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When Is It the Right Time for a Boiler Upgrade in Your Virginia Home?


Your house doesn’t heat properly anymore, or your boiler keeps getting more expensive to run every year. Is it time to look at boiler upgrades? While some boiler problems may be fixed with regular maintenance, there comes a time when you just can’t justify keeping that creaky old unit anymore. You could just wait for it to break down completely and do an emergency replacement then, or you can get ahead of the game.

If your current boiler is over 15 years old, the models currently on the market are likely much more efficient and potentially safer. A replacement could cut your energy bill by about 25 percent while improving home comfort. Here are some points that may help you decide if it’s time to retire that boiler and tap into modern benefits.

Is Your Boiler Too Big?

Surprisingly, most boilers are oversized for the homes they heat. While this won’t hurt your home, it does turn into a lot more expense than you actually need to keep it warm. A boiler that’s too large is prone to rapid cycling. That is, it will turn on and off frequently, burning up more fuel and wearing down your boiler in order to maintain the desired interior temperature. This rapid cycling is most noticeable on very cold days.

When sized correctly, the boiler turns on and heats the water at infrequent intervals. Once hot, the water loses its temperature slowly for steady indoor heating. Discuss your home heating needs with a qualified HVAC technician to explore more appropriately sized boiler upgrades.

Are You Wasting Energy to Run the Boiler?

Old boilers are notorious for wasting energy, especially the ones that have been taking on wear-and-tear for the last 10 to 20 years. An older model boiler that’s ripe for an upgrade wastes energy in these three key ways:

  • Idle heat loss – Boiler rooms shouldn’t be hot when they’re not in use, and hot water inside the pipes shouldn’t cool off quickly after they’re heated. These are forms of idle loss, or the loss of energy while the boiler isn’t being used. Old boilers have high idle loss rates, but modern high-efficiency systems have virtually eliminated them.
  • Pilot lights – Did you know that a pilot light is quickly becoming a thing of the past? The pilot light on your boiler constantly drains fuel, costing money and potentially gassing off carbon monoxide. Many boiler upgrades include an electronic ignition or integrated home heating to cut down on unnecessary loss.
  • Inefficient controls – Old boiler systems basically have a control knob that allows you to set a certain temperature and leave it at that. Newer high-efficiency controls take a number of factors into account, including the outdoor temperature and other such factors that cut down on energy consumption for the same amount of heating.

When you consider a 10-year period in home heating, you’re talking about a lot of major technological advances. These have moved a brand new boiler from about 70 to 80 percent efficiency to around 90 percent efficiency or more.

What Heats Your Home’s Hot Water?

Most homes with appliances over 10 years old have a hot water heater and a boiler completely separate from each other. On average, the bill for household hot water runs between 15 percent and 18 percent of overall energy costs. When you have a big boiler already expending energy to heat water, there’s no good reason to have a completely free-standing tank storage water heater to supply your water taps.

There are several different integrated hot water heater options that piggyback off of the boiler. Your hot water may still be in a separate tank, but without metal flues and using the boiler to keep it hot and ready. Another option is a boiler that has a coil for heating an independent water supply inside of it, providing reliable hot water for your home. While tankless electric hot water heaters are often touted as the high efficiency option for homes, these boiler-dependent hot water heaters often save a lot of money in the long run when you already have an established boiler system.

Bear in mind that there are a number of different types of boilers on the market, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

For more expert advice on boiler upgrades and getting the right system for your needs, contact us at HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited Heating & Air Conditioning. We offer top-notch services to Fairfax, Arlington, Reston and the surrounding areas.

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