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Natural gas boilers are used to power heating systems that operate on hot water or steam. Although less common in newer residences, many older homes feature gas fired boilers, and this type of system in fact has several advantages over those powered by gas or oil furnaces. In this buying guide you'll learn more about gas boilers, including their benefits and how much they cost.
An Overview of Gas Boilers
A gas fired boiler can be used in either a steam or a hot-water heating system. Both types of systems operate on the same basic principle: water is heated and distributed to individual heating units (whether a radiator, baseboard, or radiant floor heating system) via pipes. As the steam or hot water cools, it condenses, returns to the boiler, and is reheated and distributed throughout the home.
Gas Boiler Efficiency
The efficiency of a gas boiler is measured in terms of its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which describes the ratio of heat output to energy consumed. While older boilers may have an AFUE of only around 70 percent, federal law mandates a minimum efficiency for gas-fueled steam boilers of 75%. High efficiency gas boilers convert 90% or more of energy into heat.
Note that older boilers tend to be non-condensing, while newer condensing boilers are more energy efficient. The difference between the two, basically, is that in a condensing boiler, more heat is absorbed by the boiler water (you can read more about the two boiler types here). But in addition to being around 10 to 15 percent more efficient than a non-condensing boiler, a condensing boiler is pricier due to higher manufacturing costs.
Gas Boiler Benefits
Despite being less popular than forced-air heating systems, systems that utilize a natural gas boiler are superior in a number of ways, including:
- Durability: A gas boiler heating system has few moving parts and with regular maintenance, can be expected to outlast newer heating systems.
- Respiratory Health: The heat generated by a natural gas boiler is clean and dust-free, a huge benefit to those who are sensitive to dust, pollen, and other airborne particles that are blown around by forced air systems. Plus, boiler-heated air won't dry out your body or home.
- Going Green: A new, high efficiency gas boiler can save you 30 percent in heating costs compared to an old boiler. Annually, this can reduce your carbon footprint by nearly 2.5 tons. And for the ultimate in green heating, consider installing a geothermal heat pump.
Gas Boiler Average Costs
The actual cost of gas boilers may vary depending on your location, the size and efficiency of the boiler, whether there are any installation complications, and other factors.
- Lower output and/or mid-efficiency gas boilers cost $2,500 to $5,000 installed; higher output and/or high-efficiency gas boiler replacement cost is $5,000 to $10,000 or more. This price should include removal and disposal of the old boiler.
- High-efficiency gas boiler installation may require the addition of a chimney liner at a cost of $500 to $2,000.
- If removing and disposing of the old oil tank is required, and not included in the initial estimate, this could cost $500 to $2,500 or more.
- Annual boiler maintenance and inspection costs $100 to $300.