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Heating options.

woopud Member Posts: 10
My wife and I bought this huge 220 year old brick house we both fell in love with when we saw it. We've been living in it for the past three years now and absolutely love it, our biggest issue is heating the place. The prvious owner had cut out all the hot water baseboard radiators flush with the floors making the piping unusable, they also installed a propane boiler and radiators to heat only two rooms (kitchen and 1 bedroom). This unit is not big enough for the whole house and would be extremely expensive to heat the whole house with propane. Wondering if anyone has some recommendations what we can do, I'm a contractor and can do everything myself. Natural gas is not available where we live so that's out of the question. We most likely wouldn't need to heat the whole house all the time but rather only certain rooms.


    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,517
    To me it depends on the occupancy of the house.
    I hate to recommend hot air to anyone ...it sucks but it won't freeze. Is this a house that will be vacant....part time use???

    If your are going to live in it I would

    Button up the envelope as much as possible windows , insulation
    Do an accurate heat loss
    Then it's propane or oil. Water source heat pumps may be an option but are $$$$ with your existing boiler as a back up.

    Where are you located?
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    What size if the boiler now, pictures of the nameplate would do it.
    The existing boiler may heat more than you imagine.
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,829
    How do you know the existing boiler is not big enough to heat the house? If you REALLY love your home you would do a proper heat loss calculation. Slant/Fin has a free download.
    This way you'll know if the current boiler is truly undersized.
    The calc needs to cover the whole living space envelope, not just some rooms.
    You'll know exactly how many BTU's are needed in each room. Then you can size and choose your style of emmiters.
    Heating some rooms at a time requires thermostats or TRV's for each room. Micro zoning isn't great for efficiency.
    I think more info is needed about the home (we know, you absolutely love it) and your needs and requirements to recommend a system or fuel type at this point.
    Square footage, number of rooms, how you want to divide those rooms into separate zones. Maybe a sketch.
    Size and accessibility of the equipment room.

    Also, theres a "click here at the top of the page to find a contractor in your area".
    Yes I read you are a contractor.
    However, the reason for your post was to ask some pretty basic questions for a heating professional. I would say you need one, if not for any other reason than to put the boiler in commission and do the proper tests for operation and combustion.
  • DZoro
    DZoro Member Posts: 1,048
    Talk with some good insulating companies. See what they can do for you. Find out what r-value they can give your home. Have it done, then work on the heating side.
  • woopud
    woopud Member Posts: 10
    Thanks for all the replies! Square footage of living areas is 4400, this is the first and second floor, I don't count the attic and basement. All the windows are replaced with double pane windows ecxept for two. Exterior walls are five layers of brick on the main floor and three layers of brick on the seond floor, I started insulating the attic floors. I included a picture of the house, it's located in South/West Pennsylvania. I will try to get pictures of the boiler later, the label is facing the wall so I'm not sure if I can get a decent picture but I'll try.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    I can see why you like the place. It's lovely, and looks as though it's in good shape. @HVACNUT has a raft of good suggestions.

    Insulating an old brick building is not that simple. Jut how not simple it is depends a great deal on what, if anything, you plan to do with the interior. The main thing is that the brick itself needs to be able to breathe,, at least a little, but also needs to be somewhat protected from interior moisture. Keep that in mind when talking to insulation folks. For the attic, I would seriously consider insulating the roof with spray on foam, if you can get to the roof. If those upstairs spaces are finished, though, you may find that blown in dense cellulose will be better, as you won't have to take the interior finish down. If you insulate the attic floors, rather than the roof, be sure that you have plenty of ventilation in the attic -- the last thing you want is condensation up there, which you will have unless you ventilate!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • woopud
    woopud Member Posts: 10
    The attic, about 12" tall in the center.... Everything about this house is huge...
  • TAG
    TAG Member Posts: 755
    Do you have any of the old radiators ?

    Is one of the chimneys a flue to the basement.

    I'm a sucker for old houses -- have done a few cool ones in PA north of Philadelphia.

    With you being a contractor My gut is saying panel radiators w/ temp controls on each -- PEX piped using bypass fittings. CI oil Boiler w/ ODR ....indirect DHW. A couple of mini-splits for strategic cooling and overall humidity control.

