Hydronic Baseboard Heating
Buying and Installing Tips

Is hydronic baseboard heating system the right solution for your home? How does the hot water baseboard heater work, advantages, disadvantages, and types? Can the baseboard heat be combined with the existing radiant floor heating or any other system?

How does the hydronic baseboard heating work?

Hydronic baseboard heating systems used for the whole-house heating are mainly consisted of the boiler or furnace to heat the water, pumps to transfers the hot water through the pipes, and room heating units that are using the radiant heat and convection to heat the room air. These units are usually called baseboard heaters, panels, radiators or convectors.

Hot water baseboard heaters are also a great alternative for your home heating and can be used as the supplement to an existing HVAC system.

The heat that the baseboard convector releases will warm up the adjacent walls and the surrounding air from the bottom up. As the room air gets cooled, it moves down and inside the heaters and becomes heated again.

Baseboard heat is just one type of hydronic home heating systems and as the popular radiator heating; it uses many elements to make it safe and functional.

Hot and cold water smoothly circulates through the system by using the pumps and for the temperature and pressure control, elements such as the expansion tank, zone valves, relief valves and thermostats are used, making the heating system reliable and efficient.

Types

Most of the time, baseboard heating systems are using a central heating source such as the gas, oil, electrical or solar boiler, tank or tankless water heater.

Baseboard water heaters are made of the tubes or channels so the hot water circulates through and radiates the heat into the room. They are hollow or finned units, and they heat a well-insulated room uniformly with the little temperature difference between the ceiling and the floor.

Baseboard panels are usually designed with the fins so the total heating area is bigger, the panel emits more heat, and they are more efficient.

Some systems have thermostatically controlled electric heaters installed in the hydronic baseboard heaters, submerged in the heat transfer fluid, so the central boiler is not needed.

With the today's trend of going green, geothermal heating and cooling are also becoming interesting and more and more popular.

Installing tips

In order to find the best location for your baseboard panels, so they can heat the room efficiently and fast, it is important to know how they work.

As said before, baseboard heating systems work on the convection principle where the heat rises; the radiant heat warms the room walls blocking the drafts and cold.

The best location for installing baseboard panels is on the external wall, the outer perimeter of the home, below the windows and at the baseboard level of your home.

Sometimes, these panels are enclosed in a cabinet - for the appearance, with the opening at the bottom and top for the air transfer.

Installing electric baseboard heaters is much easier than the central HVAC system with all the plumbing and soldering. They just have to be plugged into the standard household electric outlet. Electric baseboard heaters are very economical and safe; they can be used as the room-by-room solution. There are freestanding and movable heaters that do not require any installation and other mountable or wall models.

Properly installed baseboard heaters are mounted at least one inch above the finished floor, allowing free flow of the air, through the heater and further into the room.

Types, pros, and cons

Baseboard heat can be part of the bigger hydronic radiant heating system that uses one heat source, a boiler, for example. Hydronic heating can be used for different applications such as preparing domestic hot water for residential use, hot water for swimming pool, snow melting and radiant floor heating. Every application has its own independent circuits controlled by their own thermostats while getting hot water from the main circuit.

Two of the most used and popular hot water systems are one-pipe system and series-loop systems; both operated on either forced or gravity circulation.

One-pipe system has the advantage of allowing one or two baseboard heating panels to be shut off without disturbing hot water flow to other units.

 Series-loop heating system is simpler and cheaper solution, where panels are connected in series forming a supply line.

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Advantages

Hydronic baseboard heating systems are providing an efficient way to heat your home; they work quietly and accurately with the system of controls such as valves and thermostats. They are flexible. They can be used in combination with the radiant floor heating, and the perfect time is for retrofitting and remodeling.

They offer comfort, and since they are working with the lower temperatures, they are economic. This is a draft-free heating, the heat is cleaner and healthier, and it does not irritate your throat with burnt dust particles.

It is easier to zone than with forced air systems, so you control the heat in each room and send the heat where you want it.

It is quiet as there are no noisy air ducts and blowers.

Disadvantages

Dust is a problem with forced-air heating systems but is not a big issue with hydronic baseboard heat. Unfortunately, dust still gets into the fins and room air.

One of the main disadvantages of hydronic baseboard heating systems is that they occupy a wall space, so the arrangement of your furniture greatly depends on the location of these heaters. If hiding the baseboard heater with the furniture, you will block the proper heat distribution, and the efficiency will be reduced.

As opposed to the forced-air systems, baseboard heating provides a slow temperature increase. This is especially a problem in places with the extremely cold temperatures, in a case where the vacation home is left unheated. To prevent freezing, the system has to be drained or even better fill the system with the propylene glycol.

Radiant floor heating vs. baseboard heating

When comparing baseboard vs. radiant floor heating, they work the same, but the initial cost for baseboard heating is lower. While baseboard heaters occupy room space, they don't require tearing up the flooring.

In hydronic baseboard heating, the boiler is producing hot water with a higher temperature, which requires copper tubing for hot water transfer. The most common size for copper tubing used here is either 1/2 or 3/4". In the floor radiant heating, cheaper PEX pipes are used that are working with the lower operating temperature.

Summary

Hydronic baseboard heating is a very effective way of heating so they are mainly used in colder areas such as northern states in US and Canada. Either you are building a new home, remodeling or planning to retrofit your home heating; hot water baseboard heat can be combined with the radiant floor heating. And there are many reasons for that; adding a comfort to your home, heating a garage...

When buying a baseboard panel, look for the proper size heater, based on the room size and calculations. Also, get the complete assembly, where the pipe and heating fins are inside the case.

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