What Is the Most Efficient Way to Heat a Large Home?

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e.alleg
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 12:59 pm

I seem to think that a coal boiler plumbed to cast iron radiators in every room is the absolute cheapest and most efficient way to heat a drafty house. My reasoning is that radiators can be shut off or turned down very easily and large cast radiators will continue to radiate heat even if a door is opened. I don't understand why builders would install baseboard heat or forced air in a home that doesn't need air conditioning besides saving money on installation. What do you folks think? I see radiators being thrown away all the time when people convert to forced air, I'm thinking of starting collecting them and converting my house back to the old way.

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Yanche
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 1:26 pm

The most efficient way to heat is electric resistance heat. It turns all but a small fraction of the electric energy into heat. The rest goes into light waves. The question you likely want answered is what is the most economical way to heat a home. That depends on fuel costs and equipment efficiency in turning the fuel into heat. Human comfort in your home depends on how well that heat is distributed through out the home and ultimately to your body. A coal water boiler and a properly designed cast iron baseboard or radiator distribution system is one way. Others are ground or water source heat pumps, waste oil burners, free wood, etc. There is no universal correct answer. It all starts with knowing your heat load requirement, local costs for fuel and your capital equipment budget.

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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 1:53 pm

After you carry one of those cast iron radiators up two flights of stairs you will find out why they went to copper baseboard. It also provides for a more evenly heated room.

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europachris
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 2:00 pm

coaledsweat wrote:After you carry one of those cast iron radiators up two flights of stairs you will find out why they went to copper baseboard. It also provides for a more evenly heated room.
But copper baseboard (at least the ones I've lived with) are noisy. Every time the heat cycles, they pop, groan, and creak as they expand. Cast iron radiators (or baseboard, I surmise) is relatively silent, although steam heat has it's own hisses and gurgles.

Europe has the nicest heating systems. Either it's underfloor hot water or these very attractive, slim hot water radiators. Each room has a thermostatically controlled valve on the radiator that maintains the room temp and the boiler (usually a tiny little gas boiler) will cycle to maintain the aquastat. It also supplies domestic hot water.

Unfortunately, most of Europe doesn't have air conditioning in homes, and I've spent a few July and August months in Holland and it can get pretty warm and humid there.

Chris

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coaledsweat
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 2:03 pm

I would think that a modulation (runs continuous and blends hot/return water) based hot water in the floor would be the best ideal hot water system. And of course a coal stoker boiler! :)


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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 7:14 pm

I'm not a heating contactor but those who are can correct me if I am wrong but I think you will find that radiant floor hoot water will be the most efficient followed by baseboard hot water, if you are using hot water heat. Altough as yanche said electirc is the most efficient by % . Copper itself is probably the fourth best conductor of heat following only platinum, gold, and silver. That along with increased surface area, ( ie the fins om the copper) plus added length . Baseboard will give a more even and controlled heat ( less fluctution/ deviation from the temp set point). Your radiators will work provided they have plugs opposite your current one pipe steam hook up. You can put throttle valves in a baseboard section as well but if you map out your heat runs or have a pro do it they aren't neccesary with baseboard. You can make either system work but a coal hot water boiler is probably the most cost effective way to heat that drafty house of yours

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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 8:34 pm

Properly installed baseboard is rarely noisy. But anywhere a long stretch of pipe goes from 80* to 180* in a minute or two, it's going to expand quickly, and probably make some noise.

The cast iron radiators will hold heat for longer than a run of baseboard, but one thing that baseboard units do that a cast iron radiator won't is radiate heat at your ankles.

Heat radiates in straight lines, the flat front surface of a baseboard unit gets hot and radiates heat straight across the floor at ankle height. This feature contributes considerably to the comfort of baseboard heat.

I prefer hot floor heat, then baseboard, then radiators.

Greg L.

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Richard S.
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 8:48 pm

We have baseboard, you get the ocassional " squeak" but that's usually when the water initailly begins being pumped, only lasts for a minute if that. Note that this isn't really loud and if you were used to it you probably wouldn't even notice it.

We have two rooms with radiators too, which were more practical for those rooms. the problem with the radiaotrs is they do take up quite a bit of wall space.
"The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."

- Albert Einstein

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Yanche
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Post Thu. Mar. 22, 2007 9:03 pm

europachris wrote:But copper baseboard (at least the ones I've lived with) are noisy. Every time the heat cycles, they pop, groan, and creak as they expand.
The design of modern baseboard heating units almost guarantees noise when hot water rushes in. The heating elements are supported on the aluminum fins. Frequently there is a nylon spacer that the fins are intended to slide on. You can easily eliminate the noise by hanging the heating elements from the sheet metal enclosure with a length of copper wire. That way when it expands it just silently swings on the wire.

