Radiators vs Baseboards

MikeTrev Posted By MikeTrev, Nov 3, 2018 at 1:31 PM

  1. MikeTrev

    MikeTrev
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    Does anyone know or can point me to the ins and outs of these. I’m buying a very old 3,300 house with no heating system at all—no radiators, heat runs etc— and want a wood furnace in the basement. If I go with a boiler (Froling, Ecoburn etc), then what distribution system should I install? Is there a site that explains the pros and cons? What are your thoughts? Floor radiant heat would be unworkable since floors are too thick. I appreciate your help.

    Mike
     
  2. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Simple question with complex answers. You have a big opportunity to "do it right". The best way to heat is with the lowest temperature water and that means low temperature emitters. The reason you want to go with low temperature water is you get a lot more capacity out of storage. The unfortunate part is most of the radiant emitters are made in Europe and you pay a premium for them. Of course before you can buy emitters you need to know what the heat load is for each room and that means the first step is do a heat load calculation for the house and each room. The trade off with radiant emitters are they need to be large to deal with the low temperature supply water so you need to decide how much wall space you have in each room and match the emitters to the space you have.

    One key thing with low temperature emitters as they get real expensive and possibly impractical if its a house with high heat load. Ideally you need to deal with getting a handle on the heat loss first. If you put in the heat first and then tighten up the house you will have thrown a lot of good money away.

    Old fashioned radiators can be made to work but unless you have them and you want "the look" there are less expensive ways to go.

    The other thing is if you have access to run pipes to each room, put in separate zones to each room. There are some pretty slick local temperature control valves that integrate with european style emitters.

    One thing you do tend to lose with low temperature supply water is fast heat. Its pretty much "set and forget" versus using setback thermostats.
     
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  3. salecker

    salecker
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    I have cast iron rads in my house,i was able to pick them from a yard that was being cleaned.Freebie!!!
    i use TRV's on each run of rads.They are awesome for removing BTU's from water,if i ever build a sytem from scratch again they will be at the top of the list.
    If your house has a vintage look they would fit right in.In my house originally i planed on the usual placement of heat under the windows.But the quad pane windows we have are so efficient there arn't the usual cold areas near the windows so i ended up placing rads where they fit he best in the rooms.
    If you can re insulate it is worth the time and money to do that.
     
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  4. E Yoder

    E Yoder
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    If you have the space I'd do cast rads over copper baseboards, but they do fill up a room. With homerun piping you can adjust each room.
    But if you're doing AC you could put a coil in it to boost the rads on those extra cold nights.
     
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  5. leon

    leon
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    ============================================================================


    The simplest and way to go about this is with a gravity hot water system feeding each radiator.

    The cooler water just flows back into the basement to the sump of the boiler to be heated again and rise up to the top of the stack and travels to each radiator.

    You can also accomplish this with a wood and coal hand fed if you have access to coal.

    Its best that you hire a HVAC engineer for an hour after you provide him with a heat study of your home and a complete layout of each room and the basement before you get involved with demolition.

    A home with a basement lends itself to a steam or gravity hot water system as you can plumb from the bottom up and you can feed steam radiators with refrigerant grades soft copper pipe from a common header pipe in the basement.

    A gravity hot water or steam heating system should be in the center of the basement so that the water can rise in two pipes feeding hot water to both sides of the home and coming off the sides boiler steam chest and the cooler water coming from the radiators will enter on both sides of the boiler into the boiler sump tappings.

    A gravity hot water heating system is simple to control with a single high limit aquastat and a single low limit aquastat.

    The hot water rises to the highest point in the home to the open to air expansion tank and is able to vent any any excess hot water and heat through the open to air pipe that passes through the roof and dumps on the roof.

    Gravity hot water heat is a very simple heating method that provides even heating through the entire home and the amount of heat is controlled by opening and closing the hot water valve at each radiator.


    Installing steam heat has become easier as refrigerant grade soft copper tubing can be used to deliver dry steam to radiators with no issues.

    If you can find a large number of used steam radiators they can be salvaged, cleaned, painted and have new vents and valves installed and each room will have its own temperature control on the individual radiator.


    If I may I would like to suggest 5 paperback books for you to purchase "Classic Hydronics", "Pumping Away"," How Come?", "We Got Steam and Greening Steam".


