Tips for cutting heating costs

After last winter’s fuel frenzy, I may not be alone in trying to figure out how to reduce home heating costs. Based on what I’ve learned at various workshops and research in the field of home heating, I would like to share some information that may be helpful in your present or upcoming heating system renovation or installation. In our society, the heating industry just can’t compete for your attention like the massive automobile industry. You more than likely won’t see a boiler commercial on TV any time soon. Allow me to highly encourage you to learn more about home heating.

Just 100 years ago, only the wealthy had central heat. They were mighty in size - both steam and gravity hot water systems. As some people rejoiced with warm radiators for the first time in history, other people feared for their lives. While it is almost unheard of today, boilers were literally exploding week in and week out throughout America , claiming lives and ripping houses apart. While the “man of the house” was at work, the mom would stoke the fire, shoveling in coal to keep the fire going. Steam was and is a good heating system. However, its efficiency doesn’t compare to today’s technology. Things are different now.

Lots of options

We have numerous options in heating systems available these days. The average consumer may have a difficult time making sense of the fuel efficiency rating system. For example, some claim condensing warm-air furnaces are the way to go because of the 90 percent plus efficiency. Others claim that an 83 percent boiler can be just as, if not more, efficient to operate. Let me clarify that statement: the rating that comes with all heating appliances simply doesn’t tell the whole truth. Consider the following: first, warm air systems are notoriously “leaky” meaning that a concentrated amount of warm air that the furnace discharges into the duct system will leak out into the basement and wall partitions. Second, the cooler room basement-temperature metal ducts will first have to warm before the floor register will deliver the 130-plus degree air that the furnace delivered. Third, the blower motor consumes a healthy amount of electricity. My point is simply this: while the rating system measures steady sate burner efficiency (continuous running), it does not take the aforementioned factors into consideration.

With a modern control system known as an outdoor reset control, boilers can now benefit from huge savings in fuel consumption. The control can be added to a new boiler system or an existing one. The way it operates is fairly simple. With a temperature sensor attached on the north (or at least out of the sun’s warmth) side of the house, it sends a signal to the control mounted in the boiler room. It will then dictate the boiler temperature for that given outdoor condition. There is a commonly accepted rule of thumb to take into account. For every 3 degrees you can lower the boiler’s operating temperature, you can realize a 1 percent savings in the fuel bill. For example, the average boiler operates at 190 degrees. The outdoor reset control will bring the average system temperature down to 145 degrees F. Forty-five degrees (which is the difference between 190 - 145) divided by 3 = 15. Your new control will save you about 15 percent on your heating bill. Small house? It may not be worth the extra cost. Medium or large house? You may want to give your heating contactor a call.


Let me talk about comfort. Few people out there will argue that hot water heating is far more comfortable than warm air heating. For that reason alone, many people in New England opt for the boiler (hot water) system. But the advantages of an outdoor reset control system don’t stop with fuel savings. It also will be even more comfortable for your home. Here’s why. All baseboard heating systems are considered a convective current system. This means the air is heated as it passes through the fins of the baseboard unit. With a conventional control system, the boiler will pump 190 degrees water through the pipes. This creates more natural air current in your living area. Although it’s not as significant as a warm air system, it still is a factor. With the outdoor reset control, the system basically operates like the cruise control in your car. The system temperature will gradually rise and decline depending on outdoor conditions.

Some European boiler manufacturers already offer these controls as a part of their product line-up. If you have a domestic boiler, there are several heating control companies that make these devices as well. Speaking about the Europeans, I humbly have to say that they are decades beyond our technology here in America .

Posted on March 12th, 2008 by ed and filed under Heating, Uncategorized | No Comments »