Consumer GuidesHeating & Cooling

Understanding Boiler Radiator Systems

Boilers and radiators are not often installed in new homes, but many older residences feature this type of heating system, and steam or hot-water heating is still the system of choice for many apartments and multi-family dwellings.

Steam and hot-water heating systems have several advantages over other systems. They are very efficient, and since they have few moving parts, they are reliable and durable, lasting for many years. They are quiet and provide even, consistent heat that is clean and dust-free.

In a steam heating system, a boiler heats water by means of a gas or oil-fired burner and turns it into steam. The steam travels through pipes to radiators or convectors, which give off heat and warm the room. As the steam cools, it condenses back into water, and returns to the boiler to be heated again. Hot water heating systems operate on the same principle, using hot water instead of steam to heat the radiators.

While one of the advantages of boiler and radiator systems is their long life and low maintenance, they should still be serviced annually to ensure trouble-free operation. You can easily learn to check the safety valve and the pressure and water level gauges, but for safety reasons, heating system maintenance should be done by qualified service professional

Routine annual service should include checking the controls and gauges and inspecting and adjusting the burner. In addition, the chimney and flues should be inspected for blockages or leaks. If it is a steam heating system, the air valves on the radiators should be checked and adjusted to regulate the heat.

Modern boiler systems are significantly more efficient than older systems. Even if your present boiler is still giving trouble-free service, the fuel savings of a new unit could outweigh the cost of a replacement in a few years.

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