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    The elegance of simplicity has it been lost? (36 Posts)

  • Gordy Gordy @ 11:33 AM
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    The elegance of simplicity has it been lost?

    Strictly speaking residential hot water heating. ICE struck a chord in another thread on sticking vents that I have felt for some time now. So as not to hijack the thread thought I would start a new one.

    Do,systems get designed, and hence more complicated out of necessity, or because the latest, and greatest technology is out, and it is felt needs to be used?

    Do designers/ zone because they can, or because it needs to be done?

    How many single circulator based systems are out there performing flawlessly for decades whether it be radiant, or radiator emitters. Would adding smart circus really add any substantial benefit?

    In light of the many threads from hurricane sandy victims who could not get their heat up, and running off generator power supply whether it be FA, Or HW based says something about a pilot light based boiler, and the possibility of gravity flow in an emergency situation.



    What it boils down to in my eyes is when a prospective buyer of a home that has a hot water based heating system may be turned off by its seemingly complicated mechanical room verses a hot air system where they see a box, and the most complex thing is the Aprilaire or a hepa filter.

    Have more to say, but just thought as a discussion in wonder how everyone feels.
  • hot rod hot rod @ 11:41 AM
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    we live in microprocessor times

    that same complexity is in our trucks, furnaces, heat pumps, you name it.

    My toaster failed last week, I disassembled it to see if it could be repaired. i was surprised to see it was all printed circuit boards under the covers, save for the lever mechanism itself!

    Efficiency, fuel savings and marketing are all part of the mix.

    Surveys at recent national homebuilders show indicate buyers want efficient appliances and HVAC systems above upgrade cabinets and counter tops or hardwood floors and other typical up grades.

    How many car ads now tout 35 MPG or more.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 12:01 PM
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    Hot Rod

    Yes I know your right. But I think that it needs to be invisible, or average HO can be turned off be a visually complex system. People seem to want less, and less of a hassle with home ownership also. Anything that seems high tech is probably high maintience in some people's eyes.

    As far as autos we had all that decades ago as far as mpg. The only difference I believe materials have allowed the vehicles to be larger now than decades ago, and still get the same fuel economy through weight reductions. Think chevete, horizon, omni, celica, renaults etc they all were high mpg cars, but much more simple motor designs.

    It is true these are the times we live in. Will there come a day where lack of electricity throw us right into the Stone Age. Think about information storage alone will the written word disappear eventually at the risk of all,stored data to be lost, and present history gone forever.

    Will we become so tech dependent that future generations will not be able to function the way we use to before this age we are becoming a part of?
  • icesailor icesailor @ 12:06 PM
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    Lost simplicity

    ,,,,"Surveys at recent national home-builders show indicate buyers want efficient appliances and HVAC systems above upgrade cabinets and counter tops or hardwood floors and other typical up grades.

    How many car ads now tout 35 MPG or more. ",,,,,
    But those sales people and reps at home shows all think that everyone is after the latest high tech gadgets.
    They pick up a lot of literature, go home and look at it, then file it in the round file.
    I see people come here with oil boilers that will run at over 86% with a prorper cleaning, tune and set up, and throw them out for a standing pilot, open flame gas burner that runs at 78% at best. Because it is cheaper.
    SOme of the stupid problems I have seen be wrung out are so basic, but it turns into a high tech detective sleuth exercise. Bigger pumps, move circulators. repipe this and that. When the problem was a piece of garden hose connected on one side of a loop.
    I posted photos of a job I looked at because no one could figure out what was wrong except to put in a new boiler. The system was complicated beyond all reason. It either required a gut re-hab and start over, or convert to Scorhed Air.
    I like to feel a small sense of accomplishment in what I do.
  • Paul48 Paul48 @ 12:11 PM
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    Printed Circuit Boards

    Those printed circuit boards can be made to last a lifetime,or two. They can also be made to last a month longer than the warranty, by replacing cool running components with under-sized hotter components.
    We sit in front of a machine, a computer, that will allow itself to be so corrupted, it will cease to function. How intelligent is that? From a manufacturers standpoint.....very.
    If you find a good mechanic to work on that 35mpg car, you better treat him good.Even in the dealerships, they are few and far between.
  • SWEI SWEI @ 11:53 AM
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    microprocessors and PLCs

    are now cheap as chips.   A number of real improvements to safety, comfort, and efficiency have resulted from this trend, along with some new challenges around previously unimportant issues like power quality, grounding, and PCB waterproofing.

