Home>Discussions>INSULATION & HVAC>Converting radiators to baseboard
4 posts / 0 new
Last post
Converting radiators to baseboard

I just purchased my first home and was wondering some thoughts from professionals on replacing my radiators with baseboard.

The main reason I was interested in doing this was because of the bathroom radiator to start. The radiator itself is only about 2-3 inches from the front of the toilet and it's very uncomfortable. And when the winter comes around, I do not want to get burned!!! I figured if it was something I could have done, I would just do all of them eventually.

Also, what options do I have when it comes to replacing them? I have gas heat with steam radiators. Can i convert them to electric? Any ideas or comments would be great!!!


Re: Converting radiators to baseboard


Since you have a steam heat system, the least expensive and hassle-free approach is to make minor modifications to the issues that are concerning you the most---such as the radiator in the bathroom.

Could you provide some basic info as to the square footage of the house, the approximate age of the boiler, the amount you spend each month in the winter for gas, your general location, is it a 2-pipe system or one-pipe???

A 2-pipe system (less common) has a supply pipe on one side of the radiator, and a return pipe on the other side.

If the steam system is over 20 years old, many people decide to convert to a hot water (hydronic) baseboard system---this requires ripping everything you have there out---the boiler, all the rads, all the associated piping---then installing baseboard convectors---this could cost $10k to $15k.

If it's just a single story house, some people opt to install staple-up sub-floor radiant heat using a hot water boiler.

I don't recommend switching to electric baseboard, since this is a very expensive way to heat a home, unless you live in one of those rare areas where the electric rates are 3 cents/kwh.

If you are handy, it's possible to do the hot water baseboard part of the install as a diy project, where you would buy the baseboard convectors & install them using soldered copper 3/4" piping or PEX plastic---you would then have a heating contractor install a new hot water boiler to complete the installation.

To just modify the bathroom radiator, there are several options:

1) move the rad to a slightly different location in the bathroom.
2) remove the rad & heat the room with only the supply piping (adding a few feet of supply piping) by installing a rad vent on the end of the supply piping.
3) move the toilet a few feet to another nearby location.

The last option would mean covering up the toilet drain hole & installing a new plastic drain connector to the main soil stack.


Re: Converting radiators to baseboard


Thanks for all the info. You supplied me with more than I thought I would get back.

It seems to me that this is going to be a major project if I decide to move forward with it. I don't know if I would feel comfortable enough to try to tackle this myself.

I will try to answer some of the questions you asked. First off, the square footage of the house is 1200sqft. It is an 80 year old brick row. When we had the home insepction, the inspector told us the boiler is approx. 25-30 years old, so updating that is in our list of projects. The house is located in eastern PA, so we get some cold winters. As far as the type of pipe system, I am not exactly sure on that. We haven't moved in yet so I didn't get a great look at them, other than noticing the cramped bathroom. Also, that would create a problem for me to give you $ amounts on monthly utilities at the moment.

I hope this information helps you out.

Thanks Again!

Re: Converting radiators to baseboard


At this stage of the project, you should be engaged in information-gathering and research of the heating issue, as you are doing now.

Since you are just moving in, it may be best to see how things work out during the coming winter before you decide to make a major investment to overhaul the heating system.

An important factor is how much the old boiler is costing you to heat the house over the winter months from Nov. to March---try to get last winter's gas bills or ask the previous owner how much they spent for gas over the past winter.

A house that is 1200 sq.ft. & has decent insulation in the exterior walls & attic, & good windows should cost no more than $2k per heating season---modern hydronic boilers are able to deliver those numbers because they tend to be 85% to 95% efficient in the amount of fuel they burn.

If your present steam boiler cost the previous owners considerably more than that last winter, say $4k or $5k, then it's probably operating at closer to 50% efficiency--which means that 1/2 the heat being produced is going straight up the chimney.

In such a case it would be a mistake to do nothing---you'd be losing money each month you keep the steam boiler in the cellar---you'd be better off spending the $10k for a new system since you would recoup the loss in 5 years in saved heating expenses.

You should also call some heating contractors (Yellow Pages: Heating Contractors) & have them come over to give their opinion as to whether you should convert, or keep the current system---and how much they would charge to put in a new system.

A house 1200 sq.ft. needs a relatively small boiler of ~48,000 btu/hr to provide heat: a heat factor between 30 and 60 is used to calculate the hourly heat loss from the building on a cold day (30 = tight house, lots of insulation, tight windows/storms, 60 = drafty house, no insulation, loose windows), thus 1200 x 40 = 48,000 btu/hr heating need (approximate)--there was a tendency years ago to install a larger than needed boiler, this would also add to unnecesssary heating bills each winter if your current boiler is oversized.

Some of the links below discuss these issues.


Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.