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Getting rid of old recessed radiators

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Why are you removing them? Some havc sold ya sorched air system?

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    anyone in northern NJ buying old radiators

    I have 2 recessed radiators that I've removed from the walls in my house. There will be four more later, eventually. Does anyone have a suggestion for where I can sell these? I looked at prices on-line for old radiators and my eyes popped. If I have no alternative, I'll throw them away, but I'd like to find a better fate for them.

    I'm in northern New Jersey FWIW.
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    energy efficiency

    Recessed radiators on outside walls. Prolly done during the 40s. Selling these things would at least give me a downpayment on their replacements.
  • Chris_82
    Chris_82 Member Posts: 321
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    Try e-bay or the place in Somerville MA, (if they were unique) but the shipping is a killer. Otherwise the local scrap yard you might get a fiver for em but youll spend more in gas and more on your back.Like many used plumbing things they arn't worth much. But your point is taken.
  • Boilerpro_5
    Boilerpro_5 Member Posts: 407
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    Why not

    Just install some refective insulation behind them. This should dramatically reduce the back side loss. A good place for reflective bubble wrap, cardboard with aluminum or foam with aluminum face.

    Boilerpro

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    Radiant barriers don't work

    A lot of overstatement by the manufacturers of those bubble wrap, but from what I've read, a radiant heat barrier is useless once it gets dusty, needs at least an inch of clearance, and cannot compare to a proper foam-insulated wall.
  • Unknown
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    what are

    What are you replacing in place of the comfort system?
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    Radiators, just not recessed.

    Not sure if I'll go hydronic for the energy efficiency.

    Not POS FHA.
  • Boilerpro_5
    Boilerpro_5 Member Posts: 407
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    The air space is in front of the barrier...

    not within it. It will reflect the radiant heat given off by the radiator back into the radiator instead of it being absorbed by the wall. I A radiant barrier placed directly in contact with a surface is useless. Most high rise buildings use radiant barriers in the glass to reflect heat either in or out depending on the direction of the glass. Yes they are very effective, unless under a slab or other places without an airspace.

    Boilerpro



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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    low-e in glass is not enough

    Windows also rely on an inert gas like argon or krypton between the panes to prevent conductive heat loss. Even so U-values are anywhere from .4 to .2 on even good windows, which is R-2.5 to R-5. A well insulated wall could have an R-rating of 20 (say, with sprayed polyurethane foam), as well as being properly air-sealed against draughts.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    \"Not sure if I'll go hydronic for the energy efficiency\"

    I assume from this that you presently have a steam system. If you're considering converting it to hot water.... DON'T!

    If you fill those old steam pipes and radiators with water, you will be running over ten times the pressure of a properly-operating steam system. The increased pressure will do a great job of finding weak points in piping and radiators. This will result in leaks where none existed before.

    I know of places that were heavily damaged by leaks after this type of conversion. My company does not recommend or perform these conversions, and will not work on a system that someone else has converted.

    If your current fuel bills are high, or steam distribution is uneven, or the system is noisy, these can all be fixed easily, without the risk and great expense of an attempted conversion.

    For a more in-depth discussion of the pitfalls involved, go here:

    http://www.heatinghelp.com/newsletter.cfm?Id=22

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    Thanks for the heads-up

    I have leaks in my return pipes now, so my boiler is taking on a regular supply of fresh water and getting corroded away. I will have to gut my basement to find out for sure. I thought I might just replace the pipes altogether and convert to water, since I also want to replace all recessed radiators. OTOH all second floor radiators are fine and replacing the pipes going to them would require opening up walls....

    Would it make sense to have water for ground floor and steam for second floor?

    I am mainly concerned with the inherent inefficiency of steam heat, it will always be less efficient because of the extra energy required to convert water to steam. Hence hydronic boilers can be 95% efficiency where steam will not get much better than 80%,,,,
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    There's an important difference

    between steam and return lines. In the case of steam pipes, these are often in surprisingly good shape after all these years, as they don't have water and gunk standing in them for long periods as wet return lines do. So, under the low pressure found in a well-tuned steam system, the steam pipes should outlast all of us. The problem comes when you fill the system with water which, by its weight, results in far greater system pressures. This puts more strain on pipes, fittings and joints which can result in leaks.

