Water boiler replacement

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Water boiler replacement

Post by 0cean23 » Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:49 pm

My water boiler for my home recently broke and I wanted to get some advice before going with my next steps. I had a plumber inspect and gave me some suggestions, what do you think I should do?

My current water boiler is a Burnham Boiler, 175,000 BTU. It was replace about 7 years ago from the previous owners of the house. Everything was working OK up until yesterday. Below are a couple of images from the damage of the boiler. The plumber said that the boiler had carbonized build up which cause the flame to back out. You can see the burn marks on the unit, electric wires and electronic box(melted). He said that this can be repaired but should I replace the whole unit? He quoted me $4500 for a new Crown water boiler installed.


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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by Spirit Rider » Mon Nov 19, 2012 9:49 am

7 years is infancy in the life of a boiler. I most definitely would get a second opinion.

The electronic components of a boiler are a small fraction of the cost of a unit. Really,the components that form the key infrastructure of a boiler are the combustion chamber, the heat exchanger, and the structural unit. When one or more of those wear out (usually 20+ years), then it might be time to replace the entire unit. I am by no means an expert, but have replaced the burner motor, water circulating pumps, control flow valves, safety relief valve, and the drain cock on my 25+ year boiler. I don't do the yearly service (I leave anything involving potential carbon monoxide to the professionals).

What I see here is minor scorching of the unit and some overheated electronics. I don't see any case where the flame backup acted like a torch and cut through anything. Maybe there is something like that in the combustion chamber or heat exchanger, but my reasonable DIY homeowner experience leads me to strongly suggest getting a second opinion. If the permanent damage is limited to what we see and this could be resolved by replacement of the damaged parts and a through service and cleaning, this is probably a less than $1K repair.

P.S. I would get the second opinion from a heating contractor and not a plumber. I know the majority of companies servicing hydronic heating systems are plumbers. I just prefer a heating contractor that services hydronic systems.

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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by NHRATA01 » Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:43 am

Hmm, I'm no expert here, though I did have some gas boiler issues in my previous home (and slept at a holiday inn...)

I believe a newer gas boiler should have a "flame rollout switch", or in essence a snap switch that should trip and shut down the boiler when the heat from the burn box/exchanger starts to back out (FYI this is also a safety issue as it is indicative of exhaust gases backing out too). The aforementioned previous boiler, I had an issue where it started to trip. They are typically "latching" which means when they trip, you have to reset to get the boiler to fire again. First time I called a repair service for no heat (emergency evening call), he found that to be the cause, and of course I saw how to reset the switch and said if it keeps tripping, to schedule a service). In any event, the switch began to trip with increasing frequency. When I had a repairman show up I stayed with him (being a wrencher myself). Pulled apart the exchanger thinking it was clogged, but it looked pristine. Worked up to the smoke pipe. Found a 2-3' horizontal run approximately 50% filled with ash. So that was impeding ventilation and allowing heat/exhaust to back out of the unit and trip the safety switch. Replaced the smoke pipe, and never had an issue again - although it's been 4 years since I moved so can't speak to problems since.

So in any event, I would get a second opinion, I highly doubt that boiler needs replacement. And as mentioned replacing the electronics is minimal compared to the burn box/heat exchanger. I would have a repair person look for any obstruction in the exhaust stream. I would also inquire about lack of a safety switch. At least it would've kept your electronics from burning up!

For reference my parents have lived in their house since 1987, and still have the same gas burner. In fact a few years ago when the water heater was replaced, my mother asked if she should have the furnace done. The gentleman pretty much told her the unit was perfectly fine and it would be a waste of money, with the exception of minor efficiency gains of newer units.

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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by NateW » Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:24 am

Seven years seems to be a very short life for a boiler. My guess is they last 20 - 30 years, so I would question the need for relacement. If the firebox is sooted up, can it be cleaned and the burner adjusted?

The melted electrical board and wiring appears to be a short, which may have caused the burner to incorrectly fire, or is unrelated to the carbonizing. Perhaps that could be replaced with the boiler cleaning and adjustment.

How effecient is this boiler and is it sized correctly? If you can get a new one that is more effecient, especially if the current one is sized too big, it may make economic sense to replace the boiler if you plan to live in the house a while longer.

Regardless of what you decide, a second opinion may be wise.


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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:36 am

In agreement with the others, Burnham makes good gas boilers and 7 years is much too early for replacement. They usually last 25 years or more. What is the warranty on the boiler from the manufacturer? How much is the quote to repair the damage? I would definitely get a second/third opinion.
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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by krannerd » Mon Nov 19, 2012 3:40 pm

Agree on getting an additional opinion. My boiler is 40 years old and is still in proper working order (after a safety inspection last month). I typically deal with an HVAC company that specializes in hot water systems...based on my extremely limited knowledge of boilers...cleaning the burners is sometimes required to maintain them. "Carbonized buildup" sounds like gunk on the burner that would need to be cleaned, but would not require a full replacement.
Spirit Rider wrote:The electronic components of a boiler are a small fraction of the cost of a unit.
This statement is right on...they're probably the cheapest things in there....and easiest to replace (without draining your entire system).

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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by rfburns » Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:36 pm

Your boiler suffered a flame roll-out condition. As you can see it melted the wires and control box. That is a grave condition that should have been shutdown before the damage occurred.

2 things went wrong here.
1 - you had a flame roll-out condition. (most always caused by inadequate venting)
2 - why did the flame roll-out switch not activate before the damage occurred. (indeed it was likely the electrical short that finally shut off the flame)

You've been given good advice by the others. +1 on a second opinion from an HVAC contractor. FWIW, it looks entirely salvageable as long as the condition that brought it there can be corrected.

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Re: Water boiler replacement

Post by 0cean23 » Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:48 pm

Thanks for your suggestions, my current unit does not have a flame roll out switch. Can this be added to this unit after it's fully repair?

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