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Converting a Boiler System to Central Air: A Guide

Converting a Boiler System to Central Air: A Guide
Roger Bakies
Residential Sales Professional

I have been in the residential/light commercial HVAC business for 30 years. I grew up in a sheet metal fabrication shop and have installed, serviced, sold and helped people choose new systems to best fit their needs and lifestyle. I look forward to helping you pick the best fit for your home!

About This Article

Are you looking to convert your boiler system to a central air HVAC system? Let’s break down your options, costs and industry best practices.

Personally, I’m a big fan of boiler systems. However, I understand why you may want to replace your boiler system. 

Maybe you’d like to cool your home more efficiently during warmer months. Maybe you’re looking to sell your home soon. You could even just prefer a furnace and air conditioner!

No matter the reason, Fire & Ice is here to walk you through the process. For a big project like converting your boiler system, it’s important to know what to expect before committing.

In this article, we’ll break down the process and cost of converting a boiler system to a ducted HVAC system, from your in-home estimate to the installation of your new system. 

We’ll also walk through any steps you may need to complete before contacting your HVAC contractor.

Become An HVAC Expert

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand a few terms that will be important for understanding this article. 

Terms we’ll cover:

  1. Boiler systems 

  2. Central air systems 

What Is a Boiler System?

A boiler is a type of HVAC equipment that uses hot water to provide heat to your home. 

Boilers heat your home by distributing water through one of three options:

  • Baseboard radiators

  • Radiant floor systems 

  • Coils

What Is a Central Air System?

A central air system uses equipment like furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps or air handlers to distribute heated or cooled air throughout your home via ductwork.

Today, central air systems are the most common way to heat and cool homes in the U.S.

Before Your In-Home Estimate

The good news: If you have a boiler, you likely already have access to natural gas. 

In this case, you don’t need to do any legwork before you reach out to your HVAC contractor to set up an in-home estimate.

However, we recommend researching your options ahead of time to ensure you have a more productive conversation with your contractor. As we’ll discuss in-depth later in this article, you have multiple options for your home’s HVAC system.

These options could affect the total cost, scheduling and time it takes to complete the project.

Although your options may vary depending on your home, your HVAC contractor will also be able to discuss your preferred options during your estimate.

During Your In-Home Estimate

Your in-home estimate is a vital stage in replacing any HVAC system. But it’s even more important when converting a boiler system to central air.

The steps your HVAC contractor takes during your in-home estimate can determine how your new system performs.

Let’s break down three steps that must occur during your in-home estimate:

  1. Measurements & calculations

  2. Cost of a new HVAC system

  3. Ductwork design

  4. Understanding your needs & concerns 

RELATED: What to Expect at Your In-Home HVAC Estimate

Measurements & Calculations

Your residential sales representative must conduct measurements and calculations during your in-home estimate. Otherwise, your system could be the incorrect size for your home, which can drastically shorten your equipment’s lifespan.

Industry organizations like Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) recommend the Manual J load calculation to correctly size HVAC equipment.

The Manual J load calculation accounts for a variety of factors, including:

  • Your home’s total square footage 

  • How many windows and doors your home has

  • The direction these windows and doors face

  • The height of your home’s ceilings 

  • The age of your home’s insulation

Although these factors can be easy to overlook, they affect how much heat your home loses or gains throughout the day in both warmer and colder seasons. When your equipment is properly sized, it can compensate for this heat loss and gain.

If your equipment isn’t properly sized, you may notice hot or cold spots, abnormal runtimes and increased energy costs.

RELATED: Sizing Your Air Conditioner, Heat Pump and Furnace  

Cost of a New Central Air System

The total cost of your new HVAC system will depend on the type of equipment you need and the size of the equipment.

Learn more about the cost of a new HVAC system in the articles below:

Ductwork Design

Once your residential sales representative determines your equipment’s size, your contractor can begin designing the ductwork for your new system.

Did you know that your ductwork can also affect your system’s performance and your comfort? The size and layout of your ductwork determine how air moves throughout your home.

Like the Manual J calculation, ductwork design also requires precise calculations and experienced designers. 

