When it’s time to replace your existing heating system, there are many options on the market. One of the most efficient is a boiler. By understanding what a boiler is and the various options available to you, you’ll be well prepared to determine the best one to fit your family’s needs.

What Is a Boiler?

A boiler is essentially a pressure vessel that is used to heat up water. Depending on whether you have a hot water or steam boiler, your heating system will distribute hot water or steam through your home’s radiator or baseboard system. Heat carried through the steam or hot water is released into the air at these radiator or baseboard units, adequately supplying warmth to the rooms throughout your home.

Boiler Types

As you just learned, boilers can be referred to as steam or hot water, depending on what product they produce. However, boiler types can be further broken down depending on the type of fuel that they use to create heat. These types include gas, oil, electric, and heat pumps, each coming with its own respective efficiency rating.

Before we discuss these types, it’s important to understand what the heating industry uses as their gauge for system efficiency. Annual fuel utilization efficiency, known as AFUE for short, is the rating given to each type of heating system. An AFUE accurately describes how efficient a boiler is at converting its fuel supply into energy. The higher a heating system’s AFUE, the more energy-efficient it is.

Gas Boilers

Natural gas boilers are renowned for their efficiency and low emission output. Gas boilers with Energy Star approval can reach AFUE ratings of about 90 percent. This means that only about 10 percent of the fuel supplied to the gas boiler is wasted. It’s important to note that natural gas isn’t available in all areas of the country, so you’ll need to check for availability in your specific location.

Oil Boilers

Boilers that are powered by heating oil tended to lack the efficiency levels that gas boilers could reach. However, in recent years, oil boilers have been able to reach AFUE levels of 90 percent. This puts them at a competing level with natural gas boilers. It’s good to note that both gas and oil burners do emit exhaust fumes as a result of burning their respective fuels.

Electric Boilers

Since there is no combustion process with an electric boiler, thanks to its heating element, there are no harmful exhaust fumes. One of the biggest advantages of using electric power is that these boilers typically reach an AFUE rating of 99 to 100 percent. However, electric boilers are costlier to run.

Heat Pump Boilers

A fairly newer boiler technology on the market today is the heat pump boiler, also known as a hybrid heat pump. This type of system doesn’t create heat by combustion or a heating element. Rather, it transports heat from one location to the next. There are two main types of heat pumps, which include air source and ground source.

Air source heat pumps pull heat out of the surrounding air, while ground source heat pumps pull heat out of the soil. Both processes work thanks to low-pressure refrigerant that absorbs the heat as it becomes pressurized. As the refrigerant comes into contact with the boiler’s water supply, it will release the heat to warm up the water. Since this type of system actually produces more heat than the amount of energy it consumes to operate, it can reach AFUE ratings of 200 percent or higher.

While heat pumps can seem like the clear winner in the energy efficiency department, there is a caveat that is necessary to mention. A heat pump boiler will only be effective in regions where the temperature stays between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures drop below this range, the heat pump won’t be able to keep its efficiency level. In fact, it’s more efficient to rely on a back up gas, oil, or electric boiler.

Summing Up Boiler Efficiency

When assessing the efficiency of a boiler, you need to consider real-world applications. Heat pump boilers are the clear choice for regions of the country that don’t experience temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, regions that do are better off relying on an alternative boiler type.

An electric boiler is going to offer the most efficiency of the remaining types. However, electricity is costlier to buy than natural gas or oil. With natural gas and oil-burning boilers reaching efficiency levels in the 90 percent range, it really comes down to what fuel is available in your area and its overall cost.

Reliable Boiler Service

Beck Electric, Generators & Plumbing offers reliable boiler service for the entire Canton, OH community. Our technicians can also assist with all of your water quality, electrical, plumbing, and generator needs. Simply contact our office today to schedule your next service appointment.

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