Home Buying in Longmeadow>Question Details

Julie, Home Buyer in Ludlow, MA

how is steam heat?

Asked by Julie, Ludlow, MA Tue Apr 10, 2012

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Hi Julie,

It's definitely a matter of preference. Some people love steam heat, others not so much. Here are a few things you should know:

Steam radiators get VERY hot. If there are young children in the house, it's a good idea to install radiator covers to protect against accidental burns.

Steam heating systems literally boil water, which turns to steam and rises up through the heating pipes and into the radiators. The steam eventually condenses and flows back down to the boiler. There is water lost in this process, so the heating system must periodically be topped up by opening a valve and letting water into the boiler. It means either manually filling it every so often, or installing an automatic feed valve that fills the boiler when the water level runs low.

Water can build up in the pipes causing them to clang and bang, sometimes severely. I've heard of old plaster walls actually cracking because of the violent banging of steam pipes, not to mention the pipes themselves eventually breaking if the problem is not fixed. I'm told the best way to avoid this is to make sure each radiator is slightly tilted back towards the entry pipe so that the water can properly run back to the boiler. It just means putting a little shim of some sort under two of the radiator legs. Another thing to avoid is over filling the boiler. There is a sight glass on the boiler that should be roughly 3/4 full to the top. If you can't see the water level, it means it's either too high and the sight glass is completely full, or too low and the water can't be seen.

To keep the boiler running efficiently, some water should be drained from it every few months. This water is VERY hot. The water should be emptied until it runs clear to get out all the crud that settles in the bottom of the boiler. The boiler should then be topped up as usual.

I'm not a plumber, so I'm sure there are some other things to remember. I can tell you, though, I once owned a home with steam heat and never had a bother, other than routine maintenance

Good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 11, 2012
Steam heat is great for your complexion. It adds moisture to the airt in the very dry winter!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2012
I grew up in a house with steam heat and there is water hammer and noises but it heats as well as anything. I prefer forced hot air but my current home has baseboard.
Homes in Longmeadow tend to be older and most of the homes you will see probably have steam.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Apr 13, 2012
It can be as comfortable as any other type of heat - or not.
The dangers from the radiators can cause mothers to worry, but they provide a steady source of cozy warmth too.
The banging from the expansion of the pipes can be spooky on a dark lonely night, but you know the system is working, too.
They require some maintenance that other systems don't, but they are interesting inventions from an era gone by.

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0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 11, 2012
I had steam heat in my 1st house and I loved it! I still miss it to this day
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 11, 2012
It's one of the oldest heating types here in New England. Alot of people like it because it gives off a moist warm heat. At the end of the day it's whatever you're used to or can get used to.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 10, 2012
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