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Types of Boilers and How They Work

Do you have questions about boilers?

If you're unsure about how boilers work or the different options for adding boiler heat to your home or business, read on. This is a short introduction that should help you find the answers about your existing boiler or any boiler you're considering installing.


What Is a Boiler System?

Boiler systems are heating systems that distribute heat throughout a home or building via hot water. They are also called hydronic systems. First, the water is heated in a boiler and then it is pumped out through supply pipes to radiators installed throughout the building. The heat radiates out through these radiators to warm up the surrounding air. The water then continuously flows through the radiators until the home is heated. Typically boilers use heating oil or natural gas for fuel.


Traditional Boilers vs. Condensing Boilers

Traditional boilers burn either natural gas or propane to heat water and operate at high temperatures, requiring that excess heat be vented to the outside through either a vent pipe or a chimney flue. They range in efficiency depending on age and type of boiler, but can be 50%-80% fuel efficient.

In contrast, condensing boilers are very fuel efficient. Condensing boilers operate at lower temperatures with condensation occurring within the venting system of the boiler. The heat exchangers of condensing boilers are specifically designed to operate this way so the condensed water does no harm to them (as it might do to a traditional boiler). Because they operate at lower temperatures and retain more heat within their systems, condensing boilers burn less fuel and can be 90%-96% in fuel efficiency.

There are a variety of heating choices for boilers, including gas, oil, or wood-fired (or biomass) boilers. One of the benefits of having a boiler heated home or building is the ability to install under-floor heating relatively easily. Under-floor heating radiates heat upward through the floor to keep your home comfortable, and the result is a much more even warmth throughout the room and building. Under-floor heating systems require low water temperatures and work best with condensing boilers.

If you are looking to add boiler heat to your home or business and would like to talk further to a heating specialist, Lake Michigan Mechanical is here for you. We would be happy to discuss which of the above boiler options would be more convenient and cost effective for your budget. If you already have a boiler system and would like to update or replace it or add air conditioning to your boiler system, call us today to get a free quote.