Boiler manufacturers continue to watch the calendar because 2021 is fast approaching.

In 2016, the Department of Energy finalized new standards for residential boilers, raising the minimum efficiency levels to 86% (up from 84%). The standards will take effect Jan. 15, 2021. The revised national minimum annual fuel utilization efficiency requirements and new maximum standby and off-mode electrical consumption standards in the final rule are:

  • Gas hot water boilers — 84% AFUE, 9 W (standby and off-mode);
  • Gas steam boilers — 82% AFUE, 8 W (standby and off-mode);
  • Oil hot water boilers — 86% AFUE, 11 W (standby and off-mode);
  • Oil steam boilers — 85% AFUE, 11 W (standby and off-mode); and
  • Electric boilers — AFUE N/A, 8 W (standby and off-mode).

Manufacturers also are preparing for a new standard for commercial packaged boilers, but in April a federal judge ruled President Trump’s administration illegally delayed that standard and three others. As of press time, no new information was available on the status of the commercial boiler standard.

Even with the standard status in legal limbo, boiler manufacturers such as Weil-McLain are taking notice and making plans.

“Department of Energy rules continue to drive minimum boiler efficiency requirements with new rounds of (possible) commercial and residential regulations taking effect over the next five years,” Weil-McLain’s Senior Product Manager John Miller says.

Raypak’s Peachie Maher Hytowitz, a commercial product manager, notes these new regulations, if they go into effect, will mandate commercial packaged boilers larger than 300,000 Btu/h meet 84% or higher thermal efficiencies by 2021.

“New DOE federal regulations really are driving the commercial packaged boiler market,” Hytowitz says. “Higher efficiency standards continue propelling manufacturers to focus on improved efficiencies with fan-assisted or condensing boilers.”


On the check list

In response to the changing DOE regulations, Raypak’s Hytowitz adds that the manufacturer and its parent company Rheem are constructing a new Innovation Learning Center training facility in Oxnard, California, to add to its five other facilities across the U.S. and Canada. This will allow industry members to touch, understand and work with Raypak’s products, Hytowitz points out.

Hytowitz notes how important the holistic working relationships are in the industry.

“Through ongoing conversations with specifiers, we know they continue working with trusted partners who provide customized solutions for their projects,” she states.

Hytowitz says building managers continue to demand round-the-clock access to their building’s performance and adds that demand will continue to increase.

“Operators are driving demand for wireless applications on new units so they can access information, statistics and control operation for equipment remotely 24 hours a day,” she says.

Weil-McLain Product Manager Mike Boyd adds: “Providing products that easily integrate with the smart home or commercial building managing system is another trend we’re seeing. Products with imbedded communication technology that provide alerts and analytics for predictive maintenance (are desired).”

Rheem’s Charlotte Haire, a commercial marketing manager, says being able to prevent problems before they occur was one of the top issues for commercial customers during the development of its Triton commercial gas water heater.

“The commercial market will continue to see growing integration of onboard diagnostics and controls,” she says.

Rheem’s Triton commercial water heater has a built-in smart monitoring technology, universal retrofit features and an inclusive leak-detection and -prevention system.

“The ability to distinguish and prevent problems before they occur is a game-changer,” Haire says. “The financial impact of water damage can be devastating to a business. Any downtime, for failure or for maintenance, is a loss for businesses. Having a smart product that identifies service issues or failures before they occur gives building owners and operators greater peace of mind.”

Haire adds that Rheem is an official CEU partner for ASPE and is committed to working closely with national and local engineering communities.

“Our goal is to develop products engineers feel confident in specifying for any application,” she says. “Our team of application engineers are in constant contact with specifying engineers advising on project sizing, product recommendations and commercial project consultation.”

Dale Schmitz, the commercial segment marketing manager with Rinnai, says sustainable and renewable energies soon are going to play a larger role in the market.

“Although these alternative methods have been available for decades, recent changes in proposed legislation, technological advancement and consumer and business incentives make this adoption more feasible than ever,” he says.


Boiling up something good

Navien’s water-tube boilers continue to be a mainstay in its product line, notes Navien Director of Commercial Sales Brian Fenske.

“The industry has taken a liking to fire-tube boiler designs with operational benefits such as lower head loss, larger mass and simpler cleaning techniques,” he states.

