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Understanding Boilers – A Quick Guide

Most people are familiar with forced-air furnaces: A central furnace system warms air, and that warm air is circulated through ducts and vents. But boilers offer another way to heat a building: Water is heated to deliver hydronic or radiant heat. This often results in quieter and more even heating. If you’re considering a boiler heating system for your building–perhaps a commercial building that you’re planning to construct–this guide will help you understand your options.

How Is Heat Delivered?

Boiler heat is delivered via radiators or a loop system under the floor. Some systems use baseboards to delver the heat. These installations cast heat from the hot water into the surrounding air. The water, having discharged its heat, is circulated back into the boiler to be heated again.

How Can You Find Efficient Boilers?

Boiler efficiency, like furnace efficiency, is rated according to the annual fuel utilization efficiency standard: the percent of energy input that becomes usable heat. This is especially important if you’re replacing a heating system in an older building. While old furnaces and boilers might have AFUEs in the 50 to 75 percent range–meaning that half to a quarter of the energy input is lost–today’s boilers are required to have AFUEs above 80 percent. Some of the highest-efficiency models have AFUE ratings in the high 90s. Ask your HVAC contractor for a boiler guide that lists specific models and their AFUE ratings.

What Should You Consider When Installing a Boiler?

Always make sure a qualified HVAC professional sizes your heating system appropriately for your building. A heating system that’s too small won’t keep the building comfortable through the winter, and one that’s too large will use energy in excess of your needs.

You should also pay attention to how fumes from the heating process are vented outside your building, and remember that improper venting can lead to heat loss or compromised indoor-air quality.

To learn more about installing or upgrading a boiler in your Fairfax-area commercial building, contact HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited Heating & Air Conditioning.

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