If you have radiators in your residence, it can be hard to tell if you have hot water or steam water heating. Steam and hot water heating systems are commonplace in vintage homes, and both give dust-free, clean heat. Here are some tips to help you decide which heating system type you have.      


Steam Heating

Steam heating units have boilers that convert water into steam. The steam then goes through pipes to radiators and heats the home. As the steam cools, it goes back into water and returns to the boiler to be heated once more. Signs of steam heating systems:


One pipe

If you possess only one pipe in your radiator, this means you have a one-pipe system, and it is steam.

Two pipes

Two pipes in your radiator signifies it could be steam or hot water system.

High-pitched whistle

If your radiator has a high-pitched noise coming from it, you probably have a steam heating system. The whistle sound might also mean your system needs maintenance work.

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Hot Water Heating

In a hot water heating unit, the hot water goes from the boiler through a pump to the radiator, diffusing the heat and warming the room. The water will circulate through the system when the heat is on. Signs of a hot water heating system:

Two pipes

A hot water system always has two pipes coming from the radiator. Though steam heating systems also use two pipes, so more examination is necessary.

Circulating pump

If a circulating pump is connected to your boiler heating system, it typically indicates you have a hot water system.

Expansion Tank

If you have hot water heating, you must also have an expansion tank close by. The expansion tank stops the hot water system from developing excessive pressure.


Both steam and hot water heating systems should be serviced yearly to guarantee trouble-free operation. Steam systems specifically need specialized care that should be done regularly. Whichever HVAC repair company you pick to maintain your heating system, be sure it has plenty of knowledge and experience about the needs of older houses.