Missoula Residential HVAC Contractors Answer 20 Questions About Boilers

If you have a boiler, are considering a home with a boiler, or are considering putting a boiler on a new build, you have come to the right place. We love playing 20 questions the HVAC way! Today, we’re doing a deep dive into a common home heating system, BOILERS! Let’s get started!

1. What is a boiler?

A boiler is a unit that works as part of a heating system that heats water or another liquid.  Boilers can either heat the water so that the hot water itself or the steam emitted is used to heat a space. A boiler is the main component of a number of heating systems, including baseboard heat, radiators, and in-floor systems.

2. How does a boiler system work?

A boiler heating system is also called a hydronic heating system. These work by circulating either hot water or steam through a series of pipes. The pipes can be installed in baseboards, in the floor, etc. Hydronic heating systems work slower but are generally cleaner than forced air heating systems.

3. What is the difference between a boiler system and a furnace system?

A boiler heats water, while a furnace heats air. Both of these units are the main components of many Missoula residential HVAC systems.  Furnaces are the typical unit of a forced air system, while boilers are the main unit of a hydronic heating system.

4. My new home has baseboards. Does that mean it has a boiler?

Yes. If you have baseboards, your home has a boiler in a closet, basement, or attic.  If you are in a new home or in a home you are considering buying, look around and see what you are working with.  If you can find the boiler, see if the date of installation is marked on the unit. If not, the manufacture date should be on the label, and will give you a rough estimate of how long it has been in use.  Check to see if there is one thermostat or multiple to determine the number of zones in the Missoula residential HVAC system.  Call Garden City Plumbing and Heating for an inspection and see what condition the system is in before turning it on.

5. Do I have to use baseboards if I use a boiler for my home’s heat?

Definitely not. If you have a boiler and are tired of the ugly baseboards in each room, you have options. One of the more luxurious options is to install in-floor piping.  This will make the floor warm to the touch, which is a welcome comfort in those cold winter mornings, as well as an aesthetic that is untainted with those old metal baseboards.

6. Are boilers the most efficient type of heat?

While geothermal heat is, by far, the most efficient heating system, boilers are still pretty efficient. Among boilers, electric boilers are more energy efficient than gas boilers. Interestingly, gas boilers are still cheaper to run than electric boilers.

7. Can I use my boiler for the hot water I use in my sink?

A combi-boiler is a boiler that can heat water for both your heating system and your home’s regular water use.  While a combi-boiler can be efficient and a great value, it typically will wear out sooner than a regular boiler because it is being used more often and year-round.

8. Can I retrofit my HVAC system with a regular boiler to use a combi-boiler instead?

If your Missoula residential HVAC system uses a traditional boiler, you can retrofit the system to work with a combi-boiler.  The process can be fairly painless but requires a licensed technician.  Give your trusted Missoula residential HVAC contractors a call to schedule this upgrade.

9. Does my boiler system have to use gas?

Definitely not! Boilers can be powered by fuel, natural gas, or electricity. While electric boilers are typically more efficient, they are still more expensive to run.  While gas is cheaper than electricity, having solar panels or some other form of renewable electricity can make an electric-powered boiler worth it.

10. Can I have several heat zones with a boiler HVAC system?

Of course! Missoula residential HVAC contractors can set up your hydronic heating system to have several heating zones.  You can have the bedrooms separate from the living room and the bathrooms in their own zone as well.  These zones can be added to an older hydronic system or installed with a new system.

11. How often would I have my boiler serviced?

Once a year is the recommended time frame for boiler inspection and servicing. During this visit by a Missoula residential HVAC technician, components will be cleaned and checked for wear and tear.  This preventative maintenance will save you much time and money in the long run!

12.  How often should I expect to repair my boiler?

If you are getting a yearly inspection, you should be able to avoid most any large repair.  Of course, there is always a chance for a component to entirely wear out between visits and cause a breakdown, but these should be very few and far between if you are scheduling your yearly servicing.

13. How likely is it that my boiler system will leak and cause water damage?

We have all heard a horror story or 2 of somebody’s garage flooding while they were traveling during the winter. These stories are scary, and while they are a possibility with any hydronic heating system, they are really not that common. If there is a leak, you will find water pooling somewhere.  While a small pool of water can be hidden in hard-to-reach locations, it will only get bigger as time passes. As soon as you notice any water that you suspect is coming from your Missoula residential HVAC system, call a technician immediately!

14. How long should my boiler last?

Most boilers last between 10 and 15 years.  With consistent regular maintenance, people have been able to make their boiler last over 20 years.  Your initial investment should come with a reasonable expectation of lasting at least a decade and shooting for another 5 years beyond that. 

15. What is a high-efficiency gas boiler?

Boiler technology has come a long way in recent years. One of the main advancements is in efficiency. High-efficiency boilers use a condenser in the flue to trap escaping heat and redirect it back to heat the home. For this reason, high-efficiency boilers are called condensing boilers.  

16. How long should a high-efficiency boiler last?

While these boilers cost more to purchase, they are known to last around 15 years and up to 20 years.

17. Can a boiler explode?

If the pressure inside the boiler gets too high and there is a breakdown in the structural integrity of the boiler, often due to rust, it can explode. It is more common for older boilers to explode than newer ones because of pressure sensors and automatic cut-offs in newer machines. Generally, this is not a high-risk event, as rust doesn’t happen overnight. During yearly inspections by Missoula residential HVAC contractors, rust can be caught early, and you can be notified if your boiler is getting to a point of danger.

18. Should I install an economizer on my boiler?

An economizer is a heat exchanger that preheats water going into a boiler so that the boiler doesn’t have to work as hard.  It can greatly increase the efficiency of the boiler and lower your power bill. If you are trying to decide if installing an economizer is right for your Missoula residential HVAC system, contact Garden City Plumbing and Heating to see what your options are and schedule a consultation.

19. Is an electric boiler or a gas boiler safer?

Because electric boilers do not have combustion, there is no risk of carbon monoxide or gas leaks, making them the relatively safer option.  Overall, both are safe options for your Missoula home.

20. Is a hot water boiler or a steam boiler more efficient?

Not only are hot water boilers more efficient than steam boilers, they are also safer. Steam heat is increasingly becoming a thing of the past for these reasons.

Boilers are a Great Option For Your Missoula Residential HVAC System

Hopefully, this article answered your questions about boilers and helped you figure out what type of heating system you want in your Missoula home.  Whether you still have questions or are ready to schedule an installation, get in contact with the Missoula residential HVAC contractors you trust, Garden City Plumbing and Heating. Call us at (406) 728-5550 or contact us online today!