From the Forum – Removing Radiators for donation

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Removing Radiators for donation:

“So I recently made the decision to remove my radiator heat system and replace it by adding a gas furnace to my pending central air install. I was wondering if somebody could recommend a contractor to pull the entire system (radiators, pipes, boiler) from my two story house and cart it down to Community Forklift or a similar organization. Also, any general advice from somebody who has had this done would be helpful as well. Thanks!

And just to be clear I do prefer radiant heat to forced air. My radiant system would need extensive work to be functional and efficient. The whole system would need to be repiped, I would need to add a radiator to the kitchen extension and the boiler takes up a 4×3 room in my living space. Instead of spending many thousands of dollars to redo the entire system I’m cutting my losses and installing central ac/gas heat from a rooftop system.”

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40 Comment

  • if your house doesn’t have insulation you are making a grave, grave mistake.

    • let me elaborate a bit. uninsulated walls in the winter act as radiators of cold. they’re literally radiating coldness into your house. the moment your forced-air system cuts off, the warmth is replaced by radiated coldness. to counteract this, you have to turn the heat up much higher, which isn’t comfortable when it’s on. So, you’re swinging between too hot and too cold all winter. this isn’t my conjecture, this is my experience in an old rowhouse.

      if you grew up in an insulated house with forced air HVAC, you are probably thinking that what you are anticipating doing will be roughly the same in an old house. unfortunately it’s totally, totally different. You must have insulation if you have forced air in my experience.

      • Yes, my house does have insulation. I recently did a whole house energy audit so I know what I’m getting into. I appreciate hearing about your experience.

        • If your house is insulated then never mind! i’m just burned by the flipper that pulled the radiators out of my place but didn’t insulate, it’s the worst of both worlds.

  • If you need a suggestion for what to do with your radiators, the Norwegians have an answer:

  • gotryit

    Pretty much any plumber with big wrenches should be able to disconnect the radiators. You should expect 2-3 capable people with a dolly and some straps to take them down stairs. You only need superheroes to move them up stairs.

    You can also do this with some friends by providing beer, pizza, and large wrenches. Beer for after moving them…

    Be careful of flaking lead paint when you take them off / move them around if you have young ones in the house.

    • Hey go, I agree with most of what you’ve said. I can drain and disconnect the radiators no problem. However the two upstairs are bigger than the curves in my staircase. A dolly and strap won’t work, I believe they need to be disassembled.

      • gotryit

        So they would actually be uprighted on the dolly. The radiator would be on its end, with the long direction of the radiator along the vertical part of the dolly. It then only needs to be tilted back a bit so that the dolly can be rolled. The strap is needed to hold the radiator from coming off the dolly.

        Alternatively, I wonder if the radiators smash like cast iron bathtubs do. Put a tarp over it and whack it with a sledgehammer?

  • I had James Wheat replace my boiler, gas line and a lot of the radiator piping in my basement. I’m sure they or other reputable planets could do it. The water in the old pipes is shockingly dirty. It will be a very messy job.

  • I would get bids and then rethink, OP. Since you have to get to the pipes either way (laborious, time-consuming, and messy), the price difference may not be as dramatic as you think. Taking them out for a minor price difference would be a crime (and may ultimately be a financial negative when you go to sell the house).

    • I also wonder about the ongoing costs of monthly heating bills. Can anyone weigh in on what changing forms of heat does do to a heating bill?

      • it’s extremely hard to say and dependent on things like gas prices and insulation.

        • Sure, and outside temps, how high you set the thermostat, blah blah blah. But for the same house kept at the same temp and all other variables kept constant, would forced air or radiators typically cost the same amount to operate, or is one form more efficient?
          People often ignore the future ongoing expenses when making big decisions about the cost of home repairs, so am wondering how this should be factored in.

    • Hey Ep,

      Pretty sure I’ll come out ahead by removing the radiators, freeing up the floor space, removing the visible pipes and getting rid of the boiler will open up the kitchen space. Anyway, repiping and adding heat to my central air will cost about 2,500. Fixing the radiators is probably between five and six grand.

  • Hmm, confused as to why OP thinks it would be less expensive to do central heat/air as opposed to fixing the radiators and pipes. We got a quote to remove ONE radiator (it’s in the hall and not really needed IMO) and they quoted us $2000!!! Thanks, we’ll keep it! Further, we’ve gotten one quote to put in central air and that was $13,800 (discounted from like $17k since we’d do it in their offseason). I’d imagine getting rid of the radiator system and installing central heat and air is going to be like a $40k job, but maybe I’m wrong.

    • gotryit

      whoa. I’ll do it for half that and some pizza.

      Is it a really big radiator?

      • It’s big, but not huge. It’s because they have to drain the whole system first, then remove it, and they have close the loop or cap it (forget the exact thing), but apparently it’s a process. It’s so the rest of the radiator system still works. Granted that was only one quote, but we can always remove it later–just won’t use that company.

