Boilers heat a lot of homes in New England, especially here in Massachusetts. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), more than 600,000 homes are equipped with steam or forced hot water boilers in the northeast of the United States.
History of Heating and Air Conditioning
While boilers are currently a very popular heating method, they actually are considered an age-old technology and date back to Hero of Alexandria in the first century. It took off in the 17th century after a French engineer named Denis Papin invented the first boiler with a safety valve. This allowed the technology to be used for steam power and everyday life and work applications, including heating our homes.
A century ago, boilers were new and revolutionized home comfort. Before this, houses were heated by keeping fires inside, and then chimneys were built, which eliminated smoke.
Benjamin Franklin introduced his Franklin stove in 1741, which was more efficient than anything available at the time. Three decades later, a thermostat was invented, creating the possibility for a fully automatic heating system.
Another massive step was achieved by Russia in 1855 with the invention of radiators. In the course of developing boiler technology, smaller, safer, and more efficient boilers were introduced. Meanwhile, forced air furnaces were also being used alongside boilers and heating a majority of the homes.
During this time that boilers and furnaces were improving and keeping homes warm, a new technology was being developed called air conditioning, which was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier and could keep schools, public buildings, and even homes more comfortable.
The same technology was also used for refrigeration. In 1948 in Tennessee, Robert C. Webber was working in his electric deep freezer—which he used to store meat for months without spoiling—when he burned his hand and then realized that his freezer was producing a large amount of heat that was being wasted.
Quickly, he designed something that allowed him to use that energy to heat his home. This was the humble beginning of the heat pumps we know today.
In the 70s, many people wanted to combine the comfort of heating and air conditioning into one system, and so the forced hot air system was born. Now people could keep their homes comfortable with a choice of a gas boiler, propane boiler, or oil boiler connected to simple radiators. The boiler could also be connected to an air handler via a Hydro-air system, in which the boiler heats water to 180 degrees and then circulates the hot water through a hydronic coil.
In homes without gas, either oil or propane could be installed, or a heat pump could be used.
Originally, heat pumps were a viable option, but when the temperature dropped below 32 degrees, they had to rely on an electrical heating strip as a backup heater with higher electric consumption than a standard oil boiler.
Today’s Heat Pumps
Heat pumps, however, are evolving at a very rapid pace. A heat pump in a cold climate was unheard of ten years ago, but today with the advent of "cold climate" heat pump technology, it is possible to use heat pumps in all climates.
In Maine and Vermont, heat pumps can operate efficiently at temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes them popular in remote locations.
In addition, heat pumps are becoming more popular because they consume less energy and are more flexible. The reason for this is that heat pumps can be installed in places where gas is not available without the need for a propane underground tank or oil tank in your basement.
Are heat pumps the best alternative?
No matter what your political views are about fossil fuel use, heat pumps are undoubtedly the most cost-effective and efficient alternative to gas, oil, and propane boilers.
While gas boilers can reach impressive efficiency levels of 98 percent, they are not up to the challenge of heat pumps. A heat pump can achieve 200 percent efficiency levels, and the highest-performing systems can achieve 500 percent efficiency levels. Since combustion produces some bi-products and cannot reach 100 percent efficiency, the gas boiler has reached its limit since it can't operate at any higher efficiency than 98 percent.
What do all these things mean to us?
It is our belief that, while Obie Comfort Solutions offers many heating and cooling services, we can’t do everything. This is why, as a company, we have decided to end our relationship with gas boilers, oil boilers, and propane boilers.
In other words, we are closing the door on wet heat. Since 2006, boilers have been a major part of our business. Heat pump technology evolved to the point where we had to make a decision.
However, we believe sometimes we have to bury something in order for something else to emerge. Our solution was to bury a whole division of our business and apply all of our resources to the upcoming electrification movement.
The goal for our company is to become one of the top heat pump installers in the area.
In order to ensure the peace of mind of our current customers, we will continue to service all customers who have gas, oil, or propane boilers, but we will not be installing any new boiler equipment.
Nevertheless, we will continue servicing boilers without interruption. It will eventually be possible to switch completely to an energy-efficient heat pump in the future.
If you just want to replace your boiler, please don't ignore us—our hard-working team at Obie Comfort Solutions is always here and can still offer you top-quality heating solutions.
With MassSave rebates, incentives, and the Inflation Reduction Act, you may be able to afford a heat pump without having to spend a lot of your own money. In addition to these incentives, your home will become more comfortable and efficient as well as increase in value.
Call Us for Trusted Heating Solutions
Let our Obie Comfort Solutions experts come to your Framingham, MA, home and perform a free evaluation to see if it's time to upgrade or modernize to a different heating method. Reach out to us for a free consultation by calling 617-804-0668 or request service online today.