Back To Boilers: Stainless Steel Makes Sense

In my last post, I discussed the IBC line of residential condensing boilers . One of the things that makes this line of boilers special is their use of a stainless steel heat exchanger. That’s a very important differentiator for boilers, and it’s part of the reason that we at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will be installing and servicing IBC boilers.

The basic operation of a boiler is simple. Boilers raise the temperature of water in a closed system. The heated water is then distributed around the residential space through pipes and radiators, and raises the temperature of the surrounding air.

There are a few major considerations that homeowners with boiler-based heat systems need to be aware of. One important factor is the composition of the heat exchanger. Heat exchangers in boiler systems are usually made either from aluminum or stainless steel.

The composition of the heat exchanger is important because the heat exchanger comes in contact with the water in the system. While the water in the system comes from the municipal water supply and is “clean” when it is added to the system, water has its own properties that can actually support and encourage corrosion inside a boiler system.

The pH level of the water is a good example. pH is a relative measure of the acidity of the water. Aluminum heat exchangers work best only in a narrow pH range. To ensure that the pH range is optimal, boiler water must be treated with special chemicals, and regular maintenance is required to maintain the proper pH and preserve the manufacturer’s warranty protection.

Stainless steel heat exchangers work optimally in a wide range of pH levels, so this actually reduces the amount of maintenance and care the boiler requires. With a stainless steel heat exchanger, a boiler can give years of trouble-free service using just clean water and propylene glycol, a common organic alcohol.

The flip side of the pH issue is corrosion. The reason boilers need this kind of maintenance is to avoid corrosion throughout the system. Aluminum heat exchangers work well in only a narrow pH range. Once the system water goes out of this range, the corrosion begins. Corrosion reduces the efficiency of the system and the lifespan of the boiler’s major components. You’ll spend more money on preventative maintenance with a system that uses an aluminum heat exchanger than you will on a system that uses a more efficient, more durable and less vulnerable stainless steel heat exchanger. You’ll also replace your boiler more often.

Another major consideration is that aluminum heat exchangers wear faster in high-intensity operations. If you run your boiler at or close to its peak flow, the aluminum heat exchanger will wear out faster than it would if you operate your boiler in a more controlled way. Stainless steel heat exchangers are much more tolerant of peak operation, and don’t tend to wear out from this kind of use. Based on how you use your boiler, this could be a significant consideration for you. An outdoor reset control can give you better control over your boiler operation, but you can also gain efficiency and lifespan by using a boiler with a stainless steel heat exchanger.

If you would like more information about stainless steel heat exchangers, boilers, outdoor reset controls or boiler maintenance, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We offer round-the-clock boiler and furnace repair. We’re also happy to consult with you on boiler replacement options. Don’t forget to like Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!