IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers

 
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Old 01-04-2018, 02:27 PM   #1
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IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


I am piling up PDF brochures on cast iron / long life warranty gas boilers. I am trying hard to not repeat mistakes made on my last boiler purchase. I would love to hear what any or many of you think about the various available brands.
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Old 01-04-2018, 09:18 PM   #2
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


No one has yet ventured any opinions here so as an end user I am offering mine.

I HIGHLY recommend doing a cost/benefit analysis as well as a ROI before going to the highest efficiency boilers! Sadly I only did that post purchase/installation. The most efficient models have the shortest life at highest cost. IMO they are over complicated, over sensitive, over rated and overpriced. Combo units mean you can not use any really effective, water conservation devices as they all have a minimum flow requirement to turn on the hot water component. The time it takes to get hot water to tub or sink is a lot of wasted water. These are just a couple of the things I learned. Given the cost and life expectancy of the modulating / condensing boilers I doubt there is much of a return on investment. Especially true if financing was involved!

After some thinking on this subject, if I am forced to a new unit sooner rather than later I would look for standard efficiency in a cast iron, condensing boiler with an indirect water heating tank. By the time I make the change over I expect to be fairly well informed about boilers.

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Old 01-05-2018, 04:39 AM   #3
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


A modulating condensing boiler, can reduce fuel usage by 30% or more over a cast iron standard efficiency boiler.

In the last 20 years, cast iron boiler makers have reduced the warranty you get on them.
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:31 AM   #4
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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A modulating condensing boiler, can reduce fuel usage by 30% or more over a cast iron standard efficiency boiler.

In the last 20 years, cast iron boiler makers have reduced the warranty you get on them.
That is only true in the right circumstances. A drafty, 1912 build with cast iron rads poses challenges that do not suit these new boilers and the return on investment after cost is minimal, if any at all. The cost of my system that has a life expectancy of 15 years (as with most of these systems) with financing was $14000. divide that over the life of the system and you get $933 per year AND THEN after year 5 it starts needing replacement parts! So the life cost goes up with each repair and labor is not easy or cheap on these boilers! This on a system that is checked by pros 2X a year and serviced every year.

It is true that the cast iron boiler warranties are now much reduced as they have been pushed into the field of condensing boilers but it's still a 20 year VS 10 and the life expectancy is equally greater. A good compromise in a drafty old house!

One other thing to be noted here is how many HVAC contractors are NOT really understanding of these systems and in my case, I suspect the sizing was wrong for the size of this house and that is also a BIG issue with con/mod boilers. (I did mention I had the installers from HE!!) A lot depends on a first rate installation and poor old HO can not really know how well that will be or is done.

I know how everybody raves about these systems BUT any heating system MUST be considered in light of where it will be installed. In this situation, the 1st floor is a heat hog do to drafts and opening doors often for 2 dogs and while you may freeze down stairs you will suffer heat exhaustion on the second floor. All of this means that I turn the heat way down about 10PM & up at 7AM. That is not the way such a system is meant to be used. In a new tight and good build it may be a worthy system but I am more inclined to think that passive conservation methods are a better investment. (I am working on the passive end starting with new insulation from attic to basement)

Now, If I had already replaced all the plumbing, doors and windows, it might have worked out. In an old house like this and not having deep pockets, it's one thing at a time. So far: New electrical, new plumbing stack, new full insulation, new steel roof. Still pending: plumbing, windows, doors, floors and brick pointing.

Needing to replace a boiler every 15 years feels more like a lease than a purchase because I will never stop the monthly payments because as the financing has ended the repair needs have started. It feels like a no win to me.

Finally, I do recommend that contractors give due consideration to the situation a system is being placed in. Thus says the end user after some experience.

The manufacturer of my system has only one installer listed in my area AND that was the crew of PLUMBERS that installed my system. The HVAC certified guy NEVER came on site except to sell me on the system and collect payment at the end. One last question for you: Do any of the manufacturers train and certify HVAC installers for their own systems.
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:52 AM   #5
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


You really should say what the fuel is, it makes a huge difference - I'll assume fuel oil.

I think you really have to talk about components when you have this discussion. Even a peerless or new Yorker boiler is reliable. Ones with triple pass heat exchangers give a little better heating efficiency. From there, the burner can have a fairly big impact. I haven't come across an unreliable burner.

System controls, especially the more sophisticated ones can be unreliable, limit the number of people who can work on them due to specialized knowledge required, and be slow to get replacement parts.

Even choice of whether to use zone circulator or zone valves impacts system reliability. A Taco circulater may last 30 years or more, but a Taco zone valve may not last 5 years or even 2 years.

Last edited by hdavis; 01-05-2018 at 09:01 AM.
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Old 01-05-2018, 09:11 AM   #6
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


Cast iron radiators? Are they hot water or steam? Converting from steam to hot water can get you 25% fuel usage decrease, but you'll lose some heating capacity if you just convert the radiators to hot water.

