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Something strange going on with my home boiler....

  1. #26
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....


    Hey folks,

    I have a detailed update to post on this including 2 additional months of gas bills, findings from the mass save audit, as well as a series of measures I have taken on my own.

    Before I type that all up, I have a quick question - I have this Navien NCB-240E combi unit that we installed to replace the old boiler.

    Something strange going on with my home boiler....-img_20170120_122401-jpg

    Due to the urgency created by the old boiler going out in the middle of winter with both units tenanted, we did a plug and play - replaced the single boiler with a single unit that is powering heat and hot water in both units. Later this summer, I plan to install a second NCB-240 unit and have National Grid give me a second gas meter - i.e., split the heating systems for the two units.

    Anyway, my question is this. The Navien unit is currently plugged directly into the wall. It uses electricity to run the motors that pump water up into the units to feed the radiators. Which means when the electricity goes out (like it did today for a few hours), my gas powered heating system is also down, so is hot water (since its a combi).

    To tide over these situations, I want to install a battery backup that kicks on automatically. I called Navien and they said to use any UPC/backup solution rated for computers or home electronics. Their unit draws 2 amps.

    Since I am completely illiterate when it comes to electrical things, which of the following battery backup systems do I need? I want to get one that's heavy duty enough that it can also power a second Navien unit down the line as well.

    Amazon.com: CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD PFC Sinewave UPS 1500VA 900W PFC Compatible Mini-Tower: Computers & Accessories

    Amazon.com: APC Back-UPS Pro 1500VA UPS External Battery Backup for Model BR1500G (BR24BPG): Computers & Accessories

    Amazon.com: CyberPower BRG1500AVRLCD UPS 1500VA/900W 12 Outlets AVR LCD USB Ports Mini Tower: Computers & Accessories

    Amazon.com: Tripp Lite 900VA UPS Battery Backup, 480W Eco Green, USB, RJ11, Muted Alarm, 12 Outlets (ECO900UPSM): Computers & Accessories

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 03-14-17 at 05:12 PM.

  2. #27
    Lifer Kurlon's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    How long do you want it to run for? None of those will do an hour at 2A draw.

    Edit: To clarify, a 2A (240W) draw, for 2 hours is going to get you in the $1k range for UPS + extender batt pack.

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    Last edited by Kurlon; 03-14-17 at 05:20 PM.
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  3. #28
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurlon View Post
    How long do you want it to run for? None of those will do an hour at 2A draw.

    Edit: To clarify, a 2A (240W) draw, for 2 hours is going to get you in the $1k range for UPS + extender batt pack.
    Oh man. I think having the ability to run the boiler for a full day would be a nice luxury, and give the town/national grid enough time to fix outages that may occur.

    If the UPC isn't going to be beefy enough, would setting up a deep cell battery, an inverter to convert it to 120V output, and then installing a battery charger to keep the battery topped up be an option? If I am using this calculator correctly, it says that for a 2 amp draw for 24 hours, I would need a 94 AH battery. That doesn't sound too bad?

    BatteryStuff Tools | Sizing a 12 Volt Battery to a Load Calculator

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 03-14-17 at 05:40 PM.

  4. #29
    Lifer Kurlon's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    You missed a step in the calculation, 2A @ 120v = 22A at 12v. (Actually more because inverters aren't 100% efficient) You're looking at 1000AH of batt for 24 hours.

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  5. #30

    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Some mid-sized UPS units could give you an hour of run time. The Minuteman EP1500LCD is one example, 62.6 minutes at 200W. Do be aware that UPS devices like this one require regular replacement of the lead acid battery packs inside.

    Minuteman UPS - Entrepid Series

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  6. #31
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    a backup generator would be more cost effective than an bank of batteries and an inverter, and more useful, and it will run as long as you have fuel for it, you could even get one that runs on NG

    I have one similar to this http://www.northerntool.com/shop/too...0713_200370713, with a switch similar to this

    Eaton 100 Amp 120/240-Volt 24,000-Watt Non-Fused General-Duty Double-Throw Safety Switch-DT223URH-N - The Home Depot

    I transfer my whole main panel and it's business as usual in my home

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    Last edited by RandyO; 03-14-17 at 09:10 PM.
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  7. #32
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    OK, thanks for essplainin' the challenge. Screw it. I will just plan on running my 2000W Honda generator/inverter in the odd event of extended power failure. I have to work out a way to vent the exhaust from the basement, but that should be simple to do.

    Thanks.

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  8. #33
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    I work for a company that produces battery back up equipment. Generators are absolutely the right choice for what you're trying to do. Batteries are the right choice for when you cannot tolerate any downtime at all. And even then they are generally used for the short term. They are usually used to bridge the time between when the utility feed fails and the genny comes online. They are not cost effective to run for long periods of time like that.

    Do not run your generator in your basement. It will kill you.

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  9. #34
    Your Father csmutty's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Yeah. Run it outside and run the cord inside.

