Steam Radiator: What is it and What Are its Uses? Steam Radiator: What is it and What Are its Uses?

Steam radiators aren’t usually found in new residential constructions. Instead, they tend to be found in buildings that are several decades old. It’s an outmoded form of heating that's considered to be inefficient. It can also be quite costly to use, in comparison with other types of heating. These radiators are bulky by modern standards and are often hotter, to the touch,  which can make them potentially dangerous, especially if you have young children in the house.

What Is A Steam Radiator?

A steam radiator comes in two types with either a single pipe and a double pipe. Those seeking vintage radiators prefer the double-pipe version. This is the type of model where the steam and the water are fed into the radiator with two different pipes. In a single-pipe steam radiator, both feeds go through the same pipe. Because steam is essentially water that has exceeded it's boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the metal radiators can become extremely hot.

Steam circulates inside the radiator and heats the room. The nature of the heat means that the air in a room is often damp and humid. Where the steam radiator is in contact with exterior walls, it can result in heavy heat loss. The pipes for steam radiators are frequently uninsulated which also results in a loss of heat.

Pressure and poor installation on floor surfaces can often cause steam radiators to bang. This is a very common problem. With single-pipe steam radiators, each radiator has an air vent and these need to be bled or the radiator loses a great deal of its efficiency.

With double pipe radiators, you frequently find an imbalance between the radiators where one heats too much while the other doesn't heat enough. In these instances, its often necessary to replace the steam traps.

Uses of Steam Radiators

Although there are houses and older buildings that use steam radiators for heating, they are generally becoming less common as they are replaced by more efficient systems. Steam radiators can complete an accurate restoration so a designer might seek them out for that purpose alone. With proper insulation and reflector panels, their efficiency can be greatly enhanced.

Antique dealers have discovered that there’s a market for old steam radiators, especially the double-pipe variety, and prices have risen in recent years. The biggest use for steam radiators these days is in industry. Where steam is produced as part of a manufacturing process, it’s quite logical and economical to use it as heat for steam radiators. This cuts down on heating costs and makes for effective recycling.

Although new industrial buildings generally won’t utilize steam heat, there are still instances of it happening and it’s entirely possible to switch a hot water radiator to a steam radiator. In these cases, it’s important to have the proper piping for the radiator installed as well.

Those who still have steam radiators can even use them for keeping food warm with the addition of ceramic food warmers. This can be useful during dinner parties or if kitchen space is extremely limited. There are even portable electric steam heaters which people use in rooms if the air is very dry.

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