Historic houses are a common sight across New England, some dating back as far as the Revolutionary War and earlier. But while these homes out of history are beautiful, they present a hazard when it comes to renovation.

One such house, a beautiful arts-and-crafts style house in historic Arlington, Massachusetts, was built in 1909. A three-level, 2,400-square-foot home, this historic structure was originally heated with steam and later converted to high-temperature hydronic heating.

The house, featured on the nationally known renovation program This Old House®, ran the gamut of renovation projects, including a new porch, expanded areas for the kitchen and master bathroom, a new chimney and an updated heating system.

With so much space being heated by high-temperature hydronic heating, the cost to keep the climate controlled in a home like this was off the charts. To keep the house warm required spending approximately $10,000 annually.

Installing a new, high-efficiency heating system only made sense, especially since the rest of the house would be undergoing renovations as well. The problem? With a house this old, soldering new heating lines posed a risk to the old wooden framing.

Fortunately, Bilo Plumbing and Heating Company in Ipswich, Massachusetts, has 20 years of experience with Viega radiant heating systems. Lead plumber Kevin Bilo has been installing Viega radiant systems for 15 years.

“What always happens on our This Old House projects is that people feel the radiant heat and end up wanting it everywhere,” said Richard Trethewey, Founder and Owner of RST Thermal in Westwood, Massachusetts. Tretheway has been the plumbing and heating expert for This Old House and Ask This Old House® since 1979. “I’ve been doing radiant on television since 1987, and it’s always a winner.”

According to Trethewey, radiant heating was originally planned to be installed in only one part of the home – but those plans changed.

“The homeowner felt it and wanted it in more of the house,” Trethewey said.

So that’s what Bilo Plumbing and Heating did.

“We went in and demoed the whole heating system,” Bilo said. “We removed all the heating piping, the radiators and the oil tank.”

Bilo and his crew installed all new plumbing and heating in the historic home using Viega PureFlow tubing and Viega PureFlow Press fittings. For the radiant heating solution in the home, Bilo used Viega Climate Panels in all three bathrooms, Viega Climate Trak on the entire first floor and stainless manifolds.

“The Climate Panels in the bathrooms provide the most comfortable and efficient option you can install in a tiled area, especially under the tubs and the shower floors,” Bilo said.

Specific to this project, the homeowners wanted to preserve the original wood flooring on the main level, yet still provide consistent heating.

“Viega’s Climate Trak system was a great opportunity for them to put radiant heat in the first floor and save their hardwood at the same time without any extra cost,” Bilo said.

Additionally, the crew from Bilo Plumbing and Heating installed Viega FostaPEX tubing throughout the house, using the aluminum-coated, form-stable PEX to adapt to the manifolds and the new boiler in the mechanical room.

“The FostaPEX and PureFlow systems gave us a lot more options for installation,” Bilo said. “There was a lot of old framing, and it made it easier to get from point A to point B.”

Bilo has prior installation experience with several other radiant systems, and he believes Viega radiant solutions are the best.

“They’re easy to work with and installation friendly,” Bilo said. “You have more options to get the job done, and, really, it’s just the confidence I have in the product.”

Bilo Plumbing and Heating installs radiant heating solutions on a regular basis, both for interior applications and exterior ones, like snow melting.

“All Viega products and fittings and technology are reliable and dependent,” Bilo said. “Viega always stands behind their products, and if we’ve ever had any problems, they’ve backed us all the way. They’re first class about fixing problems. I have 100 percent confidence that if Viega fittings are installed properly, there will be no leaks or issues.”

Installing a radiant heating system in a home provides a long list of benefits for homeowners, but for this project, Bilo believes that the greatest benefit came in the form of energy savings.

“With the whole new system and copper construction and radiant heat on the first floor and bathrooms, the heating costs are going to drop considerably,” he said. “They may cut their costs to a quarter of what they were.”

The Arlington arts-and-crafts home was featured on 16 episodes of This Old House®.

THIS OLD HOUSE® is a registered trademark of This Old House Ventures, LLC. Used with permission.

Share This Story