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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
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    3

    Default Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    I'm trying to finagle around the high cost of putting in two new HVAC system which will cost between $15K - $18K. I need two systems, one in the basement to blow up and one in the attic to blow down. No duct work in the walls. All the radiators are still intact in the house and I was wondering if it would be more economical and cheaper to just put in a new boiler to use for heat and then install new air conditioning up and down. The house will be our retirement/vacation property and is located in south North Carolina and we will probably spend Christmas's there and of course summers. I'm not sure how much heat capacity we really need, and I can't decide if I should just bite the bullet and get it done, or if I should reuse and repurpose what is already there if it's more economical. Thank you for your help in advance.

    Ginger

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    Ginger,

    I can't really say because I don't know the age or condition of the old system.

    How many more years do you plan on using the place? If more than 10, and the old system is over 10, then replace the 'wear' parts. The radiators can live forever, but the rest of the system usually goes. BUT you may find it cost efficient and more comfortable to have all forced air.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    Thank you for your reply. Right now there are only radiators in the house, the boiler was removed by the old owner. There is absolutely nothing in the house to heat or cool anything. So we are in essence starting from scratch. I don't know if any of the old water pipes are intact or we would have to install new runs. I'm thinking that keeping the radiators and adding a boiler and perhaps new pipes might be as expensive as two new HVAC units, but I'm not sure if it's more environmentally friendly to keep them or not. It still has to be heated by oil or gas, although I've read that the new boilers are way more energy efficient than they used to be.

    Ginger

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    In that case I'd remove the rads and go all forced air. Since you have the ducts for the cooling, might as well use them for the heat. Forced air is faster and more responsive than hot water.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,736

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    Quote Originally Posted by robinsonwife View Post
    Thank you for your reply. Right now there are only radiators in the house, the boiler was removed by the old owner. There is absolutely nothing in the house to heat or cool anything. So we are in essence starting from scratch. I don't know if any of the old water pipes are intact or we would have to install new runs. I'm thinking that keeping the radiators and adding a boiler and perhaps new pipes might be as expensive as two new HVAC units, but I'm not sure if it's more environmentally friendly to keep them or not. It still has to be heated by oil or gas, although I've read that the new boilers are way more energy efficient than they used to be.

    Ginger
    Why don't you invite 2-3 a/c contractors and 2-3 boiler installers - so you can compare estimates on an equal level.

    If you have natural gas in the house, your decision will go down to the numbers, your budget and the contractors you choose.

    Cooling will have to be with a cooling system. Heating could be through the cooling system with exchange or with a boiler.

    Each way has pros and cons - study those carefully to make a wise choice.

    If you ask me, I'd choose to eliminate the boiler option.

    On a different subject, something you mentioned: today's a/c systems are pretty efficient and environmentally friendly. Much more than grandma's system.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    164

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    Ginger,

    Glad to see you are trying to learn as much as possible about your heating/cooling systems before you decide which way to go; generally, I would agree with most of what dj has said, except the part about eliminating the radiators, at least at this point in the decision-making process---I strongly agree with him about your getting as many heating & cooling contractors into the house to give you THEIR evaluation of what should be done, and their written estimate (called a QUOTE) of what it will cost; as the several contractors come over & give you their opinion of what equipment should be installed & at what price, over time, their different opinions will tend to "dovetail" into a certain direction toward the best way to go on this project---be ready for each contractor with basic information as to a) the total square footage of the house (or each floor if there is an upstairs & downstairs; b) amount of insulation inside the exterior walls & attic (R-19 is typical for walls/R-40 is typical for attics); c) the condition of all windows; d) the local design temps for the area---always request from each contractor before he leaves the house "Can you give me a written quote now?"

    It's hard for us here on the forum to give you a definitive answer to your questions since WE CAN'T SEE YOUR HOUSE and have to rely on any additional info you can give us as to: a) the total square footage of the house (total square footage is obtained by multiplying the length X the width of each room & adding up all the sums to get total square footage---this would include the sq footage of any basements or utility rooms that are heated); b) do you have 8' ceilings or more like 10' ceiling heights; c) how tightly-fitting or loose-fitting are the windows; are they double-pane/or have storm windows attached; d) the amount (if any) of insulation blown into the exterior walls & attic; e) do you get freezing/sub-freezing temps for much of the winter; e) do you get a lot of 100 degree, muggy days for most of the summer; f) what is the heating & cooling DESIGN TEMPERATURES of the house---in winter, this is the coldest winter temp experienced in the area during the winter season; in summer, this is the hottest summer temp experienced.

