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Ultimate Radiator Guide – The Different Types of Radiators & More

Heating, Older Homes


Benefits of Radiator Heating

With bitter cold winters and frigid breezes blowing off Lake Michigan, reliable heating is necessary for every Chicago home. If you’re more familiar with forced-air heating, you may hesitate to buy or build a home with radiator heating. However, even though it’s less common in modern buildings, the warmth radiators give off simply cannot be matched. Here’s what to expect if you purchase a property in Chicago with radiator heating:

  • Long-lasting heat: Temperature fluctuations from the average furnace make it difficult to stay comfortable. Unlike forced-air systems, radiators continue to give off heat for hours after the boiler turns off. This gives your home the consistent, cozy feeling you want during the winter.
  • No drafts: Even though the furnace blows warm air, the “breeze” coming from the supply registers can feel cold. The last thing you want is to create a wind-chill effect that makes your home feel colder than it really is. With radiator heating, warmth enters the room without blowing air around, helping you feel warmer at a lower temperature.
  • Quiet operation: The lack of airflow from radiators has another effect — it allows you to heat your home almost silently. You may hear the boiler working behind the scenes when it powers on, but with no blower component, it never sounds “windy” in your house.
  • Improved air quality: Homeowners with furnaces commonly complain that they circulate dust, dander, and other allergens. If you have asthma or allergies, you will appreciate this additional benefit of heating your home without blowing air around.

If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of radiator heating for yourself, give us a call at (847) 999-4595 to discuss your installation, repair, and maintenance options.

What Are the Different Types of Radiators?

Hot water and steam are the two main methods of distributing heat in a radiator system. Both types of radiators connect to a boiler, which may be powered by electricity or natural gas. Unsure which type of radiator heating system you have? Our guide on how to figure out which type of radiator heating you have can help! 

Hot Water Heating Radiators

In a hot water heating system, the boiler heats water and sends it through a circulating pump to the radiator. As the water flows through the coils, heat radiates into the room. Cool outgoing water flows back to the boiler to be reheated. The cycle continues for as long as the heat is on.

Here’s how to tell if you have a hot water heating system:

  • Two pipes connect to each radiator.
  • A circulating pump is attached to the boiler.
  • An expansion tank resides near the boiler.

Steam Heating Radiators

A steam heating system converts water into steam before sending it through the pipes toward the radiators. As the steam cools, it condenses back into water and returns to the boiler to be reheated.

Here’s how to tell if you have a steam heating system:

  • One or two pipes are attached to each radiator. (Steam systems come in one- and two-pipe configurations.)
  • You sometimes hear a high-pitched whistle coming from your radiator. (This indicates that your system needs maintenance.)
  • A sight glass is attached vertically to the boiler.

Electric vs. Gas Heating Radiators

Electric boilers are less expensive upfront, easier to install, smaller in size, and require no natural gas line. If you have a small property, want to supplement another heating method, or don’t have a gas line, an electric boiler could be right for you.

Gas boilers are more energy-efficient, making them cheaper to operate. They also generate higher temperatures for faster, more powerful heating. If radiators are your main heat source, a gas boiler is probably the most cost-effective choice, especially if you live in a large house.

Now that you understand the different types of radiators available, you may be ready to install, repair, or maintain your system. Contact American Vintage Home to learn more.

Wide open plan of new metal radiator of the central heating system installing on white copy space wall in modern apartment.

Proper Radiator Maintenance

All home heating systems require routine maintenance to remain in proper working order. Here are the yearly tasks we recommend to keep your boiler and radiator functioning as they should:

  • Inspect the system thoroughly to identify and resolve any problems.
  • Check the condition of wiring and connections.
  • Measure the water pH level.
  • Clean and flush the condensate system if necessary.
  • Test the safety and operating controls.
  • Clean and inspect the heat exchanger, flame sensors, igniter, and burner assembly (gas boilers).
  • Evaluate the venting system for deterioration, corrosion, or blockages (gas boilers).

By keeping up with proper radiator maintenance, you can expect to enjoy these benefits:

  • Promote peak operating performance.
  • Lower your energy bills.
  • Protect against carbon monoxide emissions.
  • Prolong the life of your boiler and radiators.
  • Reduce the risk of inconvenient breakdowns.
  • Decrease repair costs.
  • Prevent voiding the warranty.

The next time you need dependable, professional radiator maintenance in the Chicago North Shore, call American Vintage Home at (847) 999-4595.

Signs You Need To Repair or Replace Your Radiator

While maintenance reduces the need for emergency repairs, wear and tear may eventually cause a boiler or radiator malfunction. Here are the most common reasons to schedule boiler repair:

  • There’s insufficient or uneven heating.
  • You’re getting no heat at all.
  • You notice water pooling around the boiler or radiator.
  • The thermostat isn’t working.
  • You hear unusual noises, such as a high-pitched whistle coming from a steam heating system.

It’s usually possible to repair a radiator heating system, but eventually, even the most robust equipment must be replaced. Watch for these signs you should replace your boiler:

  • The boiler is over 15 to 20 years old.
  • Your utility bills are steadily increasing.
  • You see signs of rust or other damage on a gas boiler’s heat exchanger.
  • The system requires costly repairs once a year or more.
  • Your radiators are no longer meeting your home’s heating demands.

If it’s time to repair or replace your radiator heating system, contact us to schedule an appointment today!

Choose American Vintage Home for Radiator Services

Are you looking for a reliable company to service your boiler and radiators? With decades of experience and a passion for vintage homes in the Chicago North Shore area, we are perfect for the job! We’ll make sure you stay warm and comfortable this winter and for many winters to come with our proven radiator installation, repair, and maintenance services.

Contact American Vintage Home online or call (847) 999-4595 today to schedule a visit from one of our dedicated technicians.

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