One interesting fact about boilers: most of them don’t “boil.” At least, not any more. If you’ve ever watched old gangster movies where a gunfight in a boiler room caused steam to start blasting all over the place, then you know that steam power was once important for boiler operation. Boilers raised the temperature of the water above the boiling point to convert the water to steam, and this high pressure steam moved through the pipes to radiators to provide heat.
Steam is a highly efficient heat transfer fluid, but most boilers today use hot water instead of steam, and a pump on the water tank circulates the heat through the pipes to the radiators. But steam boilers are still available and are sometimes the better option for certain homes. We’ll look at the main differences between them to help you decide which one your home needs. You can count on Basnett Plumbing & Heating to assist you so that you get the best possible heating in Groton, MA possible.
Steam vs. Hot Water
The main difference between a steam boiler and a hot water boiler is the amount of energy each uses. A steam boiler must burn more fuel (gas or oil) to raise the temperature of its water to boiling level, and this makes hot water boilers more energy efficient, using approximately 25% less energy than steam boilers. For many homes, this is significant enough to prefer hot water over steam.
However, as mentioned above, steam is more efficient at the transfer of heat than hot water. Once steam is created from water, the steam is able to provide a larger output of heat than hot water, up to 300+ MBH. (1 MBH = 1,000 BTUs per hour.) This makes steam heaters capable of dealing with extreme levels of cold and helping homes that have poor insulation. Few heating systems available can produce as much heat as a steam boiler.
However, most homes will not need this level of heat power from their boiler. Steam boilers also require special safety precautions because of the temperature of the steam (the water must be heated to 212°F) and require rigid regular maintenance.
The right choice for you (and the right maintenance)
If you live in a house that suffers heavy drafts during harsh winter days, a steam boiler may do the best job keeping you warm. Have an HVAC technician perform a heat load calculation for your home to determine if the power of a steam boiler will help you keep warm. If you decide to have a steam boiler installed, make sure that you schedule regular maintenance for it to keep it safe. Basnett Plumbing & Heating can take care of both the installation and maintenance for your steam boiler. Of course, we handle hot water boilers as well! Trust us with all your heating in Groton, MA.