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1864 3 story house heating update

BobN Member Posts: 2
Our house was built in 1864.It is a classic Victorian 3 stories high.  The original boiler was coal powered. New furnace three years ago. Hot water Radiators are in most rooms however there is a BIG radiator mounted in the basement inside a large wooden box that is vented to the outside under the front porch. There is a register in the central hallway directly above this box. Presumably this was a natural convection system that was popular at the time of install and really is quite a contraption. My question is...Should I close this system to the outside and possibly duct an air inlet from another room in the house? Would I need fan assistance.

We are looking for any ideas

Heating bills are killing us at $6000 a year to keep the house at 50 degrees

What do you suggest?




  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557
    Love to see a picture of the box

    If it were my house I would shut that radiator down and drain it, then block that fresh air from coming in. Unless this house has been updated there is probably plenty of fresh air leaking in from other areas. Kind of neat that the old part of the system is still there, but pretty expensive to run.
  • L'town Radiant_2
    L'town Radiant_2 Member Posts: 39

    yep, seeing a picture of that contraption would be great. Also, If it hasn't already been done...improved insulation and sealing any spots of outside air infiltration could make a significant difference
    A warm floor warms my heart!
  • Al Roethlisberger
    Al Roethlisberger Member Posts: 194
    Sounds like an indirect water heater

    Your special radiator sounds like an indirect water heater, as described on a larger scale in Dan's article about "The Breakers":


    This was apparently a pretty special, and upscale method of heating an area via hiding he heating element out of sight.  That would certainly make sense in a Victorian, in the entry or other public rooms where appearances were "everything".

    I don't have any specific technical recommendations to offer though, other than I too think this probably isn't the best way to continue heating that area and likely is a great source of drafts.

    You might be able to seal it off from the outside, and instead feed it "cold" air from inside the house and let gravity convection flow that interior cold air through the box/radiator and then rise out of the original duct?  Just a thought.

    Neat discovery.

    Just a DIY'er trying to learn, and improve and maintain his converted ca 1929 overhead gravity hot water system since there is no one local that can.
  • BobN
    BobN Member Posts: 2

    Al That was my thought exactly. Duct in from another part of the house. Anybody ever done this? I am not very good at understanding what would make the air flow. Should I put in a duct fan? The basement can get a bit musty at times and venting in from there doesn't make any sense to me. Its pretty darn cold down there as well  since the new furnace was put in. Service guys shake there head and say huh a lot.

    I am working on pictures..BN
  • Paul Fredricks_3
    Paul Fredricks_3 Member Posts: 1,557

    That all makes sense. As long as the heat can rise, the air will warm and move. If a return duct came into the lower part of the box, the heat should rise out of the top and into the space to be heated. As stated, not the most efficient way to heat the space, but pretty neat.

    Love that story about the Breakers. I'd love to go on the tour!
  • Al Roethlisberger
    Al Roethlisberger Member Posts: 194
    The tour unfortunately never materialized....

    .... yeah, after reading Dan's story I actually visited The Breakers website looking for the "Mechanical Tour" but was unable to find it.

    I wrote Dan who said that after looking into it, the staff at The Breakers decided not to offer the tour as they couldn't come up with the funding to make it work.  That's really too bad.  It would even just be cool to have a photo/video tour available.

    Just a DIY'er trying to learn, and improve and maintain his converted ca 1929 overhead gravity hot water system since there is no one local that can.
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