    Mechanical stuff, especially if it has brass and copper in it, is getting more expensive.  Complex mechanical linkages are fading from our world.

    Smart circs are a complete no-brainer in my book, at least on the system side.  They solve a number of longstanding fixed-speed circulator issues at a minimal cost differential.
  • icesailor icesailor @ 12:24 PM
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    Simplicity?

    Maybe the parts prices go down, but the labor costs go through the roof when you can't get the right part the first time.
    I have a plumbing customer that I do the plumbing and heating. I don't do any gas service for her. She had a W-M GO Gold boiler, series 2  with the thermostat that you can't get parts for, Her gas guy takes care of the gas. She started calling me all the time when she had no hot water. After the gas guy ( a really qualified tech) had replaced everything on the boiler, it stopped in my presence. I bought an upgraded "brain" and it hasn't stopped once as far as I know.
    Parts availability is a killer. Put a high tech boiler in that needs a part and you have to wait a week to get the part, what does the customer say?
    The average customer we see, if given the choice of buying a higher priced high tech system or a lower priced system, they will go with the lower priced system every time.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 12:14 PM
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    Gone with the wind...

    simplicity, that is.  But it seems to me that that is a double-edged thing.  There are ever fewer people around who can actually repair something mechanical or a simple electrical or plumbing thing, even though it is quite simple and elegant.  And at the same time, most people as hot rod notes want visual simplicity and high efficiency -- and the abiilty to do fairly complicated things without user input (consider the popularity of the Nest thermostat, for instance).  Which leads to a kind of schizophrenia -- many of our modern gadgets are, on the outside, really simple to operate and use and to get very good results out of (modern cars are a good example).  While on the inside they can be really appallingly complex.  And, in most cases, not cost-effective to repair; if a component fails, pull the board and replace it.

    Is it good or bad?  Dunno; it is.  Leaves dinosaurs like me in the dust -- but I expect that my grandchildren will think nothing of it.

    It does leave us, however, more and more dependent on others -- and I'm not convinced that that is a good thing.  For example: if my 1970 Chevy pickup dies on the road (unless I've run it out of gas!) the chances are I can fix it and get it running on the spot with the small took kit I carry.  If my 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid does the same thing, it's call AAA and get it towed to the nearest Honda dealer.
    Jamie

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Gordy Gordy @ 12:51 PM
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    Dependency on others

    Is the keyword Jamie. A handicap oh so true.b
  • knotgrumpy knotgrumpy @ 2:57 PM
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    Good thread, Gordy

    I think the age of specialization is upon us.  I can fix or make a lot of things mechanical.  I have always been able to.  But throw a proprietary circuit or component in the mix and I am lost.

    Does that mean all of the technological advances are wrong? No, but it means that the many are becoming more dependent on the few to make our world work.  These specialized technicians will become the future shamans. 
  • jumper jumper @ 3:27 PM
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    over the long term

    Over the long term I'm not sure complicated saves energy. My friend made and installed HW & steam terminals with air-side dampers for adjustment. Maybe not so efficient to begin with but will still do the job after thirty years. More sophisticated systems end up a hodgepodge of zone control valves just waiting to make trouble.

    In other cases simple elegance may not be so simple. A vacuum expansion tank is simple for somebody who understands it. It's probably the most effective method of air control in hydronics . But if nobody knows how to use it?
  • BobC BobC @ 7:52 AM
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    Simple is usually more reliable

    Some of my neighbors have 30 year old power pile boilers in their basements that just seem to work forever. They are not as efficient as the new modcon systems that some people have been installing while renovating these 90 year old houses but at the end of the road I wonder what the total cost of each system will be. How much is the ability to have heat without power worth?

    Years ago I worked for a small company where we were designing a power supply that had some tough requirements to meet. one of these was the ability to deliver twice the rated power for a couple on minutes with no way to use the right devices because of cost constraints. The initial design used 6 amplifiers that allowed a severe overload for a finite amount of time, that whole loop was just a nightmare to stabilize. One night in an act of desperation I replaced those 25 parts with 4 parts that performed the task beautifully. I did it by looking at the problem from a very basic level and that allowed me to simplify it greatly.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 84,200 BTU, Single pipe steam

    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in

    3PSI gauge
  • TonyS TonyS @ 8:31 AM
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    The same thing happened

    When they put electronic fuel injection on bikes. The crying and screaming( mostly from those who couldn't set up a laptop to tune their bikes) about how they would only ever buy a carbureted bike. Well it only took a decade and almost all bikes are fuel injected, even the new dirt bikes. The mechanics that could adapt still work and the ones that couldn't either retired or only work on"Classic Bikes"(LOL).
  • heatpro02920 heatpro02920 @ 9:02 AM
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    I don't mind it..

