Boilers provide the water or steam necessary to heat the home. Obviously, you’ll want one that’s in good working order when the cold months hit. So, if your boiler seems to struggle when it provides heat and hot water, if it leaks, or if it’s losing pressure, you probably need to buy a new boiler.
Below are three important considerations for when you shop for a new boiler.
Gas-Fired vs Oil-Fired
For boilers, you have two fuel options — gas and oil. With gas-fired boilers, a pipe channels natural gas from a fuel line to your boiler. With oil-fired boilers, the pipe channels oil from a nearby tank. Either way, the boiler burns the fuel to heat up water in a copper pipe inside the boiler. A pump pushes the water or steam out through pipes, sending it to radiators throughout the house.
Generally speaking, gas-fired boilers are more cost-effective both at the outset and in operation. Oil-fired boilers are ideal in areas where natural gas lines are not readily available. That said, even if you do have a gas line nearby, changing from an oil-fired to a gas-fired boiler can be expensive.
Manufacturers do offer a few other options for fuel. These options include propane, solid fuel, and electric. Such boilers are less common. Likewise, they’re typically for special situations. For example, solid-fuel boilers are used in rural areas with a lot of wood and coal.
Hot Water or Steam
Boilers also differentiate in what they produce, be it hot water or steam. When buying a new boiler, you’ll need to select one that produces the correct fuel for your heating elements. Radiant floor heating is almost always fueled by hot water.
Radiators can be either hot water- or steam-fueled. If you’re not sure which type you have, look for an air vent connected to the radiator. The presence of such a vent indicates it’s steam-fueled. Its purpose is to allow air to escape so that steam can enter.
The number of pipes connected to the radiator is another indicator. If just one pipe is present, it’s steam-fueled. Two-pipe radiators might be either steam or hot water.
Finally, an inspection of the existing boiler can indicate its type. Steam-producing boilers feature a sight glass, which is a glass tube mounted on the side. The sight glass shows the level of water inside the boiler. Hot water boilers have no sight glass, but they usually feature a nearby pump or expansion tank.
Before you buy a new boiler, have your local HVAC specialists inspect your home to ensure you’re buying the right style.
Capacity and Efficiency
When comparing boilers, capacity and efficiency go hand-in-hand.
A boiler needs to be exactly the correct capacity to meet the demands of heating your home. If its capacity is too small, it will work overtime trying to meet those demands. This situation not only leaves areas of your home cold, it also results in the boiler using more energy.
A boiler that’s too large isn’t a better option. In that situation, the boiler will start to cycle on and off faster because it’s quickly meeting the heating demands. This short-cycling also leads to boiler inefficiency. Both short-cycling and over-working can decrease the lifespan of your boiler.
Another consideration related to efficiency is the boiler’s AFUE rating. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. The rating is a percentage that indicates how efficiently the boiler converts fuel into heat. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the boiler. They generally fall into the following range:
- Low-efficiency system: under 70%
- Mid-efficiency system: up to 85%
- High-efficiency system: over 90%
Naturally, higher-efficiency systems present a higher up-front cost. However, they yield significant energy savings.
If your current boiler is starting to fail or is costing more in repair bills than it’s worth, consider investing in a new model. Oak Electric can inspect your home and provide the best boiler for your needs.