    Regarding efficiency: A pound of steam can move 970 BTUs. A pound of hot water can move an average of 30 BTUs. So you would need to pump just over 32 pounds of water to equal the capacity of that pound of steam. The cost of running pumps cannot be ignored in these days of greedy electric utilities.

    If steam was that inefficient, it would never have survived the Great Depression.

    Another advantage of steam is that, with the exception of the wet returns in the basement and the boiler itself, all the pipes drain dry when the system shuts down. So the chance of a freeze-up in an extended power or fuel failure is much, much less, and would take a lot less time to repair.

    Regarding higher-efficiency "condensing" hot-water boilers: These must be run below 140 degrees to produce their advertised efficiencies. Above that water temperature, they are essentially expensive, complicated standard-efficiency boilers. The concept is a great one, but the system must be able to run at these lower temps all or most of the time to get the full benefit from this type of boiler.

    Is this a one-pipe or two-pipe system? If the latter, it's probably Vapor- the Cadillac of heating in the old days. Tell us more about your system and we should be able to help you make it more efficient.

    "Steamhead"

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    My system is one-pipe, pretty standard I think. I've read several of Holohan's books, made sure the pressuretrol is set to 0.5 lbs etc. I've spent the last couple of winters cleaning out the system (Rohmar water finally did the trick, excellent stuff).

    If I want to go hydronic, I know I need to do so before I replace radiators, because they'll need to be bigger because of the lower running temperatures. The lower temperature can be a good thing: I would have liked to put those hydronic towel warmers in my bathroom, but not likely at 240*. There is also an issue with putting a radiator in the bathroom in a place where it won't burn anyone. One of the recessed radiators came out of the bathroom, they destroyed a beam when they installed it. My best solution there was a convector with a radiator cover over it, a radiator would not leave enough clearance for towels.

    Steam is great in its mechanical simplicity, but it presents its own set of challenges.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    On a one-pipe system

    the biggest thing I see done wrong, besides improper near-boiler piping, is improper or missing main vents.

    When the boiler begins making steam, the system must move it to the radiators. Doing this requires getting rid of the air in the mains.

    The main vents must be large enough to clear the air from the mains in about a minute, from the point at which the boiler starts sending steam to the system. Then each radiator has equal access to the steam, and the steam is at ounce pressures so it is not compressed. So the boiler doesn't have to generate as much steam!

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    Got a new main vent about 3 years ago, along with repiping of an improperly piped boiler!
  • ALH_4
    ALH_4 Member Posts: 1,790
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    Converting

    Now that we all have electricity in our homes, hot water is always a more energy efficient choice than steam. The electrical consumption of a single pump zone valve system is in the neighborhood of what an incandescent light fixture would consume. That's why people are not installing new residential steam heating systems. We now have electricity to move the heat where we need it, and only where we need it.

    If there is room for a sheet of Thermax polyisocyanurate foam (R-7 per inch) behind the radiators, that is certainly less expensive than replacing the entire heating system. Ripping out the steam system and replacing it with a hot water system will have a lengthy payback period. Investment should be made in reducing heat loss as much as is reasonable before upgrading the heating system.
  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    No room for insulation

    There is no room behind the recessed radiators. They have to come out. The question then will be: steam or hot water replacement? A two-zone system with steam on 2nd floor and water on 1st floor (and basement)? My impression is that a condensing boiler can adapt to the size of the system it serves, if the second floor is later converted (pipes, radiators and all).
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    > Now that we all have electricity in our homes,

    > hot water is always a more energy efficient

    > choice than steam. The electrical consumption of

    > a single pump zone valve system is in the

    > neighborhood of what an incandescent light

    > fixture would consume. That's why people are not

    > installing new residential steam heating systems.

    > We now have electricity to move the heat where we

    > need it, and only where we need it.

    >

    > If there

    > is room for a sheet of Thermax polyisocyanurate

    > foam (R-7 per inch) behind the radiators, that is

    > certainly less expensive than replacing the

    > entire heating system. Ripping out the steam

    > system and replacing it with a hot water system

    > will have a lengthy payback period. Investment

    > should be made in reducing heat loss as much as

    > is reasonable before upgrading the heating

    > system.





