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Reasons to upgrade
Existing system checklist
Low efficiency controls
Where do your energy dollars go?
Saves more than other boilers:
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Dept. of Energy lab results
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When to Upgrade...

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. Read more below to find out about what to look for in a home heating system and see if you can cut heating costs even if your home heating system is relatively new. Here are a few common reasons to upgrade:
  • Cut fuel costs with a high efficiency boiler or heat and hot water system
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions
  • Replace an older boiler or furnace which is no longer reliable or has failed
  • Improve home comfort
  • Expanded use requires more heat or hot water output; a home addition is an example (although boilers are frequently oversized)
  • 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. Because boilers are typically oversized and the burner is off much more often than it is on, idle losses have a tremendous impact on annual fuel consumption and boiler efficiency. The AFUE or yellow energy guide rating is supposed to indicate average usage, but is generations behind todayís technology and virtually ignores idle loss.

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Existing System Checklist

Hereís what to check for to see if your boiler has high idle losses:

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

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 oil burner, natural gas burner or propane burner cycles on and off frequently during the coldest days of winter, it has too much capacity; longer off cycles indicate more excess capacity.† The efficiency of boilers with high idle loss drops rapidly with too much capacity.† Boilers with very low idle loss operate much closer to the rated efficiency. Review potential savings and a heat loss estimate based on your fuel use here.
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Low Efficiency Boiler Control


3. Does your boiler only have an operating (low efficiency) control?† This is usually a gray temperature control box about the size of a book which is mounted on the boiler.† Some have digital readouts, although most only have internal dials for set points. If you don't have an additional control this is most likely what your boiler has.

A control that adjusts to outdoor temperature can moderately improve efficiency if properly adjusted.

A separate energy saving control, called a hybrid energy recovery control or boiler thermal purge control keeps the boiler cool when itís not running and virtually eliminates idle loss providing the best high efficiency heating system.†


4. Is your hot water made in a coil in your boiler, in a 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 fuel 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. This 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 duct work, 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.

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Where Do Your Energy Dollars Go
Energy Chart


How much of your home's energy is used for heat and hot water?

To find out more about conservation and the impact of saving energy and renewable energy sources, click here.

Chart source data from Energy Information Administration, Office of Energy Markets and End Use, Forms EIA-457 A-G of the 2001 Residential Energy Consumption Survey, New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Air conditioning percentage is an aggregate for the region and may not be representative of specific home usage.
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