    These five paper back books give the layperson a very well rounded education on heating and plumbing.
    Dan Holohan makes his writing fun and easy to understand and he also talks about the history of plumbing as well to provide a lot of back round information so the reader comes away learning even more about plumbing and heating.


    You can purchase them directly from the author at www.dansbooks.com and all profits go to the author.


    I would also suggest that you also become a member of the heating help forum as it is free to join and the information they have there is priceless for the layman and professional plumber alike.

    www.heatinghelp.com
     
  6. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Not many folks advocating gravity hydronics these days. I dont think gravity hydronics would be good fit with the current approach of using low temperature emitters to maximize storage. With the new ECM pumps, the wattage to pump water is minimal and makes it a lot easier to push the water to where you want it then to try to get it to thermosyphon. I dont think there is really anyone out there advocating steam heating where efficiency is the driver. Hard to beat the cost and ease of running of oxygen barrier PEX compared to copper tubing. Unfortunately PEX is not rated for steam and given the increased efficiency by going with low temperature emitters there is no need to.

    The "guru" of modern hydronics is John Siegenthaler. If you search around for PM Engineer magazine, he has a monthly column and recently did a two part article on biomass heating systems. NYSERDA paid him to create a course on biomass heating. Heatspring.com has several of his courses but expect the $35 Nyserda course may be the right one for you https://www.heatspring.com/courses/hydronics-for-high-efficiency-biomass-boilers-sponsored-by-nyserda/. I took one of his longer more detailed courses and the cost was worth it but probably far too detailed for an average homeowner.
     
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  7. leon

    leon
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    If he has an attic in this home he could install a gravity hot water system and radiators.


    If he can purchase coal locally that would save him more money and it would make for less work as he may already have a coal room in the basement.

    Having a basement lends itself easily to steam or gravity hot water.
    There are many many old homes with steam or gravity hot water heat in them that are
    90 plus years old and still working very well.

    Baseboard heat(which I personally hate anyway) is an energy waster in new and old homes as
    it wastes heat and increases installation cost.

    I am not trying to spend his money. Gravity hot water heat for this home would be much more economical over time as there are no circulators, no drop headers for dry steam, no Hartford Loop, no zone valves or separate thermostats and separate wiring runs controlling a brood herd of circulators and it would cost less than a steam system. There is no need for a dump zone as the hot water in the gravity hot water system will vent it to atmosphere.

    Installing a steam boiler would increase the resale value and using dry steam to heat the home would cost a little more than gravity hot water but the system would still heat very well with the proper sized steam traps and vents in the end of steam header pipes and new vents and valves in the radiators.

    The steam system installation can be done with single header pipes in the basement with the radiators on the exterior walls and additional radiators on the upper floors can have steam fed to them from the lower radiators.


    I hope he is willing to tell us more about this home as we can help him as I only want him to succeed.
     
  8. maple1

    maple1
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    How does baseboard heat waste heat?

    Having any part of a heating system in an attic is something I would totally avoid. Also not sure how many people would pay more for a steam boiler - I don't think I have ever seen one installed in a house.
     
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  9. leon

    leon
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    Hello and good morning Maple1,

    In my case with 225 plus feet of baseboard the heat is wasted as the house is poorly insulated and in one room I have no insulation in the ceiling space because the SOB that had this place before me was a tightwad landlord that did things on the cheap. He used lath to install ceiling tiles in one room and that hid the fact that there were no joists in the ceiling and the metal roof has no felt under it. The SOB only lived here for 5 months of the year. All he ever did was paint over any water damage in the ceiling that occurred.

    I burn more much coal than I need to to heat the place with baseboard heat as I could do it with smaller radiators.

    If I could I would tear this place down I would correct all the hidden problems I have found and put a new stick built small house here with coal fired steam or gravity hot water heat and sell it.

    We have a lot of gas and oil fired steam heating systems on this side of the border that were converted from coal to oil or gas boilers.

    There are many dry steam single pipe systems that are a century old and gravity hot water systems with open to air expansion tanks in attics that are a century old down here heating 3+ story homes. the third story is the limit that hot water will rise naturally with boiling water.

    A top fed gravity hot water system can have a hot water rated pump that will push water to an upper floor of any height and the tank in the attic will simply have a float switch to control it and the hot water is delivered by gravity to the lower floors and back to the basement where it connects to the boiler sump header to be heated again.

