Need Heating System Ideas for Condo Remodel

hoganfourDecember 29, 2013

We have purchased a top floor, 1500 sq ft, 1926 built condominium unit in San Francisco. We are doing a significant remodel including replacing all the wood floors and some of the walls/ceilings. There are currently 4 steam radiators which heat the unit from the building's main steam boiler system. There is lots of damage to the wood floors from malfunctioning radiators over the years. We would like to remove the radiators, cap the pipes and install our own heating system. What can we use to provide heating? We have a gas line to the unit. There would be space in a closet for a small furnace and we can provide exhaust through the roof. Radiant heat in the floor would probably be an option. And we've heard about a product called Spacepak. Appreciate any wisdom/experience that you can share!

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Well, I will assume your remodel will include insulation upgrades where indicated. It should especially taking into consideration the age of the condo.

Radiant heat would involve a boiler powered by electric or nat gas. Just wondering if the main building's boiler could power the radiant heat.

If you want a forced air system, that would include a ductwork system unless you were considering mini split HPs. Is there room overhead perhaps in attic for a ductwork system?

I would review options including your fuel choices and their rates. Is AC something you want or need? Top floor units may be warmer and need AC.

Just really brainstorming on the fly.

Are their budget considerations?


    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 9:51AM
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Are you opposed to steam heating because the radiators are ugly? If that is the case you can buy four custom radiators in several styles and colors.

Here is a link to give you some ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: Runtal Steam Radiators

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:23AM
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I found out today from talking to a contractor friend that electric radiant heat won't work for us - don't have enough electrical amps coming into the apartment. Don't like the idea of using a water system - too complicated in these old floors. The frustrations of working within the limitations of a 1926 building.

I love the look of the Runtal Steam Radiators. I wonder if they can be used to replace an old-fashioned single pipe steam radiator? It is definitely worth talking to them. Thank you both.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 3:03AM
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This company, which I think is part of Runtal, sells radiators specifically for one and two pipe steam systems. I have not dealt with either of theses companies so I can't comment on the quality of their products.

There are also small businesses who buy and restore old steam radiators. This is something to consider if you want to keep the 1920's look and feel.

Here is one place is Mass:

Here is a link that might be useful: Steam Radiators

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 8:47AM
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I would suggest a Rinnai Energysaver Direct vent gas units. Simple install, quiet and efficient. As well if you are looking for cooling you could go with a mini-split heat pump. I use a combination of the Rinnai's and Fujitsu mshp's to heat my home in Nevada City. Great zoning, great comfort and very economical operation.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 10:16AM
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As much as I love hydronic systems your best solution may be a multi-head split inverter heat pump with the indoor units being built into either the walls or ceilings. This way you will have both heating and air-conditioning with each indoor unit being a separate controllable zone.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 11:52AM
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I am not disagreeing with the above post. But you definitely want to understand your electric rate. California has some if not the highest rates in the nation and depending on your utility the rates may be tiered. I do like the idea of having AC as well as heat. The Bay Area has relatively moderate winter and summer temps.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 12:09PM
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