Yanche

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Post Fri. Mar. 23, 2007 9:11 am

You can also put teflon tape on all surfaces that contact the pipe - including all the hangers / clamps - they slide real easy then.

I have a monoflow system in which there is a main loop 'fat pipe' from which monflow tees divert flow to convectors. ( two tees per convector - feed & return) The neat part about it is that each convector's flow is individually adjustable - much like a European system's individual thermostatic valves. My convectors are 4 pass - which means each foot of convector equals about four feet of baseboard. The system is nearly silent - not counting the oil burner.

I would never rip it out - but if I were to build new - I would go with radiant heat. (with supplemental coal of course)


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Post Tue. Jun. 05, 2007 3:09 pm

LsFarm wrote:Properly installed baseboard is rarely noisy.

Heat radiates in straight lines, the flat front surface of a baseboard unit gets hot and radiates heat straight across the floor at ankle height. This feature contributes considerably to the comfort of baseboard heat.

Greg L.

.
When you say baseboard units, what height from the floor do you mean? I have seen pictures from Europe of wall or floor mounted flat panel radiators of various heights and lengths. Once I found a website of a company that sold them, and to select the correct one; you had to figure the heat loss of the room! Does anyone use these wall mounted flat panel radiators? Are they quite?
Paul in WI.

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Post Tue. Jun. 05, 2007 7:55 pm

I have seen the wall units in use in Europe. Also saw them in use in the business 'terminal' [Signature Flight Support] at DCA airport. [Washington National]

In Europe, there is a lot of sophisticated water heating, lots of radiant floors, walls and ceilings. We are just figuring this out in the States.

The standard baseboard heating unit used in the states is about 7-8" tall and comes in various lengths depending on the calculated heat loss of the room. The heat loss is calculated by the sq. ft. of outside walls, the sq ft of windows and the R value of the windows and insulation in the walls and ceiling. My father could do these calculations from memory, I can't even find the formula to insert the values.. But it is pretty standard stuff.

I've never priced or put into use a wall panel heater, the ones I saw in Europe were very stout, and didn't make any noise at all.

Greg L

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Burning Pea/Buckwheat through an antique stoker [semi retired SSboiler],
Running an Axeman-Anderson 260M boiler burning Pea, About 150-250#per day
Farming, Fixing, Fabricating and Flying: 'spare time' what's that?

WiPaul
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Post Wed. Jun. 06, 2007 8:32 am

The heat loss is calculated by the sq. ft. of outside walls, the sq ft of windows and the R value of the windows and insulation in the walls and ceiling. My father could do these calculations from memory, I can't even find the formula to insert the values.. But it is pretty standard stuff.

.[/quote]If you search for 'wall panel radiators'; you will find a websites that show baseboard, wall panel, and even bathroom "towel warmers"!

This website page, http://www.bgmsupply.com/calculateheatloss.asp will let you enter the numbers you mentioned above.

My reason for interest is that I would like to have the optional 'hot water coil' installed in my future stove. Does anyone have that option? If so, how long of a baseboard radiator and how far away from the stove is it? Maybe the Installation Manual will provide that information.
Paul.

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Post Wed. Jun. 06, 2007 9:59 am

The optional hot water coil in a coal stove is really meant to slowly recover some heat from the firebox and help heat domestic hot water. The total length of the typical hot water coil is about 24-36". Not a lot of heated surface area. Just think about the surface area in a coal boiler.

While you can recover some heat using a hot water coil, if you want to play with hot water heat, I'd recommend NOT using a furnace, but use a coal boiler, use a water-to-air heat exchanger in the furnace bonnet/outlet duct. This way you can locate the boiler anywhere you want, pipe the hot water to the furnace duct. AND still have hot water to use to heat with baseboard and or radiant floor or walls. AND heat your domestic hot water.

GL

There have been several discussions on this subject, do a search and I think you will find lots of interesting reading. Air is not a good conductor of heat, water is. Water can store excess heat when the house is not calling for heat, but the stoker still has a good sized fire burning in it. A furnace can't store this excess heat very well if at all. The water can rise in temp, store the heat 'till the house thermostat calls for heat again. Much more effecient.

GL

.
Burning Pea/Buckwheat through an antique stoker [semi retired SSboiler],
Running an Axeman-Anderson 260M boiler burning Pea, About 150-250#per day
Farming, Fixing, Fabricating and Flying: 'spare time' what's that?

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