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Why is Copper Finned Baseboard so Bad?

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Wellness
Wellness Member Posts: 143
edited February 2023 in THE MAIN WALL
Normally I'm an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of guy. But copper finned baseboard is awful looking and not very durable. And it's been that way for decades. The fins get crushed, the stamped metal enclosures get dented and/or rust. Aftermarket powder-coated based board covers are an improvement but, by adding them, you are approaching the cost of a cast iron radiator. Some interesting innovation is happening. But why can't copper finned manufacturers improve on a product that is in sore need of an overhaul?
Mad Dog_2

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  • SuperTech
    SuperTech Member Posts: 2,205
    edited February 2023
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    I believe it is all about cost. Copper fin tube baseboard certainly doesn't heat any better than cast iron baseboards or radiators.  But it costs less, weighs less and is quicker and easier to install. 

    I'd prefer panel radiators, cast iron radiators, cast iron baseboards or radiant flooring myself.  Fin tube convectors heat up and cool down too quickly for my liking, causing extra cycling and wear on the equipment. 
    GGrossMad Dog_2Paul Pollets
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,649
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    Nothing inherently wrong with copper finned baseboard -- from a heating standpoint --though it does behave very differently from cast iron radiation (any type of finned baseboard does). What's different is... money. copper, in case one hasn't noticed, is in very high demand and, consequently, has a high raw material cost. So there is a high finished product cost. Simple as that.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • SweatHog
    SweatHog Member Posts: 30
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    @SuperTech. I agree pricing is the motivation. But why not have a higher grade product offering? Upgrades are available in almost every other produce line. But baseboard manufacturers seem to only differentiate their baseboard product lines by BTU output.
  • GGross
    GGross Member Posts: 1,105
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    There are several emitter choices you could make that are similar to copper fin tube. You bring the prime example mentioning cast iron baseboard, so why not just use CI basboard on every job instead of fin tube? It solves the problems you mentioned in the original question, it is more durable, there are not fins that can bend etc. I think the one thing you may have overlooked is that copper fin baseboard was made to overcome other heat emitters shortcomings, namely cost.

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,649
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    Upgrades? A higher BTUh output per foot IS an upgrade. What else is there to change?
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    GGross
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,245
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    The Cast Iron Baseboard have been consistent leaders in the past few years. Even the domestic stuff although much less. Can't beat CIBB....so durable.  Mad Dog
    GGrossryanwc
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 537
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    SweatHog said:
    @SuperTech. I agree pricing is the motivation. But why not have a higher grade product offering? Upgrades are available in almost every other produce line. But baseboard manufacturers seem to only differentiate their baseboard product lines by BTU output.
    I used a commercial line of baseboard in our house.  Greater heat output per ft, and the cover is a heavier gauge material compared to the normal residential stuff.  It is nothing like cast iron baseboard, but a nice upgrade compared to the builder grade stuff.
    GGrossmattmia2
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,331
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    Back in the fifties there was a building boom and foundries couldn't keep up. Easy and quick to manufacture fin tube. Weren't soldered but the copper pipe was expanded onto tubes. Once set up those shops were stamping (expanding) money.

    Recessed were okay; otherwise somebody eventually stands on them.
    SuperTech
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,959
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    Robert_25 said:


    SweatHog said:

    @SuperTech. I agree pricing is the motivation. But why not have a higher grade product offering? Upgrades are available in almost every other produce line. But baseboard manufacturers seem to only differentiate their baseboard product lines by BTU output.

    I used a commercial line of baseboard in our house.  Greater heat output per ft, and the cover is a heavier gauge material compared to the normal residential stuff.  It is nothing like cast iron baseboard, but a nice upgrade compared to the builder grade stuff.

    I was going to suggest that you can get higher quality fin tube and covers out of the commercial lines.

    You can also run 1, 2, or 3 tube runtal as a baseboard.
    GGross
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,888
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    This is why places like the Hamptons is nothing but geo heat pumps and hydro coils. You can't have S/F 30 in a 10MM house. What would Architect Digest say? And unless it's a historic reno, there won't be any beautiful CI rads either. 
    SuperTech
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,961
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    HVACNUT said:
    This is why places like the Hamptons is nothing but geo heat pumps and hydro coils. You can't have S/F 30 in a 10MM house. What would Architect Digest say? And unless it's a historic reno, there won't be any beautiful CI rads either. 
    Sure you can. 

    It’s the 100 mill homes you can’t.  :smile:
    GGrossSolid_Fuel_Man
  • Wellness
    Wellness Member Posts: 143
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    I'd be curious about the Pros experience with CI radiators. I've always read that copper is more corrosion resistant than iron or steel in an hydronics application. I know CI is very durable, but even the few CI components in my system (three circulators) dump noticeable corrosion into my system. I can't imagine dozens of feet of radiators adding to the buildup.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,959
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    If your system is leak free so it doesn't see fresh makeup water and any plastic tubing it oxygen barrier it should be fine. You can add a dirtmag to pick up any iron particles if you want.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    The more ferrous material in a system the better. When you have a SS boiler, copper emitters, and the rest is PEX. The only thing in the system to absorb the oxygen in the water is the expansion tank, and the circulator(s). 

    The oxygen has to go somewhere, and it oxidizes the iron in a system until it is completly consumed. Then the water is effectively dead. This is a good thing. 

    There are exceptions to this, but you get the general idea. 


    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,476
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    It is almost impossible to have a 100% tight system to prevent O2 ingress. Packings on valves, pump seals, circulator gaskets, are examples where O2 can enter. Some systems absorb the small amount by corrosion of ferrous metals and are fine. Other systems with higher % of ingress can continue to corrode and allow sludge build up.

    If you have or suspect O2 ingress you can add oxygen scavengers in the form of hydronic conditioners. These additives do multiple tasks, buffer Ph, put a thin film coating inside the piping, lock up some hardness, scavenge O2, provide some lubrication to the bearings in wet rotor circulators.

    Test strips will indicate when a booster is required, some systems never need a boost, others need yearly boost, mainly the oxygen scavenger component.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream