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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Default installing radiant heat in an existing house

    I've had four plumbing/heating contractors here in the past week to talk about either replacing my old gas furnace (c.1974) or retro-fitting the house with a boiler/hot water system, which is what I REALLY would prefer. I know it costs more for the boiler system, but I plan on living in this house for the rest of my life... I would like to be comfortable.

    Here's the thing, most of them are pushing whatever furnace they sell. I am really afraid of buying some fancy, super-efficient forced air furnace and my floors are still going to be cold. Another thing is, these superfantastic, variable speed, three stage something-or-other stuff all sounds great until it doesn't work. My old furnace may be a dinosaur, but it never, I repeat NEVER has broken down in 35+ years!

    My house is a story-and-a-half Cape Cod style, with 2 bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The main floor is basically kitchen, living, dining rooms built around a central fireplace/stairway. There is hardwood floor on the main floor. The basement under the main part of the house is unfinished, so there wouldn't be a problem there, all of the floor joists are exposed. I realize the bedrooms upstairs would be another story, there would have to be pipes run somewhere and we could put baseboard up there (I really would prefer cast iron vs. that fin-tube stuff) There are runs from the basement where the current ductwork is, so I think that's a possibility...

    I guess my big question is, how hard would it be to do some of the installation ourselves? Would that even be possible? Would the heating guy tell me to jump in the lake? I have no idea. I would greatly appreciate any input.

    Eileen

  2. #2

    Default Re: installing radiant heat in an existing house

    I'm all for homeowners tackling their own reno's but honestly I can't recommend it for heating. The loops for infloor have to be balanced and planned carefully and I would not warranty any work you did...But if your willing to do your homework and take responsibility you could save some money.
    Forget castiron rads...geez
    Plumbing and Heating Tech.
    My plumbing website Hidden Content

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    The Great White North
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    4,045

    Default Re: installing radiant heat in an existing house

    Quote Originally Posted by Leen49801 View Post
    I've had four plumbing/heating contractors here in the past week to talk about either replacing my old gas furnace (c.1974) or retro-fitting the house with a boiler/hot water system, which is what I REALLY would prefer. I know it costs more for the boiler system, but I plan on living in this house for the rest of my life... I would like to be comfortable.

    Here's the thing, most of them are pushing whatever furnace they sell. I am really afraid of buying some fancy, super-efficient forced air furnace and my floors are still going to be cold. Another thing is, these superfantastic, variable speed, three stage something-or-other stuff all sounds great until it doesn't work. My old furnace may be a dinosaur, but it never, I repeat NEVER has broken down in 35+ years!

    My house is a story-and-a-half Cape Cod style, with 2 bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The main floor is basically kitchen, living, dining rooms built around a central fireplace/stairway. There is hardwood floor on the main floor. The basement under the main part of the house is unfinished, so there wouldn't be a problem there, all of the floor joists are exposed. I realize the bedrooms upstairs would be another story, there would have to be pipes run somewhere and we could put baseboard up there (I really would prefer cast iron vs. that fin-tube stuff) There are runs from the basement where the current ductwork is, so I think that's a possibility...

    I guess my big question is, how hard would it be to do some of the installation ourselves? Would that even be possible? Would the heating guy tell me to jump in the lake? I have no idea. I would greatly appreciate any input.

    Eileen
    There's nothing to say a new furnace won't give you plenty of trouble free years of service.

    Besides, boilers and the associated other components in hot water heat can also have breakdowns.

    Considering the ducting is already in place I would say replacing the furnace will cost a fraction compared to installing an entire hot water heating system in a retrofit application also considering any patching afterward.

    If I were to guess at numbers --- $4,000 for the furnace ---- $14,000 for the hot water system.

    Also with the forced air you are easily setup for central air conditioning.



    It's your nickel and your choice.
    Last edited by canuk; 02-02-2010 at 09:38 PM.
    "" an ounce of perception -- a pound of obscure "
    - Rush

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Posts
    554

    Default Re: installing radiant heat in an existing house

    Eileen:

    Yes, it is possible to install radiant heat, or even baseboard/radiator forced hot water heat, but there are some caveats that you should be aware of.

    The other posters make good points in that you already have a forced hot air system in place, so that it would be more cost-effective to work with what you have now.

    If you opt to buy & install your own HW boiler and radiant system, the boiler mfgr. would cancel the boiler warranty, unless it was installed by a licensed installer---many towns require that a boiler be installed by a licensed installer.

    There's usually a long period of trial & error on a first time install (normal) until you get to the point that you have learned the new system & how it works---it may be wise to maintain the furnace in place while you iron the bugs out of the new hydronic install & do things gradually with the help of knowledgeable people on the radiant forums and a number of radiant installation manuals and books you can obtain from various sources.

    Another strategy many diy radiant installers follow is to begin with a small radiant project, such as radiant heat for the bathroom---perfect your skills & technique on this starter project, then expand your reach to the rest of the house at a later date.

    Google "a little floor warming please" by John Siegenthaler for various approaches he uses for bathroom radiant floor heat.

    I've seen some diy installers go to Home Depot & buy a Slant/Fin boiler for $1300 & build a distribution system with PEX tubing, used cast iron radiators, baseboard & whatever & start their project from there.


    The public library has a number of radiant installation texts listed in the 697 numbering range---simply go to the public library & browse the stacks until you find what you need---the larger the public library in your area the better.

    "Modern Hydronic Heating" 2nd edition by John Siegenthaler is carried by many public libraries & is excellent, very readable with lots of diagrams of piping systems, components, etc.---the 2nd edition has many chapters devoted to radiant floor heat--great way to learn all about hot water heating in one text.

    Gogle "John Siegenthaler""radiant floor heat" for a long list of ****** articles he has written over the years on radiant floor heat.

    Visit the radiant forum at the "heating help" site (below)--click onto "ask questions", then onto "radiant forum".

    Google "radiant floor heat" to get numerous articles on the internet on this topic.

    Click onto my name (Nashua Tech) & send me a personal message if you need additional resources.

    At the 2nd link below the post by samesjr & responses have a whole host of different things you can do with hydronic (hot water) heating---there are all kinds of convectors, radiators, steel panels, kickspace heaters, etc. you can use to get the kind of hot water heat you want---forced hot water heat is EXTREMELY FLEXIBLE in regards to the distribution system.

    At the 3rd link, click onto the "New help with Pex" link by Ziffy for additional info on radiant heat.


    http://www.heatinghelp.com
    http://advice.thisoldhouse.com/showthread.php?t=56449
    http://advice.thisoldhouse.com/forumdisplay.php?f=229
    Last edited by NashuaTech; 02-03-2010 at 08:01 AM.

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