    And make sure you are not back feeding through the panel to the lines.

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  10. #35
    Soul Rider Paul_E_D's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    I don't believe this is legal in MA. Especially not for a landlord. You would need a massively expensive system designed by engineer and installed by electrician. Some one will correct me in a nanosecond if I'm wrong. LOL

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  11. #36
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    OK guys, here's an update to the OP.

    Here are the things I have done to address the high heat bills ($350 for part of Dec and $595 in January):
    • Replaced old boiler with a high efficiency (95%) unit (Navien NCB 240-E)
    • Install auto door-closers for main door as well as basement door. The foyer is heated, so tenants leaving main door open was bleeding heat.
    • Installed felt weather striping around the exterior doors to minimize drafts
    • Replaced the old mercury thermostats with newer digital ones. Not the 'smart' ones but just straight up digital ones.


    After doing these, February's gas bill came back as $591. i.e., no change since January. However, I did have tenants (airbnb knuckle heads) leave windows open upstairs, as well as simultaneously crank up heat to 80 degrees in one of the units. So I wrote off February data.

    I then installed before the March cycle:
    • A "landlordstat" in the bigger unit. This is a thermostat that is programmed on the board to only go up to a max of 71 degrees, and also reset to 68 degrees automatically every 3 hours (MA legal requirement for heat is 68 degrees).
    • The downstairs unit still has a regular thermostat that gives the tenant full control, I did not change that.
    • The bigger unit also sat vacant with heat turned down to 64 for 3 weeks in February.


    After doing this, March's gas bill came back as $425. OK, so a slight improvement there but I have to account for the vacancy. I imagine if I installed a "landlordstat" in the other unit as well, I could probably get the heat bill down to about $425-450 a month for both units combined when fully occupied.

    My take away from this is that insulation and tenant behavior are the biggest contributing factors. Higher efficiency boilers and thermostats do help, but not that much. So...I am going to ride out this winter and this lease term for both tenants (through 8/31) and then for next lease year (starting 9/1),

    • Install a second high efficiency boiler and split the gas meters and turn it over to the units. I want to get out of the behavior policing business as soon as I can. The Navien 240 unit is a champ so far, so I plan on just getting a second identical unit.
    • Spend a bit of money insulating the two units. I had Mass Save come and do their audit - they changed out light bulbs, put in higher efficiency shower heads and then gave me a quote for $8-9k for insulation. They said the house has no insulation at the moment, which doesn't surprise me. I just had the electric split and a second meter installed by national grid, so I should be eligible for 2x their rebates (rebates are tied to a national grid electric account). I may work out the math later this summer to maximize the discounts and do a bit of insulation, even if I don't do everything they suggest.




    Thanks for your thoughts,

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 03-20-17 at 01:52 PM.

  12. #37

    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Here is an interesting take. thermostat - can it be found? — Heating Help: The Wall

    "I had the same problem with a couple of buildings that I own. Fixed it by installing Johnson Controls' A419 remote sensing thermostats. The sensing bulb is in each apartment with the control in the boiler room. I left the zone thermostats in the apartments to allow the tenant to adjust the heat but I set the A419 to lift power from the circulator at a preset temp. It works like a charm, it gives the tenant some control over their enviroment but allows me to set the max temp at a resonable level. To combat the open window situation I lower the max temp in that apartment to the state dictated level of "xx"deg for two weeks whenever I find a window open. It hasen't happened twice.

    In one building I figure the payback time was about a month, the oil consumption was that much lower."

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  13. #38
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by xxaarraa View Post
    OK guys, here's an update to the OP.

    Here are the things I have done to address the high heat bills ($350 for part of Dec and $595 in January):
    • Replaced old boiler with a high efficiency (95%) unit (Navien NCB 240-E)
    • Install auto door-closers for main door as well as basement door. The foyer is heated, so tenants leaving main door open was bleeding heat.
    • Installed felt weather striping around the exterior doors to minimize drafts
    • Replaced the old mercury thermostats with newer digital ones. Not the 'smart' ones but just straight up digital ones.


    After doing these, February's gas bill came back as $591. i.e., no change since January. However, I did have tenants (airbnb knuckle heads) leave windows open upstairs, as well as simultaneously crank up heat to 80 degrees in one of the units. So I wrote off February data.

    I then installed before the March cycle:
    • A "landlordstat" in the bigger unit. This is a thermostat that is programmed on the board to only go up to a max of 71 degrees, and also reset to 68 degrees automatically every 3 hours (MA legal requirement for heat is 68 degrees).
    • The downstairs unit still has a regular thermostat that gives the tenant full control, I did not change that.
    • The bigger unit also sat vacant with heat turned down to 64 for 3 weeks in February.


    After doing this, March's gas bill came back as $425. OK, so a slight improvement there but I have to account for the vacancy. I imagine if I installed a "landlordstat" in the other unit as well, I could probably get the heat bill down to about $425-450 a month for both units combined when fully occupied.

