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Steam or FHW?

I've just moved into a 1940 built home that is steam heat using both steam and HW radiators in the older sections and electric in a newer addition. Can the existing steam boiler be converted to a FHW system allowing me to use FHW throughout the house or do I have to replace the boiler? :confused:

Re: Steam or FHW?

The boiler can be converted. It's the piping that will have to be changed. Is it a one or two pipe system? You also say you have both steam and hot water radiators. The only way both could work off the same boiler is if you had a heat exchanger.


Re: Steam or FHW?

John, Thank for your responce. Some of the radiators have flow on both top and botton, some do not. I did not see a heat exchanger. While I have not inspected the entire sys. I know some are on a one pipe set up. I'm not sure if that means they all are.
I have worked in ventura (Spelling problem here!) And know they are a fairly easy system to install.
A question please, ) Is the conversion from steam to FHW faily simple? Would my heating contractor know how to do it correctly?
Thanks again for your responce. Allen

One Pipe Steam

The one pipes can be converted to hot water. Click here


How old is the boiler? You also must take into consideration that the output of the rads will be much less and a heat loss should be done before attacking the project. Typical radiator output with steam is 240 btu's a sqft of edr on hot water only 170 btu's a sqft of edr.

The cost to covert a steam boiler over to hot water may not be the best investment as your ROI would be minimal if any when compared to the efficiencies of todays equipment.

Re: Steam or FHW?


Replace the boiler and convert to a forced hot water system.

The situation you describe in your post is a common occurance: someone buys a 70-year old house & finds that it contains an outdated, obsolete, money-burning steam heating system that was probably put in when the house was built, and then someone later tacked on a money-burning electric heat system onto the extension.

Typically, if you've just taken on a mortage, the last thing you want to hear is that you have to plunk down another $15k or more to put in a new heating system.

However, you don't have to do anything immediately; you can use the system you have now & do further research on heating systems & consider a home improvement loan, if the bank will cooperate; but you will be wasting money & fuel, especially with the electric heat portion (electric heating is the most expensive there is), so a change as soon as possible is advised.

I would recommend a forced hot water system where all the old stuff is pulled out, after you check that the exterior walls & attic have adequate insulation (very important).

Since the piping often has to be run thru the interior walls the use of plastic PEX tubing makes this work more feasible these days than ever.

Do the insulation job first (usually for several hundred dollars).

Since the estimates for this job are free of charge, consult the Yellow Pages under "Heating Contractors" and have several contractors come in, look at what needs to be done, & have them submit a written estimate for the dollar amount.

Since the current heating season is now winding down, you have the spring & summer to complete this phase of the renovation; you can then decide if you will be able to contract the job out by late summer/early fall.

Trying to tack on another modification to an already inefficient system, as is often recommended in these cases, will just exacerbate your fuel expenses & further delay the obvious solution.

There's no question in my mind that you will love the new FHW system; they are trouble-free, highly efficient & you will rid yourself of the daily/weekly maintenance that steam heat entails.

And the return on your investment will be well worth the expenses that you invest.

If you DON'T make this move within a reasonable time, you will find you spend wasteful amounts for heating fuel the longer you delay the obvious.

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