What’s the best kind of heat?

Today we are going to take a look at a system of heat that was used virtually everywhere but, has become less popular in recent years.

We are talking about Steam.  Virtually everyone is familiar with The Radiator that brought heat into all the rooms of a house.  Look at today’s photograph, that is The Radiator that was typically in every room of the house.

Steam heating is very easy to understand.  Down in the basement is a steam boiler, similar to a hot-water boiler but unique in that is heats water to a higher temperature so that it creates Steam. 

A Steam heating system uses the pressure generated by The Steam as its method of moving the steam throughout the house.  A hot water system relies on pumps, but not steam.  When the thermostat calls for heat the Steam Boiler turns on creating steam and pressure.  The pressure forces the hot steam through the pipes and into the radiators where it gives off heat.

Look at the picture, the steam will enter through the pipe on the right at the top of the radiator and as it gives off heat the steam condenses back into water which drains out the pipe on the left where it goes back to The Steam Boiler in the basement to be turned into steam again.  The picture shows you a Two-Pipe system.  The exact same thing can happen using only one-pipe.  The steam goes to the radiator under pressure, condenses, falls to the bottom of the radiator, and drains back to the boiler in the basement.

Advantages of Steam systems – they are a simple and commonly found in older homes, the one pipe-system was relatively inexpensive to install.

Disadvantages of Steam – heating water to a higher temperature they are fundamentally less efficient.  And, a steam system is typically more persnickety to operate.

In a commercial situation the use is steam is often the choice.  In New York City the majority of both residential and commercial spaces are heated with steam that comes from centralized steam generating plants.

Steam is alive and well but typically not in today’s single-family residential homes.

Taking a look at today’s building science is very fascinating.  What do you think?  Join the conversation on Facebook or call us at 802.985-5855

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