Condensing Direct Vent Gas Boiler: Weil McLain or Burnham?

mamadadapaigeMarch 12, 2009

can anyone offer advice on what is better:

the Weil McLain Ultra 155 or the Burnham Alpine.

We are converting from oil and have received promotional material from our gas company regarding the Burnham products. The Alpine with a AFUE of 95% would cost $1100 and then we pay installation and $325 to remove the old oil tank. I have two contractors whose names were supplied by National Grid, our gas company, coming to give me a price on installation.

I had a respected contractor with loads of experience working with these high efficiency gas boilers in today and they don't work with Burnham products so if I went with him we'd go with the Weil McLain and not be able to take advantage of deals through the gas company. He was putting down the Burnham product saying that the tubing in them corrodes, etc. and that they require a lot of maintenance. His total price fully installed, removal of tank, etc. would be $8000 (I almost choked... the economy has certainly affected us and we aren't rolling in dough).

Not sure if he is just giving me a sales job on the Weil McLain or if the Burnham's are finicky.

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Burnham offers both cast aluminum (as is the contraction of the Weil Mclain) and also a stainless steel high efficiency. The tubes are in the stainless steel which is more the boiler of choice than cast aluminum across the nation.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 3:23PM
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I will admit to not knowing much about this, but it does seem that the Burnham is using newer technology... I think the cast aluminum system by Burnham is the Freedom - this is also being offered by National Grid, but I was thinking the Alpine was some how a more attractive choice given that I read reviews on the internet of the cast aluminum being problematic.

thanks for chiming in. anyone else? this isn't the easiest thing to research... its all so technical and seems to REALLY matter a lot that you hire someone REALLY experienced.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 5:07PM
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okay so I am sorting through old posts on here and am coming to understand that the Triangle Tube Mod/Con system gets the best reviews. I have read posts by c1700 who likes this system because of the SS heat exchanger. This newer Burnham unit with the SS exchanger... would it be comparable to the Triangle Tube? or are there other factors that I am missing?

Please, anyone? C1700 are you out there?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 6:56PM
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The cast aluminum products are not more problematic they just have tighter spec's to operate in. There is a difference. The problem is a lot of contractors will not verify they are within spec when the job is completed. The operating PH is closer than the stainless steel which is a lot closer than the cast iron.
The cast aluminum will transfer 8 times the eight of stainless steel. They all need serviced every year without missing one, Ph checks every year, properly sized when installed and properly piped. The sizing and the piping can make the product better or less than what it can do efficiency wise.
You also have to remember efficiency is just a number which is ever changing. Too many people get wrapped up in a high efficiency number and when installed it does not operate nowhere close to that number due to sizing, piping and application. The efficiency changers as the water temperature changes. The hotter the water gets the lower the efficiency goes. The cooler the water temperature the higher the water temperature goes. Boilers are tested by AFUE standards. This is done with 120º return water and 140º supply water temperatures. Anything above or below those temperatures will change the efficiency.
The biggest determining factor is system efficiency. The amount of radiation as compared to the heat loss, the type of radiation. Cast iron radiation creates less air currents thus reducing the heat loss. Cast iron radiation has a certain amount of radiant heating and less convection heating. The amount of air space under your baseboard from the carpet. The less distance between the carpet and the baseboard the less heat you get off the radiation. Dust build-up on the bottom side of the baseboard. All the baseboard end-caps in position and the front cover in place. Furniture placement blocking air flow under the baseboard. If the air cannot get into the bottom of the baseboard it cannot get heated and come out the top. The more air that is restricted the less air is heating the home. Unit has to run longer and at a higher water temperature. System zoning. Operating temperature of the system water. The use of outdoor rest controls.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2009 at 8:22AM
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tk03 thank you!

I am used to the kitchen forum where you post a message and within minutes you have many many responses. sort of frustrating here in the heating forum... are there not a lot of people here or just not a lot of responders?

anyway, figured I'd give you an update on my situation. The 70 year old beast is still leaking like a sieve.

I had three contractors in over the last couple of days. The first only works with Weil McLain (he suggested the ULTRA 155) and granted I am just learning about all of this, but from my research on the internet these seem problematic... I read reviews on one forum that scared me completely away. So this contractor is out. Price $8K (w/o gas subsidy on equipment) Next guy recommended by gas company. Seemed extremely knowledagable and competent. Price $7.8K. Is also going to work up a quote on the Buderus. He said they have equal experience installing Burnham, Buderus and Viessman. Smaller company so a little concerned about long term survival through the bad economy. Last guy, the #1 recommendation of gas company. From a huge outfit... he was just the sales guy so lacked technical info on a lot of what would happen but assured me that the guys know what they are doing. They have a large service component and actually service Home Depot customers (this raised a little red flag for me somehow... maybe I'm thinking that the bigger they are, the more disconnected they are to me, my system, I'd have a different person in here everytime, never able to develop a relationship, etc). Price: $8.1K

So they all came in around the same area and other than eliminating the first guy, I am no closer to making a decision.

I am thinking of getting someone else in here.

tk03... thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 7:54AM
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Interesting post to follow as I have been researching various options myself. Thursday I got an energy audit from Cape Light Compact at a home that I picked up in Mashpee last Summer. There is a lot of money around for the new Star rated equipment, and Cape Light actually has free paper for $2-15K installations. This particular setup is a 22 yr old Weil Mclain HE3 NG boiler, and a 40 gal electric hot water heater. The auditor agreed that both National Grid and local contractors seem to continually use the usual suspects, including Weil Mclain, Burnham, and Utica. I like the Triangle Tube as well as the new Munchkin, as the latter had some growing pains and why I would avoid the first model (Alpine) year. WM makes a decent boiler however as you have read in your research have had controller issues and flame out at the worst time, tenant calls with a no heat at 8.00PM. I have installed the Viessman for others and this is one quality product, bar none. A tick pricey at about $3200 Buderus about the same. Let us know what you decide.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:06AM
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Just returned from Germany, and guess what? looked at more boilers.

