Winter gets pretty cold in Greater Boston, and the Farmer’s Almanac always seems to predict a smorgasbord of rain, sleet, and snow, along with colder-than-normal temperatures. To make it even worse, winter in the Massachusetts region often lingers into April, which means your boiler may be working overtime during the heating season, translating to higher gas bills — a double whammy.
But you don’t have to let high gas bills sink you. Knowing how much gas your boiler consumes can help you find ways to save on utilities. Here, we discuss boiler efficiency and what you can do to enjoy lower gas costs during the winter without sacrificing comfort.
How Much Gas Does Your Boiler Use? Ask AFUE
Gas boiler fuel consumption depends on a number of factors, including the age and condition of the boiler, its type, and how much cold air seeps into your home.
If you want to find out exactly how much gas your boiler consumes, calculate it from your gas bill, taking the gas consumption of other appliances into account. But, more important than knowing how much gas your boiler uses, is knowing how efficient your boiler is. The real question is, how much gas is your boiler wasting?
Gas boilers, oil boilers, and other heating systems are evaluated for efficiency using AFUE, or the annual fuel utilization efficiency. If your gas boiler is newer, the AFUE will be displayed prominently on the front of the unit. The AFUE is the ratio of how much heat the boiler puts out in a year compared to how much gas it consumes in that same time period. If the AFUE of your gas boiler is 90%, it means that 90% of the gas it consumes becomes heat for your home. The remaining 10% is sent through the boiler chimney as exhaust. As of 2012, all gas boilers manufactured in the U.S. must have an AFUE of at least 80% for steam boilers or 82% for hot water boilers.
Condensing gas boilers have a much higher AFUE than non-condensing boilers, ranging from 88% to around 92% for the most efficient gas boilers. Condensing boilers utilize wasted energy by extracting the latent heat from the condensed water vapor produced during the gas combustion process inside the boiler. By contrast, many older boilers have an AFUE of just 55% to 65%. This means that if you have an older boiler, replacing it with a newer gas boiler, especially a condensing boiler, can save you a considerable amount of money on your annual gas bill while lowering your carbon footprint.
4 Factors for Boiler Efficiency
Even if your boiler has a high AFUE, certain factors can make it consume more gas.
1. Lack of Maintenance
The number-one factor that affects the efficiency of your boiler is how well you maintain it. Much like an automobile, a neglected boiler uses much more gas than a boiler that’s been adequately maintained, and it experiences more problems and fails sooner than a well-maintained boiler. Gas boilers should be tuned up every year, ideally before the heating season commences. 128 Plumbing offers comprehensive boiler tune-ups by experienced professionals with extensive knowledge of gas boilers.
2. Old Age
New technologies are constantly improving the fuel efficiency of gas boilers. In general, gas boilers more than 15 years old are far less energy efficient than newer boilers. Older boilers are also more likely to fail during a cold snap.
3. Excess Air
Extra air in the combustion chamber of a boiler absorbs energy from the gas, causing the boiler flue gases to rise in temperature. Although the proper operation of gas boilers requires some excess air for complete combustion, too much of it in the boiler may produce potentially explosive flue gases, which also contribute to pollution.
4. Poor Home Efficiency
If your home is inefficient, even the most efficient boiler on the market will consume more gas than necessary, since your boiler will be working harder than it should be to keep you warm. Air leaks and inadequate insulation are major culprits when it comes to high gas bills.
What You Can Do to Improve the Efficiency of Your Boiler
You don’t have to sacrifice comfort to lower your gas bill. You can improve the fuel efficiency of your boiler with these tips.
Schedule Annual Maintenance.
A boiler tune-up before the heating season will go a long way toward not only improving the fuel efficiency of your boiler but also preventing inconvenient breakdowns when you need your boiler the most. During a boiler tune-up, your technician will perform several essential tasks, including testing the controls, checking the temperature and pressure readings, lubricating moving parts, checking the boiler tank’s water level, inspecting the pipes for leaks, and cleaning the burner and other essential components of the boiler.
Monitor Your System
Between tune-ups, monitor your boiler system to ensure everything is working properly. Check the water level of your boiler every two weeks and keep an eye out for leaks. Monitor the gas flue temperature and keep the ambient temperature around your boiler between 70 and 80 degrees. Minimize drafts around your boiler to prevent convection losses.
Shore Up Your Home
Seal air leaks in your home to keep cold air outside and warm air inside during the winter so that your boiler doesn’t work too hard and consume too much gas. Use caulk to seal around windows and doors, service entrances, recessed lighting fixtures, and outlets on exterior walls. In addition, make sure you have enough attic insulation. According to EnergyStar, in the Greater Boston area, you should have 10 to 14 inches of attic insulation with a rating of R38 to R49.
Replace Your Thermostat
If you have an older thermostat, invest in a new, programmable version. A properly installed and programmed thermostat can lower your gas bill considerably and leave you much more comfortable in both winter and summer.
Use Your Ceiling Fans
In the winter, reverse the direction of your ceiling fans by flipping the switch at the top. When the blades travel in the reverse direction, they push warm air near the ceiling down into the room. This can help reduce the gas consumption of your boiler by keeping you warmer at lower thermostat settings.
Is It Time to Replace?
If you’re on the fence about whether it’s time to replace your boiler, a few general rules can help you decide. You may need to replace your boiler if:
- Your boiler needs to be repaired one or more times every six months
- Your gas bills are climbing, but nothing much has changed
- Your boiler keeps springing leaks
- Your boiler is more than 15 years old
- You notice that some rooms in your home are too hot, too cold, or vary too much in temperature throughout the day, and repairs don’t help much
The gas boilers on the market today are much more efficient than the boilers of 15 or even 10 years ago. A 128 Plumbing HVAC professional can help you calculate how much you’ll save with a new gas boiler.
Whether you need a new boiler or you’re ready to schedule your tune-up, 128 Plumbing is ready to help. Contact us today, and let us help you stay warm and save on gas this winter.