    Great post Gordy..

    I remember years ago, sitting in my truck after responding to a 2am service call {back then when I only had 2 trucks and would work at 2am} thinking when are they going to replace all these damn RA117's... I also remember in the 80's realizing that the technology we were using to heat or homes was almost identical to that from decades earlier.... And I dont know about others on here, but in the late 90's and early 2000's when in my opinion high efficiency equipment really started picking up {just before fuel prices went crazy}, I used to get annoyed with customers because I would walk in their homes and see a $3000 TV hanging on the wall but they wanted me to put a band-aid on the heating system..
    I'll never forget walking into one of my customers houses that was unboxing this HUGE Plasma TV, and I was there to remove their leaking tankless coil from their 25 year old burnham and see if I could braze it back to life...

    But now with technology and fuel prices {plus some pretty cold winters} things have changed, customers and installers are taking an interest in their heating systems, wanting to see the fancy "does it fly?" heating and cooling systems....

    So I embrace the complicated, Today we are delivering the materials for a job we are doing tomorrow, a 5 year old single family home, with 3 finished levels around 3000 sq feet, built with baseboard and 3 separate a/c units. The home owner remodeled the inside and removed the baseboard. I am installing 3 hydro/air units with 2 triangle tube solo 60's, 3 heat pump outside units, and 1 Rinnai RU98 for the house and 1 RU98 just for the master bath and laundry, the customer also went for the prestige thermostats and zoning the second floor {third level} unit for the master bedroom... We already changed some duct work, built and painted our mechanical boards, ran all the water lines and gas lines as well as the electric and zoning boards, so it should only be a couple days to finish...

    This shows that people are now taking an interest in their mechanical systems and it is about time. Don't get me wrong I had customer a while back that took price in their systems too, I have my share of the old timers that polish the copper and touch up the black on their steel pipes, I have one customer with an old arco that tiled around it and always keeps a new coat of white paint on his asbestos insulation... It has to be the only arco with a mectron 5m burner that looks brand new...

    And I attribute the new found interest into high efficiency energy saving complex HVAC systems to the new "coolness" of mod cons and on demand tanklesses, with wall hung digital boxes and circulators with digital displays and thermostats that are hooked to the internet and allow you to turn the a/c on from anywhere in the world. Of course heating oil breaking $4 a gallon and natural gas at all time lows {comparable all time lows anyway}, plus now NG is more available than years ago when it was only in the highly populated areas and busy cities... {although we all know NG prices are going to skyrocket here shortly}...

    Now what you are talking about and one of the downfalls of this "new" technology is complexity {they go hand in hand normally}. This of course limits who can work on them to trained personnel and of course limits them to working only when electricity is available {which to be honest is for most system available for the last few decades}. I wouldn't go out of my way {and it probably wouldn't pass codes} to install a gravity pile system... Kind of like wanting to install a crank on the front of your car vs an electric starter with a battery...

    I do get customer swho ask, "what happens when the lights go out" and I reply "you light some candles and throw on some blankets... Or spend $400 on a gas genny and have an electrician hook it to your heating system and refrigerator {a very good idea seeing how it seems we are with out electricity for weeks at a time now after a storm}..

    So in closing, I take the good with the bad, and in this case they out weigh the bad, although I can appreciate the old systems, Like Oscar Wilde says "Simplicity is beauty and beauty is simplicity, nothing more, nothing less"...
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 9:16 AM.
  • another view....

