While forced-air furnaces are the most common type of residential heating system, they’re not the only way to keep your home nice and cozy this fall and winter. Boilers have been used for heating since the late 1800s and modern technology makes them a viable option today. In fact, boilers are generally more energy-efficient than furnaces.
In our experience, many homeowners do not know how a boiler works or the important components of the system. That’s what we’re going to cover in this article.
How does a hydronic boiler work?
Since the word “hydro” is in the name, you can probably guess that the boiler uses water in some way. You would be correct. When heat is needed in the home, the system heats up water in the central unit. The hot water or steam is then sent through pipes to radiators located in each room. The radiators release the heat into the space, then the water is recirculated back to the boiler to be heated again.
Main parts of a boiler system
Here are some of the most important parts you’ll find in a hydronic boiler system
- Fire tubes – When the boiler burns an energy source (usually natural gas or oil), hot gases travel through fire tubes. The heat within the tubes is transferred to heat up the water, which is then sent to the radiators.
- Expansion tank – As you may remember from science class, water expands when it is heated. So the expansion tank is basically used as an overflow container. Water goes into the expansion tank when it’s heated, then travels back into the main unit when it cools. The expansion tank also helps maintain the proper (and safe) amount of pressure within the system.
- Aquastat – The water in the system should be between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The aquastat works like a thermostat to make sure the water is at the correct temperature.
- Safety relief valve – Too much pressure in the boiler can be dangerous. That’s why every system should have a safety relief valve that opens and releases water if the pressure or temperature gets too high inside. This is a very important safety feature.
- Low-water cutoff – It can also be dangerous if the boiler runs too low on water. Even though the boiler should automatically feed itself water, a low level can happen when there’s a problem with the system or pipes. The low-water cutoff safety feature uses a float to monitor the water level in the tank. If the float gets too low, the system will shut off to prevent damage.
Boiler installation and service
Boilers are a time-tested heating method. To find out if it may be the right heating solution for your home, talk to the professionals at Robert B. Payne, Inc. We can provide a free consultation and estimate. Call us at (540) 373-5876 or fill out a short contact form.