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Radiator vs Forced Air

Sonor3000
Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
edited September 20 in Radiant Heating
Hello All:

I'm bringing, possibly an age old question. Hot water boiler radiator heat vs forced air furnace heat. As we go trough upgrade considerations (we are updating a forced air AC unit), we question if we shouldn't consider a forced air heat system as well in lieu of replacing our 1960's boiler and associated piping.

We live in a approximately 4000SF house in northwest Missouri (for weather consideration). Does anyone have experience where they have made the switch, and would be able to provide feedback.

I know some cons to forced air is dry air, but contractors tell me the humidification systems have gotten better. I know a con of boilers (besides the costs of the update), is they heat a place up slower, so if you like "cold nights" and warm mornings this can be a problem.

Again just seeing what others experiences may have been.

Cheers!

Comments

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,516
    First of all, we do NOT discuss pricing on this forum. See:

    https://heatinghelp.com/forum-user-manual

    Edit your post to remove pricing.

    Now, to your original question: Do not let anyone talk you into removing the boiler and radiators. A modern hot-water system will heat quickly, and you can use a programmable thermostat to have it come on to heat the house before you get up.

    And no forced-air system can ever equal the winter comfort that radiators provide. The moving air makes you feel cold whether it's humidified or not.

    Is there a problem with your present boiler?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    Sonor3000Erin Holohan Haskell
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,258
    edited September 19
    Sonor3000 said:

    Hello All:

    I'm bringing, possibly an age old question. Hot water boiler radiator heat vs forced air furnace heat. As we go trough upgrade considerations (we are updating a forced air AC unit), we question if we shouldn't consider a forced air heat system as well in lieu of replacing our 1960's boiler and associated piping .

    We live in a approximately 4000SF house in northwest Missouri (for weather consideration). Does anyone have experience where they have made the switch, and would be able to provide feedback.

    I know some cons to forced air is dry air, but contractors tell me the humidification systems have gotten better. I know a con of boilers (besides the costs of the update), is they heat a place up slower, so if you like "cold nights" and warm mornings this can be a problem.

    Again just seeing what others experiences may have been.

    Cheers!


    In a properly sealed house you will likely not need a humidifier regardless of the system you choose.

    Poorly ducted forced air systems in a drafty house dry the air out more than radiant.

    However, properly ducted systems in a fairly tight house will not. In fact, regardless of the system you choose a tight house may even need dehumidification in the winter from breathing, cooking, showering etc. The heating system isn't what dries out the air, lower moisture content air leaking in from outside is.

    Properly setup baseboard, or cast iron radiators will have no problems with setbacks and recoveries but you'll want to avoid it with in floor radiant etc.

    If your house is on the drafty side and you have no plans on fixing it I'd lean towards cast iron radiators or baseboard my self.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,424
    Oddly, @Hot_water_fan and I were kind of bashing around on this one just the other day. What I would do is "update" that forced air A/C with a heat pump -- and keep the boiler for the cold nights when the heat pump just can't hack it. In fact, you may be able to find a "cold temperature" type heat pump which will function adequately at your design temperatures.

    It won't be as comfortable as the radiator heat. Forced air never is. So I would keep the boiler (unless it is flat out busted) and radiators as a backup for the days when you just want to be nice and cosy.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    GGross
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 388
    While a boiler from the 1960s may  need replacement, the piping is likely to have decades of life left unless the circumstances are highly unusual.

    Bburd
    PC7060
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,524
    The boiler piping may well need some repiping, if it was installed in the 60's. I'd consider Smart pumps as well and bring the system to the 21st century.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    edited September 20
    Dry air is not a forced air phenomenon - it’s a leaky house problem. If your house isn’t dry during the winter now, then forced air won’t change that. You’ll notice that an air conditioner has a drain for the water removed from the house - a furnace doesn’t have one, because it’s not removing moisture. 

    The price between new AC and a new heat is negligible. Even if you include a backup, low efficiency gas furnace, it’s still extremely cheap compared to replacing a boiler and piping. But be careful! Contractors will often quote the landlord special AC and then a suped up heat pump so the price will look vastly different. The feature to look for is a  variable speed inverter. 
  • flat_twin
    flat_twin Member Posts: 322
    edited September 20
    What type emitters are in your house?

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,424
    I presume from what the OP said, hot water radiators.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    Not sure how to reply on this site yet.

    However, flat_twin, I have cast iron radiators.
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    Also my bad on the price reference. I will try to edit and remove. My bad!
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    Hey Steamhead. Back to your question on "is there a problem with your present boiler" Not particular failures. However it is a very old 1960's "R2D2" style copper tub boiler. In addition the piping to the radiators are "Frankensteined" at best. Therefore, considering replacing with more efficient and making the piping layout more efficient.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,516
    Sonor3000 said:

    Hey Steamhead. Back to your question on "is there a problem with your present boiler" Not particular failures. However it is a very old 1960's "R2D2" style copper tub boiler. In addition the piping to the radiators are "Frankensteined" at best. Therefore, considering replacing with more efficient and making the piping layout more efficient.

