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Residential Baseboard Heating systems Explained For homeowners

By Edited Jun 29, 2016 1 0



Residential Baseboard Heating systems Explained For homeowners, is an article that will hopefully enlighten you to the many components that can be found in a hot water heating system.

Laid out so the average homeowner can get a grasp of what each component does, as well as any maintenance that is required for that particular piece of equipment. Completing any maintenance tasks yourself can save a substantial amount of money on a service call.

Hot water heating systems are popular in general and baseboard has long been the method of delivering this heat. Usually preferred by homeowners and contractors alike. If you have this type of system, then you have come to the right place to gain the knowledge you'll need to properly maintain and perform basic repairs.

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Types Of Baseboard Radiation

Fin Tube Baseboard
Baseboard heating traditionally has been a metal cabinet with a pipe wrapped with thin metal fins that ran within it. Not much has changed over time. Baseboard heat is still made with the same element inside and many types still employ a metal cabinet.

This type of heating uses radiation to heat a room. The principle that makes it work is convection. Hot water is pumped through the heating unit within the room and air inside the cabinet is warmed and then naturally rises out the openings in the top.

When this happens,  cold air is pulled in from underneath to fill the space created when the hot air left. This is a continuous process and exactly how we get our heat from a baseboard heating system. The rising air mixes into the room and raises the temperature within the room.

Cabinets for the elements to run in can be various sizes and shapes and they also come in heavy cast iron. This type is very expensive, usually selling by the foot and can run into a ton of money if you have a large house. Most systems will employ a basic metal cabinet and a simple finned tubing.

Normally baseboard heating is installed at the base of a wall. Usually the heating units will be installed on an outside wall because this is where our biggest heat loss occurs. Enough baseboard is installed to offset the amount of heat loss within the room.

This is calculated by a few variables such as window size and number of outside walls, exterior doors and ceiling heights. Outside temperature is also a factor. A home in Arizona will need less heating footage then someone in Chicago. Plumbing supply houses will gladly perform a heat loss for you if they think you'll be buying stock from them.


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Boilers And Other Componants That Help Make Our Heat

Where's The Heat Coming From?

Boilers are like the heart of the heating system. connecting to each zone of radiation with piping and employing an in line pump to circulate it's heated water out to the radiation.

Circulator pumps are one component that often leak. Repairing leaks on a circulator pump is a pretty easy fix. This article will walk you through that process. Repairing A Taco 007 Circulator Pump (That link will open in a new window )

Hot water heating systems use an automatic water feeder to keep them at a set pressure. This is tied into the city water and then into the piping somewhere near the boiler. Adjustable from 12 to 25 pounds per square in this valve lets water in from the city or your well depending on which you have and protects the equipment if there's a leak.

The auto fill valve can be repaired if it is malfunctioning and a repair kit cost about 30.00. Some will opt to replace this valve because new ones are only around 80.00. The job takes about the same time to replace or repair.

Thermal expansion tanks are another piece of equipment that is imperative on a hot water heating system. This is a tank with a rubber diaphragm in the center. They are usually the size of an average propane grill tank.

Holding heating water in the top half because they are tied into the piping and a pre charge of air in the bottom half sealed. This air charge will compress as the water in the system is heated by the boiler. This compression allows space for the expansion of the total system capacity. When the water is heated it grows. The molecules expand and they need somewhere to go.

Expansion tanks are sized to the system according to the capacity of water within the piping and boiler. A thirty pound expansion tank is usually adequate for most houses. 60 pound expansion tanks are the next size up and used when we have many zones or a large volume system maybe with multiple boilers and many rooms.

A Flo check valve is another piece of apparatus you may have in your system. This valve retards gravity circulation as the water is heated it wants to rise up to the highest point. This is usually the radiation and a gravity circulation can occur which will overheat a room.

Each zone in a multi zone hot water heating system will require a pump and a flow check. Isolation valves are recommended for any equipment you may have to service. It's a lot more fun to work on your heating system if you can turn off two ball valves to isolate any component, rather then draining the entire system and then having to purge and fill it again each time you perform any repair. 


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Controlling The Heating System

Baseboard heating systems are controlled by a thermostat and relays that send electronic messages to each other. The thermostats are remote from the boiler. Off in their respective rooms quietly keeping the room at whatever you set them at.

The way that they perform this job is with a message to the boiler when the temperature drops below the set point. They simply close a circuit and the relay they are connected to closes. This then sends a message calling on the proper circulator pump and the boiler.

The water begins to circulate around the zone and it is heated and reheated by the boiler. When the room gets up to the temp you've set it on, the circuit breaks and the whole thing shuts down. It's that simple. When the temp drops, it starts again. All automatically without you even thinking about it.

All systems should be checked at least every month for any obvious repairs needed. Annual maintenance practices should be observed to obtain maximum longevity from your heating equipment.

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