    This is a question I have had for a long time, and have been driving towards a particular answer. 
    I believe that a lot of the high tech that gets employed in most industries is used to make inherently poor designs work.  I think we started getting very lazy with our engineering after WW II, it seems and that trend continues today.  It's one of the reasons why I have moved from servicing and installing mostly  hot water heat to nearly all steam.  I've installed and designed plenty of high tech systems and installed high tech boilers.   And now, 7 to 10 years down the road, I am seeing the issues of component failures where parts are hard to find and expensive heat exchanger replacements.  And, I suspect, many of these issues are due to poor quality control, but others are due to not anticipating conditions in the real world ( IE unclean power, generator use during power failures, etc.) or ignoring the impact of these issues.
    Let's take a common case in point:  Outdoor reset on hot water systems, especially single zone.   The old high mass radiators inherently provided outdoor reset while just using a simple on/off boiler.  Now, to achieve a similar comfort level with a newer low mass system, we need outdoor reset, modulating burners, and constant circulation.   Yes, a mod con will save gas, but now we draw all sorts of electricity that runs up the electric bill.  And, of course, there is a whole lot more to go wrong, which it usually does, once again increasing costs.   My previous home, when I purchased it, had a great big atmospheric boiler with a single pump and thermostat. Our typical winter electric bills where about $35.  When we sold it, it had a condensing boiler with outdoor reset and, fortunately, a single circulator and, with no one living there, the winter electric bill was $35.  Yes, our gas usage was lower, but electric went up and the boiler required much more ongoing maintenance than the old.  Did we come out ahead?  I did because I could do the maintenance, but if I was paying for it, probably not.
    The problem I see here is that a very broad view is not being taken when applying new technologies.  People are not considering the impact of other aspects of the system they are addressing. I believe that in the pre WWII steam heating systems, a much broader view and much greater creativity and understanding was being applied.  I have a huge 8,000 sq ft 1930's home that the bills top out at only $600.00, with virtually no electrical use, almost no insulation and huge leaky windows.  All of our technology today would be hard pressed to match this performance. 
    Another big example I see is forced air heating.  In order to address the issues of wide temperature swings, high air leakage from the structure due to the operation of the furnace fan, the industry has had to resort to modulating input and variable speed fans.  Technology is used to cover inherent design flaws of the system.
    And the referral to the auto industry is also interesting.  My 2001 Ford Van gets the same mileage as the larger 1974 Dodge I learned to drive in.  An early 80's Honda Civic got 45mpg, while the latest model only gets 35.  Something is very wrong here.
    I am certainly not against new technology, but it should only be applied to a good fundamental design  and it can be used to enhance it.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)
    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert


    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 10:14 AM.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 1:29 PM
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    Bad designs masked by technology

    "I believe that a lot of the high tech that gets employed in most industries is used to make inherently poor designs work. "

    Oh so true. Look at the B2 bomber. The flying wing was scrapped in the early 50' s because it was such an unstable design. Fast forward.. technology today allowed this poor design to fly. At the gain of what? Stealth, or is it really the fact we can make it fly now because computer technology takes over for the pilots lack of precision reflexes to compensate constantly for the aerodynamic in efficiencies of the plane to keep it from falling out of the sky. Not only is there an avionics system implemented for this, but several backup systems because if it shuts down the plane will fall out of the sky. Which the ironie is that the the old flying wing was actually more aerodynamically stable then the new design. Pilots could fly the old one with out computer avionics systems it was just not any fun.


    A bit of a tangent there, but it actually is a good analogy of what happens today. Do systems get designed where simplicity is the driving force, or do they get half assed commitment to,a good basic design because there are so many tools in the box that can make it work. Tools one may not need to spend dollars on, maintain,replace otherwise.


    Please don't get me wrong here I'm all for efficiency, and technology in the right amounts. I like being the devils advocate at times. I'm in awe, and impressed to no end at the work i see posted here. There are times though when some of it gets very complex to the point where average joe the homeowner may find it to intimidating to own. I mean really how many of you design a system for a customer which fully understands what they will end up with in thier mechanical room. The outcome of your work/design when it is all done could be a shocker, or a crowd pleaser depending on the customer.
  • JohnHenry JohnHenry @ 3:28 PM
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    I have to

    respectfully disagree that your analogy is appropriate.

    The primary goal of a bomber is to be able to get to a target and avoid being shot down before it can drop it's payload.

    The flying wing is a more efficient layout than a convention design, therefore giving the bomber more range to get to it's target. This is made possible by computer control of the wing control surfaces.

    The sharp, irregular shapes give it it's stealthiness, therefore making the bomber less susceptible to being shot down before reaching it's target. This is also made possible by computer control of the wing control surfaces.

    The point I'm making here is there was a design goal that could only be met with complex computer control. The human body just plain can't react quickly enough to control such an aerodynamically unstable design.

    Your argument is akin to saying that we shouldn't use levers to lift objects that are heavier than a man can lift.

    While many homeowners may be intimidated by complex systems, the same can be said with other technology that get's used every day such as tablet computers. You may be fine with a tablet computer but others may not.

