Types of Boilers for Your Home

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Choosing the right boiler for your property can be a confusing process, and there are a number of details you need to take into consideration. If you’re changing over to central heating for the first time or considering replacing a current system, it’s important to ask yourself:  “What type of boiler do I need for my property?” This is because the type of boiler best suited for your home will vary depending on a number of factors, discussed in this article.

A home boiler heats and provides hot water or steam for heating. Steam is distributed via pipes to steam radiators, and hot water can be distributed via baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems. A boiler is used by every household and serves as an important feature.

Different types of boiler heating:

  • Conventional Boilers – In a conventional boiler, gas jets play onto a cast iron heat exchanger through which water passes to be heated. It consumes less power and is more reliable.
  • Combination Boilers – A combination boiler heats water for central heating in the same way as a conventional boiler, but can also provide the taps with instant and continuous hot water.
  • Combination Storage Boilers – Combination storage broilers will allow you to use multiple taps with warm water.
  • System Boilers – A system boiler provides central heating and hot water from a cylinder.
  • Back Boilers­­ – Back boilers are fuelled by gas, oil or solid fuel. Solid fuel back boilers provide hot water when the fire which heats the house is lit. Gas and oil back boilers can work independently of the fire, and are able to provide hot water all year round.
  • Condensing Boilers – In a condensing boiler, the water from the flue gases ‘condense’ in the secondary heat exchanger and drains away at the bottom of the boiler.
  • Storage Tanks – Boilers with a storage tank (hot water cylinder) are better capable of coping with the demands of multiple uses, and can deliver water at a high temperature and at a high flow rate.

Remember to take your time when deciding which boiler is the most suitable for your home. All types of boilers come with their own complexities, and choosing the right model isn’t a decision that you should make lightly.

Boiler Types Explained

There are three main types of central heating boilers: a combi boiler, a system boiler and a regular/conventional boiler. They each come with their own set of advantages/disadvantages, and there are some considerations for each type that you’ll need to think about before deciding which boiler type is right for your circumstances.

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This next section will give you an overview of each of the boiler types, their pros and cons and their individual considerations. However, before making a final decision, it’s always a good idea to speak to an expert who can help determine the most suitable model for your property.

Combi Boiler

These boiler types combine a water heater and a central heating boiler. Combination boilers have the ability to heat water from the mains, which eliminates the need for a separate storage tank. Most consider combi boilers a cost and energy-efficient choice. Combi boilers are a good choice for smaller properties that have good main pressure and don’t require a hot water storage cylinder.

System Boilers

System boilers use a cylinder to store hot water. Experts often recommend them for larger homes with more complex central heating systems. They are a popular choice for properties that tend to have limited attic space. If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly option, system boilers pair well with solar water heating systems. System boilers are also considered economical and straight forward to install.

Regular Boilers

Also known as conventional or vent boilers, these types of boilers are suitable for homes with a more conventional heating water system already connected to a separate hot water cylinder. With a regular boiler, a cold-water storage tank will need to be fitted into the loft. These types of boilers for home heating are well suited to properties that have an old-fashioned radiator system.

Regular boilers are also compatible with a solar water heating system for those who want an environmentally friendly option, as well as lower fuel bills.

Types of Boilers for Home Heating

The most common types of fuel used in home heating boilers are gas and electric, and they each have their own advantages. An electric boiler has a quieter operation, doesn’t take up as much space and doesn’t require a fuel tank, so they’re a good choice for smaller properties.

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If you’re considering a gas-fueled model, these types of boilers are highly regarded for their durability. Breakdowns are usually rare, and the units themselves are low maintenance.

Benefits of a Combination Boiler

  • The main benefit of a combi boiler is its compact size.if
  • Eliminates the need for a hot water cylinder, making it a good choice if you have limited space.
  • No water tank, you don’t need to worry about pipework freezing or floods occurring in the winter.
  • They provide an unlimited amount of heat for water.
  • Combination boilers are also more affordable to install due to the limited pipework.
  • There’s no need for a hot water cylinder
  • They come in a choice of gas or electric.

Disadvantages of a Combination Boilers

  • You’ll be entirely reliant on your combi boiler for hot water. If it breaks down, there is no immersion tank, and you will have no access to hot water.
  • It isn’t possible to fit a power shower with a combi boiler.
  • The unit can only run one bath or shower at a time, which is why they’re best suited to smaller homes.
  • Water flow can be diminished if pressure is low in your area.

Combination Boilers — Considerations

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  • One of the main considerations should be the local water pressure. If the mains water pressure is too low, then a combi boiler won’t be suitable.
  • You’ll also need to consider the demand they’ll be for water. Do you have more than one bathroom? Do you want the option of using baths/showers simultaneously? If so, then a combi boiler is not likely to be the best option.
  • Combi boilers can also take some time to heat up so they can be a delay in getting the hot water you need.

