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Do you need a boiler for Euro panels?

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Mary_5
Mary_5 Member Posts: 3
Hey, thanks all for your feedback. I think I'll just stick with the current BB or maybe replace them with some "prettier" ones ;-)
-Mary

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  • Mary_5
    Mary_5 Member Posts: 3
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    Do you need a boiler for Euro wall panels?

    I am SO confused. I want to replace my 1959 baseboard heaters with something more efficient. I thought I could just have hydronic BBs put in, then read the specs and saw they require a boiler. I don't want to do that. So what about the European style radiant wall heaters/panels/units? I saw some on http://advancedradiant.com/htmldocs/panel.htm that would work okay for me, but it doesn't say if they require a boiler. Also, do they operate from a wall thermostat? Help!
  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
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    Boilers... What are they...

    The term "boiler" is used to describe specially constructed hot water heaters for residential and commercial hydronic heating service. They were derived from boilers that produced steam (and actually boiled the water).

    In some parts of the US, or for some really small buildings that are really well insulated, the heat load is so low that a person may get by using a "hot water heater"; however, they generally are not as rugged or have as many built in safety features as boilers. However, far to often hot water heaters are misapplied in really unsafe configurations because someone was just being cheap instead of installing the more expensive boiler.

    If you have a hydronic heating system - then you must have some sort of equipment to heat the water. That is what the radiator mfr refers to as a "boiler."

    If you really have hot water heaters I'd have it checked out by a pro (a real pro) to ensure that a hot water heater is really appropriate for your situation and that it is installed correctly.

    As long as you have an adequate supply of hot water - you can install other types of radiators. you do need to ensure that you are getting the right size radiator for you system and your house though. Installation can be a bit tricky too; especially if you have to modify piping (which is almost a certainty if changing the style of radiator).

    Oh, one other thing. A modern boiler will probably blow away a "hot water heater" on efficiency. Depending on where you are and your heat loads and fuel cost... A boiler might pay for itself over some years... and after that the savings are great.

    Oh, and you are not likley to improve on the efficiency of the 1950 era baseboard (is it cast iron- nothing beats cast iron). If you are looking for efficiency improvements... look to upgrading the item that heats the water for you - your "boiler."

    Perry
  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
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    I forgot to mention... heating System Efficiencies..

    I also have mid 1950's cast iron baseboard in my house.

    I replaced my boiler last year and achieved a 45% reduction in fuel usage - all without touching the installed baseboard units.

    In some cases you can install new control valves on each baseboard unit (called TRV's) which is a lot easier than installing new radiators; but that may not be needed either.

    A good modulating condensing boiler with outdoor reset would probably do wonders if you have gas heat. If you have oil heat you won't do quite as well - but still tremendous improvements can likely be made with a new boiler.

    It would be very rare that you would need to modify your existing baseboard units to improve heating efficiency in your house.

    Perry
  • Mary_5
    Mary_5 Member Posts: 3
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    I wish I did have cast iron! The BBs I now have are just the aluminum (?) kind with the plain ole heating elements. They are somewhat rusty and ugly. They heat the house just fine, but it runs about $110/month in the winter in Seattle for a 1300' ft rambler. Seems like I could do better...
  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
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    Sounds like several different issues:

    1) The old baseboard radiators look bad (these should be copper tube with Aluminum fins, and steel covers based on your description).

    2) Energy efficiency of the hot water heater (boiler).

    3) Energy efficiency of the house (It would be very rare for a house in Seattle to be insulated like houses in Wisconsin).

    Now you can certainly replace your baseboard with euro style panel radiators and improve the look; but that will not gain much thermal efficiency (i.e. do not expect a reduction in energy bills).

    You would gain more themal efficiency by insulating the house, sealing doors and windows (perhaps replacment windows), and replacing the hot water heater (boiler).

    From a cost effectiveness perspective insulation and sealing doors and windows is usually the most cost effective - and done prior to sizing a replacment boiler.

    Seattle has a much shorter and milder heating system than many other places in the country - as such, there may not be the best cost payback of installing a really high efficiency modern boiler (they are not cheap); although, when your current hot water heater (boiler) needs replacing due to age you should move to a more energy efficient system.

    The key thing is that you need a good energy study on your house. Here in Wisconsin a home energy study - with blower door test - cost about $150. It identified many things I could do to the house to improve energy efficiency prior to replacing the boiler; and identified the most cost effective things to do - and the least cost effective things to do. I started by spending a week cauking air leakage spots in several areas.

    Then, if you need to replace your boiler - you need to properely size it. Slantfin company has been providing a free copy of a program to size replacement boilers (the right way). It took me about 3 hours to measure my house and enter the details. The nice thing is I could also play "what if" games. What if I insulated the basement walls.... What if I replaced the windows... How much did it reduce the size of the needed boiler (and the energy bills).

    But, I would start with a good home energy audit first.

    Of course, you can replace those ugly degraded baseboard radiators anytime as long as you have the $$$$. Just keep in mind that if you do need a new boiler - that it is also $$$$ to replace.

    Perry (homeowner)
  • rob brown
    rob brown Member Posts: 69
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    baseboard

    perry, i believe mary is describing electric baseboard,hence the question of do i need a boiler. and mary, there might be electric panel radiators, but unless your rates are very low, its the most expensive type of heat to operate. do you have gas in your area? might be the least expensive to operate. definitly more to install, as you would need a boiler. you could have new elec baseboards installed, at least they would look new. fairly cheap to install too. hope this helps. rob
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,147
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    If you know you fuel cost options

    you can determine seasonal cost. Currently I pay under 7 cents a KWH, and LP is $1.64. that brings LP and electric fairly close, cost wise. LP tends to go up mid winter, electric stays even.

    Be sure you add any other "fees" the utility or gas delivery company may add.

    hot rod
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • Perry_3
    Perry_3 Member Posts: 498
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    Conversion cost

    If Mary currently has electric heat it is probably not worth converting to hydronic in the Seattle area. More bang for the buck would go towards improving the energy efficiency of the house.


    Perry
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