How Do Radiators Work?

Written on: February 5, 2024

Home Heating 101

radiators west point, ny Have you ever looked at the radiators around your West Point, NY home and wondered how they do the work of heating the rooms in your house? To understand how radiators work, it’s first helpful to understand how boilers work.

How Do Boilers Work?

A boiler can either be a hot water boiler or a steam boiler. Boilers use hot water or steam to heat your home. For this reason, a boiler is called a hydronic heating system.

If you have a hot water boiler, your boiler burns fuel to heat water. That hot water is then pumped through pipes to baseboards, radiators, in-floor radiant tubing, or other sealed hydronic devices throughout your Hudson Valley home. Then the water returns to the unit and the cycle repeats.

If you have a steam boiler, the process is very similar to that of a hot water boiler. However, in the case of a steam boiler, the water is converted to steam before being circulated throughout your home.

Boilers run quietly and generate comfortable warmth. They don’t rely on fans or blowers, so they don’t contribute to the blowing of dust, dirt, or allergens in the air.

Are Boilers and Furnaces the Same Thing?

Some people use the words “boiler” and “furnace” interchangeably. However, while both can heat your home, boilers and furnaces are different. They perform the same function of heating your home, but they do it in two different ways. We’ve already explored how a boiler works. It heats steam or water that gets transported throughout your home to provide heat. Not sure if you have a boiler or a furnace? Keep reading to find out.

Is It a Boiler or a Furnace?

There’s an easy way to tell if a home uses a boiler or furnace for heat. Check for radiators and vents. If the home has radiators (or baseboards), then a boiler provides heat for that home. If the home has vents, then a furnace heats that home. Now let’s take a closer look at radiators.


Radiators work by a process known as convection. Cool air from the bottom of the room is pulled towards the radiator, heated, and then rises. The air moves in a circular motion from the ground upwards thereby heating the room. Additionally, the radiator radiates heat into the room. The folds in the radiator help increase its surface area so that you get the maximum amount of radiated heat (versus a flat surface).

Downey Energy: The Boiler & Furnace Experts

At Downey Energy, we make boilers and furnaces our business. Whether you use heating oil, natural gas, or propane in your Hudson Valley home, Downey Energy can help keep you warm because we sell, install, maintain, and repair gas boilers, gas furnaces, oil furnaces, and oil boilers. We’re also the region’s leader in reliable and safe propane and heating oil delivery.

Downey Energy has been serving residential and commercial clients in the Hudson Valley for more than a century. We have earned the loyalty of our customers through our dedication to service and reliability. Let us deliver for you as well.

Downey Energy operates in Dutchess County, Orange County, Putnam County, and northern Westchester County, New York.

Contact Downey Energy today to learn more or become a customer!