Cost Difference in Radiant vs baseboard

Old 09-20-06, 09:40 AM
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Lightbulb Cost Difference in Radiant vs baseboard

We are putting in a new heating system (new construction) and the cost difference between radiant heat and baseboard (all hot water) is huge. Are we going to save enough on fuel to recoup the expense? We have baseboard in our current house and our oil bills are under $1000 per year (3200 sf.), so we're questioning how much cheaper can it get? Would like to see what other's experiences are. Thanks...
Old 09-20-06, 01:40 PM
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Huge sounds about right. The answer is, "it depends."

I grew up in a radiant house. It was great. I live now in a baseboard hotwater house. It's fine.

For comfort, I don't think you can beat radiant. If you want to spend more for comfort, go radiant.

I don't think there's a huge "fuel bill" type savings with radiant. There's a whole lot of up front cost which could take years upon years to pay for itself if all you're doing is comparing the costs of radiant vs. baseboard. It probably does cost more per year to run a baseboard system, but it's probably not a huge percentage. (Anybody please correct me if I'm terribly wrong.) Personally, I consider going radiant more of a big picture thing, as follows.

Radiant typically works at lower water temperatures than baseboard. Where radiant can really shine on energy savings is when you integrate it with, say, solar hot water production. A solar hot water system with a large storage tank (we're talking maybe 600+ gallons) could, depending on your climate, type of radiant installation, insulation of your home, etc., heat your house all by itself. You might not even need a boiler, or if you do, a very small one.

The first place to save money on fuel bills is the building itself. Insulate the heck out of it. Install good windows. Seal all the infiltration points. These things get the building heat loss down to as low as you can get it.

Then size your boiler to that heat loss, and if you're doing indirect water heating, either bump up the boiler slightly, or preferably go with a bigger indirect so that although it will take longer to recover due to the small boiler, you can make it through high-use periods (back to back to back showers, etc.) without running out of hot water.

Another option to consider would be a hybrid type system. Two ways to do this that leap to mind are:

1) go baseboard, but oversize the radiation so that you run at lower water temperatures (~120-140F) even at the coldest design day. Baseboard output drops off pretty significantly below ~140F supply, and you certainly can't get the supply temperature down as low as radiant, but if you oversize, you'll get the heat you need.

2) use panel radiators instead of baseboard. Basically like baseboard in terms of installation, and again, you can size them to provide adequate heat at lower water temperatures. Plus they give off that nice radiant warmth.

Either of these approaches would be ideal for the new modulating/condensing boilers coming into wide use. They are very efficient at lower water temperatures, and modulate their output based on the building heat loss and outdoor temperature. These approaches would also not entail the huge difference in installed cost compared to radiant.

Good luck.
Old 09-20-06, 01:45 PM
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I think price is sometimes and over rated factor in making decisions. Radiant heat is so much nicer because the floor is warm that I don't think you'll ever regret the extra cost of installation if you go that way.
Old 09-20-06, 03:11 PM
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Radiant vs. Baseboard

In one hand you have money. The other hand wants comfort. As Xiphias pointed out, there are alot of things you can do to reduce the cost of being comfortabe but in a nutshell, comfort costs.

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