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House renovation with radiators and two AC units

Jluck84 Member Posts: 4
I am going to be renovating my house in the next couple of months, and will be doing the majority of the work myself to keep it as cheap as possible. The house is a 2,000sf two story single family home built in 1913 which was partially renovated in the early 80s. There are currently 5 heating/cooling systems in my house (all of which are outdated and highly inefficient), which I hope to combine if possible cheaply while renovating.

For the heating, the entire upstairs and living room downstairs uses cast iron radiators from a 30-40 year gas old boiler. The remainder of the first floor where it was previously renovated contains two baseboard heaters.

There is an AC system in the attic that cools the second floor, and one in the basement that cools the first floor. Both units are about 19 years old and are coming close to their service life, but do still operate pretty efficiently.

I need to keep the costs as low as possible as we don't plan to stay in the house for more than a few years, and cannot take out a loan for the project. I originally was looking into just finding used forced air/ac units so that I can get rid of the radiators and baseboard heat so we can remove all the chases going to the second floor as well as the radiators so we can move the walls around as we see fit, but almost every where I looked at doing that strongly recommends against forced hot air. I then ran into a couple sites like Radiantec that seemed to have affordable radiant floor heating. $3,000-4,000 fits in our price range, and we do have a brand new domestic water heater. It also allows us to keep our AC units without modifcations. I saw some not so good reviews about these kinds of companies. My question is, can a decent radiant floor system be completed for around this cost, or what is the most cost effective approach in my situation? Thanks guys!


  • M Lane
    M Lane Member Posts: 123
    edited December 2013
    What is moving the a/c air?

    air handlers, as opposed to furnaces? You might be able to add heat water coils to your duct work at the AHU's, and nurse the boiler on for a few more years.

    I can't imagine retrofitting a house with radiant (staple-up, needs underfloor access) for that cheap.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    What is heating

    the two downstairs baseboards?  That's important.

    That said, your least expensive option -- even if it means a new boiler -- will probably be to repair your steam system and get it running the way it should run.  That will take care of heating the upstairs and living room.

    Then, if the baseboards are hot water, it is possible to run a hot water loop off the steam boiler, although it isn't completely straightforward.

    I personally regard AC as an expensive luxury, but I don't know where you live (it's going to be a nice toasty -9 Fahrenheit here by tomorrow night).  They can be simply replaced, however, if they are really needed.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jluck84
    Jluck84 Member Posts: 4
    Electric Baseboards and AHU AC units

    Yes, I have air handlers with duct work in the basement feeding vents in the floor in the first floor, and one in the attic feeding ducts in the ceiling in the second floor. Onsightmechanic, do you have any info about residential heat water coils? As for access, the basement isn't finished which is not an issue, and I will be removing the paper tile ceiling on the first floor to replace it with drywall, so I believe that I would have access there as well.

    Jamie, the two downstairs baseboards are electric. I actually don't run them very often at all because I have been told it costs more to run them than the radiators (and I am already approaching $600 a month to heat the house in the winter).

    If at all possible, I would want to remove the radiators. They take up about 200 square feet in my house, and currently make furniture layout a pain, and will make wall layout a pain when it is time to move some walls.

    I am in Baltimore, MD close to the water, we have swings from a bitter 10F (Not quite the -9 degrees you get!!) to a real muggy 100F here. AC really is a necessity, especially for resale in the area. The original thought was to replace the boiler, but I received a $5,000 quote to put a new boiler in (is this in line with a new boiler?), and required a ton of repiping in the basement to do so. For that cost, I would much rather remove the ugly radiators altogether. Sorry, I probably should have stressed that in the first post that my goal is to lower my heating costs, and get rid of the clunky radiators!
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,942
    Baltimore, eh?

    Southerners.  You probably do need the air conditioning!

    In which case, I would take a very close and long look at heat pumps to handle the whole job.  There are now varieties -- about which I am not at all knowledgeable -- which have gas backup heat for the cold days, when straight air to air heat pumps (which depend on electric backup below 40) aren't that good.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,732
    First off

    we do NOT discuss pricing on this forum.

    Second, anything you do is going to cost money. But you have an opportunity here to clean everything up and get it right. Don't try to do heating and cooling in the same ductwork- I've yet to see a house where that worked properly all year. Optimize your radiators for winter and your ductwork for summer.

    If you don't plan to stay there long, you still want to get it right so a prospective buyer sees lower operating costs. This will help you make the sale and get your price.

    We're in Baltimore also- give us a call.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Jluck84
    Jluck84 Member Posts: 4

    Thanks Jamie, I will have to take a look into heat pumps then!
  • Jluck84
    Jluck84 Member Posts: 4
    Sorry about that...

    I wasn't aware of that. I didn't see a Faq or sticky on the main page listing out the forum rules.

    No, I am aware of that. Our budget is just low for the whole project, and the HVAC was an "if we can get rid of the radiators that would be amazing" kind of thing. I will be performing the majority of the work myself. I definitely do want to get it right. If I can reduce the heating costs down to the AC costs alone it would save us over $1,000 a year in gas/electric costs. Hmm, I haven't seen separate ducts for heating and cooling before. Would that require dual systems then or is there an automatic damper for switching the ducts?

    Cool, I definitely will. You guys are only two blocks from my company's headquarters!