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Hot Water Boilers and Steam Boilers

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in plumbing know how, Services

Hot Water Boilers and Steam Boilers

Lots of people are uninformed about plumbing issues and feel lost when it comes to making a decision.  Murray Plumbing wants to help you learn about everything plumbing so that you can make intelligent, informed choices when choosing a plumber.  We’re the experts, and we’re here to share our professional knowledge – online or in your home or business. Choose us, and you won’t be left in the dark about plumbing.


In this article, we’ll be talking about the differences between steam boilers and hot water boilers.  Both types of boilers are used as a form of heating for a building (generally a business) as well as a hot water supply.  


Let’s break out the differences between a hot water boiler and a steam boiler to help you make an informed decision:


Hot Water Boilers

  1. Lower Temperatures: 180-200 degrees fahrenheit
  1. Requires extra accessories: flow check valve, circulator, motorized pump, expansion tank, and others
  1. Water level must be above the top of the water jacket to operate correctly
  1. Requires a circulation pump
  1. Considered the safer option
  1. Operation efficiency is considered better than Steam Boilers
  1. Cost is considered equal to Steam Boilers (cost is based on fuel source, i.e. gas or oil)
Steam Boilers

  1. Higher Temperatures: 212 degrees fahrenheit
  1. Does not require extra accessories
  1. Water level must be below top of the water jacket for steam production
  1. Does not require a circulation pump due to the natural expansion of steam
  1. Not as safe as Hot Water Boilers
  1. Operation efficiency is considered inferior to Hot Water Boilers
  1. Cost is considered equal to Hot Water Boilers (cost is based on fuel source, i.e. gas or oil)


There are pros and cons to either a steam boiler or hot water boiler.  The choice for your company is dependent upon your needs and goals.


Let’s talk about how both of these systems work:


Steam boilers incorporate a float valve and sight glass to automatically control the level of the water.  Steam is distributed in the building by means of radiators. And by utilizing the effect of gravity, it is eventually returned back to the boiler.  The whole process repeats without any special control mechanisms such as circulators, flow check valves or automatic bleeders.


Hot Water Boilers require specialized fittings and accessories to ensure they work properly.  One of these is called an aquastat. The aquastat controls the temperature the boiler operates at and it also is a low voltage transformer and relay that controls the circulator.  If more than one circulator is used, then multiple relays or control panels would need to be used. There is also a regulator that must be employed. In hot water boilers, regulators are special valves used to control the water pressure.  There is also a check valve or backflow preventer. This ensures that pressure doesn’t escape from the hot water boiler back into the water supply, possibly causing higher pressure levels than is allowed in domestic systems. There is also a temperature-pressure release valve that ensures the system stays within maximum limits.  Also, an expansion tank is needed for the heating and cooling effects that are applied to the system. Air bleeders also need to be incorporated into the circulatory system of a hot water boiler, and because the water needs to be circulated, a motorized pump is usually incorporated. There must also be a means of heating the water.  A tankless coil can be immersed into the water, or a hot water maker can be used.


Whether you choose a Hot Water Boiler or a Steam boiler for your purposes, Murray Plumbing can help you install, maintain and troubleshoot your system.  We are here to help you make the most informed decision and give you peace of mind that your plumbing needs have been 100% met by a plumbing professional.


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