heating systems pros/cons

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    • #276310
      Geraldine Darcy

      I am rehabing a 6 unit 3-story brick apartment building built in 1901, located in Buffalo. There are 2 apartments per floor, each apartment is apporx. 1000 sq. ft. I have the building down to the studs and am ready to think about how to heat the building. Previously the building had mini forced air furnaces within each apartment with duct work channeled through drop ceilings, which I have recently removed to restore the high ceilings.

      I need help on choosing which type of heating system(s) to use (Hot Water, Forced Air, etc.), and should I have one large system or separate systems for each apartment, and should they be located in the basement or within the apartments. Currently the building is fitted with separate utilities for each apartment (electric, water, and gas).


    • #293881

      I presume that you want each apartment to have its own “self-contained” and “independent” heating unit. This pretty much excludes a central boiler in the basement to provide steam heat or a central multi-zoned oil, gas, or electric hot water “burner.” You COULD, of course, use such a system if you have an ample basement and you and your tenants can come to some sort of agreement about how to fairly split the costs of running the central system. In the long run, such a central system would be the most economical to install and run. But there is really no easy way to determine how much energy each apartment is using.

      The EASIEST to install would be electrical baseboard convective heaters. Each apartment would be responsible for its own energy use. The cost of electrical heating, however, is in most areas higher than gas or oil systems. As the landlord, however, that would be your tenant’s problem…

      You could also choose gas hot air furnaces in each apartment. The main problems are proper venting and following the codes regarding keeping heat from combustible building materials.

      Gas burners for hot water heat are now compact enought to be installed in separtate units of multi-unit dwellings. Oil burners are also fairly compact, but the problem is getting the oil up to the higher apartments…so you might as well forget about that option. Hot water burners, gas or oil, require a lot of plumbing and, even with the modern compact burners, a lot of space to install the furnace.

      Thus, if your main concern is that each unit be self contained, I’d recommend either electric baseboard or gas hot air wall furnaces. If you and your tenants can agree upon a “communal” heating system, I’d go with a central steam or hot water burner in the basement. This communal heating system is what is used in many large apartment buildings (such as the “projects”) in New York City and other Eastern Seaboard urban areas.

    • #293882

      Heck – ya could hook up a main wet system with bypasses at each apartment and control the heat on/off at each apartment with electric solenoid valves – ya could even have them wired through some kind of coin operated metering system to ensure each tennant paid for what they used.
      Gas Tankless water heaters fitted to the exterior walls of multirise buildings are the common place things in vogue today – they are high output units that provide adequate hot water for two or more oulets at the same time and can be temeperature controlled for convenience.

      Selgas Services Ltd
      Craftsman Gasfitters, Plumbers, Electrical Service Technicians

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