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convert steam heating system?

Mary Member Posts: 2
I just bought a 1939 (1300 s.f.)cape with steam heat. It has the original boiler/burner and pipes and was converted from coal to oil to gas. It seems to be running okay, but want to start thinking about replacing it. Any opinions on whether I should stick with the steam heat or convert to hot water? Any idea of price range? I currently have steam heat on the first floor and electric baseboards on the second. Thanks.


  • Dale
    Dale Member Posts: 1,317
    How long will you be there?

    IMHO, The longer you plan to stay the more hot water is the choice if going to a new system. With fuel costs where they are and not likely to drop much the best long term mix of low fuel use and comfort is hot water heat. If you have remodeling to do like a kitchen or bath radiant floors are the ultimate in comfort. Not to mention unlimited hot water for showers. Since you only have rads on the first floor saving them for the look may be what you want. European panel rads or baseboard would save you money compared to elect. strip heat. Take a look at the tech topics on the left for conversion. Steam systems are not able to give low cost operation in spring and fall, they can be made to work quietly and fairly effeciently but not equal to a condensing water system.
  • gerry gill
    gerry gill Member Posts: 3,004
    i disagree,

    if its steam and you intend to keep the piping in the walls, i'd keep the system steam..however if you are going to replace every stick of pipe, then i'd probably go for a hot water sytem..
    Serving Cleveland's eastern suburbs from Cleveland Heights down to Cuyahoga Falls.

  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    Exactly! unless you are ready to rip holes in your walls

    and spend close to $10,000 on the heating work and all the sheetrock repairs and painting....stay with the steam. Mad Dog

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  • Ken_8
    Ken_8 Member Posts: 1,640

    she writes she has electric BB upstairs.

    Do we want exposed steam pipes to go to the second floor?

    Do we want to trust the sizing of the main(s) that apparently designed for a single floor?

    If the aesthetics are there, we could convert the first floor rads to water, snake some soft copper or even (hang on I'm chokin' on the words...) PEX? up to the second floor via hopefully ballon construction and make the second floor a separate zone?

    Just thinkin' out loud here. We really don't have enough info to respond intelligently - yet.

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  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Even with exposed risers

    it would be cheaper to find some good used radiators, hook them up and use them. I'll bet when they put those electric baseboards in they just capped the existing risers, in which case it would be easy to uncap and use them.

    Keep the steam.

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    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • JB_2
    JB_2 Member Posts: 68

    look into all avenues- ask others about systems, maybe a neighbor,steam is great, good for the house, good for the owners.IMO.jb
  • Mary
    Mary Member Posts: 2
    convert to steam heat? more info.

    Thanks for the feedback. It would be easier to leave it steam, but I'm wondering what sorts of problems might arise later. How long can you expect piping to last -- If I have to have the (plaster)walls broken open in the near future to replace the piping, I think I'd just assume do it now and convert to the hot water heat. A ballpark figure of $10,000 was suggested. What would it cost to just replace the boiler/burner and stick with steam? RE: the electric baseboards upstairs - the upstairs used to be the attic - converted about 10 years ago. For the most part, I don't use the electric heat and just rely on the heat feeding up from downstairs. Ideally, though, it would be great to get some other kind of heat up there. I plan on being in the house over the long-term. Thanks again.
  • Bryan_5
    Bryan_5 Member Posts: 270

    Price is generally not discussed on this site. You should check the find a contractor link on this site and have someone out to check it out. As far as the pipes, mine are close to 100 years old and they look great I dont expect to replace them anytime soon.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 14,457
    Your steam system

    will outlast all of us put together.

    Are you in or near Baltimore? If so, e-mail me!

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    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Dave Yates (PAH)
    Dave Yates (PAH) Member Posts: 2,162
    That's it, I'm switchin to scorched air!

    PEX?!? Say it ain't so-Joe. Is nothing sacred?

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  • Christian Egli
    Christian Egli Member Posts: 277
    You'll love your steam system

    It seems to me that your steam system has made it so far, it will keep running for a very long time yet. Maybee some years from now you'll need a new boiler.

    Have you already spent one winter with your steam? If not, try a season and by then you should enjoy the hot heat and the speed at which your radiators will make you comfortable, both of which you won't get to a same level with hot water. I think you are already lucky to have steam.

    Meanwhile have your system given a good look-over. Clean out the boiler. Perform a vent and/or steam trap survey and repalce or repair them; those are important components.

    Ideas for the future: your upstairs rooms could be fitted with hot water radiators, the hot water coming from the same steam boiler it is possible in case the steam piping is not easy to install . You could also have the same boiler produce your domestic hot water. But with all these additions you'll most likely need a bigger boiler.

    But why not? I hope I helped, I tried to find a flexible solution. You have every reason to be happy with steam, and if something is not running right with your system, it should be easily fixable, without any major disruption to your walls, life and wallet.
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