baseboard heating ?

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Old 06-25-11, 07:40 AM
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baseboard heating ?

hello

i am looking at houses. some of them have baseboard heating. i am leery of this kind of heat. perhaps because i know almost nothing about it.

how hard is it to fix ?
reliability ?
safety ?
cost to operate ?
efficiency ?

one reason i don't like it, is no central air. but honestly, we don't use a/c much. only when it gets really hot, 90-95+

thanx for any advice. i have typical forced air now.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 08:50 AM
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It's safe, reliable, and it can be very efficient. That depends on the age of the system. It can also be the most comfortable heat. Adding central air to a home with hydronic heating is more costly than if you had forced hot air. It is possible. I have central a/c with large cast iron radiators.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 11:26 AM
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hi condo-owner –

I no heating expert (a real understatement). But I have baseboard heat.

Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
It's safe, reliable, and it can be very efficient. That depends on the age of the system. It can also be the most comfortable heat. Adding central air to a home with hydronic heating is more costly than if you had forced hot air. It is possible. I have central a/c with large cast iron radiators.
To droop’s point: central air was added later at some time, before I bought the house. Both heating and cooling work fine.

I think droop is also correct about the comfort level. Many people make that point. I lived in a condo for many years with forced air, but personally I think my baseboard heat is much more comfortable. Also, my parents had a small house in which my Dad installed the entire heating system himself, using baseboard heat. The heating in that house was always very comfortable. It was very noticeable!

But as to efficiency, etc, droop and the guys on this forum would be able to say.

Originally Posted by condo-owner View Post

… we don't use a/c much. only when it gets really hot, 90-95+

Exactly the same with me. But I started to use it more the last 2 years because the dog can’t take the heat.

(p.s. I meant hydronic heat in the above, guess there is electric baseboard also?)
 

Last edited by zoesdad; 06-25-11 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 06-25-11, 11:57 AM
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When comparing the a boiler vs. forced air, I don't think you will see any difference in efficiency when the same fuel type is used. You could argue that forced air is less efficient because the blowing air would speed the transfer of heat from the inside to the outside. I wouldn't expect for that to result in much of a difference, though.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 01:04 PM
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wouldn't expect for that to result in much of a difference
Industry estimates, some possibly biased, claim approx 15% less costly to heat with hot water. If true, that's pretty substantial.
 
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Old 06-25-11, 01:29 PM
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First understand that all of the responses are referring to hydronic (hot water) baseboards, electric baseboards are a completely different animal.

Where I live hydronic systems are few and far between and mostly will be found in upscale (VERY upscale) homes. There are exceptions and my parent's house was one. Of course, that house had hydronic baseboards because I designed and installed the system. It was a very efficient system and low cost to operate. I eventually installed a boiler with a heat input less than 40,000 BTUs and it kept the house at any desired temperature with no perceptible temperature differences in different areas.

The biggest downside to hydronic baseboards is that you cannot have furniture pushed up against any wall that has a hydronic baseboard. Many homes in the area where hydronic baseboards are common will have them continuous along all outside walls, sometimes without the internal finned tube just to present a more visually pleasing look. Since hydronic baseboards are a convection heating device (as opposed to cast iron radiators) they need the airflow through the unit to operate properly.

As for baseboards being "more efficient" than forced air...it really depends upon how a person defines and tests efficiency. Baseboard convectors (the true name for hydronic baseboard heaters) are a slow and gentle heating system that, depending on the layout, generally blanket the outside walls with replacement heat. As a result there are no cold walls like there will be with only a minimum of air registers AND because the baseboards are slow and gentle there are not the intermittent "blasts" of relatively hot air used to heat the home. The slow and gentle allows all objects in the room to also heat and THIS means lower heat losses from people to objects. The result is that a house heated with hydronic baseboards will often feel warmer, or a person will feel warmer, at a lower air temperature than a house using forced air.

When I needed to replace the forced air furnace in my house I seriously considered changing to a hydronic system. Had the cost not been approximately three times the cost of the hot air furnace I would have done so. Today I wish that I had spent that money.
 
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Old 06-26-11, 08:57 AM
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hey, great replies, guys seems i was prejudiced for no reason.

it would be running natural gas.

is it actual water in the pipes, no additives ? what keeps the pipes from rusting ? what kind of pipes would be there ( say a 40-50 y/o house) ? what would be the proper replacement pipe ?

is the fire box, or whatever it is called, on all the time ?
is the water flowing all the time ?
is there a pump ?
 

Last edited by NJT; 06-26-11 at 09:25 AM. Reason: removed purile attempt at humor
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Old 06-26-11, 09:00 AM
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oh. chances are that it would be an older boiler. are the newer ones more efficient ? by how much ? what do they cost ? this would be for a smaller house, say, 1200 sq ' .
how hard to install ?
 
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Old 06-26-11, 09:20 AM
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Slow down. You need to give us specific information about the boiler that is there to answer some of these questions. Replacement costs vary depending on type of boiler.

Is the boiler on all the time? That depends on the boiler. First off, there isn't always a fire burning in the boiler. A warm start boiler maintains a certain water temperature in the boiler all the time. You will find this setup on boilers that have a tankless coil for making domestic hot water. That is the worst way to make hot water. A cold start boiler will only come on and heat water in the system when there is a call for heat. Another way to make domestic hot water with a boiler is to use an indirect water heater. It is a separate tank much like a regular water heater, except they allow boiler water to flow through them (they are kept separate and don't mix) to heat them. They are connected to the boiler as if it was another heating zone.

In most systems, the water doesn't flow all the time. Only when there is a call for heat.

Yes, there is a pump.

The pipes in a house of that age will typically be made from copper. Sometimes you will find black pipe. The reason you they don't corrode is because when water is heated, the oxygen will come out of mixture. There are devices on the system that collect these small bubbles of oxygen and release them.
 
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Old 06-26-11, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by drooplug View Post
Slow down.

You need to give us specific information about the boiler that is there to answer some of these questions. Replacement costs vary depending on type of boiler.
lol, sorry. i have to ask the questions when i think of them. or else i will forget them .

i have no such info. as i have not bought a house, yet. but, one house that is in the running, does have baseboard heat. this got me to wondering.
 
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Old 06-26-11, 10:12 AM
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Droop's answers are all spot on... good job Droo!

I just want to elaborate on the what keeps stuff from rusting in the system.

Of course the copper won't rust. The boiler and some accessories may be ferrous and would be subject to rust... but ONLY if there were air entrained in the water. Fresh water has tons of entrained (dissolved) air in it. After the system is filled, pressurized and heated, that air is driven out of the water. At that point the water becomes inert. For iron oxides to form, there has to be iron of course, water, AND air (oxygen). If there is no oxygen there can be no ferric oxide formation.

Pumps typically last years and years, as do most boilers (20-30 or more).

Probably the most 'troublesome' component of a hot water heating system would be the 'electric zone valves' which may or may not be used, depending on the design of the system. These valve problems are usually easily and inexpensively remedied.

The only maintenance that gas fired boiler systems need is generally cleaning. The flueways, burners, and such should be inspected each year and cleaned as necessary.

are the newer ones more efficient ?
There are two basic 'types' of boilers. STANDARD, and MODULATING/CONDENSING.

The standard boilers these days run a COMBUSTION efficiency of appx 85% +/- a few percent. (This is NOT to be confused with the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). The former is dictated mostly by physics of burning stuff, to a lesser degree on the design of the boiler.

MODULATING / CONDENSING ( MODCON ) boilers use newer technology to squeeze as much as ten percent more heat out of the combustion process by capturing most of the 'latent heat' that goes up the chimney with a standard design.

Debate rages about 'which is better'. Standard combustion boilers are somewhat more costly to run, and the debate is about whether or not the increased cost of the boiler, installation, and maintenance is really worth it.

AFUE is probably more meaningful in terms of determining efficiency but this number has it's drawbacks as to accuracy as well.
 

Last edited by NJT; 06-28-11 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 06-27-11, 08:11 PM
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thanx for the info ..........................................
 
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Old 07-02-11, 11:30 AM
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Water is 4,000 times better at transferring heat than dry air.
Baseboard heating works very well because the heat is released at almost floor level and you have the benefit of radiant heat keeping your feet warm and the convected heat warming the wall and creating a small heat store.
The downside, it that baseboard heating radiates heat through 360 degrees and therefore 3/4 of the radiation goes into the wall and floor.
The warmest part of the room is the space between the copper pipe and the wall.
It works best when the wall behind it and the floor below is stuffed with polystyrene, if you have brick or stone walls then they can act as giant heat stores smoothing out the daily temperature rise and fall.
If you have baseboard heating it is cheaper to run, to make the most of it you need thermostatic valves on each radiator, there is virtually nothing that can go wrong with these radiators, they last forever.
 
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