Welcome! Here are the website rules, as well as some tips for using this forum.
Need to contact us? Visit https://heatinghelp.com/contact-us/.
Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.

Adding into 1901 system

Jen88
Jen88 Member Posts: 15
Hey all! My questions are probably already answered on here somewhere, but I honestly don't even know what to search for. Just bought a house built in 1900-1901, it has the original American radiator rococo radiators. The problem? The house has two additions. The main floor kitchen was expanded to approximately double its original size (by closing in a porch) and a bathroom upstairs that was either originally over a 1 story section or was possibly "attic" space. They never added any heat into the bathroom (none, zip, zero, zilch!) and the kitchen only has one smaller radiator (tall, but only about two foot wide). So here's my question, is adding onto my existing system even feasible? I'd like to get a bigger radiator in the kitchen and add one to the upstairs bath. Priority being the kitchen. I will gladly take any needed pictures to help with answering. The only things I *do* know is that my boiler is older (not ancient, but old, no date on it according to inspector) and the pipes in the basement are wrapped asbestos.

Also, if adding into it is not a complete nightmare, could I potentially add radiators in the basement? It is approximately 900 sq feet and has no form of heating, so it gets quite chilly down there during my Michigan winters and I'd love to beable to make the basement into more useable space.

Thanks for any help!

Comments

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Do you have steam or hot water?
    If steam consider reposting on Strictly Steam category.
    If water then the Main Wall may get more response. IMO
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    It's hot water.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    If it really is hot water, it probably was gravity hot water at one time (it may still be!). Can you take some pictures -- radiator or two, and the boiler and the piping right around the boiler? That would help.

    Anyway -- if it really is hot water, then adding new radiation really is mostly a matter of figuring out where you want it, and how you can run piping to it from the basement. The new radiation will have to be pumped; if at some time the old was converted to a pumped system, then it's mostly a matte of figuring out how to connect in, and arranging any zoning wanted. It's not that hard -- but it will take some planning.

    One can also add radiation to a steam system. It's a little more "interesting" -- but again, it really isn't that hard.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    All the radiators are the same, just different sizes. Currently there are no zones and I don't really feel the need to add any in. It's a combo of "new" and original windows, but the whole house aside from those two rooms stays pretty balanced. The kitchen is the big issue room as there is just no place to safely stash a plug in heater with two big dogs. I'm thinking the kitchen radiator probably needs to be double or better it's current size to accommodate for the addition and the fact that it's also my basement/back door access and has a small unheated half bath connected to it.

    image

    cdn.net/5021738/uploads/editor/9e/a5cn91yikcw2.jpg" alt="" />



  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    This one didn't upload for some reason.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    edited January 2017
    Well, I do see a few things which are less than ideal (like the location of the pressure relief valve drain!) but on the whole, I don't see problems.

    And from the look of the pictures of the radiators, it is a beautiful house -- keep working on it and restoring it!

    I am assuming there is a pump on the system somewhere. Therefore, adding more radiation should be relatively straightforward. For the kitchen, I would figure out where you could add an additional radiator -- you may be able to find one very like -- which will be big enough to do what you need it to do. To size it, you could do a heat loss calculation on that room. Then, if things are otherwise satisfactory, pipe it in in parallel with the existing kitchen radiator. Try to keep pipe sizes and lengths and numbers of fittings as much the same as you can, so they will get nearly equal flow. You may want to really think about what sort of radiator you can fit into the bathroom. It probably won't be big! On the other hand, it may not need to be. It may be a little harder to pipe -- you will have to find somewhere to run those pipes.

    The basement could also have radiators if you like, but there I would suggest that it will probably be less expensive to run baseboard heat, and the baseboard should be on a separate zone.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    Funny enough, I actually found a bigger, I believe 36" radiator that matches the existing and I have plenty of space to add it in. The half bath is just going to be cold, it's reallyyyyy tiny and there is literally no place to fit a radiator of any size (I can't even figure out how to put a small plug in heater in there and it not be in the way or risk it falling in the sink). The upstairs bath is actually quite large, excluding the outer wall "closet" space, it's easily 100 sq feet and I have no clue how to get piping up there without creating a huge disaster. If I ever opted to remodel my kitchen (it's straight up 1950's diner theme), that would be the ideal time to run piping since the bathroom is directly above it. For now, I think I'm just going to stick with my plug in oil radiator and call it good. There is plenty of space for a radiator if I ever get there, though!

