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Learn about Hot Water Baseboard

Hot Water Baseboard

Hot water baseboards use hot water in long pipes along the base of the wall, with small fins on the pipes to conduct heat to the air in the room. They are commonly referred to as or hydronic baseboards. They are similar in look to electric baseboard heaters but distribute heat differently. They are linked together to form a closed-loop system, using heated water or glycol solution.

A single thermostat typically controls the system, and this is usually the only way to adjust the temperature.

Hot water baseboard heat also isn't typically set up to operate in multiple zones. When the heat is on in one room, it's on in all rooms, unless you've installed separate pumps or by-pass valves. Rooms that are closer to the boiler or heat source will also typically be much warmer than rooms that are far away. This results in a somewhat inefficient way to distribute heat your home.

That said, there are newer products that allow for multi-zones. Generally speaking, hydronic baseboards and radiator (or hydronic panels or radiators) are no longer as common as they once were. A much more common and modern form of heating using hydronic systems today are in-floor and in-wall systems.

Like most heat distribution systems, the system is only as efficient as the heat source that it comes from. The most common application for hot water baseboards is heating via a boiler (often electric or gas-powered). There is potential for air to water heat pumps to aid with the system's efficiency. If a heat pump is something you're considering for your hot water baseboards, check with an HVAC expert on the heat pump's maximum output temperature, and whether that temperature is enough to heat your home.

A thermostatic by-pass valve is also a more recent product that allows hot water baseboards to work independently from the rest of the system (for room-to-room zone control). This is something you might want to consider if you have an existing system and want more control over how and where heat is distributed in your home.

If you're building new or replacing your heating system, there are much more efficient ways to heat your home than through hot water baseboards.

There's nothing specifically sustainable about hot water baseboards. Because it has relatively little exposed surface area, it conducts more than radiates heat. This requires relatively high water temperatures that won't help with efficiency or flexibility for renewable heat sources.

The first recorded use of hot water heating was at a monastery in Greenland. During the end of the 14th century, the monastery used hot spring water to heat the buildings.