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Steam Rads - Electric Conversion

slycam
slycam Member Posts: 5
edited January 17 in THE MAIN WALL
Hello! I live in a 1980's townhouse conversion of a 1910 factory in Toronto. My heating is electric baseboard, ugly & inefficient. I did look into installing a furnace, but my condo board is unenthusiastic for me to bring in a gas line.

I've found two companies in Montreal that provide electric conversions of radiant heaters, I hope it's ok to use company names. One, Ecorad, converts cast iron rads to electric. The other, Just Rads, has a custom Myson Finesse Electric product that looks more like the European flat rads. My place is 2 floors, with 12.5" ceilings on both floors, and approx. 1500 square feet. I will need 7 units total (3 bedrooms, 1 foyer, 1 living/dining and 2 bathrooms). I also have 2 x Mitsubishi heat/cooling wall units on my upper floor.

Would anyone have knowledge of these products and/or be able to help me with advantages/disadvantages of either route? Perhaps the only difference is the look? My place is spacious enough to house cast iron, and I think either would look great, except for all the thermostats I will need!

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    The biggest problem is not the conversion -- I can think of several ways it can be done, though I don't know anything about either of those outfits.

    The problem is getting enough power. Electricity is pretty cheap in the Toronto area, as I recall, so that may not be a factor. If you are planning on simply replacing the electric baseboards you probably have enough electric power coming in to handle the load, and could control the new units with whatever thermostats or contactors you have now. If you're planning on adding new units, check how much power you have coming in -- electric heating uses a pretty fair amount of the stuff... (a typical small steam radiator would be more or less equivalent to a 3 KW electric radiator)
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 353
    If you are going to keep the electric heating system electric and are not trying to convert the heating system to another fuel, why not just replace the baseboard heating units with new units that look better. Replacing this system with a unit that produces steam heating from an electric source is not going to be any more efficient and may even cost more to heat your townhouse.

    Adding some pictures and a better explanation of the existing system and what you are trying to accomplish may help with with your project and get you more suggestions.
  • slycam
    slycam Member Posts: 5

    If you are going to keep the electric heating system electric and are not trying to convert the heating system to another fuel, why not just replace the baseboard heating units with new units that look better. Replacing this system with a unit that produces steam heating from an electric source is not going to be any more efficient and may even cost more to heat your townhouse.

    Adding some pictures and a better explanation of the existing system and what you are trying to accomplish may help with with your project and get you more suggestions.

    Hi Retiredguy, I'm attracted to these two products because they offer the comfort of radiant heat. https://ecorad.ca/en/ and https://justrads.com/collections/myson-finesse If I were to go with newer baseboard units, I would want silent, like the "Stelpro Bella High end", but the price point is about the same once you get into the higher watts.
  • slycam
    slycam Member Posts: 5

    The biggest problem is not the conversion -- I can think of several ways it can be done, though I don't know anything about either of those outfits.

    The problem is getting enough power. Electricity is pretty cheap in the Toronto area, as I recall, so that may not be a factor. If you are planning on simply replacing the electric baseboards you probably have enough electric power coming in to handle the load, and could control the new units with whatever thermostats or contactors you have now. If you're planning on adding new units, check how much power you have coming in -- electric heating uses a pretty fair amount of the stuff... (a typical small steam radiator would be more or less equivalent to a 3 KW electric radiator)

    Thanks Jamie, I have a quote from one of the companies that matches the wattage of my existing rads, but they suggested an increase in units and/or watts in a few areas. I need to get an electrician in to see where I can upgrade for better overall heating coverage. All of my baseboard rads have attached dials. I'll be installing wall thermostats for the conversions. Hydro isn't so cheap in Toronto, but it sure is in Quebec, where these units are made!
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,252
    Is your heating adaquite right now with the existing electric baseboards? 

    If it is, then there is no need for an increase in wattage. That may or may not be an issue with your existing wire sizing. 

