Replacing Your Systems


When it comes to replacing heating and cooling systems, your home’s current systems will influence the range of options you will consider. Aesthetic qualities, cost of the energy source and fuel, cost of installation, environmental impact, and energy efficiency are all important factors in your decision. Staff from Plumbing and Heating by Craig are your experts for exploring options for replacement heating and cooling systems.

When it comes to size, Plumbing and Heating by Craig will work with you to determine the most appropriate size for your heating and cooling systems. The proper size is necessary to provide you with maximal comfort, lowest costs and best efficiency for your home. Bigger is not better. Choosing the correct size of your systems includes considering the climate; size, shape and orientation of the home; insulation; window size, location and type; number of occupants; and heat-giving lights and major appliances.

Your HVAC professional is responsible for making recommendations for the proper size for the heating and cooling systems for your building. Many contractors use the “nameplate” of your current system and recommend a similar system, but it is important that numerous factors are considered when sizing a new system. Staff from Plumbing and Heating by Craig will consider all of the specifications of your building, as well as criteria established by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, as they determine what size of systems to recommend to you. Homeowners should insist that contractors use a correct sizing calculation before signing a contract.

Staff from Plumbing and Heating by Craig will measure walls, ceilings, floor space, and windows to calculate your room volumes. They will determine the R-value of your home’s insulation, windows, and building materials, and provide an estimate of air leakage. Using all of this information, they will calculate the size of heating and cooling systems you need, and you can ask to see their calculations so that you understand how they are calculated.

It is easy to replace an existing furnace or boiler with a newer model, but additional consideration must be given to changing systems entirely. The following information details some of the limitations of changing systems.

Switching electric resistance or steam heating to hot water heating

Electric resistance heating, or electric baseboard heating, is the least expensive system to install, but the most expensive to operate. It is not energy efficient, but upgrading to ducted systems is expensive. Changing to a hot water baseboard system can be a good alternative because the new system may be able to be installed in the same location. That process will require significant plumbing.

While steam systems are less energy efficient than hot water heating, changing from the former to the latter is not a significant gain for the price. Converting steam distribution pipes to hot water heating can work sometimes in newer two-pipe systems, and this can result in cost-savings. For some people getting rid of the radiators is worth the expense of the change.

Switching among ducted heating and cooling systems

If you would like to add central air to a forced-air heating system, the process can be done fairly simply as long as the system is set up to match existing ductwork. Heat pump systems, however, can require larger ducts, but you should speak to Plumbing and Heating by Craig staff to discuss whether this option will work for you.

Heat pumps are efficient heating and cooling systems, but they can be costly depending on electricity costs. Replacing a heat pump system with a furnace system probably will not be cost-effective.

Adding ducts to your home

The most common purpose of adding ducts to a home that does not already have them is to provide central air conditioning. If ducts are not needed for other purposes, options would be a ductless mini-split air conditioner or a ductless mini-split heat pump.

Unless you are operating with electric resistance heating, switching to a ducted system to increase efficiency is not likely to be cost-effective. In those cases, switching to hot water baseboard heating is likely a better option because adding duct work can be very challenging.

For those who choose mini-ducts, they will find more installation costs and a need for more outlets.

When ducts are added to an existing home, the decision remains whether to continue using the existing heating system or to install a forced-air heating system. For homes using electric resistance heating, adding either a furnace or heat pump is the best route. With steam, hot water, or radiant heat, it depends on how efficient your current system is, how efficient the new system would be in the heating mode, and the cost difference between installing just a central air conditioner versus installing both a heating and cooling system. Staff from Plumbing and Heating by Craig can help determine what is best in your situation.

Note that changing to a forced-air system has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, not only does it allow for central air conditioning, but the furnace could be much more efficient than your current heating system. On the negative side, the fan for the forced air system could increase your use of electricity significantly. This may be an important consideration in areas with high electricity prices.