    Baseboard in the basement is definitely an option I didn't think of. There's one large room that is the main one I'm looking to heat as I would like to turn it into the kids playroom.

    Where should the pressure relief be and how hard would it be to move? My dad could probably do it if it's of significant importance. He's actually going to be the one helping me with tackling adding the radiator to the kitchen. I just wanted to make sure we weren't getting in way over our heads.

    And thank you, it's a pretty great house IMO. It's a lower end queen anne, with almost all of the original (unpainted!) woodwork and a wrap around porch that was probably 3/4 of the reason I initially liked the place. It's definitely had some updates (kitchen, bathrooms) but the original character is still here, including many perfectly functioning (though very wavy) windows.
  • NY_Rob
    NY_Rob Member Posts: 1,370
    Your boiler is identical to the one I replaced in my home last summer. My house was built in 1963, I believe it was the original boiler installed in 1963. Yours is likely from the 1960's or early 70's?

    FWIW- that boiler has a few sections, they are sealed together with thick gaskets. On my boiler the gaskets had deteriorated over the years and it had started leaking CO from the rear of the boiler.
    I don't know how common that particular problem is with that particular boiler, but If you don't have a CO detector in the basement... consider getting one.
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    There's a CO detector not too far from it and the inspector said that while old, it was in pretty good shape. We plan to replace it with a high efficiency in the next year or two, anyways. I'll be sure to keep an eye on the CO detector in the meantime to make sure it's working. For whatever reason, neither us or the inspector could find any sort of date on it. He estimated 40ish years, so he was likely fairly close.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,344
    Electric heat for the upstairs bath. Add a bigger radiator in the kitchen if the piping will support it. You don't want to disturb the asbestos on the piping to do any work.

    The expansion tank should be repiped. Hanging on it's side could cause it to break
    CanuckerTinman
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    The problem with the pressure relief valve is the outlet piping -- it should be taken down near the floor -- but with no valves of any kind in it! That way if it ever opens you don't get boiling water all over the place...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    If the 2nd floor bath is original to the house my bet is that it had a radiator for heat. Your house had a gravity hot water system which would have be a luxury in the day. To have a cold bathroom would have been unthinkable, IMO.

    The gravity piped systems I have seen would "stack" the piping up and down. So if the bath is above the kitchen then good chance the piping may have been run exposed in a corner or cabinet chase, might have been only 3/4" size as gravity really works with the extra 10' of vertical rise. Sometimes piping is buried even in outside walls. The pipe or plugged fittings you may find in the basement.

    Your pressure relief valve location is OK. The discharge piping should 90 down to within 6" of the floor. Right now if it opened the discharge could burn your face off. It should be a 30 PSI rated valve BTY. You must lift the lever to flush it to assure it will open and then reseat.........major important safety device......last defense against boiler explosion......serious for real.

    Nice rotary wall hung phone, save it to show grandkids. They will wonder why there is a wire connected to it.....big dog also.
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    How should the expansion tank be hung? Any pictures or diagrams?

    If we mess with the piping, I know it has to be done with extreme care and no kids in the house. But I'm not one of those people that totally freaks at the mere mention of asbestos (the house is asbestos slate tiled). And my dad, who would be doing it, has a respirator mask thing.

    So I need to extend the piping to near the floor and just remove the valve completely?

    Now I'm even more glad I asked. None of this stuff was caught by any of the inspectors. And this is the homes second sale in a little over a year!
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    The second floor bath is definitely not original. It was either attic or single story. To be honest, we have no clue where the original bath was and we've searched. We can find no evidence of it. There are no mysterious holes anywhere and the original sketches show that area as 1 story. We seriously wonder if there wasn't a plumbed bathroom originally. This would have been a very rural area when the house was built.

    I will definitely check the valve and fix it if need be.

