Author Topic: Supplementing hydronic baseboard in rental units  (Read 1175 times)

Justaerin

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Supplementing hydronic baseboard in rental units
« on: November 24, 2015, 02:21:41 PM »
I have some heating issues to address in the units of my fourplex. The building is about 30 years old and current heating is hydronic baseboard with one zone for each of two floors, the last unit has three floors and three zones. Natural gas boiler.

I am house hacking and living in Unit A (just now moving in). All tenants have complained about heat, and I have felt pretty cold in their units. I notice my unit gets extremely warm when I'm not in it for a while (since I'm still living half time in my old apartment), but that after opening/closing the front door a few times it gets very cold and takes a long time to heat back up. Since their units are each occupied by multiple people, I'm sure they experience this heat loss a lot more often than I.

The doors in each unit need weather stripping, which I am installing this week. All of the windows except one unit are older style wood frame windows which could probably stand for upgrading. The home inspector I used, who is also a contractor, stated that there looked to be insufficient linear baseboard footage to heat the space. I'm not sure if he did actual calculations, but he obviously has a reliable educated guess.

I am looking for advice on resolving this in the standard landlord way - a happy medium of best for my tenants, most reliable, cheapest, best in the long run. Each unit is individually metered for electric and gas.  I have provided each unit with a portable oil-filled radiator electric space heater that is the safest I can find, and also heats well; obviously this cannot be a permanent solution.  Each unit also has a wood burning fireplace that no one really uses, and I prefer it that way.

Options I've considered through the googles: replacing the wood burning fireplace with a gas insert, installing more radiators in series in the current system, adding electric baseboard, converting each unit to hydronic radiant heating (during renovations I'd like to pull out the carpet and install laminate so I could combine labor efforts here). I'm sure there are more options, and none of these are crazy ideal, but I'd really appreciate your advice.

MDM

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Re: Supplementing hydronic baseboard in rental units
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2015, 09:07:35 PM »
...current heating is hydronic baseboard with one zone for each of two floors, the last unit has three floors and three zones. Natural gas boiler.
...
All tenants have complained about heat, and I have felt pretty cold in their units. ...
...there looked to be insufficient linear baseboard footage to heat the space. I'm not sure if he did actual calculations, but he obviously has a reliable educated guess.
...
Each unit is individually metered for electric and gas.
A few questions:
 - Is there a single boiler that serves multiple zones, or are there separate boilers for each zone?
 - What are the thermostat settings? 
 - Boiler(s) run(s) continuously because the temperature doesn't reach the thermostat setting, or boiler heat does switch on/off?
 - Gas bill(s) seem(s) reasonable or exorbitant?

Justaerin

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Re: Supplementing hydronic baseboard in rental units
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2015, 11:50:17 AM »
Thanks for the reply MDM!


A few questions:
 - Is there a single boiler that serves multiple zones, or are there separate boilers for each zone?
 - What are the thermostat settings? 
 - Boiler(s) run(s) continuously because the temperature doesn't reach the thermostat setting, or boiler heat does switch on/off?
 - Gas bill(s) seem(s) reasonable or exorbitant?

 - Each of the four units has one boiler. This one boiler serves all zones in the unit. There is a zone valve for each zone, but not individual pumps for each zone.
 - I have been experimenting with multiple settings, and usually keep mine in the low 70s. I think the other units keep theirs at the high limit.
 - My boiler does not run continuously, and seems to fire appropriately when more heat is called for. The other units... I'm still working on gathering all of those details, but they all worked correctly when we did the home inspection a few months ago.
 - I can't currently say, as I've never had a gas bill in this area. I'd think it's on the high end because they're leaving their tstats on, but that's an assumption and a good answer is really relevant here.

All of the boilers are fairly new, but the inspector said "small." Heat at the baseboard is usually above 120, and is extremely hot on the return. I recently raised the water temp of my boiler to over 180 at the aquastat and it gets really warm, very slowly.

I have been trying to learn all I can about boilers and hydronic baseboard, but most of the information I've found isn't answering my questions. I don't know what the water at the baseboard should be, how many linear feet of baseboard for the space I need, how "big" of a boiler I need, or how to really tell that it's fully working at optimum efficiency. There are some YouTube videos that explain some of these parts, so the search continues.

Should I have posted this in DIY? It seemed appropriate for this section since I'm really trying to find a good landlording solution to this. I'm not against paying for an assessment, but I'd really rather learn it for myself and try to fix it for myself.