    The main advantage to cast iron is the slow residual heat and the radiant heat from the large surface area. A watt is a watt is a watt, as far as the heat is concerned. There is no "efficiency gain" as you cannot improve on the 100% efficiency of resistance electric heat (I didnt say cheap, just 100% efficient).

    I have seen the electric conversions of old cast iron rads and they work just as well as steam or water heated units. 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,540
    Agree with @Solid_Fuel_Man

    Your still using electric power to make heat. Electric baseboard is 100% efficient. If you want cast iron go for it but don't do it for energy savings
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • slycam
    slycam Member Posts: 5

    Is your heating adaquite right now with the existing electric baseboards? 

    If it is, then there is no need for an increase in wattage. That may or may not be an issue with your existing wire sizing. 

    The main advantage to cast iron is the slow residual heat and the radiant heat from the large surface area. A watt is a watt is a watt, as far as the heat is concerned. There is no "efficiency gain" as you cannot improve on the 100% efficiency of resistance electric heat (I didnt say cheap, just 100% efficient).

    I have seen the electric conversions of old cast iron rads and they work just as well as steam or water heated units. 

    Thank you Solid Fuel Man & Ebebratt. That makes sense, but I do wonder about the age (mid 80's) of my existing baseboards. Surely technology has improved a little in 35 years? Regardless, I do think radiant heat will be an improvement over what I have, albeit costly. That, and I think I need to increase wattage in a couple of areas for better overall heat coverage.

    Do you have any feedback on the Myson Finesse product? Do you think it would work as well as the cast iron conversion?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    As to technology in resistance electric heating -- like your baseboards or the electric conversions or the Myson Finesse -- improving in the last 35 years? Yes and no. Yes, in terms of better control flexibility and options and safety, although not in reliability, but no, in terms of efficiency (KW in vs. BTUh out).

    As to the Myson Finesse -- Myson makes good gear. I've not seen the Finesse itself, although I have seen other oil-filled radiators, and they do work well.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 187
    slycam said:

    but I do wonder about the age (mid 80's) of my existing baseboards. Surely technology has improved a little in 35 years?

    No.

    Many people have a misconception of Technology and Energy. I fear the younger and more tech savvy a person is, the greater the misconception.

    Perhaps you are familiar with Moore's Law?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore's_law

    Moore's law relates to technology. It explains why your smart phone would have been the size of a Prius 35 years ago. Moore's law does not apply to energy.

    Doing work, making heat, and moving heat are limited by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_thermodynamics
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

    As I was typing this up, I was thinking "I'm not an engineer, how can I correctly describe the Laws of Thermodynamics". Is there an engineer in the house? We need @Jamie Hall. Sure enough, Jamie responded before I could finish this.
    slycam
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    The three laws of thermodynamics as I used to teach them: You can't win (total energy input to a closed system must exactly equal the total energy output). You can't even break even (the work output of a closed system must be less than the total energy input). You have to start with a stake of zero (the entropy of a closed system at absolute zero is zero).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Solid_Fuel_ManslycamLS123
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,252
    Best you can do to improve electric resistance heat is to use a digital PWM controlled thermostat. I use Stelpro pretty much exclusively for electric heat. Made in Quebec. Much of Canada, including the OP, use electric heat. The abundance of very cheap hydro power in the 70s led that trend. Power never really got cheap here south of the boarder in the US although it was predicted to (remember those Gold Seal homes?). 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 8,540
    @Solid_Fuel_Man

    LOL Remember Nuclear power and houses wired with aluminum
    Solid_Fuel_ManLS123
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    Yeah... aluminium wire seemed like such a nice idea, but it depended on very high quality workmanship to be safe (which it can be) and the use of correct fittings. Good luck with that -- so it got dumped. And I remember when one of the first nuclear power reactors came on line. It was cheap, no air pollution, water pollution no worse than any other thermal plant, no coal mining no... and then people got scared and panicky and the costs (for regulation and litigation -- not engineering or construction) went out of sight. It's still the most environmentally friendly way of generating the electric power we all need, but...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Solid_Fuel_ManLS123
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 339
    @Jamie Hall ... theree is hope for much safer and cleaner nuclear energy supported by Bill Gates "Bill Gates thinks he's found one, and it's called TerraPower. Founded by Gates in 2006, the company recently announced it plans to build small, advanced nuclear power stations across the United States. ... That's because they rely on a new source of nuclear energy: a traveling wave reactor.Sep 5, 2020"
    https://www.terrapower.com/

