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  1. #1

    Convert to Hydro-Air from Cast-Iron Radiators?

    A year ago we bought our 1927 house in the Boston area. We have cast-iron hot water radiators and installed a high efficiency boiler with indirect hot water heater last year. We are planning to install conventional ducts for central air. It turns out that for another $1,000 we can also remove our radiators and convert to hydro-air. Should we do it?

    Here's my list of pro /cons. Any others we didn't think of?

    Pros:
    - Will get heat in all bathrooms (currently we don't have a radiators in the 1st floor half bath and the radiators in the 2nd floor baths do not seem to heat up)
    - Give space for better furniture placement
    - When we return home from ski trips the heat will come on quicker (now it takes an hour for the house to become warm)
    - Hope the temperature will be more even, now when the radiators heat up their hold on to the heat which makes the house warmer then we'd like
    - Solve the heat issue when plan for a kitchen remodel (the radiator is built in wall which we plan to remove)
    - Removing radiator pipes in the basement will allow us to finish the space with good headroom
    - Adding zones - now we are on one zone and with the hydro-air we are planning to get two systems with one from basement to first floor and the other in attic to second and third floor

    Cons:
    - Dryer air (with a humidifier, does hydro-air feel more dry than radiators?)
    - Noise (should we assume it's noisier?)
    - We have a system that works and concerned about installing something that doesn't work for some reason
    - Carpentry work - we'll have to fix the floor and paint (something we plan to do on our own and we already have all the paint)

    What are your thoughts regarding hydro-air from the perspective of comfort, cost of operating, and maintenance? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    You may want to re-post this in the AOP forum and get some feed back from contractors in your area. My grandparents had a really large house in Arlington Heights of the same vintage that had a forced air furnace and it worked good. If you are having problems with your current system the decision seems to be an easy one. It seems as though you have given this a lot of thought to this. To address some of your cons, on the issue of dryer air, relative humidity is the product of temperature and available moisture and not the delivery system. On the question of noise, if your contractor does a good job on the design and installation that should not an issue. I can understand your reservations but an air handler with a hot water coil will work.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
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    Let's see

    You have a legacy, high mass rads that reflect a 1927 house that you can now send lower temp water that has been reduced to reflect the outside air temp ( called outdoor rest temp) and you wan to throw that old stuff away?

    I would kill for an old, high mass rad system and you want to scrap it NOOOO!!!!
    DON"T DO IT. Do both, use the hydro in the spring and fall and let those great rads do the job in the winter (when outside temp is below 45)

    Just cause it is old doesn't mean it is no longer of use.... look at me, I am 64 and think I am just at the mid point of usefulness
    You have got to learn from other people's mistakes! Because God knows you don't live long enough to make them all yourself !!!!!!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
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    Genduct makes some good points. You can probably move the radiators to different locations when you do your re-model. Radiation heat is known for being the most comfortable type of heat. In addition to adding outdoor reset, you may be able to add relatively inexpensive thermostatic valves to the radiators to better control the temperature. As for the cold radiator in the 2nd floor bathroom, have you tried bleeding it?

    As for the air conditioning, have you looked into mini-splits, or high velocity systems that don't require full sized ductwork?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    I have said this many times on this site.....NOOOOOOO,

    The rads are the best heat next to floor heating, the piping in the basement can be changed to smaller piping and put up beside the support beam, (assuming you have one) and it is not that pricey. The kitchen can get a radiant floor and you can through in a couple of ductless splits (Mits or Fujitsu) for cooling.

    Apologies to the forced air folks but you have a system that lasted for nearly 100 years and the rads will last for another 100 and forced air cannot beat the comfort without a lot of work, let alone the quiet, relatively dustless environment.

  6. #6
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    Keeps the rads for primary heat - only a modulating furnace can provide similar comfort.

    Get an air handler and ductwork installed for a/c; a hydronic coil can even be added for fast warm-ups.

    Get the best of both systems if you can afford it.

