Okay, so you’re sitting at home one evening watching TV, nice and cozy, and suddenly you start to feel a little chilly.
At first you think it’s just you, so you go put on a sweater or grab a blanket…and now back to our regularly scheduled program. Half hour later, suddenly you realize you’re not feeling any warmer; in fact, it’s getting downright cold. So you yell to any and all family members within earshot: “Hey, there’s something wrong with the furnace!”
If you’re like most people, right now you’re thinking: “Yeah, so?” Well, the “so” is this: the vast majority of American home owners refer to their heating system as a “furnace” as if that were synonymous with “furnace.” It’s not. Many homes are equipped with a boiler. How can you tell the difference? So glad you asked!
What is a Boiler and How Does it Work?
A boiler has two primary functions in life: to heat your home and your water supply. For purposes of this newsletter article, we’ll focus on home heating systems.
Each boiler is equipped with a burner. The fuel (gas or oil) that’s used to power the boiler and create the necessary steam to heat your home is burned or released from the burner into the boiler.
Natural gas is supplied through a specialized pipe and released into the boiler, oil is sent through a pressurized tank, while wood chips (another boiler fuel source) are blown into the burner. These fuel sources mix with the air and ignite to create enough heat to boil the water and, in turn, produce steam.
Still with us? Cool.
Inside your boiler is water. The burned fuel combines with the water to create steam. Ultimately, it’s steam that heats your home through radiators, under-floor vents, baseboards and specialized pipes that run throughout your home. Some steam stays inside the boiler; otherwise, your home becomes overheated.
Are home heating boilers as popular as they once were? Definitely not. In fact, most older boilers have been replaced by electric or gas-fired forced air heating systems.
But that doesn’t mean that a home heating boiler isn’t still a good investment. Gas boilers, in fact, are both highly energy efficient and durable. Condensing boilers (one of three types) are the most efficient and produce the least amount of greenhouse gases.