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Asbestos and Other Hydronic Heat Questions

Hello Heating Help,

First Post. Let me first thank you for all the knowledge I have picked up by lurking these forums for the past few months. I recently purchased a four unit building of ~2100 sq ft 1900 brick build (little to no insulation none in basement or attic). I live in one unit and rent out the others. All units share the same hydronic hot water oil boiler system. I believe the boiler is a Burnham V8 from 2007. I have only been in the other units a handful of times, but will estimate that there may be as many as 15 cast iron radiators and it is a two pipe system. Please ask what other details you would need, as I am still building my understanding of how this system works.

The following are pictures of both the condition of the piping. Along with the pictures of the worst of the condition of what appears to be asbestos insulation.






I have contemplated encapsulation methods at least for the sections that are intact. It appears there are mixed pipe materials being utilized here I think there is both copper and possibly black steel? More experienced minds can probably identify based on the pictures. Basically, I do not want to go the route of repair/encapsulation if the likelihood is with that with the age of the system and condition of the pipes I will have an issue in the near term. i have not officially tested the material, but is there any chance that it is asbestos free?

As a new but aspiring landlord, I also have to be always considering return on investment. I have been doing some reading other options I have been considering with this system are converting it to gas (there is already a gas line to the water heater). Is this advisable with the boiler already being 12 years old. I also have read about the option for an indirect water heater. The current water heater is from 2012 and serves the whole building, so its life is nearing the late stages. In addition, I live in PA so I am aware of some subsidies available to have higher efficiency boilers installed. However, I am slowly beginning to understand when your dealing with hydronic heat there are a whole lot of technicalities and variables involved. I guess I am just looking for guidance on how to proceed in a smart and prudent way. I like to do things right the first time, as long as it's reasonable. My other thought was just going mini-splits and the tenants would be responsible for their own heat. The quality heat that this system currently provides sure is nice, I just wonder if it will be worth the headaches and wallet-aches to keep online in the long run.

Comments

  • JUGHNEJUGHNE Posts: 5,859Member
    How many thermostats are in the building?

    If you go mini splits as the only source of heat in a brick un-insulated building your tenants will most likely get cold when it is 10 degrees and windy.
    If you have to control the boiler until perhaps 30 degrees then you get the best of both worlds....tenants pay for their heat until the 30 degrees or so. Then you supplement the heat with the boiler. They would like the AC also.

    I would call that asbestos IMO.
    The pipes last a long time as there should be no new water added.
    The boiler is not that old but could be an unlucky model??
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,963Member
    Mixing copper with steel pipe is ok for a hot water system. Generally the piping in those systems (because it is a closed loop and no oxygen in the system) last a long, long time.

    I would budget for the boilers replacement with a gas boiler. Check with your gas utility first to make sure adequate gas is available. And run the boiler you have until it fails.

    Have the asbestos tested and removed if possible. You photos show friable asbestos which can be airborne.
  • pecmsgpecmsg Posts: 851Member
    Without an analyses we can only guess but I'm 99% sure that's asbestos and in bad shape. In this area some of those sections can not just be encapsulated, so might as well do a full abatement and have it along with any liability removed.

    Once that's done is there any way of running independent PEX to the individual units? Separate heaters or metered for heating can then be done.
  • GreenLandlordGreenLandlord Posts: 3Member
    Apologize for my delayed response with all the good feedback here.
    JUGHNE said:

    How many thermostats are in the building?

    Only one for the whole building. It is currently in my apartment on 1 st floor.
    JUGHNE said:

    If you go mini splits as the only source of heat in a brick un-insulated building your tenants will most likely get cold when it is 10 degrees and windy.
    If you have to control the boiler until perhaps 30 degrees then you get the best of both worlds....tenants pay for their heat until the 30 degrees or so. Then you supplement the heat with the boiler. They would like the AC also.

    I like that. So you'd say that even the units designed to work at low temps would struggle given the materials and lack of insulation. I do plan to do some weather sealing and insulate the attic. However, I do not plan on replacing the old wood windows.
    I have read some research that suggests that the increased efficiency is a good deal of marketing. Plus I like the thought of having old growth windows that should last indefinitely if cared for.
    JUGHNE said:

    The boiler is not that old but could be an unlucky model??

    Yes I was actually a little concerned about that, as I have heard this model has the tendency to crack.

  • GreenLandlordGreenLandlord Posts: 3Member

    Mixing copper with steel pipe is ok for a hot water system. Generally the piping in those systems (because it is a closed loop and no oxygen in the system) last a long, long time.

    This is comforting news. I did not consider that.
    pecmsg said:

    Once that's done is there any way of running independent PEX to the individual units? Separate heaters or metered for heating can then be done.

    While it is possible, some of the runs may prove challenging. As you can see in the picture several of the pipes run into a crawl space which has no easy access. I am not sure how invasive that would be. Maybe with PEX it's possible. I would also have find a way to encase the PEX, as I believe the way it is the pipes just run up the side of the wall exposed. In addition, I am not sure the cost of that would be worth it, as I would also have to purchase a boiler for each of the units, as well as additional gas meters. I think mini-splits would in the end be cheaper and provide AC. But then again, each unit has only 100 amp service. While it is nice to have all utilities separated, I can just continue to build heat into the cost of rent. My greatest fear was continuing to marginally prolong the life of the system only to shortly find out that I would need do a full scale overall. It is good to hear these systems are robust, as they are sealed.
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