Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hydronic Boilers

Hydronic Boilers

      Hydronic boilers are used in generating heat for residential and industrial purposes. They are the typical power plant for central heating systems fitted to houses in northern Europe (where they are commonly combined with domestic water heating) , as apposed to the forced-air furnaces or wood burning stoves more common in North America. The hydronic boiler operates by way of heating water/fluid to a preset temperature (or sometimes in the case of single pipe systems , until it boils and turns to steam) and circulating that fluid throughout the home typically by way of radiators , baseboard heaters or through the floors. The fluid can be heated by any means...gas , wood , fuel oil etc.. , but in built-up areas where piped gas is available , natural gas is currently the most economical and therefore the usual choice. The fluid is in an enclosed system and circulated throughout by means of a motorized pump. The name "boiler" can be a misnomer in that , except for systems using steam radiators , the water in a properly functioning hydronic boiler never actually boils. Most new systems are fitted with condensing boilers for greater efficiency. These boilers are referred to as  condensing boilers because they condense the water vapor in the flue gases to capture the latent heat of vaporization of the water produced during combustion.
    Hydronic systems are being used more and more in new construction in North America for several reasons. Among the reasons are :

* They are more efficient and more economical than forced-air systems (although initial installation can be
   more expensive , because of the cost of the copper and aluminium).
* The baseboard copper pipes and aluminium fins take up less room and use less metal than the bulky steel
  ductwork required for forced-air systems.
* They provide more even , less fluctuating temperatures than forced-air systems. The copper baseboard pipe
   hold and release heat over a longer period of time than air does , so the furnace does not have to switch off
   and on as much.(Copper heats mostly through conduction and radiation , whereas forced-air heats mostly
   through forced convection. Air has much lower thermal conductivity and volumetric heat capacity than
   copper , so the conditioned space warms up and cools down more quickly than with hydronic)
* They tend to not dry out the interior air as much as forced air systems , but this is not always true. When
   forced air duct systems are air-sealed properly and have return-air paths back to the furnace (thus reducing
   pressure differentials and therefore air movement between inside and outside the house) this is not an issue.
* They do not introduce any dust , allergens , mold or (in the case of a faulty heat exchanger) combustion by
   products into the living space.

Forced-air heating does have some advantages , however.            

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