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Steam Heat efficiency vs. Gas Forced Air
...old two-pipe hot water systems with standing iron radiators are considered among the most efficient, most comfortable, longest-lasting and most extravagant heating systems ever made.
They are no more archaic than slate roofs, copper gutters, clear old-growth weather-resistant wood, or any of the other fine traditional materials that are so expensive today.
Even back then these systems were exceptionally expensive. Not only because of the materials, but because of the skilled labor it took to plan and install them.
The cost of such was quite easily 20% (oftem more) of the TOTAL cost of constructing a modest home. I don't think you see too many $40,000 heating systems in $200,000 homes today!