A space-saving solution for oil boiler replacements

By combining efficient space heating and water heating in a single appliance, the Q Premier offers remodelers and contractors a flexible and time-saving alternative to oil heating.

Jeffrey Lee
Staff Writer

When mechanical contractor Gary Alex took on an oil boiler replacement project in Framingham, Mass., he knew room in the basement was at a premium. The single-family home was relatively small, and the owner had big plans for the rest of the basement: He wanted to create a finished family room, as well as additional space for laundry.

"The guy wanted to build around the boiler area, so he wanted a product that would save a lot of space," says Alex, owner of Alex Mechanical, based in Blackstone, Mass.

The home was an ideal candidate for the Q Premier boiler, a space-saving appliance from Rinnai that combines space heating and water heating in a single engineered system. Fueled by propane or natural gas, the Q Premier combines an efficient heating-only boiler with a 24-gallon charged indirect tank to take the place of two appliances. Whereas a typical floor-standing boiler and 45-gallon indirect tank would require 19 square feet of floor space, the Q Premier provides the same capabilities while using a modest 4.86 square feet of space.

For Alex's project, the replacement had numerous advantages. The compact boiler freed up the living space his client needed for the finished basement. It also got rid of the sooty, dirty, and noisy oil system that previously heated the home. "He was always complaining about the noise," Alex says. "And he had a little leak in his oil tank, so it was definitely smelly." Alex's installation cleaned up the basement, eliminating the old oil tank and piping. Alex ran new piping to the home's radiators and created a direct return system. "We had flow meters in every circuit so we had a perfectly balanced system."

In this video from the Propane Innovation Pavilion at the 2013 JLC Live show, Rinnai representative Eric Legacy explains how the Q Premier combines space heating and water heating technologies into a single unit.

Furthermore, switching from oil to gas heating provided significant savings on the owner's utility bills. The old space and water heating systems were "energy pigs," Alex says, adding that, according to the owner, switching to gas saved him 50 percent or more of those costs. While the Framingham home had access to natural gas, homes off of the natural gas main could reap similar benefits, Alex adds. "If you don't have natural gas, propane would be a great fit for this conversion."

Fully assembled

Having space heating and water heating combined in a single system also creates time and labor savings for the installer, says Tracy Young, product manager for the boiler and heating line at Rinnai. "It's a complete solution," Young says. "The contractor doesn't have to worry about setting the temperature for his tank. He doesn't have to worry about plumbing anything between the boiler and the tank. He doesn't have to worry about a pump. He doesn't have to worry about controls. It's already done for him, all in one single cabinet."

The Q Premier will also save contractors from time and effort spent at the wholesaler purchasing all of those individual components — and from the dreaded return trip if anything is missing. The boiler comes out of the box fully assembled; the contractor simply wheels it into place on a dolly. That frees up time for the plumber to focus on the heat distribution and domestic water connection.

Alex confirms that the built-in water heater and hydraulic separator each save about an hour and a half of labor. "It definitely saves some time," he says. Another installer-friendly feature: The plumber can choose an accessory to make all of the connections on the back of the boiler to the left, right, or top of the cabinet, providing flexible placement options for different applications.

"Having space heating and water heating combined in a single system creates time and labor savings for the installer."

That flexibility particularly comes in handy for tight installations, a situation where the Q Premier shines. The boiler is designed for zero-clearance installations, so it can even fit in a small closet. Young recalls an installation in a tiny Brooklyn apartment where a small closet was the only space available. "There was literally no other space whatsoever to put anything," Young says. "We pushed this into that one closet, and that was it. For the space savings, it was perfect for that situation."

In addition to compact installations and condos, Alex says he can envision installing the boiler's handsome façade in projects where a finished look is needed. "It looks like a really fancy refrigerator," Alex says. "If you're doing a boiler room where it's all finished tile floor and drop ceilings, I think it would be very good in that application."

The boiler's diminutive frame conceals a deceptively powerful water-heating system, delivering 211 gallons of domestic hot water within the first hour. By comparison, a 45-gallon indirect tank heated by a typical Rinnai boiler would generate 212 gallons in the first hour. "We've almost reduced the size of the indirect tank in half and given you the exact same output," Young says.

Homeowners throughout the Northeast are looking to replace their old, inefficient oil boilers, creating a growing opportunity for remodelers and contractors to upgrade their homes to more-efficient propane heating. Offering an alternative to oil heating that's both flexible and time-saving could be a profitable opportunity for your business.

To learn more about propane space heating alternatives, take our Propane Training Academy course, Heating Oil Conversion: Exploring Propane as a Viable Alternative Energy Source, or check out these Propane Energy Update articles:

Power Play: Offering generators is smart business for building pros
A space-saving solution for oil boiler replacements
Which propane patio features are must-haves?


Savings Stories
Check out real-world success stories from builders using the Propane Energy Pod.
Get the details
Propane Incentives
Learn about propane incentives in the fiscal cliff legislation and see if you qualify.
Read more