How to Replace Steam Radiators With Forced Air


The U.S. Department of Energy states steam heat is one of the oldest methods for heating a house or building. With proper maintenance, a steam boiler can last decades. Lower efficiency and the inability to add air conditioning are the main drawbacks of a steam system when compared to a ducted, forced air system. Adding ducts to your home, however, can be expensive depending on your home's layout and access, such as basements, attics and crawl spaces. The following instructions offer the major steps in converting your steam radiators to forced air. The layout of your specific house or building will determine the final plan and associated costs.

  • Have a licensed contractor evaluate your current system. Once the decision to replace your steam radiators with forced air is made, the complete boiler and pipe system must be removed.

  • Layout the duct design and cut holes in your floors and walls accordingly to accommodate your ducts and registers. Depending on your specific floor plan, you may have to sacrifice closet space and wall space as locations to route new duct work.

  • Install your furnace, including electrical, gas and exhaust per the furnace manufacturer instructions. Adding air conditioning or installing a heat pump in place of a furnace and air conditioner are available options.

Tips & Warnings

  • Replacing steam radiators with forced air has good and bad points. Being able to add central air conditioning is an advantage. A forced air furnace would also be more efficient than an older steam boiler. However, the electric fan and controls could increase your electric bill, offsetting the efficiency advantage in locations with higher electric costs.
  • Consider why you want to change your system from steam to forced air. If the only reason is to add air conditioning, then adding ductwork for a separate air conditioning system and keeping your boiler for heat is a more economical and cost-effective solution. Ductless, mini-split air conditioners and heat pumps offer another method of adding air conditioning to your home or business.

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