Small, Old House - Radiator heating Question ?

minette99July 3, 2010

Hi Everyone!

I have a 1926 home/cottage/bungalow - around 1300 sq. feet. I have a radiator in the kitchen, one in each of two bedrooms, and two in the living room, one in a full bathroom. No radiator in the dining room, however, I can see in the floor that there was one there.

Anyway, every single radiator in this house is placed under a window. Is this normal? It has never made sense to me in the six years I am living here.

Second question -- Two years ago, I re-did my kitchen. I had the old, original radiator removed because it was huge. I replaced it with a lower, slimmer unit. I was told that size doesn't really matter and I don't notice a difference but I am wondering because I'd like to replace another huge one in my newly remodeled bathroom. Does anyone know if a shorter, slimmer one will work just as well? Of course, it is under the bathroom window :-)

Thanks for any help!

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Before you start replacing any of the radiators, ask yourself if the boiler system is going to last much longer, and what kind of fuel it is that runs it. Is there an oil tank that you have to fill from a truck that delivers it to you? Is that TANK doing fine too?

I ask all of these questions, because I think the whole heating system needs to be reviewed FIRST. Before you buy new and slimmer rads, consider the economics of your heating system as a whole.

In the case of my DH's house in Massachusetts, he had to replace the boiler and the heating oil tank as well. And the radiators came out to be replaced with baseboard heating. In the two baths, no radiators were present, but in-wall electric heaters, which were left in place. The baseboard heating is run along exterior walls usually, except for the family room which was added and had no basement beneath it--so the piping could only go on the 34 foot long interior wall of that room. The system is also an oil fired boiler, but the pipes are not filled with water, but with some other liquid, which I cannot name.

I could not tell you the reason your rads are under the windows. It might be to allow placement of higher furniture along the walls in general. I know we had some issues with the walls getting very hot behind the rads, and the ones under windows seemed closer to the wall than the ones which were in the family room, which were about a foot from the wall, and he put tall tables over both of those.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 4:39PM
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Thanks Moccasin. The boiler is only 8 years old. The oil tank had to be replaced about a month after I moved in when my BIL discovered there was a paint tray placed underneath the tank with a large coffee can and both were filled with oil. When the oil company came to inspect it for me they told me there was a crack and the tank needed replacing, asap. This was not picked up on inspection, probably because the PO had so much "stuff" stored in the basement you couldn't get near the tank. So I had to replace it. (The PO denied putting the tray there or knowing anything about it when I questioned him post-sale.)

Anyway, I have since brought this bungalow back to beauty, I think, and i always wonder about the radiators and why they are under windows...

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 6:23PM
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Radiator btu's are 'managed' by the total length of the fins (the loops). You can replace a tall one with a short one, just make sure the linear feet of the fins are the same. Google 'steam radiator placement' and look for the link to Colonial Supply...they have an excellent sizing chart.

Placement was traditionally under windows to counteract drafts from old windows. With the changes to window quality, I think this placement is less important now...

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 8:16PM
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Yes, that is what the heat pump installer told me. The greatest heat lost is through windows and doors. So they put vents under windows and next to exterior doors. Sometimes it is inconvenient and I wish they were in the ceilings or high up on the walls.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 12:12AM
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Minnitte, do you have any more pics you are willing to share? I love the look of the painted panelling.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 12:15AM
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Sounds like you are good to go with the radiator project since the boiler and the fuel tank are going to be around for a long time.

I'd be interested in learning why radiators seem to be located under or beside windows myself. But probably what Idie2live says is the most probable one.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 2:21AM
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Thanks everyone! i appreciate your help. Since my house is old AND small, it raises questions in my mind, often.

idie2live - yes, I have more pics... will organize them and put them in a new thread maybe this weekend :) when i have some time! Thank you for your nice compliments :)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 6:04AM
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BTW you're so lucky to have radiators. Having lived with radiators in my apartment and baseboard heating in my cottage, the radiators give off so much more heat than baseboard.

If I were able to pick my heating system in the future, I don't think I'd go with baseboard.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 7:20AM
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I would give anything to NOT have those long baseboard heaters in my house. They take up so much room in my tny rooms and I can't put anything flush against most walls, my curtains have to be shorter and my 4 yo has the annoying habit of standing on them to look out the windows or walk on to navigate around a room.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 8:53AM
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I had not thought about 4 year olds and their ability to imagine toys out of thin air!

In DH's house, we have no curtains to deal with, just plantation shutters on 8 of the windows. And I did not put furniture along the exterior walls, as chance would have it. So that was not an issue for us. But I can well understand that it is a problem.

Down south, our HVAC vents are mostly in the ceiling or the floor for elevated homes. In have seen a few with vents in the walls, but not many. My attic in Mobile has limited usefulness because of the ductwork and the inside half of the heat pump which is up there.

When this house was built in 1950, it had a gas floor furnace in the hall. No ductwork at all, just a heating unit under the house in that crawl space, a grate in front of the only bathroom, and the hall made wide enough that you could walk without stepping on the grate when the heat was working. They took out the grate and replaced it with 1.5" wide oak to match the rest of the floor when they added a heat pump....but the floor will need repair soon, as it seems to be settling. I'm also thinking they left the old gas furnace under the house, something that I really do not like. In the days before whole house a/c, our homes usually had a whole house attic fan in the hall near the heating system. And that HUGE old fan was removed to make room for lifting the heat pump into the attic, and it was shoved into the back of the attic. This kind of thing really irks me, since I believe in clearing the decks before launching new home improvements.

Sorry to digress here. No one-size-fits-all heating system is appropriate for all areas of the country. The need to COOL is more important here than heating. But this week, I can truly sympathize with you guys up New England way, where it is around 100 degrees and above, and no rain in sight.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 2:53PM
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