Hydronic heating is still common in many parts of the country, and many homes use forced-water systems. These systems work by driving hot water through the house via a circulator pump. Depending on the style of your home's heating system, this water may ultimately pass through radiators or convective heaters.
Most homes that use hot water heating still have separate boilers and water heaters. While there's nothing wrong with having two independent units, you may be able to save money and have a more efficient home by installing a combination boiler/water (combi) heater. These combi units offer numerous advantages and can be worth considering if you need to replace your old boiler.
How Do Combi Units Work?
If you've heard of tankless water heaters before, combination boiler/water heater units function similarly. Instead of storing your hot water in a tank or a boiler pressure vessel, they heat water on demand as needed. This approach can be more efficient for home heating purposes, and it means you'll never run out of hot water at your fixtures or appliances.
However, this design also means that sizing is critical. Not only is it necessary to size the boiler side to match your home's heating load, but it's also essential to consider your hot water usage. Although there's no tank to run dry, combi units have a maximum flow rate. Exceeding this rate will cause the heater to struggle, and it won't be able to keep up with the demand for hot water.
Is a Combi Unit Right For Your Home?
As with most plumbing and HVAC equipment, efficiency and comfort come down to proper sizing. Many homes use oversized boilers, which operate inefficiently and may not provide ideal comfort levels. Residential combi units often have lower capacities than independent boilers, but this isn't necessarily a downside. In many cases, going with a smaller boiler may be more appropriate for your home.
When making this determination, work with your plumber to come up with a complete heating load calculation for your house. You may find that your existing boiler is oversized, resulting in excessive utility bills and heat generation. Moving to a correctly-sized combi boiler can help drive down your energy costs while keeping your home more consistently and comfortably warm.
However, it's also crucial to consider your hot water needs when switching to this type of boiler. Since you'll be combining two units into a single heater, you'll need to ensure that your new combi unit can supply adequate hot water. If you can find a combi unit within your budget that meets both requirements, you can look forward to reduced energy builds and a simplified home utility setup.
For more information on if you should seek boiler installation, contact a company near you.