In North America, there has been a significant drive toward decarbonization. As water and space heating technology continues to evolve, national, state, and local electrification legislation and initiatives are growing increasingly common. Many states and cities are reacting to concerns regarding the climate with an unprecedented wave of new policies and regulatory standards that disincentivize or even block the installation of appliances powered by gas. 

However, high-efficiency gas-fired boilers and water heaters will continue to play an important role in bridging the gap between present and future electrification goals. It’s important to remember that demand for gas-fired boilers and water heaters will continue for the foreseeable future. 

Numerous factors, including available technology, energy infrastructure capabilities, and cost, likely mean that full electrification remains a somewhat distant goal relative to some of the current forecasts. In addition, while proponents of electrification continue to push regulation, several states have taken steps to protect consumers and business owners with proposals that mandate energy choice or prevent local governments from imposing gas bans. 

Electric water heaters, boilers, and heat pumps can be the right solution in a lot of situations, but, in many circumstances, they do not yet match the performance, longevity, or value of traditional natural gas or propane-fired products based on today’s realities. One should consider that installing electrically based heating systems in lieu of gas-fired units does not necessarily result in a decrease in overall emission levels if the power is generated by a fossil fuel-fired power plant. 

Additionally, many experts recommend alternative plans, such as phased adoption. Laars Heating Systems envisions electric and gas-fired heating products as complementary tools in the fight to reduce carbon emissions over the foreseeable future. The continued demand for (and availability of) gas-fired boilers and water heaters presents an opportunity for manufacturers to enhance the efficiency of their gas products while trying to reduce emissions.

Figure 2. A lineup of Laars’ MagnaTherm Boilers.

This comprehensive approach preserves consumer choice during economic uncertainty. Phased adoption of electric-exclusive policies and ongoing investment in efficient, gas-powered heating technologies will provide consumers with flexibility and security as manufacturers continue refining the efficiency of existing gas products. 

Two elements that are key to enhanced efficiency for gas products are:

  • Advanced combustion technology: Many boiler manufacturers, including Laars, have increased the use of O2 sensors, which limit excess oxygen within the combustion process in order to ensure peak efficiency across all operating conditions. This minimizes fuel use as well as reduces emission levels. The Laars TruTrac O2 Trim control, featured on the MagnaTherm HTD and FT, allows real-time electric fuel-to-air ratio control of the combustion process, which results in optimized efficiency across the entire turndown range and top efficiency rates for gas-fired boilers.
  • Advanced control capabilities: Controls that better match building loads to outdoor conditions enhance overall efficiency in gas-powered heating products. The Laars Linc™ control is an intuitive touchscreen system that includes auto-cascade, outdoor reset functionality, and intelligent redundancy functions. Included within Laars Linc is the Laars Vari-Prime pump control system that controls a variable-speed boiler pump to maintain a fixed, user-selectable, boiler temperature rise, thereby maximizing the total installed efficiency. 

Laars is also responding to the increasing demand for electric heating products by offering a full line of commercial electric boilers, commercial electric tank-type water heaters, and commercial tankless electric water heaters. The company’s commercial electric products offer quality and reliability for commercial and industrial applications. And the compact package of Laars’ commercial tankless electric water heater helps save money, energy, and space. The company is continuing to invest significantly in the development of innovative and efficient electrically based technology to supplement and expand its electrified offerings.

In addition to the emergence of new and enhanced products and technology, increasing awareness of electrification opens the door for plumbing, heating, cooling, and piping (PHCP) professionals to educate customers. Effectively communicating with customers will be more essential than ever. Contractors who can continue offering exemplary service amid rapidly changing circumstances will be able to distinguish themselves from competitors.