Q&A: Heat Conversion

Q Our building (which is comprised of 17 one-bedroom units) is heated by a hot water gas boiler with baseboard radiators. The radiators are NOT individually controlled. The building is about 30 years old, and the boiler will soon need replacement. We are exploring the possibility of converting to electric heat by installing the heating/cooling units used in new high rise buildings.

Each of our units has two 220-volt air conditioners. The new units will most likely be installed in the same openings (with minor modifications) and use the same 220-volt outlets. In your opinion, is this project economically feasible or even possible? If so, where do we begin? Thank you.

-- Queens Shareholder

A According to Peter Grech of the New York Superintendents Technical Association, a trade organization for superintendents and maintenance workers in the tri-state area, “First of all, this can be done by replacing the A/C unit with an A/C unit that has a heat pump. This would eliminate the need for a central boiler and piping and pumps etc. This could save your building money.

“However, the owners will have to pay via their electric bill. Electric heating is the most efficient way to heat—but it’s also the most costly.

“What I would do before hiring an engineer is to get an energy estimate on the individual units. Some units may require more BTUs than others, depending on the size of rooms and their location with in the building. By getting estimates, you can get an idea of the direction you want to take. I would just use one company for the time being, since you’re still in the discovery stage of the game. Once you get a ballpark estimate and decided to proceed, then you should hire an engineer to prepare a full scope of the necessary work for bidding.

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