(BPT) - It's time to replace your old, energy-guzzling water heater, boiler, dehumidifier or furnace and you've done your homework. You're going to save energy and money in the long run by switching to a high-efficiency condensing heater or boiler. Good for you! But as with any home improvement project, it's important to know the nuances of proper installation - even if you're relying on a professional to do the job.
A growing number of homeowners are turning to boilers, HVAC systems and water heaters that rely on condensing to maximize the unit's efficiency. Instead of venting hot exhaust gases out through a flue, these units capture additional heat from the exhaust and use it to enhance the unit's heating capability - water gets heated faster, using less energy. Although condensing units often cost more than conventional options, the energy savings can quickly offset the higher initial price tag.
However, condensing units present a new problem - condensate waste. Water is the byproduct of the efficiency-boosting condensing process, but waste water produced from a combustion process ends up being acidic. When natural gas burns inside a furnace or boiler, the flame draws in atmospheric nitrogen. The heat causes a chemical reaction that creates nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide - both of which get dissolved into the waste water.
"If the condensate waste is vented into a home's plumbing system, over time the acidic water can corrode the metal pipes," explains Chris Peterson of Saniflo, a manufacturer of drain-pump systems. "Ultimately, the thing homeowners did to save them money, ends up costing them hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they have to replace pipes deteriorated by acidic condensate."
Pumping the waste outside the home or into sanitary sewers usually isn't a good solution. Those tactics either put the acidic waste into ground water, or channel it through municipal and county owned pipes that can also be corroded by the condensate waste.
"The smart, long-term solution is to neutralize the acidic content in the condensate waste before it ever goes into any piping," he says. "Condensate waste neutralization is also required by the International Plumbing Codes, which are in force in many parts of the country. Some areas, like New England, are already strictly enforcing this code for installation of condensing units. Other states will soon follow."
One solution that many contractors and homeowners have turned to is adding a neutralizing unit, like the Sanicondens Best. The condensate pump has a built-in neutralizer, and can be outfitted on any condensing boiler, HVAC system or water heater. Condensate waste gets filtered through limestone granules in a tray before the pump moves the water into the sewer or septic system. The pump ensures condensate waste doesn't linger in or around the unit, and the neutralizing function removes the acidity that could damage water and sewer pipes.
"High-efficiency condensing boilers, HVAC systems and water heaters can help homeowners reduce their fuel costs over the life of the systems," Peterson says. "But to really get the maximum value - and ensure your money-saving investment doesn't cause problems down the road - it's important to also neutralize the condensate waste such units emit."
To learn more about condensate waste neutralization and the Sanicondens Best, visit www.saniflo.com.
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