Remove half of the radiators from old steam system


Old 03-25-12, 10:05 PM
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Remove half of the radiators from old steam system

I recently bought a 93 year old up-down duplex. The house is heated by a very ancient (possibly original) steam radiator system. It is extremely inefficient.

What i am thinking about doing is removing all of the 2nd floor radiators and adding an HVAC system in the attic. The ducts could all be in the attic and would not require opening up tons of walls and re-drywalling and whatnot. This way the two floors could be independent and also could add A/C to the second floor. I am in Minnesota, so A/C is not a must. The house currently doesn't have it.

What do you think of this idea? Is there any problem with taking half of the radiators off line? I'm very much a novice and any input will be appreciated.

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Old 03-26-12, 12:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
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Let me put it this way, do you think there would be any detrimental effect if you removed half the spark plugs from the engine in your car?

A hundred years ago heating systems were designed to pretty much heat a building with the windows open. The thinking was that inside air was detrimental to a person's health and a free exchange with outside air was necessary to promote health. This is the main reason why old buildings are so drafty.

Your building had radiators installed to heat it under the worst of conditions and THAT is why you think the system is inefficient. Truth is, the heating system is probably quite efficient, as least as efficient as early 1900's technology allowed.

What you FIRST need to do is to tighten the building envelope; seal off the air infiltration and add lots of insulation. Make the BUILDING more efficient first and then go to making the heating (and cooling, if desired) system efficient. If yo want to remove the cast iron radiators do so with the knowledge that you WILL need to also make major changes in the remainder of the system. It is a forgone conclusion that you will need to replace the boiler with a much smaller unit. While there are people on this site that absolutely love cast-iron radiators I am not one. I find cast-iron radiators to be ugly and not all that good for supplying an even heat. I find residential steam systems to be a poor substitute for a well designed heating system using either forced air or hot water for many reasons and I would never suggest retaining a steam system when you are planning the major renovations you have listed.

Others will disagree with my stance.

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