At Fire & Ice, we take the time to check and double-check ductwork design before installation. This helps us ensure that we give our customers the best ductwork possible.

To learn more, check out our article on ductwork design and installation.

Understanding Your Needs & Concerns

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore your options and address any concerns. Your residential sales representative should also take the time to understand your comfort concerns.

If you’re interested, your residential sales representative can also recommend additional equipment to maintain or improve air quality in your home. 

For example, when converting from a boiler to a furnace, you may notice that the air is drier. This is because furnaces can remove some moisture from the air during the heating process.

If you live in an area like Columbus, Ohio, where the relative humidity drops during the winter, a humidifier can help add moisture back into the air.

However, your residential sales representative should never pressure you into purchasing any equipment.

What Will It Take to Remove Your Boiler System?

In this case, removing your existing boiler system may be optional. Your HVAC contractor may be able to install your ducted system without removing your existing boiler system.

However, if you want to completely remove your boiler system, here are a few things to consider.

Cost of Boiler System Demolition 

Demolishing an existing boiler system is labor-intensive. Depending on your home and the extent of the removal, you could potentially pay tens of thousands of dollars to demolish your existing boiler system.

Since removing your existing boiler system is optional, we haven’t included the cost of a central air system or the cost of remodeling your home in the above range.

Refinishing or Remodeling Your Home 

If you choose to completely demolish your boiler system, you’ll likely be left with cosmetic issues.

These issues can include:

  • Holes in the floors and walls where pipes used to be 

  • Holes where equipment radiators and pipes were previously bolted 

  • Unpainted sections where radiators once were

If you’re planning to remodel your home anyway, you may want to add these items to your list.

However, if you weren’t planning to significantly remodel your home, don’t worry. Since these are strictly cosmetic, you have complete control over when and how you address them. 

Scheduling the Demolition 

If you’d like to remove your existing boiler system, we recommend taking on this project during the warmer months, when you don’t need to heat your home. 

Demolishing your boiler and installing your new HVAC system takes time. And you wouldn’t have access to a heating system from the time your boiler is disconnected to the moment your new furnace kicks on for the first time.

But your HVAC contractor will be able to provide further information on the best time to schedule a demolition. It’s important to remember that HVAC contractors do have recurring busy seasons. While these can vary based on your area, your contractor may avoid scheduling a demolition during their busiest seasons.

What Will It Take to Install a Central Air System?

Once you determine whether you’d like to remove your existing boiler system, it’s time to think about installation.

Since you likely already have natural gas, there are two main parts to installing a new central air system:

  1. Electric work

  2. Installing ductwork & your new system

Electric Work

Your home will need some electric work before your HVAC contractor can install your new central air system.

You have two options here:

  1. you can choose your own electrician

  2. allow your HVAC contractor to use theirs

In either case, your HVAC contractor will need to determine the placement of your central air system, required voltage and other variables before the electric work can begin. 

Your HVAC contractor will work with the electrician to ensure they have the information they need.

Once they have the information, your electrician will install circuits for each piece of new HVAC equipment. 

Installing Ductwork & Your Central Air HVAC System

Finally, your HVAC contractor will begin installing your new ductwork and central air system. The installation process will likely take multiple days, although the total installation time will depend on your home. 

Learn more about the full installation process for your new equipment:

Once your new system is installed, your HVAC contractor should complete a process called commissioning. 

Commissioning is a series of tests designed to ensure that your equipment is operating at the manufacturer’s specifications. Although commissioning takes time to complete, it can help make sure that your new equipment starts off on the right foot.

In the long run, commissioning can help ensure that your system lasts its full lifespan—as much as 15-20 years. Unfortunately, many HVAC contractors don’t commission.

Learn more about Fire & Ice’s commissioning process in the video below. 

Choosing the Right HVAC Contractor for You

When converting a boiler system to a central air system, you need an HVAC contractor that you can trust to do right by you.

From calculation to installation, your HVAC contractor should follow industry best practices and take the time to do the job right. Otherwise, your comfort and wallet could suffer.

If you live in the Columbus area, we’d love to discuss your needs and help you customize your new HVAC system!

Click the button below to start the process to getting your free, no-obligation quote.

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