Top 8 Frequently Asked Questions about Hydronic Baseboard Heat

Hydronic baseboard heating is a popular and effective method of heating, especially in colder climates. It emerged in the early 1950s and has been around ever since.

It isn’t unusual for older homes to still have their original hydronic heating systems. A whole new generation of homebuyers are confronting this type of heating for the first time and there are a lot of questions. Luckily, these systems are simple and easy to maintain, a doable project for a new homeowner.

Here are the top eight questions you might have about hydronic baseboard heating.

White hydronic baseboard heater in a hallway with bead board.

What is a hydronic baseboard heating system?

Hydronic heat is a system that uses hot water to provide warmth. A boiler heats water then a pump circulates that heated water through a network of pipes running through a house. Every room of the house has a baseboard unit where the heating pipes come up out of the floor and into the room. The heat radiates into the space and convection action circulates it. Baseboard units are designed to assist radiation and convection so the room can be evenly heated.

Each room or zone has a thermostat so the temperature can be controlled. Once the room reaches the desired temperature, the thermostat signals the boiler to stop heating the water.

Do all hydronic baseboard heaters need plumbing?

Since hydronic heaters require the circulation of hot water throughout a house, plumbing is required. The good news is that most hydronic heat plumbing is a durable, long lasting copper. It can last for decades.

Small office space with white hydronic baseboard heater.

Can you run hydronic heating with electricity?

Though the primary heat source of a hydronic system is hot water, there are many options for how that water is heated. Boilers can be electric, natural gas, LPG, heat pump, wood pellets, etc. Choose an option that works well in your climate and that will be sustainable for you into the future.

Are hydronic baseboard heaters better?

Because you most often find hydronic heat in older homes, many mistakenly think that baseboard heaters are out of date. That’s not the case. They are exceptionally energy efficient. The thermostat cycles less frequently than other heat types and the radiant heat lasts longer. Objects in the room will retain heat from a radiant source and that ensures the room stays balanced and comfortable.

Hydronic heat is an excellent choice for allergy sufferers. Since the air doesn't move around to heat the space; there are also far fewer particulates in the air. It’s a great choice for homes with children or pets because of its low surface temperature.

Dark hydronic baseboard heater in a small dining room under a window.

Is hydronic heat safe?

As a radiant heat system that transfers heat from object to object, many worry that baseboard heat is unsafe. However, it is exceptionally safe. There is no danger of burns as the system is completely enclosed and the water never reaches dangerous levels. All hot water plumbing is covered by the baseboard heater cover.

In fact, Baseboarders is an excellent option because it thoroughly encloses all the inner workings of the system.

Is hydronic baseboard heating expensive to run?

While new installation of hydronic heat can be a major renovation and front-end investment, it lasts for decades. The actual day-to-day costs depend on the type of boiler you have. For example, gas boilers tend to be less expensive than electric ones. Costs also depend on the going rate for different utilities, which can fluctuate.

Hydronic baseboard heaters going around a corner in an open format space.

How long do hydronic baseboards last?

Hydronic baseboard heating systems function efficiently for up to 20 years or even longer. The lifespan of your system depends on its quality and maintenance. Get your hydronic system serviced once a year. The summer is the perfect time to do this, when it’s not in use. A professional will examine everything from the plumbing to draining the air in the system.

Are hydronic baseboard heaters worth it?

Don’t be fooled by the look of an old hydronic system. In fact, many hydronic systems look outdated simply because they are worth it. They are efficient and healthy, affordable and durable. They are a favorite of the colder climes like the Northeast, where you’ll find them to be quite common.

Before you dismiss hydronic heat and start looking for something else, consider Baseboarders. With these easy slip-on covers, you can change the look of your system without the expensive remodel.

Ready to revamp your hydronic baseboard covers?

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