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How Does a Steam Heat System Work?

As the term indicates, a steam heat system is a way of providing a heating system to a house or building by way of steam. Although steam heating used to be very popular, many newer systems have surfaced lately. 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 own a building that uses a steam heating system and you have no plans to upgrade, you just have to understand its basic operations and how to fix it.

Basics of the Steam Heat System

A water boiler, a burner, radiators/convectors and pipes are the major components of a steam heating system. The system functions in a rather straightforward manner. The boiler turns the water into steam by applying heat to it. The steam then makes its way through the pipes and into the radiators and/or convectors in each room. This is how the steam heat is spread throughout a building. As the energy spreads out, the steam cools down and reverts back to water, which the boiler heats again.

Heating the Boiler

The boiler can be heated by the burner in various ways. Usually, oil, electricity or natural gas is 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 are usually found in bigger buildings, while gas and oil-heated boilers are more commonly used in smaller buildings and residential properties.

Radiators Against Convectors

Radiators in a steam heat system transfer heat through fully exposed pipes. 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, they should be both handled with care.

Steam Heating System Maintenance

Steam heating systems may be low maintenance compared to the others, but this still require periodic maintenance to stay in good condition. 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 instance, this includes checking the boiler’s pressure and water level gauges from time to time. 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. To make the pressure drop back to normal, the air valves can be temporarily loosened. Lastly, the air valves should also be oiled every now and then.

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