    Gravity hot water systems are either bottom fed with a riser pipe and a second return pipe 12 inches from the hot water riser or a top fed gravity hot water system that feeds all the radiators from the top and the cooler water falls down through the return header to the boiler sump header.

    In the attic it will usually have a very small radiator next to the open to air expansion tank if the attic is very cold.
    If the attic is insulated they may also be set up with a tee in the base of the tank with short nipples and elbows that are connected to the riser and return pipe to the basement to the sump header pipe leading to the boiler.
    This lets the hot water rise to the radiators and heat the water in the open to air expansion tank and then travel back down to the radiators and then return to the basement and the boiler sump to be reheated.

    I hope we hear more from this gentleman about his home as it sounds as if they used small pot belly wood and coal stoves to heat it at one time.
     
  10. maple1

    maple1
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    I don't think it's the type of distribution that's wasting heat - it's the house. The same amount of heat will go to the outdoors whether the heat is delivered with baseboard or some other kinds of rads.
     
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  11. MikeTrev

    MikeTrev
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    Thank you everyone. This is all very helpful but also a bit confusing. The house is three bricks thick. In 1979, 2x4 studs were added to all outside walls in the interior right up against the plaster with fiberglass insulation, a sheet of plastic and thick wall board. It has a gabled unfinished attic. It has a large addition on the old porch--41' to 11' outside dimensions, just two by four construction with vinyl siding. I hope to this summer add as much insulation as possible to the outside and cover in stucco. First and second floors have 9' ceilings. Basement is under entire house with all four east and west chimneys closed at all fireplaces. The basement goes under the addition as well with a masonry chimney near one corner where a boiler for radiators at one point was located. This part of the country (the tri-state area--Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) commonly has shallow gas wells. This house has one running to the house but I don't so far own the field where located so that there is a possibility that I will have access to free natural gas in the future, or maybe through a gas line being run down the road. The former boiler was likely natural gas from the well.

    The attic has no insulation above, but when roof goes in 10-20 years, I hope to add insulation under a metal roof. The house is 1826 and so has trees with bark on the sides for floor joists exposed in the basement. All but the living room an kitchen is carpeted with what seems to be tongue and groove oak floor boards over 1/2" thick but apparently undulating and uneven. the boards are over 1-by pine sub-floor. I should be able to stop the water currently going into the basement. The entire house has a musty smell. Remember it was someone's summer home and so never heated since the 70s. It has an attic heat pump and supplemental electric heat but it only comes out of the second floor ceilings and would not prevent the house from freezing. It is winterized with RV antifreeze to get through the winter.

    The wood boilers--Froiling etc. with 600 gallon storage tanks etc.--seem very expensive and complicated.In addition, I would have to buy a propane backup furnace on top of that. Also, those European baseboard and wall emitter systems seem expensive. Local man told me to forget wood and install a ductless mini split or an aluminum propane boiler with old radiators. I really want wood with a backup.

    I was hoping for a boiler but may have to settle for that Kuuma forced air and live with the dust of vents, ducts in the basement, perhaps a stovepipe in the middle of the house (if I can't get a liner up one of the chimneys), and perhaps more uneven heating and inefficiency compared to a boiler. I would have to get an inexpensive propane backup for the Kuuma. I'm not sure how much more wood the Kuuma would burn than a boiler.

    Well that is the situation. I greatly appreciate your help.

    Mike
     
  12. MikeTrev

    MikeTrev
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    Kuuma rep said that I would not need a return, just leave the basement door open or screened, and that 6" flexible heat runs are rounded and better than metal ducts. The local furnace guy said that that does not sound right and that metal ducts are better since smooth walled.
     
  13. E Yoder

    E Yoder
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    Sounds like getting either a forced air system or boiler that runs on NG would be a good fit. Then tie in an outdoor wood boiler to it. Forced air would give the option of AC. Put a hot water coil in the duct while you're putting it all together.
     
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  14. MikeTrev

    MikeTrev
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    Everything else being equal, does anyone know how much more firewood I would burn with forced air as opposed to a boiler?

    Thank you for your help.
     
  15. maple1

    maple1
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    Not sure you would burn more. Depends on the boiler and furnace.
     
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