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How to Choose a Boiler for Your Home

by | Mar 2, 2022 | Central Heating, Hydronic Heating, Plumbing

How to choose a boiler for your home.

If you’ve been wondering how to choose a boiler for your home then consider how much hot water you consume, the size of your home, the fuel or gas available to you, your existing boiler system, your existing plumbing connections, and your energy efficiency requirements.

Making the right boiler choice can be difficult.

That’s why you need to understand what a boiler is and the different types available to you.

This guide will serve to walk you through boiler operation, the different types of boilers, and a host of factors you should investigate when choosing a boiler for your home.

Boiler basics

A boiler is a water heating device that distributes heat in hot water, rather than using air, like a furnace.

This system generally uses radiators, or in floor heating piping, throughout the house, to transfer heat from the boiler through plastic or metal pipes to the rooms and spaces of your home.

Homes that are heated from radiant heat from radiators or in floor heating, served by a boiler, are also known as hydronic heating systems.

The vast majority of homes in Canada use natural gas for their heating systems, hydronic heating systems included. However, some boilers do use heating oils.

Noteworthy to mention, there is a less common type called steam boiler which carries heat in steam through your home.

The steam condensates to water in the radiators as it cools.

What types of boilers are there?

As a homeowner researching how to choose a boiler for your home, it’s crucial you understand the various types and designs of boilers.

Boiler technology has come a long way over the last decade, and new designs, boiler systems, and fuel sources are available to you.

Below we describe some boiler choices you have in terms of design, functionality, and efficiency.

Different types of home boilers

Boilers function to heat up water, but depending on the type of boiler that is best for your home, you may need additional water storage tanks, multiple plumbing connections, or extra water heating components.

Every home is different in size and hot water consumption needs, and so boiler systems and their functionality vary from home to home.

Combi boilers

With a combi (or combination) boiler system, you can enjoy hot water on tap without worrying about storing it in an tank. This is very similar and can serve the same purpose of a tankless water heater, as a combi boiler provides hot water on demand.

A combi boiler heats water from the mains for all your home’s hot water needs including radiators, in-floor radiant heating, showers, taps, baths and what ever else you need hot water for!

This simple design is portable and doesn’t take up much space which makes them perfect for homes with limited living room areas or apartments!

The main advantage of this type of heating equipment?

It’s economic efficiency – making sure that every penny spent on fuel actually counts towards your home’s comfort during winter.

System boilers

System boilers require a tank or cylinder for storing your hot water. The major heating and hot water system components are actually built into the boiler itself. This makes it quicker and easier to install. The system boiler is compatible with solar water heating systems also.

System boilers are best for larger homes, with multiple bathrooms. You can rest assured knowing you will always have a constant supply of hot water to any number of taps at the same time. They are a pretty economical optional.

However, you have to consider you’d need service both the hot water storage tank and your boiler serving the tank.

Traditional boilers

The oldest type of boiler, traditional or conventional boilers are also know as “heat only” systems because they produce hot water for central heating but not for domestic use.

For example: taps and baths; showers aren’t possible with this type alone though it can be used in combination with other types like a gas fired water heater in order to achieve desired results. Sometimes they are referred to as, regular boilers.

Typically, regular boilers require a feed and expansion tank, located in your loft or attic, which is filled with water.

They are still in use, but their popularity has fallen in favor of combi boilers.

Different boiler designs and their efficiency

Condensing boilers

With a condensing boiler, typically gas-fired, you can heat your home or commercial property with reduced impact on the environment in comparison to other boilers, and typically see reductions in monthly heating bills.

Gas condensing boilers use a more efficient method of transferring heat by condensation.

They do this because they are able to extract all the possible energy from burning fuels, which would otherwise just go up in smoke and disappear as waste air pollution or water vapor before reaching its intended destination-your home’s heating system.

Condensing gas-fired boilers are up to 99% efficient, lowering your fuel bills and reducing your carbon footprint.

Non-condensing boilers

With a non-condensing boiler, the hot gases from your burner pass through just one heat exchanger chamber to heat the water within the walls of that exchange before reaching an exit flue.

Non-condensing boilers typically have a higher temperature of combustion products or fuels, around 180°C. But the gases from the combustion go into the flue, and so allot of heat can be wasted.

Non-condensing design style boilers are cheaper up front, but you lose out on the long run lifecycle costs overall.

