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Dead Men Tales: The Two Sides of Hydronics

HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 651
edited October 2022 in THE MAIN WALL

The Two Sides of Hydronics

Steam-and hot-water heating joined hands a long time ago to make up what we today call hydronics. In this episode, Dan Holohan shares interesting stories from these two different sides of hydronics.

Listen and subscribe here.

Thank you to our podcast sponsor SupplyHouse.com.


  • BradHotNCold
    BradHotNCold Member Posts: 70
    We have had steam heat and hot water heat in radiators, as well as hot water heat from baseboards. We have also had central heat and air conditioning from HVAC systems. Steam would be our preference, given a choice!
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,157
    edited October 2022
    For the 2 years I worked at a supply company in Pleasantville NJ ,I had an occasion where a Doctor called me to ask if I would design a Steam Heating System for his New Construction home.
    I was tempted to take on the project for about 20 seconds. Although there were only a handful of people qualified to work on the few steam systems that were in the Atlantic City thru Cape May area, me being one of them, I was not interested in the liability involved with designing a steam system from scratch. And then who was going to install it? I was not in the contracting business at the time. This was in the 2001 to 2003 time frame. I was considering calling @DanHolohan at the time because I had a signed copy of his book TLAOS. There was also a hand written phone number in there. Never made the call. I tried to talk the good Doctor into radiant floor heat. Never heard from him after that.

    Oh well, I wonder if he ever found someone to install steam heat in his new home?

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • mvickers
    mvickers Member Posts: 30
    I love long-lasting learning from stories.
    I picked up a dozen or so hot water radiators that I plan to use in my ~1000sqft cottages, but I'd have to run the piping into the attics at certain points, with vertical drops for supply/returns. The only impractical option is to cut into the slabs to run pex. Any & all ideas are welcome.
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
    Is anyone aware of any research that compares the efficiency of steam vs. low temp hydronic vs forced air? Steam seems to have a lot of transport efficiencies, but I wonder if that is offset by the losses in the boiler to maintain the higher temps required to make steam.
  • izhadano
    izhadano Member Posts: 90
    Voyager Is anyone aware of any research that compares the efficiency of steam vs. low temp hydronic vs forced air?
    Air is a inefficient heat transfer media, plus it it tends to rise to the ceiling and escape. Not to mention all the bacteria and dust circulation. It's a reason why forced air is not popular in Europe where houses kept for generations. In US, with average 7 years house hoping, dual heating/cooling forced air systems are good selling point for builders (cheep as well) and for buyers.
    Regarding steam versus hydronic - post from 2016:
    gennady Member Posts: 822
    April 2016 edited April 2016
    We did oil to gas conversions in 2 identical brownstones in Brooklyn one within few blocks from another. One had steam system, another hot water system.
    We installed steam Slant Fin boiler with trvs and viessmann vitodens in these houses. Then we analyzed bills. They were actually very close, within 3-4%, even without accounting for electrical consumption.
    Since then I always advise clients not to convert to hydronic system. Few listen. In case of gut renovation we do conversions to hot water if client insists. Otherwise the cost is prohibitive.
    Properly done steam system is on par with hydronic in all aspects. Just my 2 cents.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,843
    Wasn't the paint roller invented around 1940? Can you imagine painting a whole room with a 4 in brush? Maybe that is why wallpaper was popular.
  • billydick
    billydick Member Posts: 3
    Dan, Would you consider doing an article on hydronic heating across the pond? The UK recently mandated that replacement of existing fossil fuel fired boilers MUST be with an air-source heat pump. Trouble is, now the homeowners are cold. It seems their radiators are "too small" and must be replaced or added to. Of course you need all new insulation. Typical homeowners are looking at 15,000 to 20,000 pounds sterling to make the "new" system work. Turns out air source heat pumps produce water heated to 120 to 140 degrees F, and the existing radiators were designed around water of 160 to 180 degrees F; hence the need for more radiation--DUH !