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Coming from Europe, I am used to radiator heating systems and thinking about putting one into a fixer-upper house I intend to buy. Where can I find such a system in the North-American market?

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I presume you want hot water, not steam? What kind of heat does the house have now? In what part of North America? –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 27 '10 at 18:55
    
Are you really stuck specifically on radiator heating, or more just on hot water heat vs. forced air? –  Eric Petroelje Jul 27 '10 at 20:29
    
Yes hot water heating, I am in Southwest Ontario. I grew up in central Europe and like this kind of heating system a lot better. I intent to buy an older house that needs to be fixed up, which my wife and I can do ourselves. –  txwikinger Jul 28 '10 at 18:46
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2 Answers

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You should be able to find them in any of the original colonies in colder climates, as they're needed for restoration work in older homes. (so, eastern seaboard, from Maryland to the north)

American radiators tend to be heavy steel or iron and gravity fed, with larger pipes that I don't believe are as efficient as those found in areas like Germany. My neighbors are currently going through a remodel of their home (1940s construction, in Maryland) got theirs from an architectural salvage place. The burners (oil in their case, and in my home), you can still get new so are easier to replace.

Contact your local plumbing supply store; if they can't tell you where to find radiators, their customers (plumbers & pipe fitters) might be able to.

You might also find the 'baseboard heating' where there's a copper pipe with fins attached that run along the whole wall of a room. If you just want the non-drying qualities of radiator heat but can't find radiators in your area, this might be an alternative. (I've never seen fan-assisted models in the US, either, but I'm guessing if they have them, it'd be in the northeast.

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A little online searching turned up some places that refurb radiators in New York, Massacussets and Vermont; there were also places that sold new radiators, including european models (such as wall-mounted and towel warmers) –  Joe Jul 28 '10 at 12:55
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Typical early style radiator heat is nothing like modern European style radiators. You should find out what originally came with the house to make the best fit. There is steam heat, water heat. The boiler may be powered by oil, natural gas, or (if it's really old) coal. As Joe mentioned, the radiators can be gravity powered or propelled with a circulation pump. The gravity fed systems use large cast iron pipes down to the boiler and is less efficient. A circulation pump feed system uses smaller pipes and is more efficient, but you probably wouldn't want to retrofit a pump on a gravity fed system without changing out the pipes.

I've seen a This Old House episode where Tom placed a European style thermostat on a standard water filled radiator. So, this may be an option for you.

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I'm actually using pumps on a gravity fed system, but it was swapped out before I bought the house, so I don't know how difficult it is to do. From looking at my pipes, they're all original in the main zone, and the second zone is copper pipe / baseboard heating. When the power goes out, the gravity fed area stays warm, so I don't know how critical the pump is in that area. (or if it's just from having more thermal mass) –  Joe Jul 27 '10 at 20:19
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The systems in Europe that we had had circulation pumps. I have several reasons preferring this system, the reduced loss of humidity is one, the individual thermostats on each radiator another. –  txwikinger Jul 28 '10 at 18:49
    
I should also mention that you can find radiator cores at specialized recycling yards. Again, This Old House demonstrates this pretty often. You can't buy new the bulky cast iron units that are found from houses built in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Some people prefer them because it keeps their house period correct and some also have artwork cast into the surface that matches the house. –  spoulson Jul 29 '10 at 11:34
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