Here in Norcross, GA, older homes are a big part of the natural charm. Unfortunately, while older homes are often beautiful architecturally, they are not known for being easy to heat. On the contrary, older homes have a reputation for being drafty, poorly insulated, and chilly in the winter. The fact that older homes also often have inefficient heating systems doesn’t help their case. In addition, replacing an old home’s heating system is sometimes a complicated process. Here is a look at what kind of heating systems you’ll often find in older homes and the options available to replace them.
Common Heating Systems in Older Homes
If you own an older home, there is a good chance that it uses radiators in each room to provide heat. In order to operate, those radiators typically rely on hot water provided by a low-pressure boiler system. In some cases, older homes might instead have a high-pressure steam system powering their radiators.
At the time of their invention, radiator heating systems were an excellent, innovative way to keep a house warm. They were reliable, simple, and easy to install. Plus, they tended to last forever if maintained well over the years. At most, a homeowner would need to replace the boiler. Today, the downside of older radiator systems is that they are inefficient compared to more modern home heating options.
Energy efficiency is one of the main reasons that owners of older homes look for replacement options for their aging heating systems. However, not every modern heating system is easy to install in an old structure. Without preexisting ductwork, many forced-air heating systems are not practical. Space limitations may make newer options a tight fit, too.
The good news is that some of today’s heating options do work well in older homes. Here are some of the heating systems that work best:
1. Modern Radiator Retrofits
Sometimes, the simplest way to upgrade the heating system in an old home is to put a modern twist on its time-tested technology. For homes with old, boiler-driven radiator heating, this is easier than you think. The first step is to replace the aging boiler with a newer, more efficient one. A modern condensing boiler can reach efficiency levels of up to 98.5%. Just 25 years ago, the average boiler would only achieve between 56% and 70% efficiency.
If you are lucky enough to have an older home with cast-iron radiators, adding an efficient new boiler might be the only upgrade you need to bring your heating system up to speed. Believe it or not, those old radiators are more efficient than newer models made of aluminum or steel. However, if you are also trying to modernize the look of your old home, you can replace your radiators with baseboards or slimmer wall-mounted models as part of your system upgrade.
It is also possible to stick with a boiler-based heating system while entirely removing visible radiators. In their place, you can opt for underfloor radiant heating instead. Underfloor heating relies on a network of tubing within the floor’s subsurface that circulates hot water from your boiler. While they take a bit of effort to install in an older structure, they are among the most unobtrusive and performant types of boiler-based heating you can have in your home.
The only real drawback to maintaining a boiler-based heating system is that it does not add any air conditioning capabilities to your home. Since we get our fair share of hot summer weather here in the Norcross area, that’s often a deal-breaker for homeowners in the region. Fortunately, there are other options that provide a heating upgrade as well as air conditioning capabilities.
2. Mini-Duct Forced Air Heating
One thing that makes installing conventional heating systems in an old home a challenge is a lack of pre-existing ductwork in the walls. Conventional forced air HVAC systems rely on rather large air ducts to carry air between their central air handling units and the rooms where you need heat and air conditioning. Installing that ductwork is pricey and complicated, even in an already-built new home. In older homes, many of which have plaster walls, it’s a nearly impossible endeavor.
The good news is that a new forced air HVAC option that works well for older homes now exists. It’s called a mini-duct forced air HVAC system. As the name suggests, this system uses small, flexible ducts ranging from around two to two and a half inches in diameter. They are relatively easy to snake through existing ceilings and walls, making them perfect for retrofitting an older home. Mini-duct forced air systems use high-velocity air handlers to compensate for their small ductwork but deliver the same or better efficiency than standard HVAC systems.
3. Ductless Mini-Split Systems
Another option for upgrading the heating system of an old home is adding a ductless mini-split system. They are a modern variant of central HVAC systems that utilize air handlers individually installed in each room of your home. These air handlers then link to one or more outdoor condenser units.
Ductless mini-split systems are simple to install compared to most other HVAC options. Each wall- or ceiling-mounted air handler needs only a small bundle of wiring and pipes to connect to its corresponding outdoor condenser. When installed by the professionals here at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, there is almost no disruption to your home and no unsightly changes to its interior.
Ductless mini-split systems also improve an old home’s energy efficiency. Most rely on heat pump technology, meaning they do not use electricity or fuel to heat your home. Instead, they capture heat energy from the outside air and carry it inside for use. As a result, ductless mini-split systems achieve up to 400% efficiency when operating in heating mode, making them among the most energy-efficient heating systems available today.
Trust the HVAC Experts
If you are an owner of a beautiful old home in Norcross, we are happy to let you know that you have more options for upgrading your heating system than ever. From in-place upgrades of your existing system to complete replacements with newer system types, there is an approach that fits every need and budget.
At Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our team of HVAC technicians can help you choose the right heating option for your older home. We offer complete HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also offer a comprehensive selection of plumbing services, including drain cleaning, pipe replacement, sewer services, and water heaters to keep all your home’s major comfort systems working optimally. Best of all, we have served Norcross and the greater Atlanta area with pride since 1989, so you can rest assured that you are dealing with a trusted name in the business. If you are looking for a new heating system for your older home here in Norcross, contact Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today to learn more about what’s available!