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Replace radiators w/ forced air?

Slurk Member Posts: 4
Replace radiators w/ forced air?

Hi there we're looking into buying a 1920's colonial in NJ that

currently runs gas radiator (replaced ~ 5 years ago).  We're going to

do a 203K renovation on the place.  It also doesn't have A/C.

So seems like a couple options:

1.  Do nothing

2.  Put A/C handlers into both attic (for 3rd and 2nd floors) and basement (for first floor).  Two zones in this case.

3.  Put A/C handler in attic, punch ductwork down to first floor.  Only one zone here, right?

4.  Tear old system out and put in full forced air HVAC for the whole house from the basement.

I know the cost of the first option :), how much are these other

options going to run?  My wild estimate is 10k for option 2, 7k for

option 3 and 25k for option 4.

I know it's hard to discuss specific cases, but how does radiant heat typically compare to forced air.

As an aside, the house still has original plaster - not sure how much that complicates installing ductwork.


  • you'll be sorry

    You'll be sorry if you get rid of radiators and install the sorched air system. I've met a lot of customers that regret having the changeover due to slick talking sorch air system with air cond. Your best bet is to improve the housing envelope and install hi velocity air cond, less invasive to plaster walls, etc.
  • heating system choices

    is the present system steam, or hot water? if i were you i would keep the present system  [thoroughly checked out and maintained]. forced air is always going to be less efficient than hydronics at putting the heat where you want it.

    however, i understand the need for air conditioning, and so i would suggest this sort of "mini-split" system:


    or this


  • Jean-David Beyer
    Jean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,666
    Emotional answer.

    I am not a heating contractor. My answer is emotional rather than technical.

    Are the radiators steam or hot water? If steam, it seems to me you should keep them. If hot water also probably. Is anything wrong with the heating now? If so, it might make sense to restore the heating system to original condition. Possibly replacing the boiler with a more up to date one. If hot water, installing outdoor reset on it.

    Adding duct work for forced air is a much greater disruption than comparatively small water or steam pipes, and I hope the orignial pipes are still there (unless they need repairs). If the plaster is original, putting duct work in there will likely harm the plaster. If it is just flat plaster, that may not matter to you, but if it is ornamental, it would be a pity to damage it by putting air ducts in.

    My house is hot water heat, now two zones, one for each floor. I do not have A/C because I do not want to rip up the house for duct work. I do live in New Jersey near Red Bank, so A/C does have an appeal for a couple of weeks a year. But not enough for me to pay to have it installed and pay to run it.
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,537
    No matter

    what you do,keep the Heat and A/C separate. Have you looked into mini splits?
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Slurk
    Slurk Member Posts: 4

    Thanks for the input.  Hmm - not sure if it is steam or water.  Will check on that.  Looks like everyone's recommendation is to stick with the radiators. 

    Ok so if we do decide to put in A/C, couldn't we just put handlers in the basement and 3rd floor (which doubles at the attic) and punch through to the 2nd floor ceiling and first floor floor?  That doesn't seem like too much duct work, right?  How much would that all cost (roughly).  Again, about a 2500 sq ft house in central NJ.
  • Slurk
    Slurk Member Posts: 4

    Those are interesting.  questions:

    - can you run multiple handler units off of one compressor?

    - what kind of cost are we looking at?

    - how efficient are they (both in terms of cooling ability and electricity cost)?

    - what can one handler cool?  a single room or a whole floor?
  • mini-split a/c

    yes,have a look at the mfgs site..nbc
  • Pete M_2
    Pete M_2 Member Posts: 18
    keep the rads

    My parents had forced hot air.  I never knew how comfortable, and quiet, hot water heat could be until I bought my first house.  It had big cast iron radiators that gave off a comfortable heat.  Even after the boiler shut off they would continue to radiant heat.  It was very nice.

    in my curent house, which is undergoing a major addition/alteration I wanted to put cast iron radiators in.  Unfortunely the price was more than I could afford.  Guys here on the wall told me to look into panel radiators.  That is what I went with and the heat is just as comfortable, and quiet as what I desired.

    forced hot air is noisy, dusty, drafty and un-even.  Do not do it.
  • EricAune
    EricAune Member Posts: 432
    Size it properly

    Mini-splits, given the right unit and sizing, can operate multiple handlers w/ one outside unit.  An added bonus is the option of back-up heat from the heat pump. 

    Keep the rads, you will never be as comfortable with a scorched air system.  Have the system checked out, assess any needed repairs or recommended upgrades and enjoy the comfort.
    "If you don't like change, your going to like irrelevance even less"
This discussion has been closed.