Help! Is it possible to disconnect Central Boiler & install an electric boiler connected to the heat exchanger instead?

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bethandscott

New Member
Jan 22, 2020
3
Wisconsin
Clearly we don't know much about hydronic heating, please keep that in mind when replying lol.
Brief back story-
Live in Wisconsin(cold cold cold!)
Central boiler is at least 14 years old & needs replacing BUT
I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy so my wood chopping and stacking days are over, hubby can't do it all alone.
We do NOT have gas or oil, just electricity.
We have an electric furnace, it's in working order, but doesn't as warm as the hot water and is very expensive to run.

We are wondering if we could buy an electric boiler like our son has for his skirting board heating and attach that to the existing system in the basement? Our thinking is((and we may be wrong-that's why we've come to ask questions)) we are just replacing one hot water source with another.

We did speak to our heating/cooling guy this spring about it(the Central Air unit also needs replacing) but he said he only worked with gas and oil and would get back to us about an electric boiler.....we're still waiting on that call.

If it is possible, how on earth would we size something like that? The water won't be pumped very far, like a radiator system. It will only go a matter of feet before it returns to the boiler again. When we call a new heating company we don't want to be sold something bigger than what we actually need.

Knowledge is power!

As an example we are looking at an ARGO AT Series C boiler. Here's the info it gives, but this is the smallest boiler-but this is all gibberish to me right now.
  • Ideal for radiant systems, applications requiring special temperature settings and for use as a back up heat source for solar applications.
  • Advanced Microprocessor Control: Safely and efficiently controls the elements by monitoring the relay contacts that power the elements.
  • An Advanced Load Managing Controller: Gives you the option to allow your utility or electric co-op to remotely control the boiler, reducing peak demands.
  • Proved one piece cast iron heat exchanger backed by a 20 year warranty.
  • Minimum Flow Rate: 2.0 GPM
  • KW Capacity: 6
  • Operating Voltage: 240
  • Net Heat Output BTU: 20,500
  • Power Input Watts: 6000
  • Total Heating Element Amps: 25
  • Number of Elements: 2
  • Element Size Watts: 3000
  • Maximum Circuit Ampacity: 38.8
  • Suggested Breaker (Amps): 40
The 1 thing I do know is that our home electrics won't be a problem.
Thanks!
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,318
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Yes it's absolutely possible to switch to an electric boiler. A qualified plumber and electrician should be able to handle the install, though may require a hydronic technician to size the boiler.

Unfortunately, as you have found with the electric furnace it is very costly to heat with electric, an electric boiler is no exception to this.

Do you know how propane and electric compare on a $/btu cost in your area? If you intend to heat full time with hydronic it is a worth while idea to determine the cost difference for energy. You may find it cheaper in the long run to get a propane tank and propane boiler over an electric.
 

chew72

Member
Oct 27, 2009
92
NS, Canada
Also you don't need to run through a heat exchanger. It can be added directly to the house loup, in place of a heat exchanger. You do need to figure out your heat loss to size it correcty. 6000W isn't much. If this is the sole source of heat, in my area (Nova Scotia) A very, Very rough estimate would be 7W per sqft of heated floor space ie 2000sqft house = 14'000 Watts and it will use up your electrical service capacity quickly depending on it's size.

So I too would recommended looking up the cost of other sources of heat.
 

chew72

Member
Oct 27, 2009
92
NS, Canada
I'll also add an electric boiler vs electric furnace is apples to apples. If they both use 10'000 Watts they will cost the same. There's no added effency. The only exception to this would be if you have zoning with the boiler and not with the furnace. You effectively only pay for the areas that house your heating.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,790
Northern NH
Water to water geothermal may be an option.. Its "electric but 2 to three times more efficient than an electric boiler. The problem is that its suited better for hot air unless you have radiant heat. Geothermal is expensive to initially install. Somewhat less expensive is cold climate mini split type heat pumps. They are also 2 to 3 times more efficient (and are also very efficient summer time AC units) but the efficiency drops significantly below 20 F so you need a backup.
 

E Yoder

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2017
598
Floyd, VA
The electric boiler you referenced looks way undersized to me. Electric resistance heat is going to cost the same whether it's forced air or hydronic.
Minisplits would be a better option. If you can find someone that has time to install, most guys are swamped.

One option- what about upgrading to a gasifying wood boiler to reduce the wood consumption in half. Then get log length wood dumped right beside the boiler to reduce labor?
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,439
Downeast Maine
The electric boiler you referenced looks way undersized to me. Electric resistance heat is going to cost the same whether it's forced air or hydronic.
Minisplits would be a better option. If you can find someone that has time to install, most guys are swamped.

One option- what about upgrading to a gasifying wood boiler to reduce the wood consumption in half. Then get log length wood dumped right beside the boiler to reduce labor?
Maybe a pellet boiler is a better option? Some are even equipped for bulk deliveries rather than bags, so no heavy lifting.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,790
Northern NH
If there is a bulk pellet distributor in the area, its nice way to go. They just back up like an oil or propane truck and full the bulk tank via an outside connection. A pellet boiler and bulk tank is in the 15 to 20K range installed. You need space for the bulk tank in addition to the boiler. Depending on the model, you may have to empty out an ash box on occasion.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,527
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
“I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy so my wood chopping and stacking days are over, hubby can't do it all alone.”

I’m a hubby and I can easily do it alone, I’d wager most of us do it alone. You can just buy firewood cut, split, and even stacked and it should be way way cheaper than electric heat.

If you just don’t want to deal with wood heat anymore then that’s totally understandable too.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
1,630
Northern Canada
I pretty much get my wood supply myself ,i will be 59 this year and plan on doing it for another 25 years at least.
Wood gasification and storage will cut the amount you need down.Log truck load and hire help for a day to process it.
Being married to the grid will break your bank as you will have no options.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,790
Northern NH
My observation is that the solution needs to be long term and the husband may not be able to keep the fire burning. If the house is suitable for solar and especially if the local utility offers net metering the solution is go with mini splits and electric backup boiler (or possibly a vented #1 fuel oil heater (toyostove) and install solat on the roof.

I managed to break my ankle recently and not at the point where I can run my wood boiler due to stairs but have been heating the house with a minisplit. I prefer baseboard heaters but the minisplit is convienient and I am running it on a combination of solar from my panels and past excess production from last summer (net metering). There may be quite a few incentives from your utility or state. My guess is if the BBB law even gets passed in DC there will be quite a few incentives to switch to electric.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,864
Nova Scotia
The answer to the question is yes. Will be a cheap and easy install, relatively speaking. But will be expensive to operate. I have an 18kw for backup. It hasnt operated for at least a couple of years now. The little bit I have used it over the years I figured it would cost me around $30/day to run. At least. The one you posted would be too small. Mine is bigger than it needs to be. A 12kw might do me. 30 year old 2 storey on a hill, 2700 sq.ft.. If your utility offers time of day rates, and if you can also install some storage while at it that would be up to their standards, you might be able to reduce the usage costs. Some. Maybe.
 

traparatus

New Member
Nov 21, 2021
5
British Columbia
Whether you use electricity to heat air or use electricity to heat water that you then use to heat air, it's still the same electricity. It's still the exact same forced air distribution system. I don't think you'll be saving a lot of money. Might be better off buying some split firewood and evaluating other options in the mean time, like pellet stove or gas boilers.

I have the exact same setup at my place and I burn ~10 cords of wood a year. Say that's $2000CAD split and delivered. That's still WAAAAAAY less that what I'd pay trying to heat the place with the electric furnace.

Of course, if the wood boiler is not usable or beyond quick repair, that's a different story.