    There was also a time when most white males were absolutely terrified of blacks and women voting...
    The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 5:02 PM.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 9:40 PM
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    Agree to disagree JohnHenry

    Some techs, and specs for ya

    B-52 introduced in 1955 payload - 700000 lbs speed 650 mph
    B-1b introduced in 1986 payload 50000 lbs speed Mach 1.2
    B-2 introduced in 1996 payload 45000 lbs speed 630 mph

    The B-2 costs 3 times more in annual maintenance then the B-1b, and 4 times more than a B-52.

    It costs 135000 dollars an hour to fly a B-2 which is twice that per hour of operation of a B-52, or a B-1b.

    Which ones do you think have been more widely used in campaigns with great success. Not the B-2

    My point was with out getting to technical about planes is the B-52 was and is a well designed machine that is cheap to operate, and maintain compared to the other 2 bombers, and does the same task as the other 2 well. For many a decades past, and future. Yes it's had tech upgrades to the present H model, but its where a good design is enhanced by technology not allowed to exist. And the b-52 does not need to be stored in a air conditioned hanger to preserve its stealthy paint surfaces as does the B-2. This was one of Jack Northrops wet dreams turned into reality by some one with enough pull to get some defense dollars to make it a reality. Thank god we only bought 20.


    Technology for me is getting kind of bland since the on set of the computer age.

    I look back to the great strides made that really changed the way we lived, and traveled.

    I can remember my moms uncle who lived to be 102 years old everything he witnessed electricity, telephone, automobile, planes, radio, television, man on the moon, and made it long enough to see the computer age. Those were some head spinning times. Movers, and shakers shaped the world we live in today.

    Now it seems everything is about making life easier, convenience, and trying to repair what has been eaten by the locusts, and who's refuge is polluting the earth. I wonder if those head spinning innovations are in our future if we live that long.
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 9:42 PM.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 12:50 PM
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    And a very valid

    point of view it is, too.  One sees aspects of the business of substituting very high tech and often finicky and sometimes failure prone control systems and equipment for much simpler stuff.  The thing about is that when the magic is working, it can often result in marginally superior performance (this applies with equal vigour to an hydronic heating system as it does to a car or an airplane or a structure -- or a computerised toaster, for that matte).  Sometimes it is used to cover up for sloppy engineering, but perhaps as often it is used to push the margin.  Trouble is, when the magic stops, as it inevitably will, the new technology often just quits rather than failing in some breakdown limp home type mode -- and often costs so much to repair that it is cheaper to replace.

    It is perhaps clearest in the aircraft industry; modern fly by wire aircraft have performance and payload capabilities which were unheard of even 20 years ago -- but the downside is that when the magic quits, and it does, you can wind up having a very bad day indeed.

    Not sure where all this is going in the future...
    Jamie

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • JohnHenry JohnHenry @ 4:17 PM
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    Yet another view...

    How about the fact that mod/cons can make an 80+ year old high mass system work like the dead men designed it to work while polluting 99.9% less than when originally used?

    Those systems were designed to have a coal fire lit at the beginning of the heating season and kept burning until the end of the heating season. Modulation was done by the size of the fire. Fine tuning the temperature was accomplished with windows. The flue gas contained all sorts of nasty components like SO2, CO, UHCs, particulates, NOx, LOTS of CO2, etc.

    Along came oil with a fixed nozzle and burn rate causing what I consider to be one of the most annoying "system working fine" issues: radiator and piping expansion noises. I believe that's called "setting it up bang-bang"? However, along with the "Bang-Bang" we got stop stoking coal fires, much less SO2, UHCs, particulates, CO, and about 20% less CO2. NOx emissions are about the same with oil as coal.

    Now natural gas is the primary heating fuel and with that we get further pollution reductions: 30% in CO2, 80% NOx, and essentially a 100% reduction in SO2 and particulates.

    With all the "new fangled" technology, we now have components available at an unbelievably low cost that will replicate the heat flow of those earlier coal boilers.

    I recently replaced an original coal boiler which had been converted to oil to a new mod/con. I now no longer have radiator and piping expansion noises and I saved well over 100% of the cost of the new mod/con in fuel the first heating season. Even if I'd had someone else install it my payback would have been 3-4 years.

    I think it's also wise to remember that every BTU not burned is a BTU not imported. Every molecule of CO2 not emitted is one that doesn't have to be dealt with in the future. Every bit of SO2 and NOx not emitted doesn't end up coming back as acid rain.

    It could very well be that we're just trading dollars, i.e., fuel cost for maintenance, but in my book that's just fine. I'd much rather give one of the pros on this board $1000 than to middle eastern states. Keeping the money here means it multiplies and helps our overall economy.

