Electric Hydronic Baseboard, Or Regular Convectors?

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by Theodore, May 1, 2016.

  1. Theodore

    Theodore Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2015
    Location:
    New York
    Hi,
    I'm finishing my basement (one big room of 20x30) and want to use electric baseboard heat (as a backup to my mini-split heat pump). I've read about the difference between regular (cheaper) convection electric baseboards and (more pricey) electric hydronic. I've also noticed a good number of complaints that electric hydronic baseboards don't seem to last many years. My basement will NOT get continual use, but I don't want to invest in hydronic electric only to see it be wasted. What has your experience been with electric hydronic?
    All comments appreciated.
    Thanks
    Theodore.

    P.S. I'm in the northeast, so electric is not cheap. But, considering this isn't going to be a continual-use room, and it's mostly underground, and it's got a heat pump, and the main house's hydronic loop is exposed and overhead throughout the basement, I think electric baseboard for this basement may be a reasonable solution. Wondering if anyone has had issues with longevity of hydronic electric units vs. regular electric baseboard. And I understand that regular electric baseboard often smells of burning dust... which is annoying, but tolerable.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  2. BadgerBoilerMN

    BadgerBoilerMN Hydronic Heating Designer

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2011
    Occupation:
    hydronic heating designer/contractor
    Location:
    Minneapolis
    There is nothing cheaper or more reliable than baseboard electric panels. In most markets there is usually nothing more expensive to operate. But for a basement backup I don't see any advantage the electric driven hydronic baseboard.
     
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  4. Theodore

    Theodore Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2015
    Location:
    New York
    Thanks for your input.
     
  5. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    01609
    The heat load of a mostly below grade 600' INSULATED basement is usually well below the output of even a 3/4 ton mini-split. Properly insulated you would not need any back up at all. How are the foundation and above-grade sections of basement wall insulated? If not insulated or insufficiently insulated, the smarter money is spent on lowering the load with air sealing & insulation upgrades, not throwing more BTU at it with baseboards of any type.

    Which model heat pump is currently installed there?

    How many square feet of windows (and type), how many square feet of exterior door (and type), if any? How may inches above-grade exposure is there on the foundation, and what is the foundation type (poured concrete, quarried stone, CMU, etc.)?

    "New York" spans a number of climates from zone 4A to zone 7A. Got a ZIP code? (For outside design temp and climate purposes, which affects the insulation details.)
     
  6. Theodore

    Theodore Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2015
    Location:
    New York
    Hi Dana,
    It's concrete block. I've added R10 (2" rigid insulation) onto the inside of the CMU. I'm leaning towards adding even more, i.e. between studs of studwall. I've yet to run a Manual J calc, but you have very legitimate questions and are clearly approaching my post with the right intention. Ultimately, I'm just trying to gather opinions on the pros and cons of electric hydronic VS. electric convectors. I'll then do my homework on exact number and placement.
    Many thanks,
    Theodore
     
  7. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Location:
    01609
    The differences in comfort between a hydronic electric convector and a finned electric baseboard are a bit academic, especially at your very low heat load and intermittent use. It'll never run long enough for the comfort differences to really matter. You're looking at less than 5000 BTU/hr (~1500 watts) probably even less than 3000 BTU/hr (~1000 watts). Deciding on the heating solution before estimating the load is usually a mistake.

    The R10 would meet IRC 2015 code-min in NYC , Westchester, and Long Island, but the rest of the state would need R15 continuous insulation type performance. Stuffing even cheapo R11s or contractor-roll special R13s in the stud bays would beat that performance mark with some margin. Unfaced is best, but kraft facers are OK. If you feel the urge to spend money going even better, install R15 rock wool or R15 fiberglass. Don't put high R/inch foam between studs- it's a waste of good foam, the thermal bridging of the framing robs performance. In the event of a flood foam between the studs would impede drying of the wood, leading to higher mold potential. Unfaced batts dry quickly, and can be simply trimmed a few inches above the high water mark to let it dry VERY quickly, and the trimmed-out section would be easily and cheaply replaced.

    Since it's not structural it's fine to use a single top plate on the studwall, and it's useful to put an inch of EPS or XPS between the bottom plate and the slab as a capillary and thermal break. An uninsulated slab's temperature will be below the average outdoor dew point in mid-summer, and resting an insulated studwall directly on that slab makes it more prone to taking on water as adsorb, increasing the mold potential inside the wall. With an inch of polystyrene between the slab mitigates that issue completely.
     
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