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Old 19.02.2011, 14:36
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Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

(Did a search but came up empty - apologies in advance if I missed a similar thread...)

I saw a mildly interesting house the other day - but it had wall-mounted radiators, something I dislike. I've had these in my 'vintage' homes in the States; they never provided the even, efficient heating that I have with my under-floor system here. One boiled within a few meters of the radiator and froze in the rest of the room. So questions for all you heating and renovation gurus:

How difficult would it be to replace the wall radiators with under-floor heating?

In several rooms the flooring has to go anyway - but would this mean ripping out large chunks of walls as well?

Alternatively, additional reasons I hate these wall radiators are: A: they are uglier than sin, and B: they take up valuable wall space and inevitably are placed where I would want to put a piece of furniture.

Have any of you ever seen a good-looking wall radiator here in Switzerland? (I have mostly prairie style furniture, with some Swiss traditional mixed in - lots of wood, so an expanse of white metal is pretty jarring.) I remember seeing some nifty 1920s radiator covers in many old homes back in Chicago - do such things exist here? Do covers seriously reduce the radiator's effectiveness?

Or, how difficult is it to mount a radiator somewhere else along a wall?

Any ideas, tips, and especially experiences would be most welcome.
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Old 21.02.2011, 09:46
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

We looked into this when a new room was equipped with underfloor heating and re-tiling the rest of the house. In one word--very expensive!

Our contractor said, it might be possible but wouldn't recommend it. The existing heaters involve pipes coming through floor/wall for hot water. First, if electric underfloor heating, it would be very expensive to run and heat entire house, much different than just one room. If going heat pump underfloor heating, this would require a massive installation, including alternative issue of hot water for running the showers/bathrooms, not to mention ripping out all of the old. Then there is the issue of pipes/holes in the walls, etc. that would have to be fixed. Not sure if they could stay in the wall not being used or if they would also have to be ripped out, ie. new walls, etc. If house has two floors, and also depending on the construction of the floors, ie. concrete or wood, it might not also support under floor heating. Part of our second floor is wood, so this was not really a good idea, and keeping groud floor underfloor and upstairs radiators was not really an option either.

Moving a radiator to another place on wall really depends on where the pipes are. I guess you could always run ugly pipes along the floor to move it, but I wouldn't do it.

One thing to look at, the old radiators could be replaced with newer smaller modern more sleek ones wtih greater efficiencies as well. A friend did this and she was really happy about it.

Also, some radiatiors, at least our old ones can be painted, so they definitely blend more into the background.
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Old 21.02.2011, 10:06
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

While wonderful, retro fitting underfloor heating is IMO nearly impossible.

Based on seeing a new construction, you need approximately 8 cms to house the coiled heating pipes, reflective and insulation, concrete base and then tilling. In an existing house you may well not have this depth available. Additionally the dirt and dust would be awful...
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Old 21.02.2011, 10:20
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

I agree with the huge problems in retro-fitting entirely new heating systems. We've just been through the exercise and can't seem to get anything anywhere near a reasonable price.

The best option we came up with, which even then came in over our budget, was fitting heated skirting boards. They function just like radiators (warm water through pipes) but are less intrusive, supply more even heat and can possibly be plumbed into the existing system. You only need to place them on one, maximum two, of the exterior walls in each room. The company that we dealt with were called "Best Board" out of Austria www.bestboard.at

We were looking at linking them with solar panels to reduce our running costs. Our house currently has electric underfloor heating and we were keen to find ways to get away from this. In the end, we've chosen to seriously beef up our roof and wall insulation and replace all windows with triple glazing. Hopefully, this will reduce our running costs with the major expense of a new heating system (and there are some grants and tax breaks associated with this kind of work).
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Old 21.02.2011, 10:46
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

Thanks for the reality check, one and all - sounds like more work/expense than this house is worth.

The skirting board heating system sounds interesting, though - I'll keep it in mind if I ever find a truly interesting property where the only drawback is radiators...
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Old 21.02.2011, 10:49
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

Another piece of advice is for the old rads. If they are cast iron and engraved, they are worth a fortune, check out on any auction site so if you do replace them , then dont throw them out.
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Old 21.02.2011, 10:58
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

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Another piece of advice is for the old rads. If they are cast iron and engraved, they are worth a fortune, check out on any auction site so if you do replace them , then dont throw them out.
Sadly not - the true vintage radiators can be quite stunning, almost artwork in themselves - were they those kind, I'd be thrilled.

These, however, were just bog-standard white flat radiators, ca 1970. Uggggggly - and placed in the most inconvenient spot in the rooms.

Oh well, this was not my dream property anyway - don't think that exists in Switzerland - so really not worth the effort.
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Old 21.02.2011, 11:02
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

you can buy some pretty stylish new design rads in case of ....
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Old 21.02.2011, 11:33
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

Hmmmm... now you've got me thinking...

A bit of quick googling came up with this Steinheizkorper - a radiator made (as far as I can tell) out of natural stone. I could have fun decorating around something like this:

http://www.bremo.ch/steinheizkoerper2_d.html

Anyone ever seen / used one of these?
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Old 21.02.2011, 12:19
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

I was hoping to get radiator covers fitted until I seen the price from Portas 3500fr for 1( in England they cost 50quid at the most)
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Old 21.02.2011, 12:38
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

Well, I understand your problem. Where I come from, there are radiators, after that I rented a flat in Budapest with floor-heating... huge difference.
There is only one thing better, wall heating, but THAT is expensive.
Also I would only recommend floor heating for rooms with floor-tiles, as the efficiency reduces extremely with heat insulating materials like wood and carpets, and also air moving upwards means the air will be full with unseen dust. so My opinion id keeping floor heating only for bathroom and kitchen -or maximum living room with floor tiles- but definitely not for bedrooms...
also I would only recommend floor heating when you have individual heating system, it tend not work well with community heating... many families on the main circuit, only one temperature..

Cost: If you own the place and would like to change the tiling go for it. Even if it cost a bit more now, it will increase the value of the house...
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Old 15.04.2011, 09:24
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

Bumping this up, as I saw yet another wreck of a house... and so have yet another heating/renovation question.

This house has an electic heating system with wall radiators, supplemented by a Kachelofen that (alledgedly ) still works. The expense of electric heat frightens me, so before going further I'm trying to learn more about these kinds of systems.

The house is in the Landwirtschaft zone, which severely restricts what can be done. I *think* that rules out geothermal heat as a relacement - but as five different bureaucracies would have to approve any renovation plans it's hard to get concrete answers.

I cannot change the outside of the house, the footprint, or do anything that would affect the elevation or drainage of the ground - i.e., digging a big hole. I *think* (subject to clarification from said five bureaucracies) that I could install solar panels. Those of you who have gone the solar route - have you seen savings to justify the expense?

Runningdeer and StevierayV (and anyone else) - may I ask, how expensive have you found your electic heat to be? The house is small, I'd be replacing windows and re-insulating anyway, I prefer to keep a house cool - I wonder if electric really would be that much worse than other heating systems.

Should I just get used to wearing extra sweaters?

Any ideas or comments would be much appreciated.
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Old 15.04.2011, 09:37
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

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Bumping this up, as I saw yet another wreck of a house... and so have yet another heating/renovation question.

This house has an electic heating system with wall radiators, supplemented by a Kachelofen that (alledgedly ) still works. The expense of electric heat frightens me, so before going further I'm trying to learn more about these kinds of systems.

The house is in the Landwirtschaft zone, which severely restricts what can be done. I *think* that rules out geothermal heat as a relacement - but as five different bureaucracies would have to approve any renovation plans it's hard to get concrete answers.

I cannot change the outside of the house, the footprint, or do anything that would affect the elevation or drainage of the ground - i.e., digging a big hole. I *think* (subject to clarification from said five bureaucracies) that I could install solar panels. Those of you who have gone the solar route - have you seen savings to justify the expense?

Runningdeer and StevierayV (and anyone else) - may I ask, how expensive have you found your electic heat to be? The house is small, I'd be replacing windows and re-insulating anyway, I prefer to keep a house cool - I wonder if electric really would be that much worse than other heating systems.

Should I just get used to wearing extra sweaters?

Any ideas or comments would be much appreciated.
I saw a renovated farmhouse recently, converted to 3 apartments. The owner is an architect, and she installed "sockel heizung" with a heat pump. (luftwasser, not erdsonne - I am sorry I don't know these words in English).
Somewhere I have a brochure from the firm who sells the heating system.
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Old 15.04.2011, 09:40
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

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The house is in the Landwirtschaft zone, which severely restricts what can be done. I *think* that rules out geothermal heat as a relacement - but as five different bureaucracies would have to approve any renovation plans it's hard to get concrete answers.
Just on this specific question, I can't see any reason why this alone should rule out geothermal as long as the collectors are completely under your land (which they would be anyway). If there is ground water (which your other comments indicate there may be), you can install a water-water heat pump with minimal disruption to the ground. If all else fails, there's always air-air heat pumps to consider. I would suggest you find a heat pump installation company in the area and ask them. They surely have experience of this.

Direct electric heating is a financial disaster imo!
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Old 15.04.2011, 09:49
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

I'll have to do a bit more digging about the electric, but in our case it is not a huge issue because it is only one room, a sun room with lots of windows, south facing. Heat only in dead of winter, in spring/fall, it gets quite warm by itself. But this room is likely only 1/10 or less of the surface area of the house. As our contractor said, installing electric for the whole house, 2 floors, will get very expensive fast.

On the solar panels, keep in mind that to the best of my knowledge this is only for hot water. The alternative is photovoltaic cells for electric I believe. For some interesing insight on this, there was an article in our local paper here about a month ago with a man and his relatively small house (1 floor) in which he equipped both sides of the roof with photovoltaic and which generally meets all his needs. The interesting thing they said in the sidebar was that installing this on your roof does not need permission, or no longer needs permission, from the commune. Ok this is Vaud, but beleive it applied more generally, as some authorities were not wanting to off put homeowners to installing this with a large burecratic process. Apparnetly there had been some confusion in the past and now this has been clarified. Of course check this out in your area, but I think it should not require permission.
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Old 15.04.2011, 09:56
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

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Just on this specific question, I can't see any reason why this alone should rule out geothermal as long as the collectors are completely under your land (which they would be anyway).
To the best of my knowledge it is more than just the collectors on your land. I know of at least one that was turned down because of the noise of the pump would affect the quiet of the neighborhood. There is also the issue of disturbing the flora and fauna, which could also come into the picture in a protected zone.
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Old 15.04.2011, 10:03
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

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To the best of my knowledge it is more than just the collectors on your land. I know of at least one that was turned down because of the noise of the pump would affect the quiet of the neighborhood. There is also the issue of disturbing the flora and fauna, which could also come into the picture in a protected zone.
...but this is agricultural zone so wildlife protection won't come into it. External noise is normally only an issue for air-air (and even here I think the newer installations are a lot quieter than even 10 years ago).

I think you may have been right 10 or 15 years ago - but even the conservative Swiss authorities have moved on a lot since then in their recognition of the fact that environmental protection also means moving to more efficient heating. I'll go back to my last statement....ask a local installer!
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Old 15.04.2011, 10:03
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

When we renovated our 1920's house, 10 years ago, we had warme pompe installed which just requires access for the drilling rig, and one or two holes to be drilled, and causes minimal disruption.
Because it was not possible to retro fit for under-floor heating, we had new radiators, specially designed for maximum heating efficiency from the lower temp (55° max. at -10°C ambient temp.) circulating water.
Although these are slightly larger (thicker) than standard radiators they are flat sided (in thin panels) and modern looking; child friendly to the touch and efficient in heating. [These specialist radiators are required - existing ones can't be adapted (as I understand)].

As suggested above, if drilling wasn't possible for expense or practical reasons, then an air system should also work equally as well (I hope it is as efficient as in-the-ground, because we're having an air system installed in our new house).
We also, at present, have a separate boiler for hot water which uses air to water.
Although these systems use only electricity, the are much more economic than standard electrical heating (using a compressor, they work in a similar way to a fridge, but in reverse).

Our system, with the more expensive drilling, paid for itself in about 10 yrs., and now we should be saving money compared to alternative heating systems.

You should possibly consider an air system (they've become more efficient over the last 10 yrs., I believe), as it is undoubtedly cheaper than drilling, with new radiators (depending on age and condition of internal connecting pipes, it would probably be advisable, if not necessary to have all new piping installed).
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Old 15.04.2011, 10:30
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

As I understand it, the house is governed by the cantonal Bauamt, (not Gemeinde), by the Amt für Landwirtschaft, by the Wasseramt as there is a stream running through the property, by the Forstamt as part of the property is forest land, and by the Amt für Umwelt-something-or-other, as it borders a Naturschutz zone. The Raumentwicklungsamt is also somehow involved, but as my head is spinning from trying to work through the maze I haven't quite figured out who these guys are, let along where they come into play.

It's complicated. Nice piece of ground, though.

I think I'll try to get an engineer - preferably someone local, who might better understand what I'm up against and who has the correct family name (this being one of those sorts of valleys - to view the property before I go any further.

What frightens me in all this house hunting is that one really is buying a pig-in-a-poke, you never really know what you can or cannot do until after the purchase. Having been stung once, I'm hesitant...

Thanks for the ideas, everyone - you've given me things to think about, questions to ask.
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Old 15.04.2011, 10:38
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Re: Replacing wall-mounted radiators?

One other thing to add - with the lower output temps. of warme pompe heating systems, the insulation of the house needs to be spot on.

Any heat loss or drafts and the room temps. will struggle to get to a comfortable and acceptable level.
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