How Do Apartment Building Boilers Work?

Having central heating in your apartment or home during cold winter days is something most people have nowadays. But it doesn’t make it any less of a luxury. 

But one may wonder – how do apartment building boilers work? What goes on behind the scenes that let us have hot water at our disposal?

In this article, you will find answers to:

  • How do apartment building boilers work?
  • Do apartments have boilers?
  • Do apartments have separate boilers?
  • How much does a boiler cost for an apartment?
    • How much does a plumber charge to install a boiler?
  • How to install a boiler heating system? 

How do apartment building boilers work?

Before we move on, let’s see what is a boiler. Simply put, a boiler is a contained vessel where water is heated or boiled and then transported via ducts as hot water or steam to heat up spaces. 

Apartment buildings usually contain one or more boilers to satisfy their heating demands. 

There are usually two types of boilers used in apartment buildings – hot water boilers and steam boilers. 

These two types of boilers are similar in their end result – hot water or steam once produced is circulated through the radiators that heat up your rooms

Let’s find out how a boiler works. 

A boiler generally consists of a burner, a combustion chamber, a heat exchanger, a circulation pump, safety controls and valves, and a radiator.  

  • The boiler or your home thermostat controls the entire heating system. It reads the temperature of the room and if it registers a temperature below a preset limit, it signals the heating apparatus to produce more heat. 
  • Natural gas provides the fuel that fires up the burner. The burner creates consistent flames due to a fine mixture of fuel, oxygen and an ignition source. The high power combustion takes place inside a combustion chamber made up of a sturdy material such as cast iron or steel. 
  • This combustion is then directed towards a heat exchanger. The heat exchanger consists of tubes of high conducting metals like copper and contain the water to be heated. The water in the heat exchanger absorbs the heat from the combustion and gets heated up to a temperature of about 180°F. 
  • The hot water then circulates in your heaters or radiators and provides heat to your home. As the heat dissipates from the hot water, it returns to the boiler and the whole process repeats again to ensure continuous heat to your home. 

Hot water boilers and steam boilers slightly differ in their constitution but the general principle and workings remain more or less the same as discussed above. 

Do apartments have boilers?

Yes, apartments have boilers. Depending on the number of households in any building, the number of boilers and their capacities differ.   

Do apartments have separate boilers?

Apartments could have separate boilers. Centralized heating systems are much more commonly used because of their ease of installation and upkeep as compared to separate boilers for each apartment. In the event of an accident, it’s much easier to prevent and contain the damage to the boiler room in the building. 

It’s still an option to install individual boilers for your apartment heating needs. As per your requirements, you could choose from several heating systems such as a conventional forced-air furnace or combi boiler for your apartment.

How much does a boiler cost for an apartment?

A standard boiler costs $3,500 on average for a large home or apartment. Installation or labor charges bring the cost around $5,000.

Boilers cost anywhere from $3,000 to $11,000 to install based on certain properties.

The cost of a boiler for an apartment depends on various factors such as boiler type,  efficiency ratings, brand, BTU needs (higher BTU rating of any appliance, higher heat output), fuel type used, to name a few.

High-efficiency models could rack up costs between $6,000 and $11,000. Based on fuel type, i.e., oil, gas, or electric, boilers could cost anywhere ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, electric offering the cheapest prices. 

If you choose a combi boiler that would heat up both your home and water for use from water outlets, it would cost anywhere between $2,600 and $6,800 on average to purchase and install.

In the end, it’d all come down to how efficient or long-lasting you want your boiler to be. You should be thoroughly clear of the suitability of every type of boiler and how properly it’d fit your apartment.

How much does a plumber charge to install a boiler?

The usual installation charges for a boiler range from $1,500 to $2,500 depending upon your location and subsequent labor charges. Make sure to hire plumbers who are Gas Safe registered to install boilers. You could also hire HVAC professionals for the same. They may charge $75 to $125 an hour depending upon your location. 

How to install a boiler heating system?

The location you choose to put your boiler should be at a safe distance from windows, rain, hail or direct sunlight. You should ideally employ plumbers or professionals who are Gas Safe Registered to install boilers as they will adhere to building codes and follow safety guidelines. 

Follow the steps below to install a boiler heating system in your home:

  • Select an appropriate location:

Go for a location with clear access to water pipes, electrical sockets, space for flue gas, ventilation, and gas pipes. 

  • Install the piping: 

Connect the pumps to the boiler and the rest of the pipe outlets to hot water tanks (in case of standard boiler), radiators, water outlets, and the cold water mains supply. Also, attach the feed and return pipes to the boiler. 

  • Connect the flue gas and air supply pipes to chimneys or outlets:

Flue gas refers to the residual gases that are by-products of the combustion process. These gases need an outlet to escape since they contain harmful gases like carbon monoxide. 

  • Start and test your boiler for proper functioning:

Turn the thermostat down. After 10-15 minutes, turn it up and check if the boiler is heating. In the case of the combi boiler, check the water for hot water from any tap. 

If all’s good, Voila! Your new boiler is ready to use. If anything’s amiss, contact a professional to check out the boiler and sort out the settings. 


Apartment building boilers work the same way normal boilers do with more power to service several apartments at once. A quality boiler that is properly installed and maintained would go on to serve you for a long time. Your boiler will take care of all your heating needs and let you enjoy a cozy winter. 

NOTE FROM the author

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- Tiffany B.