Baseboard Heaters: The Difference between Hydronic and Electric Heaters

Hydronic baseboard heaters have a similar design to that of electric baseboard heaters but the two are actually very different from one another even in spite of their shared purpose. Both forms of heater make use of the standard AC electrical current but radiant heat is used by Hydronic heaters while an electric heater will be of the convection type.

The design of the wall units is intended to offer either supplemental or a primary form of heating. Hydronic baseboard heaters and electric baseboard heaters also differ in terms of cost of operation, installation and purchase cost. 

Hydronic heat versus convection heat

The primary difference between these two methods of heating is that waves are emitted by convection heat while hydronic heat emits rays. Hydronic heat is radiant heat that radiates warmth in a similar manner to the way in which skin is heated by the rays of the sun. Convection heaters need a fan as they are unable to diffuse the produced heat in the same way. Many people will know about convection ovens, which circulate heat round the cavity with the use of a fan. 

Hydronic heater types

Hydronic heaters normally have more than a passing resemblance to electric baseboard units in regards to their design. Both of them attach to walls from the floor level and are fairly slim and long. 

There are two standard hydronic heater types – freestanding heaters and built-in systems. The latter require a more complex installation and are normally built into a home while it is being constructed, being an evolution of old-school cast iron radiators that have been around since the 1940s. 

This system features a central boiler that is usually powered via natural gas, copper piping that runs all over the home and baseboard heating units in every room or zone. These systems are intended to be permanent and can be integrated very easily into the decor and layout of a home. The central boiler heats water which is then sent to every zone in the home, with baseboard units transferring the heat to every room. The water goes back to the boiler once it cools down. 

Freestanding hydronic units however are self-contained, built with a constant water supply or some other type of liquid as well as a thermostat and are normally powered by electricity. Their manner of function is similar to that of built-in systems though the water is actually heated and then reheated in every individual baseboard unit. 

Electric heaters

As with freestanding hydronic units, electricity is used to power convection baseboard heaters, which also come with individual thermostat controls. Rather than water being heated in order to then transfer that heat, electricity instead powers an internal heating element that draws in cool air from floor level inside the intake vent, heats it and then uses a fan to blow it out into the room. The cycle of each individual unit is regulated by the built-in thermostat. 

Hydronic systems are complex to install and costly for pre-existing homes but are very cost-effective in operation and highly efficient. Radiant heat is also able to keep emitting warmth after the heater has been turned on, making it even more efficient. 

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.