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How Does a Steam Heat System Work?

As indicated by the term itself, a steam heat system is a method of providing heating to a house or building through the use of steam. While steam heating was once very popular, a lot of newer systems have emerged of late. Still, there are two things about steam heating that make it advantageous compared to modern heating systems – it is more reliable and it is so much easier to maintain.

Moreover, upgrading a heating system can be very expensive and complex. If you are a building owner who uses a steam heating system without any plan to upgrade, you have to know how it works and how to keep it in good condition.

Basics of the Steam Heat System

There are four components of a steam heating system – a burner, a water boiler, pipes and radiators/convectors. The system functions in a rather straightforward manner. By applying heat to the water, the boiler turns it into steam. Then the steam travels down the pipes and enters the radiators and/or convectors in each room. This is the manner in which steam heat is distributed around the building. As the energy spreads, the steam reduces its temperature and converts back into water, which is then reheated by the boiler.

How the Boiler Is Heated

There are several ways the boiler can be heated by the burner. In most cases, electricity, oil or natural gas will be used. Electrically heated boilers are generally pricier to run than those compared to those which are oil or gas-heated. However, they are also way easier to maintain and don’t become as damaged as the other two when they actually break. Electrically heated boilers are usually found in bigger buildings, while gas and oil-heated boilers are more commonly used in smaller buildings and residential properties.

Radiators or Convectors?

In a steam heating system, radiators work to transfer heat via completely exposed pipes. Convectors, on the other hand, are heating devices that work in a setup in which pipes that transfer heat are partially covered. Convectors and radiators are made in different shapes and sizes, and convectors are generally safer to touch because they are cooler than radiators. Still, they should be both handled with care.

Maintaining a Steam Heating System

While steam heating systems are relatively low maintenance, they do need to be maintained regularly to keep them in good shape. A qualified service professional should come to check the system at least once every twelve months.

The daily care needs of the system can be handled by the user. For example, the boiler’s pressure and water gauges must be monitored. If the water level dips too low, the boiler will only keep getting hotter and hotter without actually heating the building. Water has to be added the soonest. If the pressure level is too higher, the danger could explode. This can be avoided by loosing the air valves temporarily until the pressure normalizes. Finally, the air valves must also be oiled regularly.

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