Your Hot Water Heating System


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Hot Water Heating Basics

Hot water heating sytems include; warm or hot metal radiators, heating baseboards containing finned copper tubing, or wall convectors that look like a radiator but contain finned copper tubing, or if heat is provided by flexible rubber, plastic, or metal tubing run in building floors or ceilings, then the warm or hot water circulating in those devices is probably being delivered by piping circulating water heated by a heating boiler, or possibly by a steam boiler, heat pump, tankless boiler, hot water tank or geo-thermal system.

Water is heated in boiler, usually to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Pumps circulate the hot water through pipes in the building. This heated water warms radiators placed in the rooms, which heats the room. In some homes, pipes are buried in the concrete slab or are located under tiles. This is called radiant heat.

Many people prefer (hydronic) hot water heat, because the radiators are small, the system typically quiet, and it can be easily divided into multiple zones. Hot water heat has made steam heat obsolete in homes and smaller buildings.

Radiators and convectors are the most common radiating devices. Radiators are large cast iron tubes. Convectors are smaller copper or steel tubes surrounded by metal fins housed in grilled cabinets or baseboard units. The fins increase the convectors heated area.

Dirt, dust and obstructions interfere with the heat transfer from the radiators or convectors to the room air. Clean the radiators or convectors with a vacuum brush attachment regularly. If a radiator cannot be cleaned with a vacuum brush attachment, spread damp newspapers under the radiator and clean with a radiator brush. Remove any drapes, furnishings or other objects obstructing air flow around your radiators or convectors. Do not place anything on top or in front of your radiators or convectors.

Air trapped inside a radiator or convector, can interfere with heat distribution. Some radiators and convectors have automatic air valves that bleed air from the units. If yours do not, they should be bled manually at the beginning of the heating season and after adding or removing water from the system. If a radiator or convector will not heat properly, bleeding the unit may solve the problem.

Hot Water Boiler


A boiler is the heating plant used to create hot water or steam for hydronic baseboard, radiant heat or steam radiator heating systems. Boilers can use a variety of fuels including natural gas, propane, oil or electricity. Steam boilers are more complex than hot water boilers and have special gauge glass, pressure gauges, blow off valves and automatic feeds. Hot water boilers can be small, compact, energy efficient and low maintenance.

Tankless Water Boiler System

Flush Your Tankless System! Because of the ultra-fast heating process, tankless water heaters gradually develop mineral deposits and calcified buildup that needs to be dissolved. These are the same materials that you find at the bottom of your tea pot after long use. With a couple of hoses, white vinegar, a small sump pump or pond pump, and a 5-gallon bucket, this job becomes a relatively simple tankless water heater maintenance task.

Regular maintenance and cleaning by a professional oil furnace technician can extend the life of your furnace and ensure it is operating at its optimum efficiency.

Most installers will recommend a cartridge filter and water softening system to ensure your tankless system is protected.

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Check the altitude pressure gauge to determine whether or not there is water in the boiler. 1.0 PSI will lift water 28 inches; 4.34 PSI will lift water 10 feet. If you are inspecting a two-story house, the height of the radiators or convector baseboard heat will be 15 feet to 20 feet above the boiler. Assuming this is true, you need about 10 pounds of pressure in the system to lift water to the top of the radiators or convectors. Add a few pounds for air or water losses over the months or for bleeding.


Check around the metal heater cabinet. Any rust or other signs of failure of the metal may indicate a defect of the sealing material between the boiler tubes. When the heat escapes from the boiler area and comes in contact with the cooler metal cabinet around the heater, condensation forms and will eventually rust out the cabinet. Repairs/sealing are possible, however, they tend to be temporary. All maintenance and repairs should be completed by licensed technician.

Pressure Relief Valve

Inspect the pressure relief valve for seepage or corrosion, present or past. This indicates excessive pressure in the system.