Hot Water Baseboard vs. Steel Panel Radiators

Hot Water Baseboard vs. Steel Panel Radiators


Operation:

Baseboard- Water is heated in the boiler and then is forced through the copper tubing inside the baseboard housing. Attached to that copper tubing are aluminum fins. These fins will absorb the heat from the copper tubing through conduction. The air within the housing is then heated by these fins. As it is heated it rises up through the top of the baseboard and into the room (the hot air rises up because it is lighter than cold air). Cooler air is then drawn into the bottom of the baseboard and the process repeats itself until the room reaches the desired temperature and the thermostat is satisfied.

Panel Radiators- Water is heated in the boiler and then forced through the front and back (depending on the type) panels of the radiators. Attached to the inside of the panels are flutes or fins which absorb heat through conduction. Panel radiators have the advantage of providing two forms of heat to a room. First, like baseboard heating, air is heated by the flutes inside the radiators and then convection takes place. Secondly, the hot water passing through the panels will emit radiant heat. This emits a very comfortable heat when approached. The advantage of panel radiators is that when the water temperature is reduced, it decreases the overall BTU output but the percentage of radiant heat will continue to increase. Essentially, the water passing through the panel radiator may not be hot enough to provide adequate convection, but it will still be able to radiate heat outward into the room.


Cost:

Baseboard - The most economical option of the hot water heating mediums. It is inexpensive and easy to install, which is part of the reason why it has become so popular in the United States. It is a widely used product that all heating contractors are familiar with.

Panel Radiators - Panel Radiators are more expensive than baseboard, but are less than in-floor radiant heating systems. There are several different types of panel radiators available in the market; Single, Single-Single, Single-Double, Double-Double, and numerous other variations. The percentage of steel within the unit is what drives the price; the more steel the higher the product cost. The benefit to a higher steel percentage is that more steel allows for more water, which in turn increases BTUs. Double-Double panel radiators are the most flexible option, while still being an economical choice. They are a good balance between price and BTU output. Panel Radiators’ are still new to the United States, even though they have been utilized throughout Europe for years. It stands to reason that most contractors will not be as familiar with panel radiators as they are with baseboard.

Flexibility:

Baseboard- Baseboard is a pretty standard heating medium; hot water passes through a room and heats it. A heating system can be designed with multiple zones that will allow for more flexibility; for instance the bedrooms can be set as one zone while the rest of the house is another. The downside to this option is that putting a thermostat in every room would be difficult, and more expensive.

Panel Radiators- Most panel radiators allow for the addition of thermostatic heads. These thermostatic heads will convert each panel radiator its own zone. This means you can keep your bedrooms a little cooler and your bathrooms a little warmer.

Design:

Baseboard- Baseboard units are very limited in design, as baseboard is a very simple house placed over copper pipe. It is installed around the perimeter of a home, which reduces the wall area for furniture placement and overall room design. Placing large pieces of furniture in front of the baseboard can disrupt the convective currents in a home, resulting in poorly heated areas.

Panel Radiators- A double double 24” by 24” radiator is the equivalent to about 9 feet of baseboard. That means that you can free up about 7 feet of wall space with this single radiator. This greatly increases the ability to position furniture around a room. Panel radiators are also being manufactured with design in mind. They are very elegant looking and can fit into any home décor.

Conclusion:

Steel Panel Radiators are the better product when it comes to design, flexibility and operation. They are more expensive with respect to initial cost, but overall the operating expense of your heating system will be less then would be expected with a traditional baseboard system. As always, be sure to consult a professional when doing any sort of plumbing or heating installation.