    - Dryer air (with a humidifier, does hydro-air feel more dry than radiators?)
    The moisture content of the air is a function of air infiltration and internal moisture production from cooking and showing.

    Forced air doesn't dry the air, excessive air leakage does.

    - Hope the temperature will be more even, now when the radiators heat up their hold on to the heat which makes the house warmer then we'd like
    The heat anticipator (google it) in your t-stat is set wrong in that case.

    The heat should shut off a little bit before the actual setpoint is reached.

    An outdoor reset which reduces the water temperature in mild weather could help with the overshooting problem.


    let alone the quiet, relatively dustless environment.

    ...use a decent media filter and dust distribution won't be a problem.

    ...have the duct system properly designed and noise won't be a problem.
    General public's attitude towards our energy predicament: "I reject the reality of finite resource depletion and substitute it with my own; energy is infinite, we just need an alternative storage medium to run the cars on. The economy can grow indefinitely - we just need to "green" everything! Technology is energy! Peak what?"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolarMike View Post
    I have said this many times on this site.....NOOOOOOO,

    The rads are the best heat next to floor heating, the piping in the basement can be changed to smaller piping and put up beside the support beam, (assuming you have one) and it is not that pricey. The kitchen can get a radiant floor and you can through in a couple of ductless splits (Mits or Fujitsu) for cooling.

    Apologies to the forced air folks but you have a system that lasted for nearly 100 years and the rads will last for another 100 and forced air cannot beat the comfort without a lot of work, let alone the quiet, relatively dustless environment.
    Hydronic heat and ductless heat pumps. Yes, yes I like the way you think.

  8. #8
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    Those mini-splits are probably really expensive to fix with all the proprietary Asian electronic components in them.

    They have their place, but don't provide central cooling - bad if the floor plan isn't open concept.
    General public's attitude towards our energy predicament: "I reject the reality of finite resource depletion and substitute it with my own; energy is infinite, we just need an alternative storage medium to run the cars on. The economy can grow indefinitely - we just need to "green" everything! Technology is energy! Peak what?"

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by amd View Post
    Those mini-splits are probably really expensive to fix with all the proprietary Asian electronic components in them.

    They have their place, but don't provide central cooling - bad if the floor plan isn't open concept.
    They never break! Seriously on Mitsubishi and Fujitsu they just don't have many problems. If I get a service call, 9 times out of 10 it is rodent damage, chewing wires, etc... or simply lack of maintenance, dirt etc...

    And as far as them not being able to do central cooling/heating, that is a common misconception. They provide much better comfort levels than ducted systems since by their nature they are always fully zoned systems.

    You can have a ceiling concealed unit in each larger room with a duct running off of them to adjacent small rooms if needed. They are far more options available than just wall mounted units.

  10. #10
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    ...sounds very expensive to install.
    General public's attitude towards our energy predicament: "I reject the reality of finite resource depletion and substitute it with my own; energy is infinite, we just need an alternative storage medium to run the cars on. The economy can grow indefinitely - we just need to "green" everything! Technology is energy! Peak what?"

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by amd View Post
    ...sounds very expensive to install.
    Price would be comparable to installing a full duct system and equipment like the OP needs.

    It is gaining in market share as energy prices keep rising.

  12. #12
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    No, Not so expensive, especially if you consider the issues the OP will have with any bulkheads and cornice mouldings and any number of construction related issues around putting in a full ducted system (and I am not a fan of Unico/Spacepac either).

    And from a running cost point of view, cooling the bedroom and not the basement costs a lot less.

  13. #13
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    The basement doesn't get cooled as long as the duct system is properly designed and sealed.

    Forced air gets a bad reputation because most residential duct systems are junk; contractors aren't forced to seal every joint like they should. They must believe that leakage into the conditioned space doesn't pose a problem.
    General public's attitude towards our energy predicament: "I reject the reality of finite resource depletion and substitute it with my own; energy is infinite, we just need an alternative storage medium to run the cars on. The economy can grow indefinitely - we just need to "green" everything! Technology is energy! Peak what?"

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