    Ha! The rotary was actually left here. I just never bothered taking it down. I may move it upstairs just because and put it to use. Never hurts to have a working one around. And the dog is actually just a pup! I didn't even realize he was there until you said something. He won't come down the basement stairs but hates being more than 2 feet away from me.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,506
    Touching asbestos is more involved than just wearing a mask and making sure the kids aren't home. The dust particles need to be contained or they will go everywhere. Abating the asbestos for a small area to connect some piping is not that expensive. Failure to do so could result in some serious health issues for anyone in the house, many years down the road.
    Leave the relief valve, and just remove the existing open tee and replace with just an elbow down and pipe down to the floor.
    If you're replacing the boiler soon, you could leave the expansion tank as is, but it should be mounted properly-hung vertically, connection on top, properly supported.
    steve
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    Leave the valve (brass device with the flipper handle on top) where it is. The horizontal discharge piping (only) should be changed to a solid water way towards the floor to ensure that if that pressure relief valve opens the hot water (or possibly steam) will be directed down away from anyone in the room, also away from the boiler components which will be ruined by water...........you must have the pressure relief valve (PRV) on the boiler and test it every year....never plug it if it drips......if it will not stop dripping you have some other problem and will have to replace.....see above....serious for real.

    I believe your "inspectors" should have tested the PRV. However that can open a can of worms if it does not reseat. We all have a spare to change it out if that happens. But for your system there appears to be no isolation valves and you would have to drain the entire system to change the PRV.....ask me how I know....and for me when it was time to change the boiler valves were added for sure.

    The search portion of this web site can find you a lot of info with pictures. There is a series of books written by Dan Holohan which address hot water heating of your vintage.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350
    One word of caution: because of the large piping used for gravity flow, any new piping to a radiator must be proportionately as large. Water takes the path of least resistance and if you run smaller piping to anything new, it will be starved for flow and not heat properly.

    Example: if a current radiator is 66 sq. ft. of EDR, it would have an output of just under 10k btus at 170* supply water temp. If it has an 1 1/4 inch pipe supplying it, then if your connect a new radiator of similar size, it should also have an 1 1/4" pipe. That's much larger than what we'd normally size it with, but again, it has to be prportionate.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Gordy
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,208
    When you replace the boiler my advice is NOT with a high efficiency.
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    Why not high efficiency?

    The piping after the valve is first thing on the list. It is a 30psi. I'm not brave enough to test it so I'll have my dad do it when he fixes the pipe. And get an extra valve to keep on hand. I'm really not sure if any of the inspectors tested it or not, I unfortunately wasn't here during the inspections. But I'm going to just figure they didn't and double check it. And no, there are no isolation valves. Lucky me. We have every intention of adding some. Right now, my entire plumbing system is just scary because there is no way to shut it off. The main shut off won't budge and I don't dare force it and there are no other shutoffs in the basement. Another thing that is going to be remedied come spring when I can more easily access the outside shutoff. We have super hard water here so valves seizing is a fairly common issue.

    And yes, I'm aware that messing with the pipes is more involved than that. My dad has actually done asbestos abatement and we have access to the necessary stuff. I'm beyond familiar with the issues with asbestos having lived in early 1900's houses most of my life. This is just the first that still has the original style hot water heat.

    The piping size makes perfect sense. I'm hoping/planning to find matching style radiator(s) as well. Mostly because I just like the way they look. My plan is to find another of similar size and pipe it into the addition part and leave the one in the original kitchen in place. I can't put a larger one there due to a wall and a door. As far as I can tell, all the radiators throughout the entire house use the same size piping. I think the only reason my second story doesn't get much hotter than the main floor is just a matter of lay out and where/how many radiators there are. All the radiators are in bedrooms, none in the hall or landing area and they are fairly small in comparison to most of the main floor ones. The bathroom is the only problem room upstairs but there's a number of factors working against me in there. Eventually the bathroom is going to need a serious remodel and I'll probably worry about better heating for it then, the plug in oil radiator keeps it plenty toasty in there.