    All of these questions have a direct bearing on the size of the boiler/furnace (in BTUs/hour) you will need, as well as the size in BTUs/hr of the air conditioning.

    Once you have the total sq. footage of the house you can begin to get a rough estimate of the size of the furnace/boiler & the AC you will have to have installed (calculated in BTUs/hour); there are basic internet calculators of heating & cooling loads you can review if you Google "free heat loss calculator residential" or "free heat gain calculator residential" to get a rough estimate of the size of the boiler/furnace/AC unit; however, the heating/cooling contractors you contact should do an elaborate professional MANUAL J heat loss calculator and Manual J heat gain calculator to accurately determine the size needed of the heating & cooling equipment---the MANUAL J is a computer-driven elaborate calculation that includes all the previously mentioned variables that determine how large/small the furnace/boiler/AC has to be to adequately heat/cool a building, but not be oversized to the point where it wastes fuel & annually costs too much $$$ to run---in addition, an AC that's too large will not only waste money, but make the house feel clammy & uncomfortable.

    If you happen to have an installed natural gas pipeline to the house now, consider yourself lucky---natural gas is preferred as a clean-burning fuel that costs much less than propane or fuel oil---this means less annual costs for fuel as well as little or no cost for annual boiler/furnace cleanings.

    Get as many contractors into the house to give their quote & choice of equipment as you can before you decide on a final plan; consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors" and also under "Air Conditioning Contractors"---many of these companies do both heating & AC; also ask your relatives, friends, co-workers, etc. if they have had any heating/ac work done in the locality of the house in question recently & can they recommend anyone that did a good job; sometimes local real estate agents or home insurance agents in the area can give a good recommendation; your local bank often owns real estate & may be able to give you the name of reliable local heating/cooling contractors.
    Last edited by Pelton; 05-20-2014 at 01:40 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    For a/c depending on the size of your house you may be able to increase the size of the unit and go with one. We have a/c installed in the attic and have duct work going thru a couple of closets on the second floor to get the a/c to the first floor. Gave up a little closet space but saved $$ by going with the one unit.

    Personally I'm not a big fan of FHA systems. I find that although they are quick to warm an area but that the area quickly cools so the system is constantly running. My 2 prior homes had FHA. In my current home I actually opted to stay with baseboard electric with silicone filled baseboards rather than converting to FHA system.

    If you remove the radiators then you will also have to figure in the cost of repairing the floors where the radiators were installed.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    *** thank you all so much. I've been still trying to get the house purchased. The seller seems to think it's worth more than it will appraise for. Keeping my fingers crossed that we can still reach an agreement. Will keep you guys up to date.

    Ginger

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,694

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    Heat pumps might be the way to go if the winters are moderate. As long as the electric service will handle it. No reason it can't be updated if required.
    The suggestion about using Closet space for duct runs is worth looking into so maybe only one unit may be required.
    Good luck with negotiations. Amazing the owner would pull the HVAC and want more than the appraised value.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,776

    Default Re: Is it Better to Put in a New HVAC system or Reuse Radiators and Just Put in AC?

    You don't provide a lot of details about the house like age, insulation levels, window types etc because that information would have a lot of bearing on which system would serve you best. Also need to know if you plan on upgrading the insulation and/or windows. For example, I would not recommend electric baseboard heaters in an old drafty, uninsulated house. The electric costs would be way too high.

    If the house is reasonably energy efficient, I'd look into a pair of split mini system heat pumps. Another alternative for the ground floor would be a gas pack system if you have natural gas or propane available. These are quite common in your area, then use a mini split for the second floor and some electric baseboard heaters if the temps drop below 30 degrees very often. Gas pack systems are very reasonable in cost.

    A geothermal would be the ultimate, but are pricy and I don't think justified for part time use. If you lived there full time, then it would make more sense.

    BTW, not having an HVAC system should really lower the value of the house. If the seller can't accept that, then I'd let him choke on it.

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