The plumbing project has had its ups and downs. With the help of our awesome contractor/plumber/handyman Andy Davis, we’ve gotten the core plumbing runs connected. We now have modern (and more importantly, not-worth-stealing) PEX pipe runs from the basement to the first floor bathroom and kitchen. We cut off some unnecessary galvanized pipes in the basement, capped off what we don’t need for now, and generally got a grip on the cold system to the point where if we need to run some water during construction, we can do that (although the drain isn’t fixed yet: Waiting on power for that).
We had another contractor come out today: Kim Soley from Soley Heating & Cooling. He came to us highly recommended as an expert in these types of older boiler systems. He opened up the boiler, shined his light in the bottom, then without saying a word, looked up at me. It didn’t take an expert to see that the burners were corroded and broken.
Without any other diagnoses, we’re already looking at $800-$1000 just to repair the burners in the boiler—and that’s if the rest of the system is in perfect working order (hint: it’s not). As we mentioned earlier, the copper scrappers got some of the radiator hookups while the house was vacant, and the kitchen radiator needs to be replaced entirely. A radiator on the second floor may need repairs as well. Pending a pressure test (compressed air is applied to the entire system to check for leaks), we really don’t know the extent of the damage; judging by how corroded the burners were and the general condition of the boiler itself, it’s hard to be optimistic.
The water heater, at least, was most likely salvageable for the time being. Andy got a new pressure relief valve put in (the old one got stolen), and filled the tank with cold water. We haven’t fired it up yet, but it’s from 1998 and looks to be in relatively good shape, so it probably works.
One of our options is to replace the boiler and the water heater entirely with an ultra-efficient condensing boiler. This is an extremely modern (and extremely efficient) system that is wall-mounted, takes up much less space than the massive boiler, and negates the need for a separate water heater. There are tax credits and rebates available from both the Federal government as well as the utility company; however, we’re looking at a tremendous initial cost (nearly ten thousand dollars). Eventually, a system like this will pay for itself in cost savings… but you know the drill. It takes money to save money.
It comes down to this: Either we nickel-and-dime the heating system, which may eventually culminate in needing to replace the boiler anyway, after spending thousands on it, or we figure out a way to come up with the money to just get an entirely modern system and be done with it.
Hey, if anybody knows a progressive ultra-efficient boiler company that wants a social media success story (imagine the headlines: “modernizing a 113-year-old Victorian home with our ultra-efficient boiler”!), point them this way. We’ll happily take handouts at this point.