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Never seen this before

Hello all

I am a HVAC contractor, have been in business for over 30 years and very experienced in steam and hot water heat in the Detroit area.

I am new to this forum. I looked at a house today in Detroit that was vacant for a few years, and was vandalized.

The crooks took the hot water boiler, the new owner called me out to quote a replacement. As I was checking out the house I notices there where no radiators, base board, wall convectors, or in floor tubing. in the mechanical room where the boiler once was I found 3 large openings in ceiling that extended from basement ceiling to the ceiling of the second floor. I could see the floor joist for the second floor as well,

I took a second look through the home and could not find any registers or grills assuming that it was some sort of gravity system using a hot water boiler.

The crooks took what ever type of cast iron or copper coils that might have radiated the heat, the onl thing left was the pipe work that they used to connect to.

Further investigating I found grills in basement with ceiling radiation dampers in them at the perimeter walls. I can only assume that this was some sort of gravity heat system that heated the walls and floor of the home.

Has anyone ever seen a system like this ? any help would be great.



  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,516

    How old is the house?

    Are there tubes imbedded in the ceiling or walls?

    How about vertical air ducts?
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,122

    The new owner has no heating system now. I would say the scrapers took anything they could get with a sawzall.
  • BlueraypaulBlueraypaul Member Posts: 4
    Never seen this before

    The house I am only guessing was built between 1920 and 1940, as stated in original post, the only like duct in house is the ( I am assuming asbestoses) Large passages between the over sized wall in the center of the house that leads up to  the floor joist on the second floor, also the radiation dampers I saw around the perimeter of the basement ceiling in 4 locations, that I am assuming run up the out side wall cavities.

    The pipe work for main supply and return terminates where the convector coils used to be. there is no other heat transfer devices evident, and am sure that there was no other elements or radiators ever, as stated before, I have over 30 years experience in this business and very well versed in boilers, and older homes. My co was based in Detroit for over 60 years, that is where I started out.

    Just interested if any one else has seen a system like this.

  • BlueraypaulBlueraypaul Member Posts: 4
    never seen this before

    No there is no evidence of any other type of convector, radiator, in floor ,or in wall heating transfer. it is very obvious where the main pipe work starts and ends, I am in and have rehabbed many many of these older homes. Not too often I get stumped, also asked a good friend of mine that has been doing this for about 10 years longer than me and he is also stumped. If you have any KNOWLEDGE of this type of system or have seen anything like it please let me know.

    Thanks Paul
  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,516
    Classic Hydronics

    There are older systems that used steam or hot water radiators concealed in chases around the building. The heat of these radiators would create a natural air convection through the house. It sounds possible that you are looking at one of these.

    There is a book on this website called "Classic Hydronics" that describes these systems in great detail.

    Without a picture or more to go on it it is really hard to say.

    There are a few guys on hear from your area that may have seen the system you describe.

    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • BlueraypaulBlueraypaul Member Posts: 4

    Thanks Carl

    Yes I belive it is a gravity type convection system. The thing that is puzzling to me is that there are no vents or registers in the living space. It is like the system must heat the walls and floor. Very puzzling to me. I have worked on many systems that have ceiling radiators in basement with a duct to the above floors and a grill. Unless I am missing something like hidden grills, I am not sure. I thought I was Thurel in my assessment. Not any more details than what I posted. If there where vents in the living space I would of had it figured out.

    Thanks for the post

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