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Tips for Purchasing a High Efficiency Heating System

August 3, 2015

Four Zone High Efficiency Heating SystemThe following information is designed to help you make an informed decision about choosing a high efficiency heating system that is right for your comfort, energy savings, and your budget.

A new heating system is a major investment, so make sure you understand the warranties that come with your new equipment. Parts and labor are usually covered by the manufacturer and installing contractor for the first year. Some brands also offer warranties of 2 to 10 years. High-efficiency furnaces are generally the manufacturer’s top-of-the-line products and have longer warranties.

Efficiency Ratings standards are set by the U.S. Department of Energy under the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, which became effective January 1, 1992.

All natural gas heating systems have what’s called an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The rating is expressed in percentages. In order to meet code, all new heating equipment must meet the minimum efficiency standards.


Minimum Efficiency Standards

Furnace 78% AFUE
Gas-fired Forced Hot Water 80% AFUE
Gas-fired Steam 78% AFUE

The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system — and the less energy needed to heat your home.

For example, a new, high-efficiency furnace with a 94% efficiency rating provides 94 cents worth of heat from every energy dollar. By comparison, an older, standard-efficiency furnace with an efficiency rating of 60% provides 60 cents worth of energy for every dollar spent.

Whether you are installing a high efficiency furnace or boiler, there are important considerations.

Furnaces with efficiencies over 90% are called condensing furnaces and offer the most energy savings. These furnaces achieve a 90% AFUE rating by sending flue gases through a secondary heat exchanger. This device further extracts heat that is usable energy for your home.

Remaining flue gases then exhaust outdoors through special vent pipe inserted through the wall of the home. This “direct-vent” piping configuration also draws in outside air for combustion. Since indoor air is not used in the combustion process, cold air leakage (infiltration) is reduced — an added energy savings.

A boiler can last between 30 years or more, so it is important to choose an efficient model in order to reduce long-term costs. The most efficient forced hot water boilers are have an AFUE rating of 85% or higher.

Often the installation of a high-efficiency heating system requires changes to your venting system. It is recommended that you consult with your contractor about proper venting methods.

Building a new home or interested in upgrading your existing system? Call us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Information provided by Gas Networks: http://www.gasnetworks.com/customer-tips/purchasing-a-heating-system/

What are Hydronic Baseboard Heaters?

March 14, 2014


Older style radiator.

Hydronic baseboard heaters use heated water or another liquid to control the temperature in a room or area. Positioned along the base of a wall, these heaters draw in cool air at the base, which is heated and pushed out of the top of the heater to warm the room. Low external operating temperatures allow them to be installed flush against a wall or baseboard without damaging the structure.

The technology behind hydronic heaters has been used since the 1940s and has evolved from cast iron radiators. Modern heaters of this type are lighter and easier to install than their predecessors. In a built-in system, water is piped from a central boiler to the baseboard heaters, with a return pipe channeling cooled water back to the boiler for reuse. Heaters can be separated into zones, with thermostats for each area, allowing for better control over the temperature. A range of baseboard heater covers are available to coordinate with a room’s decor without obstructing their heat.


This type of system is permanent. These heating systems are usually added when a house is being built because the plumbing involved makes it difficult to add to an already existing structure.

 Modern baseboard heater.

Modern baseboard heater.

Electric hydronic baseboard heaters have a heating element and liquid sealed within the heater, so they do not have to be linked into the household plumbing. These heaters are wired into the household power supply, and most can be wired to a remote thermostat. They are easier to install in an existing structure than one linked to household plumbing, but the wiring required does not allow for the easy relocation of a heater.

Portable electric hydronic baseboard heaters are also available, and they can plug into any standard household outlet. They are usually smaller than those wired into the household power, and heat a smaller space. Temperature is controlled by a thermostat directly on the unit.

Hydronic baseboard heaters have a number of advantages. They are usually quiet and efficient. Being closed systems, these types of heaters don’t require the owner to periodically add liquid. Additionally, hydronic heating does not dry out the air or spread dust or allergens.

Along with these advantages, however, there are some potential disadvantages. Due to their location on the baseboard, the heaters take up wall space, and should not be blocked by furniture, curtains, or other obstructions. They also heat a space relatively slowly, and unlike forced air heating systems that can be linked to an air conditioning system, hydronic heaters are necessarily separate from a cooling counterpart.


(original article)

New Construction

  • Custom
  • Plan & spec
  • Design build


  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Basement


  • Forced hot water
  • Radiant heating
  • Hydro air