How Does a Boiler Heat My Home?

How Does a Boiler Heat My Home?

Understanding How Your Oil Boiler Works

boilers maine This is a good time of year to review the basics of how your heating oil boiler (also known as a hydronic system) keeps you and your family warm. That way, if you run into heating issues over the next few months, you’ll be better prepared to discuss the situation with your heating service contractor.

While most new homes built today rely on a warm-air furnace for central heat, there are many other homes in Maine that depend on a boiler for heat instead.

There are generally two main types of boilers found in Maine homes: a steam boiler, commonly found in the oldest homes, and the modern, and more energy-efficient, hot water boiler. Steam boilers require special safety precautions because of the temperature of the steam (the water must be heated to 212°F). As a result, it is vitally important to follow a regular maintenance schedule.

Your boiler extracts heat from heating oil as it burns; it can also be powered by propane gas, natural gas or wood pellets. This heats the water (or creates steam) that will run through the zones in your home that are calling for heat. The heat is delivered into your living space through either radiators or baseboards.

The problem is that some heat (as much as 30% in some older boiler models) will be lost as exhaust, which means you are paying a lot of money for heat that will never reach your living space. See how much you can benefit with a new boiler installation.

Condensing Boilers

A more efficient version of the hot water boiler is the condensing boiler, which is designed to keep heat loss to a minimum. By recycling heat from the exhaust process – and by operating at lower temperatures overall – your condensing boiler can improve operating efficiency by 10-15% compared to a non-condensing boiler.

However, a condensing boiler is not practical for all homes. Plus, condensing boilers cost more to manufacture. Installing a condensing boiler correctly requires highly trained technicians who know how to capitalize on the efficiency benefits of these sophisticated heating systems.

Maintaining Your Heating Oil Boiler

Regular maintenance is a vital money-saving investment for home heating oil systems– not just because it can keep your equipment running safely and at peak efficiency, but also because four out of five heating system breakdowns are preventable if you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.

A professional tune-up and safety check allows your heating service contractor to fix minor issues before they become big problems (worn parts, etc.). Regular tune-ups can also help you conserve heating fuel over the winter.

3 Self-Maintenance Tips for Boilers

  1. Check the damper. When you check the baseboard, are you getting heat? If not, give the damper a check. Make sure it’s clear at the bottom of the unit, and there are no obstructions in the way, like carpeting or toys.
  2. Give your radiator valve regular checks. You always want your radiator valve to be set to “on” during the heating season. It should not be in between the on and off positions, as this will make it unable to keep the temperature regulated. A radiator valve that is not in the proper position will also strain your pipes, causing an annoying hammering sound.
  3. If you have an older steam boiler, monitor the water gauge. Boiler shut-downs are often the result of low-water levels. Also, if the water in your gauge looks rusty, then it’s time to “flush” your steam boiler. Your heating service contractor can let you know what to do if you need assistance with this.

Contact your local heating oil service company in Maine for further information.