Is a Steam Radiator Efficient Source of Heat?

A steam radiator uses old heating technology that is inefficient. It is water-based heating system that has either one or two pipes running from the furnace to each radiator. The design, size and operations of the system largely account for it is poor service. The heating equipments are commonly found in older homes. Newer residential houses use them as a secondary or supplementary source of heat.

Design Types of Steam Radiators

They are available in two basic designs. A one-pipe steam radiator has a single pipe that runs from the furnace to each radiator. Heated water turns into steam which is driven through the pipe and fills the radiator. The steam condenses and runs back in the pipe as water which is reheated and the cycle is repeated.

A two-pipe radiator system functions by delivering steam to the radiator through one pipe while the other one returns condensed water to the radiator.

Benefits of Steam Radiators

An outstanding benefit of a steam radiator is that it continues to emit heat even after the furnace has finished its cycle and a room has reached its thermostatically controlled temperature. They can be efficient if they are designed with the structural considerations of the home. Steam radiators operating effectively can be cost effective too.

The Cause of Inefficiency in Steam Radiators

The main problem with steam radiators systems is that they have intrinsic inefficiency in heat production. This is because heat is given out as a result of boiling and condensing water. This mechanism by itself is inefficient as it involves significant lag times between switching of the system and production of steam.

Drawback of Steam Radiators

Other factors that contribute to inefficiency in steam radiators include bad pipe installation, clogged air vents, non-insulated steam pipes, poorly installed heat reflectors, steam traps in the system and banging noise.

How to Improve Efficiency of a Steam Radiator

Inspect the heating system and find out if it is oversized for the particular application. In this case downsizing the steam radiator system can help conserve energy and save costs. This involves reducing their capacity by installing radiator plugs and thermostat valves.

Consider improving on insulation as older homes were constructed without this factor in mind.

What to Consider

When improving on the radiator heating system, make sure it delivers heat in just the needed areas. Installing quality insulation on pipes can help in correcting such problems. Heat reflectors should be installed behind steam radiators to avoid conducting heat to exterior walls which causes heat loss. Use reflectors made from insulating materials as they are more effectives.

Air Vents, Steam Traps and Noise

Air vents cause delay or interrupt the heating of a radiator which contributes to inefficient delivery of steam. This can be corrected by cleaning the system or replacing it altogether if the problem is severe. To prevent noise, insert shims under radiators. This should be done according to the design of the steam radiator. A one-pipe system can be corrected by inserting shims towards the pipe while in a two-pipe system shims should be placed toward the steam traps.