Cold Rooms - baseboard heat

Old 12-26-09, 08:16 AM
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Cold Rooms - baseboard heat


I'm in need of general information regarding baseboard/hot water heating systems and appreciate any all advice.....

50+- yr old , fully finished, 3000sqft (1500 up + 1500 down) brick ranch in Denver w/original 3 zone, gas, Hydrotherm R155 boiler and baseboards. Bedroom and basement zones are cold. The further away from boiler the colder. No wall insulation, all windows replaced 3 yrs ago, attic insulation inadequate. Had the unit serviced last fall including system bleed. System typically runs without fault. Circulator motor runs continually when cold.


Should the boiler, which otherwise operates fine, be replaced?

Will a new boiler provide more/better heat, all things being equal?

Baseboards appear insufficiently, inappropriatly placed. Can they be retrofitted efficently and inexpensively?
Old 12-26-09, 08:41 AM
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You will get the biggest bang for your buck by air sealing and insulating. The issues with your system probably lie mostly with the design of the radiation. If the baseboards are setup in series and not parallel, the water is probably cooling off too much before it gets to the last rooms on the loop. A larger or newer boiler is not going to fix that issue.

You should do a heat loss on the house to figure out how much heat you need to each room. Then figure out how much radiation is in the room. I think the standard for baseboard is 550 BTU per foot at 180 degrees. With that information you can see if the rooms at the start of the loop are way over radiated. It may be a simple as removing some of the baseboard heat or making one loop into two loops.
Old 12-26-09, 09:11 AM
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Have the interiors of the baseboards ever been cleaned?

It could well be they are plugged up with dust and pet hair...

It's surprising how much even a thin layer of dust can cut down the output of a heat emitter.

When the boiler is running, what readings are you seeing on the TEMPERATURE and PRESSURE gauge on the boiler?

Echoing Droopalong's suggestion to do a room by room heat loss analysis. Determine if you have enough baseboard in each room to meet the heat loss.

Insulation and sealing infiltration points is the next step. It's absolutely the biggest bang for the buck, and as Xiphias says, "It's fuel you only pay for once"
Old 12-26-09, 12:36 PM
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Do nothing with the boiler until you have insulated and air sealed the house. The first step is to reduce the heating load, not get a new boiler. You could have a nuke plant in the basement and still have cold rooms if the insulation is poor or lacking and the radiation is inadequate. Adding radiation if you already know the house is underinsulated is literally burning money.

If the walls lack insulation, insulating them will make a HUGE difference. Same with attic insulation, sealing around service penetrations, etc. etc. etc.

Spend $200-300 on a real energy audit with a blower door test and thermal IR imaging. This is small $ and shows exactly where you will get the best bang for the insulating and air sealing buck. This approach is fantastic for older houses like yours.

Once you have insulated and air sealed, the cold rooms may no longer be cold.

Once you have insulated and air sealed, you can do a real Manual J heat loss calculation to get the heat loss for each room. You can compare the loss to the amount of baseboard and see if underradiation is indeed a problem, and if so, how much more radiation will be needed.

Is the baseboard cast iron or is it copper with aluminum fins?

There are some very good energy efficiency and hydronic heating firms in Denver. Shop around. Find the good ones.
Old 12-26-09, 01:37 PM
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A 50 yr old house, was it always cold all those years, or did this cold part of of the house show up recently. What the pros sugested are on the mark. I was just wondering if something changed recently to cause this.
Old 12-26-09, 02:01 PM
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I was wondering the same as last post....
I know 50 yrs sounds like a lot...but that would have been in the 50-60's or so. Even then people put insulation in their homes...especially in cold areas...and I would think it would have been updated by least to some extent?
Old 12-26-09, 04:10 PM
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I'm thinking along the same lines too... it's hard to imagine that a 50 year old house has been lived in all these years uncomfortably. One would think that somewhere along the line in that time someone would have addressed the issues.

That's the basic reason I asked what temp the boiler was running at... maybe someone turned the a'stat way down in a misguided attempt at saving money... OP said the circ runs almost continuously in cold weather, indicating that the heat calls are never satisfied...

Also the reason I suggested cleaning the baseboards... maybe over the years they've gotten so plugged that they just can't move any air through them. I think most ppl with baseboard heat never even think about the dust they collect over the years.

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