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  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    When people say

    things like "hot water is always a more energy efficient choice than steam" I ask the same question: Where are the numbers to back this up?

    I have been looking for years, and have NEVER been able to find a scientific, apples-to-apples comparison of the relative efficiencies of transporting BTUs by steam as opposed to hot-water. This would involve eliminating all possible variables such as boiler type, and would require that researchers actually do some work- oh, the horror!

    The only things you find online now are fatally flawed, leaving out much critical information such as- what condition was the steam system in before it was ripped out? I suspect those funding these puff pieces don't want us to know that all the traps were bad, there were no main vents, the boilers were being started and stopped manually (at least ASHRAE admitted to that one) the insulation was gone, the returns were leaking etc. etc. etc. but we'll never know for sure- they conveniently avoid the issue. None of this is the steam system's fault- poor maintenance is the key here. Five or ten years from now, the new systems will be as bad if not worse, and probably burn more fuel than the steam systems ever did.

    Which brings up another point: Steam systems don't tolerate poor design or workmanship at all. The hot-water baseboard loop is generally installed with baseboard everywhere there is a wall (Dan calls this the Long Island Heat Loss Calculation), so nobody has to think about actually designing anything. I sometimes wonder if Wallies are the only ones who bother with heat-loss calculations.

    Taylor, we've been able to save some of our steam customers over 30% on their fuel consumption by just getting the basics right. These are real numbers sent to us by grateful customers. We would never give you anything else.

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  • Boilerpro_5
    Boilerpro_5 Member Posts: 407
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    And we've done even better than that......

    The head of maintenance at a building were we made basic upgrades saw a savings of 40%, putting the heating cost of the structure in line with a structure just a hundred feet away heated with 90% plus hot air. One catch though, the steam heated structure was about 50% bigger! The savings in man hours dealing with too hot, too cold complaints also saved them a fortune....no more compliants after the improvements. Same boiler, same system, just got the basics right. Oh, and the cost of the improvements was repaid in two months fuel bills.

    Boilerpro

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  • Taylor_4
    Taylor_4 Member Posts: 55
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    Thanks for the encouragement

    I will probably stay with steam in replacing the recessed radiators. I share your love of the subtle simplicity of steam. I do miss towel warmers and radiant floor heat, but I agree that my $$$ are better spent in insulation.

    The biggest problem with steam heat is the lack of knowledgable plumbers. Your books have been invaluable in figuring out whom to trust.
  • ALH_4
    ALH_4 Member Posts: 1,790
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    Efficiency

    The efficiency difference starts with the combustion efficiency of the boilers. Are there any residential condensing steam boilers available today? It is possible, but not available that I know of.

    Any component that is heated to a higher temperature than is absolutely necessary has a higher heat loss than necessary. Therefore distribution piping, near boiler piping, heat loss through exterior walls behind radiators, etc, is higher than with a hot water system with outdoor reset. Yes, this heat is generally still within the home, but any heat that is not going to the room where it is needed is at least partially wasted.

    Hot water systems have the drawback of the electricity use to drive the circulator.

    I appreciate the mechanical simplicity of steam heating systems, and if I had one in my home I would keep it steam. However, a perfectly functioning steam heating system cannot be as energy efficient as a mod/con hot water system.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    Once again, we need numbers

    To simply say hot water is so much more efficient than steam amounts to nothing more than an urban legend.

    What is the difference in efficiency between moving BTUs from a boiler to a radiator by steam as opposed to hot-water? So far, there is no real answer.

    90%+ boiler efficiency IS possible on steam. It's done in Canada and the UK on larger boilers. There is absolutely NO reason an American boiler manufacturer could not bring this to the American residential steam boiler market.

    Come ON, people- the hydronics industry of which we are part has something like 6% of the American heating market! This is in spite of well-documented evidence like Boilerpro's, All Steamed Up's and others' of the relatively higher efficiency of water and steam heat, and the savings possible by maintaining these systems instead of tearing them out.

    Those who push the myth that steam is inherently inefficient will end up reducing our market share even further, because probably 90% of owners will be pushed into scorched-air or heat pumps. Do we want this to happen?

