We are currently without a heating system. We are using space heaters right now and our electrical system can't handle more than one heater on at a time (we are freezing!) We have abondoned our radiant floor heating (we were told by a number of sources that had many major leaks and was not repairable. (no turning back now), we have already installed hardwood floors over top of them. We are looking for an alternative heating system and can not afford the unicol system. Would be interested in hearing anyone's experience with forced air systems or any other kind of heating system.
consider floating a retrofit pipe system for radiant heat over your existing system. After stripping out everything down to the slab, a new pipe system and concrete would only add about 2 inches to your floor. Maybe less with an oval pipe. Just a thought.
I'm really sorry to hear about your defunct heating system. And it's unfortunate--no shame there, lots of us have 20-20 hindsight :-( that you committed to abandoning it by installing hardwood floors before identifying a viable alternative.
Almost anything I can think of that allows you to keep the wood floors is going to be expensive--you either need a unico-like system, or electric baseboard, or raised roof. Can anyone think of others?
I'm curious how much you were quoted for a unico system--did you get more than one quote? Perhaps if you post what you were quoted, others who have it could comment. As with upgrading power, there might be a range of prices.
Again, others who have this will hopefully comment. My impression is that it is expensive to run in the winter but I could be wrong. I also don't know if it would require a power supply upgrade (from 100 to 150 or 200), a cost in itself.
While technically you can "thicken" your roof to get duct work enclosed, reroofing and installing the new system is likely not cheap. Also, there has been more than one comment about the impact on the architecture by doing so.
If you are willing, you could describe what your price range for new heating is and a little more about the hardwood floor you've installed--how long you've had it, whether it "floats" or is glued, what you invested. I think that would help set some parameters within which suggestions would be most realistic.
When we purchased our Eichler about two months ago, we knew that the steel radiant system was leaking. Our choice was a hydronic baseboard retrofit, and it was installed by a vender on this site. Our hardwood floors installed by the previous owner and the cost and time constraints of installing a new in-floor radiant panel helped our decision to go with radiant baseboards.
It is true that with a central heat/air system you can have AC, but we chose not to put a new roof on or go with central heating mainly for asthetic reasons. Installation of the baseboards took about a week and was done very professionally. The heating is done with a gas-fired boiler with a 20 year warrenty so winter costs and maintenance should be low. E-mail me if you would like costs and vender information.
We have the same type of system as Dean just described. Baseboards heated by steam from a gas boiler located in the garage. It was installed by the previous homeowner, as a way to reduce her heating cost, since with the radiant system, you have to heat the entire house, while baseboard systems can be installed with different zones. (Radiant systems can probably be zoned as well, but it is my understanding that few if any Eichlers were built this way.) We have 4 zones: kitchen area, diningroom/living room, master bedroom, and back hallway/bedrooms. Because of the technology (using steam from a gas-fired boiler), I don't think there would be any negative impact on your electrical system, though you should verify this with an expert.
We love this heating system. It is dust free (I would NEVER install forced air heat in an Eichler or any other home for that matter - too hard on the lungs), completely quiet and very efficient. I have not quantified exactly what they cost to run, as I have nothing to compare it to. Also, I like to be comfortable, which sometimes means heating every inch of the house for days on end. The average difference in our utility bill from summer to winter is probably in the range of $100. Our house is small, only 1536 ft^2, so this would be more for a larger model. The one negative would be appearance -- you have baseboards around several sides of each room (usually one or two). Ours are white to match our walls, so they do not bother us at all. I still like them better than the alternatives.
I do not know what they cost, but somewhere in the back of my mind I remember a contractor telling me that it would be around $7K to replace our entire system. Just a guess though.