Boiler changeout right prescription for Pennsylvania home

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In 1929, The Roosevelt Garage and Supply Company – which would ultimately become Shipley Energy — opened in York, Pa. Ten years later, the owners purchased The York Oil Burner Company, helping to shift the firm’s focus toward what would become its primary enterprise, the heating industry.


Jeff Norris wraps up the Alpine boiler installation.

Over the decades, more than a dozen acquisitions, sales, restructures and relocations made Shipley Energy what it is today — the largest locally-owned provider of home heating energy in central Pennsylvania, which includes oil, natural gas, electricity and propane.

But Shipley does much more than deliver fuel. The company employs more than 75 HVAC technicians that serve areas throughout South-central and Southeastern Pa. Throughout its history, the company has dabbled in everything from manufacturing to gas stations. But in all that time, it has never strayed from the early roots established by the purchase of a burner manufacturer. Furnaces and boilers are still a big part of the whole picture at Shipley.


Dave Scott checks the wiring on the boiler before firing it for the first time.

York, though just barely above the Mason-Dixon Line, is still very much boiler territory. And in talking to some of Shipley’s seasoned professionals, it’s not hard to see why the company has grown.

Overkill experience

Shipley has several boiler crews that install and maintain both residential and commercial equipment. Dave Scott, who’s been with Shipley for 39 years, is now an installation crew leader, as is Jeff Norris, who’s only been with the company for 37 years. Once in a blue moon, the two men get put on the same job.


Shipley used A Burnham Alpine boiler and Taco circulators and iSeries mixing valve to supply two different heating temperatures.

By watching the two work together, it’s easy to tell they’ve been at it a while. Sometimes Norris is Scott’s right hand, sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, they seem to move as though a single mechanically-inclined brain controls them both. The 2,500 square-foot home’s existing radiant and cast-iron baseboard made it an ideal application for a condensing boiler, but not before a back-breaking demolition process.

Tough tear out

The original boiler — a 150 MBH, oil-fired American Standard — was in a far crawlspace of the home, down in a three-foot deep “well.” Inevitably, having the boiler lower than the foundation spelled water problems. LaPrairie had fought for years to keep the hole dry and the boiler running, but last year’s hard rains were too much.

“Several times I attempted to seal the block. I tried to install an automatic sump pump, but I just couldn’t get the float low enough to trip before the water level reached the boiler’s pilot flame,” said LaPrairie. “So I wired the pump to a light switch, and just came down and turned it on any time it rained hard.”

The boiler limped along through the summer and fall, but finally failed in February. At the time, LaPrairie had just received a Shipley Energy flier in the mail, advertising its many services — and among them — installation of a Burnham Alpine condensing boiler.


Shipley’s Dan Senft with satisfied homeowner, Bill LaPrairie.

Not long after LaPrairie inquired, Shipley sales manager, Dan Senft visited the home, set up temporary heaters and a water heater, and sized the new system. The next day, Scott and Norris tore apart the old unit, dragged it out of the crawlspace, and began re-piping the system to an area of the basement where they could stand up and hang the new boiler on a wall.

The existing three zones of in-floor radiant and cast-iron baseboard presented the perfect opportunity to keep supply temperatures from 105 MBH Alpine boiler low. A three-way Taco iSeries mixing valve provides further outdoor reset-enabled supply water temperature modulation for maximum comfort and energy savings.

The old boiler was equipped with an internal DHW coil, so Shipley also installed a 27-gallon Burnham Independence sidearm tank.

“As a company, Shipley buys products locally whenever possible, so both Taco and Burnham are high on our list,” said Senft. “It helps too, though, that both manufacturers provide excellent products, service and pricing.”


Shipley Sales Manager, Dan Senft, back in the office.

Everyone is glad it’s done

“Trying to get that old boiler apart in the pit was a task,” said Scott. “I slept well that night. I’d imagine that assembling it years ago wasn’t any better. When the demo was finished, it was nice to be able to stand up and install a wall-hung unit.”

As Scott watched the Alpine fire for the first time, Norris unplugged and packed up the Delonghi heaters and temporary electric water heater. LaPrairie thanked them as they cleaned up, knowing the coming snowmelt in March would’ve required constant babysitting even if the old boiler had been in decent operating condition.

“I never did understand why they stuck the boiler in a pit like you would a sump pump, but it’s gone now,” said LaPrairie. “Shipley’s employees have been a pleasure to have in the house, and I’m looking forward to a smaller heating bill next year, too.”

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