Boilers are quickly becoming more popular in the United States, and with good reason. They’re the only way to get radiant heat instead of forced air.
Radiant heat comes through the floors and/or walls, providing a more comfortable, even and efficient heat. Forced air (from a furnace) comes through vents and often rises to the ceiling or escapes through windows (all while blowing dust and allergens around).
As you can imagine, heat from a boiler is a lot cozier, and much more appealing to anyone with asthma or severe allergies.
Boilers are available in two main types: steam and hot water. Overall, steam makes a more efficient use of your fuel. Still, most American homes built after 1950 use hot water boilers.
This is due almost entirely to cost. Steam boilers require threaded steel piping, which is much more expensive than the small copper piping that’s common with the hot water boiler option. Both builders and homeowners alike are looking to save where they can, and many think that getting a boiler (any boiler!) is a big perk and therefore try to save when it comes to the type.
From the Ground Up
Since changing from a water to a steam boiler would require re-piping your entire home, you can imagine why few people do it! However, if you’re custom building a home or you get to choose the piping in a planned community, you might want to go with steam.
It’s not just more efficient, but also much less likely to freeze during an extended power failure. When it’s shut off, the system drains dry — that’s not the case with hot water. If you live in a region like Utah, where freezing winters are common, steam boilers will give you better protection during an emergency.
However, keep in mind that steam requires the absolute best workmanship. If it’s not configured correctly by a professional HVAC technician, you’re headed for a lot of (expensive!) trouble.
Hot water boilers can tolerate shabbier craftsmanship, but mediocrity shouldn’t be your goal. Research your HVAC technician and make sure the company you choose has a glowing track record working with steam boilers.
A hot water boiler that’s capable of varying the water temperature instead of just blasting full heat at all times can be just as efficient as a steam boiler. This is yet another reason you need a premium HVAC technician on your side.
Ultimately, few people get the chance to decide whether they want a steam or hot water boiler. But if you’re ever in that lucky position, make the most of it. Ask Roberts Mechanical for help in the boiler decision process, and ensure you get to heat things up in the way you want.