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Starting from scratch - 4-Square farmhouse

Clyde
Clyde Member Posts: 4
My house has no central heating system since I got rid of my oil-burning forced air furnace. For the new system, I was considering radiant heating, but I would rather go with radiators of some sort. How do I choose what system is best for my application? Besides wanting something propane-fired, I am open to all possibilties. The house is 28' X 28' and two storeys. It has blown-in insulation and the upstairs stays pretty warm on its own. The basement is unfinished with a stone foundation and a part dirt/part cement floor. Last winter I actually heated the whole place with a corn stove, although I had to supplement with electric heaters in some spots. I live in Wisconsin and it gets pretty darn cold. Thanks in advance!

Comments

  • dconnors
    dconnors Member Posts: 215
    radiators

    radiant would be a bad choice i think due to the composition of the old floors. stick with radiators which will give you both radiant and convection heating. the new steel radiators look nice also.
  • why not radiant?

    radiant floors would be a great choice. Even radiant ceiling would be a great choice.

    unless he has 2-1/2" of wood on the floor why would construction be a problem. We have heated many old farm houses with radiant.

    steve
  • dconnors
    dconnors Member Posts: 215
    old floors

    they tend not to be all that tight. air gaps inbteew the flooring is like insulation. i have been in this situation in the past. ya have to make sure of the flooring.
  • one word

    TFinC

    Extruded Aluminium Heat Transfer Plates. Work great in that situation.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    Many an old house

    was converted from scorched-air, or from summer-only to year-round use, using one-pipe steam. We have actually done such a conversion and it worked very well.

    One-pipe steam has several advantages:

    1. You can use smaller radiators than with the usual hot-water system.

    2. You only have to run one pipe to each radiator, saving much labor and cutting the house up.

    3. There are fewer moving parts, such as pumps.

    4. Most pipes in a steam system do not hold any water when the system is off. The potential for freezing damage is far less than with hot-water if the power goes off for several days.

    5. Given proper air venting, steam moves faster than hot-water.

    6. If something does go wrong, you don't have to drain the whole system to fix it.

    7. Steam systems run with about 1/12 the pressure of hot-water systems. That's right- one-twelfth.

    8. If the system ever leaks, it won't damage your house nearly as much as a leaking hot-water system can.

    And last but not least.....

    9. A steam system with traditional radiators will keep the "period" look of the house.

    Are there any disadvantages? Well.....

    1. Pipes that carry steam must be black steel, not copper. These take more labor to install, although I think they're still less expensive to buy.

    2. Steam pipes must be larger than hot-water pipes.

    3. You must provide for proper drainage of condensate from steam pipes. Normally the steam main is pitched to accomplish this, which eats into basement headroom. However (according to one of my Dead Men's Books) it is possible to install a steam main dead-level if you drain it properly.

    4. If something is wrong with a steam system, it can be noisy until it is fixed.

    5. You must insulate all steam-carrying pipes. This is not necessarily a disadvantage of steam, since it's a good idea to insulate hot-water pipes also.

    6. You must "blow down" a float-type low-water cutoff every week (if your boiler uses one), to keep it clean.

    7. Some folks will think you're crazy if you install a steam system. But what do they know?

    I happen to like steam, and from what you're telling me it just might be the way for you to go.

    To Learn More About This Professional, Click Here to Visit Their Ad in "Find A Professional"
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    I bet with a well insulated house

    the biggest steam riser would be 1 inch, maybe 3/4 inch (if possible) for one pipe steam rads and the rads would be tiny....about a 3 section, 3 column rad 38 inches tall would be more than enough for a typical 150 sq ft room. The steam main may be able to drop to 1 1/2 inch for the whole house, like done on many old steam mains. With pipe sizes this small it wouldn't be very hard to buld a nice system. The toughest part would be getting the tiny rads if your'e looking for used.

    Boilerpro
  • Christian Egli
    Christian Egli Member Posts: 277
    Consider steam

    Steamhead makes a powerful argument! and he is totally right. Go steam.

    In Wisconsin, it's cold, right? Well consider how nice it will be to warm yourself up near a steam radiator. Specially if you are coming from the outside, steam will give the same cozy feeling the wood stove has given you.

    Hot water radiators will be nice too, but since they are not as hot, you won't feel the effect as deeply. Radiant floors and baseboards will be very comfortable but you won't feel them. As far as I am concerned you already made the right choice by abandoning the forced air system.

