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.