Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Weil-McLain Boiler Failure, Attracting Flies

The good news is the heat is back! To be sure, it'll be a while before I take hot water, taking a shower and a warm house for granted. Bad boilers aside, we've also been reminded of how fabulous having radiant heat really is, and of how we just can't imagine ever living in a house without it. Kudos and at least a B+ to the contractor for coming out on a Saturday to do the repair after waiting all week for the part.

The ugly facts about Weil-McLain's service on our "issue" and my previous post seems to have attracted the flies. If you've Googled "Weil-McLain failure" or "Weil-McLain review" and read what you dig up, perhaps you've noticed that any time a negative review appears, they're always followed by a "I'm xyz contractor, I have xyz experience, these boilers are great, the service is great, it's the contractors fault" and my personal favorite: "xyz boiler only fails because of improper installation." Taken at face value, it's the (now) expected buck-passing blame game and the status quo attempt to maintain all things plumbing and HVAC as some kind of dark, forbidding art. But look closely. In the case of these contrary, glowing reviews on behalf of Weil-McLain, THEY'RE ALL WRITTEN BY THE SAME PERSON!
Somehow, that just sits a little wrong with me, but of course I'll leave you to form your own opinion on that.

Anyway, here's Modern in MN's own personal version of the oft-repeated diatribe from said person, Morgan Audetat of Badger Boiler Service:
"It's all about the support network. I am a certified contractor for several high efficiency boilers including Weil-McLain's Ultra and HTP's Munchkin. I have received excellent service from their products, their reps and their factory support.

"It's all about the contractor. He is responsible for bringing in the required resources to fix your problem."

"I recently received a next day HX from WM and last year replaced a boiler for them 'same day'."

"Both boilers suffered from improper installation."

"Finally I wonder who designed and installed your system and why they don't seem to be in the picture now? And was the unit serviced annually-per the installation/users manual?"
Hi Morgan. Gosh, you found us fast! Either you and "Badger Boiler Service" are located in a cooling-only state or business is slow, because you seem to have a lot of time on your hands to spend scouring the internet for negative content about the products I presume you make money from. From what I can tell, my post doesn't even show up on a Google search yet and I've only posted reviews on small and unimportant websites so far...

But to respond to your comments, first, you said:

"It's all about the support network."

I couldn't agree with this more. Unfortunately, the biggest player in this support network. i.e. Weil-McLain, didn't or doesn't feel the need to participate in their game, as illustrated by the fact that THEY DID NOT HAVE PARTS AVAILABLE FOR THEIR PRODUCT AT THEIR FACILITY OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY....during heating season....for a product they're still selling.

Next, you said:

"It's all about the contractor. He is responsible for bringing in the required resources to fix your problem."

So you've already changed your mind on who it's all about and now we're on to passing the buck, huh? Your industry seems to excel at buck passing, or more specifically, buck avoiding, to the point that it makes me wonder if it's actually a course in HVAC tech school. You sound just like Mike Peck, the WM rep who couldn't be bothered to call us back for a day and a half, did so only after numerous phone calls and an exchange of unpleasant words with his assistant, and then couldn't tell me enough times that "it wasn't WM's fault, there was nothing he could do, I needed to talk to the contractor about this", and that he "has no control over what the contractor does or how long they take". Oh, and that I didn't need to "yell at" him.
Ohkeey Dokeey Mikey. Sorry about that getting cranky part, but not having heat or hot water for a week in the middle of winter will do that to a girl, and you sort of tried to slime the wrong person with your complete bullshit faux helpfulness. Here's a hint: next time, don't try to sell something the customer did that should have been your job as something you did for her. It makes us mad and makes you look like a sleazy, lazy, incompetent ass.
I'm just sayin.
So yea, if the part the contractor needed to fix our boiler EXISTED WHEN WE NEEDED IT, I'd agree, but in this case, the contractor was UNABLE TO BRING IN THE REQUIRED PART in a timely manner, BECAUSE WEIL-MCLAIN DIDN'T SEE FIT TO HAVE THOSE PARTS AVAILABLE. Furthermore, even after this fact was brought to the attention of Weil-McLain, they didn't see fit to find a suitable work around, i.e. replacing the boiler entirely or pulling the part from one of the two Ultra boilers on hand in the state, a solution which would have solved the problem in one day (yep, my know, the one Mike Peck then tried to pitch to me as his great help after he finally got around to returning our calls?). Instead, they chose to ignore and/or deny the fact that their parts inavailabilty was leaving us with out heat or hot water for a week in the middle of winter. They could have cared less. What wasn't in short supply, however, was the endless stream of slow or returned not at all phone calls and "it's not our fault, we're the greatest, you have to deal with the contractor" from Weil-McLain.

You said:
"I recently received a next day HX from WM and last year replaced a boiler for them 'same day'."
"Both boilers suffered from improper installation."

Which I think begs the question: What is the heat exchanger failure rate on WM Ultra boilers?

