Renovate a 10-year-old Buderus gas boiler?

We have a 10-year-old Buderus GB142 wall-hung gas boiler that is suffering from myriad corrosion issues. The HVAC service folks recommend either dumping in $3,300+ for a “major renovation”, including replacement of the manifold and everything connecting to the boiler, or spending $15,500 (minus $2,750 in rebates under the poor-renters-should-subsidize-rich-homeowners political theory that prevails in Massachusetts) on a new 150,000(ish) BTU high efficiency system.

Does anyone have experience with these beasts? Are they worth fixing? Are we going to pay $3,300 now and then $15,500 a year from now when something else blows up?

Also, if we do decide to replace, Lochinvar or Bosch? (presumably we don’t want to go back into the Buderus money sinkhole, though on the other hand Bosch liked them well enough to buy them!)

Note that my glorious plan to replace this with an old-style standard efficiency boiler ($2,000 part every 20 years) seems to be impractical. It has to go into a small closet (no basement in this house due to architectural genius back in the 1960s) and the latest code would require fan-driven make-up air. So it wouldn’t be any cheaper than having a high-efficiency unit, according to the HVAC guys (and, for some reason, everyone who comes out to fix boilers on Christmas Day or crawl around in attics in July seems to identify as male; where is Hillary to address this injustice?).

[Separately, this is a great illustration of why official CPI is grossly understated for homeowners. The cost of maintaining a house has skyrocketed (very labor-intensive in a country where a worker can cost $30,000/year in health insurance premium before the first dollar of wages has been paid). The cost of paying real estate taxes has gone up dramatically (and about to go up 30% more in our town due to the approval of a $110 million school project (to renovate a school building occupied by 440 town-resident K-8 students!)). None of this is reflected in CPI (background) because they look at what we would pay to rent our house if we could find a landlord sufficiently passionate about losing money to want to buy it, maintain it, and rent it out.]

Update: Readers commented about what a rip-off the above quote was, for the Lockinvar 155,000 BTU boiler and associated fittings. So I got a competitive quote from a regular plumbing contractor who is excellent: $20.750. And I got a second quote from a friend’s heating guy: $15,000 plus or minus. Apparently this is the price in the Boston suburbs. We decided to go with the HVAC company’s $15,500 plan. Typical Americans can’t afford to live in America, is my conclusion. It just looks like we can because we’re using legacy infrastructure that hasn’t worn out or fallen down yet.

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The best small kitchen knives (paring and utility)

Due to the fact that we think children will be poisoned unless they are fed organic home-cooked meals (not to mention sliced fruit and vegetable snacks offered every hour by their grandma), there is a crazy amount of cutting going on in the kitchen.

This has led to some practical research on knives. Here’s what I have figured out so far…

The Shun DM0700 Classic 3.5-inch paring knife seems to be popular for small fruit cut by small hands, but the Wusthof’s extra length is better for most things and the Wusthof is more idiot-proof with a rounded edge at the back of the blade near your hand. (I do love the big Santouka knives.)

[That there do not seem to be any good American-made knives, at least not at a competitive price, makes me wonder how the political debate about America’s biggest problems still contains statements of the form “We should do X the way that Country Y does X.” (example: New York Times story suggesting that the U.S. health care funding bureaucracy be torn up and rebuilt like Singapore’s so that we can cut spending from our 17 percent of GDP to their 5 percent) If we can’t compete in a straightforward market such as paring/utility knives, why do we think that we can do stuff that other countries do?]

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Happy Friday: Machine-assisted Fun

It’s Friday again and therefore time to put the Happy Helmet on.  What could be more fun for an American than wallowing in materialism and playing with machines?

This old gold dredge is on the road from Nome, Alaska to the small town of Council.


MIT demonstrates its patriotism by giving us a four-day weekend for Patriot’s Day and I’ll be heading south in the airplane:  Saturday to DC (parents/sibs); Sunday to Williamsburg, Virginia (w/parents); Tuesday morning to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (visit Matthew Amster, anthropologist, and Andy Wermuth, documentary filmmaker); Tuesday evening back to Boston (weather permitting; the forecast is a bit ugly).  On the way down I hope to repeat a fun flying experience from Monday:  asking the Logan Airport tower for a “city tour” clearance.  On the way to East Hampton we were able to fly down the Charles River at 1500′, right over Harvard and MIT, then made a right turn to the south in front of the tall buildings of downtown.  The only other aircraft in this space normally are the medical helicopters.

It is biking time again.  If you’re old and creaky and don’t like biking because it hurts your neck, back, and, uh, butt, I can recommend a recumbent.  It is as comfortable as sitting on your living room sofa except that sometimes you fall over sideways onto pavement (recumbents have smaller tires and therefore less angular momentum and therefore less resistance to tipping over).  You can pick them up new for $600+ and learn about them in alt.rec.bicycles.recumbent

If you live in the Boston area, I found a bike shop that seems vastly superior to the usual suspects (Wheelworks and IBC):  ATA Cycle on Mass Ave near Porter Square in Cambridge (  They are very fast yet thorough with mechanical work.  They have some beautiful mountain bikes for trips through the Middlesex Fells, Lynn Woods, and other local spots.

When you get tired from biking and watch to relax on the sofa, this summer will bring the first crop of HDTVs that have enough holes in the shadow mask to display something like all the pixels in an HDTV signal (1920×1180).  Unlike with computer monitors, TV makers don’t tell you how fine the dot pitch can be.  The HDTVs sold so far have taken a high-res signal in but aren’t capable of producing anything other than a low-res picture because there aren’t actually enough distinct holes in the metal grille separating the electron gun from the phosphors.  Blowing $2500 on a Sony KV-34XBR910 so that you can enjoy every pixel of Laverne and Shirley will provide a much-needed boost to both the US and Japanese economies.

If you’re concerned that America’s maturation into neo-feudalism will tempt the serfs to try to take away some of your hard-earned wealth, consider an armored car from Lincoln, Cadillac, or Mercedes.


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