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Dash 03-29-2006 10:55 AM

Radiators vrs forced hot air heating?
Hello all,

I'm in the process of buying a new home. It's an older house and has radiator heat (steam I believe) and no central air. I intend to have central air installed and I'm wondering if it's worth it to switch from radiators to forced hot air since I'll be adding ducts anyway.

Any thoughts on the pro's and cons of radiators and forced hot air?

CraigFL 03-29-2006 01:40 PM

A lot of people like stem/radiator heat because it's not a forced air system --- keeps down the dust, less noise and warmer(no draft). Sometimes with older homes people use the so called "ductless" type A/C units to minimize the problems associated with installing new ductwork.

Dash 03-30-2006 01:41 PM

Thanks Craig, I'm hearing good things about the steam/radiators so I'm gonna stick with them unless they turn out to be a problem for some unforseen reason.

Good write up on them here:

onyx 03-31-2006 02:10 PM

I would do both - We did the same thing - I t was EXPENSIVE to add the forced air ducting, but that is necessary for central air anyway. A furnace/air handler as opposed to just an air handler is not much more money (about $600 in our case) and the one big drawback on our boiler heat is it takes a long time to warm up a room. The forced ait heat can heat up the place in no time.

Aceinstaller 04-01-2006 11:20 PM


less dust with radiator????????????
draft from moving air????????????

sounds like you have been talking to people that need to purchase an air cleaner, and have improperly sized or improperly laid out ductwork that is in need of repair or zoning.

There are many reasons for homeowners changing over to forced air from boiler heat.
1. humidifier
2. central a/c
3. efficiency
4. Ability to install air cleaners (to remove dust, or even bring in fresh air from outside to avoid stagnant air in home)


I do however, agree with the noise factor. radiators are very quiet. Some of my customers will keep them just for that reason. Then I will end up installing an air handler, leaving the customer with the option of a heating coil that can be installed at any time in the future. Most of these coils arent as efficient as a gas fired furnace, but with the prices of gas on the rise it is pretty close.

I also love some of those really old boilers that have the ability to burn wood. When there is a really cold mont out here in chicago, this can save a bundle.

CraigFL 04-02-2006 08:15 AM


Originally Posted by Aceinstaller

less dust with radiator????????????
draft from moving air????????????


It's a known fact that forced air systems spread the dust around more. No filter eliminates all the particulates because they still have to pass air. The moving air also helps to disperse the dust more.

As far as the draft.... People will not feel as warm if there is a breeze associated with air the same temperature as still air-- this is why we like a fan on in the summer.


Aceinstaller 04-02-2006 04:33 PM

how do you remove dust without circulating the air through some sort of a filter?

of course, the 29 cent filter doesn't catch much dust, but there are many filters that I install that can even remediate some of the most advanced allergies in this county. It not only catches dust, but also pollen and airborne bacteria.

try to do that with a radiator.:p

CraigFL 04-03-2006 06:14 AM

I think we're nitpicking now.... I originally said that the radiator "keeps down dust" . My experience is that with non forced air systems, dust is more localized around the door where it came in rather than being picked up by the cold air returns and spread around the house. Of course your correct in that expensive particulate filters would solve this problem but most forced air users don't have these...

Aceinstaller 04-15-2006 10:42 PM

just rustling your feathers


DAJO 02-03-2009 01:38 PM

My wife and I moved from an apartment (1,300 sqft) with steam radiators into our new home (2,100 sqft) which has forced air heating. I would say that other than the noise the forced air works just as well and the house stays just as warm as our old apartment at the same thermostat setting. There is almost no dust in the new house, which probably means the filter was recently cleaned or is new.

As an engineer, instinctively I think both systems are probably just as efficient if the same fuel is used and there is comparable insulation in the home. The major difference between the two is that air is easier to heat but loses heat more quickly, whereas water is harder to heat but holds the heat longer. But in the end it's just how many BTU's you put into the system (heat input) vs. how many BTU's come out of the system (heat loss), and that depends mostly on the fuel used and how well insulated your home is.

As a side note, I think most dust in the home is actually dead human skin, although obviously if it is dusty outside it will eventually also get into the house.

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