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I'm looking for recommendations.

I live in an older house that still has a steam radiator heating system. I'm currently using oil but I also have a gas line coming in the house which the stove uses.

I plan on replacing the current heating system but I'm not sure what my options are. I'd like to switch over to gas, but then what type of system do I used? Forced hot water, forced hot air?

I don't have thick walls for duct work, so I'm not sure if those are even options.

Thoughts?

Also, I live in Massachusetts which has a rebate program for upgrades to more energy efficient heating systems.

  • One floor? Two? If just one, and you have access to the basement, you could do radiant under the floor. – mankoff Nov 16 '15 at 19:17
  • Two floors with access to the basement. Right now, I think my only two options are to replace the boiler and keep the steam radiators OR replace the whole system with mini-duct forced air. Electric would be too expensive to operate. I might as well take advantage of the gas line coming in. – Quirk Nov 17 '15 at 19:56
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You can replace your fuel source, or you can replace your entire HVAC system.

For your fuel source, you'll need to replace the boiler, but you can keep everything else (including the radiators). This would likely be the least destructive of the options.

If you're OK replacing your actual HVAC system as a whole, then you have all sorts of options.

  • base board hydronic (would require running new pipes to every room)
  • base board electric (easy to install, not cheap to run)
  • standard forced air system (would require large ductwork runt through house...could be easy if access to crawl spaces or attics, could be impossible if not)
  • mini-duct forced air systems (uses high-powered fan, but very small duct. More expensive, but easier to install in old houses.)
  • mini-split heat pumps (a common solution in more mild climates that need/want both heat and A/C but don't want to run lots of duct work).
  • Thank you. This helps a lot. I'd rather not keep the radiators. So I'll investigate the mini-duct option. – Quirk Nov 16 '15 at 17:36
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Roughly, your (logical, barring a desire to make a huge change) options are:

Gas-fired steam boiler - least change to the system, given usual gas and oil prices should be cheaper to run.

If you have "two-pipe" rather than "one-pipe" steam, conversion to a hot water boiler using the same radiators (possibly with some additions) and most of the piping might be possible/economical. Otherwise retrofitting hot water baseboards or radiators is far easier than retrofitting ductwork.

Depending where you are in the state and your relative cost of electricity and gas, cold-climate air-air split-system heat pumps can be economical. The "cold climate" versions stand the previous assumptions about air-air heat pumps (when the weather gets cold) on end.

For a lot more money up front, geothermal heat pumps work nicely and don't care about outside temperature. You'd probably want a water-to-water version to make hot water to pump around a hydronic delivery system (which as above, might or might not include your old steam radiators repurposed as hot water radiators.)

Finally - insulate, seal, insulate, seal, insulate, seal.

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