Component heating modern old steam system updating using

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In many cases the radiators are the most durable portions of the original system, and are often salvageable, according to Dan Holohan, owner of, a comprehensive website covering all things mechanical, and a frequent contributor to many plumbing-industry publications.Replacing the boiler isn't just a matter of switching out old for new, Holohan notes.These designs can be retrofitted more easily into existing homes than traditional approaches, often without the need for soffits and dropped ceilings, which can intrude on historic designs.Regardless of the overall approach, though, renovators need to understand that each period homes is individual and can't be approached in cookie-cutter fashion.Coal-fired systems are now mostly reserved for larger buildings.A cheaper alternative to hot water or steam heat is forced hot air.Whether the piping is new or original, Holohan says that insulating both "wet" and "dry" runs, with either basic fiberglass batting or preformed foam insulation, also can help system performance and extend component life."The whole idea is to keep the steam from turning into liquid before it gets back to the boiler," he says.

Instead, original equipment that's often reusable is frequently removed wholesale and replaced with standard forced-air furnaces, requiring sightline-marring soffits and dropped ceilings to accommodate ductwork.

He says mechanical pros need to be aware that these retrofit scenarios can pose a safety hazard: Flue gases from new, high-efficiency models can condense in old chimneys, and the resulting highly acidic water can eat away at mortar.

This can cause the chimney to collapse internally, he says, causing carbon monoxide to back up into the house.

Considering the combined system of thermal power station and electric resistance heating, the overall efficiency will be less than for direct use of fossil fuel for space heating.

More and more buildings utilize solar-powered heat sources, in which case the distribution system normally uses water circulation.

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