    ** From what I understand the nuclear energy facilities by Bill Gates and Co will be smaller.. much safer... and can use spent nuclear fuel thats been stored underground somewhere... so the way I understand instead of producing more uranium ... Gates nuclear power generators can run for 100's of years from spent nuclear fuels....
    @LS123
    Steam Heat Enthusiast
    -- In Learning Mode --
    " Trust But Verify " Suzanne Massie, an American scholar
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    It would be nice...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,593
    Decades ago I replaced some scorched air baseboards with milder liquid filled ones.
    Definitely some improvement in comfort and electric consumption.
    May work even better with modern anticipator thermostats?
    A few years ago I installed some ceiling height electric radiant panels.
    In my opinion they are notably superior to baseboards.
    But then that building is tight and insulated.
    If your Toronto townhouse is up to Canada2000 standards, then it doesn't matter.
  • slycam
    slycam Member Posts: 5
    jumper said:

    Decades ago I replaced some scorched air baseboards with milder liquid filled ones.
    Definitely some improvement in comfort and electric consumption.
    May work even better with modern anticipator thermostats?
    A few years ago I installed some ceiling height electric radiant panels.
    In my opinion they are notably superior to baseboards.
    But then that building is tight and insulated.
    If your Toronto townhouse is up to Canada2000 standards, then it doesn't matter.

    Thank you Jumper! I've learned a lot in this thread: mostly a watt is a watt is a watt (thank you solid fuel man)! Honestly, I'm lost here in Toronto, where electric heat really isn't really common like it is in Quebec--and I haven't been able to find good local advice. It's a substantial investment to install radiant, but I think worth it. My place is definitely not 2000 standards. Proper thermostats will probably be the biggest improvement. All my baseboards have knobs that seem to only set at medium and high. I just moved in last winter and am still getting a feel for my electricity bills. It's been a mild winter so far.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,252
    Years ago my college electrical engineering instructor told us that "a watt is a watt is a watt". I cannot take credit. His point was that a watt is neither metric or imperial, and that electric resistance is always 100% efficient, you just need to know where all the heat went! 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    slycam
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,593
    slycam said:

    jumper said:


    If your Toronto townhouse is up to Canada2000 standards, then it doesn't matter.

    Thank you Jumper! I've learned a lot in this thread: mostly a watt is a watt is a watt (thank you solid fuel man)! Honestly, I'm lost here in Toronto, where electric heat really isn't really common like it is in Quebec--and I haven't been able to find good local advice. It's a substantial investment to install radiant, but I think worth it. My place is definitely not 2000 standards. Proper thermostats will probably be the biggest improvement. All my baseboards have knobs that seem to only set at medium and high. I just moved in last winter and am still getting a feel for my electricity bills. It's been a mild winter so far.
    North York in Toronto has all electric subdivisions. Reason why nobody knows nothing is that there's nothing to fix? Company making liquid filled baseboards was InterTherm in my day. RadiantSystemsInc was the company whose products I used for ceiling height panels. Need an electrician to bring power from floor level. When it comes to comfort a watt may not be a watt. If furniture obscures baseboard then high quality high temperature heat dissipates to lower temperature which may not feel warm unless you crank up thermostat. Radiant heat on the other hand makes you feel warm at lower air temperature.
    Solid_Fuel_Manslycam
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,252
    I agree radiant heat is absolutely worth the investment. Just dont expect to save a bunch of money going from electric baseboard to electric radiant. A few % is certainly possible to the radiator's radiant nature, but you will feel much more comfortable. 

    I was in New Brunswick a few years back and saw an electric forced air furnace. Should have taken a picture, this was before smart phones!
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    slycam
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