The question is often asked, Why should I
consider spending the extra money for electric hydronic baseboard heaters? Will they really save me money and make the
space more comfortable?
Rhetorically, the answer is a resounding yes! Electric hydronic baseboard heaters would
make a wonderful choice, in lieu of conventional baseboard heaters. What invariably follows is a rather
wide-ranging conversation about the differences in construction, the heat
retention capabilities and, therefore, the cost justification for making this
So, with that in mind, let me differentiate between
the conventional and hydronic designs:
Conventional baseboard heaters have a
tubular-shaped metal element, with aluminum fins mechanically attached to the
sheath. These fins aid in creating better heat distribution. When
these heaters are turned on or cycled on, they heat-up rather quickly and heat
is generated with some dispatch. In the off cycle, they invariably also
cool down fairly quickly and, somewhat dependent on the thermostat used, there
can be a temperature 'droop' in the room, the effects of which may vary.
This droop is dependent on heat loss, demand temperature and other variables,
such as insulation, ceiling height and thermostat type, etc.
The electric hydronic design, while similar
in outward appearance, differ in the way heat is created, transferred and
retained. This design incorporates a tubular-shaped vessel, which is
filled with a heat transfer solution. A heating element is inserted into
this vessel and the vessel is then sealed. This creates a closed-loop
system. When the heater is called upon to heat-up, the heat is
transferred to the solution, which in turn transfers the heat to the
vessel. Much like a conventional heater, there are fins along the body of
the vessel which then assist in distributing the heat evenly. The most
significant outcome of this design is the fact that heat is retained within the
vessel for longer periods of time, thus reducing cycling frequency and reducing
the probability of notable temperature drooping. The net impact of this
design is better temperature stability, better heat distribution and better
operational efficiency of approximately 3-5%, when compared to conventional
The heat retention attribute is perhaps that
which has the greatest impact on behavior, as it is probable that one would be
inclined to lower the actual thermostat setting when temperature stability is
present. Given this stability, there is a
tendency for one to lower the set point by 3-5° F, when compared to what may
have historically the thermostat setting. This simple action will realize an
approximate savings of 9-15%, as every degree of temperature lowering is
equivalent to a 3% cost of operation reduction. This savings is attributable to
just the lowering of the temperature. If
one then factors-in the operational savings associated with the design of the
electric hydronic heater, the collective impact would be between 12% and
20%. The last notable point is that most
people would agree that the appearance is determinably better than standard baseboard
heaters. That plus the fact that they are more robust in their
construction, as a heavier gauge of metal is used for the housing.
The last point worth considering is relative
to the thermostats used. We recommend
that people also consider replacing their older mechanical devices with new
electronic thermostats, be they programmable or non-programmable. Electronic thermostat can save one as much as
10%, when compared to mechanical thermostats.
This is attributable to better management of cycle time. The programmable versions simply take the
thermostat babysitting out of the equation, thus insuring the maximum
operational efficiency of the system, 24/7.
So, share your thoughts and
observations with us. Wed love to know
your experiences using electric hydronic baseboard heaters.
Jeff Cousins has been employed by F. N. Cuthbert since 1984. Look for his periodic posts on other products that are available form F. N. Cuthbert.