Radiator enthusiasts, take note – the Department of Energy is currently considering updating the efficiency standards of household boilers, which would mean newly manufactured models would boast more heating power and use less fuel. Boiler and steam heating standards were last updated in 2008, and the federal government thinks it's time to take another look.
New Standards on the Way
The DOE held a public meeting about the program in April to solicit comments from manufacturers, technicians, consumers and anyone else with an interest in the regulatory state of household boilers.
Currently, the federal Energy Star program certifies boilers that are up to 12 percent more efficient than the minimum standards. Here are some of the technologies that allow boilers to be more efficient than ever, as explained by Energy Star:
- electronic ignition, which eliminates the need to have the pilot light burning all the time
- new combustion technologies that extract more heat from the same amount of fuel
- sealed combustion that uses outside air to fuel the burner, reducing drafts and improving safety
More recent advances in combustion that involve condensing water vapor could ultimately conserve 1.2 quadrillion BTUs between 2021 and 2051 and save consumers $3.4 billion in energy costs, the Energy Department estimates.
Cost Effective or Not?
The new standards wouldn't go quite that far, aiming instead to save .2 quadrillion BTUs and $1.3 billion. The current state of technology for water condensing boilers makes them too difficult and costly to install in many homes, and the government doesn't want homeowners to have to shell out more money for installation than they would realize in energy savings.
The agency predicts that about 33 percent of households that use boilers would adapt the condensing technology under the new rules, short of the 62 percent of households for whom the technology would be cost-effective.
Split Incentives and Information Shortages
The NRDC notes several reasons why people don't always get the most efficient boiler:
- Split incentives in landlord-tenant scenarios, where landlords don't want to pay to install new equipment as long as the tenants are paying the utility bills
- A shortage of information among consumers who often have to make quick decisions when replacing broken-down boilers in the middle of winter
- Many people are unwilling to meet higher upfront costs for equipment, even if it means they will save money over time
“One natural answer is for gas utilities to step up and fill the gap on behalf of their customers with better, expanded, and more effective energy efficiency programs,” the NRDC's Robin Roy notes on the organization's blog.
If you use steam or hot water heating in your house and you're in the market for a new boiler, contact your friendly HVAC expert today for help finding the model that works best for you.