Boiler vs hot air furnace

7 Replies

Hi BP friends. I had a heating question and was hoping to get collective wisdom on the following:

I just bought a 2 unit house with 2 bedrooms each floor. Total house is about 1450 sq ft.

Boiler to first floor (according to sticker) was installed in 1964 and not currently working. My HVAC guy said it would take some money to service to just test it and see if it works- so I figured we may as well just get a new one at this point and have a fresh start. All radiators on first floor look ok. He said cost for boiler and labor, as well as the updating of some parts related to boiler would be $3700. ( second estimate was similar)

Second floor boiler (hot water not steam baseboard) is newer and looks good, however there is a cracked radiator in Living room that needs to be replaced. He told me a new one would be $2200. We searched for used/ reconditioned but they are also expensive, hard to come by for exact sizes and matches, and need time and money to test before installing.

(I budgeted for this in my purchase price)

So I see 2 options:

1-replacing boiler and radiator:$5900

2-I thought of taking this opportunity to switch out the boiler only on first floor for a forced air unit, run the ductwork under first floor in basement, and use the first floor radiator upstairs. ( maybe I could sell the remaining ones on CL to recoup some money) I am waiting for an exact estimate but his first thought was in the area of $7000-$7500. Although it is more initially to do this, down the road I would not have to worry about the expensive radiators going bad. (I don't think I would ever add AC to this down the line even though this gives me the option.)

Has anyone ever switched boiler to forced air just for heat like this? Do the numbers quoted above make sense? Any other ideas or options? 

Any advice would be very appreciated!

Haven't done this but sounds like an interesting option.  However, I have lived in radiator houses a lot and never had one crack. I guess this is something to watch out for but I am not sure how often you should expect it to happen. Maybe you should get some info on if you should expect to replace another one of these radiators.

In your area it is probably good to have AC so that may make the unit  more attractive. We have replaced duct work so my advice on that is to make sure the duct work estimate is accurate if he is not doing it himself.  

I would get rid of the boilers and put in the ductless mini splits . Put all the radiators and boilers in a truck and go to the scrap yard on hollins ferry rd and get a couple hundred for scrap. Or go with electric baseboard and window units , cheaper to install and less maintenace down the road .  Is it natural gas or heating oil? 

Thanks @Colleen F. I think I will try to get another estimate just to make sure.

@Matthew Paul I thought of doing the whole unit electric. I also thought of just installing 1 electric baseboard in the living room (instead of the whole house) along with the new boiler, but thought it would probably need a lot of electrical work to make it usable, as well as removing the old radiator an closing the pipe loop afterwards? I guess it is worth an estimate while I have my electrician/HVAC there. I have not heard of mini-splits; will google it. Thanks!

Electric heat is expensive in our area and not attractive to tenants.  I have a unit with electric baseboards an while maintenance is minimal there are always cost complaints.Mini splits supposedly cost less to run then electric baseboard but I have not tried them as we would need an electrical upgrade.

I have the electric baseboards in 3 houses , they average 750 sq feet , 2 bedrooms . I havent ever had a complaint about the cost . Tenants use budget billing . And I have never had a "no heat" call on any of them 

A $2200. cast iron radiator would have to be about 30' long.

                  http://tinyurl.com/lrdnqwx Boilers, especially cast iron boilers last A Long Time.  Most especially if they are gas fired.  You boiler guy sounds like a "you need a new one" installer - rather than a service man. <g>  I would want to spend $100. and have an precise list of the existing boiler's problems.  And cast iron radiators last even longer than boilers.  I have a customer with radiators which were installed in 1870.  

BTW:  A first floor radiator doesn't have to be an exact size match as you can just drill a new hole for the supply or return pipe and patch the previous hole closed.  On a second floor I would look for the same length or slightly shorter (left to right) so you can just add a nipple to make up the width.

99% of radiators you will encounter will be oversized for the room's heating requirements  - so going a little smaller is fine.

stephen
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 Originally posted by @Jeff K. :

Hi BP friends. I had a heating question and was hoping to get collective wisdom on the following:

I just bought a 2 unit house with 2 bedrooms each floor. Total house is about 1450 sq ft.

Boiler to first floor (according to sticker) was installed in 1964 and not currently working. My HVAC guy said it would take some money to service to just test it and see if it works- so I figured we may as well just get a new one at this point and have a fresh start. All radiators on first floor look ok. He said cost for boiler and labor, as well as the updating of some parts related to boiler would be $3700. ( second estimate was similar)

Second floor boiler (hot water not steam baseboard) is newer and looks good, however there is a cracked radiator in Living room that needs to be replaced. He told me a new one would be $2200. We searched for used/ reconditioned but they are also expensive, hard to come by for exact sizes and matches, and need time and money to test before installing.

(I budgeted for this in my purchase price)

So I see 2 options:

1-replacing boiler and radiator:$5900

2-I thought of taking this opportunity to switch out the boiler only on first floor for a forced air unit, run the ductwork under first floor in basement, and use the first floor radiator upstairs. ( maybe I could sell the remaining ones on CL to recoup some money) I am waiting for an exact estimate but his first thought was in the area of $7000-$7500. Although it is more initially to do this, down the road I would not have to worry about the expensive radiators going bad. (I don't think I would ever add AC to this down the line even though this gives me the option.)

Has anyone ever switched boiler to forced air just for heat like this? Do the numbers quoted above make sense? Any other ideas or options? 

Any advice would be very appreciated!

I have swapped out about 8 boilers in my time.  I  not sure if yours is gas or oil but they should run you around 1200 to 1800.  They aren't to bad to do either.   I'll bet you could dobit yourself in a day:).   Swapping from a boiler to a furnace sounds like a nightmare.   Switching to electric would be cheap and easy.  

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