The 4,200-square-foot house is "surprisingly tight (relative of course), considering its age," Schmo writes in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor, "but my objective is to use the steam radiator/oil system only as a back up due to the large costs and safety concerns associated with using it." Adding insulation in the exterior walls doesn't look like an option, although Schmo may add insulation in the attic.But more efficient heating and cooling equipment is definitely on his list.The utility bills (for the gas-heated boiler, plus electricity) from the previous tenants seem high, but they're also fairly wealthy and quite elderly, so they may have just kept the place jacked to 80 degrees all year round without much thought to consequences.
The simplest was the fireback, a decorated slab of cast iron placed at the rear of the firebox to retain and radiate heat.
In our automated age, it’s easy to take heating systems for granted—the wood-fueled fireplaces and coal-stoked furnaces once critical for winter comfort in most American homes are long gone.
Yet adding or adapting HVAC systems to old houses today often involves a complex web of issues, and modern systems and devices can compete with our desire to preserve the past.
Third tier gives us lots of options, but nothing mission critical like the wiring or the plumbing.
One strong contender is replacing the hot water rads, which are all those old baseboard "public school" style -- large metal boxes with dials on the front -- and seem to be several decades old, at least.