed that. I always thought forced air was a much 'drier' heat.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 12:56 PM
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Forced-air heat doesn't humidify, but the ductwork affords a convenient place for installing a whole-house humidifier, such as AprilAire. With hot-water heat, there isn't ductwork, unless by some remote chance you have a separate air handler with heating coils inside.

Low indoor humidity in the winter comes about by heating air from the outside, which reduces the relative humidity. (Examining a psychrometric chart would help quantify and explain the process.) The same indoor dryness comes about for either forced-air or hot-water heat.
 

Last edited by gilmorrie; 10-09-14 at 03:32 PM.
  #14  
Old 10-09-14, 03:48 PM
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Thanks for the replies! I think this boiler is a lot older than you guys are giving it credit for



Purchased for $842 delivered back in the early 60's from what I can tell. Also from what I've been told my home needs somewhere between 70,000-100,000 BTU. My current boiler is 225,000 BTU! In addition, the flue hole is 6" but coming off the boiler is 7". I guess it's always been like this, but it can't be safe right?


Lastly, with it being so old I am not super comfortable lighting the pilot. Maybe I'm just being overly paranoid..

To answer your question about the leak it's coming from the pressure relief valve. Since draining the expansion tank with a water hose (up in the ceiling), the water does not leak as much. Do you really think this should just be repaired instead of replaced given its age?
 
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Old 10-09-14, 03:54 PM
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One other thing to note.. I am mainly looking to replace this to avoid a disaster mid winter. Last year when the air eliminator broke and started leaking, no one could find a part that same day. I had to sit here and freeze to death. Also when a part breaks, many times they want to charge you to bleed the system. I'd just hate to keep spending money to repair when I can put that toward a new one.

As of today it's working fine but fills up about 1/2 a paint tray a day from the pressure relief valve.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:21 PM
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As of today it's working fine but fills up about 1/2 a paint tray a day from the pressure relief valve.
Most likely because the expansion tank has lost its air charge, which happens naturally over a few years. A simple fix - even if the tank winds up needing to be replaced, which it may not. Check out the "stickys" at the top of this forum.

As far as the air eliminator device "breaking" last winter, that is routine maintenance - certainly no reason to rush out and replace your boiler. And, an air eliminator isn't normally part of a new boiler.

Keep in mind, this is a DIY site, but helping non-DIYers is certainly part of what we like to do. But, I can tell you that there are many boiler salesmen that can't wait for you to call. They would call you a sitting duck.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:25 PM
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You've still not shown us the 'big picture' of the piping around the boiler. We need to 'be there' by the pictures.

Is that flue pipe just stuck into that thimble? Can you see gaps around it? Don't look right to me.

Was that flue pipe arrangement inspected by anyone?

What's with that plastic bag stuck in there? That ain't right either.

Last year when the air eliminator broke and started leaking, no one could find a part that same day.
Show us a picture of this air eliminator... what do you mean 'it broke' ? Standard air eliminators are available everywhere ... home depot and lowes for example.

I've been told my home needs somewhere between 70,000-100,000 BTU
I believe that 100,000 is oversized. 70,000 may be slightly oversized but certainly closer to what you need. 225K is CRAZY big!

As of today it's working fine but fills up about 1/2 a paint tray a day from the pressure relief valve.
Please show us a picture of the tank and the pipe leading to it.

If you drained it and you are still having leakage from the pressure relief valve, it means you did not drain it completely.

If you show us pictures we can help you correct that problem.

Lastly, with it being so old I am not super comfortable lighting the pilot. Maybe I'm just being overly paranoid..
Yes, I think so.

Do you really think this should just be repaired instead of replaced given its age?
I think you can get it working reliably. It is HUGELY oversized for your needs, there is no doubt there, but I doubt that failure is imminent.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:31 PM
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The PSI is running OK, I think it stays around 12. Doesnt leak all the time though. To "fix" it places want to replace the fill valve, pressure relief valve, and expansion tank.
If the pressure stayed around 12 PSI, the relief valve would not be leaking.

If you have the tank I think you do, there is no need to replace it to 'fix' it.

The fill valve MIGHT be OK.

The pressure relief valve should probably be replaced if it's more than five years old, just as a matter of preventative maintenance.

What you are really looking at is PROPERLY draining ALL the water from the expansion tank and probably replacing the relief valve, and MAYBE the fill valve.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 04:37 PM
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Lastly, with it being so old I am not super comfortable lighting the pilot. Maybe I'm just being overly paranoid..
Well, I'm not a psychiatrist, but let's just say that you are being unusually cautious and worried.

You say it's "so old." My boiler was new in 1952, and is still going fine - yours appears to me quite a bit newer. I think you need to get a grip

That air eliminator that leaked is a $5-10 part. No reason to replace the boiler (which doesn't come with an air eliminator anyway). And if the leak was slow, not a torrent, it wasn't necessary to panic and head for the hills. Just log on here, and we could have helped you with your fears.

Replacing a boiler because of a leaking air eliminator or a weeping relief valve is perhaps comparable to buying a new car because your old one has a flat tire.
 

Last edited by gilmorrie; 10-09-14 at 05:17 PM.
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Old 10-09-14, 05:00 PM
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Gil beat me to the Enter key, and he said something that I would like to repeat because it needs it.

