+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 6 of 6
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    3

    Question Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    We currently have a hot water baseboard system we do not use because the propane furnace is too expensive to operate. It was installed about 1990 and since then the domestic hot water was replaced with an electric HW heater when the boiler went bad. We presently heat primarily with a wood stove. As we get older we would like to upgrade to solar, geothermal or other low maintenance models as we can sort through the recommendations. Any ideas? Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    180

    Default Re: Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    Harvey,

    The mantra in the heating industry is to work with what you got now, if the equipment is viable.

    To go out and purchase geothermal or solar would mean a complete changeover and usually costs tens of thousands.

    You might explore a changeover to an oil-fired boiler (just the burner need be changed) and an indirect hot water heater (to replace the elec. HWH) for the hot tap water (much more economical than elec).

    Is your location in a mild climate, cold climate; is there just 2 people in the house???
    Last edited by Dobbs; 02-17-2008 at 11:22 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    A few things I failed to mention are that we live in south central PA where the winters can be rather cold for periods of time then unseasonably mild. The house is made of limestone with no insulation inside the plaster walls. The single story with basement and insulated attic houses 4 people, all adults. I have shied away from putting in oil because of the rising costs and trying to give consideration to newer technology available. Although the oil may win out because of a lower installation cost. I did not know you only had to replace the burner. Too bad the previous owners of this house, built in 1959, didn't leave the coal furnace here instead of the propane. We will make do for now and stay warm with the radiating wood heat. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    Harvey:

    Yes, it may be your wisest choice to use the wood stove for the rest of this heating season.

    In the meantime, you can concentrate on additional insulation and further research on choice of fuel, & modification of your present heating system, or perhaps a new cast iron, or stainless steel boiler.

    Do you have a plan for air conditioning this summer??

    When you say limestone house, I assume you mean that the exterior walls can/can't have insulation blown in between the exterior and the plaster???

    This would save a tremendous amount on your heating/cooling bills if you could.

    A next priority is to use the sites below & do a fuel cost comparison between propane & fuel oil (I assume natural gas is not available to you).

    Fuel cost comparisons determine how much you pay for 100,000 btu of propane, as opposed to 100,000 btu of fuel oil.

    This is the only way you can get a handle on which is the least expensive fuel in your area.

    Another site below lists the most fuel efficient boilers, you may have to consider this if it turns out that your present boiler is less than 70% or 80% efficient in the fuel that it burns.

    Modern innovations in boilers and furnaces in the past 5 years have produced units that can burn fuel at 95% efficiencies (stainless steel condensing/variable output units); these may cost $4k-$8k; there are more standard cast iron boilers for $1800-$3k that produce 85% AFUE fuel efficiency (3-pass units preferred).

    An indirect HWH instead of a separate HWH or "domestic coil" would be preferred, Triangle Tube, Viessmann, Burnham or Crown recommended.

    Such boiler units as Triangle Tube Prestige, Peerless Pinnacle, Biasi Riva, Buderus GB142, Dunkirk Quantum, and many others on the list, are recommended.

    For AC, consider a ductless mini-split AC system by Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Friedrich, etc.

    You will have to deal with local boiler installers; consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors", but don't ignore fuel oil dealers, who are also licensed to install gas & oil units, & often provide a better price for the install.

    Get at least 6 estimates, as the cost of the install & choice of equipment will vary widely.

    http://www.bgmsupply.com/calculateheatloss.asp
    http://www.heatload.com
    http://www.propane.ca/resources/heatloss.asp
    http://warmair.net/html/fuel_cost_comparisons.htm
    http://hearth.com/articles/47_0_1-0_M7.html
    http://www.minisplitsystems.com/sanyo.html
    http://www.energystar.gov/ia/product..._prod_list.pdf
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 02-18-2008 at 06:01 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    Quote Originally Posted by JacktheShack View Post
    Harvey:

    Yes, it may be your wisest choice to use the wood stove for the rest of this heating season.