Fenske says the company also has designed its own fire-tube boiler and will soon be releasing a Navien stainless steel heat exchanger.

“This boiler design also will lead our way into the commercial boiler segment shortly after with bigger designs and the capability to cascade and common-vent multiple units to achieve high Btu capabilities,” he says.

“A lot of our conversations with engineers often turn to real-time efficiency. It is exciting to show and share the potential that a high-efficiency boiler or tankless system has as a basis of design or replacement. Robust stainless steel design, simple venting and an advanced control system are some of the items of engineers’ interest.”

Raypak’s XVers vertical fire-tube modulating condensing stainless-steel boiler operates at up to 99% at part load and up to 96.2% thermal efficiency at full rate.

“The XVers provides up to 14:1 turndown for optimum load tracking and variable-speed boiler pump control to save on pump energy,” Hytowitz says.

Weil-McLain expanded its boiler lines to include its Unity controls to provide a consistent user interface to ease learning, setup and diagnostics.

“The Unity control can cascade eight boilers together and (the company’s) ZoneStacking option allows up to 24 programmable zones with no external panel needed,” Boyd explains.

Recently, Noritz redesigned its NRCB Combi boiler to feature a new proportioning valve. “It gives us the ability to produce hot water for heating the facility and shower water at the same time,” says Jeff Kornhaas, a regional boiler sales manager with Noritz.


Advancements in water heaters

Rinnai’s Schmitz says its specifying engineer customers want tankless models that save space, offer redundancy and have versatile installation methods. Rinnai’s Sensei tankless water heaters hit the market this spring and have 14 vent configurations, a 65-foot vent run with 2-inch PVC and quick gas conversion.

“It’s designed to self-compensate in areas with low or fluctuating gas pressures to optimize performance,” Schmitz states. “The Sensi line allows for flexible installation in more locations and better operational performance.”

Light commercial water heater manufacturer VESTA and its National Sales Manager Richard Ponce states the company’s Modular Cascade System was enhanced with value-added design criteria because of discussions with specifying engineers.

“We had intensive conversations with specifying and plumbing engineers,” he says.

Weil-McLain’s Boyd also sees the growing need for products ideal for confined spaces, in both new construction and retrofit projects. Its AquaBalance combi system works in cold-weather climates and Weil-McLain’s Aqua Plus indirect-fired water heaters have high-output stainless steel heat exchangers that deliver strong first-hour ratings and recovery.

“Its compact size allows for easy installation in low-ceiling basements, mechanical or storage rooms, and a tank controller ready for quick wiring,” Boyd notes. “These AHRI-certified units are available in five sizes to suit any application.”


Covering the map

Navien says the northeast U.S. continues to be the rock of its boiler and tankless business, but the north-central region has improved, particularly in the combi market.

“It is exciting to watch the growth,” Fenske says. “It’s been much quicker than in past years with interest in wall-hung, condensing and high-efficiency products.”

Weil-McLain’s Miller says: “Education, institutional, multifamily and light-commercial heating applications continue to be the driver markets in the commercial boiler industry.”

VESTA’s Ponce states that they’re seeing specification in gymnasiums, hotels and apartment complexes.

“These markets don’t seem to be slowing down in the near term,” he says. “We expect these market sectors to keep the boiler and water heater market growing for the next three to five years.”

Rinnai’s Schmitz concurs regarding the educational and institutional markets, but adds the manufacturer continues to see growth in the hospitality and food-service segments.

“The north-central and northeast of the U.S. and Canada also are growing rapidly because of engineers realizing that tankless performs well in colder climates,” Schmitz says. “This saves their clients’ money in the areas of acquisition, operation and lifecycle costs.”

Noritz’s Kornhaas says there has been some opening in the markets where forced air has been traditionally strong. “Now there is a shift coming to install or convert to a hydro-air setup or to use hot- water coils in the air handler, he says.

Navien’s Fenske is excited to see all the progress in product technology, engineer knowledge and market growth. Now, he sees all the conversations he had when he started in the business coming to fruition.

“High-efficiency products are more positive than ever,” he says. “I have been involved in the tankless water-heater and boiler business since the 1990s. We used to joke about next year is the big growth year in the products. So many times we’ve heard, ‘It’s big in Europe.’

“That time is now, consumers are asking, engineers and contractors are learning and manufacturers are making.”

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