A home with ideal energy efficiency is one where the homes heating system is designed and coincides with the demand of the home. For example you cannot have a home heating system that is undersized or oversized for a particular home. An undersized system will run constantly and never keep up with demand and an oversized system will short cycle and never run efficiently. Years ago contractors would always put in the bigger size system than what was called for and we still receive that request today. Client’s say to us “Whatever size it takes, I want one bigger.” The thought process being bigger has to be better. That is obviously not the case and wastes expensive energy and always has.
Your home heating system is the single most expensive appliance in your home and should be treated as such. The proper installation can have a payback period in as little as 3 years, saving you money in the near term and in the future as well as adding a great deal of equity to your home. For most, updating your home heating system can be one of the largest investments you as a homeowner will make and careful considerations need to be made when doing so. The following is a short list of several things you as a homeowner and consumer should be aware of when considering this purchase.
1. The Proper Size Boiler?
When installing a new home heating system, a contractor should do what is called a heat load calculation. This calculation can be done several different ways; however, this is the first step to insure your new home heating system is sized properly to maximize the efficiency of the system. The output of the existing system cannot be used, because most homes were not sized properly to start, nor should a “gues-timate” be done. It is vital to make sure the boiler is sized properly so it is not running all the time and producing no heat or constantly cycling off and on wasting valuable energy.
2. What is “near boiler” piping and why does it need to be changed as well?
Near boiler piping is the heart and lifeblood of a truly efficient and effective home heating system.
Keep these questions in mind before continuing… When you purchase a new car, are you sold just the body and frame? Do you keep the current engine and materials from your old car to be installed in your new car? – Of course you do not! So why would you want the same practice applied when installing a new home heating system? Something that is used every day and you depend on to keep your family warm, safe and secure. You cannot truly make an efficient heating system if new near boiler piping practices are not applied.
Whoever your contractor is, it is critical to ask them that this be done and included in the estimate for your new installation. A reputable contractor will remove all old plumbing and related materials, such as antiquated overhead expansion tanks, old circulators, gate valves, etc. and replace them with new (watch for remanufactured equipment) and more high efficient equipment. Your new system is will only perform as good as the installation allows it.
3. An indirect or direct fired hot water heater as opposed to a domestic coil?
Did you ever come home in the middle of the summer and hear your boiler running? Have you ever run out of hot water in the winter when taking a shower while someone is doing the dishes? A domestic water coil in the boiler, though still used and produced regularly, is an inefficient way to heat your water for use around the house. It was effective years ago, but not by today’s standards. With a domestic water coil, the boiler has to maintain temperature (between 160-180 degrees) 24 hours a day to produce between only 2-8 gallons of hot water. This is wasting energy that does not need to be used in the first place. An indirect fired or direct fired hot water heater is the best way to solve this problem.
Losing less than half a degree an hour, an indirect or direct fired hot water heater can meet all of your family’s hot water needs efficiently and effectively. Both types have their own thermostat just like any heating zone in your house. With these types of appliances, you have a stored capacity of hot water that is ready on demand and can be priority zoned for your needs. Instead of your boiler cycling off/on several times a day every day, even in the summer, you will have endless hot water that is being made on a demand type basis. This greatly increases the overall efficiency of your home heating system and adds enormous value to the installation and equity of your home.
4. Code Compliance?
Though not all Borough’s and Municipalities have code inspectors or require permits for replacing a heating system, many of them do. It is important that your contractor be a licensed PA Home Improvement Contractor and files any paperwork that may be necessary. If your local Borough or Municipality does not have a code inspector, a reputable contractor will follow the basic “NFPA 31 – Codes for Standard Installation of Oil Burning Equipment.” Many of the steps outlined in NFPA 31 are to protect the investment made by the customer through the addition of a new home heating system. They consist of, but are not limited to, a low water cutoff, MC wiring, coated oil line, proper installation and piping of the relief valve and mixing valves applicable with domestic water coils.
REMEMBER YOUR NEW HEATING SYSTEM IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE INSTALLATION!