Click here to Find a Contractor in your area.
In fairness to all, we don't discuss pricing on the Wall. Thanks for your cooperation.
Need to contact us? Visit

Electric Baseboard Vs Hydronic Electric Baseboards

Erich_870Erich_870 Member Posts: 4
I just purchased a new (to me) home and I need to replace the existing (4) 72" electric baseboards upstairs for 2 reasons:

1. The previous owner smoked heavily and due to the smell and safety concerns with nicotine and my small children, they need to go.

2. The current regular electric heaters are wired for 120 volt and I have adequate wiring and room in the breaker box to upgrade them to 240 volt.

I also want to control the new heaters with a wireless thermostat such as Honeywell's Econnect system.

Here's the question: Should I upgrade to hyrdonic electric baseboards or stay with the less expensive normal electric baseboards?

Just to be clear, switching to a different heating system isn't feasible due to the layout of the house and the cost to open up the walls/ceiling, etc to plumb a completely different system.

My research shows that the hydronic baseboards are safer for kids, don't smell bad when they turn on for the first time after warm weather and may be slightly more efficient because they produce radiant heat verse convection heat.

The downside is that they cost 4 times as much and in my case, they aren't directly compatible with the Honeywell control system. To make it work, I'd have to either add a junction box in the wall or buy an accessory control section to match the baseboard to house the Equipment Interface Module (EMI).

Right now the cost looks like $300 for the hydronic baseboard and $50 for the accessory control section in comparison to $50 for a standard baseboard that can hold the EMI.

What are your thoughts?




  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Electric heat baseboard:

    Are you sure that the 72" electric heat baseboards are 120 volts? That's unusual. 72" baseboards are usually 240 volts. They should be wired with #12 wire. Where are the thermostats now? On the units or on the wall?

    You really sound like you need a qualified electrician to figure out your problems. If you have single pole breakers in the panel for each of the 4 heaters, you have 120 volt heaters. But if they are run as "Home Runs", it is possible you can use the white wire as the other leg of the 240 volts. But you can't have shared neutrals. What is the rating on the rating plate on the heaters? How many Watts/Amps?

    If the whole house is electric heat, you can add a boiler and just replace the electric baseboard heaters on the first floor. Just replace the electric with equal length hot water baseboards. DON"T rip out any wooden baseboard. The equivalent FHW baseboard will be greater than the output of the electric baseboard. Leave the 2nd floor electric heat baseboards in place and connected. The first floor will heat the second floor. You can use the electric on the second floor if it gets too cold.

    It worked for all the electric heat conversions I did. And you won't have to rip out any walls to run pipes.
  • Erich_870Erich_870 Member Posts: 4
    edited July 2014
    What do you think?

    Sorry for the delay in responding, I was having log in issues.

    I'm 100% positive all the baseboards are 120 volt. I had an electrician look at them. The thermostats are all on the units right now.

    I'm looking for insight into the benefits of hydronic electric baseboards over regular, but less expensinive, baseboards


  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,582
    A watt is a watt, just like...

    A BTU is a BTU. There are only 3.413 btu's per watt, oil or not. The addition of oil to the convective process doesn't enhance the delivery of thermal energy. It only spreads it out over a wider time frame.

    If you really want to deliver excellent RADIANT comfort, look into Cove Heaters They mount at the junction of the wall and ceiling and they WILL influence the Mean Radiant Temperature, and that drives the bus of human comfort.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited July 2014
    Electric Baseboards:

    They may be 120 volts. But are they wired with #12 gauge wire? If so, and the neutrals aren't twined together, and you have "Home Runs" to the panel, and enough room in the panel, you can switch them to 220 volts. 120 volts on each leg. Most electric baseboard heaters are 240 volts and rated as such. 

    I doubt that what ME is talking about comes in 120 volt. Though anything is possible,

    What I was suggesting with replacing just the first floor electric baseboard with Forced Hot Water baseboard is something I did with electric heat conversions to keep the cost down. You need a boiler and you get your hot water off the boiler with an indirect or whatever. My point in the exercise is that replacing electric heat baseboards with forced hot water baseboards will give you a higher BTU output than the electric baseboard per foot. Especially if they are 120 volt single hot wire with a neutral.

    Is this a really old house with an old service?
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 977
    worth the price

    Liquid filled is much more satisfactory than plain heating elements.The latter cools off too quickly after thermostat switches it off. I also second Mark's suggestion to consider ceiling radiant. Most people are more comfortable at lower air temperature.
  • Erich_870Erich_870 Member Posts: 4
    Electric Baseboard Vs Hydronic Electric Baseboards

    I have the correct wiring and room in the pannel for 240 heaters.

