A boiler is one of the primary components of any heating system that uses radiant heat.
The boiler is not only responsible for the general functioning of a heating system but it is decisive in determining the quality of heating attained and how effectively the entire system functions.
What is a Boiler?
A boiler is an appliance within the entire heating system used in a home that produces hot water or steam, depending on the type of boiler. The boiler runs on various types of fuels, most commonly natural gas but oil or propane and in some cases solid fuel are also used to power the boiler. Heating systems that use boilers to generate heat and thereby heating the air in an indoor space are referred to as hydronic systems or hydronics.
How a Boiler functions?
The functioning of a boiler is extremely simple. It heats water or produces steam which is then circulated through a network of pipes or steam radiators. In case of hot water, it is distributed through baseboard radiators. Radiant floor systems are also commonly used. Steam or hot water can also be passed through a network of coils. Whichever type of network is used to circulate the hot water or steam, eventually the steam or hot water dissipate their heat to the surrounding air within the network and onto the indoor space.
Steam Vs Hot Water Boiler
Steam boilers are less efficient than hot water boilers. Hot water dissipates heat more readily and one can easily control the temperature of hot water. Temperature of steam is difficult to regulate and there can be overheating or waste of energy. Also, since steam requires more heat to be produced, there is a need of more fuel to power the boiler which is again not energy efficient. However, there are many high end modern steam boilers that can be as effective and energy efficient as hot water boilers.
When to change a Boiler?
Usually, if your hot water or steam boiler is more than a decade old then you should look at newer models. There have been several transformations to technology and state of the art models would any given day be a better choice. However, worn out boilers can be repaired and if maintained well can function properly. It would eventually depend on the quality of heat you are getting and if it fails to create a desired level of comfort after repair or maintenance, it is always wiser to buy a new boiler. Old coal or wood based boilers should not be used any more as more efficient systems are available at economic prices.