70% of United States households have forced-air furnaces compared to only 11% with boilers. Despite its rarity, boiler heat still has its fair share of upside. If you have an older home with an older system, then upgrading to new technology is an attractive option. In this article, we unpack the key considerations when deciding whether to upgrade your residential boiler heat system.
By design, boiler systems are very efficient with the heat once it’s created. Very little heat is lost as it moves through the coils and radiators to disperse throughout your home (whereas forced air systems must push the warm air through cold ducts and into cold air thus losing heat along the way). Boiler’s only real inefficiencies lie in creating the heat itself. Old boiler systems have an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 50-60%, meaning upwards of 40% of the fuel used to create heat is wasted. New, high-efficiency units have as high as 98% AFUE. This is a huge ongoing cost-savings for someone who is looking to upgrade their old boiler system.
So, what are the downsides to consider? The upfront cost is higher. You may incur higher installation and retrofitting costs. Lastly, there are perhaps higher repair costs with a high-efficiency boiler because the technology is more complex. Having said all this, these higher costs are often close to immediately offset by the ability to purchase a smaller and therefore less costly system when switching to high-efficiency.
Generally, if you are replacing a boiler older than 10 years old and plan to stay in your home more than 4-5 years, then ti makes sense to go high-efficiency. The longer you stay in our home, the more you’ll save. If you do decide to sell earlier than planned, you can take comfort in knowing that a high-efficiency boiler system is a very nice selling feature for any home, especially for those of us in the northern climates!