The key to understanding what you really need for boiler size is keep track of the hour meter on the boiler. Alternatively, if you know the nozzle rating and know the fuel usage history, you can tell if it's oversized or indersized.
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:00 AM   #7
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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Cast iron radiators? Are they hot water or steam? Converting from steam to hot water can get you 25% fuel usage decrease, but you'll lose some heating capacity if you just convert the radiators to hot water.

The key to understanding what you really need for boiler size is keep track of the hour meter on the boiler. Alternatively, if you know the nozzle rating and know the fuel usage history, you can tell if it's oversized or undersized.
Natural gas fuel boiling for a hot water system. As it happens, I have contracted a new company and the lead man has some 33 years experience and ONLY employs HVAC certified workers. I think I may be onto something better with this INDEPENDENT company. He is coming out today to look the system over and check on what exactly needs to be repaired.

I have the fuel usage history for the last 7 years. Only 5 of which were used by the current system. Prior to that I suspect 50% of my use was blown away by an ancient boiler on it's last legs. Still, in this situation the modulation aspect is a no win. On the other hand, I can not imagine getting a non-condensing system. I think my proposed compromise is reasonably good for THIS house. It would also allow me to replace all of my water saving devices. I had to remove those to get hot water because they demanded such minimal flow that the boiler could never 'hear' a call for the hot. The low flow devices turned a trickle into a shower. Not enough force to turn on the combi system. With an indirect tank I would greatly reduce water flow and still have hot water. (OR so I think....will talk to new guy about that aspect.)

Like any other aspect of home renovations, much depends on the integrity, knowledge, intelligence and experience of the contractor involved. When I get a good quality contractor I practically carve their names in stone! My position is to trust the advise of the pro wh is supposed to know. (Generally a good policy) I get frustrated and often refuse to work on jobs that do not take my advise and insist on something substandard. I tend to say "Sure, you can do that but you need to hire another applicator to do it."

The guys that did my roof will also get the doors, windows and decking contracts (if I can not find a window restorer). They only do exterior cladding and structural but I think they may have some names for plumbing and flooring. I tend to trust guys that have been used by other contractors because they tend to be of equal caliber. After 6 years I am finally learning my way around the trades here. Continuing to remain an active painter has helped a lot.
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:03 AM   #8
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


Idiot here: Where is the hour meter? My control panel hidden under the hood. Is that where I should look for it?
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:15 AM   #9
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


I don't know where your hour meter might be, or even if you have one. All the oil systems I've seen have them added, but you may not have one.

Your house is probably cold downstairs and hot upstairs at least in part due to air being drawn out of the upstairs, and cold air being drawn into the first floor. Air sealing the upstairs should get you th biggest bang for the buck, and you can do most or all of it yourself if you want.
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:52 AM   #10
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


Quote:
Originally Posted by hdavis View Post
I don't know where your hour meter might be, or even if you have one. All the oil systems I've seen have them added, but you may not have one.

Your house is probably cold downstairs and hot upstairs at least in part due to air being drawn out of the upstairs, and cold air being drawn into the first floor. Air sealing the upstairs should get you th biggest bang for the buck, and you can do most or all of it yourself if you want.
As far as was possible, with really badly fitted doors and windows I have done the foaming thing and filled the gaps under doors but the only true cure in this house is newly and properly fitted doors and windows.

To be clear, over the past 5 years we have reduced fuel consumption by at least 60%! In this old house that has been pretty amazing. A big one was insulating and sealing the basement was well as fiber and foaming in the attic. (Bonus: the fiber insulation also keeps squirrels, mice, etc. out of the attic! It burns their eyes, where they seem not to mind fiberglass) I do believe passive conservation always gives the biggest bang for a buck!

I also cut my electric bill dramatically by installing all LED lighting. 15 watt / 1600 lm "Nanoleaf one" bulbs. This is the best lit & lowest cost lighting I have ever had. They promise 27 years on a bulb. When one burned out after 30 months, they replaced it no questions asked (and sent me a bonus gift lamp.) All the others are still going strong. That was one of the best and least expensive investments I ever made!
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Old 01-05-2018, 05:37 PM   #11
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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That is only true in the right circumstances. A drafty, 1912 build with cast iron rads poses challenges that do not suit these new boilers and the return on investment after cost is minimal, if any at all.

Actually, cast iron rads are ideal for mod/con boilers with outdoor reset. In the milder times of the year, the boiler doesn't need to make the water very hot. So the mod/con is very efficient. Where as a standard efficiency cast iron boiler needs to have a high return water temp, or it has a short life span. Plus cast iron rads often don't need higher then 160F water at outdoor design temp.

On a cast iron rad system, a mod/con can easily save 40% on the heating bill of a standard cast iron 80 boiler.

Best to have mod/cons sized and installed by a good company that has trained techs. Not just a company that installs whatever they can sell you.

I have a good number of mod/cons installed that are well over 15 years old. They were of course sized to the load they needed to do, and have proper primary/secondary piping.

Is your mod/con piped up primary/secondary.

I also have mod/cons installed in apartment buildings that are heated with copper finned baseboard, and the boilers also heat indirect water heaters. The mod/cons use 30% less gas per month then the standard boilers in other building that were installed a year before I sold them the mod/cons. Which comes out to a savings of over $1,500.00 a year per building with a mod/con.

