Extending Central Heat to 2nd and 3rd Floors

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by colden, Nov 21, 2006.

  1. colden

    colden New Member

    Messages:
    13
    I'm buying an old house with 3 apartments. Currently, there's an old FHA system for the first floor apartment, and just gas pipes for the second and third floor apartments. I'd like to convert floors 2 and 3 to central heat. I know putting in ductwork will be very impractical so I was thinking about using forced hot water instead. There is a closet that can be used to run the pipes up from the basement.

    Any advice would be appreciated!

    Thanks
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,271
    Location:
    New England
    High velocity ducts and outlet nozzles might be able to be used...depends on the layout.
  3. colden

    colden New Member

    Messages:
    13
    When you say depends on the layout, can you be more specific? Thanks!
  4. rudytheplbr

    rudytheplbr 36 Journeyman Plbr

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Ketchikan, Alaska
    Adding Heat piping

    First is your furnace going to be of sufficient capacity to heat the rest of the bldg? 2nd, if that closet is in a position to run hydronic heat piping, couldn't it also be used for forced air ducts? 3rd, how will the upstairs apartments regulate their heat?
    All these Q's need addressed, and the best way I can think of is to hire a heating/plumbing company to lay it out and price it. Many people think that all they have to do is add more pipe. Not correct.
    Your furnace or boiler needs sized to heat the whole bldg, in order that you don't get complaints of too much or too little heat. A reputable comapany will do the necessary calculations, sizing, and installation, and offer a guarantee, that the designed system will work efficiently for all concerned.

    Good Luck,
    Rudy
  5. colden

    colden New Member

    Messages:
    13
    I should have been more clear. The three decker was built in 1916 and back then, there were few options. Only the first floor has central heat by a forced air gas furnace. That furnace is at least 20 years old so should go. The vents are very strange looking as well.

    Each unit above will have its own heating system, which a web-based calculator figured out as needing a 50K BTU heater (1496 sq. ft. per apt.) Currently, each 6 rm. apt. has gas pipes in two rooms only, which are hooked up to stoves. BTW, the heat system is called "gas-on-gas" meaning a stove is connected to each pipe. Air distribution depends on convection or blowers only. There are no ducts.

    The cheapest way to go would be changing out the existing units and keeping the gas-on-gas. I have been pricing split-systems to add a heat pump and A/C to floor one. I'd like to add new central furnaces OR boilers to floors 2 and 3. Boilers are more expensive, but I'm thinking that ductwork would take up way too much space and be a bear to run. Then again, maybe a good, knowledgeable contractor could tell me the straight scoop. But that's why I'm at this forum...to gather ideas and some knowledge before contracting with someone.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,271
    Location:
    New England
    High velocity branch ducts are in the order of 4" in diameter. These get attached to a main trunk. ALl of the ductwork has to be designed for a high velocity system, it is not something you add onto an existing duct. But, since the ducts are small and the nozzles are too, they can be added fairly inconspicuously. The same ductwork can be used for cooling, as well. You need to talk to someone experienced in this (not me) to see if it would work out for you. Because of the high velocity, the actual size of the main trunk isn't as big as a normal system, either.
  7. rudytheplbr

    rudytheplbr 36 Journeyman Plbr

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Ketchikan, Alaska
    More Q s

    From your comments I think that you live in an area where air cooling is needed in the warmer months. (This being winter, warmer seems a llooonnnnnngggg way off [LOL]).
    1st. Q is the bldg insulated? 50K BTUs sound extra large for 1500 sq. ft. and expensive to heat. Individual heaters for each apt may be the best way, something like a Toyo heater w/direct venting to outside; since you have gas piping already installed, and they are fairly inexpensive.
    Where I live (Ketchikan, Alaska) everybody uses oil for heating fuel and I see homeowner after homeowner switching from boilers and furnaces to these units, and their fuel bills are a lot less.
    2nd. A house built in 1912, has lath and plaster for wall and ceiling finishes, and if you're considering duct work, how are you going to hide your distribution piping? There is much less repair work in small dia. tubing such as copper for hydronic heating and installation of apt sized air conditioning units.
    Plus, you may be able to use a larger boiler, and zone controls (with on-time meters) so you know what to charge for heat.
    3rd. I am not trying to throw a wet blanket over your project, and I wish you good fortune in doing your project. I am posing these Q s to let you know that any project in an old bldg such as yours, is a lot more involved than you envision. I would look extremly hard at anyone who says "No problem, we can do this in almost no time, and very little expense". The next thing you know, you're neck deep in the swamp, and alligators are chewing on your legs. As we all know, it's really difficult to keep your mind on the project of 'draining the swamp'.
    All the best,
    Rudy

    EAT "WILD ALASKA SALMON" IT'S GOOD FOR YOU AND YOURS!!:)
  8. colden

    colden New Member

    Messages:
    13
    I goofed. Each apartment is 1157 sq. ft. and not 1500. Insulated? I can see a thick layer of fiberglass between the rafters in the basement, but I won't find out more until next week when I'll be able to pull off a few outlet covers with my home inspector in tow. Maybe the attic will have a tell-tale sign. I hope. It will make the future tenants very happy.
    Excellent suggestion. I found a few web sites that sell these as well as the Rinnai which runs on natural gas. Rinnai has a model for a house up to 2,000 sq. ft., but there's no way one heater could do the trick unless indoor doors were left open so the heat could circulate. Also, the Rinnai Heater does not work without electricity, a decided negative should a Nor'Easter blast through. Seems the tax credit approved 95% efficient EnergyStar furnaces may be the winner, albeit the duct work is a major issue. Neither the Toyo or the Rinnai qualify.
    Well, I guess I could lower the 9-ft. ceilings to hide the works, but I do like the boiler idea with the small pipes, and we could make window air conditioners do I suppose.
    Large boiler for all three units and zone controls? Are you saying the tenants' gas meters can measure what they use individually? If so, that gem wins :)
    All well said and I couldn't agree more.
    Thanks Rudy
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,271
    Location:
    New England
    I think he was suggesting putting a time meter on each circulator to indicate what proportion of the total cost was used by each tenant. The guy on the first floor would get the biggest hit, since he would be heating the upper floor some, reducing that appartment's neccesity for heat. Say the total run time of the circulators was 6 hours, and one used 1-hour, another used 2-hours, and the other one used 3-hours. The first guy would get billed for 1/6th of the total cost for that month, the next 1/3, and the last 1/2.
  10. colden

    colden New Member

    Messages:
    13
    Makes sense. Unfortunately, a time meter would not work if the gas company did not use it to bill the tenants. I believe the gas company only uses their official gas meters. Right now, there are 3 of them, one for each occupant. I liked the idea of using one high-efficiency heating system, but without an arbiter of the price, it wouldn't work.

    Eventually, I'll be calling in contractors to see what they suggest....oh no. I'll have to sort all that out....
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,271
    Location:
    New England
    You'd have to be the guy to divy up the bill based on how long each tenant's circulator pump was on. Unless you get individual systems with individual meters, the utility company won't do it.
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