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Thread: baseboard heaters

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Default baseboard heaters

    I have a couple of questions regarding heating with baseboard heaters.....

    I have a 2nd floor that IS NOT on my forced air central heat/air system, but instead has an electric baseboard heater installed. I don't know much about the unit, except it was probably installed in the early 90's. It has a thermostat in the sense you turn the knob to the desired level of heat, but it doesn't have temp. I supplement heat on the 2nd floor with an automatic temp controlled space heater. The space heater has a digital temp, so I use that to set the temp of the room, it kicks on when the baseboard can't keep up.

    The 2nd floor is 3 rooms, a "study", a bedroom and a master bath. The baseboard is currently in the bath, but I'd like to add one to each of the other rooms for more control. Originally I had planned on installing a seperate forced air system, but looking at everything, I'm not sure that is cost effective and I can't seem to get anyone that comes out to actually give me a quote.

    Question, are newer units more efficient/safer than one from say the early 90's? I'd like one that has a temp reading that I can set to say 68* and let it go. Any recommendations?

    I have thought about using some radiant heat and can get easily get PEX tubing to the 2nd floor and am looking at replacing my water heater with one that could handle a radiant system. Should I look at a radiant heat baseboard heater? Or would that require a boiler?

    Thanks for any replies, I am trying to weigh some options....

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    Question, are newer units more efficient/safer than one from say the early 90's? I'd like one that has a temp reading that I can set to say 68* and let it go. Any recommendations?
    Electric heat -- no exhaust out the chimney -- is always 100% efficient, and "old" does not necessarily mean "unsafe".

    One possibility as to control would be to have an electrician install a wall thermostat for your existing baseboard heater ... and the same could be done with new heaters in other rooms you have mentioned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    I have thought about using some radiant heat and can get easily get PEX tubing to the 2nd floor and am looking at replacing my water heater with one that could handle a radiant system. Should I look at a radiant heat baseboard heater? Or would that require a boiler?
    I believe there are dual-purpose boilers available, but I do not know how much they can be throttled back during off-heating seasons.
    Last edited by leejosepho; 02-03-2009 at 04:10 PM.

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=leejosepho;182668]Electric heat -- no exhaust out the chimney -- is always 100% efficient, and "old" does not necessarily mean "unsafe".[/qoute]
    Maybe I shouldn't have used the word efficient.... For some reason this is where I think everything gets confusing. Maybe cost effective is a better term. Does the same still apply? I am guessing that a 1500w heater from 1950 would cost the same to operate as a 1500w heater built today, if it were left on the exact same length of time. But wouldn't a newer one possibly do a better job of distributing the heat, causing it's actual usage to be lower? In turn causing the actual operating cost to be lower?

    Are the hydonic(sp?) units that are self contained and run off electicity, less expensive to operate than a purely electric unit? Can someone please explain this? I have an oil filled radiator, free standing, and a space heater. The radiator seems to provide a "better, more even heat over a broader range", but I couldn't tell you operating cost difference.

    [qoute]One possibility as to control would be to have an electrician install a wall thermostat for your existing baseboard heater ... and the same could be done with new heaters in other rooms you have mentioned.[\quote] I noticed those last night and am thinking that might be a good idea.


    I believe there are dual-purpose boilers available, but I do not know how much they can be throttled back during off-heating seasons.
    I definately think I need to read up on these a bit more and ask more questions. I thought about a boiler for awhile, but kind of decided maybe it wasn't the best option. I'm starting to wonder again....

    I think the cost to buy and install one is what made me think twice. 4-5 months is the most it would be used, unless it can be used efficiently(cost effectively) to produce household hot water as well. Payback is a big factor into what is feasible. At least in my mind. I just figure a 8-10yr payback is too long.

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    Computer Programmer Bill Arden's Avatar
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    Electric baseboard heat is always 100% efficient. It does not matter if it's oil filled or not.

    The only difference you get from the tall units is better air flow from a stronger chimney effect. This stronger air flow will keep the temperatures more even.
    Important note Ė I donít know man made laws, just laws of physics
    Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of Darwin awards.

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    DIY Senior Member Master Brian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Arden View Post
    Electric baseboard heat is always 100% efficient. It does not matter if it's oil filled or not.

    The only difference you get from the tall units is better air flow from a stronger chimney effect. This stronger air flow will keep the temperatures more even.

    I understand the last part, the part I don't understand is the 1st. Not trying to make this complex, but why would someone pay twice as much (approx) for a hydronic liquid filled baseboard vs a purely electric baseboard. I am not referring to a hydronic radiant heater. All else being equal.

    Also, I have always understood 240v is more "efficient" than 120v.

    Let me restate, I realize that they say electric heat is 100% efficient in the manner that a 1500w heater gives you 1500w of heat with no heat loss, what I don't get is how they are all equal. I think "efficiency" is mis-stated/misunderstood, perhaps just by me.... There has to be a cost to operate trade-off somewhere. Is there not?

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    ... why would someone pay twice as much (approx) for a hydronic liquid filled baseboard vs a purely electric baseboard.
    Probably mostly because s/he bought into a given sales pitch.

    Think about the relationship between heat and mass. A hot pound of lead and a hot pound of feathers at the same temperature each has the same amount of heat to offer even if one might let go of it a little more quickly. An oil-filled heater might let go of its heat a little more slowly and thereby seem to last longer, but its heat-to-mass relationship is no different than that of any other mass.

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    Also, I have always understood 240v is more "efficient" than 120v.
    120 x 10 amps = 240 watts;
    240 x 05 amps = 240 watts.

    I might be wrong here, but the matter of voltage is more about actual "torque power" or whatever being available to a motor.

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    I think "efficiency" is mis-stated/misunderstood, perhaps just by me....
    "Effective" might be more like what you actually have in mind ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
    There has to be a cost to operate trade-off somewhere. Is there not?
    Not as far as I know.

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    Computer Programmer Bill Arden's Avatar
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    >why would someone pay...

    Large oil filled baseboard units do have one advantage in that they have a lower surface temperature and therefore create less of that wonderful burnt dust smell.

    Although there is no reason to use oil filled just for this reason since they make electric baseboard units that have a lower surface temperature.

    >Also, I have always understood 240v is more "efficient" than 120v.

    There is a cost trade off in terms of voltage.

    The higher the wattage, the larger wire you have to use for a given voltage.

    120 volts * 20 amps = 2400 watts
    240 volts * 10 amps = 2400 watts

    Given that you have to use heaver wire to handle 20 amps than 10 amps... it's easy to see that 240 volts is less expensive to wire after about 2000 watts.
    Important note Ė I donít know man made laws, just laws of physics
    Disclaimer: I'm a big fan of Darwin awards.

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leejosepho View Post
    120 x 10 amps = 240 watts;
    240 x 05 amps = 240 watts.
    Oops! I sure blew that one!

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