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Furnace and Boiler Retrofit Options

by vscontent on December 1, 2017

Boiler and Furnace Retrofit Options to Save Energy and Money

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, space heating is the largest energy expense in the average U.S. home, accounting for around 45% of energy bills. If you are looking for ways to reduce your home’s energy use, the best place to look is your heating system.

Furnace and boiler retrofits are a great way to increase energy efficiency and save money and energy on your heating system. By implementing some of the following heating system modifications, you can reduce your heating energy costs by up to 40%.

If, however, you have an older boiler or furnace, retrofits may not be the most cost-effective option. In order to make the most out of your heating system retrofits and modifications, it’s best to have them done early.

Before you pursue retrofits options, speak with a professional furnace/boiler technician about the costs and benefits of replacement options. If you do want to optimize the performance of your heating system in order to save money and energy, consider the following retrofits and modifications for your furnace and boiler:

Vent Dampers

Vent or flue dampers help prevent energy loss out of your chimney by automatically closing off the ventilation system when your boiler is not in use. Vent dampers are more effective if you have larger boiler systems and a steam boiler over a hot water boiler. If you have a smaller boiler system or a modern, properly designed model, it may not be a cost-effective option for you. Older oil burners may be better off converting to a flame retention burner. Contact your local HVAC professional for the most cost-effective retrofits for your furnace or boiler.

Barometric Flue Damper

Speak with a professional HVAC company about a blower door test or energy audit. A professional energy audit will help you pinpoint the exact locations of your home’s energy losses. After your draft test, your service professional may find that too much energy is lost up your chimney. If so, you could benefit from a barometric flue damper, which cuts your energy losses, saving you around 5% of fuel costs.

Intermittent Ignition Devices

Older boilers and furnaces have pilot lights that stay on continuously, but intermittent ignition retrofits can save you money by only coming on when you need heat. An alternative to installing intermittent ignition devices would be to turn the furnace’s pilot light off in the spring and summer while and turning it back on again in the fall when you start requiring heating services.

Down-Firing or Derating Gas Burners

To lower your fuel consumption, you can “derate” or “down-fire” your gas burner to reduce the gallon per hour (GPH) rate. Many furnaces and boilers are oversized and could benefit from a smaller and more efficient nozzle.

This is a complicated job that requires adjusting the combustion chamber and/or adjusting the fuel pump pressure. Additionally, if you are derating a steam boiler, you may need to remove excess radiators as well, which adds even more complications.

In some cases, derating gas burners can violate local building codes and void manufacture’s warranties. Make sure you hire a qualified HVAC company to determine whether or not this heating system retrofit is allowed.

When you reduce the amount of gas or oil entering your furnace/boiler, you can save a lot of money and energy. If your heating system is eligible for a down-firing modification, you can save up to 15% on fuel costs.

Flame Retention Burner

If your system has an inefficient burner, you may want to replace the entire burner assembly. Another option is to install a flame retention burner to help prevent energy losses up the chimney when your unit is not in use. A flame retention burner modification costs around %500 and can save you up to 20% on fuel costs (U.S. Dept. of Energy).

Modulating Aquastats (Hot Water Boilers)

The aquastat’s job in your hot water boiler works to control the hot water temperature. Usually the aquastat maintain a temperature of around 180 degree Fahrenheit. During the winter, this may be a good temperature to have, but in less extreme seasons, such as fall and spring, the temperature should be lowered to make your system more energy efficient.

A modulating aquastat (aka “outdoor reset”) detects outdoor temperatures and then automatically adjusts the aquastat to a more energy-efficient temperature. Instead of running at 180 degrees Fahrenheit, during milder seasons, the modulating aquastat turns the temperature down to around 120 degrees. Contact a qualified HVAC service technician for more information about modulating aquastats and where yours is located.

Time Delay Relay (Hot Water Boilers)

A time-delay function for your hot water boiler allows water to circulate throughout the system before your boiler fires up. Time delay relays cost around $100 to install and can save you up to 10% on your fuel costs.

While boiler and furnace retrofits can save you a lot of money on energy costs, they should only be installed by licensed professionals. You can run into code violations and voided warranties if you attempt these modifications on your own or hire an unqualified technician.

When to Retrofit vs When to Replace

Professional heating system modifications and retrofits will pay for themselves, but it will usually take around 5 or 10 years to start making your money back. If your furnace or boiler is older than 10 years old, it may not be cost-effective to install these retrofits. Speak with a professional HVAC technician before pursuing these retrofit options.

If you are wondering if you should upgrade or replace your furnace and/or boiler, our infographic guide can help you make an informed decision.

Additional Energy-Saving Tips for Reducing Energy Bills

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