    It is still so hot here, you're making me dream about the winter to come... It's gently snowing outside, you are sitting in your favorite armchair by the window, the steam is coming off your cup of hot chocolate, and right in front of you, your loving radiator is glowing at you. You'll feel so good. With steam, who needs a roaring fire.

    I know where to find my favorite radiator, it's right there, waiting for me, keeping my spot warm.

    In lieu of steam, a radiant gas burner might do the trick. A wall unit like the ones made by Empire might be nice, but they are not really suited for central heating, they take care of only one or two rooms. You'll also have to deal with flues for the venting. I would not recommend ventless units, not even for accent heating, unless you are really sure your home is very draughty so that smell and moisture won't be a problem.

    But steam heat would be the best.

    Thanks for asking

  • Clyde
    Clyde Member Posts: 4
    What's next?

    Okay, I think I'm leaning towards steam. What do I do next? Who sells what I need? What'll it cost? How much can I do myself? Thanks for all the help so far!
  • period look?????

    1890 there were few heating systems.

    I enjoy the fact that you want to do new steam systems, they are GREAT and a work of art.

    To enjoy a period look and not destroy fllors, why not radiant ceiling. 40 BTU/ sq foot, noise free, weather adjustable.

    Fer Strip existing ceiling with 1x6, put up transfer plates, snap in tube, put up drywall, reinstall crown molding. Heat? Feels great and you can not see it :-)

    wheels
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    The first thing to do

    when designing any heating system is a complete heat-loss calculation on each room to be heated. When you know how much heat each room needs, size your radiators to provide these amounts.

    Then you size your radiator runouts, steam main and return main.

    Of course, you size your boiler to the amount of radiation it must support.

    Then you have to decide where your radiators will stand, and where the pipes will have to go. And last but not least, you have to put it all together!

    Too bad you're in Wisconsin- it's just not close enough to Baltimore ;-) . Try the Find a Professional page of this site to locate a good steam man near you.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    The first successful low-pressure steam system

    was patented in 1854 by Stephen Gold. One of his systems, still working, is documented in the first chapter of Lost Art. It has "Mattress" and "Reed" radiators.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    I have several 1870's, 1880's steam systems

    around here in scorched air territory. These large old homes have nearly 100% Reed type radiators. What a thing of beauty they are.

    Boilerpro
  • Clyde
    Clyde Member Posts: 4
    Is Steam \"zoneable\"

    The thing I liked about the radiant flooring was the zone system. How do you zone steam heat or hot water heat. I remember apartments in Chicago where you'd have to keep a window open in January, just to be able to sleep at night. I hope it's not all on or all off.
  • Boilerpro_3
    Boilerpro_3 Member Posts: 1,231
    Easily zonable

    You can zone room by room quite easily. Each radiator or heat emitter can be equipped with a thermostatic radiator valve, which require no wiring or electricity and have been in use for decades, to provide fully modulating control in most applications (no ON/Off swing in temperataures). One pipe steam is probably the easiest to convert to room by room control, then two pipe steam and hot water.

    I know what you mean by the "double hung" zone valves, I lived in one of those aprartments too in sweet home Chicago.

    Boilerpro
  • Christian Egli
    Christian Egli Member Posts: 277
    Steam in Chicago

    I'm going to Chicago this Thursday, I'll be on the lookout for steam radiators. I once stayed at a downtown hotel that did, it was the winter, it was bitterly cold outside, but the big cast iron radiator was the most welcoming thing. The valve was operational and I had the most fun playing with it. Educational fun, learning about heat transfer...

    There is not much more to life than roasting in front of a radiator. And Chicago is a neat town to visit.

    Clyde, it seems to me you are on the right track.

  • Clyde
    Clyde Member Posts: 4
    Say it ain't so!

    Gee whiz, I just spoke with a HVAC company and he said I'm looking at between $6,000-$12,000 for hot water baseboard heat. The boiler on the low end is only 85% efficient and the radiators cost as much as the boiler.

    Can't I do most of this myself? I can sweat pipes and am pretty handy. He also said if I found old radiators, the price would come down. He was against steam unless it was already installed.

    So basically what I want is a boiler of some sort, (propane, direct-vent,) and some sort of radiators. The house is all torn up now so I can put stuff anywhere it needs to go.

    Obviously, I wouldn't do the propane part, but I think I can handle the plumbing part. I also plan things to death so I would ensure that my design is logical and efficient.

    What do you guys think? Thanks!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,714
    You need

    to talk to a different contractor. Have you tried the Find a Professional page of this site yet?
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
This discussion has been closed.