You got a bad sell and install. Don't blame the product.
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Old 01-05-2018, 06:45 PM   #12
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


Absolutely, I blame the contractor! I was not well served. I also failed to realize that the modulating systems could be had in cast iron. That is absolutely a consideration, do the cast iron mod/cons come with the longer warranties? I am really most concerned about reliability and durability. I also keep working on the passive end of conservation. As noted in an earlier post over 5 years we have reduced consumption by about 60% but the gas company says each year, we are still well below the standard " for comparable houses in this area."

My boiler is piped up primary, I think.

I am a painter, after all. What the heck would I know, where boilers are concerned I suspect I'm a real mark BUT I am constantly learning! I won't be suckered twice.

The guy who came out today thought the installation & piping was a mess. He shook his head at it. The leak that was to be repaired "seems to have sealed itself" he said. "Call me again if it starts again or the system is failing in some way". You can all tell me if that was a reasonable call on his part. If it was, it saved me replacing a pressure switch.

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Old 01-05-2018, 06:56 PM   #13
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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Absolutely, I blame the contractor! I was not well served. I also failed to realize that the modulating systems could be had in cast iron. That is absolutely a consideration, do the cast iron mod/cons come with the longer warranties? I am really most concerned about reliability and durability.
Don't know if they do. Don't handle them myself. Can't see that they won't cost as much as a Rannai or Navien. Nor work as well.
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Old 01-05-2018, 07:01 PM   #14
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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Don't know if they do. Don't handle them myself. Can't see that they won't cost as much as a Rannai or Navien. Nor work as well.
OK, so where does one turn for longevity of a system that will not need extensive up-keep after 6-7 years. When you need to constantly repair that is an issue!
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Old 01-05-2018, 07:27 PM   #15
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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OK, so where does one turn for longevity of a system that will not need extensive up-keep after 6-7 years. When you need to constantly repair that is an issue!
Rannai has the most reliable mod/cons, Weil McLain Ultras are also a reliable mod/con and have been out for a long time, so the early bugs have been taken care of. They still need to be sized and installed properly.

Look on their site for contractors in your area. And get several estimates. If they only have 1, or don't have any listed in your area. Then its better to go with a Weil McLain Ultra.

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Old 01-05-2018, 10:33 PM   #16
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


"Is it the paint that makes a painter good. Or the painter that makes the paint good" , It is a partnership! Good painters want to use good paint so both paint and painter look good.

I have read some good things about Weil McLain Ultras and did file a few PDFs on the Ultra. They have distributors in Hamilton which would not be too far from here. Rannai, sell mainly tankless water heaters in Canada, no one is listing of dealerships for their boilers. What do you think of IBC product, they seem some what popular around here. Price is far from being a primary consideration! Nothing I have done on this house yet has been done on the cheap! I look for value. IE: The last bed sheets I purchased were $400 per queen size set BUT they lasted 20 years, they are starting to look tired; I'm now looking to purchase them again IF I can find them. Exceptional quality seems to get more elusive with each passing year.

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Old 01-06-2018, 07:11 AM   #17
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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"Is it the paint that makes a painter good. Or the painter that makes the paint good" , It is a partnership! Good painters want to use good paint so both paint and painter look good.

Its the same way in the HVAC industry. A bad/poor contractor can make the best quality appliance the worst thing to happen to a customer.

I have read some good things about Weil McLain Ultras and did file a few PDFs on the Ultra. They have distributors in Hamilton which would not be too far from here. Rannai, sell mainly tankless water heaters in Canada, no one is listing of dealerships for their boilers. What do you think of IBC product, they seem some what popular around here. Price is far from being a primary consideration! Nothing I have done on this house yet has been done on the cheap! I look for value. IE: The last bed sheets I purchased were $400 per queen size set BUT they lasted 20 years, they are starting to look tired; I'm now looking to purchase them again IF I can find them. Exceptional quality seems to get more elusive with each passing year.
Don't really know much about IBC. Other then they have been in the mod/con biz a long time.
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Old 01-06-2018, 09:40 AM   #18
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


beenthere: "Its the same way in the HVAC industry. A bad/poor contractor can make the best quality appliance the worst thing to happen to a customer."

Ah,HA!, there's the rub! You don't know how good your contractor is until the job's been done! PAINFUL! to say the least and it causes HOs to be overly cautious and suspicious. After all, most talk a good game but talk is cheap.
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Old 01-06-2018, 10:38 PM   #19
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


I love my standing pilot Peerless boiler.
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:39 AM   #20
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Re: IYO: Who Makes The Best Cast Iron Gas Boilers


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beenthere: "Its the same way in the HVAC industry. A bad/poor contractor can make the best quality appliance the worst thing to happen to a customer."

Ah,HA!, there's the rub! You don't know how good your contractor is until the job's been done! PAINFUL! to say the least and it causes HOs to be overly cautious and suspicious. After all, most talk a good game but talk is cheap.
I remember you posting about the drama, a year or so ago. Somebody should be able to make things right with the existing equipment. Have you called the local heating supply-houses to ask for a referral? Provided they don't have some kind of "referral setup", it's a good place to start.

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