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Supplemental Heating for a Cold Condo

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Meg216
Meg216 Member Posts: 2
edited November 2019 in Strictly Steam
We recently purchased a condo in a 100-year-old building that shares a boiler with 11 other units in the building. The boiler is only a couple of years old and the radiators in our unit seem to work well when they're on--but I'm still cold much of the time. I think the HOA is making a good faith effort to set the temperature at a level that works for the majority of residents--but I happen to be an always-cold person. My question is what can we do to get more control over the temperature in the unit? Is there a supplemental heating system that would be relatively easy/not exorbitantly expensive to install in a condo? We're new to radiator heating--are there ways to maximize the heat we're getting out of them? Thank you!

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  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    How many pipes connect to your radiators? 1 or 2?
    Pictures of radiators showing both ends.

    Where is the controlling thermostat?

    Perhaps consider getting on the HOA board??
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,729
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    What is the temperature of your living space generally?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
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    I manage a condo building just outside of Boston. Keeping all of the units balanced in terms of temperature is a difficult job but possible. Do you know what the temperature setting is for the building and if so how does that compare to the temperature in your unit? Are all of the other units within a degree of the thermostat setting?

    It sounds like the issue is actual temperature vs. temperature feel. With my thermostat set at 70 I have some owners who are wearing shorts and some are in fleece jackets and sweats. I know the temp is 70 in all of the units since we have sensors in each, spent a long time balancing the venting. There is little that can be done to compensate for body chemistry and personal preference. I once had a new owner ask if we could turn the heat up to 80 at night because he didn't like sleeping with sheets or blankets.

    That being said you may be able to put faster vents on your radiators that will let you heat up faster depending on your location in the building. The drawback is it may cause another unit to be cooler.

    Are your window's modern with low E glass? Replacing the windows had a huge impact on eliminating drafts and balancing my building. The old "modern" replacement aluminum windows used to frost on the inside.

    Another option would be a minisplit unit to supplement your heat but you are looking at $3-5K if the HOA would sign off on it and additional heating cost.

  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
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    One other thing to consider would be adding a humidifier. 70 degrees at 30 percent humidity feels a lot cooler than at 60 percent humidity.
    HVACNUTHap_Hazzard
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,846
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    One other thing to consider would be adding a humidifier. 70 degrees at 30 percent humidity feels a lot cooler than at 60 percent humidity.

    There's a fly in the ointment.

    While humid air does feel warmer at the same temperature, console humidifiers make the air that passes through them colder. They use a fan to blow air over a mostened paper wick, forcing the water to evaporate. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of heat energy to turn water into vapor, so unless there's a way to add more heat, they make the room noticeably colder..
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Meg216
    Meg216 Member Posts: 2
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    Thanks for the feedback--from the info I have, it's a single-pipe steam system. There are sensors in a couple of the units (not ours) with a firing temp set to 71 during the day and 68 at night. I think our radiators are turning on at the right temp, it's just too low for my comfort, especially at night. Assuming I can't lobby the HOA to set the temperature point higher, what's the best option? Any thoughts on whether it would be worthwhile to invest in a minisplit? I'm not familiar with what would be involved in that.
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,729
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    I could see where that could be chilly. You say "firing point" of 71, but I think you mean "set point" which means depending on the thermostat settings, the boiler might not fire until the thermostat sees 70 or even cooler.

    And of course your actual temperature in your living space can be quite different from the thermostat wherever that is located, especially with window placement, etc. That's really the number I was asking about just to get an idea of what we're talking about here. I set my thermostat at 72 for my wife's benefit on my steam system.

    A mini split consists of an outside compressor unit that must be a reasonable distance from the wall unit(s), like 25-50 feet. Google can tell you more about them. They are less efficient as it gets colder outside. I imagine you would have to get condo permission to install one, but that's just a guess.
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,075
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    Some city/housing entities have minimal temp requirements for tenants. May not apply to condo units as you have your own level of management in house.

    Perhaps in the HOA agreement there is something about temp comfort that may give you some leverage.
  • gfrbrookline
    gfrbrookline Member Posts: 753
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    Are the other owners happy with the temp set at 71? Is your unit close to the boiler or far away? Do your radiators heat fully from top to bottom side to side during a heating cycle?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,738
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    the other way to go about this would be to put thermostatic vent valves on the other radiators in the other units so yours could heat a little longer