    In the meantime, you can concentrate on additional insulation and further research on choice of fuel, & modification of your present heating system, or perhaps a new cast iron, or stainless steel boiler.

    Do you have a plan for air conditioning this summer??
    Perhaps sometime but not this year as it is not a priority.
    When you say limestone house, I assume you mean that the exterior walls can/can't have insulation blown in between the exterior and the plaster???
    We thought about blowing in insulation from the attic down through the wall top plates or at the top of the walls to put holes between the studs. We tried to go down through the attic plate and not successful. Which leaves the option of putting circular holes all along the inside of the exterior walls. So far we have not pursued it for the patching involved and the fact that my wife's grandfather plastered the walls and she does not want to take away the beauty of them.
    This would save a tremendous amount on your heating/cooling bills if you could.

    A next priority is to use the sites below & do a fuel cost comparison between propane & fuel oil (I assume natural gas is not available to you).

    Fuel cost comparisons determine how much you pay for 100,000 btu of propane, as opposed to 100,000 btu of fuel oil.

    This is the only way you can get a handle on which is the least expensive fuel in your area.

    Another site below lists the most fuel efficient boilers, you may have to consider this if it turns out that your present boiler is less than 70% or 80% efficient in the fuel that it burns.

    Modern innovations in boilers and furnaces in the past 5 years have produced units that can burn fuel at 95% efficiencies (stainless steel condensing/variable output units); these may cost $4k-$8k; there are more standard cast iron boilers for $1800-$3k that produce 85% AFUE fuel efficiency (3-pass units preferred).
    This is where we are right now deciding which one to go with. That is tough to decide for which to do.
    An indirect HWH instead of a separate HWH or "domestic coil" would be preferred, Triangle Tube, Viessmann, Burnham or Crown recommended.
    Just what is this indirect hot water system? I have not found what it is as others have spoke highly of it. Any help would be appreciated.
    Such boiler units as Triangle Tube Prestige, Peerless Pinnacle, Biasi Riva, Buderus GB142, Dunkirk Quantum, and many others on the list, are recommended.

    For AC, consider a ductless mini-split AC system by Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, Friedrich, etc.

    You will have to deal with local boiler installers; consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors", but don't ignore fuel oil dealers, who are also licensed to install gas & oil units, & often provide a better price for the install.

    Get at least 6 estimates, as the cost of the install & choice of equipment will vary widely.

    http://www.bgmsupply.com/calculateheatloss.asp
    http://www.heatload.com
    http://www.propane.ca/resources/heatloss.asp
    http://warmair.net/html/fuel_cost_comparisons.htm
    http://hearth.com/articles/47_0_1-0_M7.html
    http://www.minisplitsystems.com/sanyo.html
    http://www.energystar.gov/ia/product..._prod_list.pdf
    I appreciate all the references and suggestions you have provided. They are definitely food for thought on what choices are expedient. Thank you Jack.
    Harvey

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: Efficient way to heat cast iron baseboard

    Harvey:

    Indirect hot water heaters ARE highly recommended by heating contractors because they are a very cost-effective way of providing all the hot tap water needed.

    They are essentially an insulated storage tank (without the need for a chimney or separate burner) that requires a boiler; a supply/return pipe is connected between the IHWH and the boiler so that 30 or 40 gallons of water in the tank use the hot boiler water to heat & store the hot tap water until it is needed.

    As mentioned previously units by Triangle Tube Phase 3, Crown Megastor, & Weil-McLain are recommended; you can get a lot more info & pricing on these by going to Google & entering something like, "Triangle Tube indirect hot water heater", or "crown megastor indirect hot water heater" (without the quotation marks).

    Selection of a new boiler, if needed, would depend on the units previously mentioned.

    Since you live in south central Pa., you have excellent choices.

