All About Heating Boilers: Helping You Choose the Right HVAC Boiler

Shipton's Heating and Cooling helps homeowners prepare for a cold winter ahead with the installation of a Heater Boiler.

Like all modern heating equipment, today’s heating boilers have evolved through continuous innovation and refinement.

From the earliest steam boilers to today’s combi-boilers, you now have quite a few options to heat your home as well as ensure a steady stream of on-demand hot water.

But which heating boiler is right for your space and use patterns? From steam to oil, hot water to natural gas, it can be hard to know what will work best.

Need a little help making a decision? Read on!

Major Types of Heating Boilers

To start, let’s do a quick review of all the different types of heating boilers on the market today.

  • Electric boilers.
  • Natural gas boilers.
  • Oil boilers.
  • Condensing boilers.
  • Steam boilers.
  • Hot water boilers.
  • Combi-boilers.

These are your heating boiler options. Let’s learn more about each one!

Electric Heating Boiler

No surprise here – an electric heating boiler runs on electricity. There are pros and cons to choosing an electric heating boiler.

Electric boilers generally get high marks for sticker price, installation ease and costs, energy efficiency, quiet operation and overall home safety.

However, electric boilers can be more expensive to operate here in the far north when winter can easily mean running your boiler for more than six months out of the year.

You will also need to consider adding a backup generator or alternate heating source in the event of a power outage.

Natural Gas Heating Boiler

Choosing a natural gas heating boiler definitely solves the issue of an electric power outage.

If you don’t have a natural gas line, there is also the option to use propane. But if you don’t have a propane tank either, there can be significant expenses associated with choosing a natural gas heating boiler.

This can make a natural gas boiler a better choice especially in certain areas where natural gas or propane is already available.

Oil Heating Boiler

In more rural areas, the oil-fired heating boiler is still a popular option. You don’t have to bear the expense of an all-electric heat source and oil, unlike natural gas and propane, is typically readily available.

Overall however, oil tends to be a less efficient source of energy, which can increase heating costs over the long term.

Most of all, oil is becoming less popular because it is a less eco-friendly fuel source. But when oil is your only option it sure does come in handy!

Condensing Heating Boiler

Condensing boilers run on natural gas or propane. Because condensing boilers actually recycle heat energy that would otherwise be lost through exhaust gases, they can often achieve 85 percent fuel efficiency or greater.

Condensing heating boilers do have some special installation considerations to deal with exhaust acidity and the condensate itself (pipe freezing can quickly become a real danger if you don’t insulate properly or decide to turn your heat completely off in winter).

Condensing boilers can often net you up to 95 percent AFUE (annualized fuel utilization efficiency), which can offer huge cost savings during long winters.

Hot Water Heater Boiler

A hot water heater and a hot water heating boiler are frequently confused. But they are definitely not the same.

The most common fuel sources for a hot water heater boiler are natural gas, propane or oil.

A hot water heating boiler works by circulating heated water through a system of water pumps. Some units also use gravity on the water’s return leg back to source.

Hot water heating boilers can come with some installation complexities because of the need for multiple pumps and/or a gravity return assist.

Steam Heating Boiler

As with hot water heater boilers, a steam heating boiler works by heating water to heat your space.

Here, instead of circulating the heated water itself, a steam boiler heats the water to the point of turning it into steam and then circulates the steam.

Interestingly, while a hot water boiler will draw less fuel to heat the water, it will use more energy to circulate that water in the form of heat.

Steam boilers take exactly the opposite approach. Fuel demands are higher initially to turn the water into steam, but much lower to circulate that steam in the form of heat.


The combination boiler, or combi-boiler, is a newer invention that combines the best of both a boiler and tankless water heater into a single unit.

A combi-boiler can free up high value floor space in smaller homes, which is part of its growing appeal.

Combination boilers also tend to be easier and cheaper to install because they do not require the large tank attachment.

And unlike with some traditional heating boilers, the water source is the home’s mains, which means the water is potable and safe to drink whether cold or hot. This also tends to create fewer issues with mineral or sludge buildup and water pressure fluctuations.

But it is worth considering whether a combi-boiler can fully meet your on-demand hot water needs if you have a larger space or a large family. You definitely need to make sure you are choosing the right size and capacity of combi-boiler to meet your needs.

Contact Shipton’s in Hamilton, Ontario, for Your Heating Boiler Needs

Here at Shipton’s Heating & Cooling, we have been installing, servicing and repairing all makes and models of heating boilers since the turn of the century.

Not only do we offer a wide variety of heating boilers to suit any size space or budget, but we are here in your community to service your new boiler!

You can visit us online to browse our selection of heating boilers. Better yet, give us a call at 1-905-549-4616 and ask for a FREE QUOTE from our highly trained HVAC technicians.

NOTE: Financing is available.

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