    And I will add fixing the expansion tank to my ever growing list of things to fix. Ah, the joys of old homes! Too bad they just don't make them like this anymore.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    Fixing old homes is well worth the effort -- it's what I do! A lot of fun, if sometimes unexpected ... I was going to say problems, but let's say opportunities for creative solutions. It's a never ending job, but after the initial crunch it isn't too bad -- and well worth the effort.

    A minor thought -- you said you had at least some old glass in windows. Keep it! There is a product called inner glass storm windows (http://www.stormwindows.com/) which works really really well. Not inexpensive, but far better to use than replacing priceless old windows with modern junk (and no more expensive!)

    On the high efficiency -- your system isn't designed for the low temperatures at which they have to run to gain the efficiency, and the trade off in terms of initial cost, maintenance, and so on just isn't worth it in terms of fuel used.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350
    Im gonna be the devil's advocate :/ and have to disagree with the comments about going with a high efficiency mod/con boiler. We install these on converted gravity systems regularly with great results. And the fuel savings are generally in the 30 - 40% range.

    The initial cost of the equipment is higher, and it takes someone who's knowledgeable in mating the new technology with the old, but when you consider the cost of re-lining the chimney for a new atmospheric 80% boiler vs. a 95% mod/con, it's well worth it. IMNSHO.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    GordyTinman
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,941
    Trouble is, @Ironman -- Bob -- you know exactly what you are doing and how to do it right. Not everyone does...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350

    Trouble is, @Ironman -- Bob -- you know exactly what you are doing and how to do it right. Not everyone does...

    @Jamie Hall, I'm not sure that I know EXACTLY what I'm doing; I've just got folks convinced that I do. :D But that's why I said it takes someone who know how to do it; it's not that hard to learn. And, I don't know of a better place than right here to do that.

    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    Hmmm, I guess high efficiency will require a bit more research as we were planning/hoping to do the swap ourselves. Or rather, I was going to make my dad do it. As such, I'll make him do the research. Fortunately for me, he is not only Mr. Fix it but can learn how to do things like no one else I've ever met.

    Yes, we still have many original windows. I'd say atleast half of them. Absolutely no intentions of replacing them. They all still work perfectly and have new strings (cables? Thingers?) on them. We have one that let loose, but the ever handy dad knows how to fix it. I'm actually slightly annoyed that some of them have been replaced. Granted, they atleast did the "wood" look vinals, but they still just aren't as pretty as my oak. Fortunately, many of the big things that old houses typically need (cost wise anyways) are done (electric has been updated, some plumbing, kitchen and bathrooms are modern-ish). So a lot of it is either cosmetic, personal preference or upgrading as we see fit. Most of the house has even been drywalled already. And since we just left a rental with serious paint issues due to original walls and lead paint, I'm glad to not have that nightmare to deal with, even if drywall isn't nearly as tough. And my basement even stays surprisingly dry. And finding this age house, atleast around here, with unpainted woodwork is almost a miracle. Not only does it have oak columns between the foyer and living room, but we found a decorative archway piece (I really don't know how else to explain it) in the attic area of the garage that fits the archway from the living room to the dining room. The only thing it is missing that I wish it still had was original light fixtures. I understand why they changed many of them out to fans, but even the ones that are not fans were replaced with modern. Surprisingly, it does still have the glass handles on all of the upstairs bedroom doors and I'm slowly swapping the downstairs metal ones out with antique glass as I find them and the skeleton key locks on every door I've tried still work (my dad collects skeleton keys of all things so I had no problem finding the right ones).
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited January 2017
    I second Bob's opinion on high efficiency. However. Who ever does it needs to do a complete heat loss, and an edr survey. If you are over radiated you will be running much lower swt that make a condensing boiler highly efficient for most of the heating season.
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722

    Fixing old homes is well worth the effort -- it's what I do! A lot of fun, if sometimes unexpected ... I was going to say problems, but let's say opportunities for creative solutions. It's a never ending job, but after the initial crunch it isn't too bad -- and well worth the effort.

    I love that @Jamie Hall , I'm going to have that in the back of my head while I'm working on my old house.

    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,473
    Not mention a great opportunity to collect a wonderful assortment of tools.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
    Canucker
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    OK, so a new twist. The expansion tank that is hung up, is turned off. There's also a second tank in the attic that is disconnected. From what I can figure out, neither is needed due to the tank on the boiler. Am I correct?

