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Steam systems are wide open to the atmosphere and constantly corroding.That corrosion works its way down into the boiler, making the water line bounce and surge—leading to water-level problems and equipment failure. Steam is distributed via pipes to steam radiators, and hot water can be distributed via baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems, or can heat air via a coil. Boilers heat water, and provide either hot water or steam for heating.
That vacuum pump let the original engineer undersize every pipe, valve and fitting in the building; thanks to a pressure-to-vacuum differential across the system, the steam moved quickly from the boiler to the radiators.However, despite their high efficiency, the higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice.If you are interested in electric heating, consider installing a heat pump system. You can identify and compare a system's efficiency by not only its AFUE but also by its equipment features.To learn more about furnaces, boilers and other types of home heating systems, explore our Energy Saver 101 infographic on home heating.A central furnace or boiler's efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE).