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Inspectorjoe

Mixed radiators and hybrid gravity warm air

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Today's house was 5,149 sq. ft; built 1882. The steam boiler heated radiators (some really cool) in most of the rooms, but a few rooms were heated by a strange gravity warm air system. Wood enclosures in the basement contain cast iron convectors that are ducted to wall registers on the first and second floors.

I can't see how the rooms heated by the convectors in the basement will be as warm as the rooms heated by radiators. That will be in the report.

I'm curious though, about why this convector/duct system was used, instead of just using radiators like the other rooms. Anybody have an idea?

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One of the cool radiators:

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I did a place like that (10,000 SF..not kidding) and they had similar system. Mix of rads and rads-in-floor-in-ducts..

The fresh air was FROM OUTSIDE in my case.. they brought in fresh air, heated it and you enjoy it.. (At 10,000SF, I suppose they could afford the coal.. ) They had baffles to open/close at will from the outside..

(Yes.. I brought lunch... )

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Pretty neat, I'm jealous, never get to see houses of that vintage.

We need to find a better way to describe those cool rads. I think Mike would say they're kewl. [:)] In the 60's they could have been 'rad' rads. (short for 'radical')

One explanation I can come up with is that a wall register take up less space than a big old radiator.

Woodwork is easier for some people than plumbing.

The steam or hot water heat gets less efficient with longer pipe runs, so the designer kept the plumbing runs shorter that way.

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Pretty neat, I'm jealous, never get to see houses of that vintage.

Not to rub it in John, but the house still had its original kitchen stove.

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And gas lites.

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The basement was pretty cool (or kewl) too. Instead of beams and columns, there were two arched walls.

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One explanation I can come up with is that a wall register take up less space than a big old radiator.

The rooms were big so space wasn't a problem.

Woodwork is easier for some people than plumbing.

There were hundreds of feet of pipe installed - another three or four dozen wouldn't have made much of a difference.

The steam or hot water heat gets less efficient with longer pipe runs, so the designer kept the plumbing runs shorter that way.

You might be on to something with that, but the opposite. The rooms with the ducts were in rooms above the boiler and the radiators were further away. There were no turns in the ducts, as far as I could tell.

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That radiator is definately cool. Where's Mr. Kibbel on this one?

The other posts pretty much covered it.

I find those enclosures, turning radiators into convectors, are most often used with outdoor air sources. They're usually supplying heated, fresh air to large rooms that were used for entertaining. Rich people liked to have big parties with big rooms full of folks dancing (when tobacco products were most popular too). I've inspected several large homes with ballrooms and one with very large concert hall that had those site-built convectors too. A couple times, I found them supplying very large, elaborate entrance foyers.

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Two of the rooms supplied are bedrooms and as far as I could tell, the radiators in the boxes were never supplied with outside air. I guess the 'why' of this one will remain a mystery.

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I find those enclosures, turning radiators into convectors, are most often used with outdoor air sources. They're usually supplying heated, fresh air to large rooms that were used for entertaining. Rich people liked to have big parties with big rooms full of folks dancing (when tobacco products were most popular too). I've inspected several large homes with ballrooms and one with very large concert hall that had those site-built convectors too. A couple times, I found them supplying very large, elaborate entrance foyers.

So, is a convector just a radiator that is enclosed into a duct? Or was it a different fixture?

Marc

EDIT: Grammar

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Marc, all convector units have radiators in them. They use fins to give a greater surface area, resulting in faster heat transfer. Modern convectors generally use copper tubing with aluminum fins.

The one in the wood enclosure was cast iron. It was built up in sections connected with threaded nipples.

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While most room radiators are just smooth cast iron, the house the basement convectors were in had some unusual finned room radiators.

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