Summertime Is Boiler Replacement, Hot Water Heat Upgrade Time!
As we’ve been reminding our customers for many years, if your home is heated by a hot water boiler, summertime is the best time of year to replace a unit whose days are numbered, or to perform other important work on the system. Although it’s not unusual to give little or no thought to your home’s heating system until the weather starts to cool down, a growing number of our boiler customers look forward to the summer – when freezing conditions are not a concern – as the ideal time for a boiler replacement and/or upgrade work on their hot water-based central heating systems. Let’s take a closer look at some of the variables that come into play.
Does Your Boiler Need To Be Replaced?
There are a number of factors that may affect whether you may want to consider replacing your boiler. The following are most common with our customers, and some of these reasons may be cause for taking immediate action:
- Your boiler is well beyond 20 years old
- Potential safety concerns have arisen!
- Parts failures are happening on a more frequent basis
- Repair parts availability has become challenging, unreliable, and more expensive
- A costly, major repair will be needed in the near future in order for the boiler to continue operating safely and reliably
- Gas consumption, and utility bills for heating is climbing higher than expected and desired
- Remodels and/or additions will create a greater heating load than the current boiler can satisfy
- A desire to ‘get greener’ and upgrade to equipment that consumes significantly less fossil fuels (gas)
Types of Boilers and The Best Fit For Your Home
If you decide that now’s the time to look closer at replacing your boiler, the good news is that there are a broad range of options to choose from. Here’s an overview of some of the more important considerations that our comfort advisers at Save Home Heat typically discuss with our boiler customers:
Boiler efficiency is rated by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency ratio, or the AFUE, and our plumbing team installs lots of equipment across the full efficiency range from 80% to 96% AFUE. Of course, the higher the AFUE number, the more efficient the boiler and the lower your heating bills will be. All efficiency ranges are currently popular with our customers, but the trend is moving steadily toward more purchases of high-end equipment as homeowners are increasingly investing in products that yield greater savings over the long run.
Materials and Durability
The materials used in residential boiler heat exchanger sections depend largely on the manufacturer and the specific model. Different materials may offer different benefits. The most common material used for residential boiler heat exchangers for decades has been cast iron, and it’s still an accepted, reliable material. Stainless steel is a very durable material, typically used in high efficiency, compact, wall-hung boilers and similar models. Copper and bronze are also used in a variety of compact boilers, and while some sources make a case that these materials are less forgiving, a number of established manufacturers employ these materials, with a good track record. Aluminum is another material used in boiler heat exchangers. In the U.S., its popularity seems to have waned in favor of stainless steel. Our product line at Save Home Heat does not offer aluminum heat exchangers.
Boiler Design Concepts
Now that you have a better feel for efficiency ranges and the materials used in the heart of your boiler, we’d like to discuss some important design concepts that will help you further home in on what model will be the best fit for you and your home:
The venting system exhausts the noxious gas products of combustion to the outdoors. Depending on the model boiler, this is done in a variety of ways, using materials that are specified by the manufacturer, whose venting instructions must be strictly followed in order to ensure your safety and proper operation.
Traditional atmospheric venting – This is what most of us are familiar with. Metal, double-wall, Class B vent pipe is still found in many homes and is used for mid-range boilers as well as conventional gas water heaters. One of the advantages of replacement boilers that employ atmospheric venting is that it makes venting for the new equipment less labor-intensive. In some cases, it may even be the only workable option.
Power vent, induced draft, and sealed combustion venting – Many new boilers have a special exhaust fan incorporated in the unit to blow combustion byproducts outdoors, either through the sidewall or the roof, employing either a single vent pipe or a 2-pipe system. Two-pipe vent systems are referred to as sealed combustion venting, and use only outside air for the combustion process, eliminating the possibility inside air products (detergents, solvents, etc.) reacting with metal in the boiler sections. Sealed combustion systems tend to be quieter indoors.
Vent Materials For High Efficiency Boilers – The two most common types of vent pipe used in higher efficiency boiler designs are stainless steel for units in the mid to upper 80% AFUE range, while units rated 90% AFUE and higher use PVC plastic pipe. The reason for using these materials is that in higher efficiency equipment, water condenses out of the flue gas, and this is not compatible with standard metal venting – the standard metal venting would be trashed in no time flat!
Condensing vs. Non-Condensing Boilers
Boilers in the upper 80% and 90+% AFUE range squeeze so much heat out of the combustion gases created in the unit that the exhaust is cool enough to condense water. Boilers in the 90% AFUE range and higher condense a small, steady stream of slightly acidic water from the flue gas while operating, and this needs to be properly drained away from the system. Condensing boilers require their own dedicated vent piping. Non-condensing boilers, rated approximately 80% AFUE, are the models that can be vented through a standard metal flue system.
So you can think of condensing boilers as high efficiency equipment, and non-condensing units as moderate efficiency. Condensing boilers provide the lowest operating costs, require higher levels of expertise to properly and professionally install and service, typically require more in-depth annual maintenance, and of course, represent a larger upfront investment.
Variable-Output, Modulating Boilers
Variable-output boilers, also known as variable-capacity or modulating boilers, are the most efficient hydronic heaters we install, boasting efficiencies up to an impressive 96% AFUE. These state-of-the-art units automatically adjust their heating output as outdoor conditions change, supplying only the amount of heating needed. This reduces wasted heat and gas and electrical consumption, while also providing improved comfort levels. Some of the key components and design elements that these compact boilers feature are modulating gas valves, variable-speed exhaust fans, sealed combustion venting, and outdoor and indoor temperature sensors to accurately monitor outdoor conditions and system performance. Many modulating boilers can be installed on a wall to achieve maximum space savings.
It’s A Great Time To Upgrade Other Parts Of Your Heating System, Too!
Whether you’re having your boiler replaced or not, the summer is also a good time to consider other upgrades and recommended work on your hot water heating system. Things that have been on your wish list waiting for the right time, or maybe that you’ve been avoiding thinking about.
Here’s other work that we perform on boiler systems all year round:
- Replace beat up old baseboard heaters, upgrade to higher output models, or maybe install fancy European style baseboards
- Correct noisy, gurgling baseboard heaters or air-locking issues with the installation of new coin vents on baseboards around the house, and/or upgrading the boiler’s central air elimination system
- Replace old zone valves that occasionally buzz or get stuck, or simply because they’ve exceeded their projected serviceable life and you’d prefer the peace of mind
- Upgrade thermostats to controls that offer a wide variety of programming and operating options, including Wi-Fi connectivity and voice control
- Install (or replace existing) new radiators whose options range from classic style floor models to all manner of modern designs, colors, and configurations
- Add radiant floor heating to an area in the home that sits above unfinished space, such as a main level that sits above an unfinished basement
- Upgrade from an existing traditional gas or electric water heater to an indirect-fired water heater, powered by the boiler, far outperforming what you’ve grown accustomed to. A big hot water supply upgrade!
Expert Hot Water Heat Assistance Any Time of Year!
In the Denver-Boulder metro area, our highly skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced plumbing team at Save Home Heat Company is ready to help you out any time of the year, and if the summer works best for you, we’re glad to oblige. Please contact our team today for more information or to schedule a free, low-pressure install quote for any aspect of your home’s hot water heating system.