    My take away from this is that insulation and tenant behavior are the biggest contributing factors. Higher efficiency boilers and thermostats do help, but not that much. So...I am going to ride out this winter and this lease term for both tenants (through 8/31) and then for next lease year (starting 9/1),

    • Install a second high efficiency boiler and split the gas meters and turn it over to the units. I want to get out of the behavior policing business as soon as I can. The Navien 240 unit is a champ so far, so I plan on just getting a second identical unit.
    • Spend a bit of money insulating the two units. I had Mass Save come and do their audit - they changed out light bulbs, put in higher efficiency shower heads and then gave me a quote for $8-9k for insulation. They said the house has no insulation at the moment, which doesn't surprise me. I just had the electric split and a second meter installed by national grid, so I should be eligible for 2x their rebates (rebates are tied to a national grid electric account). I may work out the math later this summer to maximize the discounts and do a bit of insulation, even if I don't do everything they suggest.


    Thanks for your thoughts,
    OK I went ahead and got a second boiler & meter installed and split the heat between the two units. Went with an identical Navien 240 high efficiency unit. National grid upgraded my main gas line to 600,000 BTU, with two heavy duty meters taking up to 300,000 BTU each.




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  14. #39
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    You'd be hard pressed to make a better investment than new boilers.
    Good looking install too.

    ps don't forget product registration.

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  15. #40
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    OK I have an update on the Navien boilers. Turns out they are quite sophisticated and need to be dialed in, particularly if the outdoor temp sensors are in operation.

    The newer second Navien we installed 6 months ago wasn't heating up its unit enough. Hot water was always fine, but it wouldn't heat the unit more than 60 degrees or so even if the thermostat was set to much higher. The plumber started tweaking the "heating curve" and eventually landed on settings the tenants now like -

    * Increased the temperature of the water that leaves the boiler and enters the baseboards in the unit
    * Slowed down the pump to ensure the water stays in the unit's baseboards longer
    * This resulted in the return water temp being a lot lower than the outgoing water temp, indicating heat was staying in the unit instead of flowing back to the boiler.
    * He also tweaked the outdoor temperature sensor delta, which I believe was not letting the boiler burn too hot.

    I believe Navien already provides for several preset heating curves, but my plumber did a custom setup.

    I am also realizing that a super high efficiency boiler can only deliver the maximum savings if the house is fully insulated. I'm adding insulation to the list of future home improvements for that property.

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 02-15-18 at 04:08 PM.

  16. #41
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    The boiler replacement was a good step. Insulation and draft mitigation can make a big difference. Some things you can do now for little money is to insulate the pipes. An unheated basement is usually in the mid to low 50's degrees. You wouldn't think just insulating pipes would make a difference but it does.

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  17. #42
    Lifer Stromper's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    600 for December does NOT sound expensive for 10 units

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  18. #43
    Lifer TIMMYDUCK's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by Stromper View Post
    600 for December does NOT sound expensive for 10 units
    2 Units .

    10 people total.


    2 words reading comprehension

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    TIMMYDUCK

  19. #44
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by TIMMYDUCK View Post
    2 Units .

    10 people total.


    2 words reading comprehension
    haha. It's 2 units and only 6 people now. The unit with the $600 gas bill has 4 people living in it and the other unit with the $400 gas bill has 2 people.

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  20. #45
    Lifer Stromper's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    OOps

    Is there gas clothes dryers?, top loading washer?

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  21. #46
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Yes, gas dryer and top loading washer. The washer is electric though, so that shouldn't make a difference to gas bill.

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  22. #47
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Washers use domestic hot water. Theoretically front loads are more efficient in this respect.
    IMO this is going to amount to a drop in the bucket (see what I did there!) compared to your other usages.

    Source : Spent a bunch of money on a high efficiency front-load washer. Saw no real measurable reduction in oil usage.

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  23. #48
    xxaarraa
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    Washers use domestic hot water. Theoretically front loads are more efficient in this respect.
    IMO this is going to amount to a drop in the bucket (see what I did there!) compared to your other usages.

    Source : Spent a bunch of money on a high efficiency front-load washer. Saw no real measurable reduction in oil usage.
    Lol. Agreed. I researched washers when I replaced the washer and dryer 6 months ago and the general consensus was that front loaders were more efficienct, but not materially. So I pulled the trigger on a cheaper "high efficiency" top loader and a high end gas dryer.

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    Last edited by xxaarraa; 02-21-18 at 08:31 AM.

  24. #49
    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Just run the washers in tap cold mode. HE washers do just fine with cold water.

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  25. #50
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Something strange going on with my home boiler....

    Quote Originally Posted by TheIglu View Post
    Just run the washers in tap cold mode. HE washers do just fine with cold water.
    you just don't get dirty enuf if you think cold water works as well as hot water with an HE washer

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