        • gotryit

          To drain the system, there’s generally a place to connect a regular garden hose to the boiler, and just put the other end in a drain somewhere. Open that valve and the little air valves on the radiators and watch it all go.
          Capping the pipes can be difficult if the pipes don’t behave well, so maybe they’re pricing in the risk of something going wrong. In that case maybe it’s not so far off. Then again, if the valve / elbow come off easily, that doesn’t take much. Just thread a cap on it.

    • Yeah — the OP might want to keep the radiator system and add central air by going with one of those high-velocity systems.

      • No, that would cost a lot more and they wanted to put a unit in my tiny attic. I’d much rather have everything on the roof. Thanks for the idea though.

        • How much space would the attic unit take? Not sure if what you’re eyeing is a heat pump system, but if it is, you’ll already have one component on the roof and another (the “air handler”) inside, usually in an attic.

          • Not a heat pump, gas heat furnace on the roof. No mechanics in the house at all. I’d rather not have any mechanics in the attic in case of possible leaks and the difficulty of service/repair/replace. My attic is basically a top-of-the house crawlspace.

    • Removing one radiator for six grand is crazy. Draining the system takes a bit of time but is extremely easy. The total job cost is much, much less than 40k.

  • Pablo Raw

    You should ask Community Forklift, if they don’t do it, pretty sure they know someone

  • You went out of your way to say why you’re removing the radiators, but I would seriously reconsider. Unless you have quite a few very reputable opinions telling you that it is not worth the cost to repair (and by reputable, I mean serious hydronic companies), I would apply the brakes and try to make it work. I own a house with forced air and I spent months trying to find somebody to put radiators back in. I found that in North America it’s pretty much impossible to get radiant heat back into your house once it’s removed. Call Foley Mechanical and have them take a look. They are the only real primarily hydronic company in the DC area. A well-functioning hot water heating system is a beautiful thing.

    • Also watch out for the rooftop systems. If you are trying to pump hot air down more than one level it’s going to be difficult. If you’re hoping to reach the basement with hot air from a rooftop unit, that’s probably not going to happen. (If you have a two story house without a basement maybe it could work– but I’d be wary). I’m also in the process of replacing my HVAC so I’ve been doing a lot of homework on this.

      • Yeah, it’s only two floors. I’ve had the brakes on for about a year and I have been told by numerous companies that it’s not worth it to repair. So yeah, I have done my homework on this as well. Thanks.

        • Okay, well that does sound like maybe the best decision then. Done correctly the rooftop system can really free up a lot of space in a smaller house. Good luck with everything and kudos for looking to at least save the radiators for future use. As others have mentioned, Vintage House Parts deals in old radiators so I would contact them. They can probably help you find someone to remove them and pay you for them. Good luck– good HVAC retrofits in old rowhouses is not easy.

  • Those old radiators are worth a LOT of money. You may be able to sell them to someone directly who wants then, or, there is a place called something like Vintage House Parts on Rhode Island Ave, not far from Community Forklift. I think they buy them, while Community Forklift takes donations, but I may be mistaken on either or both counts so you should look into it. (We kept the old radiators in our house but had to buy 1 of a certain size, they sell for anywhere between $10 and $20 per rung depending on how ornate the design is.)

    • Eh, not worth that much, I’ve checked prices on CF and craigslist. I’m fine with donating but would consider selling as well. Thanks for the advice.

  • I am currently in the process of restoring a 1-pipe steam system, which is even fussier than hydronic radiators. Huge pain, but we love the quality and efficiency of moist, radiant heat. But that is not to second-guess the OP!

    Maybe I will offer the Prince a guest post on the beauty of 100-year-old heating systems.

  • We had a friend who is handy with a wrench come and help my husband drain out out system and disconnect the upstairs radiators so we could strip off the lead paint. It’s not rocket science. It helps to have helpers standing by with buckets and some tarps down. Luckily they were in good shape – not rusted out – even though they were original to the house. The big ones are insanely heavy, the 7-8 fin ones not too bad for 2-3 strong people with straps and a dolly.
    Coming from California and growing up with forced air heating, and having allergies, I have to agree with the previous posters – radiators are far superior. No dry air blowing around, spreading dust.
    Why not just make removing/donating the system part of the bid for the HVAC folks? Especially if you are using a firm that does plumbing as well.

    • The company I’m using doesn’t do that. I’ve had bids from other companies that would remove the radiators but I didn’t like their install bids as much, I’m still following up with them. Thanks.

  • Don’t overlook the fact that cast iron radiators can be disassembled into multiple parts for removal. It’s potentially messy but doable.

  • I know for a fact that Vintage House Parts & Radiators on Rhode Island Ave. has picked up truck loads of radiators from other homes in the past. I think they’ll pay for them, but even if not, at least you’ll have them off your hands and off to a place where someone can buy them who will appreciate them.

    Call Saul Navidad at the shop, he’s *the* radiator guy: (240) 764-7270

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