    Your area happens to be the home of many of the best U.S. boiler mfgrs in the U.S. and includes the following highly recomended companies:

    1) Peerless, based in New Berlin & Boyertown; 2) Triangle Tube, based in Blackwood, NJ; 3) Burnham, based in Lancaster (Burnham also makes Crown & New Yorker boilers; 4) Thermo-dynamics is based in Schuykill Haven, Pa; 5) Dunkirk is based in nearby NY state (also makes Utica); 6) Columbia is based in Pottstown.

    All of these mfgrs are highly regarded in the heating industry for making excellent, quality products.

    What this means is that, the local boiler wholesale distributors in your area should stock ALL of these boilers, especially in Philadelphia, & other large towns in your area, and thus, the heating contractor or oil dealer who will do your install, should offer you a wide choice of the above boilers.

    There are a number of foreign-made boilers from Europe (Veissmann, Buderus, Biasi) that are world-class quality, but tend to be expensive due to the exchange rate with the Euro/dollar; they may or may not be carried by Penn. area local distributors.

    You can research each boiler on the "energy star" list, previously noted by going to Google and entering the name of the boiler & model number.

    This will give you a rundown of the type of boiler from the least expensive to the most expensive (standard cast iron combustion chamber (low cost, but good); 3-pass cast iron (slightly higher price, but better); condensing/variable output (higher price but having the highest efficiency).

    Determining factors on boiler choice would include how long you intend to stay in your present home.

    Most boilers will last 25-30 years, & the technology is changing rapidly; if you're going to move out in 5 years, it makes no sense to spend $8k for a condensing boiler, when a standard cast iron boiler will still give you 85% AFUE efficiency, & will cost much less.

    On the other hand, the cost of natural gas, propane & fuel oil are rising so rapidly, that a 95% AFUE condensing boiler will probably cut your present fuel usage in half; thus, it could be a wise choice & the unit should pay for itself in 5-8 years.

    With a standard, low-cost 85% AFUE efficient cast iron boiler, you will still see a 30% drop in your fuel usage, which may be $900/year & would pay for the unit in 3 years.

    If you can get some insulation in the walls, you will save even more in summer & winter energy bills.

    Boilers are rated as to how efficient they burn their fuel
    (AFUE rating); a boiler with an AFUE of 50% burns only 1/2 its fuel, the rest goes up the chimney; a boiler with a 95% AFUE burns 95% of its fuel, the other 5% is wasted heat.

    Many of these newer boilers come with or recommend a thermostat-control system that's known as OUTDOOR RESET.

    Outdoor reset saves a lot of fuel during the heating season; it has an outside thermostat & is based on the concept (especially in YOUR area), that there are many not-so-cold days during the heating season.

    Rather than keep the boiler water at 180 degrees (normal, but fuel wasteful), the OR varies the water temp and amount of time the boiler fires, according to outside temp conditions; this is a good reason to buy a boiler that can VARY the boiler water temp, according to varying weather conditions.

    If & when you start taking quotes from heating contractors & fuel oil dealers, they should a) do a heat loss calculation (Manual J) of your home to determine the proper size of the boiler to be installed ; b) offer you boiler choices from preferred mfgrs as listed, based on what's best for your home; c) be able to express knowledge of cast iron boilers, 3-pass boilers, variable condensing boilers, outdoor reset, etc.; d) give you a written quote of the cost of the install with the name & model number of the boiler to be installed; e) remove the old boiler as part of the deal.

    Any installer that can't talk about any of the issues mentioned, should not be hired to do the install.

    The installer is an important part of the installation; the BEST equipment in the hands of an inexperienced installer who knows nothing about piping is a costly mistake, regardless how low the price quote.

    A low cost, quality boiler in the hands of an excellent installer who knows what he/she is doing, will save money & make for a comfy home.


    If you register (it's free) with Furnace Compare (below) you can do some advanced searches on boiler model numbers & manufacturers; they also have info on the warranty that each mfg offers for their product.

    Don't give up yet on the blown-in insulation; you're looking for someone that can blow in cellulose.

    http://www.furnacecompare.com
    Last edited by JacktheShack; 02-25-2008 at 03:33 PM.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •