How to Convert From Steam to Hot Water Heating

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Steam heat was invented when energy efficiency was not a concern. Hot water heat is more energy efficient and provides more options than steam heat. Many people with older, steam heat homes desire the convenience and efficiency of hot water heat but do not want to give up the original look and feel of the cast iron steam that heat registers. With a few key obstacles determined beforehand, the conversion of steam to hot water heating is a time consuming though straightforward process.

Things You'll Need

  • Hot water boiler and controls
  • Pipes and fittings
  • Diagrams and layouts
  • Hand tools as required
  • Soldering equipment
  • Determine the style of steam radiators in your home by checking for a top crossover tube from section to section. Steam radiators prior to the 1920s did not contain crossover tubes at the top of the radiator. Steam flowed in from the bottom and continued up into each section before cooling off, turning back into water and draining back down the radiator and pipe system to the boiler. After the 1920s, pipe fitters used cast iron, tube radiators that were designed for water. The crossover tubes allow the water to easily flow from one radiator section to the next.

  • Divide up the space into separate, thermostat-controlled zones, during the design phase of the conversion. Keep the system simple and logical to avoid over-complicated service and maintenance procedures in the future. Zone decisions should be based on the home's occupancy and the manner in which the space is used.

  • Secure the proper permits and begin the conversion process. Remove the old boiler system and clean and restore any radiators and other parts you wish to reinstall with the new system. Set the hot-water boiler in place and plumb in the radiators as your design requires. Homeowners often tear out the old boiler system themselves to save money. Cleaning and refinishing the radiators yourself will also save money. Licensed heating contractors are hired for the design and installation processes and can provide extended warranties.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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