    I'm sure you could do an up down ducted system -- in the main house section -- even with ducting they tend to be spotty heating rooms with those old un-insulated walls.
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,060
    With my electrician hat on, I see opportunity for rewiring the 2nd floor if needed. If this is near to original flooring you may see some boards cut above the 2nd floor light fixtures and switches etc. Some might be found on the 2 floor forThere may be a balloon framed wall between 1st & 2nd floor that was used as a chase for the original wiring.
    And keeping that in mind for future pex runs for heating up there if wanted.

    But, IIWM, I would get all wiring done/corrected/added and insulate the attic floor. And plenty of ventilation for the attic as Jamie mentioned.
  • woopud
    woopud Member Posts: 10
    I have upgraded all the wiring allready, 200A panel and all 12 gauge wiring, still need to add some outlets upstairs and run two circuits to the attic. funny thing is....., this house was build in the late 1700's but didn't get electric untill 1973!! So, there was no knob and tubes in the house. Already redid all the plumbing too, i build two whole new bathrooms. All the radiators were gone when we moved here but I scored some cast iron radiators on facebook Marketplace of which some I alreaydy installed (kitchen and bathroom). Looking at the exterior photo, our living/family room is in the front corner (20' x 40"), I installed a mini split system there, it works great ecxept when we dip in the single digits it has trouble keeping up. I intend to install two radiators in that room just for those really cold nights and day's. Here's pictures of the boiler we have.

  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
    Could use boiler for baseboard radiant on 1st floor as back up heat. Due fuel heat pumps sized for cooling capacity for each floor. Just a WAG... but 2.5 ton downstairs and 3 upstairs will probably do it since it’s all brick. Upstairs, install a Combi boiler and hydronic air handler and if you want some baseboard.

    The heat pumps will be cheaper to operate above 20F, then propane will be cheaper and defrost demand becomes limiting.

    Propane isn’t cheap, but you can repurchase a large tank when it’s cheaper in the late summer and save quit a bit. Electric rate will only continue to increase short to mid term and we shift from coal and nuclear to renewables.
  • woopud
    woopud Member Posts: 10
    Aren't cast iron radiators more efficient since they hold their heat longer? I like the looks of the radiators better then baseboard heaters.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,275
    woopud said:

    Aren't cast iron radiators more efficient since they hold their heat longer? I like the looks of the radiators better then baseboard heaters.

    Not necessarily more efficient -- but they give much more even heat to the space.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    Technically ever emitter "is 100% efficient" at giving off heat to the space.

    It's the temperature which the water must be heated to drive the BTU's from the water to the surrounding space which makes a heat plant (boiler) more or less efficient.

    Cast iron baseboard, radiators, has the nice mass and water content to make a space more comfortable, as does radiant floors, especially slabs for their mass.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • JacquesD23
    JacquesD23 Member Posts: 11
    Propane could be almost as cost effective as natural gas with a proper Mod Con boiler. For your home I would recommend the Dunkirk Helix which has an unbelievably durable heat exchanger or a System 2000 Accel CS EKC-2...

    The truth is that if your buying propane from your average big conglomerate, then you are overpaying. We are out of CT and we are family company and our heating customers are paying under $2.00 per gallon, and the ones that are using propane with 500 gallon storage are paying under $1.80 per gallon.

    At a $1.80 propane can come extremely close to Natural Gas and will blow oil out of the water... Mind you the company I am at is also an oil company.
  • Handyman 242
    Handyman 242 Member Posts: 15
    I know many people on this site will tell me I am nuts but this house needs mini splits. There are units that sit on the floor like radiators and blow the warm air across the floor. Every room can be zoned without duct work. No water to freeze and AC is included. Put some solar panels on the roof and the heating and AC costs are reasonable. There are units that will give good heat to 15 degrees below zero. No propane or oil to worry about ( I was an oil dealer for 25 years in a prior life so I am not afraid of oil heat).
  • BradHotNCold
    BradHotNCold Member Posts: 70
    Hesitate to make this comment but decided to do so anyway. You have said you are a contractor and are doing much (all?) of the work yourself. Are you getting required permits and city inspections as work goes forward? If you ever need to sell your lovely home in future, that could be a serious issue.

    We had a 1685 center chimney colonial with steam heat, so I can relate to loving an antique residence! Good luck going forward.
  • HotanCool
    HotanCool Member Posts: 55
    Who wired the Boiler? :o