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  • JJ_4
    JJ_4 Member Posts: 146
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    ROI \"Efficiency\"

    When I started having trouble with my steam system I looked into hw baseboard. Estimates were all about$20-25K. My bank book wasn't big enough, I hate forced air, so I found a pro from the Wall.

    Repairs were about $500. He evaluated the 20 year old boiler (which I was told by others was on it's last legs) and said I could get many more years out of it. Now I know all I have to do when it fails is have a new steam boiler sized and installed. The old one is about 2x's the EDR in the place, so I think I'll gain some efficiency there.

    Right now, I am glad for the ROI "Efficiency" of $500 vs. $20K. Now I have some time to save up until the old steamer fails and gets replaced by an 85% efficient new steamer. Then I will be set for about 30 more years.
  • ALH_4
    ALH_4 Member Posts: 1,790
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    ROI

    I'm not trying to make the case that steam is inefficient or that converting to hot water will pay for itself. In fact, both of those statements are false. What I am saying is that a Vitodens with "oversized" panel rads and TRV's will burn less fuel to heat the same structure when compared to a perfectly functioning steam system.
  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    Maybe so,

    but prove it. Otherwise, you are just stating a belief, and, to quote Oliver Cromwell "I beseech you Sir, from the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken".

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  • Andrew Hagen_2
    Andrew Hagen_2 Member Posts: 236
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    Testing

    It is certainly possible that I am mistaken. However, I do have a hypothesis. Now I just need some research grants to buy a house with a perfectly functioning steam system, install a well designed hot water radiator system along side the steam system, and compare.
  • Bob Bona_4
    Bob Bona_4 Member Posts: 2,083
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    it does happen Frank

    You have to remember, not everyone sees and feels the warm and fuzzies with steam like you do. Being a master at it like you are is a rarity.

    Today's society is not like it was in the 40's and 50's where there was usually someone home to stoke a fire or add water or flush this or that. One zone of heat was just fine-heck, it was a gift from heaven they didn't have to feed the fireplace!

    No, today, most people don't want to look at bulky radiators, no matter how beautiful they may look to those in the trades. They don't want to have to go to the basement and add water, blow down, etc. They want zoning. They want headroom in the cellar. They don't want to have to worry about accidental overfilling and the resulting mees. They don't want a system that is corroding from the inside out. Thats the reality, no matter how romantic and nostalgic steam may be..to us.

    Convenience trumps "payback". Zoning options trump "payback". Here, in CT, a total house gut or lot's of times, a teardown, is typical. If it had steam, it's gone, and no one sheds a tear. In will go a hot water boiler boiler usually (hydro air is big). Just as cast iron drains gave way to PVC, and wooden wheels gave way to pneumatic tires, times change.

    If the folks have the bucks-and it is their money, not ours-and they want to change over to hot water (not advocating re-using steam piping for leak reasons), then I'll be the first one in line with a sawzall and a dumpster.

    The arguement that steam won't freeze b/c the pipes are empty is a weak one, really. it's hard to imagine one would want the constant upkeep just to avoid a rare freeze condition-it's like saying hard rubber tires won't give you a flat tire like air filled ones.

    I'm just seeing a lot of keeping the steam posts that contradicts what the HO is really after-convenience. I have a feeling that a lot of HO's go away from here thinking they have to live with an albatross steam system that they don't want to maintain and no one in their area knows how to work on it. They may then decide to say the heck with it and the forced air guys move right in. I'm thinking they see no middle ground or options after they get piled on about their thoughts of converting.

    Let them-it's their house and their life.

  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    The feedback I see

    is typified by JJ's post above. Also Boilerpro's. I think most HOs who come here are looking for a way to fix their steam systems- otherwise, why would they Google "steam heat"? And why do they think they need to come here? Could it be that they think the contractors they talk to are pushing an expensive tear-out that they don't necessarily want?

    With a probe-type LWCO, weekly blow-downs are history. Sure, these units need to be checked once a year, but any system in any building should be checked by a pro at least once a year.

    The freeze-up issue will be more and more important as energy gets less reliable. Look at the Enron mess in California a few years ago, and the Great Northeast Blackout. These events opened a lot of eyes. It could happen anywhere.

    But the proof is in the numbers, and right now, All Steamed Up, Inc.'s numbers are pretty good, especially when you consider we have built our business on restoring old steam heating systems. Albatross? I think not, neither do our customers, and neither does our accountant.

