When deciding how to heat their home, Americans tend to concentrate on furnaces rather than boilers, one of the most efficient heating systems on the market. But how does a boiler work? Americans who haven’t lived with one in their house may be surprised to learn about their benefits and how they operate.
How a Boiler Works
Unlike furnaces, which rely on convection heating, boilers rely on radiant heating ‒ similar to a campfire. Despite this, they operate like furnaces in many ways. When your thermostat activates the boiler, it opens the gas valve that feeds your burners. (Most boilers are powered by natural gas. Some use electricity, while a few still use oil.) The open valve triggers the igniter, which sparks and lights the burners. Then the induction fan draws the flames into the heat exchanger, while also funneling exhaust out through the chimney.
Once the heat exchanger is warmed up in a furnace, the blower fan begins distributing heat through your ventilation system. In a boiler, a water pump is activated instead. It circulates water through the heat exchanger then out through a series of pipes to radiators and baseboard heaters in the main rooms of your home.
As the water winds its way through the internal piping, it releases the accumulated energy it absorbed in the heat exchanger before returning to the boiler to start the journey over again. Electric boilers work along similar lines, except they don’t have gas valves, igniters, burners, or heat exchangers. Instead, they use an electric heating coil to warm the water before it’s sent out to your radiators and baseboards.
Pros and Cons of a Boiler
Water absorbs heat four times better than air, which is why boilers make such efficient heaters. By raising temperatures so quickly, they also produce greater savings. The less your heating system has to run, the less energy it consumes. Boilers are also healthier. Unlike furnaces, there’s no danger of dust, dirt, or dander being sucked into the vents and blown through your home. Boilers also have fewer moving parts and suffer less wear and tear as a result.
Unfortunately, boiler systems are expensive to install, which is why you won’t find them in most homes. Because their upfront costs are smaller, builders generally prefer furnaces instead. Boilers are also a potential liability in frigid climates, where extreme cold can cause pipes to freeze or burst. Burst pipes can lead to extensive water damage that’s both difficult and expensive to repair, especially if your pipes are located in the walls or under floorboards. In most climates they function without any incident, but if you live in a particularly cold environment, make sure your pipes are insulated, to prevent any unwanted mishaps.
Protect Your Boiler
Agway doesn’t just power boilers. We protect them. Our EnergyGuardTM Program covers your heating, cooling, and electrical systems* from problems caused by wear and tear. Home insurance doesn’t guard against this type of damage, but we do. When the need for repair occurs, our service team sends a contractor to your home as quickly as possible. We pay for the visit and all covered parts. There are no service fees or deductibles. Your coverage is included in your supply cost. Sign up today and experience the benefits of EnergyGuardTM!
*Coverage depends on commodity purchased.