    I'm not making any changes to the heating system downstairs. The heaters upstairs will be used primarily during the winter nights when the doors are closed.

    From what I'm seeing, the only reason to upgrade to hydronic baseboards is the safety factor with small kids.

    Any other thoughts?


  • ZmanZman Member Posts: 3,476

    The only advantage see is that they will more evenly and perhaps more quietly. I don't see how they can run at a lower temp as the overall wattage an size is very similar.

    I know you are just looking for the answer to the question you have asked.

    I would also suggest radiant cove heat for the reasons suggested above.

    What is the reasoning behind the honeywell system? It looks like a major pain!
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
  • Erich_870Erich_870 Member Posts: 4
    Electric Baseboard Vs Hydronic Electric Baseboards

    I'll look into the radiant cove systems. I'd never heard of it until now.

    As for the Honeywell system, I'm looking for a wireless thermostat so I can place it on an interior wall and not have to tear open any walls.

    My hope for this project is to gain some improvements in comfort and efficiency while not requiring any major drywall work, hence the wireless thermostat.

    I'm open to any other product suggestions. The Honeywell system looked like it would work well for my needs.

    Keep the suggestions coming!


  • GordyGordy Member Posts: 7,102
    6 of one 1/2 dozen of the other

    Like Mark says a btu is a btu, and a watt is a watt. The water or oil in the baseboard spreads the heat out over a wider time frame. A little longer heating up, and a little slower cooling down because the water adds mass to the base board. Being electric I doubt either one is superior by much to the other for 4 times the cost is ROI there?
  • hot rodhot rod Member Posts: 7,013
    Like a Runtal brand?

    I like the looks of this type better than a finned type electric baseboard. There are also electric, fluid filled, panel rads available.

    Or buy the small immersion element and build your own radiator. This has a 300W and mineral oil inside.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    The magic is in hydronics, and hydronics is in me
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,582
    Paint that puppie HR...

    I had a copper sheet radiant heater on the ceiling of my office many years ago. As I sat below it, with my system running full out, I really didn't "feel" that much heat pouring off of the panels.

    I attached a delta T temperature recorder and confirmed my beliefs. Not more than a 2 degree delta T across the 4' X 4' panel,

    I then painted the outward facing surface of the radiator with a flat white latex paint, and my DT jumped to 5 degrees F., and when I sat below the radiator, it felt like sunshine falling on my face.

    Copper, especially shiny copper, makes a terrible heat emitter, and any radiator that is painted a metallic color significantly reduces the radiant output of the heat emitting surfaces.

    I always wondered why the old upright radiators were painted silver, copper or gold…

    Dan has an article in the archives written by one of the hydronic ancients that spells it all out. Check it out. As Dan say's, it pays to wander off the Wall. Lots and lots of resources in the Library.

    Just joshing you about painting yours HR. I suspect you really don't need the extra BTUH output of it anyway :-) That is a beautiful work of pipe art from Pipe Dream Acres.

    Thanks for all you and your family have done and continue to do for our industry.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    A Bushel of BEE's.

    My Yankee thrift figured out a long time ago that what you bought with your Bucks was BEE's, BTU's that is. By the Bushel. No mater what fuel you use, it is BEE's that do the heating or cooling. The only way you can figure out what it costs is to have a Constant. Like a bushel full of BTU's. How much does that Bushel of BEE's cost. It doesn't matter if you take an oak lob and burn it, or connect a piece of metal and connect it to two wires to make it hot, someone, somewhere, generated electricity to heat the metal rod. Whatever they used, whether it was coal, oil, gas or wood. There is a created amount of heat and it has a cost. To compare it, you have to put it into something to make it equal. In a Bushel basket.

    As far as electricity, it doesn't matter if you heat a rod with fins on it or heat a rod, in an oil bath that convects heat and heats the air. They still use the same amount of heat energy.

    If you pay $50.00 for a 4,000 watt convector heater or a 4,000 watt oil filled heater, it still uses 4,000 watts per hour and cost the same to run it. If the electricity comes from a coal fired plant, it's the cost of the coal delivered to the electricity generating plant, delivered to your house. Its still 4,000 watts. If you think it "feels better", its in your head.
  • jumperjumper Member Posts: 977
    easy to find out

    Icesailor can stand in front of and behind one of those dish type radiant heaters and then decide if it's in his head. Comfort depends on combination of air temperature and radiant temperature.
Sign In or Register to comment.


It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!