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I Have A Gas Steam Heating System And The Second Floor Radiators Don T Heat Well |LINK|

Before embarking on any maintenance or repairs to old radiators, it is important to know whether you have steam or hot-water radiators. The simplest way to tell is to look at the number of pipes coming from your radiator: if there is only one pipe, then it is a steam system. Two pipes could indicate either steam or hot-water, with the condensed or cooled water returning to the boiler from the second pipe.

I have a gas steam heating system and the second floor radiators don t heat well

The post-Civil War era ushered in hot-air furnaces made of cast iron with a large main grate set in the floor above. Sometimes, in the better systems, sheet-metal ducts fed warm air to other rooms as well. Hot-water- and steam-piped systems with decorated cast iron radiators soon followed. This is where many old-house enthusiasts come in, having bought an old house with one of these antique heating systems.

Hot-water pipes embedded in the floor, generally set in concrete, became popular after World War II, particularly for slab-on-grade houses. Radiant heat provides a comfortable, encompassing warmth, as opposed to the fixed-point heat of radiators and hot-air registers. Seventy years ago, thousands of Levittown houses had radiant heat installed in floor slabs, and Frank Lloyd Wright used it in his Usonian houses. Such early installations were prone to leaks, usually because of eventual pipe corrosion, and originals are difficult and expensive to repair. However, modern radiant heating is much improved.

Forced-air heating systems also can provide ventilation and cooling, and have been the preferred system in new houses for the past 50 years. However, installing large, insulated ducts in an older house can be difficult and unsightly, or require sacrificing much of the closet space. One solution, assuming that the house has both a basement and attic, is to use floor registers on the first floor with the fan-coil unit in the basement, and ceiling outlets on the second floor, with a separate unit in the attic.

Not to throw fuel on the fire, but energy costs have risen in the last couple years, too, which makes your heating bills even more pricey. (And if you own a drafty old house, you know that your winter bills can really skyrocket.) Read Why is natural gas so expensive? to learn more.

But times have changed, heating technology has improved significantly, and if you want to get the biggest bang for the buck, you should seriously consider newer, more energy-efficient heating options.

Unlike a complicated HVAC system, baseboard heating can easily be cleaned with a vacuum. This is a task most homeowners can tackle on their own without second-guessing it. Additionally, baseboard heating systems typically require little additional maintenance to run optimally.

Boilers are special-purpose water heaters. While furnaces carry heat in warm air, boiler systems distribute the heat in hot water, which gives up heat as it passes through radiators or other devices in rooms throughout the house. The cooler water then returns to the boiler to be reheated. Hot water systems are often called hydronic systems. Residential boilers generally use natural gas or heating oil for fuel.

In steam boilers, which are much less common in homes today, the water is boiled and steam carries heat through the house, condensing to water in the radiators as it cools. Oil and natural gas are commonly used.

Wood heating can make a great deal of sense in rural areas if you enjoy stacking wood and stoking the stove or furnace. Wood prices are generally lower than gas, oil, or electricity. If you cut your own wood, the savings can be large. Pollutants from wood burning have been a problem in some parts of the country, causing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement regulations that govern pollution emissions from wood stoves. As a result, new models are quite clean-burning. Pellet stoves offer a number of advantages over wood stoves. They are less polluting than wood stoves and offer users greater convenience, temperature control, and indoor air quality.

Combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration for houses is being seriously studied in some countries. The basic premise is to use a small generator to meet some of the electric demand of the house, and recover the waste heat (typically more than 70% of the heating value of the fuel) to heat the house (hydronic or water-to-air systems) and make domestic hot water. These systems are not yet widely available. They are likely to have the best economics in houses with high heating bills because the house cannot be feasibly insulated, such as solid stone or brick homes.

If you insulate the house and the windows all at least have storm windows on them you may be able to use the antique radiators for a hot water (even a condensing hot water) heating system. Most steam boiler systems were CRAZY oversized for the heat load even prior to insulating and other thermal upgrades of the house, designed to be able to heat the house even with the single pane windows cracked a bit open for ventilation. It may be possible to run them off water heaters or combi-boilers. Many steam boiler radiators were painted silver or gold to reduce their output (by 15% or more!), or covered over with something to reduce convection. Painting them any non-metallic color and removing any covers would restore their full output, and they can emit enough heat at some temperature much lower than 215F steam.