I can tell you that there are many boiler salesmen that can't wait for you to call. They would call you a sitting duck.
There are guys that make their living selling stuff... cars, vacuum cleaners, and yes, BOILERS.

They will paint a beautiful rosy picture for you about how much money you will save on fuel, etc, etc, etc... and will tell you things to SCARE YOU in order to make the sale.

All I can say is BULL POOP!

BEWARE THE (name the commodity) SALESMAN!
 
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Old 10-09-14, 05:23 PM
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If you have the tank I think you do, there is no need to replace it to 'fix' it.
I ASSumed he had a bladder tank because he has an air eliminator device. But, from the age, maybe he does have a conventional expansion tank - which might explain why the air eliminator is depleting air from the tank.

WE NEED PICTURES.
 
  #22  
Old 10-09-14, 05:28 PM
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A boiler with an expansion tank in the ceiling should not have a air vent that is operating all the time as it will cause the expansion tank to fill with water and then the pressure relief valve will open.
 
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Old 10-09-14, 06:13 PM
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Is that flue pipe just stuck into that thimble? Can you see gaps around it? Don't look right to me.

What's with that plastic bag stuck in there? That ain't right either.
I suspect that our O.P., Sam, may not have the experience to deal with these issues by himself. If so, I would suggest he get a two- or three-man family-owned plumbing/HVAC service outfit that comes highly recommended by your neighbors, family members, etc., to straighten things out - that you can develop a trusting relationship with. If you call a big service company, with a fleet of trucks and a sales force, get your check-book out and be prepared to buy a new boiler whether you need it or not.

Back on the subject of converting to a forced-air furnace. If you just have just one floor, plus a basement, installing the ductwork might be a reasonable job - though I wouldn't recommend it since you already have a hot-water system installed. If you have two stories, then forget it.
 
  #24  
Old 10-09-14, 07:19 PM
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Believe it or not, I've actually had 4 different companies out here. All with good Angie's list reviews but that only goes so far. I have never touched the flue pipe, it was pointed out by one of the heating places. He stated the boiler's flue pipe is too big for the flue hole (maybe due to such a big boiler). He said it's not good by any means but since it's been like this forever to just keep an eye on carbon monoxide levels. He just said when I get a new boiler, the flue pipe would fit inside the flue. The flue hole with a bag in it is separate and for an unused fireplace. I did not do this, the house came this way.

As far as the forced air system goes, I was just thinking if I was going to replace my boiler anyway it was worth looking into adding duct work. When all is said and done though it is quite a bit more. Best and most knowledgeable person I had out here offered that Crown Aruba 105 for $4700 installed. To run the ducts and get a heater was around $9500. Also everyone commented that the cast iron baseboards I have are pretty nice so that made me reconsider getting rid of the boiler. FYI this is a ranch style house, no 2nd floor.

Here is a better picture of the setup (this is an older picture with the old air eliminator on it, its the small part connected to the pipe the pressure relief valve is on..)



Besides being uncomfortable with a gas boiler (I never had one growing up), I have quite a bit of time away from home. I am always scared to get into a project like this. If I screw something up and have to leave town for a week I'm in big trouble. By the way you guys are talking though, I may really be over-reacting and should attempt a repair. As I mentioned one of the guys who came over did try draining the tank. He shut off the water line coming into the boiler and hooked a hose up to it. Once it was emptied (still don't know if we got it all), we turned water back on. I went around with the key and bled air out of the system. This significantly improved the leaking problem but some water still does come out. The heater's performance seems fine though right now but I don't want to have a middle of winter emergency - it gets below 0 here..
 
  #25  
Old 10-09-14, 07:38 PM
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That is a conventional expansion tank. Remove the air eliminator device, and plug the hole - that is probably your problem. Drain and replenish the tank's air cushion.

Ignore whatever you've been told so far by boiler salesmen. Get a small, local, family-owned outfit with good references. Because of your inexperience, you are at a major risk for being ripped off.
 
  #26  
Old 10-10-14, 01:06 PM
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Thanks again for all your help. I did have a small family owned place come out today. Funny you mentioned the air eliminator, first thing he did was start looking at that. Once he noticed it was closed he said it would be fine but suggested that I not open it. This is the same place who offered the Crown Aruba AWR105. He didn't like the flue pipe part being on the outside (or the small bell piece that opens and closes) however he did not indicate I was in any rush to replace this system. He just simply stated this is how the older systems are. He stated that yeah the Crown would likely be a little better due lower BTU , higher efficiency, getting rid of the check valve, not having to light the pilot, etc. He did mention a "low water" feature on newer models where if the system starts leaking it will not continuously keep refilling. He did not push that I needed a replacement anytime soon but simply gave me a price of $4700 installed if I wanted the Crown system.

I think I would feel safer with a new system but $4700 just for that may be way overkill. Atleast I feel a little better about the company I am working with.
 
  #27  
Old 10-11-14, 01:15 AM
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Age alone has no bearing on the reliability of a boiler. I think the newest boiler I ever worked with was built around 1980 albeit these were commercial/industrial sized boilers. The oldest boiler was built in 1906 and was being used in 1975. With a little work I wouldn't be fearful of firing one of those boilers today (yes, they still exist).

Truth be told, a gas-fired boiler with a continuously burning pilot is a VERY safe appliance.
 
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