When most people think of “heating,” they think of furnaces. However, there’s another common type of heater found in many Chicago homes: boiler heating systems. As part of a radiant heating setup—also known as a hydronic system—a boiler can provide your home with superior winter comfort and energy efficiency. In this article, we’ll review some of the upsides of boiler and radiant systems, and explore whether this type of heating is right for your home.
What are boiler heating systems?
The boiler is the integral piece of a home radiant heating system. In contrast to central, “forced-air” heating, where heat energy is transferred through air to the living spaces of your home, radiant heating systems move heat energy using water that travels through small pipes, typically underneath the floors. When the water reaches an in-room radiator, the heat energy is released into that space, warming the room.
Radiant heating has the potential to quickly warm up a cold room.
Types of boilers
There are two major types of boiler systems:
- Hot Water Boilers, which operate as described above. They are the most common type of boiler system here in the United States.
- Steam Boilers, which also heat water, but instead push heated steam into the radiator as its means of moving heat energy into the room.
It’s important to note that—while the principal concept is the same—boilers and water heaters are not synonymous. Your water heater heats water for use at the tap, while the water in the boiler system remains in a closed loop and is only used for heating purposes.
Energy-efficient heating for your home
Whether they heat water using electricity, oil, or natural gas, all boilers and radiant heating systems are generally more energy efficient than forced-air furnaces. Why is this? Water is a much better conduit for heat energy than air. As the boiler pushes heated water to the radiator, less of that heat energy is lost along the way than when a furnace air handler pushes heated air through ductwork and out registers.
Overall, this means that the boiler uses less fuel while providing more heating. As a result, many Carrier boiler systems boast an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of up to 90-95%, exceeding the efficiency benchmarks of many of the gas furnaces in their Infinity® series.
Radiant heating systems have another advantage over forced-air units: the registers are typically located at or near the floor, instead of at or in the ceiling. Since hot air rises in a room, this means that the heat from the radiant heating system is more effective at warming the room.
Heat your home’s floors
For homes with a hydronic system, one of the main benefits is heated floors. In most popular configurations, the pipes and tubes used to transfer heated water from the boiler to the radiators are run underneath the floors of hallways, kitchens, and rooms. The heat released during the transportation of the water through the pipes rises, warming the wood, tile, or carpet.
If you’ve ever experienced the shock of stepping barefoot onto the floor on a cold Chicago winter morning, you’ll recognize just what a difference maker this can be.
Should you upgrade to a hydronic system?
Most homeowners who upgrade to a boiler system make the switch when they remodel their home, since adding all the pipes, tubes, and radiators that make up the system can require some significant renovations. However, the upside of doing this is that you add serious comfort and value to your home, all while lowering your winter energy costs. If you are planning on selling your home in the near future, radiant heated floors could be a major part of the appeal of your property. It’s an upgrade worth considering!
If your home already has the setup for a radiant heating system, talk to the team here at King Heating, Cooling & Plumbing about your boiler system options. We install a number of high-efficiency, long-lasting Carrier boilers, and we can find the right one for your home during our free in-home estimate. To schedule yours, call us today.