Alternate boiler fuel or energy sources

While this article focuses on gas-fired boilers, which are most common in Canada and the United States, more and more fuel or energy sources are available to you.

It may be worth your time to look into these further:

  • Wood pellet boilers: use wood pellets a fuel source for heating, and are known as a type of biomass boiler.
  • Electric boilers: use electricity to heat and can be highly effective.
  • Oil fired boilers: a boiler intended for application in a hot water central heating system that uses oil for fuel.
  • Solar energy: while uncommon and typically expensive, it is totally possible to provide your boiler the energy it requires from the sun. This is very climate dependent!

Vacuum air collectors for water heating on the roof – alternative energy source for boiler/water heating.

Choosing the best boiler for your home.

There are simply allot of factors you need to consider when choosing the best boiler for your home.

You should do a detailed analysis of your home’s current requirements based on the factors below at minimum.

Available space

The type of boiler you need will depend on how much space is available in your home.

Sometimes there won’t be enough room for both a gas boiler and complimentary hot water storage tank.

In that case you should consider a combi boiler would work best.

Combi boilers are more compact and eliminate the necessity for an additional water storage tank.

Gas water heating boilers choice on showcase in plumbing store.

Existing system

Consider whether or not you want the same type of home boiler system that’s already installed in your house.

Usually it makes sense for people, from a cost and practicality standpoint, to stick with the same system.

Then you can just replace the boiler or tanks as needed.

There may be times when a change-up could work better.

Especially if you’ve had problems with your current boiler.

For instance, if you want to switch from a system boiler to a combi boiler, factor in the costs of new connections and fuel requirements that the combi boiler will need.

Switching over entails removing old components and adjusting your home’s plumbing to suit.

Sometimes, walls or floors need to be opened up to get at the piping required to make new connections and remove old unnecessary plumbing.

Type of fuel or gas

If you know that your current boiler is served by gas, then it makes sense to stick with a gas boiler replacement.

Sometimes electrical rates are so low that electricity can be considered a low cost fuel alternative to gas. This depends on the area you live in.

That said, if you are keen on alternative energy boilers then you must factor in the costs of new components, piping, conduit, electrical, or other home modifications required to facilitate them.

Hot water consumption

The kind of boiler you need will depend on how much hot water your home needs.

If there’s likely going to be a demand for multiple fixtures at once, then get something with an attached tank like a system boiler.

If not, say you only have 1 sink or shower, then consider investing in a combi boiler.

Size of property

It’s essential to choose a large enough boiler for your home.

It will be the main source of heating, so you want it the right size and capacity to serve all your homes’ functions.

Obviously, if you are looking at a combi boiler, then you must factor in not only the heating requirements for your home, but your hot water usage as well.

Boiler Efficiency

Boiler efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), for homes, at least with units under 300,000 BTUH input.

When choosing a new boiler , compare AFUE published within the boiler’s product information.

This information allows you to accurately compare between brands, styles, and systems.

AFUE is calculated over the typical use case of year, indicating how well the boiler converts energy into fuel to heat.

Any boiler with an AFUE rating of 85 percent or more is considered to be a high efficiency boiler.

You can check on the boiler for proof of Energy Star-certification. That means that the boiler is certified as energy efficient.

The Energy Star blue logo looks similar if not identical to this.

Boiler life expectancy

Generally speaking, when thinking of how to choose a boiler for your home, life expectancy should come into question.

Notably your typical cast iron boiler has an expected lifetime of 30 years or more.

High efficiency modulating and condensing boilers in some cases last about one half the time. 15 to 20 years is typical for high-efficiency boilers such as condensing boilers.

Essentially, you’ll need to factor in life cycle costs of the boiler you’re investigating for your home.

Boiler venting requirements

The venting of gas flue byproducts is serious business, especially from boilers.

Safety should always be foremost in your mind.

You need to understand what flue requirements there are for your boiler of choice.

A vent or flue leading to the outdoors, if existing is something you may need to modify. If there is nothing in place, expect to be installing one.

Now are you ready to make an educated boiler choice?

So if you’ve been wondering, “what is the best boiler for my home?” we trust this guide served you well.

When in doubt about the right boiler choice for your home you can reach out to the team at RPG Calgary. We can inspect your boiler and give you an idea as to how long you can expect to keep it. We’ll also advise on whether repairs or a replacement will serve you best.

We provide boiler repair and installation for greater Calgary, AB.

If you liked this post, consider sharing it, so RPG Calgary can help more people like you.

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