Natural gas boilers are heating systems that use natural gas as fuel. These types of boilers are common in the urban areas of cold climates, where the natural gas circulates through pipelines located under the streets.
In rural areas, it is more common to use propane gas as fuel. The long distances between homes make more efficient distributing gas by trucks and delivering it to large storage tanks located in the home’s yards. Propane is more expensive than natural gas, but both of them are more affordable than heating oil or fuel.
A boiler system heats water in a tank that supplies either hot water or steam that flows through pipes and radiators to heat different spaces. There are two types of natural gas boilers, hot water, and steam boilers.
Types of Natural Gas Boilers
Steam boiler systems heat water to create steam, which is distributed through the house’s radiators. Hot water boiler systems heat water and pump it through the house’s radiators and baseboards. They also distribute water for purposes other than heating. As a result, they eliminate the installation of a separate system for bathing and cooking. Both boiler systems heat water as the primary source of heat. Nevertheless, they differ in the way that they produce the heat.
Steam boiler systems heat the water beyond the boiling point to create steam. The steam travels through a series of pipes to the radiators located in the house. Hot water boiler systems do not need to heat the water to produce steam. They pump warm water through the series of pipes, radiators, and baseboards around the home, heating the different spaces. The condensed steam, in one case, and the cold water in the other, travel back to the boiler to repeat the cycle.
Hot water boiler systems need a pump to distribute the hot water through the different spaces of the house, and to bring the cold water back to be reheated. A steam boiler system, on the contrary, does not need a pump because the steam travels through the pipes by pressure, and the condensed steam travels back via gravity.
Hot water boilers require other series of accessories, like temperature and pressure regulators, check valve, radiator bleeders, and expansion tank.
Cost and Energy Usage
Both systems have around the same installation costs. However, their energy efficiency differs because of operational reasons. Steam boilers use more energy to boil the water because they need to produce steam. But they use less energy because the steam travels by pressure and has a more efficient heat transfer. Although hot water systems need less energy to heat the water, they consume more energy to transport and transfer the heat.
The Federal Trade Commission requires that new boilers display their AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) so that the consumers can compare them. For instance, an AFUE of 70% means that 70% of the energy produced heat, while 30% was wasted. They have a rating system that goes from old, low-efficiency, to new, high-efficiency.
- AFUE of 56% – 70%. Old Low-efficiency Boilers.
- AFUE of 78%. New, Minimum- Efficiency Standard Boilers.
- AFUE of 80% -83%. New, Mid- Efficiency Boilers.
- AFUE of 90% – 98%. New, High – Efficiency Boilers.
Because High –Efficiency Boilers convert almost all the fuel consumed into heat, they significantly lower the amount of fuel used by the boiler, which translates in energy savings.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the use of a High-efficiency Boiler, reduces the fuel bill in half, compared to the fuel consumption of an old, low-efficient boiler.
Natural gas boilers of the two types – Steam Boilers and Hot Water Boilers – are highly efficient heating systems that can last a long time if the owner maintains them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. They have different ways of operating and of heat distribution and exchange. If you know the fundamental differences between the two types of boilers, you have a higher probability of selecting the one that will offer you the most advantages in comfort and cost.
If you need a natural gas boiler, consult the experts here.