Zoning Heat in Old Multi-Unit Building with single boiler

4 Replies

I just bought an old (100+ yr old) 6-unit building with a single hot water boiler on a single thermostat.  The heat works fine and the annual utility costs are reasonable, but there is no zoning and no good way to zone from the basement since various apartments and floors are tied into the same pipes from the basement.  I'm sure we will run into the issue that it is cold in apartments on the 1st floor and hot on 2nd/3rd which will result in tenant complaints and/or upstairs tenants leaving windows open to regulate their heat (I had this issue in a similarly configured 5-unit building).  

I'm thinking a solenoid valve on a couple of the radiators tied into a local thermostat in each apartment would be ideal but I've never seen or heard of this. Does anyone know if this does exist or have any suggestions for any good ways to regulate heat in individual apartments or a way to automate the individual radiators in an apartment?  

The building is vacant so it'll never be easier than now to do it.


We had 3 story 6 plex 100 year old, radiator heat, We had a aqua sensor installed outside the  building by boiler room connected to thermostat.  We upgraded and went to a new boiler about 8 years ago and got rid of the octopus. 

We kept the only thermostat, in the basement in the boiler room only accessible to us. and we kept heat at like 69.

We bled radiators each season and made sure pressure was up in system, need 2 people to make sure it's done right. one at boiler, one checking each radiator. 

We had huge problem one year was cause from furnace flue, clogged with dead a pigeon. it took us awhile to figure out what was 1st causing intermittent time for water heater to go out. and then also cold reports in building, furnace wasn't staying on. 

We also had a 5 plex with zones we took it off zones and regulated heat by thermostat control on the furnace got it to a sweet spot and kept it there. We also made sure baseboards were heating and no air in the lines, drained and pressurized each line and made sure all was circulating.

Cold weather reports we stopped by and cranked it up a few degrees for a few days and then backed it down. We checked the buildings often and they knew to call if things cooled off.

Worst thing was when boiler went down, 26 below. not including wind chill I went out and bought every electric heater I could find, took the company 3 days to put in new system but we survived, we drained all radiators and were keeping plumbing lines running so no pipes froze. and heaters were on overtime.

Also your radiators should have a turn valve near base a big round thing it lets unit turn down circulation in radiator to adjust heat as needed. We always told tenants not to touch them we set at open all way for circulation flow, and kept them open.

Thanks Deanna, hopefully I will be able to find the sweet spot that satisfies every tenant but I've had issues with that in my 5-unit building; we actually replaced all of the old manual valves on each raditor so that the tenants could regulate the heat down as needed.  But, this was not inexpensive so it going through the effort and cost, I'd still prefer to make it more automated.  I like the idea of simply adjusting up to compensate for the coldest day; I may just look into a system that I can control remotely since I don't want to do anything that will add to the ongoing time required to run and manage the property; there is normally enough going on when the temp drops.    

Good luck, Dan,  In our 5 plex, which had the zone valves and each unit had own thermostat they left it on high and still opened window when they wanted "Fresh Air" huge issue for all owners. 

So that's why we just did the one thermostat in basement.We set the heat if we had complaints it was too cool we adjusted it if needed. 

Now days,, you can get a digital thermostat with access you can do as an app on your phone. good thought might be worth looking into for your building. My husband installed one in our home and we've seen savings.

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