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Plumbing and Heating questions
Old 02-16-2008, 08:28 PM   #1
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Plumbing and Heating questions

I've been in this house for 30 years, and it was more than 20 years old when I bought it (too lazy to look up actual building date right now).

The plumbing and heating (gas fired hot water) is nearing the end of its life.

Outgoing plumbing has already been replaced.
Boiler is about 30 years.
Radiators and pipes are mostly 50 or so.

Any suggestions on what kind of pipe to use?
Boiler?
Radiators?
Can I put radiant heating under a wooden floor?
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Old 02-16-2008, 08:45 PM   #2
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First the easy one: Yes, you can put hydronic heating under a wooden floor. The flexible PEX pipe gets run between the floor joists and there are aluminum strips that just clip on the tubing to increase the contact area. It makes the floor nice and toasty. The temp of the water used in these installations is probably quite a bit lower than is used in your present system--most of the systems use a high-efficiency water heater similar to/identical to the one used for the domestic hot water system. 90+ percent efficiency and not as expensive as a boiler.

Now the hard questions: What is going on with your present system? Are the actual pipes and radiators leaking, or is it only the boiler? Do you know if it is a steam system or a hot water system?

Is there something wrong with your domestic water plumbing, too? You say you replaced the "outgoing plumbing" but I don't know if you mean the "plumbing" for your heating system or for your showers.

One more thing: I know you are in Ohio. Do you have central air conditioning now, and is it something you'd like to have later? If you're planning to retrofit ducts for a central AC system, then that could change the answer regarding the best way to proceed to fix your heating system.
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Old 02-16-2008, 09:09 PM   #3
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P.S. When I bought a gas-fired forced air furnace to replace our old oil-fired one, I bought it from this place ( http://www.alpinehomeair.com/?asid=5035&gclid=CIvngcidypECFR0yFQodqXZeug). They sell boilers, too. At the very least, you can see the retail prices for some of this equipment at their site. I got good service, and there aren't many companies willing to sell directly to consumers (probably something about lawyers, liability, electricity, and explosive fluids).

Dang, those boilers are expensive! They do have a reputation for lasting a long time, but they cost 3 times as much as a forced-air furnace.
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Old 02-16-2008, 09:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
First the easy one: Yes, you can put hydronic heating under a wooden floor. The flexible PEX pipe gets run between the floor joists and there are aluminum strips that just clip on the tubing to increase the contact area. It makes the floor nice and toasty. The temp of the water used in these installations is probably quite a bit lower than is used in your present system--most of the systems use a high-efficiency water heater similar to/identical to the one used for the domestic hot water system. 90+ percent efficiency and not as expensive as a boiler.

Now the hard questions: What is going on with your present system? Are the actual pipes and radiators leaking, or is it only the boiler? Do you know if it is a steam system or a hot water system?
It is hot water (it seems it was once steam, there's a big condensing tank in the attic).

The pipes are slowly eroding (steel); when the kitchen was redone 8 years ago, a radiator was replaced, and there was almost no pipe thread left.

Some pipe joints and faucets/turn offs have very slow leaks; the system seems to be losing pressure very slowly.

Among other things, a new boiler would have to be more efficient than a 30 year old one. I was thinking of moving the whole thing out of the basement and having a wall mounted unit in the garage (if possible).

Quote:
Is there something wrong with your domestic water plumbing, too? You say you replaced the "outgoing plumbing" but I don't know if you mean the "plumbing" for your heating system or for your showers.
Again, all very old (mostly over 50 years) and minor leaks . Outgoing replaced: all domestic drains sinks shower toilets...

Quote:
One more thing: I know you are in Ohio. Do you have central air conditioning now, and is it something you'd like to have later? If you're planning to retrofit ducts for a central AC system, then that could change the answer regarding the best way to proceed to fix your heating system.
Don't have central A/C and don't want it; unless something like this:
SpacePak central air conditioning mini duct systems .
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Old 02-16-2008, 10:28 PM   #5
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The SpacePak systems save space by using smaller ducts using higher velocity air. They are also fairly expensive systems (I think they get sold mainly to historic homes where installing regular ductwork is unacceptable and cost isn't an issue).

Many homeowners replace their radiators with forced air systems. The ductwork is usually run in the crawlspace, in the attic, and (in multi-story homes) closets often form a handy way to route them around. Sometimes they are put into a small soffit run along a hallway, and they are fairly unobtrusive. I lived in a 1930's vintage 3-story brick he that was retrofitted with ducts, and it was great. If you decided to go this route, you could install a "regular" gas forced-air furnace and a "regular" central AC system, (and put them in your garage if you want) which would save a lot on the cost of the equipment (vs a boiler), possibly offsetting most of th cost of installing the ducts. One caveat: If you put ducts in unconditioned space (e.g crawlspace or attic) be sure they are well insulated (R-13 as a minimum). This is a place installers try to save a buck, and it costs so little extra to do the job right and saves you $$ for decades.

Hydronic heating is another possibility. That could be done with a radiant floor as you suggested, which can be expensive (depending especially on how easy it is to access the underside of your floor) but results in a very comfortable home. If you don't want to spend that much money, you could put hydronic baseboard heaters in your rooms (see the Alpine home air web site for a picture and specs) and replace your existing galvanized pipes with modern PEX tubing (that is, the PEX would run in the same spots where your galvanized pipe is now, and the new baseboards would replace your radiators. The hydronic baseboards would probably have to be slightly longer than the width of your radiators, but that probably won't be a problem. They typically can transfer approx 500 BTU/HR per foot, so look at the BTU rating of your present boiler and divide by 500 for an estimate of the number of feet of baseboard radiators you'd need). Of course, with any hydronic system (baseboard or radiant floor) you wouldn't have any air ducts installed so you wouldn't be able to have central a/c.

As to whether you need a dedicated boiler or could get by with a good, high-efficiency water heater: What is the rating (in BTUs) of your present boiler, and is it approx the right size?
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Old 02-16-2008, 11:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Don't have central A/C and don't want it
Would you be worried about resale at all?
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Old 02-17-2008, 07:15 AM   #7
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Would you be worried about resale at all?
My question too - I wouldn't even consider a home without CAC. Don't want to deal with the hassle of installing it later. Too many surprises in older homes.
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Old 02-17-2008, 09:03 AM   #8
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Would you be worried about resale at all?
No.

Also wasn't worried about resale when I removed the bathtub, and the garbage disposal.

Most of the houses around mine don't have central A/C.

The last county appraisal (5 years ago) was ~$70k (and that's what other houses on the street have sold for in the last year).
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