    Also, there's always fear, doubt and ignorance whenever new technology "invades" an industry.

    I owned an auto repair business when electronic carburetors and electronic fuel injection became common in automobiles. There was a lot of resistance at first from both automobile owners and mechanics. It was perceived as unnecessary by most people but pollution regulators and environmentalists. To the average person their really wasn't any difference except that performance was reduced. Fuel mileage nor efficiency increased. But that wasn't the design goal. Pollution reduction was.

    Now fast forward 35 years. Overall efficiency is much better and automobile pollution is drastically reduced. True there were a lot of teething pains to get here but we got here none the less.

    The argument that automobiles don't really get any better mileage is really a non sequitor. We're comparing apples to oranges. The current Honda Civic is actually much bigger, faster, safer etc. than the 80's Civic. The only thing remotely similar is the name and the fact that it's an automobile. One has to understand that cars have greatly increased in weight relative to the size. 99.99999% don't realize that a 1955 Chevy 2-dr weighed in at 3055 lbs while a 2012 Toyota Prius weighs in at 3042 lbs. The Prius gets 45 MPG in town while the Chevy could get maybe 15 MPG in town and the Prius is much, much safer. I'd say that's an enormous improvement. If anyone here thinks it's not, I'd love to hear your argument.

    My point is that technology marches on. While there may be periods of "teething pains", fear and doubt, in the end technology usually proves to be very beneficial. I think one notable exception may be social media... ;)

    I'm guessing this industry is somewhere near the state the auto industry was in 30 years ago. Buckle up ya'll, you're in for a bit of a ride...
    The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 4:21 PM.
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 5:31 PM
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    Well said

    and your points about technology resulting in major improvements is absolutely correct.  I mentioned aircraft -- not only is performance and payload radically greater, but there have been major gains in safety as well -- when the magic works.  The same can be said for cars.  And mod-cons (and, hopefully one of these days, true modulating oil burners for steamers, too!).

    These are all real plusses, and I would not argue against using the technology at all.  But I think my earlier comment also needs to be considered, as part of the equation: the more advanced technology simply cannot be maintained without specialized knowledge and equipment.  I don't think any of us would consider setting up the burner for a mod-con, for instance, without accurate combustion measuring devices (at least I hope we wouldn't...).  With cars, I can do a pretty decent job of tuning my '70 Chevy pickup with a dollar bill and a good ear; I wouldn't dream of doing that to my '94, never mind a brand new truck (and granted, the new ones do pollute a lot less and get better mileage etc. than the '70 does, in exchange).

    It's not that the new stuff is bad; just that it's different -- and for most people, it means that they are more and more dependent on others.  Which may or may not be a good thing...
    Jamie

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
  • Gordy Gordy @ 10:10 PM
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    Here's the thing

    Take a house that's sub 3000 sf. Do you really need to zone it? I mean really? Is it going to save that much if I keep the basement 60 verses the rest of the house, and now creating a heat loss to the floor above? Same applies to adjacent rooms seldom used on main floors.

    If I install a properly sized mid to low 80% boiler or furnace even with a bang bang setup, am I really saving a boatload of money with higher maintenance, and part failure rate by installing a mod/con? Oh yeah now they are really only 90% efficient instead of 95%.

    If my sole initiative is decreasing my carbon foot print then yes it all makes sense. But I really believe there are far less people interested in their carbon foot print over what immediately effects their check book foot print . I would go as far to say more people are interested in recycling materials than about decreasing their carbon footprint from what I see. The price of fuel is surely not a slap in the face still SUVs where ever you look. Not seeing to much bike riding, or walking get my drift.
  • heatpro02920 heatpro02920 @ 10:33 PM
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    you can save..

    I have a 4000+ sq ft home, 3 hydro air units {one on each floor}... With the zoning I can shut down our guest suite, front formal parlor, and dining room that is 6 rooms around 1400sq ft. Then with programmable tstats I can shut off the entire first floor while we sleep and then turn on the bedrooms an hour before we go to bed, ect.... Not heating them spaces really cuts down on the bill... I know this because when I went to Italy for 6 weeks last year my house keeper touched the thermostats and ended up heating the house to 70 for the entire time, that month and a half cost me more than I ever paid for heat before...
  • Gordy Gordy @ 11:01 PM
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    Heatpro

    I can see,this as being a benefit in a larger home, but I'm talking the sub 3000 sf range where usually people are in all parts of the home through out the course of a day, and wish it to be the set temp,where ever they roam. When you get bigger than that yes there are parts of a large home that may not be occupied for days weeks, or months at a time.

