Hot Water Heat, convert baseboards to radiators?

kay_in_paApril 6, 2012

We just closed today on an old farmhouse that has hot water baseboard heat and no A/C. DH and I are discussing the pros & cons of various options.

I like radiant heat (have lived with radiators before), but dislike that all outside walls have ugly baseboards and interfere with furniture placement.

DH suggested that since we need to duct the house for central A/C, we just add a furnace.

However, I have a lot of allergies, and found that living with radiant heat was very preferable to having so much dust being blown about (we have 2 dogs, too). When DH offered that an air cleaner can be put on the A/C air handler, I stated that I thought it could be run during heating season for an hour or so a week to help clean the air without having the A/C on.

We live in an area that has LOTS of old houses and can find radiators frequently on Craig's List. In fact, we have 6 that we bought with the intention of using them as a heat sink for a greenhouse. But now I want to use them in our new home, along with however many more we need to have sufficient heat.

So.... my questions are: How hard is it to convert from HW baseboard to radiators? How do you calculate how many you need/size of room? Should the upstairs be plumbed separately from the down? Or should each radiator be plumbed back to the HWH? Any advice on putting back into service radiators that may have been sitting for a while?

We both agree that we like the redundancy of having multiple heat sources (oil heat, wood stove, and one room with a small gas soapstone stove). Also 2 rooms that were added on later are on a slab, and we're planning on radiant floor heat for them.

All advice would be most welcome!

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Converting baseboard to radiators should not be difficult especially if the house orginally had radiators. Old cast iron radiators can be put back in service even if they have been sitting idle for a long time.

I agree radiant hot water heating is the most comfortable. However variable speed furnaces have come a long way in increasing comfort. Since you are already going through the expense of adding duct work for the AC, and you dislike the ugly baseboard, then consider integrating a furnace. You can get an electronic air cleaner if you have allergy problems. There are thermostats which will turn on the furnace blower to circulate and filter the air at very low speeds.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 10:12AM
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How well insulated are the house walls? If they're not well insulated, you might not be happy switching to radiators.

The great thing about baseboard heating is that it washes large expanses of normally cold walls with heat, which helps with the overall comfort of the home.

My Mother lives in a 1903 brick Victorian with a combination of cast iron radiators and cast iron baseboard (which my Grandparents added in the 1950s to take care of some cold spots).

The most comfortable rooms in the house are the ones with the cast iron baseboard.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 7:17AM
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