If re-using the rads is too big a PITA, you'll still need the load calculations to appropriately size a ductless heat pump solution well enough to deliver it's nameplate efficiency numbers. If running the load numbers is too big a PITA, hire a qualified third party who is NOT an HVAC installer to run them for you using a professional tool. Use an engineer or RESNET rater, someone who make a living & reputation on the accuracy of their numbers for that service rather than making it installing & maintaining equipment. Only 19 out of 20 HVAC installers know how to run a load tool, and many of them still have thumb on the scale, not quite trusting the tool to get it right when using aggressive rather than conservative assumptions, thus oversizing the equipment (often woefully so.)

@Zephyr7 - The house is being completely rewired. No live knob and tube will remain.2 boilers is an option but will be costly and I have the one pipe radiators. The cost for 4 boilers with everyone paying their own heat is only 7k less without the cost of all new radiators then going full HVAC. Doesn't seem to make much sense to do this financially although I agree, radiators would look correct in the house.

Cheapest heat to install would be new steam and reroute some piping.My guess is 15-20k for steam. Everyone would be on my dime and no zoning. No ACHot water with 4 separate boilers- 30k without radiators. Still no ACHVAC- 37k- Everyone on their own zone, own meter, and both Hyper heat and AC

If a bunch of the rads have already gone to the scrap yard it's probably not worth reworking the steam system. This is doubly true if any of the steam distribution pipes are in exterior wall cavities. Steam boilers have to be sized for the radiation rather than the heat load, and a 450 KBTU/hr boiler is more than 2x oversized for the likely heat load even prior to any building upgrades, probably more than 3x oversized after tightening up.

A big combi boiler that can modulate down to less than 20K-out such as HTP's EFTC-199W or a Navien NCB-210e or 240e will have more than adequate space heating capacity and can still fill a tub at a reasonable rate. It takes at least 90' of typical baseboard per zone/unit to run a 20K min-fire boiler at condensing temperatures without cycling. With the smaller Naviens it takes less radiation- divide the minimum fire input by 200 to come up with the approximate length of baseboard in feet. (The smaller HTP has a higher min-fire, needing more baseboard.)

Hi Akos-Thanks so much for your contribution. I was at the house today when demo was being done to the basement apartment. The steam system definitely has to go. Pipes everywhere! I can cross that off of the list for options. That leaves me with zero heat, an oversized boiler, and single pipe radiators that can not be switched out to be hydronic with 4 apartments and a common area to heat.

Dana,Thank you! I like the #1 suggestion but I would need to purchase radiators. I believe that would be quite costly, no? I have to ask my plumber this but I am pretty sure it was close to 30k without the radiators. I believe this would possibly cause more damage to the house and walls this way as well. Don't forget, the top 3 floors are perfect and the basement apartment is a gut reno. Pics would be very helpful but the site will not allow uploads.

Dana,If I went with a big combi boiler, could I have all units in a mechanical room in the basement running up to each apartment without doing too much damage? I want to run anything new exactly where the steam pipe risers were, whether HVAC lines or PEX . I would box them out so I didn't have to mess with any ceilings or walls. I am going to have my guys rip out the steam system and there are already holes in the floors from the risers. The radiators would get swapped out with floor mounted Fujitsu's or hydronic radiators. Hope this makes sense.

My plumber did suggest combi units at first but he said he wanted to install them on each floor with baseboards which would destroy the look of the house. If I went with hydronic, they would have to be radiators and I would really like them in a mechanical room. I am tight on closet space as it is. 95% sure all pipes are a straight run up from the basement currently for the steam.

Sizing mini splits requires a bit more effort than just matching the btu output to the heat loss, since the heating capacity varies on outdoor temperature, and multi head mini splits can have a sizing diversity (sum of heads might be 80-130% of outdoor unit capacity). It's a mistake just to look at the named size, since the actual capacity can often be much higher at the outdoor conditions that matter, or lower in extreme OA conditions. 350c69d7ab


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