While most people think of radiators and steam heat as something only found in old houses, these same heating systems are still used today in a number of commercial and residential buildings. Properties that use radiant heat or similar methods will typically require a boiler, complete with the required steam traps and steam safety valves. These systems collectively fall under the category of hydronics because they require water in order to work.
Whether you’ve just brought property that uses radiators for heating or you’re thinking about it, you should know what you’re getting ahead of time. What do you need to know about hydronics and steam heat systems? Here are some things you may not have known about the heat in your commercial property:
Steam is different than other forms of heating.
A majority of properties these days often use electricity and natural gas for heating, among other methods. This often means the use of fossil fuels, which isn’t generally considered an environmentally-friendly option. Hydronics, owever, work differently. Beyond having proper hydronics equipment for heating, however, which includes traps, regulators, and vents, among other parts, these systems only require the use of water, which is heated up in a boiler and then dispersed as steam. (Larger systems typically have underground pipes in order to heat industrial properties and college campuses, for instance.) This is an older system for heating buildings, but it is a tried and true method that has been around for a long time.
These systems don’t use as much water as you might think they do.
In order to convert one pound of water to steam, it takes roughly 970 BTU of energy. While one pound of water might seem like a lot to go through at once, the volume of the steam is 1,603 times greater than that of the same volume of water from which it is created. By installing high quality equipment, property owners and maintenance managers can ensure that heat losses stay under 1% in order to keep costs low and stay as eco-friendly as possible.
As with other heating systems, maintenance is key.
If it’s been between some time since you last had this equipment maintained, then you could be at risk for some serious issues — and costly repairs. Of systems that hadn’t had any maintenance in at least three to five years, between 15 and 30% of the steam traps had failed. These traps help you avoid losing steam and, thus, having an inefficient system overall. Of all the traps in these systems, there should be fewer than 5% that are found to have leaks in order to have maximum efficiency. A system with faulty traps can waste approximately $8,000 in heating costs per year, so make sure that repairs and inspections are a priority.
Have more questions about how these systems work? Make sure you get in touch with a company that can address you concerns about proper heating with steam.