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. 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. 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 a byproduct of the efficiency-boosting condensing process, but wastewater 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 put the acidic waste into groundwater 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.”
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. 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.