    Since we had to dig into the water system anyways, we've also fixed the pressure release and the main water supply to the boiler (it was off because the valve leaked really bad). And I've got all new piping starting where the water comes into the house (don't ask, a pipe broke before the water meter and yeah).

    So next question, our water is really hard. Like, liquid rock hard. We plan to drain and flush the system come spring. When we refill, is using softened water a better idea? And/or is there some sort of chemical additive we could/should add into it to reduce damage? When I say our water is hard, I mean like destructive hard. Replacing faucets is incredibly common because the water ends up corroding them and/or causing flow problems from deposits.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited January 2017
    The attic tank was original to the system, which was replaced by the tank in the ceiling joists, which was then replaced by the present diaphram type expansion tank.

    Regarding water quality. You could bring in better quality water for initial fill. Need to be aware of the boiler manufactors recommendations for system water quality.

    Using chemical additives like from Rohmar is still a good idea. As for the domestic side. Investing in a water softener is well worth it if you are having issues with faucets etc. liming up frequently.

    If you have one, and are still having issue then it is not setup properly for your hardness.
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    We are installing the water softener and an RO unit (for the fridge) right now. I'm kinda surprised there wasn't already one here, but we had the one from our old house (just down the street) and it worked great there. It's the exact one recommended by the manufacturer for the water quality in town. We are on "city" water, but it's really just chlorinated well water. If you ask the water place in town, they say the water shouldn't even be used for showering, let alone drinking or cooking. Not only is the water bad for deposits, but it has a lovely orange tint from the rust and iron. I'll see what I can dig up for requirements from the boiler manufacterer, but I'm guessing the water from the softener should be fine and likely better for the system. Once the weather breaks we plan to drain, flush and refill the system. Hopefully by then we will have most of the old galvanized pipes replaced with pex. Granted, at current rate most of it is going to be done much sooner than anticipated. Our incoming line quite literally crumbled apart last night just inside the house (I suggested replacing all of that before they started to mess with anything else, but men never listen ;) ) Emergency call to the city at 11pm to come turn our outside main off and atleast that portion of things is fixed now. They were even kind enough to just leave the water turn off tool for us (small towns have their perks, I think between this house and our old one this is like the 6th time in 2 years I've had to deal with dpw). Atleast we discovered the main line outside is newer. Why they didn't replace the mess just inside is beyond me. Sort of like why did they never remove the old expansion tanks. Things that make you go hmmm.
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,350
    Don't use softened water to fill the hydronic system: sodium chloride is not good for it.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
    Gordy
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,021
    RO water (I don't know if you mentioned that for boiler use or not) may not be what you want for a boiler. That water is hungry for metals, including copper.
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    Hmm. I knew RO water was not safe. But no softened water either?

    So just tap water with rohmar then? I can't imagine my tap water is good for the system, but in all fairness, it's been using it forever.
  • Canucker
    Canucker Member Posts: 722
    RO water will be fine to use in your boiler. Add a water treatment from Rhomar or Fernox to it and will be good to go. RO water is used for steam turbine systems because the TDS of it is very low. IIRC, the pH of single pass RO water can get low because the dissolved gasses are still present. So if you're constantly feeding RO water, there would be a problem( i.e.; a leaking system).
    You can have it good, fast or cheap. Pick two
    GordyJen88
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    My RO unit is not big enough to even consider it. It's just meant for fridges.
    Canucker
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,208
    If you're replacing pipes investigate overhead distribution. Use a strainer or filter to protect new boiler. Good water will clean out a century of stuff from your beautiful rads.

    If your technical enough think about a vacuum expansion tank.
    GordyJen88
  • Jen88
    Jen88 Member Posts: 15
    No real intention of replacing pipes as they are still in great shape. But a filter has already been an idea we've bounced around. I'm planning to put a filter on my incoming line after I T it off for outside water, so everything after will at minimum recieve filtered water. I just had to tear my kitchen faucet apart thanks to sediment clogging the flow restrictor. Fun times. I think my poor husband is realizing I sugar coated it when I said old houses were "fun" lol.