    So is it a hard sell,for you to get people into the latest, and greatest comfort system? How do,you present it? I can give you option A,B,C. A is the most efficient, and C is the cheapest.
    This post was edited by an admin on February 25, 2013 11:03 PM.
  • heatpro02920 heatpro02920 @ 8:29 AM
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    3000 sq ft is still a good sized home.

    I understand what you are saying Gordy, and I agree, if you read some of my other posts where people ask "what mod/con should I buy for my 40K BTU heatloss} I always try to convey to them that a mod con does not and can not make sense at them low heat losses. Some say "but the rebates" and even after the rebates you will be lucky to just lose $5000 over the life of the boiler...

    I sell so many Weil McLain CGi boilers in place of mod cons with great results, and I do get them calls from customers that dont follow my advice about shirt cycling, not saving as much as they thought, ect.. and of course I'm not allowed to say "I told you so" but thats how I feel...

    You will save more money going with a small gas boiler than the smallest mod con, of course you figure in the rebates but then figure in the life expectancy and maintenance schedule, with initial costs you lose with mod cons...
  • SWEI SWEI @ 12:22 PM
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    95% ratings

    Are still there for the best designs.  The back of the pack has been downgraded, and it's about time.

    30% annual fuel savings is the norm from what I've seen.  Yes, you can get 2/3rds of that with a properly installed, buffered, and controlled conventional boiler -- but it doesn't save much (if any) of the initial cost.  How often do you actually see this done?  I'm thinking one out of fifty jobs?
    This post was edited by an admin on February 28, 2013 12:25 PM.
  • bill nye bill nye @ 7:05 AM
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    The lowly thermostat

    The T-87 has been around forever, before that T-86, before that... and so on. I wish I was wise enough to buy all the the mercury T-stats before they went illegal. I have customers who still have T-stats from the early 50's in use.

     The replacements have been nothing but trouble and elderly consumers have had nothing but trouble using them.
  • tim smith tim smith @ 9:24 AM
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    Simplicity vx complexity

    Great thread Gordy.  I was just discussing this in a round about way with a customer yesterday.  Total cost of ownership.  We were not discussing boiler systems but on demand vs caveman water heater. The problem i see here is that there are so many parts to on demand water heaters with a caveman water heater having one moving part. If you look at an on demand service history, i feel over 10 years you will probably have 2 - 3 -  $500.00  repair bills over this period, with caveman heater, probably none. I am excluding annual maintenance for now on on demands but that is another factor. If the on demand saves you say 200.00/ yr you are now break even. In 10 yrs the on demand and caveman will be near end of life I expect. So did you save anything for your pocket or the environment. The resources it takes to make the parts that will be replaced, the labor, fuel etc it takes to get to job for repair and do repair? At today's fuel rates does it make sense. I am in a quandry about this. The likely hood of appropriate parts being availably for on demands in 10 yrs also makes we wonder. There are a lot of sensors, flow wheels, motor, gas control, circuit boards to fail on these and I just hope that availability becomes better than they are today. Just rambling but this has concerned me for quite a while.  Re: boilers, I agree that over zoning is used too much. I do feel the condensing boilers have become reliable enough now to make them the most logical choice in new or replacement markets as they are not that much more and are built much better than the ones from 7-10 yrs ago.  
  • Gordy Gordy @ 9:44 AM
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    Good points Tim

    Especially about the added carbon foot print of parts production, and service calls for the unit truck fuel etc.
  • Yep,

    That's exactly what I was talking about....looking at the big picture to see if we really save anything with the super efficient models.
    The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)
    Chicago's Steam Heating Expert


    Noisy Radiators are a Cry for Help
  • GusHerb GusHerb @ 2:18 AM
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    T87

    I started doing just that when I first heard the T87's were gonna be no more. I bought about 5 of them, then another 5, then some here and there. Now I have a stash of about 25 NOS ones, and perhaps another 10 vintage ones and several T86's. I kinda went crazy...

    As for the original question. I think the simplicity has been lost. This is how I ended up with so many collections of vintage items that out do what we have today and yet are so simple, and all electromechanical/mechanical. I tend to prefer keeping things simple but I don't say that out of fear of complex controls/setups/things. I like a good challenge and also tend to mix old and new together.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 9:59 AM
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    Carbon foot print quandary

    I really believe its the government needs to step up to the plate on this. Have inspections on comfort systems as they do across the pond, and tagem out for replacement if they are not up to efficiency standards.

