When To Upgrade

Surprisingly, heat and hot water system upgrades typically save more over the spring, summer, and fall than during the winter. That’s because conventional boilers operate even less efficiently in warmer weather.

There are many good reasons to upgrade your boiler or furnace, and cutting fuel costs with higher efficiency is often at the top of the list.

Here are a few common reasons to upgrade:

  • Cut fuel costs with a high-efficiency boiler or heat and hot water system
  • Improve comfort with quieter operation
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions
  • Replace an older boiler or furnace that is no longer reliable or has failed
  • Improve home comfort
  • Expanded use requires more heat or hot water output; a growing family or an addition to your home are examples
  • Improve comfort and efficiency with pools or spas
  • Improve home resale value

The best indicator of a high-efficiency boiler or heating system is low idle loss, or how much heat is wasted when the boiler is off. Conventional boilers weigh several hundred pounds and have a lot of heat energy wasted in the boiler itself when the burner shuts off.  To help reduce all these “idle” losses, some better grade conventional boiler designs add insulation and burner dampers, but this is like having a well-insulated coffee thermos bottle and leaving the top off – a terrible waste of energy.  The AFUE or yellow energy guide rating is supposed to indicate average usage, but is generations behind today’s technology and virtually ignores idle loss.


Boiler Efficiency Checklist – if your boiler has these symptoms, you can save the most with an upgrade:

1. Is your boiler or furnace room hot, or is your boiler hot when it’s not making heat or hot water (especially during the spring, summer and fall)?
If so, your system most likely has high idle losses, and there’s a good opportunity to cut fuel bills significantly.

2. Is your boiler properly sized to the heat loss in your home?
A boiler that has too much capacity typically runs in short cycles and is less efficient than a properly sized boiler.  If your burner frequently cycles on and off with short bursts, the boiler may be maintaining temperature and wasting energy.  The efficiency of boilers with high idle loss drops rapidly under these conditions.  Boilers with very low idle loss operate much closer to the rated efficiency under all conditions and are nearly immune to oversizing efficiency reductions.

whenToUpgradeBoiler3. Does your boiler only have an operating (low efficiency) control?
A boiler operating control is usually a gray temperature control box that is roughly 6” x 5”and  is mounted on the boiler.  Some have digital readouts, although most only have internal dials for set points. Most conventional boilers installed before the end of 2012 have this type of control, offering a solid opportunity to improve performance with an integrated heat and hot water system.

4. Is your hot water made in a coil in your boiler, in a hot water tank with a metal flue, or in an electric water heater?
Hot water stored in a separate water tank with no flue and heated by a boiler with low idle loss will significantly cut hot water energy consumption.  Although electric hot water is efficient in your home, power plants typically convert and deliver less than 30% of the energy burned to make electricity, which makes electric hot water very expensive and inefficient.

5. Does your boiler, furnace, or water heater have a pilot light?
Pilot lights continuously drain energy which also increases idle loss.  A pilot light is like a beacon that indicates older equipment; very significant savings can be achieved by upgrading these systems to a high-efficiency boiler or integrated home heating system.

6. Is your heating duct system well sealed and insulated?
Poorly sealed and un-insulated ductwork, especially in unheated spaces, can lead to tremendous heat losses.

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you have a good opportunity to cut your heating bills. Check out your Savings Analysis.