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Posted by Jae on March 04, 2004 at 13:15:14:
In 2003 I purchased a 1924 2-story 2300 sqft house in Westchester County New York with natural gas steam boiler heating with radiators (it's a Bryant boiler but so drty the model number is not intelligble--it supposeably outputs 180,000 btus). Our house inspector said the boiler was about 20 years old and that it probably should be replaced within 5 years, although it could probably be used for longer if necessary. The first winter our gas bills seemed quite high ($450-$600/month). I had blown cellulose insulation put in the attic and that seemed to help a bit, but I am looking into relacing the boiler because the boiler seems to require a lot of service calls (pilot light frequently gets blown out, wiring needs to be replaced etc.) and there are other things that seem worrisome to me--e.g. large gouts of flame when the boiler comes on.
I am in the process of interviewing contractors for the replacement and had a couple of questions:
1) Are there any particular licenses or qualifications I should look for besides checking that they are licensed plumbers in NY and are insured? Can a general plumber handle the work or should I look to a company that purportedly specializes in boiler installations (if any exist)?
2) Are there tell-tale signs not to a given contractor? For example, a consumer manual on fuel-efficieny I read says if the plumber plans to size the boiler by the output of the existing boiler without any other evaluation that should disqualify him. The first plumber I contacted seemed to do just that.
3) One plumber suggested that based on the age of the house and the boiler, I might need to replace all the steam pipework running through the house as well. Is there any way I can determine whether this needs to be done or whether he is trying to pad his bill?
4) In giving an estimate, are there any tasks I besides replacing the boiler that I should make sure are part of the job, e.g. checking pipework, chimneys, radiator valves?
5) The one written quote I have thus far is $7,000 to remove the old boiler and to install a Burnham Independence IN-6 Boiler (with new operating & safety controls). Is this in the ballpark?
6) What are the pros and cons of electric ignition? I assume it will help with the frequent blow-out problems that I have with the existing boiler.
7) I may replace the hot water heater as well as that is 10-years old and my regular plumber tells me that is about the life expectancy of these units. I have heard that one can install fuel efficient "indirect" water heater that is somehow connected to the boiler. Is that a good idea?
Any weblinks on these types of questions are much appreciated. Thanks in advance for your advice.
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