    But they also need to make it doable for most homeowners. Do a 30 % rebate, tax credit, and even low interest loan to make it all happen. Make the utilities kick in to.

    The old rebate system is flawed in my eyes. 30% for solar geo etc.you get it even if those systems were poorly designed or work like intended, and meager caps on proven energy saving improvements such as insulation, windows, energy star appliances, and heating/ cooling plants.

    If I get a 350 dollar tax credit for installing 30k in energy efficient windows, and doors think that is enticing enough to go through with it. but yet if i spend 30k on a solar, or geo system i get 3 k credit. Think what that could do for jobs, and the havoc industry as a whole.

    In the end it's all of our responsibilities, but who will everyone point the finger at for not making us get there. The government.
  • tim smith tim smith @ 10:06 AM
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    Re: europe and high efficiency

    One thing I have heard from the gas techs in England is that people tend to lean to the cheaper equipment. When I was discussing with them about the ACV prestige boiler in europe back 7 yrs ago while researching, they all said they really like the boiler but most people won't spend the sterling on them. They opt for cheaper models. I can see that if you just figure your appliance is good for 10 yrs and cost say +or= XXXX dollars. Then the service issue is not as much the concern. Our problem here is that customers expect stuff to last 20 or way more years. We have not really gotten to the disposable era yet. It's a bit of a dilemma as I see it. The rebates and mandatory inspections might help change the thinking. It just has to make sense for the people who really can't afford to spend the $$ it takes to go high efficiency just for the sake of energy savings.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 11:55 AM
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    In Italy Tim

    Where my Uncle lives he has yearly inspections. He kind of believes its a ratchet. Even though your listed with efficient equipment you still pay a fee every year to get the inspection. Can't remember how many euros it was, but it was enough to upset him the way the inspection system is setup. It would have pluses, and minuses as yearly inspections go if it were only to see if equipment is up to date, or if equipment is functioning properly. He did not really know what all gets checked. It may not be the same all over Italy either.
  • Gordy Gordy @ 6:56 PM
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    Last years gas bill

    Was 945..00

    2000 sf ranch with heated basement that's laundry room, and bar/ family room so about 2800 sf total. 50's construction.

    Gas bill includes conventional water heater, 80% pool heater, gas grill, and 82% WM boiler that's about 100% over size. Radiant heat through out.

    If I save say 40% with a new boiler sized correctly of mod/con flavor use an indirect so I'm producing DHW at higher efficiencies everything else stays the same.

    That's a 378.00 savings per year IF Ng stays same price. So 3780.00 over a 10 yr period. Subtract 200.00 a year for yearly service, and cleaning per mod/con standards, and no parts needing replaced in that 10 year period . Things that conventional equipment does not need I'm saving 1780.00 over 10 years in fuel, or 178.00 a year, or 15.00 a month. The install of equipment, materials is in the neighborhood of 8000.00 indirect , boiler, piping circs, labor. So there is a deficit of 6220.00 that would carry the pay back out past the probable life expectancy of the boiler.

    If I go conventional the boiler replacement turns into a simple swap out with right boiler size ,, and even still staying with an indirect my install costs probably are cut in half with equipment material, and labor.

    So is it worth it ? If I need a new boiler, and HW heater to begin with, and I want to do my part to decrease my carbon foot print to the Eco system, save the ng for my grand kids kids, and save a little money on the yearly fuel bill, and not worry about ROI...then yes.

    If my equipments fine, and has another 10 years then no, if my goal is solely to save money by decreasing fuel consumption.

    The ROI does not matter because I need the equipment anyway no matter which way I go. It's just conventional is the cheapest route, and if I upgrade to efficient equipment status then it's more money out of my pocket to achieve the same goal heat the house, and the DHW.

    So,how do you sell a customer who may think along those lines?
  • Jamie Hall Jamie Hall @ 7:10 PM
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    Which is why, in a nutshell

    One of my farm trucks is a '70,and the other a '94.  They both run fine, so...

    If the customer is really paying attention to things like life cycle costs and the cost of money, etc., it becomes very very hard to sell bling.
    Jamie

    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England.

    Hoffman Equipped System (all original except boiler), Weil-McClain 580, 2.75 gph Carlin, Vapourstat 0.5 -- 6.0 ounces per square inch
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