Baseboard Radiators: Keep or Replace?
LESLIE: Talking heating with Susan in Illinois. What’s going on?
SUSAN: Oh, I was wondering if you could help me with some baseboard heaters that I don’t know what to do with. And they’re old and I don’t know what to replace them with or whether I should go back to keeping new baseboard heaters.
LESLIE: What kind do you have now?
SUSAN: Why, they’re only about eight inches high and they only have very small vents pushing the air out.
TOM: How old is your home?
SUSAN: These heaters were put in back in 1978 when the building was new.
LESLIE: It sounds like they’re aluminum. Do they make like a tinny sound?
SUSAN: Oh yes, they do.
LESLIE: Yeah, those are aluminum.
TOM: They’re not cast iron. We were going to tell you if you had cast iron not to replace them.
SUSAN: This is an all-electric building.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Oh!
SUSAN: And I’d give anything for, you know, a furnace or the radiators (Leslie chuckles). But these heaters …
LESLIE: And your electric bills must be astronomical.
SUSAN: Please don’t even mention that. (Tom and Leslie laugh) They’re going up 24 percent. (laughing)
TOM: Sore subject.
TOM: Is it possible for you, Susan, to consider a fossil fuel? Is it – you know, propane, oil, gas? I mean …
SUSAN: No, that is not allowed in the building. And I did check on an electric furnace but that’s going to cost $5,000 and it’s going to take almost all of my seven-foot ceiling space (inaudible) for duct work.
TOM: Well, it sounds to me like you’re pretty much stuck with electric radiators. The only thing that we can suggest is if – is to try to make your home as warm as possible you might want to be looking at insulation, perhaps new windows. You could consider a different type of radiator or you could consider additional radiators on – even on interior walls of the room.
Are these on thermostats? Are they controlled by wall thermostats?
SUSAN: They’re controlled by wall thermostats but even when I turn the thermostats up to 80 degrees the temperature only gets up to 68 in here and …
TOM: Alright, it doesn’t sound like these radiators are working properly. It sounds like it might be time for new ones.
SUSAN: Do you know if – considering these things are 30 years old – if these things – new ones would actually be more efficient in pushing out the air.
TOM: The fin (ph) design might be a little bit more efficient in terms of moving the air through.
SUSAN: I’ve heard of something – I believe it’s a Reiker fan that has the (inaudible).
TOM: Yeah, a Reiker room conditioner, yeah. That is a good option. Basically it’s a ceiling fan that heats. And it works very well.
LESLIE: You might want to put up a very heavy drapery in the colder months. Get something that is lined and interlined. Maybe even like a heavy cotton-based velvet or chenille just to keep that drafty air away from the heater.
SUSAN: Would the honeycomb shades help make a difference? I’ve heard those are supposed to do something and I don’t see how but …
LESLIE: Well, they help because they put a pocket of air, you know, in between the surface of the window and in the room.
TOM: Yeah, Levolor makes a product called a cellular shade, which is just like that. It’s a honeycomb structure. They’re very beautiful.
LESLIE: But then I would still do a heavy drape over it.
SUSAN: I want to tell you how much I appreciate this. I think you two are the best people on giving advice (inaudible) …
LESLIE: Thank you.
SUSAN: (inaudible) callers. I certainly appreciate your helping me out with all of my problems. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: Our pleasure.
SUSAN: Thank you ever so much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.