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Can steam heat piping be replaced?

I have a 1930s rowhouse in D.C. with a radiator heat system and no AC. How do I tell if it is hot water or steam?

Whichever it is, the original pipes hang low in the basement and make it awkward to make the basement into a separate rental unit for income?  The boiler is there also, but takes up less space.  Can I replace these pipes, which I judge to be 2" pipes, with pipes that I can hide between the joists of the floor so as to give maximum ceiling height in the room?

Does it make sense to take this whole system out and replace it with a 2 zoned electric heat pump?  Right now the house has no AC except window units, which do the job, but look bad.  Heat pumps would require an upgrade in the electric system and duct work to distribute heat, but it would open up space in the basement to make a much better rental unit.  In this area a sizeable, pleasant basement unit that is not below grade in most areas brings in a very good rent, so I am open to spending the money to make the best hvac system.  On the other hand the radiators do their job superbly well.  No one every complains on the score of heat, except maybe for the gas bill.


  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,575
    making room in the basement

    can you post some pictures of the boiler, and from that we could tell if it is steam, or hot water.

    there are some excellent mini-split heat-pumps-a/c's, and they do a very good job. they are not cheap, but will last a long time. have you asked a professional from the "find a contractor" button above. remember, that anyone you consult, especially if you have steam, must be a steam/hydronics professional. a mere hvac guy, or plummmmmer is not going to do the best job for you.--nbc
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