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Home Improvement

How Boiler Heating Systems Work

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Although forced-air heating systems are more common in homes today, there are still many homes and businesses that utilize boiler heating systems. While most people appreciate the heat that boiler systems provide, many people are unaware of how these systems work. Gaining a deeper knowledge of your boiler system can help you diagnose problems and potentially save energy.

How Boiler Heating Systems Work

Creating Heat

For a boiler to heat a home, it first has to produce heat. Typically, this is achieved by burning natural gas in a burner or combustion chamber. The flame ignites when the thermostat senses the temperature dropping in your home and sends a signal to the furnace to release gas into the burner. If you have an older boiler, it may burn heating oil instead of natural gas or propane to create heat.

Transferring Heat

After the burner makes heat, it has to transfer that heat to the water. This is the responsibility of the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is a series of tubes that are located next to the burner. Water runs through these tubes so that it is held next to the heat for as long as possible. By the time the water leaves the heat exchanger, it is hot enough to radiate heat into the cool air in your home.

Moving Heat

To get heat to the individual rooms in your home, the boiler forces the hot water away from the main unit and to tubes that run to different areas in the house. Eventually, the water reaches a radiator. A radiator contains a long series of tubes that keep the water in the room for an extended period of time. This allows the heat in the water to transfer to the cooler air due to thermodynamics.

Recycling Water

After the heat in the water is depleted, it has to return to the boiler so that it can gain more heat. Fortunately, a boiler is a closed system wherein the water leaves the radiator through a return tube as it makes its way back to the heating unit. Once the water reaches the main heating unit, the cycle can begin again, making this an efficient way to keep your home warm.


Since a boiler utilizes high pressures, high temperatures, and large amounts of fuel, it can be dangerous to try and work on your boiler yourself. Fortunately, there are numerous HVAC companies that are fully qualified to repair or replace boiler systems in need of attention. This will quickly restore lost heat while ensuring that you and your family stay safe. Additionally, a burner service may be able to help improve the efficiency of your boiler system. By getting your burner serviced as frequently as the manufacturer recommends, it will also last longer.

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