Dear Eartha, My boiler is old and I’ve been told it might not last much longer. Do I get a higher efficiency boiler or are there other heating options to consider? I don’t know where to start!
The decision to replace an old natural gas boiler is a significant crossroads in a homeowner’s journey. It’s a big choice that we want to align with our values and the future of our planet, while providing reliable, cost-effective comfort. As you stand at this junction, allow me to offer some insight on your choices and steps in this daunting process.
A More Efficient Boiler
Efficiency in heating systems is about getting the most heat from the energy input. Higher efficiency boilers are designed to extract as much heat as possible from the natural gas they burn. The most efficient boilers can now convert almost all of the energy they use into heat, but there’s inevitably a small percentage that is wasted during combustion.
Higher efficiency boilers are undoubtedly an improvement over older models. They reduce energy waste, decrease emissions, and, in the short term, save on utility bills. Replacing an old boiler with a new one can also be a relatively straightforward process, requiring minimal changes to your existing heating system. However, even the most efficient natural gas boiler remains reliant on a finite and environmentally damaging resource.
In today’s rapidly changing energy landscape, alternative heating options are worth exploring. These options can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also future-proof your home against volatile energy costs and availability. This doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Most houses you walk into in Summit County already have multiple heat sources. That fireplace mostly used for ambiance puts off heat too. Here’s an idea: keep your old boiler and only use it to supplement a much cleaner, more efficient primary heating system.
Cold Climate Heat Pumps:
Heat pumps are emerging as a formidable alternative to traditional natural gas boilers. They work by extracting heat from the air or ground and transferring it into your home, effectively using a small amount of energy to move a larger amount of heat.
This innovative technology can provide heating and cooling, making it an all-in-one solution. Modern cold climate heat pumps can continue producing heat down to extreme temperatures of -20 degrees F, some even lower.
Here’s the kicker. Since these systems are powered entirely by electricity, it enables you to offset your main space heating with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. There is no direct offset for gas. A heat pump powered by solar is a slam dunk.
Solar Thermal Systems:
These systems harness the sun’s energy to heat water, which can then be used for space heating and domestic hot water. They are environmentally friendly and can save you money in the long run.
Biomass heating systems use organic materials, such as wood pellets or agricultural residues, to generate heat. Your woodburning fireplace is a biomass heater – albeit a very inefficient one. High efficiency wood heaters exist and burn at extremely high temperatures with controlled air supply.
You might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do I do it?”
First, determine your home’s energy needs, your budget, and your commitment to sustainability. It’s ok to be realistic. A great way to start is to get a home energy assessment from the High County Conservation Center.
Next, you’ll want to find a qualified heating professional who can help guide you through the process. It’s worth getting a few different opinions in this phase for a variety of perspectives, expertise, and competitive quotes. Between local, state, federal, and utility resources, there are some serious incentives to save money on environmentally friendly heating options. For a comprehensive layout of these resources, call High Country Conservation Center at 970-668-5703 before you rule anything out.
Finally, it’s decision and installation time. Given your budget, available incentives, expert recommendations, and specific considerations with your home, it’s time to schedule with a contractor you trust.
The choice between a higher efficiency natural gas boiler and exploring alternative heating options is more than a matter of convenience; it’s a chance to shape your home’s future. I encourage you to think outside the (boiler) box and find the path that keeps you warm and the planet cool.