Old Building Boiler Heat Alternative Help

9 Replies

BP Community!

I own an 8-unit, class C multifamily building in coastal Virginia and am looking for a heating alternative that will allow me to decommission the central boiler. The units are currently separately metered for electric, and 7 of 8 units have separately metered gas lines for their stove-top. Keep in mind that ceilings are high and most of the floors are hardwood. I'd like the new heating system to satisfy the following:

1) Minimally invasive: I'd rather not tear out the old plaster to run new gas, water, electric, or ducts throughout the building

2) Cost effective: I'm working with a budget and need to make sure whatever is chosen won't break the bank

3) Transfer the cost: The new solution must pass heating costs to the tenant ... electric preferred

4) Energy efficient: Tenants won't want to renew their lease if their electric bill skyrockets

5) Effective: The winter months can be chilly in Virginia, and the system needs to be able to heat the rooms effectively

Thanks for your input!

@Tyler Kastelberg at one property I have, we had good luck just installing electric window units that do both heat/ac. I at first bought fairly expensive high end units because I was worried about the tenants having very high electric bills. But we have found that the basic units you can pick up from any appliance vendor work pretty well. But keep in mind I'm around Atlanta and it doesn't get very cold here. Also you lose some natural light and it has a bit of a stigma to have units in the windows. If you have a/c there anyway there though that makes no difference.

I think your other options are, in order of cost, heat pumps, mini-split systems and baseboard electric. I've not done much with any of the three except heat pumps which I normally use if there is already ductwork. 

If I were you I'd get several hvac guys to give you quotes with all of the above as options.

PTAC's would work - think hotel heat/AC. Mini-splits as well. you could potentially run electrical up the same area as the boiler lines and do electric baseboard as well. The other option would be to keep the boiler and charge the tenants based on sqft

@Jeff Kehl @Todd Dexheimer

Jeff and Todd: Have either of you had success reducing heating costs using a boiler timer that limits the boiler run-time to 13-14 hours/day? 

I considered running gas lines along the exterior of the building and installing wall furnaces, but I was advised that gas lines are very expensive to install and require permits. 

Originally posted by @Tyler Kastelberg :

@Jeff Kehl @Todd Dexheimer

Jeff and Todd: Have either of you had success reducing heating costs using a boiler timer that limits the boiler run-time to 13-14 hours/day? 

I considered running gas lines along the exterior of the building and installing wall furnaces, but I was advised that gas lines are very expensive to install and require permits. 

 We have put in wet bulbs set at 70 degrees. This doesn't allow tenants to increase heat. You can pick a temperature bulb. 

@Todd Dexheimer

Todd: Two questions ...

1) The PTACs that I've seen look to be quite intrusive ... with half of the module sticking out of the wall. Are there less intrusive PTACs?

2) I've never heard of wet bulbs. My quick google search didn't help. Can you link me to information?

If you have natural gas , bite the bullet and install gas furnaces in each unit . You need a permit for that and any other option anyway . Gas will cost the tenant the least . You have no cheap option , so what ever you budget it for , increase your budget  it will pay off long term 

You may want to look at Carbonic Heat for a solution.  They are an under floor heating film (electric) which you can put a carpet or area rug over.  It is very efficient, much less cost that traditional electric heat and is heats with far infared waves which heats objects not air.  It is a company in my town and we live at 6000 feet elevation and have lots of cold weather and snow from October to May..and the locals are loving this heating system.  It is run on thermostats which can be added  room by room so daytime temps in bedrooms and all rooms can be controlled when no one is home.  I am pretty sure that the web site is CarbonicHeat.com.   It would be the least invasive of the other alternatives you mentioned.   I have it and love it...