Advice on radiator upgrades...
September 24, 2012 7:38 AM   Subscribe

As part of a big upcoming pre-winter energy improvement and remodeling at Chez McMurphy (sprayfoaming, new windows, etc), we're going to have to remove the 1920s era cast iron radiators. I'd like to replace them with more modern efficient "european style" flat panels. (My first option, sandblasting and refurbishing them turns out to be considerably more expensive.) A couple of questions though....

1) We're only redoing the upstairs. There are radiators on both floors. Can you have a system with the old radiators on one floor and new ones on another? (These are two-pipe hot water on a boiler, not steam.)

2) Any experiences with different types or brands of radiators? There's Runtal - which are the closest to ones I've seen in Europe. There's Myson - which seems to be less expensive. Other brands to consider? Best sources? (I'm not planning on doing this myself, but would like to be a lot more knowledgeable about the options, and probably buy the units myself and have them installed rather than a package.) Baseboard vs wall mount? Wall mount vs. towel rack?

3) These radiators have probably not been touched since the house was built; I'm guessing that separating the radiators from pipes isn't going to be easy. Is there anything that I can do to prep for that to make them easier to remove from the pipes? I'm worried that brute force alone will damage the pipes, which will then lead to a whole other complicated set of repairs.

4) Is there anything that can or should be done to improve the efficiency of the system while they're off? Clean out the pipes or something? I imagine that there's a lot of mineral deposits in the pipes which reduces the interior diameter and volume of water passing through.

5) Is there anything creative or do I do with these things - monstrously heavy and unwieldy but kind of cool - when they're out? Garden fences? Table legs? Or just get them to a scrapyard for recycling?

6) Any other related advice or suggestions?
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In the UK you would be decreasing the value of the property by removing those! Do you have architectural salvage yards over there? That's where you'd sell them over here (or on Ebay, buyer collects).
posted by humph at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2012

You might find that simply painting them the same color as your wall or trim will make them blend in OK without sandblasting. They will provide plenty of heat with any number of layers of paint. IIRC, many people used to put radiator paint on the units to keep them from being so burning hot, so some more paint will not hurt.
posted by mmf at 9:14 AM on September 24, 2012

At this point the pipes and the radiator are probably one and the pipe will need to be cut off. Sometimes you can get lucky with using penetrating oil and a BIG pipe wrench but hot water is really, really corrosive and well, I would just cut off the pipes.

You can rethread them (or a plumber can anyway) if necessary or use some kind of brazed on fitting or push on fitting, just make sure the new fitting is accessible.

the best possible thing to do is remove all the old steel pipes and run new PEX pipes in their place. It wont corrode or get the build up on the inside like steel does and you can maybe do a 'home run' system with a separate branch for each radiator that lets you treat each room as a separate heat zone. You could even put in a valve to switch to cold water in the summer for a mild a/c effect (although you need something like a reversible heat pump water heater for this to work well and the cooling effect isn't large).

I personally don't like radiators as it really restricts what you can arrange in the room. There are LOTS of recycle places like habitat for humanity RE STORE that will take the old ones ore maybe a restoration/antique shop? probably worth a call.
posted by bartonlong at 9:18 AM on September 24, 2012

Are you attempting to do this yourself?

I wouldn't advise it without discussing with a plumber. Your pipes may be some weird size that only this rad will fit. Or, they're so rusted on that it would be a project in itself just to move the nuts.

Me, I'd paint them and get attractive rad covers and be done with it. Lot's easier.

Never disconnect anything you're not 100% sure you can reconnect.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:24 AM on September 24, 2012

All good thoughts.

The existing units need to be removed at least temporarily to do the rest of the work on the walls, so the only question is whether to reinstall the existing ones (as rb suggests probably with a rad cover) or get new ones.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2012

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