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How Does a Steam Heat System Work?

As the term suggests, a steam heat system is a house or building heating system that relies on steam to provide heat. While steam heating was once very popular, a lot of newer systems have emerged of late. Still, it cannot be denied that steam heating systems are more reliable and easier to maintain than any of the more heating systems prevalent today.

In addition, a heating system upgrade can be a very complicated and expensive process. 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.

Fundamentals of a 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. The boiler applies heat to the water and converts it to steam. This steam then goes down the pipes and into the radiators and/or convectors in every room. This is the way stem heat is distributed all over a building. As the energy spreads out, the steam cools down and reverts back to water, which the boiler heats again.

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. Boilers heated by electricity are generally more expensive to operate than those that are heated by gas or oil. However, they are much easier to maintain and don’t has as much as damage when they do break compared to the other two. Electrically heated boilers can be seen in larger buildings, while boilers that run on gas or heat are more common in homes and smaller buildings.

Radiators Against Convectors

In a steam heat system, radiators serve as heat-transferring devices where pipes that distribute heat are fully exposed. On the other hand, convectors are heating devices in a setup where heat-moving pipes are partly shielded. Convectors and radiators are made in different shapes and sizes, and convectors are generally safer to touch because they are cooler than radiators. Still, both must be handled carefully.

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.

As for the everyday care needs of the system, users can attend to them easily. This includes, for example, watching the boiler’s water level and pressure gauges. 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. By loosening the air valves temporarily, the pressure can return to normal. Finally, air valves should as well be oiled on a regular basis.

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