My advice:
Stay away from an aluminum product unless it is a Viessmann or Buderus.
Stay away from the Giononni Heat exchanger (Munchkin, Lochinvar, BAXI and many others)

Triangle Tube Prestige is still the one to beat for the value, price, minimal problem and ease of install.

Good advise TK03, the published AFUE isnt what you may achieve depending on the system. many mid 80% will perform the same as a 90%+ applied the wrong way. And watch the overpumping, what you save in efficiency of gas may go out the door in wattage of the circulators.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 10:15AM
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I know the Alpine has a 5 year parts and labor warranty included as long as it is registered.
There is a lot that can be said about the products but what percentang is caused by the installation? I do not believe any of the products are bad but how good is the support?
Again proper sizing, piping, pumping and venting is the important info.

Here is a link that might be useful: FAQ on proper sizing

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 4:25PM
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Thank you for the responses. Where I am now is feeling that the "cheap" equipment through the gas company may not be quite the deal that we think. I am getting the feeling that the price is going to be $8K no matter what. If there is a $1500 obama credit available then the price will be $9500 so that is comes out to $8K. If it is equipment not available through the gas company it seems it is still $8K despite the lack of subsidy on the equipment.

Given all of this, I am thinking of trying to find an experienced installer for Triangle Tube Prestige in my area... this is not proving to be easy. If anyone can recommend someone I'd be so appreciative. Thanks again for your input!!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 9:53PM
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i'm in the same situation. one installer told me the alpine has issues, and national grid will stop selling them in june 09. let's face it, the utility is contracting with burnham to buy trailer loads of boilers for oil to gas swaps, and hi efficiency is really not their goal. you get what you pay for, imho. i'm considering the wm155 ultra, upon recommendation of an installer. however, others, like triangle tube, buderus, veissman may be even better. the whole technology is so new, many installers simply don't have the sweat equity or knowledge. any installer will basically install what you want, as long as they make a sale/money. we're doing our research online, which we have to, and hopefully we can teach ourselves to make a wise choice. i dont think we can make too much of a mistake with any of these new mod/con gas boilers. i'm more concerned with heat loss calculations, and proper sizing and piping of the installation. i'm in blue point, where r u located? have you decided or come close to deciding which installer you will use?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 12:04AM
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anyone want to chime in here? i'm considering either a buderus gb142, triangletube prestige or wm ultra 155

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 8:16PM
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Already did, read backwards

Stay away from Aluminum Heat Exchangers!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 9:00PM
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are you saying stay away from ALL aluminum HX? the buderus gb142 is supposed to be an excellent unit, but it has an aluminum HX. what modcon other than the triangle tube prestige has a ss HX?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 10:16PM
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I'm in the same shoes as the original poster, and if being monitored an update would be great.

National Grid is still offering the Alpine, contrary to what one poster wrote, and it's the system of choice from two of three contractors we've met with. The third suggested a non-condensing lower efficiency Burnham unit pointing out that there's a lot less to be concerned about maintenance and no electronics to break down. Both systems seem to have their merits.... Is the Alpine still a good choice? Caveats with buying one?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 2:30PM
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I would like to know the answer myself. I am having the contractor come again on Friday to review with me because I cant seem to find the answer on which burner to buy.
He did mention it could cost more in maintenence if I have an Ultra-high efficiency gas system. I don't know what he means by more maintenence expenses if it should need service. But I am very confused about this decision.
I also need to find out how to calculate what size I need based on the AFUE and Input amount....My house is 2000 sq ft with 2 zones. I am interested in using the Burners offered by National Grid for NY.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2011 at 8:08AM
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I just spent $12k (total, boiler, tankless waterheater, installation) on an Burnham Alpine boiler (installed around Halloween '10) by a local respected HVAC guy, and we've had one problem after another with the unit. At first, we heard a very loud banging sound (boom) when the system was purging itself. We've had minor leaks (gallon of water at most) from the system (boiler), and lately the system has been surging, like an engine that is getting inconsistent fuel flow. The HVAC guy brought the Burnham tech out to adjust the system, so we've eliminated the sonic boom, but the system is still surging on a daily basis--not all the time, but now and then, and the vibration can be felt everywhere in the house. If anyone can recommend a solution, I'm all ears. I don't recommend the Burnham.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 3:38PM
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I am looking at several brands of condensing boilers to replace an oil fired steam system with cast iron radiators. I have used Rinnai direct vent space heaters as well as their domestic hot water heaters and have found them to be reliable and effective.
However, in considering their condensing boilers I am having heartburn finding a qualified installation and support plumbing outfit.

Any recommendations for choice of system for someone in the New Haven, CT area??

Thanks, Harry

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 3:28PM
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i think if you can go with a buderus you are one of the lucky ones.if you get it installed for 8k more power to should check out heating that site you get answers fast from the best in the business

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 7:29AM
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I had my furnace updated to a Alpine 95% eff. 6-23-10 by a cerified company. I've had 8 call outs since,(the last one last night)the main controller card is out and it'll take 12 hr shipping to get here and replace it. Thk god it's still under warrenty, I heard the controller cards are very spendy.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:27PM
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