Anyway, good to know that whatever relationship you have with WM gets you the parts fast! No wonder you want to spend time searching out and refuting every negative review. Looks like you've got pretty extensive industry ties. Hopefully those relationships serve you as well as you serve them.
So If you're a contractor and I had called you for this repair (you should really consider taking out an ad in the yellow pages, btw) and you couldn't get the part for six days who would you be blaming? Just curious.
Maybe you should share your magical wholesale source with the rest of your industry, because Ferguson and their 'accountable to no one' model could really use some competition. I place at least a little of blame for not having a part with them, but as I said, they're accountable to no one so why should they bother?

And as far as improper installation goes, yea, I've heard that one before....from you, in your repetitive posts on review websites. Maybe it would be useful if you could tell us how many Weil-McLain Ultra boilers you've had to repair or replace that were installed according to spec. I'd also be curious to know the stats on how many failures there's been on systems that included domestic hot water heating via an indirect water heater? Or maybe that's revealing too much. Or maybe WM's install spec is neglectful or incompatible with their product design and the price I get to pay for having a properly installed system is a cracked heat exchanger every few years.

What was improper was choosing to have a Weil-McLain product in my home at all because in the end a product is only as good as it's service and above all, after four solid days of numerous, unproductive phone calls to them, what is overwhelmingly clear to us is that Weil-McLain can't be bothered with customer service and has absolutely zero interest in after-sales support. They're like OZ, spending all their time and resources cultivating an image that is, based on my experience, a complete and utter farce and then deluding themselves into believing their lie, all at the expense of their product and their customer.

I think the punch line to this story has yet to be delivered. As I've said, our boiler is three years old and as such is supposed to be fully covered under a 5 year "Homeowner Protection Plan", a 5 year all-inclusive warranty from Weil-McLain, administered by TAW, Inc. This means that the $700 or so we paid in labor for this repair, not counting the cost of the part which we had to pay for up front and, in theory, are waiting to be reimbursed for, would be covered by warranty as well. All in all, another stellar example of buck passing but where it gets really hinkey is that the contractor has to submit the claim for us, and when we mentioned this to the tech he just laughed....
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why NOT to Buy a Weil-McLain Product, EVER

A calling out, with the hope that you will learn from our mistake.

You'll recall that we use a hydronic radiant system for whole-house heating and have a super high efficiency boiler as our heat source for both that and our domestic hot water. Our Weil-McLain Ultra boiler is the one and only heat and hot water source for our house.

Or it was up until Monday afternoon, when it catastrophically failed by cracking its heat exchanger at just over three years old.

Which wouldn't be so bad if if weren't for the fact that it's now Thursday evening, 72-plus hours and countless phone calls later, and we're still without a working boiler/heat/hot water because Weil-McLain, an American company that claims to build the highest quality products and be one of the best manufacturers of boilers out there, apparently doesn't see fit to have parts available to repair their products.

So we're here, in the middle of a Minnesota winter with a broken boiler, WAITING FOR THE FACTORY TO MAKE A PART.

Yep. You read that correctly.
And as an added bonus, we get to pay $150 in extra shipping to get it here "faster".

Best case, we might have a working boiler again on Saturday (almost six days from when this began) but I'm not holding my breath because so far the service, or more specifically, the COMPLETE AND UTTER LACK OF SERVICE OR ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY FROM WEIL-MCLAIN, has been astounding.

But it gets better.
The part we need, the heat-exchanger manifold, basically IS the boiler minus a couple of electronic components and pipes. And there is not one but TWO of the exact same model boiler right here at the Weil-McLain distributor in Minnesota that they could have authorized a swap-out with (or gotten the part from) on Tuesday, and we'd have been warm and happy by now. As it went, this was never even suggested by Weil-McLain. They were content to tell the HVAC contractor we're working with they'd get back to them with the date the factory could "start making" the part. It was my trying to come up with a work-around that discovered, to my insane frustration after a day and a half of unreturned phone calls, that what we needed was only an hour from the house.
But getting a part or a swap-out from an hour away instead of putting in an order at a factory for a part that has to be made and then shipped here would have made sense and been easy, and as I have been so painfully reminded these last few days, the plumbing and HVAC industry is wholly allergic to doing anything that makes sense or is easy.

To quote Boy, after yet another long and frustrating day of dealing with Weil-McLain and getting absolutely nowhere:
"I don't trust the Weil-McLain warranty anymore. They are masters of redirection, excuses, and outright lies."
I couldn't agree more, and as far as I am concerned, I would pay double to have their piece of junk Ultra boiler out of my house. Products fail and things break, yes, and that I can forgive, but any company who's business model is this neglectful and ignorant of the customer and this inattentive to after-sales support while touting their high quality, "15 year warranty, American made" as a selling point, is, IMO, selling just that.
I've had better service and gotten parts faster for a $30 blender.
Rest assured, if (or when?) it breaks again, I'm going to mount it on top of my roof parapet with a big flashing arrow and sign declaring what I think about both it and Weil-McLain.