Benefits of a System Boiler

  • System boilers provide a steady supply of hot water.
  • There is no attic tank required, so they are suitable for homes with limited attic space
  • They can supply hot water for multiple taps, which makes them good for larger families with additional bathrooms.
  • They’re affordable to run.
  • Installation is easier as the components needed are already built in.

Disadvantages of a System Boiler

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  • A system boiler is not suitable if you have limited space to store a hot water cylinder.
  • They are less efficient than combi boilers.
  • If the hot water runs out, it will be necessary to wait for it to reheat.
  • It can take a while for the water to warm up.

System Boiler — Considerations

When considering a system boiler, think about:

  • The space you have available for a hot water cylinder.
  • The efficiency they can offer.
  • The size of the family/property.
  • The way you use water.

Benefits of a Conventional Boiler

  • They are ideal for homes that have more than one bathroom and where there might be high demands for water at specific times.
  • Regular boilers are easy to use and reliable.
  • They’ll have the ability to supply multiple taps all at once.
  • They are well suited to areas with low water pressure.
  • They come with straightforward controls and are very reliable.

Disadvantages of a Conventional Boiler

  • With a conventional boiler, there is no instant access to hot water.
  • If water runs out, your need to wait while it reheats.
  • You will need space for a hot water cylinder/water tank.
  • Conventional boilers can be more expensive to install.

Conventional Boilers — Considerations

  • Like all types of boilers, there’s a few things to think about before making a final decision. Do you have adequate space? You’ll need room for hot water cylinder and a cold-water tank.
  • With a conventional boiler, the hot water supply is limited to what is in the cylinder. If you need more water, you’ll have to wait until it heats again.
  • A conventional boiler also means planning ahead. You have to decide when you’ll need the hot water and then program it to come on at specified times.

Other Types of Boilers to Consider

You could also consider a condensing boiler. These use either gas or electric to provide hot water. Condensing boilers used to have a poor reputation for reliability. However, the technology used in condensing boilers has changed over the years and they’re now considered a reliable choice.

Condensing boilers provide hot water when users turn the tap on. They have the ability to reduce the waste from flue gases and makes use of heat, which would otherwise be lost. There is no need for a timer and no complicated controls to manage.

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The main benefits of a condensing boiler are the lower on going running costs and the reduced fuel costs. Condensing boilers are an environmentally friendly choice due to their lower CO2 emissions. The newer models offer much greater energy efficient, and they could help you to make considerable savings on your fuel bills.

Benefits of Modern Boilers

Modern boilers often many advantages over their older counterparts. Perhaps most crucially is the fact that modern boilers are safer because they don’t have the damaging levels of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide emissions common in older models.

However, although newer models are a safer alternative, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be maintained regularly, and an alarm should be fitted to help detect an escape of dangerous gases.

Modern boilers are also more cost efficient, which means upgrading your boiler can help to save money. Statistics show that up to 22 percent of our income after taxes can go on energy bills. However, according to energy.gov, upgrading your boiler system so it’s more energy efficient, or investing in a high efficiency heating system could cut heating bills in half.

It you’re environmentally conscious, newer models have lower emissions so they are less damaging to the environment. In recent years, there has been a greater concern over CO2 emissions and the damage these cause to the environment. New models produce fewer CO2 emissions, and you can opt for an electric model if you want something that isn’t dependent on fossil fuels.

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Efficiency ratings of modern boilers are also often superior to the older models. According to the Department of Energy, older boilers have an energy efficiency rating of between 56-70 percent. By upgrading to a modern boiler, efficiencies are much higher, with some higher efficiency models achieving 98.5 percent.

A further benefit of modern boilers is their quieter operation when compared to older versions. Older models were often known for being noisy. However, boiler design has been greatly enhanced over the years. This means that modern boilers are much quieter in operation. The quieter operation that newer models offer is a significant advantage if the boiler will be placed in an upstairs bathroom or it will be closer to a bedroom wall. Their quieter operation also offers a greater choice when it comes to situating the boiler.

Modern boilers are also more compact, so they are less intrusive and they don’t use as much space as their older counterparts. This coupled with the fact that they have a sleeker, more contemporary appeal than older models, makes them more aesthetically pleasing.

Deciding Which Boiler is Right for Your Home

There are a number of different factors that will determine the most suitable heater for your home. This includes the size and age of your property, whether your property already has good insulation and the kind of fuel already used to heat your property. If you are looking to save money on your heating bills, then the individual boiler efficiency will need to be a considered too. You also need to think about the size of your family, and the demand that there might be for water at any one time.

