Can a boiler be replaced with a hot water heater?
My husband and I are die-hard TOH fans. When we built our new house we incorporated many of your ideas — most notably radiant heat. We have had some problems related to labor troubles and inexperience on the part of our contractor. There is some fine tuning that remains to be done and we have even considered taking out our boiler and replacing it with a hot water heater. Could you recommend good resources on radiant heating?
— Sandra, Richland, MI
Richard Trethewey replies: I'm sorry about your installation troubles. Radiant heating is a simple system when installed by someone experienced. If your system tubing is by one of the major PEX tubing manufacturers "Wirsbo,
Stadler, Rehau, Roth, RTI, Embassy, Burnham" they all have local reps who can be a good source of technical support. There is a national association of radiant heating that has local chapters as well.
As far as replacing a boiler with a water heater, never use the same water heater for heating the house and making hot water for faucets. Water left in heating pipes all summer and allowed to cool are breeding grounds for bacteria. I prefer, and will always, a boiler for heating the house and a water heater for heating the bath and kitchen hot water (potable water).