Why are waterborne heating systems used?

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Negotiation
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Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby Negotiation » Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:44 pm UTC

This is just a question out of curiosity, I'm not trying to challenge the current systems.

I was thinking: heating systems that work by short-circuiting a connection will make electricity use up its voltage due to resistance in the wire, transforming it all into heat.
Image

Water-borne heating does the same, except that the electricity is applied to the water heating unit, and thus has the potential to lose heat from both the unit and the pipes connecting the unit to what you want to heat.

It just seems like a purely electrical system would be easier to start heating with, and with less waste energy, so why is waterborne heating so popular?

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DaBigCheez
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby DaBigCheez » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:46 am UTC

My best guess, not being intimately familiar with the systems in question: Greater longevity of the system (filaments for the short not burning out, etc.), easier to distribute the heating over a wide area rather than as a point source that heats unevenly (though for most rooms a water-based radiator is still effectively a point source as far as the people in it are concerned), possibly less loss as light (*very* speculative on this one), less potentially hazardous due to not having the high currents necessary for significant heating (though high-temperature water has its own issues).

This question is basically asking "why aren't space heaters used instead of radiators", yes? If so, I'm not 100% certain, but I believe radiators may run in large part off natural gas heating/solar heating rather than electrical heating, in which case converting to electricity (in a power plant/generator) would be an extra lossy step, making the water-based system potentially more efficient.

Someone with actual HVAC experience can probably tell you with more certainty whether everything I've just said is a load of lies.
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idobox
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby idobox » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:11 pm UTC

Electric heating is often performed by having just a few units around the house, with no water pipes of any sort.

The two only cases I see where you would need a water distribution system are:
-replacing a gas or oil heater by an electric one. Since all the piping is already there, it would be silly to replace it.
-Even ground heating as on the picture.

For the second case, I assume it is mostly a question of safety :warm water is orders of magnitude less dangerous than live electric cable, grounding becomes an issue when the floor is not grounded, and you will need either a thick cable (so low resistivity or high current to get decent power), which is not trivial, or a way to distribute heat generated by a thinner one.
Also, with a water system, if you ever decide to replace your heating element, you can switch to other fuels or to a heat pump that will be more efficient and able to cool things down.

And there is no lost energy when heating a house. At worse, you end up heating a different part of your house, but air convection is good at evening things out.
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby eternauta3k » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:21 pm UTC

Natural gas is cheap.
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Erikbattin
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby Erikbattin » Wed Apr 15, 2015 6:59 am UTC

idobox wrote:Electric heating is often performed by having just a few units around the house, with no water pipes of any sort.

The two only cases I see where you would need a water distribution system are:
-replacing a gas or oil heater by an electric one. Since all the piping is already there, it would be silly to replace it.
-Even ground heating as on the picture.

For the second case, I assume it is mostly a question of safety :warm water is orders of magnitude less dangerous than live electric cable, grounding becomes an issue when the floor is not grounded, and you will need either a thick cable (so low resistivity or high current to get decent power), which is not trivial, or a way to distribute heat generated by a thinner one.
Also, with a water system, if you ever decide to replace your heating element, you can switch to other fuels or to a heat pump that will be more efficient and able to cool things down.

And there is no lost energy when heating a house. At worse, you end up heating a different part of your house, but air convection is good at evening things out.


I wanted to replace it with the water system. If using the water system, which other fuels should be considered?
Last edited by Erikbattin on Thu Apr 16, 2015 5:57 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby Erikbattin » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:00 am UTC

idobox wrote:Electric heating is often performed by having just a few units around the house, with no water pipes of any sort.

The two only cases I see where you would need a water distribution system are:
-replacing a gas or oil heater by an electric one. Since all the piping is already there, it would be silly to replace it.
-Even ground heating as on the picture.

For the second case, I assume it is mostly a question of safety :warm water is orders of magnitude less dangerous than live electric cable, grounding becomes an issue when the floor is not grounded, and you will need either a thick cable (so low resistivity or high current to get decent power), which is not trivial, or a way to distribute heat generated by a thinner one.
Also, with a water system, if you ever decide to replace your heating element, you can switch to other fuels or to a heat pump that will be more efficient and able to cool things down.

And there is no lost energy when heating a house. At worse, you end up heating a different part of your house, but air convection is good at evening things out.


I wanted to replace it with the water system. If using the water system, which other fuels should be considered?

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oxoiron
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby oxoiron » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:51 pm UTC

eternauta3k wrote:Natural gas is cheap.
I believe your question was anticipated by two years.
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farnsworth
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby farnsworth » Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:56 pm UTC

There are a handful of reasons that a water-based heating system would be effective.

In a large building, water works extremely well as a heating solution because the heat can be generated by an efficient central furnace and distributed through small pipes instead of huge air ducts. A central furnace can burn natural gas, coal, oil, or use hot water distributed by nearby industrial processes; all of which can be cheaper than the equivalent amount of electricity in certain geographical areas. A really common thing to do in packed cities is to have a nearby power plant send its hot water (that would otherwise go into a large lake to cool off) to large apartments/condos for heating. This is a very smart use of what would otherwise be wasted energy, and is very cheap because it actually relieves some burden from the power plant.

In situations where electricity is cheap, a central furnace/heating system is not feasible, or where it doesn't get very cold outdoors, electric heating is appropriate.

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Neil_Boekend
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby Neil_Boekend » Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:46 am UTC

Here in the Netherlands I have not seen any building scale waterborne electrical heating systems. That is: there are building scale waterborne gas heating systems, room scale direct electric heating systems (some of the heated floors), ancient additional heating oil- or waterborne heaters (not really an integrated-in-the-building system. More like a appliance that you stick in the room) and modern additional direct electrical heaters (with a fan).
By far most of the building heating here is done with natural gas, because here that is far cheaper than electrical heating.
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BattleMoose
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby BattleMoose » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:44 am UTC

The pros of a waterborne system are:

1. Can use "waste heat" from furnaces or natural gas (burning natural gas in the home for heat is more efficient than using electricity)
2. Typically they run through the concrete slab of the house, so it has a very high thermal capacity so it is easy to maintain a constant(y) temperature. Whereas space heaters mostly warm the air and the room will cool very quickly after its turned off.

Mostly though I think the popularity of waterborne systems is the idea of it being more efficient. That it uses a low amount of energy all the time is more efficient than using more power for a shorter period of time. Its not more efficient but people often think that.

The entire system has to be taken into account for energy efficiency and constantly keeping a space warm is, well, going to use more energy than, not.

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Neil_Boekend
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Re: Why are waterborne heating systems used?

Postby Neil_Boekend » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:55 am UTC

Additionally, a cozy and warm feeling is mostly caused by IR radiation on the skin (I don't know of any research, it's just the result of my experience and the knowledge my dad imparted on me). Heating the air can make it warm but it takes a while to heat the walls with air. The best warm and cozy feeling comes from warm walls, as that really immerses you in in IR.

I have experienced it myself as I both installed insulation and a masonry heater in a previous home. It got way more comfortable and relaxed.
Insulation means warm walls and floor, a masonry heater means a lot of IR when you want it.
Heating the walls and/or the floor has a similar effect, however with those systems it is incredibly important to have good insulation as else more than half of the energy radiates to the outside.
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