Before making a final decision on which type of boiler would be best for your property, a heat loss calculation would be beneficial. This will help determine whether your current boiler is the right size for your home or whether you need a more compact sized model. Conducting a heat loss calculation can also help you determine the right boiler size if you’re purchasing one of the first time. There are many heat loss calculators available online, but confirm your figures with an engineer before deciding on the boiler size. To further narrow down your choices, you might also want to calculate the Energy Factor to get a better understanding of efficiency and  the ongoing costs of your new boiler.

Narrowing Down Your Choice of Boiler

To narrow down your choices, you also need to think about the type of property, its surface area, how you’ll utilize the heating and whether you’ll need gas pipes installed. However, the types of boilers suitable for home will also depend on whether it offers the right capacity, its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and the venting required.

Capacity

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You need to choose a boiler that has the right capacity for your home. A boiler’s capacity is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The BTU of your property will be unique and it will depend on the local climate, where you’re located, how much insulation your property already has, the quality of the insulation and the number of doors and windows the property has. You can use a BTU calculator online, which will help you to determine the capacity required, but don’t forget to confirm these figures with an engineer.

AFUE Rating

Efficiency is important too, so don’t overlook a boiler’s Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency(AFUE) rating. This is a measure of how good the boiler is at turning fuel into the energy that will heat your home. If your boiler has an AFUE rating of at least 85 percent, then it is a “high efficiency” boiler.

Venting

Your chosen boiler will also need to have a venting system that is compatible with your property. If you opt for a power or direct vent boiler, these types of vents will utilize fans to shift exhaust out via the roof/side vent. However, a power vent isn’t suited to smaller areas.

The other option is a chimney vent, which allows exhaust to escape naturally through the chimney. When you are getting a boiler fitted, speak to your engineer for advice on the venting system that is most appropriate for your home and chosen heating system.

Energy Efficiency

While all boiler types are now energy efficient, some have greater efficiency than others. As well as noting the AFUE rating, looking at the features of a boiler system is another way to establish the level of efficiency it offers. Typically, older models are much less efficient. Their features include a pilot light and they’re usually much heavier in construct than modern boilers. These older models usually have an AFUE rating of up to 70 percent.

Mid efficiency boilers are more compact and come in a lighter weight. These boilers use an electronic ignition as opposed to a pilot light and have an AFUE of at least 80 percent. Finally, a high-efficiency boiler comes with a sealed combustion and has an AFUE rating of at least 90 percent.

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The energy-efficiency rating you will require will depend largely on your property and the climate you live in. As a guideline, properties in a colder climate would benefit from a high-efficiency model. However, if the climate you live in is milder, and this means the heating costs are lower, then you might not need to go to the expense of a high-efficiency model.

Before purchasing a new boiler, enhance your property so it’s more energy efficient first. Make sure the walls and attic are insulated and seal off gaps in doors and windows that might be letting out heat. Also, don’t overlook the duct system. If it’s not sealed or insulated, this can be a common cause of heat loss from the home. By taking these measures, when it comes to buying your boiler you won’t need to spend as much money on a boiler and you should be able to get away with a more compact size. Additionally, you should get advice before buying your boiler regarding the right size unit for your home.

Another indicator of energy efficiency is the energy star rating. You’ll no doubt be familiar with the blue label, which indicates whether an item is energy efficient. If you use the Energy Star Rating as a guide, you can be sure that it’s a model that’s kinder to the environment and will be more cost effective to run.

Other Factors to Consider

Don’t forget to check the warranty that comes with your boiler so you know the coverage you are entitled to and for how long.

If cost is a concern, you might want to look out for manufacturing rebates and incentives, which could help save you a significant amount of money.

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Choosing the correct boiler can be a bit of a challenge, but by now, you should have a better idea of the three main types, their pros, cons and the facts you need to consider before you make a decision to purchase. Investing in a new model offers a wide range of benefits, including lower fuel bills, higher efficiency and an ease of use, which often wasn’t present with earlier models.

Bruni and Campisi is an independently owned plumbing, heating and air conditioning BBB accredited company. We have an expert team of technicians available to assist and a dedicated customer service team. Together, we pride ourselves on delivering a high quality, dependable service and we’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even in the event of an emergency. If you’re in the Westchester, New York or Greenwich and Stamford, CT areas, contact Bruni & Campisi for Boiler Installation, Maintenance and Repair.

To maximize the lifespan of your boiler, it needs regular maintenance. This means annual checks to look for signs of wear and tear, potential problems with electronics or any other issues that require early detection. Bruni and Campisi conduct yearly maintenance checks to keep your boiler is the best possible condition.

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