    An A.O. Smith "Burkay"?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,063
    edited September 20
    Sonor3000 said:

    Hey Steamhead. Back to your question on "is there a problem with your present boiler" Not particular failures. However it is a very old 1960's "R2D2" style copper tub boiler. In addition the piping to the radiators are "Frankensteined" at best. Therefore, considering replacing with more efficient and making the piping layout more efficient.

    Replacing the Boiler may save a small % in operating costs.
    Replacing the cast iron rads, no savings! Unless you seriously increase the BTU output and lower the water temp. Again, I don't see a return on investment.

    If you want to save money on the heating bills tighten the envelope! Now with that you get to a point where outside air is required. Generally, a home needs a complete air change every 4 - 5 hours.

    Heat pumps for cooling and mild spring and fall days.
    Cast iron radiators for extreme cold nights when the heat pump struggles to keep up!
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 889
    edited September 20
    My vote goes for an air to water heat pump so they can still use the radiators all season long. Because what good is cake if you can't eat it too? A2w HP can also do the cooling.
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 3,063
    JakeCK said:

    My vote goes for an air to water heat pump so they can still use the radiators all season long. Because what good is cake if you can't eat it too? A2w HP can also do the cooling.

    Then he'll need 50 - 75% more emitters!
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    Then he'll need 50 - 75% more emitters!
    The existing boiler can stay
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    An A.O. Smith "Burkay"?

    Yes it is A.O. Smith HW 300. I can't confirm the actual date of the unit, but likely the 1960's
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    pecmsg said:

    Sonor3000 said:

    Hey Steamhead. Back to your question on "is there a problem with your present boiler" Not particular failures. However it is a very old 1960's "R2D2" style copper tub boiler. In addition the piping to the radiators are "Frankensteined" at best. Therefore, considering replacing with more efficient and making the piping layout more efficient.

    Replacing the Boiler may save a small % in operating costs.
    Replacing the cast iron rads, no savings! Unless you seriously increase the BTU output and lower the water temp. Again, I don't see a return on investment.

    If you want to save money on the heating bills tighten the envelope! Now with that you get to a point where outside air is required. Generally, a home needs a complete air change every 4 - 5 hours.

    Heat pumps for cooling and mild spring and fall days.
    Cast iron radiators for extreme cold nights when the heat pump struggles to keep up!
    So, agree the return on investment likely is not there. However some piece of mind given the vintage of the current unit and to "tidy" up the piping in the basement. I think we are going to stay with a hot water boiler system, but need to determine most efficient means to "rework" the piping to hold down costs.
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    Steamhead said:

    Sonor3000 said:

    Hey Steamhead. Back to your question on "is there a problem with your present boiler" Not particular failures. However it is a very old 1960's "R2D2" style copper tub boiler. In addition the piping to the radiators are "Frankensteined" at best. Therefore, considering replacing with more efficient and making the piping layout more efficient.

    An A.O. Smith "Burkay"?
    I finally learned how to respond to a posts. Yes it is AO Smith model HW 300. I'm guessing 1960's install.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 889
    pecmsg said:
    My vote goes for an air to water heat pump so they can still use the radiators all season long. Because what good is cake if you can't eat it too? A2w HP can also do the cooling.
    Then he'll need 50 - 75% more emitters!

    You miss understand, I wasn't suggesting he get rid of the boiler. Keep that as backup. Just use the a2w until it can no longer heat the water to the needed temp economically. 
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 730
    @Sonor3000 at this point it looks like you have two topics: 
    1. what to replace the AC with? I think that’s easy - a heat pump. It’ll cost right around the same as an equivalent AC and you can try it for heat. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe not. It can be a complementary heating system if you want. 
    2. Best way to repipe the forced water system and replace the boiler. As stated, this won’t have any “payback”, but few house projects do. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 19,424

    @Sonor3000 at this point it looks like you have two topics: 
    1. what to replace the AC with? I think that’s easy - a heat pump. It’ll cost right around the same as an equivalent AC and you can try it for heat. Maybe you’ll like it, maybe not. It can be a complementary heating system if you want. 

    2. Best way to repipe the forced water system and replace the boiler. As stated, this won’t have any “payback”, but few house projects do. 
    I second that. Except, before you go to replace the boiler, have it thoroughly cleaned and tuned up by a competent guy or gal. If it can reach 80% efficiency, and is otherwise in good working order, keep it.

    You'll need to do some repiping anyway, to integrate the heat pump with the hot water system if you go that router, but I wouldn't -- I'd just use air to air, replacing your existing AC system (keeping the ducts).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Hot_water_fanSonor3000
  • Sonor3000
    Sonor3000 Member Posts: 16
    All: Thanks for your help. I am going to stick with the radiator. Several reasons, but also my wife and I believe the radiators, etc add to the charm of the house.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 13,258
    Sonor3000 said:

    All: Thanks for your help. I am going to stick with the radiator. Several reasons, but also my wife and I believe the radiators, etc add to the charm of the house.


    She sounds like a wonderful person.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment