How Do Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heaters Work

The function of electric hydronic baseboard heaters is to provide heat to an individual room. Each room has the ability to create its own thermostatically controlled environment. Ultimately, this saves money because only inhabited rooms need to be heated. Basically, electric hydronic baseboard heaters use heated water to warm a room. However, there is a little more to their operation.

How Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heaters Work

To begin to understand how this type of heaters operates, isolate each component of its description. Electric of course means the heater is powered with electricity as opposed to natural gas or some other fossil fuel. Hydronic indicates that water is used to some capacity as opposed to oil or a basic process of convection. The use of a baseboard means that the heater is installed externally on a wall near the floor as opposed to in-floor or ventilation heating methods.

Detailed Workings

Inside the heater is a heating element surrounded by a metal tube. Each heater is filled with water. When turned on, the electricity heats the element in the tube which then heats the water inside. The water turns to steam which then heats air before it circulates throughout the room or heating zone. In this way, water regulates the temperature according to the setting on the thermostat.

Electric hydronic baseboard heaters are essentially convection heaters that draw cool air in through the bottom and project it up and out the top of heating unit. With the heating element submerged in the heat-transfer liquid, the heater maintains a high level of efficiency and continues to produce heat for a period of time after it is turned off.

Because water runs the entire length of each baseboard unit, its heat transfer capability is spread evenly rather than being concentrated in one hot spot. The heat distribution is more even and fluctuates less between sudden cold and sudden hot thanks to the water’s thermal mass which holds heat much better than air. With traditional baseboard convection heaters that heat air and spread it around a room, much of the heat is lost during the transfer, and they tend to poorly regulate the temperature of a room.

Other Benefits

In contrast to traditional baseboard heaters, hydronic baseboard heaters are much cleaner and quieter. They are better for people with allergies because they do not blow dusty air through a series of old vents. And unlike some other hydronic systems which rely on water moving through pipes in the walls or floors, the self-contained units are less noisy. Moreover, hydronic baseboard heaters often include a front grille to prevent foreign objects from getting into the internal area of the heater. In terms of safety, electric hydronic baseboard heaters are cooler than traditional baseboard heaters, making them the safe choice if you have children.

Although electric heat is not the most cost efficient, when you use it to power hydronic baseboard heaters, much of the efficiency that is lost with the transfer of power is regained with the use of the heater. Their independent functioning allows you to heat only rooms that are in use and, more importantly, the water used as a heat transfer liquid is a thermal mass that more effectively stores heat before heating the cool air in the room.