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  • Christian Egli_2
    Christian Egli_2 Member Posts: 812
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    Space age heat protection for the NASA

    This is a disaster to the byreaders looking over our shoulders in this internet argument. No matter whose brains are in the fight, casual onlookers won't tell the difference between the two side: oh, there is an argument going on about something or the other... it must mean both are junk. End of story.

    Go read on any other site you want, pick something that looks like a debate and you'll see exactly what I mean. We judge unfamiliar circumstances on appearance alone and seeing steam and water in a fight does not inspire confidence in either one.

    So now, who do you all think is winning the debate... the plain hot air furnace... not exactly what any of us wants.

    Big homes demand that piles of heat be sacrificed on the altar of comfort. Need to save for paying the property tax bill? turn down the thermostat. Within any typical home, maintained with typical care, we'll find heating results to not be all that different whether we're looking at steam, hot water, hot air, heat pumps, all electric, all oil, all gas, all have their place and timely fuel advantage costs rarely can be predicted. All I am positive about is that having redundancy, flexibility, and emergency readiness is the best place to be in.

    Deconstructive criticism inside a homeowner sanctuary is a dangerous gimmick to try on for pushing a sale. In car trades what do we think of those just kicking the tires? Kicking a boiler (or a furnace) isn't ever a good idea either. It's always a gaffe waiting to happen.

    For confidence with steam heating, this website is the best - easy searches bring up reams of owners elated by the easy repairs and superior efficiency. Searches also point out the critical importance of the right design for any system, from scratch along with careful consideration of what the home is made of.

    ***

    Boilerpro's suggestion above to use radiant foil + foam loosely fitted behind the radiator and the outside wall works wonders as anyone can measure from outside with any "x-ray" thermometer. I do that sort of thing. There are many great products available all in the lines of rubber foam and reflective surfaces to be glued on roof top units and duct work. Dust proof. Looks very professional and very neat. Huge results for the roof top units, why not for a convector?

    Better and best: For added automatic humidity comfort and supreme heat stopping within the cabinet, bare panels of fire proofing calcium silicate take this concept to NASA levels. A thin layer already outdoes anything ordinary. Healthy (it's the free flowing agent packed along in kitchen spice jars), easy to work with, and it isn't even super expensive.

    Calcium silicate is amazing stuff, you can cook it to cake baking temperatures and proceed to handle it with bare fingers - it doesn't burn one bit, precisely because it doesn't (much) transfer heat even though it is hot. Touch the cake pan and... ouchiwawa

  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
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    Exactly

    If you can't test, it's just a guess. It is a dubious hypothesis at best that a low temperature hot water heating system with all the bells and whistles is ipso facto more efficient than a properly tuned up steam system. And it is just as comfortable.

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  • Tom Hopkins
    Tom Hopkins Member Posts: 554
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    There is always the possibility of runing towel warmers and radiant floors off of a condensate loop or a small hot water boiler.
  • JJ_4
    JJ_4 Member Posts: 146
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    Correct

    You are correct Steamhead. Tear out was pushed...hard. I am so happy I made the right decision. A new system would have been a horrible waste of cash (which I did have, but it went to better use). A payback that takes 20 years just isn't worth it.

    I've been in my place for 10 years. The 1st 8 I did nothing but have the boiler serviced, but by a "furnace" company. 2 years ago I had some problems, got a pro. Nothing since except yearly service and blowdown every 2 weeks to get some gunk out (I do have a LWCO). It is quiet, comfortable, and simple (a one pipe system).

    In the past...having forced air was more of a problem. Fan belts and filters to change, heat exchangers that cracked, etc. etc. Plus all of that dust being blown around.

    And from what I read on this site...though I think the technology is cool...the mod-cons would be much more of a maintenance nightmare for the homeowner. Having to deal with pumps, zone valves, controls, condensate pumps and corrosion, iced up exhaust stacks, a new boiler every 10-12 years, leaking heat exchangers, power burner adjustments, ignition modules, etc. etc.

    I'll stick with steam for now....though I am sure if I move to a new house it will probably have to be the mod-con. I can wait for the hassle and cost.
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