Though we like to look at a variety of options when it comes to heating, for many of us in the Northern climate zones, oil is still the only way many people can heat their homes. So, while heating oil can be an expensive way to heat, improving the efficiency of your furnace and boiler is one smart way to cut costs.
The standard measure that has been used in the U.S. is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating, which just as it sounds, measures the yearly rate at which fuel is consumed by a heating system. To earn an Energy Star® rating, the program requires an AFUE rating of more than 85%. However, a rating system is only as good as the parts of a heating system that it measures. Most boiler-based furnaces don’t include the heat and energy lost by poor insulation around the boiler. Another source of lost efficiency is the fuel wasted on keeping the boiler water hot, even when there is no demand for hot water. In fact, recently the Brookhaven National Laboratories studied the different types of boiler based furnaces and found significant differences in the AFUE efficiency ratings and actual fuel use, showing that AFUE ratings could be miscalculated by as much as 26%.
We spoke with David Harbison, master plumber in Houlton, Maine, who installs a new type of high-efficiency furnace boiler called the System 2000. “We asked our clients with new System 2000 installations to monitor their oil consumption over the past 2-3 years, included the heating year with the new system.”
The results were impressive. “The least amount of savings we encountered was 25%, with many of our customers experiencing as much as 50% savings. In Northern Maine, that is significant,” Harbison added.
How does the System 2000 Work?
This integrated boiler system combines three components to create these high efficiencies: a digital energy manager or control box, a high-performance domestic hot water system, and a unique, patented spiral boiler design.
First, the digital energy manager, or control unit, provides automatic adjustments to your home’s heat and hot water demands. It also operates the Energy Recovery Cycle to ensure that no heat is wasted in the boiler and adjusts to your home’s specific heat and hot water requirements.
The domestic hot water system includes a heavily insulated storage tank incorporating a stainless steel heat exchanger that captures the full output from the boiler. Its high output system can produce as much as 210 gallons per hour.
Finally the System 2000 boiler unit has a patented spiral design that provides 10 feet of passages with 1/3 less mass of typical boiler systems for higher efficiency. The boiler has an outside air connection so that combustion doesn’t use heated indoor air to burn fuel. And, because the System 2000 has a special silent burner enclosure, it makes no more noise than a microwave oven when running.
So if you’re not the able to heat your home with wood or other alternative methods, a super-efficient oil boiler and furnace system may be your best and most energy efficient option.