If you live in the Northeast US or another cold climate region, you probably heat your home with a boiler. A boiler heats water, pushes hot steam or water to rooms in your home, then sends that steam to radiators or radiant heating systems. New clean boiler systems are very energy efficient, with efficiencies as high as 98.5%.
Boilers are rated with an annual fuel-utilization-efficiency (AFUE) score, which tells you how much energy is being converted into useable heat. Think of the AFUE score as a measure of how efficient the appliance is in converting the energy in its fuel to the heat over the course of a typical year. New boilers must have an AFUE rating of at least 80%. A ratio exists in which higher AFUE ratings generate higher equipment costs but also lower operating costs. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission requires new boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models.
If your clean boiler offers an AFUE of 90%, it indicates that all but 10% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home. The rest escapes up a chimney or elsewhere.
As with other designations like the ENERGY STAR label, the AFUE rating was established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy. Such ratings make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.
A Clean Boiler Powered by Electricity = Sustainable Choice
Want to heat using only electricity? Then an electric boiler may be just what you are seeking.
You know how a kettle works? In essence, it’s a unit with water running through it that is heated by a heating element. That’s the same premise for an electric boiler. it will heat up the water that warms your radiators and the water you use in the kitchen and bathroom.
Advantages to an electric clean boiler: Electric boilers have many plusses. As simple systems, they’re relatively easy and inexpensive to install. Because they don’t need to be placed on an outside wall, as there’s no flue or gas pipe, they can be situated where the layout allows space. These often long, slim units run quietly, are compact, and can squeeze into tight spots. Very little heat is lost in the process of heating the water, so electric boilers are almost 100% efficient and contribute to a sustainable home. They can be used in off-grid areas, or where a gas supply is either not wanted or not possible.
Electric clean boiler systems with storage heaters allow you to save up thermal energy overnight, which is advantageous if you’re charged differently by your utility for day and night energy use. You’ll also have to deal with the expense involved with installing storage heater systems. There’s also the question of how much you’ll backup energy you’ll need to store up. Eventually, though, you’ll become quite expert at anticipating how much heat you need to have spare for next day use, or else you’ll be caught short.
Disadvantages to an electric clean boiler: Of course, there are always negatives with any energy system, especially when it is compared to those powered by traditional (and carbon emitting) fossil fuels. Due to their small size, electric clean boilers may not be able to build enough capacity to heat large spaces. If electricity is more costly than fossil fuels where you are, the cost of heating water using electricity is going to be a lot higher, even if you have a very efficient electric clean boiler system. Storing up more energy during the day with a storage heater may add a bit expense, too.
A Heat Pump = Option to Cost-Efficient Electric Heating
If you want the high energy efficiency of an electric clean boiler without its higher electricity costs, you might consider a heat pump. A heat pump can satisfy moderate heating requirements and air conditioning needs as well.
Know how your refrigerator uses electricity to move heat from a cool to a warm space? That’s a lot like a heat pump, which transfers heat from the cool outdoors into your warm home during the cold weather season and heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors during the warn weather season. As a mechanism that shifts rather than generates heat, heat pumps often cost only about 25% of the cost of operating conventional heating or cooling appliances.
There are three types of heat pumps: air-to-air, water source, and geothermal — each of which offers a viable alternative to fossil fuel-powered boilers. The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. Today’s heat pump can reduce your electricity use for heating by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters.
Want some help with dehumidifying? Then high-efficiency heat pumps can offer this support, too, and they’re better at dehumidifying than standard central air conditioners. An air-source heat pump requires less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months than other heating/ cooling sources. Air-source heat pump technology has advanced so that it now offers a reliable space heating alternative in colder regions.
For homes without ducts, air-source heat pumps are also available in a ductless version called a “mini-split heat pump.” In addition, a special type of air-source heat pump called a “reverse cycle chiller” generates hot and cold water rather than air, allowing it to be used with radiant floor heating systems in heating mode.
Renewable energy technologies like electric clean boilers are clean sources of energy that have a much lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies. Renewable energy will not run out. Ever. Other sources of energy are finite and will someday be depleted. Most renewable energy investments are spent on materials and workmanship to build and maintain the facilities, rather than on costly energy imports.
As you begin to shop around for systems to heat and cool you home, a clean electric boiler or heat pump may be exactly the answer — it provides the energy efficiency you’re seeking while causing lower environmental impacts.