Many homes, especially those built in the ‘60s and ‘70s, are heated by finned-tube hydronic baseboard with hot water provided by a boiler. These systems cannot provide air conditioning without a separate forced-air distribution system (and, of course, a source of refrigeration/cooling). As summers in the Finger Lakes Region have become hotter and muggier in recent years, more of these homeowners want air conditioning. Conversion to geothermal is often the most cost effective solution, but there are design and installation considerations unique to this situation which must be addressed.
The primary consideration is that the baseboard system was likely sized assuming hot water supply temperature of 180F or higher; however, the practical maximum supply water temperature for a geothermal heat pump system is approximately 140F. So it’s essential to determine which rooms will need additional heating. This entails a room-by-room analysis of the heating requirement versus the maximum baseboard heat output at 140F.
If air conditioning is not a consideration for the project, the solution can be relatively straight forward: additional and/or upgraded baseboard in those rooms that will otherwise be insufficiently heated when the outside temperature dips into the single digits (or lower). Often, the better solution is to selectively upgrade baseboard units to a high-output design which has 2 or 3 finned-tubes in parallel (versus the traditional single-tube design).
If air conditioning is a requirement, then we look at a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach: incorporate forced-air – ducted or ductless – into the distribution system to (1) provide air conditioning (including condensate management) and (2) additional – second-stage – heating.
The type of geothermal heat pump required for hydronic baseboard systems also has the capability to provide 100% of potable hot water demand by incorporating an indirect hot water tank into the system.
If you have hydronic baseboard heating and want air conditioning… or just want to get rid of the high cost of propane or heating oil, invite us to evaluate your situation and suggest options for a geothermal solution.